It’s some time past a respectable hour to get out of bed, you’ve yet to have your first meal of the day, and there’s only one thing on your mind: biscuits and gravy.
The line at Tin Shed is enormous. Pine State will be an hour, at least. Driving out to Arleta Library Bakery Cafe seems an insurmountable task. What is a biscuits-and-gravy-craving Portlander to do?
This humblest of humble dishes, fellow food enthusiasts, makes an appearance on more menus than you might expect. Beyond Portland’s favorite biscuits and gravy spots, there are plenty that go unheralded—whether it’s an interesting preparation, a unique setting, or simply a solid version of the dish that’s nearer to your front door.
We’ve compiled a short list of biscuits and gravy options, in neighborhoods all over this fine city. Why? While there’s good reason to flock to Gravy along with legions of weekend brunch devotees, give your local diner a shot, too. You might just be surprised to find your new favorite there.
Pattie’s is an undeniable vestige of old St. Johns, both in the quirky space that doesn’t seem like it’s changed much since the 50s and in its presence as a humble neighborhood hub for the local community. Biscuits and gravy are a solid $4 plate, one that the waitress will tell you locals come in for regularly.
The gravy is a creamy, savory indulgence swamping the housemade biscuit, an excellent, pillowy vehicle for the meaty sauce. You’ll get an ample portion garnished with an incongruously dainty orange slice, which might be the only thing on this plate to save you from full cardiac arrest.
Once you’ve had your fill, put some sock-hop-worthy 50s tunes on the free jukebox (old school, of course) and grab one of the many books on historic St. Johns to wile away some Sunday afternoon hours. The families around you won’t pay you much heed, and you might catch the gregarious Pattie herself greeting the diners and keeping the jukebox going.
Pattie's Home Plate Cafe, 8501 N Lombard St., 503.285.5507
Fat City Cafe
Fat City isn’t about moderation, and you’ll love it for that. Ask for biscuits and gravy and owner Helen Johnson might tell you to go for a Country Bene, an artery-clogging upgrade that gets two eggs and sausage patties involved, instead. This enormous pile of food will arrive on an appropriately sized platter, rather than a plate, and if you chose the pancake-side option (yep, it comes with the dish), you’ll barely have room left on the table for your coffee mug. There’s only one thing to do here: Dig in.
The Americana décor will give you plenty to look at once you’re rendered immobile, and Fat City doesn’t cut corners either: expired license plates cover most of the flat wall space in a veritable visual cacophony. There’s plenty of history to know about this decades-old diner, and the servers are a friendly bunch—they might indulge you in a few stories if they have the time.
Fat City Cafe, 7820 SW Capitol Highway, 503.245.5457
You probably already knew about this old-guard Portland establishment, but did you know there’s a serious biscuits and gravy dish on their brunch menu? For some reason, there’s never a line on the weekends—although maybe we just go later than most. Belly up to the bar if there’s no room at the tables.
So, order those biscuits, but have your friend order the coconut fried chicken and waffle, and you're golden, much like the crunchy exterior of your housemade biscuit. This might be the best one in town (head straight to the comments if you disagree!): its flaky shell gives way to a rich, buttery, bready texture inside. Despite being a meaty, thick gravy, the gems of pork sausage in it are rare, which is a good thing: The gravy is so properly rich you won't be aching for actual meat.
It’s an unexpectedly, deeply satisfying thing, especially paired with your first mug of black coffee—northwest residents may never need to leave the neighborhood for breakfast again.
Meriwether's Restaurant, 2601 NW Vaughn St., 503.228.1250
Somewhere between a retro truck stop and the trendy Killingsworth scene is where you’ll find the aesthetic of Beaterville. The server knows what she’s doing, seamlessly blending a greeting into a request for a drink order. Grab the Greyhound she suggests and order the biscuits and gravy with two over easy eggs and a side of bacon, the way owner Bill Lockner suggests is “killer.” Believe him, too: He’ll probably be the one cooking it.
It’s the good stuff, with a dash of paprika and a handful of scallions finishing off the gravy. If you sit in the cafe side as you stuff yourself with this rich dish, you’ll get an idea of Lockner’s love for old cars—the décor is all fenders and chrome bits he’s collected over a lifetime in the neighborhood. If you’re lucky, he might even regale you with stories of old Portland. But if he’s busy, lean back in your 70s booth and keep an eye out for Sam Adams—he’s rumored to be a regular customer at this charming breakfast joint.
Beaterville Cafe, 2201 N Killingsworth St., 503.735.4652
Lili Patisserie is located in Southeast Portland's Sellwood-Moreland neighborhood.
This gem of a neighborhood cafe occupies the bottom floor of a converted residential house, and in the summertime, the porch is your outdoor cafe. Until then, head to Lili on the weekends (per its winter hours—Friday through Sunday only) for one of the more unique takes on biscuits and gravy around.
Owner Li Doyle makes a mushroom-thyme gravy from scratch that features chunks of a wide variety of organic mushrooms, from black trumpets to bluefoots. The dish comes with two cage-free eggs (she recommends them sunny side up) and some seriously light, flaky, well-made biscuits. Bacon’s an option here, too, but try the veggie sausage, even if you’re an omnivore. It’s a lovely complement to the dish, which will be gone before you know it—refreshingly, Lili’s portion isn’t the exaggerated size biscuits and gravy that’s common around town.
Lili Patisserie, 8337 SE 17th Ave., 503.233.8844
Tina's Corner is located in East Portland's Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood.
For those in East Portland who feel relief at being able to enjoy biscuits and gravy outside of traditional breakfast hours and the chain diners that occupy much of the neighborhood, Tina’s is your spot. Its hours have been reduced from 24 hours to closing at 9 p.m., but breakfast is still served all day. Upon entering this diner, you’ll feel like you stepped into the living room of a beloved grandparent, and in a way, it’s not so far off: Tina’s has been a family owned and operated business since its inception.
So, grab that biscuits and gravy, and while you’re at it, a slice of pie, too. Satisfyingly, both will be what you’d expect from a place that does a solidly good version of whatever’s on the menu. Gravy here is more peppery than the average, and the biscuits are soft, bready slabs made in-house. Owner Roni Persons and her husband make loaves of white and wheat bread, as well as dinner rolls, that you can buy to take home, making them a local baker you might not have known about.
Tina's Corner, 5515 SE 122nd Ave., 503.760.4353
Devoured biscuits and gravy at any of the spots we just listed? If not, what are your favorite neighborhood stops? Talk to us in the comments, fellow grub-loving readers!