Portland Breakfast: Jam on Hawthorne Grows Up

Jam on Hawthorne
Jam on Hawthorne

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t’s been a while since I’ve been to Jam on Hawthorne, which over the years has grown into one of the more popular Portland breakfast places. I remembered it, from when I was researching the first edition of Breakfast in Bridgetown, as a cute little place with homemade jams and awesome lemon-ricotta pancakes.

But the truth is, I always kind of cringed when I thought about my write-up of it, and I never introduced myself to the staff because of it. It’s not that it was unkind — though I did say their food didn’t overwhelm me — it’s just that I couldn’t think of anything to say other than “They’re nice and have awesome pancakes.” So, stretching, I compared them to … Billy Joel. You know, one really good and famous thing (“Piano Man”) and then a bunch of other just fine stuff. I know, lame, but in my defense, you try to be clever about 115 different Portland breakfast places.

Anyway, I needed to go back, and they’ve since expanded greatly, so I gathered up the crew, and off we went on a Saturday morning. Got there at 9:30 and sat right down — though I’m happy to report that they converted some of their old, tiny space to a nice waiting area with couches. Nice touch.

Jam's new room is the former Imbibe.
Jam’s new room is the former Imbibe.

The first thing I noticed is, it’s loud. Maybe I’m just getting old, but I felt like I had to half yell to communicate with Rachel and Sharon from the Crew. And the music — cool country, I’d like to say, and not Billy Joel — was loud, too. We were seated in the old space, near the door, so maybe the big room is better.

Anybody else have any experience with this?

Jam's new room
Jam’s new room

I really enjoyed our waiter. He was just my kind of smart-ass, and also did a great job. After we traded a couple of snarky lines, he walked off, and Sharon asked if he knows who I am. I said no, and she said, “Wait, so he’s always like that?” I enjoy a little fun time with the staff, and particularly appreciate it when they can pull it off while busy and get our order right and in a good time frame. Good job, Jam!

We decided to share it up, because we all wanted real breakfast, and we all wanted a shot at those lemon-ricotta cakes. The menu (breakfast is served daily 7:30 to 3) expanded with the space and now includes about 10 sandwiches and wraps, six sweet specialties, four savories, four waffles, and several variations on corned beef — oh, and some scrambles and a build-your-own section and tons of substitutions and what seems like pretty reasonable policies for various allergies and preferences. (They do have some vegan and gluten-free stuff).

All in all, they have a good attitude about stuff. This is from their menu:

The food at Jam is made with the best ingredients… eggs from happy chickens, milk with no hormones, and local meats, produce and bread whenever possible. Almost everything is prepared with care from scratch… including our house made Jam.

They are, however, pretty clear about some other things: No split checks, no seating til everybody is there, no takeout on the weekends, and they may not answer the phone. They do offer a coffee cart with their own Portland Roasting blend while you wait.

So, the food:

I got the Benedict special and thought it was excellent: a nice, thick cut of salty ham, a thick and creamy hollandaise, and some old-school hashbrowns done just right.

Eggs Benedict at Jam on Hawthorne
Eggs Benedict at Jam on Hawthorne

Rachel got Ed’s Plate, a basic spinach scramble with three free-range eggs (or tofu):

Ed's Plate at Jam: Fresh spinach, mushrooms, roasted garlic, cheddar.
Ed’s Plate at Jam: Fresh spinach, mushrooms, roasted garlic, cheddar.

Very tasty. And Sharon had the corned beef hash. They do their own corned beef in beer, onion, celery, peppercorns and spices. It was very tender and excellent.

Corned beef hash at Jam on Hawthorne
Corned beef hash at Jam on Hawthorne

Sorry the photos aren’t the best. I was using my iPhone and didn’t have the new 5 yet.

And then came the Maddie Cakes, topped with warm blueberry compote:

Jam's lemon-ricotta pancakes with blueberry compote.
Jam’s lemon-ricotta pancakes with blueberry compote.

Actually, we just got one — could have had up to three.

This was a really good breakfast, and we all enjoyed it. It’s a funny thing, though, comparing reality to memory. I remembered Jam as a cute little place with so-so food and dreamy pancakes. On this visit, it was a big, loud, successful place with good food and really good pancakes. See how it’s moderated a little?

I don’t see how those cakes could live up to what I recalled them as — but they are still damn good. Maybe my memory was off, but it does seem like Jam has gotten better. It’s sure as heck popular, with a young and hip crowd like the Cricket over on Belmont. And good for them, getting all big and successful.

Or maybe it’s just that Jam is growing up. That cute little place at 23rd and Hawthorne has become a classic Portland breakfast place, lines and yumminess and all.

When and Where: Jam is at 2239 SE Hawthorne Blvd. Open daily and serves breakfast from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. As of October 2012 also serving dinner Tuesday-Thursday 5 to 9 p.m., weekends til 10. Happy Hour Tuesday-Saturday, 3 to 6 p.m. Lines: Pretty long on weekends after about 9:30. Drinks: Portland Roasting. Also cocktails. Price range: Entrees $8-11. All cards accepted, limit of two per table. Large groups? Not so much.

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