Brunch, Oregon, Portland

I Wonder if Toddlers Ate at Besaw’s in 1903?

March 15, 2015

I’ve known my dear friend Jenna since we were both eleven. We’re only 41 days apart in age, and this year marks 20 years of friendship. (I’ll let you do the math.)

Jenna and Bethany Through the Years
Somehow we’ve gone from soccer playing middle schoolers growing up in rural Oregon to independent, Canada-bound 19 year olds crossing state lines and learning to pump our own gas (that’s right; the attendants do it for us here in Ore.), to long-distance-pen-pals living in New Zealand and Brazil, to maids-of-honor in each other’s wedding, to celebrators of first home purchases back on Pacific Northwest soil, and now to life-juggling (Iceland dreaming!) pals 3/8ths+ of our way to our joint 80th birthday celebration.

So many years, and somehow in this season, so very little time for actually sitting down in the same place. We live an hour’s drive apart, she works night shift, and I have a toddler. It’s craziness, I tell you. Sheer craziness.

But, birthdays: the saving grace of overdue get togethers. A yearly prompt for festivities to celebrate favorite people. And that’s how we found ourselves at Besaw’s for the very first time*, with a wiggly little toddler in tow.

*It was our first time. Mind you, Jenna’s a regular; Besaw’s was her cohort’s standby hangout after big exams during grueling nursing school days, and I felt a little sheepish admitting to her last week that I’d never been to the Portland classic with a history dating back 112+ years!

Ted and Lucie and I parked just up the street in the drizzle, walked past the post office, and arrived at the corner restaurant to camp in the Portland brunch line.

Friends, standing in line for Portland brunch with a kiddo is almost as hectic as flying with a baby. (Don’t believe me? Refresh your memory with the Portlandia Brunch Scene. It’s in this post from last year mentioning FEAST Portland’s Brunch Village.) We were in it for the long haul: I’d packed snacks and toys, drinks and books, but arrival at 9:50am and seating at 10:40am is enough to test any tired parent’s patience.

She’s just so dang cute, though. It’s her saving grace.

Thankfully, bottomless Water Avenue coffee during the wait hit the spot way better than economy class peanuts, and rainy day sidewalk-strolling turned out much better than aisle roaming on a jet plane. (Gah! Did I say how cute I thought she was today?)

We sauntered past Besaw’s garden and poked at the leaf litter. I watched her splash for the first time in the shallowest of mud puddles and make faces at the passers by. It was a stretch to get the wiggles out, and let me tell you, between cute pictures there were moments of thinking, “What on earth are we doing, how long is it ’til naptime, and when will they finally call our name?”

As our party congregated near the front door to listen for the server, Jenna and her husband Evan caught us up on stories of the previous night’s Blazer game and chatter at The Driftwood Room. (They stayed at one of my favorite Portland spots: Hotel deLuxe! Note to self: Gracie’s for brunch next time. It’s been too long. Also: hopefully they’d be cool with a kiddo at the table?)

And then, cutting through the conversation — “Bethany?? Table for Bethany!”

Sweet, sweet sounds. (Let’s not talk about how I heard “Debbie” a few minutes before and thought it was us. Queue disappointment in the let down and my hearing faculties…)

I gathered the crackers and cups and toys and diaper bag, Jenna and Evan and Ted juggled the coffee cups, they ushered us to the back patio, we ordered, we contained the rest of the Lucie-wiggles as best we could, and then we feasted: cardamom French toast with figs and real maple syrup, a heaping farmer’s hash, a bacon-guac sammy, bloody marys and mimosas (with grapefruit for the birthday girl).

Evan and Jenna: happy as clams with a full brunch spread.

Lucie’s adorable outfit survived the meal thanks to the makeshift bib (“Always travel with a spare kitchen towel!” — now there’s a tip you won’t see on every top 10 travel packing list), but Evan’s 10 Barrel shirt didn’t fare so well: splattered egg yolk city.

(Jenna: you said to go ahead and take the picture, right? Something about “best memories”?) ((Sorry, Evan!))

We finished downing our drinks and cleaning our plates while the ticking-clock of a tired toddler pushed the meal toward the finish line, and when we parted ways again in the drizzle outside the front door, I thought, “Gosh, never enough time.”

But, hey. We made it to Besaw’s, we caught up with friends, we wore out our little explorer, and we got her home for nap time.

Once Lucie was finally asleep, I dug around for some Besaw’s history (ever the curious one, me). When loggers George Besaw and Medric Liberty (what a name!) opened the door in 1903, it was to host folks coming to enjoy a beer parlor and gambling hall. They were conveniently located on the route to Portland’s 1905 Lewis & Clark World Exposition (*landscape architecture nerd alert: check the Olmsted connection for a rabbit trail of Portland history*), and their focus on the bar only shifted to food when the prohibition reshaped the map from 1919-1933.

So, to answer the question: no, I doubt toddlers ate there in 1903.

But yes, our little one did…in 2015.

I’m sure we’ll look back at these pictures one day and think, “Wow, Lucie was so little…” and, “We were so young…” Perhaps after another twenty years of friendship and food and crazy life when Lucie will be old enough to drink a mimosa herself? (Whoa, there, tiger.)

For now, sippy cups and brunch runs and keeping perspective on the little adventures every day.

Cheers to history lessons and food and friends and birthdays and tiny people and happy new year of life sweet Jenna!

And happy weekend to you, friend, wherever you are in the world!

Let me know if you have another must-eat spot that Lucie might love? In Portland or anywhere around the world. Ten gold stars if they have killer French toast for me and killer coffee for Ted. And killer patience for Lucie.

Besaw’s Around the Web:
Eater Portland: Besaw’s Owner Cana Flug Talks Daily Breakfast Lines (funny stuff: especially about not coming in between 10-noon. Whoops. Rookie parenting mistake.)
The History: Besaw’s About Page (please just go read it)

2301 NW Savier Street
Portland, OR 97210

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  • Reply Lindsay March 15, 2015 at 11:24 am

    Funny how some cities are like that with brunch. In NYC 1 hour is a totally acceptable wait for brunch; 1.5 hours, a little long, but not that uncommon; 2 hours, totally ridiculous, yet OCCASIONALLY worth the wait.

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians March 17, 2015 at 1:13 pm

      Yes! I remember Ted and I waiting almost two hours for brunch at Broder when I was four or five months pregnant. Borderline ridiculous. (I was *starving* by the time we were seated.) Sometimes it’s kinda nice to get out of Portland and enjoy seating and service in ten minutes. But then again…sometimes the theatrics of the wait make the meal more fun :)

      Have you found some favorite spots in Budapest?

    What say you?

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