Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sugar Mamas' Cafe: Cinnamon Roll Paradise

Prior to visiting Portland, Oregon, I did some research on breakfast spots in the downtown area, places that would be within walking distance of my hotel. I only needed to find a single restaurant, somewhere to dine on a Friday morning. I asked friends in Portland for recommendations as well as checked various online sources, seeking something special or different. Though my friends gave me several good suggestions, it was a place I find in my online searches that most intrigued me, Sugar Mamas' Cafe. Curiously, none of my Portland friends had ever visited this spot.

What interested me about this cafe is that they made their food by scratch, from hash to hash browns, and that they allegedly created fantastic cinnamon rolls, though they only made them on Fridays. How fortuitous for me. Their photos on Facebook were enticing and they had garnered some positive reviews. It was a short walk from my hotel and seemed like it might be a good find. So, early on the Friday morning that I was in Portland, I trekked to the cafe, seeking breakfast and a cinnamon roll.

The cafe, which is owned and operated by sisters Zelda Nelson and Michelle Schmitt, had originally been located on 539 SW 13th Avenue but closed in August 2012 so they could relocate to their current spot, at 320 SW Alder St. Unfortunately, due to some construction delays, the new location didn't open until July 2013. The cafe, open from 7am-3pm, is a casual spot, with a partially open kitchen, and seats around 50 people. Zelda mentioned to me that their business declined a bit with the move, though it has been improving and should reach at least the prior levels once again.

As I first entered the cafe, there were two trays of cinnamon rolls cooling off on a shelf next to the kitchen, and the alluring smell of cinnamon was like an aphrodisiac to me. I knew at that moment that I had made the right decision on a breakfast spot. I would later learn that they currently make only about 40 cinnamon rolls each Friday, so they are in limited supply. If you get there too late, you might miss out, and you certainly do not want to do that. These are some of the best cinnamon rolls you will find at a restaurant.

After ordering breakfast, including a cinnamon roll ($3.75 each), my server brought me the iced cinnamon roll before the rest of my breakfast was ready. I had no qualms about eating this sweet delight before my more savory items. The large cinnamon roll was mostly soft, with a few crisp edges, which is how I prefer my cinnamon rolls. I dislike those which have too much of a hard, crusty exterior. The taste was sweet, with a bit of a savory element, with just the right balance of cinnamon covering the various layers. The creamy icing added some sweetness but didn't overpower the roll. It was a decadent treat which will satisfy any cinnamon lover. If I lived in Portland, I would probably make a weekly visit here for a cinnamon roll. Though they were not ready yet at the time I was there, they also make Bacon Maple Cinnamon rolls.

Their breakfast menu has plenty of interesting choices, and basically everything costs under $10. You can find egg dishes, pancakes, French toast, waffles, biscuits & gravy, breakfast burritos, hash browns, hash, and much more. I went for a simple bacon & eggs, with hash browns (covered by Tillamook cheddar). The hash browns, which covered most of the plate, are freshly grated Yukon Gold potatoes, which you don't often see, and they had plenty of tasty, melted cheese within them. There was a nice crispness to the hash browns and I can see why the menu carries several options to just order hash browns, such as covered with country gravy or stuffed like a Reuben sandwich. The bacon was also nicely crisp and meaty. Overall, a hearty and tasty breakfast which I would recommend.

The others who traveled with me also made stops here, at different times, for breakfast and they all were impressed with their choices. A diverse menu, plentiful & quality food made from scratch, and good prices make this an excellent choice for breakfast. And those cinnamon rolls elevate it above other such spots. In Downtown Portland, this should be at the top of your list of restaurants for breakfast, especially on Fridays.

Sugar Mamas' Cafe on Urbanspoon

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