Checking out the Eastern European-inspired fare at the new Anchor End eatery in the Beaumont neighborhood.
After a double overtime fourth grade basketball game ends in a 1-point loss and your kid fouling out, some comfort food is definitely in order.
Small wonder then that on just such a day recently, my family headed straight for Anchor End, a new Euro-inspired café/bakery hybrid holding down a corner of the extremely family-friendly and low-key neighborhood of Beaumont in Northeast Portland.
Friends who live nearby had been posting about the new place for weeks, singing its praises, and the first impression was encouraging. Counter service, all the better to get hungry kids fed? Check. A menu with both familiar and straightforward choices for kids and something a little more elevated for us? Check. Prices that weren’t stratospheric? Check.
Anchor End began life as a food cart in Seattle before heading south to open a Vancouver, Wash. food truck specializing in soft pretzels, but this is their first brick-and-mortar storefront. My kids were immediately distracted by the display case of tempting pastries, next to the cash register, but we were there for lunch, not sweets.
My son, hungry after that nail-biter of a basketball game, ordered the “breakfast schnitzel” ($14) — a Carlton Farms pork cutlet, pounded thin, breaded and crisped up, alongside two runny eggs and a pile of pickled cabbage that he refused to touch, but the rest of us swiped from his plate. Usually, the dish comes with mushroom gravy, but he requested this on the side which was, I think, his loss — the gravy gave the meat a nice hit of umami, and without it, the pork was a little dry.
My daughter saved her highest praise for the zippy “gypsy” salad I ordered ($11), which came laden with broccolini, zucchini, raw beet chips, and crunchy pops of Polish kasza, known better here as “groats” or grains of buckwheat. Her own breakfast sandwich on pretzel bread was less of a hit; even though the restaurant had graciously agreed to scramble her eggs instead of frying them, she wasn’t a fan of the gently spicy aioli slathered onto the pretzel bun. ($8).
It’s a good thing I had picked the salad, because I also went for the pretzel nokedli and cheese ($8), not quite realizing that I was ordering a gooey, cheesy, impossibly rich platter of grown-up, beer-spiked macaroni and cheese. What can I say? The description on the menu had me at the words “pretzel dumpling.” I made it through half of the dish before handing it over to the men in the family, who polished off the rest.
As for my husband, he tried out the speciality of the house, three pierogi, or traditional Polish dumplings, filled with a mash of boiled potato and parmesan cheese for $8. For me, it was a bit too much dough-on-carbs, but he mixed it with the more of that mushroom gravy and cleaned his plate.
Anchor End isn’t going out of its way to attract the stroller crowd — there’s a thin shelf of books, and the only games we saw were Scrabble and a deck of cards, plus the bathroom has no changing station. But we did spot high chairs and booster seats and the food came very promptly, always a plus when there are hungry kids on hand. Other kid-friendly menu items include a roasted tomato soup, a soft pretzel plate that comes with dipping sauces, and yogurt with jam and granola.
Most importantly, there were families with kids throughout the restaurant, many of them playing happily with the Russian nesting dolls that replace table numbers at the restaurant. We examined ours closely and noted that the original doll and all of the progressively smaller dolls she contained looked very Portland-appropriate; one even sported a nose ring. Comforting indeed.
Anchor End, Tuesday-Sunday, 8 am-4 pm. 4641 NE Fremont, anchorend.co
FROM THE EAST:
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Kachka is a special date night out kind of place, but their new more casual spin-off, Kachinka, is kid-friendly, including Russian-style dumplings with farmer’s cheese and chives for $8 a plate.