In a restaurant-crazy town like Portland, when one door closes, the same one usually reopens pretty quickly, as it has at the former longtime home of Aurora Provisions, then briefly Blue Spoon Cafe, and now Ruby’s West End.

The pain of the loss can often be softened by the possibility of something new and different. I was excited to see that, like few restaurants in Portland, Ruby’s opens for brunch at 6 a.m. four days a week. When I arrived a little before 7 a.m. last Thursday, however, the restaurant wasn’t exactly operating at full tilt.

Despite Hurricane Ida passing by, the doors were open wide and just inside them stood a sandwich-board sign with chalk-written menu items and specials, giving the place a welcoming (and pandemic-friendly), neighborhood feel. That might have been enhanced by music, but it wasn’t turned on until after I sat down and ordered an iced coffee ($3.75 with oat milk).

I was the only customer there at first, and the server, who was also the cook, told me that the kitchen wasn’t completely up and running for the day, so I’d have to make sure what I ordered was something that could be made.

The owners of Ruby’s, which started serving brunch in April and recently added dinner service, have described their restaurant as offering a blend of Midwestern and Southern hospitality, and the latter is evident in brunch items like shrimp and grits ($15) and biscuits and gravy ($14).

Available by scanning a QR code at the table, the menu ranges from very light (cucumber ceviche, $9) to decadent (French toast with candied walnuts, Maine maple syrup and dark chocolate, $9). I settled somewhere in between with the sockeye salmon (lemon cream cheese, radish salad and toast for $12), which I also thought would be a safe bet in terms of availability. It was.

From a weathered-wood table in the back corner, I admired the homey decor, complete with an eclectic collection of chairs and a different color cloth napkin at every place setting. And when my breakfast arrived, I appreciated the juxtaposition of the delicately plated food with the lived-in atmosphere.

The sockeye salmon from Ruby’s West End.

I couldn’t fit all the elements, assembled into open-faced sandwiches, on the two small triangles of toast, though I’m not sure if that was the intention, but it worked to eat the dish with a fork as well, and the salty radish salad made the combination especially delightful and different.

It was a light breakfast, but it’s nice to have a brunch option that doesn’t try to cram two full meals into one. I also ordered the sausage and egg sandwich without cheese to go, for a lactose-intolerant later-sleeper at home. The server-cook said the shipment of English muffins had yet to arrive and offered it on toast or a croissant instead. A robust selection of baked goods displayed on a table by the door led me to believe the croissant was the way to go.

When the sandwich arrived in its plastic container, however, there appeared to be cheese on top. I asked the server, to make sure that’s what it was, and she said it was cheddar croissant. When I reminded her that I was trying to avoid cheese, she offered to slice off the top.

For $13, plus the 20 percent gratuity that Ruby’s automatically adds to the check, it would have been nice to see some more of that hospitality, maybe by remaking the sandwich.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: