When you’ve been named one of the best brunch places in the Portland, Oregon area, you’ve got a pretty high bar to live up to. Cafe Murrayhill, in Beaverton, pulls it off with room to spare. You’ll find it in the beautiful Tualatin Valley, sometimes called Portland’s Back Yard, set beside a small man-made lake with a geyser fountain, its patio visited by ducks and geese, and its diners wearing satisfied smiles
Location: 14500 Murray-Scholls Dr. Suite 103, Beaverton, Oregon. Visit the Cafe Murrayhill website here.
Menu: The café has a full menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus happy hour specials. Look for upscale comfort food with some gourmet seasonal touches. Think chicken fried steak, fish tacos, mac and cheese, fish and chips, eggs benedict or biscuits and gravy, great burgers, and steak frites.
Thoughts: When I headed to Cafe Murrayhill on the strong recommendation of a local friend, I was a bit taken aback when I saw that it’s basically situated at the end of a strip mall. Don’t let that put you off. With its cheerful patio lined with trees and shrubs and full of tables shaded by big umbrellas in bright primary colors, overlooking a perfect view of Murrayhill Lake, it is charming and inviting. Inside, large windows invite that pretty view inside.
With an emphasis on the rich bounty of farm-and-ocean-fresh products of the Pacific Northwest, executive chef Edgar Castellanos turns out beautiful plates of solid goodness for every meal of the day. I was there for brunch with a pair of companions. We’d been told the tomato citrus soup was a house staple famous with regulars here, so we decided to try it. What a star turn! You can really taste the citrus in the rich tomato base, but it is not at all acidic. Just bright and full of flavor, enhanced by a pesto drizzle and garlic croutons.
I followed my soup with the Steelhead spinach salad with grilled pears, candied hazelnuts, goat cheese, pickled red onions and a champagne bacon vinaigrette. The fish was perfectly flaky and that dressing was a positive revelation, dancing around my mouth like a sparkly ball. I cleaned the plate. One of my companions had the Pulled Pork Hash, a huge pile of shredded pork, dry rubbed and slow cooked, with potatoes, a spicy Cajun hollandaise, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers and the whole thing topped with a pair of perfect poached eggs, a biscuit and gravy making an accent on the side. Quite a plate.
My vegetarian friend opted for a plate of butternut squash ravioli. It came lightly dressed with candied hazelnuts (an Oregon staple), gorgonzola, Acadian greens and a balsamic reduction. She glowed from the first glance, praising it with every bite.
I glanced through the breakfast menu while we waited and saw several things I’d love to come back for. The Dungeness crab benedict sounded lovely, as did the tri-colored quinoa bowl with asparagus, roasted beets, sweet potatoes, avocado and your choice of egg style. I can see myself digging into that. There are plenty of choices for vegetarians, and many of the menu items are marked as gluten free.
It was a chilly, breezy day, so we sat inside (even though there are space heaters on the terrace for hardier souls). The view of the small lake is peaceful and soothing, with ducks and geese splashing around and occasionally waddling right up to the patio tables. Directly across the pond from the café is a gorgeous old weeping willow, dipping its fingers almost to the water. It’s a fine way to shut out the business of the city just behind you.
Cafe Murrayhill also has a wine bar—of course it does; this is the very heart of Oregon wine country—and a full list of craft cocktails—the Moscow Mule served in a copper mug is a favorite—plus premium pours. There’s a handful of brews on tap. At Happy Hour, you can accompany your drink with an array of very affordable small bites, such as fried mushrooms, lettuce wrap “street tacos” with sautéed steak, guacamole and peanut sauce, an order of truffle fries topped with cheese, or roasted brussels sprouts with peppers and onions, drizzled with balsamic.
The design of the room is clean and modern, high-ceilinged with the exposed ductwork that seems to be the go-to look in Oregon now. Booths and tables are blond wood and clean lined. Since this place is a favorite with locals, it can get crowded at times, especially for Sunday brunch. Making a reservation on their website can help avoid a wait. The advantage of being sited in a strip mall means there is ample parking at all times.
Price Range: Breakfast dishes range from $7.75 for avocado toast with balsamic tomatoes to $14.50 for hash and eggs to a high of $19 for smoked salmon or Dungeness crab benedict. At lunch, a bowl of soup is $7, salads run $11-19. Sandwiches and entrees begin at $14 for a club panini and top out at $18.50 for a Dungeness crab melt. At dinner, appetizers are $8-13; salads are $11-19; burgers are $13.50-17.75. Dinner entrees start at $14.25 for mac and cheese and top out at $29.75 for parmesan crusted halibut with asparagus and mashed potatoes. Happy Hour bites run $5-9.
My meal at Cafe Murrayhill was provided by the Washington County Visitors Bureau/Visit Tualatin Valley.