Ruby’s West End
64 Pine St., Portland
People who live in Portland’s West End really love to talk about how much they love living in the West End. Don’t get me wrong, I like it too. As neighborhoods go, it’s a pretty friendly place. People on the street smile and wave, and just about everyone has a dog. The shops and restaurants are mostly small and locally owned.
So I get it, West Enders. You love your home. Good for you. But I just looked at what apartments are going for these days, and there’s pretty much zero chance I’ll be moving to your neighborhood any time soon. At least I can visit for a good meal.
Ruby’s West End opened this April on Pine Street. The building had been home to Aurora Provisions for several years before briefly housing Blue Spoon’s catering operations until the pandemic and … well, you know.
The new place fits right into the neighborhood. The decor is funky and charming, with mismatched dishes and silverware that were donated by neighbors. The patio out back feels cozy and relaxing, like a tiny urban oasis.
My wife, daughter and I decided to check it out on a recent morning. I had called ahead for a reservation, so we were seated right away.
Coffee ($3.50) arrived quickly. The house brew was fresh, flavorful and intensely strong. My wife’s sweet, creamy oat-milk maple latte ($5.75) reminded her of a frosted scone (in a good way).
I’d heard great things about their in-house bakery, so we decided to start with a pastry. A fresh-baked almond croissant ($4.50) — my family’s favorite kind — was crisp, flaky and buttery, with a subtle malty flavor.
Next we tried the appetizer special, a salad of watermelon and cucumber ($7.50) marinated in toasted sesame oil and mild chili peppers. We preferred the crunchy cucumbers to the denser, softer melon, which had absorbed more oil, but enjoyed the flavors overall.
For her entrée, my daughter ordered the Dutch Baby ($12), a plate-sized puff pancake topped with citrus curd and powdered sugar. The eggy, airy pancake was lightly crisp around the edges and not too sweet. As big fans of lemon, we would have liked a bit more tartness in the curd, but all in all it was an excellent dish and a welcome change from the standard silver-dollar stack you’d find elsewhere.
My wife chose one of the daily specials ($12): sockeye salmon, cured for 24 hours in salt and brown sugar, and served on a house-made bagel chip. The salmon was sliced thicker than traditional lox, with a texture reminiscent of sashimi. On the side, a dollop of tangy lemon-butter whipped cream and thin slices of pickled celery and baby radishes contrasted nicely with the fatty fish.
I love a good plate of chilaquiles ($11), and Ruby’s did not disappoint. A perfectly cooked sunny-side-up egg sat atop braised pork shoulder, pickled shallots and crema on a bed of crunchy Fritos. It was a perfect balance of flavor and texture.
Ruby’s has ample off-street parking, brunch is available six days a week, and there’s a tempting selection of pastries in the case to take home. I’ll definitely be back in the West End soon — it’s a pretty great neighborhood, in case you haven’t heard.