Review: Besaw’s {Sponsored Post}

This last week I had the pleasure of joining some very inspiring people for dinner at Besaw’s in the Alphabet District of Portland. Besaw’s is best known for brunch, and it’s completely ordinary to see their waitstaff serving coffee to people waiting outside in a long line for their names to be called. Dinner seemed to be a very casual affair however. I arrived early (as traveling anywhere in Portland during rush hour brings out the Chicagoan in me) and had a chance to look around the restaurant.

A quick search of Besaw’s on Yelp will tell you that they are KNOWN for breakfast or brunch. In a quick search, breakfast or brunch comes up 8 times more often than dinner–and that’s where my mind was when I walked in for dinner–low expectations. Did I expect the food to be good? Yes–it’s a well-known restaurant downtown. I was sure it would be able to hold its own for dinner, but did I expect it to be great? No. Besaw’s pleasantly surprised me.


The bar greets you as you enter Besaw’s and reminds me (for some reason) of one of my favorite places in San Francisco, Buena Vista Cafe. I still cannot put my finger on the parallel. It could have been the dark bar area with ample seating, the back bar setup, or just the “welcome home”-type of feeling I got walking in the door. Regardless–it was a good sign. The restaurant was dimmed for cocktail hour and not too busy. I sat in the main part of the restaurant, right across from the kitchen’s overflow–which sounds odd, but was really a neat setup as I got to see the full plates hit the counter before they were whisked away to the tables. Besaw’s also has a covered outdoor area in the back part of the restaurant, likely used most for breakfast overflow. Stringed lights and countless tea lights warmed the restaurant and made for a very cozy-feeling environment.

Dinner at Besaw’s

via Instagram


We started off with appetizers, sharing the fried pickles, mushrooms and polenta, and Besaw’s Board. The mushrooms and polenta were my favorite “appetizer” although I saw them more as a side. The polenta was cooked perfectly and reminded me of the Pioneer Woman’s recipe for cheese grits that Ktams likes to make for us (possibly because the difference between grits and polenta is …little to nothing). The Board was made up of their homemade focaccia, cheeses, and a light chutney–good flavors all around. The only appetizer that was disappointing to me was the fried pickles and chipotle dip. The dip lacked any kick and the fried pickles were too–airy? Does that make sense? I would have better enjoyed thick cut fried pickles with the aioli that was served with fries later in the evening.

Main Course

For the main course we ordered across the board–the legendary meatloaf, an elk burger with a fried egg, fried chicken and waffles, mac and cheese with breadcrumbs, and baked Alaskan Cod. Where to start…
The meatloaf was probably one of my favorites of the evening–and I can’t account it to the fact that I was deprived of it for the first 20+ years of my life, or that it really is one of the ultimate comfort foods in my mind. It was served with root vegetables, as is traditional–wouldn’t have minded a little horseradish–does that make me old? The meatloaf wasn’t too dry, and the flavors were subtle and savory. The elk burger was pretty monstrous and came with micro-greens. I had a few bites, enjoyed the flavors but was ready to move on–I chalk that up to my obsession with condiments and toppings. I would have liked to see it with a homemade spicy, grainy mustard. The fried chicken and waffles kind of blew my mind. The whipped butter that Besaw’s uses has honey in it and it. IS. AMAZING. Now add that to the waffles topped with crispy chicken and real maple syrup and I’m drowning just thinking about it (and I’m not a friend chicken fan!!) This combination is also popular at brunch, and I find it very intelligent of Besaw’s to include it on their dinner menu. 
The mac and cheese was very much a comfort food–it was balanced well and didn’t have too many breadcrumbs. Again, a savory dish that kind of gave me warm fuzzies to eat. The Alaskan Cod was out-of-the-ordinary for me to partake in as I don’t normally eat much fish. I feel like I’ve had enough bad fish dining out in my time that I just don’t take my chances. If I want fish–I’ll cook it thank you–so it did take me a little bit out of my comfort zone to have some, but it was fresh tasting with a hint of lemon. The fish was good but I would never order it myself, as it really took a back seat to the other main dishes in my opinion–and that’s ok! I think it’s a great menu option to have for pescetarians and non-red-meat-eaters of the world.


Dessert brought many different dishes to the table. We nibbled on the chocolate cake, bread pudding, apple Betty, chocolate chip skillet cookie, and butterscotch pudding–basically one of everything! Here is where I really felt Besaw’s shined. The dessert menu held a great range, and each dessert was really cooked and presented wonderfully. This made it extremely difficult for me to pick a favorite.
So I didn’t–I would recommend literally anything on the dessert menu–and please don’t chalk that up to too much wine on my part.


Cana Flug does an exquisite job of keeping Besaw’s close to its roots. She maintains a high level for quality of her food, and she keeps presentation in check, whether that refers to the food or the atmosphere of Besaw’s. Her waitstaff was very attentive but not overbearing, and they were knowledgeable of the drinks and foods offered. The menu for dinner rotates on as much as a weekly basis depending what produce is available from their 21 gardens, and that ensures the freshest foods are set in front of you.

The thing to take away from this review of Besaw’s is that it is the epitome of high quality comfort food. So long as they remain consistent in their delivery of a balanced menu they will be considered a good dinner spot. What would take it from good to great? I think incorporating more flavoring touches in the dishes and possibly live entertainment in the evenings on the weekend could make a world of difference. They may already do this on occasion–I just thought a big ol’ bass player would fit very nicely in the corner of the main dining room. Price is also something that keeps coming up when I look through the menus. While I have no doubt that high quality food comes at a price, (just ask me sometime what my grocery “budget” looks like each month) I feel like that slight sticker shock might scare away some of the younger crowds Besaw’s might be wanting to invite in for dinner. If I were to head out on my own for drinks and a light meal, I would be well above $40 by the end of the evening, and although I would be just fine doing that every once in a great while, I cannot stomach that on a weekly basis.

Will I be returning to Besaw’s? Most definitely. Will I become a barfly there? Not until my raise comes through 😉

***This post was sponsored by Little Green Pickle. They are a PR company of amazing people helping local businesses create more buzz. I very much enjoyed my time with them and look forward to all possible opportunities to brainstorm or host events in the future.***

Have you eaten at Besaw’s? Where is your stomach in the matter?

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  • Reply Kayla Moothart March 1, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    The mushrooms and polenta look so great! What a fun experience! I’ve never been but obviously need to go!

  • Reply blsmith6 March 1, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    love besaws! #nom

  • Reply OrangeMew March 4, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    Great review! So organized with the way you broke it down too… I usually only think of Besaw’s for brunch. I will keep it in mind for a normal meal when I want some comfort food in a homey but historical atmosphere- it’s probably a better feel than the more busy brunch.

    I can’t think of a flavored butter I have not loved.

    Damn, I have a craving for meatloaf now.

  • Reply Janet March 11, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    Have passed by Besaw’s repeatedly over the years during mid-day and early evening, due to huge crowd, but happened upon it at 8 o’clock Saturday night, as we wondered where we could have a calm and tasty late dinner and chat. It was just what we had been craving. We closed the place down and would have stayed longer, it was just that comfortable. Our meals were reasonably priced and delicious (meatloaf, flat-iron steak). Splurged on dessert (the exquisite cherry/orange/rosemary bread pudding), and thought I’d finally found my forever Happy Place. For a quiet dinner, in a mellow mood, with the perfect cozy vibe, late on Saturday, there is nowhere better. PS We didn’t order drinks, found the prices very reasonable for dinner in Portland.

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