Caldo verde is the national soup of Portugal. It is made with shredded kale, potatoes, onions and sausages. I never heard of it until I received a copy of the “Food of Portugal” by Jean Anderson many years ago. At that time, it was the only cookbook on Portuguese cuisine published in English.
I heard about a new breakfast/lunch/brunch restaurant called Porto, and was pleasantly surprised to find this famous soup on the menu. Although I could eat a bowl of it at 11 a.m., I decided to take some home and see if this caldo verde would transport me to Portugal.
Porto is located at 11th and Wharton streets. It fills the niche for those who hunger for pancakes and eggs on cold winter weekends. The sign still reads luncheonette, a marvelous word from my childhood that fills me with memories of inexpensive burgers or grilled cheese.
This was the location of Carman’s Country Kitchen, a funky place run by an eccentric woman with an attitude. The property retains the tin ceiling, old-fashioned cash register and is painted in sunny greens and yellows. The staff is about the nicest one will find anywhere. There are only about 18 seats, and when Edward and I arrived, we were fortunate to get the only open table. All through brunch there was a steady stream of regulars, which is a good sign.
Steaming mugs of La Colombe coffee ($2) were served in pretty yellow, green or brick-colored mugs. There are blackboard specials as well.
Porto serves some of the best pancakes in town. We are familiar with those malty kind of plastic looking hot cakes some diners pass off as the real deal. You can get any kind your heart desires. Chocolate chip ones have become favorites of ours since we first tasted them at the Hershey Hotel. Porto’s version ($10) consisted of three large, perfectly prepared, piping hot golden brown pancakes dusted with confectioners’ sugar. They were light and fluffy and certainly homemade. A scattering of berries was included, which was a nice surprise.
Edward became hooked on scrapple ever since he fell for it at Kraftwork last year. Porto’s was well-seasoned and thinly sliced.
Unfortunately, my omelettes were just average. The chef did not whip the eggs properly. When they’re are beaten, no white should be visible. I ordered a cheese omelette made with Saint George, a cheese our server advised was a bit more sharp than sharp cheddar. My piping hot item was a bit overcooked. Although it was puffy, the outside was brown and not a glistening golden yellow. A side of thick slab of bacon ($3) was crisp and free of grease. I also liked the Jewish rye toast that I slathered with soft butter. Oven roasted potatoes tossed with roasted peppers and onions came with my brunch.
As I said, the staff at Porto has to be the nicest one will find anywhere in the city. A gentleman next to me, who was reading the Talmud, lives in the neighborhood and told us he eats brunch there every Sunday.
That evening, I looked forward to the caldo verde. I added a bit more stock to the pot and found the soup to be tasty, well-seasoned and comforting.
Porto serves an inexpensive brunch, which is getting more difficult to find in the city. The question is, “Would I return?” I think so. The pancakes were tops, so now I would like to try the French toast.
Two-and-a-half tips of the toque to Porto.
1301 S. 11th St., at Wharton
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