Hits (and a few misses) at Ecliptic Brewing in North Portland.
Ecliptic Brewing’s menu tries to go beyond the standard pub fare of fried food and burgers with offerings such as candied hazelnuts, steamed mussels and mushroom tarts. While ambitious, they don’t quite nail it every time. But onto the good things first.
When we pulled into the parking lot of this brew pub just off North Mississippi Avenue, I noticed the abundance of minivans. First signal it’s a kid kinda place. And when we entered the concrete-walled dining room with space race-era light fixtures and saw all the tykes in high chairs, it was an additional tip-off to the family friendliness of the establishment. Our extremely nice waiter brought a high chair, coloring page and crayons right over for my 2-year-old daughter. Bingo. High marks for the kiddo hang-out factor.
I ordered the mushroom tart with gruyere and thyme. The puff pastry crust was rich and buttery and chanterelles were meaty, but the white sauce slathered on top was a bit gluey. But I did enjoy the combination of nutty roasted Brussels sprouts with salty anchovies and capers that I ordered as a side. My husband went with the barbecue beef sandwich on special. The beef was tender, but again, it just fell short.
On the kids menu, there was something called “finger steaks,” and we figured our non-picky toddler should give them a shot. Finger steaks are the beef version of chicken fingers — strips of steak breaded and fried. They were a no-go. But she happily ate the accompanying fries along with some mushrooms from my tart and many bites of my Brussels sprouts. (Brussels sprouts a toddler can love, that’s saying something.) Also three of their kids menu items come with fruit or veggies — so fries aren’t the only side option, another plus.
Even the beer, all with astronomically inspired names, didn’t overwhelm — although admittedly, my husband was the only one drinking since I’m 6 ½ months pregnant. He tried the Spica Hefepils Lager. I did like the sound of the Filament Winter IPA.
If you’re looking for a place with a kid-friendly vibe where you can try some new microbrews — it’s worth checking out Ecliptic. But for consistently excellent food to go with your beer, you may need to land elsewhere.
825 N. Cook, Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m., eclipticbrewing.com.
Other fam-tastic brewpubs in and around Portland:
The granddaddy of them all, Hopworks Urban Brewery is locally beloved for its multiple play areas, great beer and super-kid-friendly staff. They won our hearts when they brought over a ball of pizza dough for the two-year-olds at the table to push, pull and poke at to their heart’s content and a stand that keeps an infant car seat at table level. It gets crowded fast at dinnertime, but lunch can be surprisingly mellow. 2944 SE Powell Boulevard.
If you’ve got kids and you love beer, then chances are you’ve been (or should have been) to the Laurelwood Public House & Brewery by now. They’ve got a generously proportioned play area, surefire kid-pleasers on the menu and waitstaff that know their stuff and won’t blink when your little darling knocks over her drink. 5115 NE Sandy Boulevard.
A newer entry, the Oregon Public House gets great reviews for its mission: It bills itself as the world’s first nonprofit pub. Charities they’ve supported include the Community Cycling Center and Schoolhouse Supplies. No kids menu, but plenty of kid-approved food, like sweet potato tots and a hummus plate. Bonus: it’s connected to the Village Ballroom, which hosts great music shows for kids. 700 NE Dekum Street.
Over in Raleigh Hills, Raccoon Lodge and Brew Pub gets high-marks for its Cascade Brewing operation on site, plus crayons for the littles and a kids’ menu that lets you sub in fruit or veggies for only $1 more. 7424 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway.
– by Julia Silverman