Portage Bay Cafe - South Lake Union

4.2
209 reviews
icon/ic_price_rangeCreated with Sketch.
$30 and under
icon/ic_cuisineCreated with Sketch.
American
Dined here? Add a quick review...

Rate your experience

Restaurants you may also like

View all

About

For a healthy start to the day or a midday pick-me-up, head to Portage Bay Café in South Lake Union in Seattle. The talented chefs use only local, sustainable, organic ingredients that are fresh and always in season. Although Portage Bay Café is open until 2:30 p.m., the restaurant can be rented out for private events later in the day, whether it is a festive birthday bash or a more lavish wedding shower. Catering is provided to take some of the hassle out of planning events.

Brunch at Portage Bay Café features favorites like eggs benedict, French toast, pancakes and mimosas. For lunch, select from crisp green salads topped with flavorful ingredients. Other popular menu items include sandwiches and herb-roasted organic potatoes.

Dining Style
Casual Dining
icon/ic_cuisineCreated with Sketch.
Cuisines
American, Comfort Food
icon/ic_clockCreated with Sketch.
Hours of operation
Breakfast: Monday through Friday, 7:30am to 11:30am
Lunch: Monday through Friday, 11:30am to 2:30pm
Weekend Brunch: Saturday and Sunday, 7:30am to 2:30pm
icon/ic_phoneCreated with Sketch.
Phone number
(206) 462-6400
icon/ic_new_windowCreated with Sketch.
icon/ic_paymentCreated with Sketch.
Payment options
AMEX, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
icon/ic_dress_codeCreated with Sketch.
Dress code
Casual Dress
icon/ic_chefCreated with Sketch.
Executive chef
David Miller
icon/ic_private_diningCreated with Sketch.
Private party facilities
Our three Seattle area cafes close for regular business each day after lunch, making them the perfect place for your next private, evening event. Contact Tracy to discuss your party plans.
icon/ic_contactCreated with Sketch.
Private party contact
Tracy Buck: (206) 551-4084
Open Google Maps
icon/ic_locationCreated with Sketch.
icon/ic_neighborhoodCreated with Sketch.
icon/ic_cross_streetCreated with Sketch.
Cross street
Harrison St.
icon/ic_parking_detailsCreated with Sketch.
Parking details
Choose between metered street parking and an underground garage. The garage has a discounted rate of $2 on Saturday and Sunday.
icon/ic_public_transitCreated with Sketch.
Public transit
The South Lake Union Streetcar runs directly past our front door. Heading north, choose the Terry & Thomas Station. Going south, take the Westlake & Thomas Station.
Additional
Beer, Cafe, Farm to Table, Gluten-free Menu, Non-Smoking, Outdoor dining, Takeout, Weekend Brunch, Wheelchair Access
What 209 People Are SayingWrite a review
Overall ratings and reviews
4.2based on all time ratings
4.4
food
4.0
service
3.7
ambience
3.4
value
Noise · Moderate
91% of people would recommend it to a friend
5
4
3
2
1
Sort by
Newest
Filters
M
Seattle
1 review
Dined on July 25, 2015
Overall 3food 4service 2ambience 2

I booked a table online knowing that this location is usually a zoo at brunch on weekends. We got there and still had to put our name down on a slip of paper. Did their system go down? No explanation was made. After waiting for about 20 minutes our name along with three other parties names were called (inside where we could barely hear just outside the door). There is barely any waiting room inside so you have to call names inside and out guys and gals! We go up to the front and are met with blank stares. "It will be just a minute." After 5 more minutes of confusion the only nice hostess sat us and then NOTHING. Not a soul came to our table for another ten minutes at least. We were about ready to leave, weary and starving from all of the extra effort so far. Finally she appeared and took our order. They comped our coffees, but we barely saw the server again during our meal so it hardly made up for anything. Never going back to this location.

Report
Helpful
S
Philadelphia
22 reviews
Dined on July 21, 2015
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 4

Food is awesome! Went here three mornings for breakfast it was so good. Very high quality.

Report
Helpful
ST
Chicago
1 review
Dined on July 20, 2015
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 4

My wife and I always enjoy our visits to Portage Bay. The service and food are consistently excellent, and we'll keep going back.

Report
Helpful
GF
Seattle
1 review
Dined on July 19, 2015
Overall 3food 5service 5ambience 5

We love us some Portage Bay Cafe! The only disappointment this time was the almost 45 minute wait even with a coordinated ahead of time reservation. Not entirely unexpected considering the popularity of their weekend brunch, but a bit frustrating nonetheless (especially with a 4month old baby in our party.) The service was top notch, the food DE-lish. I had their special gluten free lemon and cream cheese crepes--fantastic! PBC continues to be a recurring fave for this Seattle family.

Report
Helpful
CJ
Seattle
1 review
Dined on July 19, 2015
Overall 2food 3service 3ambience 3

Plan for extra time during brunch even if you have a reservation.

Report
Helpful
P
Seattle
4 reviews
Dined on July 19, 2015
Overall 2food 3service 1ambience 1

food is very good but when service suffers, you realize there are too many good restaurants in the area to put up with substandard service.

Report
Helpful
Z
Miami
1 review
Dined on July 19, 2015
Overall 2food 5service 3ambience 4

On the weekend it's super crowded. We had to wait an extra 15 min past our reservation and it took quite some time to get our orders in plus food but it was good. I would prefer to come on the weekday since I work so close.

Report
Helpful
SB
Seattle
3 reviews
Dined on July 19, 2015
Overall 5food 5service 4ambience 4

Portage Bay never disappoints. In the past when they didn't take reservations it was one of the spots I wouldn't go to just because of the long lines. However, that I can book a spot in advance, I will be getting the French Toast more often than was is good for me.

Report
Helpful
BS
Seattle
38 reviews
Dined on July 17, 2015
Overall 2food 2service 2ambience 2

I went there with some colleagues for lunch. I guess I don't understand the appeal. The menu is quite small and it's mainly breakfast-type food with very few lunch options. The place was crowded and we had to wait despite having a reservation. Overall, it felt like an upgrade over Denny's in terms of flavor, but I don't know why it seemed so popular.

Report
Helpful
H
Seattle
1 review
Dined on July 17, 2015
Overall 4food 4service 4ambience 3

fab menu, especially for gluten free and vegan, but very noisy even when not crowded.

Report
Helpful
OT
Seattle
1 review
Dined on July 12, 2015
Overall 4food 5service 5ambience 5

I love coming here in the summer for the fresh fruit bar! All the fruit is organic and delicious and the food is good too ;). The brunch menu had a wide variety of food items to choose from. If you are going to come here on a weekend, make a reservation!!!!! I sat down with my group on the porch and heard people waiting outside talking about their 2 hr wait. And they would wait for the food. :)

Report
Helpful
e
Chicago
1 review
Dined on July 12, 2015
Overall 3food 5service 4ambience 2

We had excellent food for breakfast but it was incredibly loud. We made reservations the night before but had to stand for about 20 minutes before being seated. The manager finally noticed my 80 year old mother's cane wasn't going to hold her up much longer and found us a table. We'll probably be back on another trip to Seattle but will not bring my mother.

Report
Helpful
PD
Seattle
93 reviews
Dined on July 12, 2015
Overall 4food 4service 4ambience 4

This was our first visit to the South Lake Union Portage Bay Cafe and we were not disappointed. The food was tasty and the service was friendly and excellent. We sat outside - which was very pleasant and quiet. The big interior room seemed very noisy so - maybe not a great choice for those (like us) who are hearing challenged but there appears to be a quieter option off to the side near the counter seating. This was a great, lower key option to the bigger and more bustling U district Portage Bay Cafe - and the parking was easier too.

Report
Helpful
OT
Seattle
2 reviews
Dined on July 10, 2015
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

very unique place

Report
Helpful
OT
Seattle
1 review
Dined on July 9, 2015
Overall 2food 1service 3ambience 5

The eggs in my eggs benedict were too hard. I complained to the waiter and he brought me new eggs, identical to the first, so I just ate a bit and skipped the bread because of the dryness. I've had great meals at the Roosevelt location and more friendly service. The waiter seemed annoyed.

Report
Helpful
M
Seattle
22 reviews
Dined on July 5, 2015
Overall 3food 4service 2ambience 2

We love the Portage Bay Cafe' restaurants for their wonderfully delicious food! We've been to this one, the U-District, and the Ballard location. The ambiance at the South Lake Union location is like a big , nice cafeteria. The tables are placed in long rows and we have remarked that luckily that so far we have not been stuck at one of the several tables lined up in the middle of the cavernous space. It is loud enough that not until after they stopped serving breakfast and the crowd thinned out did my husband even notice the music. The service every time at this location has been personable but absent: when the server DOES come to the table, the server is unfailingly friendly and interested. However, service is always hard to flag down and slow, even for coffee and water. That said, we love the Mexican interpretations (the migas will feed you for three days), and my husband is a particular fan of the toppings bar, even when he's ordering his decadent cobbler french toast. Definitely use Open Table to get a table, otherwise you'll be waiting outside with the crowd, and go knowing you'll have to be patient but that the food is deliciously worth it.

Report
Helpful
K
Chicago
1 review
Dined on July 5, 2015
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

My girlfriend was visiting for the weekend so my husband and I took her to Portage Bay because we had heard such great things about the brunch! We made a reservation and they seated us quickly and we loved our meals plus they have a killer fruit bar and fresh squeeze juice for their mimosas! Yummy!

Report
Helpful
r
Seattle
9 reviews
Dined on July 5, 2015
Overall 1food 2service 1ambience 1

Super disappointing experience at Portage Bay...

Honestly, the problem wasn't that it took our waiter 15 minutes to take our coffee order, or that it took him another 10 minutes to bring our coffees back to us, or that it took 40 minutes for our food to arrive.... Or even that when our food finally arrived the cheese hadn't even melted onto our lukewarm eggs. (Although all of those things were pretty irritating.)

The main issue was how inconsiderate the service was. Yes, it's Sunday Brunch - it's busy, and being a server is not an easy job at all. Usually I'm really empathetic towards servers in super busy restaurants. This server, however, unapologetically kept running into our table and into the back of my mother's chair. Like, if you need to squeeze by just do so with a pleasant manner! It wouldn't have been a problem if he wasn't treating us like we were in his way and a major annoyance to him - after all, it wasn't our fault that the restaurant chose to pack so many tables in that space. We even scooted our table 6 inches over so that he would have more room to walk by, and STILL he bumped into us, huffing and puffing, EVERY time.

The funny part about all of this - the slow service, the chaotic environment, etc. - it seemed like they had a TON of staff working at the restaurant. I get that it's a big place but usually when you have that many people working at one time it's to expedite service and create a slightly less chaotic environment, but that was simply not the case. I sincerely hope management checks social media reviews and reads this because either they're hiring the wrong people or they just have a really awful system in place. We tried to speak to a manager at the restaurant about this but there was no manager to be found anywhere - perhaps another issue contributing to the larger-scale lack of orginazation in the restaurant.

Report
Helpful
OT
Seattle
1 review
Dined on July 5, 2015
Overall 3food 5service 4ambience 1

I am a frequent Portage Bay patron, but prefer the other locations as opposed to SLU. The SLU location is insanely noisy given the one large room with high ceilings. You can hear the parties you are dining with at the other locations (though don't expect a quiet experience at any location).
Sadly, the other issue with SLU is the consistent lack of respect for a reservation time. Once again, they were late in seating us (15 minutes late) at our reservation time. My experience at other Portage Bay locations have been pretty flawless in the reservation time accommodation.

Report
Helpful
OT
Los Angeles
3 reviews
Dined on July 4, 2015
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Great food, friendly staff, and a vibrant atmosphere. Came here on a recommendation from a friend and it was the best place we went for breakfast during our stay in Seattle.

Report
Helpful
OT
Seattle
1 review
Dined on July 3, 2015
Overall 3food 3service 2ambience 4

It was cool restaurant but not really sure what all the hype is about. Food was ok service was not great but atmosphere was fun.

Report
Helpful
OT
Seattle
1 review
Dined on June 28, 2015
Overall 4food 4service 4ambience 4

Great food . The crepes were great. We got right in and the service was quick.

Report
Helpful
JW
Seattle
1 review
Dined on June 28, 2015
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 4

This is a great place. I'm a big fan of Portage Bay Cafe - South Lake Union. They have great menu, tasty food, and a friendly staff.

Just a heads up: reservations are required. The restaurant is so popular, these days, that they don't take walk ins--which isn't a problem, as long as you know and book a reservation in advance.

Report
Helpful
MH
Seattle
7 reviews
Dined on June 27, 2015
Overall 4food 4service 5ambience 3

Portage Bay is always the classic, delicious Seattle brunch. It still continues to be delicious, however, the atmosphere has gone way down. Due to its popularity, Portage Bay South Lake Union is always packed for weekend brunch. The tables are pretty close together and it is REALLY loud. In past experiences, it has been great for groups, but now it is so loud there, it is much less enjoyable because it is so hard to talk. It all comes from good things, but I am less likely to visit the restaurant on a weekend for brunch. Our server was awesome and the food continues to be excellent.

Report
Helpful
SK
Portland
6 reviews
Dined on June 27, 2015
Overall 4food 5service 5ambience 3

They did not have our reservation, but it was not busy.

Report
Helpful
F
San Francisco
8 reviews
Dined on June 24, 2015
Overall 2food 1service 1ambience 1

Very slow service, food was barely warm, tasteless, dry. Ordered 2 bloody mary's, and they too were awful. Coffee was warm, tasted old, asked for fresh coffee and waiter said I would have to wait a while because it's too busy.

Report
Helpful
s
Seattle
1 review
Dined on June 21, 2015
Overall 4food 4service 4ambience 2

I was a bit worried about making a reservation here for father's day given some mixed reviews about their service. We arrived about 20 minutes late for our reservation and found a large line of people waiting outside. Though I had called ahead to say we'd be late, I was stressing... But... we were seated in about 5 minutes and had great attentive service. And the food was excellent. We ate around 2:00 and were so stuffed we couldn't eat dinner! I would definitely go back. My 2 year old loved his pancake and the berries from the breakfast bar. All round, a success!

Report
Helpful
S
Seattle
1 review
Dined on June 21, 2015
Overall 2food 2service 2ambience 2

I realize it was Father's day and packed but they were 25 minutes late with our reservation and the Eggs Benedict was so bad, I actually had to send it back and I rarely, if ever, do that. I'm not a picky eater.

Report
Helpful
AS
Seattle
4 reviews
Dined on June 20, 2015
Overall 2food 4service 1ambience 1

We were sat 30 minutes past our reservations and waited an additional 30 minutes for food. I understand you are busy, however, if you are going to have a reservation system you should actually try to honor it. This is the 3rd time in the past month that we have had to wait well past our reservation time to be seated. IF YOU KNOW YOU ARE GOING TO BE SLAMMED EVERY WEEKEND GO BACK TO THE DAYS WHERE YOU DID NOT TAKE RESERVATIONS SO YOUR GUESTS ARE NOT MISLED.

Report
Helpful
s
Seattle
1 review
Dined on June 20, 2015
Overall 3food 4service 5ambience 4

My mother was here visiting from Arizona and this was the place I had to take her. I have been a few times before and I couldn't stop thinking about the food. The food always tastes fresh and there is never a disappointment in the quantity of food that is received. The servers always go out of their way for the experience to be more enjoyable with recommendations and actual conversations. My only gripe is the waiting. I make reservations and I still wait about 15-20 minutes the table. I do not even get the better seating either, it is just what ever is available. I also have waited at each trip about 45 minutes to an hour for the food to come.

Report
Helpful
P
Miami
5 reviews
Dined on June 15, 2015
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Nobody gives you more or does a better job! Nothing on the menu falls short and the service is suburb and ever so friendly. Great way to start your day!

Report
Helpful
PM
New England
18 reviews
Dined on June 14, 2015
Overall 5food 5service 4ambience 4

This is the 2nd Portage Bay Cafe location we have eaten brunch at. This one is larger than the other. Aside from the narrow maze structure of the tables that even the wait staff has some difficulty finding its way through, the food is fantastic, including the "extras" bar of food to top menu items with. The wait staff that we encountered were friendly and helpful, even if very busy. This South Lake Union location has outdoor dining and the neighborhood, at least on a Sunday morning, is relatively quiet with ample parking. Two Portage Bay Cafe experiences and it is now one of our "go-to" places for brunch. (I had the oat-crusted French Toast and it is about as good as it gets: sinfully delicious. My adult son raved about his blueberry pancakes, and my wife had a scramble with sausage, avocado, chipotle peppers and salsa in a tortilla, also delicious.)

Report
Helpful
OT
Seattle
1 review
Dined on June 13, 2015
Overall 3food 3service 2ambience 3

Waitress took forever to serve us. Booked a reservation at 12pm, didn't get seated until 12:25pm, waitress didn't take our orders until 12:45pm, and food came out around 1pm. Timing was way off, service was slow, and the salmon egg Benedict was a disappointment and really dry.

Report
Helpful
OT
Seattle
1 review
Dined on June 13, 2015
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

We went here for brunch after my daughter's graduation. We were glad for reservations! 3 of us had the classic french toast and made the trip to the topping bar. All enjoyed very much but go easy with the maple syrup. The bread really soaked it up, more than other french toasts I have had, so a little goes a long way. Which is not to say it was not good. The French Toast bread was great! Others got the eggs Benedict and Phil's breakfast and really liked it. My husband got Farmers Hash and loved that. Great service. We sat outside and I nice but slightly cool day. With the heaters and blankets they have set out on chairs it was more than comfortable and we were glad to sit away from the noise inside.

Report
Helpful
f
San Francisco
10 reviews
Dined on June 13, 2015
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

This place was recommended to us by a friend and it was the best breakfast! I now recommend it to everyone visiting Seattle! The ranchers breakfast with french toast was out of this world and the their fruit bar is amazing! I especially enjoyed how attentive the employees were to the refilling of the fresh fruit bar, and were great at cleaning up the syrup spills and dropped fruit. I think it might have been the best whipped cream I have had. You can just tell that the food is fresh and even though the place was beyond packed the plates came out perfect! I liked the fact that the portions were large so justified the cost. I would also highly recommend making a reservation. When we came there was a line that was wrapped the outdoor sitting area, but they were very timing to seat us with the reservation and were no longer taking walk ins. Overall outstanding and you will not be sorry you chose this place! YUMMY

Report
Helpful
RW
Seattle
1 review
Dined on June 12, 2015
Overall 5food 5service 4ambience 4

The food is always amazing, but my online reservation did not go through for some reason and had to end up waiting for about half an hour. The place is always busy for a reason. The fruit bar is incredible.

Report
Helpful
OT
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on June 12, 2015
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

It was absolutely delicious, with a large variety of options. This was perfect for a family brunch! Our table was ready when we got there, and service was great!

Report
Helpful
OT
Seattle
5 reviews
Dined on June 11, 2015
Overall 3food 4service 4ambience 3

I went for lunch and was sorry I did not plan on going for breakfast or brunch. Food is amazing anyway but it looks like they knock it out of the park on breakfast food.

Tons of tables but be warned that it is extremely loud and hard to carry on conversation. Ceilings are high and doesn't seem like the acoustics have been taken in to consideration. It would not deter me from going though, I just set my expectations.

Report
Helpful
B
Seattle
2 reviews
Dined on June 10, 2015
Overall 3food 3service 2ambience 3

The food here is pretty good and fresh but the service not that great. We were a group of 4 went for lunch around noon. It took our server quite long to get to us and then the food wait was almost around 45 minutes. No complaints about the food though!

Report
Helpful
OT
Seattle
5 reviews
Dined on June 8, 2015
Overall 4food 5service 4ambience 4

Met a co-worker for lunch. There is a reasonable menu, a little something for every diet. I had a wonderful salad that was fresh, organic and local. Great focus on those three things. The main dining area is very open with tables pretty close together. I think it would be very noisy in there at peak dining times but if you don't need quiet space, it felt energetic.

Report
Helpful
1
2
3
6