Few restaurants can lay claim to the kind of historical cache that Salty’s on the Columbia can. First established over 30 years ago, today it stands as one of the most well-known and well-regarded restaurants in Portland. It’s also still the only restaurant in Portland set astride the Columbia River.
But although Salty’s is known for its seafood and steak offerings, what really stands out is its weekend seafood brunch. Show up any time on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and prepare to be parking halfway down the street. A space that is normally open and airy is suddenly clogged with throngs of people who have nothing but sweet Dungeness crab legs and bottomless mimosas on their mind.
On a hot summer day, a spot out on the riverfront patio becomes prime real estate. Clear blue skies sparkle off of the dark waters of the Columbia. The setting becomes a template for your repeated trips to the buffet line.
Once there, you’ll find everything from delicious sweets like fluffy macaroons and Mini-Bavarian cream cakes to eggs benedict and garlic butter asparagus. Lunch items, salads, seasonal fruits, and even a chocolate fountain can be found among the snaking buffet lines. What sets Salty’s apart is the sheer size and scope and, of course, the crab legs.
About Salty’s On the Columbia
Upon entering, expect to be greeted on the left by the prime rib station. Delectable cuts of meat are shaved to your liking, from the more well done end cut to the medium rare center. Move on down the line to a full tray of just-shucked Pacific Northwest oysters. Time it right because the oyster tray empties out fast.
The room is divided up into two sides. In addition to the self-serve sections, there are also two stations where cooks whip up custom omelets, scrambles, pancakes, waffles and just about anything else you would like created for you.
Although there’s a ton of selection at your fingertips, there’s only one area where the line is constant, and that’s where two large bins house a heaping of local Dungeness crab legs on ice. On the other side of the table you can find fresh shrimp, shrimp ceviche and local steelhead, complete with the head still attached. It doesn’t get much fresher than that.
As with any buffet, your time there wouldn’t be complete without copious amounts of an adult beverage. Fortunately, Salty’s includes bottomless mimosas or build-your-own Bloody Mary’s with your brunch. The river makes a perfect backdrop for repeated returns to both the buffet line and the bottom of your glass.
Aside from the food, the service stands out. No sooner is your glass empty than a smiling server appears to quickly refill it. Plates are removed expeditiously and all the items you need to make a huge mess of crab shells are laid out before you.
In 1980, Gerry Kingen opened the first Salty’s on the Willamette River. A short time later it was moved up to the Columbia waterfront, where it remains to this day. Although there are three Salty’s, with the other two in Washington state, it’s the location on Marine Drive that still holds all the magic. His vision for fine dining and brunch eateries focused on delicious, local food, still stands the test of time today.
Don’t Miss Salty’s On The Columbia!
For more information on the full breadth of items available at Salty’s Sunday brunch, click here. For more information on Salty’s on the Columbia, visit their website by clicking here or going to saltys.com. They are located at 3839 NE Marine Drive in Portland, Oregon, 97211. Salty’s brunch runs from 9:30am to 1:00pm on Saturday and 9:00am – 1:30pm on Sunday. They can be reached at 503.288.4444.
William Bessette – PortlandMetroLive.com Contributor
William Bessette is a published author, poet and longtime journalist who has been covering politics, entertainment, culture and travel for over twelve years. He currently works from his home in the Pacific Northwest profiling restaurants, reviewing local plays and reporting on regional, national and international travel.