For some people, voluntarily going out to eat without anyone else is as anxiety-inducing as booking your annual physical. But once you try it, you’ll realize dining solo can turn into an addiction, mostly because you won’t have to share, and no one will give you a “really?” face when you order another glass of wine. If you’re looking for a gateway drug into the world of quiet meals on your own, start with some rice porridge and donut-like puffs at Porridge & Puffs.
This casual Asian-influenced spot in Historic Filipinotown has a charming, slightly unfinished feel. For decoration, there are dried flowers on one wall and a bunch of polaroids of friends on another, plus some speaker wires taped to windows. The communal table is slightly wobbly, the bench seat along the wall is too low for the tables, and it all comes together to be minimal but cozy. Whatever time of day you’re here (they’re open for lunch weekdays, brunch on weekends, and dinner a couple of nights a week), there will probably be another solo diner at the communal table so that you don’t feel entirely alone.
The menu is also ideal for parties of one - it’s pretty small, and sharing bowls of rice porridge is about as fun as sharing bowls of soup. While there are a couple of salad-y things, dessert options, and airy, beignet-like puffs that come in savory (for scooping purposes) or sweet form, the porridges are where you should focus your energy.
Rice porridge with a few ingredients on top might sound simple, but all the bowls here are complex. Like a hearty seasonal special with butternut brown butter porridge, duck stock poached mochi, and braised winter melon. Everything you eat here is subtle, layered, and full of flavor. It’s food that was made just for you, and that you’d prefer not to share.
Porridge & Puffs is a solo dining safe space, especially during the day. The staff are friendly and happy to chat. The dishes aren’t so big or expensive that ordering a porridge, a plate of puffs, and a dessert feels extravagant. Before you know it, you’ll be eating alone all the time. You should just book that annual physical now too.
A lot of the dishes here are pretty heavy. Start with this tart, crunchy slaw to change things up (and get some health in there too).
Probably our favorite porridge, and one that’s always on the menu. The porridge sits on top of a turkey, chicken, and mushroom mix, gets topped with more poultry, pickled celery, and crispy shallots. We’d have this for lunch every day if we could.
If you get to Porridge & Puffs too late, there’s a chance they’ll have sold out of this porridge. We like it, but it’s not quite as interesting as some of the other options.
A seasonal special we had on one dinner visit, this porridge is basically a cross between a main course and dessert. The porridge involves butternut squash and a not-insignificant amount of brown butter, and when you add the duck on top, you’ve done the right thing.
On our last visit they told us this dish was going away soon, but hopefully just by talking about it here, we’ll keep it on the menu. With eggs and brisket and pepper sauce on top of porridge, it’s about as hearty as food gets, and even if we were expecting a bunch more spice, we still keep slipping into daydreams about topping porridge with poached eggs.
These come savory (for dipping in porridge) or sweet (for dessert). Just get both.
Like french toast turned up to 100, and impossible to skip.