Portland is full of amazing restaurants. Choosing one out of so many, can prove quite challenging at times. How we came about finding the Screen Door went much like this. (if you just wish to read the heart of my review, scroll down to The Screen Door Restaurant, Portland Oregon.)
“We really need to find a place that isn’t outrageously expensive. A place with yummy meals that we all like, where I can get something healthy.”
Z searches on her phone as we drive into Portland in a snow and ice mixed mess of a night.
“There’s a place called The Screen Door. I don’t know much about it, but that it’s good, let’s try that!”
It was cold! Crazy cold! Icy snow battered the windshield and it was hard to see. But we were already in Portland, had made good time from Seattle, despite the wretched weather.
“Turn left” demanded WAZE
“This is a cute neighborhood!” I say trying to distract my son once I notice the line of souls braving the malicious snow, streaming from The Screen Door.
“This is the “trendy” area!” Says son in smarmy voice while making quotes in the air with his fingertips. I glance back at his girlfriend Z, and see her dubiously eyeing the snow covered line of frigid but hopeful patrons outside the restaurant.
We both know my son has little patience for lines, and don’t want to get into yet another restaurant debate with him. We’d been disagreeing on restaurants since we left Seattle for Portland and none of us felt like discussing it any further.
“But it just opened!” Z exasperated from the back seat, amazed that such a long line had accumulated, in the driving snow, right at opening. (Long lines outside The Screen Door , are apparently common, so do take note and call ahead)
“What? There’s a line?” My son eyes the door through the snowy onslaught.
We are all silent as the snow goes vertical. I’m leaning close to the windshield trying to identify a reasonable parking spot. The wipers whir and slap. It’s pretty hard to see anything. I’m hungry and really do not feel like changing our plans at this point.
“It’s not quite snow, nor rain, nor ice.” I say absently as I parallel park. It remains quiet beyond the swishing of the wipers and plinking sound of icy snow. I am practically holding my breath. I imagine Z is doing the same, as we wait for my son to say something.
“Schmice” he says. “It’s schmicing out”
We park, still in silence, hoping to avoid any debate on change of venue. We’re pretty close to their house and I don’t feel like driving around any longer in this shitty weather. The PNW does not tend to be prepared for snow or ice and it did not look as if the weather was planning to clear up, any time soon.
“Well it didn’t look that bad!” says the boychik. (Thank God!) We both exhale. The snow velocity increases, reverberating on the car. We hesitate in the warm vehicle before opening our doors simultaneously. The cold rushes in.
The snow pelts us directly in the face as we trudge towards the restaurant. It’s three, seemingly long, cold, wet blocks to the restaurant.
Thankfully, the dreaded line has already moved inside. My son pulls open the door to a blast of warm air. The friendly chatter emanating from the cozy room offers a welcoming and soothing feel. We walk into the tightly packed foyer of soggy people and warm toned wood benches. The flannel shirted host is friendly, smiling and equally warm toned.
We are all relaxed. This is not always the case. My son can get twitchy in certain crowds and enclosed spaces. Smarmy attitudes, places that feel too formal “fancy schmancy” or too touristy, will often cause him to immediately turn heel and leave. There is no debating the matter at that point. Jameson has no time or patience for contrivances.
Yet inside the Screen Door, Jameson is totally chill, proving it to be a comforting space, despite the raging weather outside!
A warm and welcoming place with equally warm, welcoming staff and food. I’d say the customers were mostly locals. The weather did not appear to put much of a damper on the crowd. I couldn’t help but wonder if wool beanies and ball caps would be acceptable attire in a restaurant in the Deep South. I mean “Maw” would likely smack that ball cap right off your head in the bible belt. Thankfully, we are not there, we are in Portland. Land of urban lumberjacks long before Austin or even San Francisco or Brooklyn fell into the fad. It feels a lot less forced, more of a natural progression of a look for this working class, often cold and rainy town. Being a girl of the 80’s, I may never get accustomed to the neck beards, but this casual cross between viking and lumberjack is ok with me. I do not think I will ever settle into the “neon” fad. But gut boys in flannel with man buns, yeah… I’m game.
Good to note, before I continue on with a more detailed review. I’m not vegan, I’m not even vegetarian, but I do not eat a lot of meat. I am crazy careful about food quality and how it is cooked. I’ve been one of those “clean, local, organic, humanely raised” pain in the asses for years, so Southern style fried food is not high on my list of faves health wise.
I don’t generally eat many grains, no wheat, no rice and rarely anything fried. I’ll eat a decent dessert now and then, and I do like my drink, but I’m usually obnoxiously careful about what I eat. Although I did find something to eat and enjoyed it and there were quite a few options of vegetable and gluten free dishes, there were not a great deal of super healthy options at the Screen Door. <– click for menu
This was a week that I was open to throwing caution to the wind when dining with my meat and fried food loving kids, but for others that are limited to what they will eat or are at least quite food conscious like me, you will likely have very limited options
The kids are in their early 20s, and they eat like stoners. They love meat, sweets and anything fried. In fact candied, fried meat with bacon would be utter paradise to them. They try to eat healthy… kinda, but I’m really glad I raised my son eating clean, because maaaan, the shit he’s eating now…
Yet, they both relish good food with such glee. I mean for anti capitalists, my son certainly loves a good steak washed down with a decent whiskey and his sig other certainly loves her decadent side dishes and desserts.
That being said, they live on a very limited budget, so don’t get to places like the Screen Door often (if at all). It’s a treat for them when Mom comes to town and I enjoy it. I love sharing meals with them. For the obvious reasons of course, but also because they are so passionate for good food and relish every damned bite! It’s just often very difficult to find a restaurant we all would like.
In the end, The Screen Door was an ok mix for us. The lack of sales tax in Portland made that scrumptious meal go down way more easily than it would have back in Seattle. Also, the Screen Door is known for their chicken & waffles for brunch. I will take the kids there for brunch next visit and update my review.
On with the actual review.
The Screen Door Restaurant, Portland Oregon:
When you walk into The Screen Door, after a hit of the warm, friendly, fragrant air and conversation carries you in, you find a small lobby or foyer area. When you turn the corner into the restaurant, it is fairly large and open, yet still warm, with a cozy feel.
The tables are pretty close together, but instead of it feeling crowded, it feels intimate and welcoming. There are a lot of very busy, very friendly staff.
We were told to enjoy the bar for our 15 minute wait. It only took 10 minutes to seat us.
Dress is casual, yet you wouldn’t feel out of place if dressed up. Your staff will be mostly man bunned, wool beanie clad, flannel shirt wearing, bearded, urban lumberjacks and hey, that’s ok right? It seems that is the regular attire for great American urban restaurants today! The food was all very tasty. It arrived in a moderately reasonable time for how busy was the place. Simply plated and well portioned. The restaurant decor is basic, with a Southern feel, canned veggies in jars, lots of wood with a relatively loud din of conversation.
The kids ordered fried chicken and a hamburger with three (3) sides and loved them all. The mac n cheese apparently kicked some ass!
I ordered the special. A lovely encrusted fish and ate every bite! It was cooked to perfection. The specialty drinks were strong and tasty too.
The Screen Door, certainly does not skimp on staff. Staff appeared to be happy, friendly, and engaged. The restaurant seemed well organized, clean and well laid out. The kids scarfed down the food with glee. The bathrooms were clean.
In the end we all enjoyed it the Screen Door, from food to atmosphere, to drinks. Moderately priced for a higher end restaurant, so not cheap, but well worth the price. The food was really good, not the best Southern food we’ve had, but it was enjoyable and decent. The atmosphere was friendly, comfortable and quite relaxed for such a busy place.
Since my visit there I have read of The Screen Door being a tourist trap. I would not say it seemed that way at the time we were there. In fact it seemed to be a fair amount of regulars and locals, but I do not doubt that it draws customers from all over.
The Screen Door, Portland Oregon! Give it a shot!