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Diners and Diner Food in Portland

  • j

OK, so I'm from NYC...an outer borough girl, Brooklyn and Queens. When we don't know what we want to eat or those in a group can't decide on one type of food or we want a fast meal but not fast food, we go to a diner. Diners in the east, and especially NY, usually serve good fish, good burgers and grill items, good fried stuff, breakfast all day, always good coffee, etc. They are inexpensive and often open 24/7.

I haven't found a place in Portland that fills this niche for me. Where do you go if you want a burger or a huge salad with a grilled chicken breast on it, and your co-diner wants a turkey dinner or filet of sole, or even breakfast, and you want to spend less than $20 on the whole thing?

Puhleeze - don't give me chains - Denny's has it's place when you're on the road and hungry at 2am and all but it is not a diner, not what I'm looking for.

I've eaten at Cup & Saucer on Hawthorne and they fit some of the requirements - breakfast all day, inexpensive, burgers and other items - but the menu is not varied enough and although I am no foe of vegetarianism or healthy eating (even seek it out, sometimes), it is not the right vibe for a diner.

So, all you chilly Portlanders (could be worse, we could be living in a place that got over 6' (no typo there folks - six feet!) of snow like Buffalo, NY) let me know where to go.

SE or NE would be best but we will venture further for the real thing.

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  1. You may have already learned that all you'll get is blank stare if you ask a Portlander about diners (unless he or she is a refugee from the northeast). The word just doesn't exist in the lexicon, at least not in the sense you want.

    We used to have cafes (aka coffee shops) which filled the same niche, but there really aren't too many of these left, either, unless you drive out of Portland proper to the remaining remnants of small town Oregon.

    In SE Portland, look out along Foster Rd toward 82nd, where the Stumptown groove factor hasn't quite reached (and may never), or down toward Milwaukie and Gladstone on hwy 99. I can't really offer any hard clues, but those are the area where you're most likely to find an old school cafe.

    In NE, you might give Waddles a shot (at the Jantzen Beach exit just before you cross the Columbia). It's really almost in Vancouver, and the last time they widened I-5 it nearly disappeared altogether, but it is one of the few holdouts of an earlier era. It is a little Denny's-ish, but it's not a chain.

    But, like Hellman's mayo and regular coffee, there are some things you left behind forever when you came west.

    Jim

    Link: http://www.realgoodfood.com

    2 Replies
    1. re: Jim Dixon

      Hey Jim,

      I didn't leave Hellman's behind, it is just masquerading as Best Foods Mayo (and now that darned commercial jingle: "Bring out the ____ and bring out the best" makes a heck of a lot more sense!) and I still drink regular coffee (no latte or cap for me!) though it's a helluva lot better here! I haven't had a bad cup of coffee in the NW, it's definitely a bonus.

      I take the 14 Hawthorne bus to and from work now that I'm in my new house in SE and I pass a candidate that looks like it has the right vibe: Sewickly's (the restaurant part, not the "Addition" - which I suppose is a bar - in OR, if they slap the word 'lounge' on a spot, does that mean they can have folks smoke and gamble on those lottery machines?).

      It's on Hawthorne, in the high 40's, I think. The sign says they serve breakfast all day and it looks kind of coffee shoppish.

      Before I decide to venture there, any warnings to stay away?

      Last night went to Thai Hut again (it's our Saigon Kitchen! - which, by the way, we love too) and it was another good meal cooked and served by extremely nice people. Good chowhound vibe there...

      1. re: Jill-O

        Sewickly's is ok but I think Brite Spot, a greasy spoon across the street, is better.

    2. Limelight in Sellwood (SE) has the best fries I've ever tasted. Plus they have grilled stuff and salads and burgers and mixed drinks. Don't know if they serve breakfast although Fat Albert's is a few doors away and they have AWESOME breakfasts.

      1. Jill,
        Check out Byways Cafe on NW Glisan, I think you'll find what you've been looking for. They are open for both breakfast and lunch. I recommend that you try their turkey burger.

        1. I second the endorsement for the Limelight. The atmosphere is divey, the presentation is so-so, but the food is tasty and fresh. Great apple pie by the slice, awesome clam chowder, a yummy cobb salad that comes topped with steaming hot grilled chicken (not cold - ick), and taco tuesdays (tasty and authentic-ish soft corn tacos 3 for $4) are the highlights for me. All very reasonably priced, too. It's a regular lunch stop for my workmates and me.

          1. Stepping Stone; NW 24th @ Quimby.

            1. Unfortunately, Quality Pie is no more. That was exactly what you're looking for, but it faded away a few years ago.

              It's a bit of a trek, but I think The Bomber in Milwaukie fills the bill, and has been doing so for a couple of generations. The menu has most, though not all, of what you want, and the vibe is about as close as you'll get. And of course, there's the namesake B-17.

              There is an actual stainless-steel diner out in Aloha on TV Hiway, across the road from Intel's Aloha fab. The Blue Moon is also a trek from NE/SE. The food's good and prices are right, but the vibe is a little artificial; it's a self-conscious, squeaky clean re-creation, not the genuine down-at-the-heels article.

              1. nighthawk, portland blvd and interstate. not sure if the quality of food is what you're looking for. but the decore and sassy waitress is there.

                1. We used to go to "The Roxy", in highschool, on sw Stark, for 24 hour food/breakfast. I haven't been in years but it was greasy, just o.k., food. The servers had (have) a lot of attitude (goth/punk vibe).

                  I do have 2 cafe's I enjoy that serve breakfast "all day":
                  Marco's Cafe in Multnomah Village http://marcoscafe.com/ and
                  Cameo Cafe in NW portland.

                  Marco's has a really good mulligatawny every Thursday! :)

                  1. You might take a look at O'Connor's in Multnomah Village (a part of Portland). Not 24/7, but may meet the rest of your criteria (dunno about all-day breakfast). As to the Foster Road suggestion above, take a look at Diane's Restaurant, in the 50's on Foster on the South side of the street. Waddles is either gone or unrecognizable -- I forget which. Henry Thiele's might have filled your bill, but they too are history.

                    1. Fullers in the Pearl - next door to the Pearl Bakery

                      1. Fat City in Multnomah does serve breakfast "all-day," but they do close in the afternoon, like at 3:00 or so.

                        I love that we're responding to a post originally made six years ago. After all, the aforementioned Waddles is now a Hooters...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: MichaelG

                          The pleasures of actually having a search that works.

                        2. I know, it's the thread that won't die! I posted it when I first moved to Portland.

                          Now, I don't so much care about being able to have a "real" diner here. The turkey dinner at Huber's satisfies that craving when it hits, and there's always Cafe Castagna for a great burger.

                          I don't get the urge for breakfast late at night either so much these days. Don't really have a great go-to place for a huge salad, though, other than Sweet Tomatoes.