At the new diner buried in the back of the Charles F. Berg building near Pioneer Courthouse Square, a burger is more than a burger—it’s a time machine. It starts with the bun: a bronzed dome shiny with egg wash, sweet and unbelievably buttery, crunchy from a toast on the griddle. Paired with juicy local beef, a flutter of butter lettuce, and tart quick pickles, all blanketed with American cheese, it sets off a cascade of nostalgia usually reserved for warm laundry. The fries, skinny-crisp and lava-hot, are equally emotional.
Bro (above), who turned Danish aebleskivers into a brunch institution at Broder, had a solid cheat sheet for his classic Americana joint. Until last April, All-Way’s quirky, bilevel space was home to the Red Coach, a no-nonsense diner whose sandwich board hunkered on downtown sidewalks for 55 years. As a tribute, Bro kept the iconic oxblood Naugahyde booths, now older than most of All-Way’s customers. He kept the dim office lighting, the old flattop grill, and, increasingly, Red Coach’s lunchtime rush of workday regulars. He wisely added late-night hours and a full bar.
This is not some exercise in Happy Days schmaltz. It’s part of a movement to reunite fast American food with good ingredients and decent prices. The menu is a familiar illuminated board of add-on burger patties, fried cod sandwiches, and salads—prepared with a level of execution that could be lovingly mocked on Portlandia. The tangy buttermilk ranch and those pickles are made in house; not to mention a funky, fermented chile hot sauce that tastes equally awesome drizzled on fried chicken or splashed on craggy onion rings. Salad croutons—little sage- and garlic-laden butter bombs—are the toasted remainders of those magical buns (delivered by equally old-school Alessio Bakery).
615 SW Broadway
& 2500 SE Clinton St
Sure, the fancy house-made sodas are tooth-punishingly sweet (spiking one with rum helps), and sides can come over salted, while that perfectly fried chicken needs brighter seasoning. But All-Way’s friendly tone is right on—so much so that Bro already converted the dining room of his decade-old Savoy Tavern on SE Clinton Street to a second outpost of the burger stop. “We want that nostalgia, that heart,” says Bro. “It takes a lot of time to build an institution.”
He’s got a good head start.