Counter Culture

Grab a stool at a local diner and dig into Portland’s best old-school eats.

By Stacey Wilson May 19, 2009 Published in the October 2008 issue of Portland Monthly

LONG BEFORE the coffeehouse was a Portland institution, there was the diner. And we say these eateries are still the perfect spots to meet up with friends for a quick and tasty—not to mention cheap—meal. Lucky for us, several of them around town are still thriving. Whether you’re craving the consummate American feast—burger, fries, and a chocolate shake—or a cozy place for conversation and a hot cup of joe, you’ll be covered at these four classic joints. All that’s missing, perhaps, is a waitress named Flo.

BYWAYS CAFÉ • 1212 NW Glisan St • 503-222-0011

The only thing “Pearl District-y” about this breakfast favorite is the address. Sure, some of the 25 or so offerings are trendy—amaretto French toast with pecan butter, for one—but comfort-food staples like “world-famous” hash and biscuits with gravy keep the place humble. Toss in a kitschy interior, and you have this fancy hood’s most down-to-earth venue for a.m. treats.

FULLER’S • 136 NW Ninth Ave • 503-222-5608

This Old Town classic has 28 bar stools wrapped around two U-shaped counters, so the speedy waitstaff is just steps away from the kitchen. Whether you order chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes for lunch, or pigs in a blanket (two sausages rolled in a German pancake) for breakfast, the wait is rarely more than 10 minutes. And the coffee refills keep coming.

ROXY • 1121 SW Stark St • 503-223-9160

Sometimes the only way to end a night out is with a gooey tuna melt and fries. This all-night spot has ’em—along with pretty much everything else. Egg dishes (there are about 15) are big favorites among the 3 a.m. set; that’s when the Roxy is packed with downtown club kids, off-duty drag queens, and random night owls seeking full bellies before their predawn slumbers.

STEPPING STONE • 2390 NW Quimby St • 503-222-1132

Doing the greasy-spoon thing doesn’t mean you have to abandon all good sense. Among the 100 or so dishes here are healthy options like the veggie scramble and house-made meat-free chili, and dinner fare like garlic-and-olive-oil penne. And since grown-up cuisine demands an adult beverage, order a dry martini from the bar—just one—and toast your good health.

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