Dixie Picks

By Camas Davis May 19, 2009 Published in the October 2006 issue of Portland Monthly

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Is it possible to elevate Southern comfort food without compromising the Southern or the comfort? David Mouton, who with wife Nicole owns the new East Burnside eatery they’ve dubbed Screen Door after that fixture of muggy bayou nights, believes it is.

"We both grew up in Louisiana," says Mouton. "For us, Creole cuisine is the culmination of using local ingredients with classic technique." The Moutons and their kitchen crew have applied that spirit to all manner of Southern specialties from oyster po’boys to fried green tomatoes. But the local ingredients they’re using aren’t shipped in from the Gulf. Instead, they get their chicken from Mount Vernon, Wash., and the pork spareribs come out of Carlton. "In Louisiana we took for granted the whole notion of slow food because it’s such a lush part of the country and the growing season is so long," explains Mouton. "In the Northwest, that makes sense too. There’s no reason to go anywhere else to find great product."

Using local ingredients isn’t the only way they’re dressing up Dixie. While ma-and-pa jars of pickled okra and beets line one wall and porch siding graces another, the minimal, breezy space exudes an understated elegance. And such presentation graces the plates as well: A spinach and bacon salad is ornamented by shaved Smithfield ham and glistening figs, and the roasted yellow grits cakes bear an artful topping of fresh summer vegetable succotash. But for anyone ‘spicious of such highfalutin levels of comfort, the Moutons have two words: pimiento cheese. Yes’m, they’ve got that too.