First Impressions: All-Way

Broder’s Peter Bro resurrects the diner that time forgot, deliciously.

By Kelly Clarke December 16, 2014

All-Way's sidewalk sandwich board hints at its downtown dining room's storied history; All-Way's old school burger and fries, with a seasonal side of green bean casserole.

At the new diner buried in the back of the Charles F. Berg building near Pioneer Courthouse Square, a burger isn’t just 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.

Peter Bro, who turned Swedish abelskivers into a brunch institution at Broder, had a solid cheat sheet for his classic Americana joint. Until last April, All-Way’s quirky, bi-level 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 new happy hour deals, late night hours, and a full bar—a fact that the downtown movie and live music crowds have not caught onto just yet. 

(Full disclosure: My family was Red Coach regulars. Co-owner Jeanne Durkheimer prepared my childhood order by heart—Cherry Coke; cheeseburger, plain—for 30-plus years. So yeah, I'm holding All-Way to a pretty high standard, here.)

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).

Sure, the fancy house-made sodas are tooth-punishingly sweet (spiking one with rum helps), sides can come over-salted, and that perfectly fried chicken needs brighter seasoning. But All-Way’s friendly tone is right on—so much so that Bro just began converting 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.

615 SW Broadway
& 2500 SE Clinton St

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