All-Way's Hamburger Time Machine

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

By Kelly Clarke February 2, 2015 Published in the February 2015 issue of Portland Monthly

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.

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