Last weekend my hubby and I spent a couple days in Portland, Oregon. We were super excited to head down for some R&R, in particular for some foodie good times! After doing some research online and reading other foodie blogs, I had a long list of restaurants and food carts I wanted to visit and try out in my 2 days in the city. One of my first must-try location was Screen Door Restaurant, touted as one of the best spots for southern cuisine – especially their fried chicken and waffles. Since we were down in Portland on a week day, we didn’t have the option to try them out for brunch, however we stopped by for dinner on Wednesday night. I had read in previous reviews that the waits can be quite long – we arrived at the restaurant before 6pm, however just missed the first seating (the restaurant opens at 5:30pm). We were told for a table for 2 (even at the bar) would be at least a 40 minute wait.
After about 40-45 minutes, we were finally called up with a seat available at the bar. I don’t mind sitting at the bar since we got to watch the two busy bartenders making the delicious cocktails. To start I ordered one of their specialty cocktails – The Hurricane, which consisted of fresh tropical fruit juices and heavy serving of dark and light rum. This drink was intoxicating and quite pretty to look at!
Since we wanted to sample several items on their menu, we decided to order the Screen Door Platter – which allowed us to choose 3 house sides and also came with a side of cornbread. We selected the Crispy Fried Catfish which came with a remoulade for dipping, cup of smoked chicken and andouille gumbo, and a roasted beet salad to keep the platter more balanced. We also ordered the Crispy Fried Buttermilk-Battered Chicken, which came with tasso ham gravy, mashed potatoes and collard greens which were cooked in bacon.
While waiting for our food, which took over 30 minutes (so patience is key!) we observed that the Crispy Fried Buttermilk-Battered Chicken was the most popular dish coming out of the kitchen, along with the Screen Door – although several patrons selected the Mac & Cheese.
When our food arrived we dug right into the Crispy Fried Buttermilk-Battered Chicken. Two giant crispy pieces of fried chicken laid on top of a pile of mashed potatoes, along with a side of collard greens. Accompanying all this was a side of gravy. The chicken was super crispy and tender on the inside, with a hint of spice on the batter, although overly salty. However, when we paired a bite of the chicken with the gravy and the mashed potatoes, the mashed potatoes balanced out the salt. If just the chicken was eaten, your mouth was covered in salt. We also found the collard greens to be a bit too salty as well, since it was cooked with bacon.
Next we moved onto the Screen Door Platter served with pieces of crispy fried catfish, a roasted beet salad, and a cup of gumbo. The catfish offered a kick of spice in the batter, but with the remoulade to dip the pieces of fish in, it was light and tasty. The roasted beet salad was a refreshing addition to the heavy fried and carb-laden dishes. The goat cheese on the beet salad was soft and smooth, melting in your mouth. Both my hubby and I agreed our favorite dish of the evening was the gumbo – with the right flavors and not too salty – we really enjoyed the andouille sausage and smoked chicken pieces, spicy stew and rice. However the cornbread wasn’t a favorite for us and we ended up not finishing it.
In general this place is quite a trendy welcome to Portland, and I’m sure their great brunch reviews says something about them. However I’m not fully convinced I’d come back for dinner unless there’s other dishes that make me want to try them again. I think being spoiled with southern cuisine when we traveled to other parts of US has made us pickier. Also I found Portland Craft (Vancouver, BC) to have an amazing fried chicken with waffle.
For the price and the size of these dishes, Screen Door is a great visit for anyone who hasn’t tried southern cuisine as it offers quite a vast selection of famous southern dishes. I’d recommend the Screen Door Platter – perhaps try the Mac & Cheese, however be forewarned that the Crispy Fried Chicken must be eaten with the mashed potatoes in order to balance out the saltiness of the dish. Make sure to also order one of their yummy cocktails! Some of them looked really amazing.