Southern Brunch at Screen Door

Screen Door is one of those places that you have to be willing to wait- but the wait is definitely worth it, be it brunch or dinner. If you come for brunch, make sure after you get your name on the list that you step up to the bar and grab some coffee to help ease the wait (or they have bloody marys and other morning cocktails if you are so inclined). Or there is a great coffee shop next door (there’s even another one at the end of the block) if you want an espresso concoction as you wait.

Peruse the Screen Door menu as you wait. The wait staff is wonderfully quick once you are seated because they know you’ve been patiently waiting an hour already to get down to breakfast business. So start your decision process now- it might take you a while.

I mind waiting for other meals unless it really legendary, but it’s very common for brunch- maybe  because it’s the morning after a Saturday so that people will no show based on unplanned activitiest the night before. I find it most reasonable when they are willing to actually call your cell (which Orange in Chicago did) or have a pager with a good radius so you can wander. The one hostess here at Screen Door keeping the crowd in check only has her voice and physically walking and circling from inside to outside and then going in to check on open tables once in a while. For such a busy place, they don’t have a two-person team so sometimes new guests would arrive and actually write their own name down, and suddenly several tables would turn at the same time before she had a chance to go back to the dining area and check after seeing some diners leave- yeah that’s their system apparently. Well, at least they had coffee.

With a warm coffee in hand you can start your wake up process, socialize with your family/friends, and people-watch so that the time doesn’t seem too aggravating. I particularly envied a group of people who even brought folding lawn chairs for their wait on the sidewalk. There will be a wait and the wait is long (less if you are a party of 2- 2-tops just turn over faster), so bring that expectation with you when you arrive.

And your tummy will probably be grumbling knowing and smelling that there is goodness just to the other side of that curtain separating the waiting area from the dining area (and hiding the view and noise a bit of those waiting so you can enjoy your seat when you get it without guilt of being stared at by those eyeing your table). Force yourself into the more laid back, patient Southern spirit and stay that way all Sunday after brunch.

Screen Door’s breakfast offers several scrambles to choose from. J picked one of blackened tofu and 3 eggs with garlic, peppers, onions, mushrooms and cheddar with a side of potatoes and toast completing the dish. You can also substitute egg whites, or even tofu, for the regular eggs. Remember what I just said- 3 eggs. That’s a lot of protein- so you really must be in the mood for eggs, especially since you just waited an hour for them when there are plenty of brunch spots in town that offer scrambles, and I think better versions. I personally prefer scrambles that come in a skillet right to the table to get all the crunchy bits.

Southern Brunch at Screen Door, Portland Oregon

Even though Screen Door is a southern home style restaurant, they still support vegetarian and vegan on their menu. For instance, their quite servicable Tofu Hash with seared tofu with griddle potatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, spinach and mushrooms. It would have been better to use the blackened tofu they offer in a scramble but in this eggless hash dish because the seared tofu offered texture but not much taste to the dish.

Southern Brunch at Screen Door, Portland Oregon Southern Brunch at Screen Door, Portland Oregon

Another option is the fried oyster benedict with crisp cornmeal fried oysters with poached eggs and bacon over english muffins, topped with hollandaise, along with a side of cheese grits that come with the dish. I greedily also ordered an additional side order of a Buttermilk Drop Biscuit with sausage country gravy.

That gravy was amazing, and the biscuit put the english muffin, even with its fancy hollandaise and thick bacon and perfectly ready to run egg, to only a passing grade because that side dish of Biscuits was so much more rich and comforting.

The best part of the fried oyster benedict, no surprise, were the few pieces of fried oyster whose saltiness was a great counterbalance to the fat of the muffin/bacon/egg/hollaindaise but there just wasn’t enough counterbalance on the whole plate. This is the second time I’ve had this dish- I also had it back in 2008- and I think next time I’ll stick with ordering the next dish…

Southern Brunch at Screen Door, Portland Oregon Southern Brunch at Screen Door, Portland Oregon Southern Brunch at Screen Door, Portland Oregon

The fried chicken cathead biscuit sandwich was a special that day, but they normally offer some sort of chicken, usually in chicken and waffle dish form but you could try chicken and Biscuits,  during brunch. That chicken. The gravy. So big in size. So delicious. Best brunch dish of the four. That fried chicken was incredibly moist and tender, and look at all that gravy.

Southern Brunch at Screen Door, Portland Oregon

By far the highlight of Screen Door, whatever is on the menu, is getting access to that gravy. Keep in mind that you can get the buttermilk drop biscuits with mushroom and veggie protein gravy, not just the rich sausage gravy (the meat version is better, but the veggie is still rich and worthy). In fact, on the back side of the menu with the “build your own breakfast” option you can put together plenty of little dishes tapas style for yourself if you wish so any dish you get you can add one biscuit with a gravy, a la below.

Southern Brunch at Screen Door, Portland Oregon

So don’t go here for brunch without getting some biscuits and gravy for yourself as a side order at least, and someone at the table should get some of that fried chicken.

And, be prepared for the idea that you will be bringing leftovers back, as you can tell by the size of these dishes! I ended up bringing half of the meat-gravied biscuit and veggie-gravied biscuit each home, and both were just as wonderful (though the biscuit more mushy) out of the microwave a couple days later and I was scraping my spoon for every bit of gravy on the takeout box.


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