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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Portland
Food
Feel
Price
7.3
7.0
$35
Southern
Casual restaurant

Hours
Tue–Sat 5:30pm–10:00pm
Sat 9:00am–2:30pm
Sat 5:30pm–10:00pm
Sun 9:00am–2:30pm
Sun 5:30pm–9:00pm

Features Kid-friendly, outdoor dining
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Not accepted

Website

Southeast Portland
2337 E. Burnside St.
Portland, OR
(503) 542-0880
Screen Door
A popular place for decent Portlanded-up Southern food

Everyone everywhere loves Southern food, and Screen Door capitalizes on this human imperative in a smart, hip way. It doesn’t look like much in its butter-colored cinderblock building. But the best soul food kitchens of the South look exactly like this on the outside (save for the large windows), and the interior goes for this same type of rustic simplicity with wooden tables, chairs of red and blue, and little on the walls. Again in Southern style, the patio is lovely in warm weather.

Screen Door is wildly popular at brunch, where you’ll find good fried chicken and impossibly fluffy waffles, creamy-gravied biscuits, house-made bacon coated in pralines (a classic New Orleans treat), and shrimp and grits.

We love to love the menu, whose comfort-food classics like fried green tomatoes, jambalaya, and mac and cheese sound good to just about anyone. The kitchen definitely has a way with the fryer; as with chicken, fried okra is right on the money, and oysters have an ideal briny pop in a crispy, non-greasy shell. As much as we love the rotating selection of seasonal farmer’s-market-vegetable-based dishes, few of these preps really shine. And trickier feats like catfish can taste quite muddy and metallic.

There’s a careful selection of beers on draft, including Louisiana’s Abita, and many in the bottle. Cocktails go for gentle and successful twists on classics, with some Southern playfulness. A “Blanche DuBois” gets refreshingly bitter Campari, some muddled lemon, and sweet iced tea (brewed, of course); a mint julep gets a proper cane-sugar treatment instead of icky simple syrup. All are served in correctly smaller glasses, and are priced low enough to sample around.

But a common complaint is that service is strange and standoffish. On one visit, a server dismissed the restaurant’s only rosé as “gross…the whole kitchen staff agrees.” Why would a restaurant willingly serve a gross wine? Intrigued, we ordered it—it wasn’t bad. The server later told us that she “didn’t like Chardonnay,” a bizarre comment to make about a relatively neutral grape used to make some of the world’s greatest wines (e.g. white Burgundy).

Chardonnays and rosés aside, a clueless staff shouldn’t be advising customers on wine. Like the farmer’s-market-veggie disappointment, it’s another way in which Screen Door can be more about shine than substance. Now, if the shine were moonshine, then we’d be talking.

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