Devilishly good bacon makes it all worthwhile

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The Pearl District’s Screen Door is located at 1131 NW Chicken and Waffles, one of the many Southern inspired dishes available at Screen Door. Photo by Ethan M. Rogers.

I wasn’t planning on going to breakfast in Portland. I was supposed to be on a train headed for Seattle. Things don’t always work to plan, so I decided to walk around Portland and find somewhere to eat. What I found was a bright and airy little place in the Pearl District called Screen Door.

Screen Door is a Southern-inspired restaurant with a design scheme that evokes the pages of Southern Living and Dwell – Modern Southern, perhaps.

The place was lively with patrons, though not overflowing, and the staff was cheery and as welcoming as one would expect of a Southern-themed restaurant.

We took a window seat facing NW Couch St., which gave us a view of Screen Door’s outdoor tables with bright yellow umbrellas and the sidewalk foot traffic. An excellent spot for people watching.

One does not typically associate appetizers with breakfast but, when in Portland, one must do as Portlanders –  so our meal began with a couple of selections from the starters portion of the menu.

There were several options available but we gravitated to the sweets and ordered up some warm cinnamon rolls and praline bacon.

The cinnamon rolls were not as warm as one might expect and had likely been sitting under a heat lamp for an hour before reaching us. They were sprinkled with powdered sugar which made them look much more appetizing than they turned out to be, with a couple of edges being dried out and hard as a tack biscuit. The flavor was not unpleasant but when the name of the item is “warm cinnamon rolls” I rather expect them to be fresh out of the oven.

Then came the praline bacon – smoked bacon, caramelized with toasted pecans, brown sugar and touch of cayenne. I could not have asked for a better breakfast appetizer had I asked the devil himself to craft me the most sinful creation he could muster. Eating these won’t send you straight to hell but you may find yourself with an extended stay in purgatory should you decide to indulge – and I highly recommend that you do.

For the main course we selected Screen Door’s “famous” buttermilk-battered fried chicken breast with sweet potato waffle and syrup. I have high standards when it comes to chicken and waffles, having experienced Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles in Southern California. This dish didn’t quite measure up. The butter, cubes of which sat in a little dish at our window seat, were not easily melted by the somewhat cold waffles. Warmer waffles and whipped butter would have been a better choice, but we made do with what was given. The syrup, a single small serving, was not nearly enough to adorn the entire waffle. This oversight made it a somewhat drier experience than my tastebuds are used to. That they were made with sweet potatoes gave them a unique flavor, more akin to spice bread than “famous” waffles. I saw what they were going for, but it just didn’t hit right with me.

I still had hope for the fried chicken, but only got through a few bites before the overpowering taste of pepper turned me off. All in all I got through about a third of the chicken and a quarter of the waffle before packing the rest up to take home and give away to someone else. That said, the crowd that was there at the same time all seemed involved in lively and joyous conversation so, apparently, others found the experience more enjoyable than I did.

That praline bacon though – well worth a trip back and a second try at the menu just for another piece.

Screen Door is located at 1131 N.W. Couch St. in Portland. It’s open every day from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Wednesday through Sunday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Ethan M. Rogers