[November 22nd, 2006] From the mid-1930s until the mid-1970s, Portlander Nick Sckavone, known mainly in town as a vociferous amateur-sports activist, owned a small pharmacy at Southeast 41st Street and Division.
Now, some 30 years after Sckavone closed the pharmacy, his grandson Jon Finley has opened a restaurant in its place, named in honor of his grandfather—Sckavone's—open seven days a week.
Step inside Sckavone's, recently home to Fusion restaurant, which closed last January, and let the black-and-white photos of Sckavone's pharmacy, local sports memorabiliaand checkered floor take you back.
Service is spotty, so you may not be greeted when you walk through the door, but the space is inviting. Take a seat in the dining room or at the bar on a swivel stool, and choose from a long list of Italian sodas ($2.25), shakes ($2.75), sundaes ($2.75) and floats ($2.25), or doctor yourself up with a cocktail from the full bar.
Dinner is all-inclusive—soups, sandwiches, pastas and several entrees. The pork tenderloin ($11.75), which was tender and flavorful, despite being a little overcooked, is served atop a bed of black-pepper-bombarded risotto. The list of ingredients sounds good—baby spinach, wild mushrooms, balsamic reduction—but the risotto was too chewy and the dish lacked crucial elements like salt and herbs.
Methinks the better option at Sckavone's is a sandwich or burger—of which there are 10 to choose from at both lunch and dinner. The French dip ($7.25) is stacked with thinly sliced, moist roast beef and served with a dark and flavorful jus.A recent sandwich side of tomato-basil soup ($2 cup, $4 bowl) was fresh and slightly acidic with a swirl of olive oil on top and a pinch of chiffonaded basil.
Other sandwiches include a patty melt ($7.75), meatball sub ($6.75) and hot pastrami ($7.50). And yes, there are veggie options, but meat presides at Sckavone's.
The best meals are breakfast and lunch, when the fare at Sckavone's is simple and traditional. An eggy French toast ($5.25) drizzled with a cream-cheese icing, sprinkled with cinnamon and served with whipped butter is, in the words of my friend, 'Superman' good. And the chicken-fried steak ($7.50) gravy is well-seasoned and thick, slathered over a perfectly golden-breaded slab of steak.
Every menu at Sckavone's is wide-ranging at this point. It's hard to imagine they'll be able to pull the smorgasbord off with such a small staff for long.
Luckily, there are plenty of details in Sckavone's favor—its throwback soda fountain, young and friendly wait staff, family-friendly vibe and, of course, those old diner-style sugar dispensers on the tables. Now, that's sweet.