Kimberly and Roy Swope, owners of Retrolicious, believe the emotional benefits of comfort food outweigh the caloric costs. Roy's father worked for an oil company, so he spent an itinerant childhood moving around South America. After each move, his mother would teach the new maid a rotation of traditional American mainstays that Roy remembers fondly as one constant in an otherwise unorthodox upbringing.

So when the couple decided to trade in Arizona's heat for Oregon's gentle rains, they took inspiration from their past, devoting their sparkling, flamingo-pink cart at the Green Castle pod to the childhood comfort foods they most love. "We like to feed people the way we like to be fed," Kimberly says.

The resulting, made-from-scratch menu includes a mac and pimento cheese ($6), a Cuban called "Damn That Castro" ($7) and a barbecue meatloaf burger ($7). The brunch special is a buttermilk biscuit and pan-seared ham, drowning in red-eye gravy and topped with a poached egg ($7). I enjoyed the chicken and waffles, a juicy Cajun fried chicken breast, marinated buttermilk-style and served with a yeasty cornmeal waffle and spicy syrup on the side ($6).

For dessert, and in keeping with the retro theme, Kimberly, who sports dark Marilyn curls, also draws recipes for lemon bars and snickerdoodles ($1) from '40s and '50s Junior League cookbooks. With this kind of smart branding and great food—the kind that would sound even better on one of Portland's wet winter days—Retrolicious is a restaurant waiting to happen.

  • Order this: The mac ’n’ cheese—there’s nothing more Southern than pimento cheese.
  • Best deal: For $2 more, get a second chicken breast with your waffle.

EAT: Retrolicious is at Green Castle Food Court, Northeast 20th Avenue and Everett Street. 11 am-7 pm Tuesday-Saturday, 10 am-2 pm Sunday. $.