Buried under steaming bowls of pho, gigantic burritos and other dishes we've embraced as comfort food is a lost cuisine: traditional American. Unpretentious and simple by nature, biscuits, meatloaf and other stick-to-your-ribs dishes are often absent from our urbane lives.
Enter the Blueplate Lunch Counter and Soda Fountain. Housed in Dekum Building, Blueplate is an old-school downtown diner specializing in comfort food—American-style. And, as there are only three items on the Blueplate menu and they change daily (courtesy of owner-chef Jeffrey Reiter, who used to be sous chef at Park Kitchen), the choice of what to order is effortless.
The rotating specials include a hot dish (blue plate special), an entrée-sized salad and a daily sandwich. On one visit, the blue plate was big, juicy roasted chicken with mushrooms and buttered noodles ($8). Another day featured a heaping plate of savory chicken and dumplings ($8) that could easily make one forget how miserable Portland is in the winter.
Blueplate's meatloaf has been such a hit that the restaurant delivers box lunches ($10) of the loaf to local offices, and it shows up frequently as the sandwich special. Although the meatloaf sandwich ($6) appears smallish, the thick slices of better-than-your-mom's meatloaf with shredded lettuce and tomato, served with mashed potatoes, will do the job.
Salads are well portioned and filling, especially a lemony and garlickly Caesar ($5) with an ever-so-slight amount of anchovy. And the grilled cheese sandwich with housemade tomato soup ($5) is a dunk-worthy combo that's always on the menu.
Blueplate is also home to one of the only in-house soda fountains in Portland, featuring classics like chocolate Coke and original concoctions that make a mockery of your Diet Pepsi. The Hawaiian Sunset ($2.50) is a sweet strawberry soda with pineapple and coconut, and the Chai Bomb ($3) is a complex but agreeable blend of cardamom, cloves, ginger, anise and black pepper. For an extra buck fifty, they'll float a scoop of ice cream in any of their drinks. Also on the menu are gigantic sundaes, milkshakes ($3 and $6), super-sized banana splits ($8) and a stellar peach melba with marshmallow whipped cream ($6). Or dig into the jars of penny candy near the register—just like in old movies. Blueplate serves French press Stumptown coffee and boasts free wi-fi, and service is fast and friendly—even with a staff of two.
Old-school diners with square meals and soda fountains used to be commonplace but pretty much disappeared as our comfort cuisine was paved over by automobile-centric convenience. Blueplate brings it back, dishing up a slice of yesteryear in a landmark Portland building.