The Side Door has the all-purpose ease of a neighborhood diner: It's an equally appropriate destination for a morning bagel, spaghetti dinner or afternoon latte-and-laptop session (yes, there's free wi-fi). Mercifully low prices bring relief from the gentrifying east side's rising cost of living, as the toasty-warm dining room, decked with glossy wood and exposed brick, offers respite from a cold, yucky day. The servers are friendly, unpretentious and don't give you the once-over. Gazing out at the rain while Pavement plays on the stereo recalls visions of a Portland gone by, when we didn't try to pretend it was L.A.
For breakfast, be healthy and smug with yogurt and granola ($4.75) topped with fresh apple, banana and raisins. Bagels ($1-$5.75) come with everything from veggies and hummus to ham, egg and cheese, although the eggs are hard-boiled and that's kind of weird.
For lunch and dinner, choose from a selection of hot and cold sandwiches, like the non-greasy Stark Dip ($6.50), loaded with roast beef, melty Swiss, horseradish aioli and sweet caramelized onions. Don't pass up the homestyle pasta dishes: The spaghetti with meatballs ($6.50) is decent, but the vegetarian lasagna ($6.25), bursting with succulent zucchini, red peppers and mushrooms, is the star. The huge plates of pasta come with pesto crostini, and you can add an enormous green salad for a buck. Save room for housemade cookies—sometimes only 50 cents each!
Sometimes you want a fancy meal, sometimes you want a bucket of Crisco, but sometimes you just need to eat. The Side Door is nothing fancy, but it turns the cheap, easy meal-as-chore into a simple delight. SHOSHANNA COHEN.
The Side Door, 425 SE Washington St., 233-8553. 7 am-midnight Monday-Friday, 7:30 am-midnight Saturday, 9 am-midnight Sunday. $ Inexpensive.