Welcome to Diner 2013ânot a guide to the Portland areaâs best restaurants, or even to the best Oregonian-operated diners, but a seven-part series where we ate at seven Portland diners we hadn't been to in a while. Over the next week, we hit standbys where you can get eggs and coffee at a counter early or late in the day. Diner 2013: It's the best name for a series about Portland diners published in 2013.
1212 NW Glisan St., 221-0011, bywayscafe.com.
Neighborhood: This is the Pearl, technically, but youâd never know from the neon sign for Byways, which is surrounded by national chains (Trader Vicâs, Starbucks, Cha Cha Cha) on a one-way stretch of Glisan that functions largely as a double-lane entrance ramp to the 405.
Vibe: Though Byways is clean, bright and patronized by white collar-types, many of its decorations would be at home in a far grittier establishment, including glass cases decorated with vials of Mount St. Helens ash marked "May/18/80" on red punch label strips, a ceramic chicken with the phrase "spooning for you in Wyoming" (which, if a pun, is indiscernible to me) and a personal View Master in a leather case. A framed vintage âTouristâs Crying Towelâ appears to be the most prized decoration. Smooth jazz plays from the speakers. Servers are of the sweet and not surly variety.
Grub: Byways looks exactly like the sort of place youâd expect to find grade-A grub served for loyal regulars and eager touristsâa joint like Stepping Stone or Hotcake House. Unfortunately, our meal was a letdown. Toast was buttered so lightly we couldn't tell it was buttered at all to begin with, and came without any pats to spread. Hashbrowns were salty, dry and crunchy. The vegetables and ham inside our Denver omelette ($8.95) didn't seem to have been cooked before finding their way into their eggy shell. Iâm not sure what I expected from blue corn pancakes ($8.25), but they are, indeed, cornyâmore like cornbread than familiar buttermilk-based hotcakes. The same faint blue hue can be had from blueberries, and the batter is much tastier. Nothing was bad, but this little diner would benefit from either going upscale or more closely following the well-greased path of down-home breakfast fare suggested by its license-plate lined walls.