Welcome to Diner 2013—not a guide to the Portland area’s 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.
My Father's Place
523 SE Grand Ave., 235-5494.
Neighborhood: On a noisy and downtrodden stretch of Southeast Grand Avenue—across from a homeless shelter and around the corner from methadone clinics—My Father’s Place sits on the ground floor of the historic Logus Building, whose intricate masonry dates back to 1892. Based on the well-worn booths and the thin film of dust coating every surface and each tchotchke, My Father’s Place feels like it's been here just as long.
Vibe: Old-timers eat Reubens as day laborers nurse pints of Pabst in this haggard but welcoming room. This was a favorite haunt of Elliott Smith, and it’s easy to imagine that his old cigarette smoke still clogs the threadbare carpet. Tasseled chandeliers and old gas lanterns hang from the ceiling, and the walls are adorned with what looks like the spoils of a successful yard sale shopping spree: an empty trombone case, horseshoes, antique barbed wire, vintage Saltine cans and dusty bottles of gin. A Christmas tree, strung with red and silver tinsel, lurks by the front window. My Father’s Place is open 365 days a year, from 7 am to 2:30 am (we’d suggest they clean the grease traps during the four-and-a-half hours they’re closed each night, but that recommendation would probably fall on deaf ears), so this is your destination for late-night holiday boozing or for drinking away a hangover. With pinball machines, Big Buck Hunter, video poker and pool, it's like a lowbrow Las Vegas, with a jukebox that plays a mix of Dean Martin, the Rolling Stones, Steve Miller Band and un-Shazam-able hip-hop.
Grub: An unstinting parade of grease-bombs. Play it safe. We were feeling adventurous and came to regret ordering a combo scramble (a mess of eggs, undercooked veggies and salty meats, $9) as well as—heaven help us—a chicken fry delight ($8), a slab of liberally-peppered chicken fried steak buried beneath a wobbly blanket of country gravy that had the consistency of lumpy pudding. Even so, it feels churlish to complain too much about these dishes or about the soggy hashbrowns, dry biscuits or Bisquick-mix pancakes. After all, this isn’t My Mother’s Place.