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.
City State Diner and Bakery
128 NE 28th Ave., 517-0347, citystatediner.com.
Neighborhood: Broadly speaking, it’s Laurelhurst, though City State exists on a specific strip of NE 28th—between Red Flag, the bar with the frozen margarita machine and the policy against serving Dave Matthews fans, and Beulahland, the bar that introduced Portland hipsters to soccer, and across the street from a Coca-Cola corporate building—that almost deserves its own name.
Vibe: A bit nondescript, frankly. Or, if we’re forced to give it a name, “Northwest 23rd-y.” A small lobby leads into a medium-sized dining area with large windows and an L-shaped counter with antique lights dangling above it. The music is Pitchforkian, the wall art includes a painting of a gorilla in a chef’s hat mixing pudding. It’s neat and clean and a bit devoid of personality, but on Sunday mornings enjoys a packed waiting list of scruffy, hungover twentysomethings—which you can credit to its location, or the sign on the sidewalk reading “Bacon Served All Day.”
The Grub: As with its décor, City State keeps its menu fairly standard, with the requisite brunch items and slate of sandwiches and burgers, while tossing in a couple of requisite eyebrow-raisers—a Greek sausage scramble, hazelnut challah French toast—to justify its existence in Portland’s glutted brunch scene. The country-fried steak ($10.50) was a bit dry, and mostly treated as a gravy receptacle. My companion ordered the Louisiana crab hash ($12.50), which, while satisfying, was essentially a plate of scrambled crab cakes. It all came out of the kitchen before I had time to make any headway on my Bloody Mary, though, and considering that I can usually polish one off before the silverware arrives at most breakfast places in town, the speed with which the food hit the table was perhaps the diner’s most impressive trait.