I've sorely missed—although I never met—Southeast Portland's Delta Cafe of the '90s. When I discovered the Delta after moving to town in 2002, it was seven years old and had expanded from a one-room into a four-room Southern food depot. My friends still reminisce about the early days of the Delta, how amazing the food tasted and how good the vibe was with everybody crammed into the cafe's first scrawny space.
Anastasia Corya, who opened the Delta Cafe in 1995 with Anton Pace on Southeast Woodstock Boulevard, sold the business in June and opened another restaurant in August—Miss Delta on North Mississippi Avenue, next door to the Crow Bar. With its exposed brick and hardwood floors, the new space is saloonlike in stature, but the style is all secondhand charm.
Miss Delta's menu has most of the Cajun- and Creole-smacked Southern specialties you'd expect—black-eyed pea fritters ($5), fried chicken ($12) and shrimp creole ($12)—which makes sense, because Corya signed on two of the original Delta's most seasoned cooks: Miss Delta co-owners Chuck Westmoreland and Jennifer Hazzard.
The food at Miss Delta is Texas-sized, probably in part because Corya was raised there. All of the big-bowl entrees—from a spicy, fresh jambalaya ($12) to a bit-too-buttery gumbo ($12)—are large enough for two helpings and come with a choice of side and a cornbread muffin.
In other words, order starters cautiously at Miss Delta, but get at least one, because the fried okra ($5), with its fresh-not-frozen bite (it's dipped in a delicious cornmeal batter with a good kick of black pepper), and the plump, breaded, pan-fried oysters ($10) are both too good to pass up.
As for entrees, Steak Solomon ($16) is a perfectly cooked slab of blackened flank topped with blue-cheese crumbles and shoved to its fiery fate under the broiler. But the spare ribs ($16) aren't so hot. They're pot roast-soft and too alcoholic—braised in beer rather than smoked or broiled.
All plates come with two sides (the six sides are otherwise $4 to $6), such as tasty tart collards with hunks of pork; buttermilk red potato mashers with an herby vegetarian gravy; and garlicky mac 'n' cheese. One of the best sides is the house Caesar studded with fried capers and croutons, perfectly dressed in a rich and creamy dressing, and topped with crumbled Parmesan.
Desserts at Miss Delta sit in domes atop the bar, and there are a handful of good ones to choose from every night. Sweet-potato pie, marionberry cobbler and Milky Way cake are often on hand. The latter is a black hole of moist dark chocolate studded with chunks of its namesake and gobs of caramel.
For those who drink, dessert bourbon and whiskey lead the cocktail list ($5-$7), with a Jim Beam Manhattan, a Maker's mint julep and an Old Grandad old-fashioned. Three draft beers ($4) and glasses of wine ($5-$8) also beckon, but most importantly, Miss Delta makes sure you can still get a 40 of PBR ($4) served in a champagne bucket. Now that's some Southern hospitality.
Miss Delta, 3950 N Mississippi Ave., 287-7629. Dinner 5 pm-midnight; Monday-Saturday, 5-10 pm Sunday; brunch 9 am-2:30 pm Saturday-Sunday. $. Inexpensive.