Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Chicken Index: Screen Door, Portland

(The first real post of the Chicken Index, introduced here.)

I mentioned Screen Door yesterday. (Though I added a stray "the" to the name.) I've always been puzzled by brunch restaurants that have lines out the door and down the block, week after week after week. Is it something addictive about the location? Is it a meditative interval in a too-busy life? You show up, enter your name on the list of those who hope to be worthy, and hang around for an hour, perhaps two, chatting absently with friends and strangers, waiting for an opportunity to leap, catlike, at an open waiting-area bench seat, and now and then reading the menu one more time. Dedication is required--if you wander off for an hour of an anticipated two-hour wait, you'll find that roll was called and your name removed.

For some of these restaurants, I can't even praise the food. That's not true of Screen Door; they're worth the trip and the money, though I may have doubts about the wait. (We were, I admit, told that the two-hour wait this Sunday was unusual.) The waitstaff are good, too--sharp and friendly and fast. The wait wrangler is stern, but no sterner than the desperate crowds of would-be brunchers require.

The chicken portion of the event was chicken and waffles. The chicken is a very fine version of the crispy-peppery-batter  boneless-white-meat sort. Unfortunately, that's not my favorite sort, so I can't judge the flavor--me reviewing black-pepper-seasoned fried chicken is rather like me trying to review an aldehyde-focused perfume. I'm similarly handicapped in reviewing chicken and waffles; I don't understand the chicken and waffle phenomenon, despite several childhood years in the South. It's like I'm trying to review a fougere and its compliance with the classic elements--given that I don't even know the classic elements without looking them up.

I can tell you that the chicken was well-cooked and well-textured and moist, and that the batter was a very nice texture, reliably crisp, not the slightest hint of sogginess or detaching. Very good crunch. There was a lot of pepper by my wimpy standards; I needed some side honey to reach an enjoyable balance of flavors.

But I've decided that my dish at The Screen Door is the praline bacon, bacon heaped with nuts and sugar and..er...something spicy; I forget the menu description. (Image here.) It's hard to see it as bacon; I referred to it, when a nearby table asked about it, as candy that happens to involve pork.

Screen Door: White meat, crisp black-pepper-seasoned batter, deep fried. Offered as chicken and waffles. Every aspect of quality that I can judge is admirable; I can't appreciate substantial pepper, no matter how good the chicken. Recommended, with pepper caution. Side notes: Praline bacon. Get some.

Review Roundup: The Joyful Table and Breakfast in Bridgetown and Yelp and Portland Monthly and Eater PDX (about the lines, not the chicken).

Image: Wikimedia Commons.


  1. I've been feeling tempted to try to make my own fried chicken, I'm sure as a result of your posts here... have you tried using panko in your breading?


    Yo, Cynthia!

    I've used panko crumbs sometimes and sesame seeds sometimes when making chicken fingers. For some reason I've always assumed that they wouldn't reliably stick to bony chicken, but I should try it sometime.

  3. )(W#%& PRALINE BACON??!!?!

    Must investigate. (Sadly, Gaze - who is a huuuuuge bacon fan - just got his braces on last week. This may not be the optimal time to make it.)

  4. Yo, Mals! Yes yes yes yes yes! Praline bacon!

    I'm going into a happy food coma just thinking about it.