The Brunch That Was Worth An Hour: Screen Door, Portland

There might not be a screen door at the Screen Door and you’ll probably have to wait an hour for brunch, but that’s OK and I’ll tell you why. But first, notes on the journey:

In August, right after we left St. Louis and before we had a moment to catch our breath in Minnesota, we traveled to Northern California. This was the first time traveling together outside of the Midwest since we got engaged. We planned an epic road trip zigzagging from San Fransisco through Napa Valley to Tahoe, west to the Avenue of the Giants, and up to Portland.

Finally, we made it to Portland; a first for us both. Everything we knew about Portland probably came from Portlandia. But one thing I don’t remember Portlandia spoofing is the fact that you can’t pump your own gas! Seriously, you can’t, because it’s illegal. Once you pull up to the gas pump, you must wait for an individual in a bright vest to run up to your vehicle do it for you.

Jake’s cousin welcomed us into their home with cans of Portland Sangria. “It’s kind of a thing here,” she added as she tossed a handful of berries into the glass. After a 10+ hour drive, it tasted like whatever makes you feel immortal or want to sleep for a thousand years.


Another thing that surprised me about Portland was how Jake’s cousin and her family left their doors and windows wide open. “There aren’t many bugs here,” they explained. I don’t know if this was their special corner of Portland or representative of Portland as a whole, but nary a bug or insect entered. In Minnesota, leaving a window or door open without a screen is an open invitation to a Pandora’s box of mosquitos, gnats, flies, fruit flies, and ants.

The cool air made us forget that the day’s temperature had even risen to 100 degrees. We spent much of the evening catching-up on the porch and eating Thai food.


Our relatives prepped us for brunch in Portland. Basically, it’s a really big deal. The whole city goes nuts for brunch. “Expect long waits,” they said.

Growing-up, the only time I heard the word “brunch” uttered was in the context of two holidays: Mother’s Day and Easter. Even in college, no one said the word “brunch.” We would enthusiastically gather on weekends for late breakfasts and early lunches, but never got giddy about them and never called them brunch. One of my friends said she and her parents brunched on weekends for as long as she can remember, confirming that brunch has indeed been a thing.

Weekend brunch wasn’t an option when I worked at a bakery. For most food industry folks, weekend brunch means all hands on deck. This was probably my first brunch in over a year, and, so when Jake’s cousins called and confirmed that we’d face an hour’s wait I said, “Bring it on.”


The staff at Screen Door was very calm, friendly, and organized despite the numbers of customers dining inside and waiting outside. Our wait did end up lasting an hour just as they predicted. We didn’t mind waiting. There’s a coffee shop next door and a really fun gift shop down the block called PALACE that reminded me of Patina. It’s not hard to kill an hour.

When the host finally called our name, we felt ecstatic. You would too after watching platter after platter of chicken and waffles float by. Our server referenced the long wait and offered the youngest in our group a plate decked out with a fluffy buttermilk biscuit and assorted fruit.

The youngest ordered the chicken and waffles. For $14.95, the platter includes one giant waffle topped with three pieces of fried chicken, stacked up towards the sky and anchored with a spear. If I remember correctly, she may have even swapped the bacon-praline waffle for the sweet potato. The dish rose to the top of her head.

Jake ordered the Cathead Biscuit Sandwich, named for its size which is supposedly as large as a cat’s head (this is probably accurate). The sandwich is stuffed with more fried chicken and sausage country gravy and served with one’s choice of grits, cheddar grits, or roasted potatoes.

We also shared an order of the praline bacon. I found the candied bacon sweet for my tastes, but everyone else seemed to enjoy it.

Believe it or not, but this was my first time trying shrimp and grits
. Large, snappy shrimp sautéed in a flavorful bacon, tomato and garlic sauce floated on a pool of creamy cheddar grits. And if this wasn’t enough, Screen Door serves them with two eggs and a biscuit. All for $14.95, too.

I was especially smitten with the buttermilk biscuits. I’ve eaten my fair share of biscuits and baked them at home, too. These were better than them all.

Screen Door serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week. There are plenty of opportunities to visit outside of weekend brunch, but, if you are determined to brunch here, it’s worth the wait. Warm service and good food for prices that might be lower than you’d expect.

Here ends my series about our trip through Northern California. If you’d like to read more posts, you can find them here:



  1. Beth Ann Chiles

    Shrimp and grits are one of my all time favorites and those that you had look amazing. I loved traveling with you and gained 10 pounds from reading this post alone. Thanks. 🙂

  2. josh

    Sounds amazing! It’s always nice to find a spot doing southern classics, esp/ when you’re outside the south. No screen doors, that’s amazing, we could never do that here either.

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