By Brock Daniels, PQ Monthly
Thank god for the caveman who created fire by rubbing two sticks together! I praise the powers-that-be every time I sink my evolved canines into hot, seared animal flesh. In appreciation for those who set the culinary standards before me, I am thankful for modern-day cooking methods and the chefs in our area who bring their focused specialties to the forefront. Chefs Derek Saner and Mathew Howard do just that at Screen Door in Portland.
Southern natives Saner and Howard celebrate quintessential hearty southern cuisine every day using the bounties gathered fresh from local sources. The masterminds behind the relaxed Screen Door maintain the connection of a farm to plate concept that is revered here in Oregon. Local providers like Groundwork’s Organics, Viridian Farms, Draper Valley, Carlton Farms, and Creative Growers help show what makes this region special.
Screen Door’s menu is a complete exploration of the South. South Carolina low-country cuisine to the spicy soul flavors of New Orleans make dramatic appearances daily. Eight jumbo gulf shrimp that are first sautéed with bacon, garlic, tomato, and white wine sit proudly atop silky smooth creamy grits in the Low Country Shrimp & Grits, which will literally melt in your mouth. In addition to traditional southern sides like cornbread, creamy grits, and butter mashed potatoes with tasso gravy (think peppery ham sauce from the gods), Saner and Howard add crispy fried catfish, thin-sliced pork chops, and smoked chicken and Andouille jambalaya to the extras menu, rendering decision-making nearly impossible.
One word of advice: go with a group of four — be prepared to wait; it’s worth it — and order a variety of dishes. Take a bite, and pass your plate to the left. Sharing is a must. That way you get to enjoy a little bit of everything.
It is sometimes hard to make weekly evening outings happen, but don’t fret. Screen Door offers an off-the-menu brunch Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Crispy buttermilk-battered fried chicken stacked high over sweet potato waffles is a popular wonder. The Jurassic size of this golden anomaly proves that the southern inspiration “everything’s bigger in the South” is in full play. Hot steam bursts out of the tender chicken as you rip through the crackling crust. Syrup drips to coat the creviced dough below, and any worries in the world are put on hold for a few minutes of unadulterated pleasure!
In addition to well-versed meat offerings, Saner and Howard share many southern-inspired veggie dishes, like the famous Louisiana Eggs Sardou. Translated Screen Door-style, an English muffin topped with creamed spinach, artichoke hearts, and delicate poached eggs is all topped with house-made hollandaise. Rich, herbal, and oozing with morning goodness, the Eggs Sardou stays on my “order and share” list!
From the heart of the Deep South to the Pacific Northwest, and from the caveman who created fire to gas-plumbed Viking ranges, the reason why we eat has never changed — it tastes good!
2337 East Burnside St., Portland
Dinner: Tues.-Sat., 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m.; Sun. and Mon., 5:30 p.m.-9 p.m.
Brunch: Sat. and Sun., 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Brock Daniels, a Pacific Northwest native, has studied wine, culinary arts, gastronomy, and loves researching new food. Brock has written a self-published cookbook titled “Our Year in the Kitchen.” Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.