I have a “little brother” from Big Brothers Big Sisters, and this morning I offered him the choice of three downtown Portland breakfast places. I said we could go fancy cool hotel (Urban Farmer), Mexican/healthy (Isabel’s) or old-school diner with a huge menu (the Roxy). I don’t know why I even bothered offering such a choice to a 13-year-old. Off to the Roxy we went.
Now, I know that going to the Roxy during the day is like going to the 24-Hour Hotcake House during the day. What you really want is the late-night scene (see below for more about this). But I am old, and my little is young, and neither of us drinks. So it wasn’t a shock when we were the only people there at 9:30 on a Wednesday.
The first thing he was taken by was the collection of famous-people signed photos: Some he knew (Bill Clinton) some he didn’t (Bo Diddley). All of them either ate there or met the owner, except for David Bowie (unknown to my little) and Elvis (well known, not understood). A lot of them appeared to be musicians and comedians who probably stumbled in after doing their shows; this is the only 24-hour place on the west side.
Anyway, his attention quickly went to the various other oddities in the place: the crucifix over the jukebox, the plants growing out of old toasters, the leopard-skin-pattern chairs and purple tables. I was just thinking that it was a slightly odd place to bring a 13-year-old, when the waiter walked over with menus; he was wearing a shirt that said, in very large letters, “PORTLAND FUCKING OREGON.” Nice.
The fun continued on the first page of the menu, the FAQ. I am glad he didn’t ask me to explain stuff like:
Q: Why do I have to buy something to be in here?
A: Because 25% of zero makes a shitty tip.
Q: Why don’t you have cherries?
A: Because there are no virgins at The Roxy.
The rest of them, for your entertainment:
They have some funny names for basic breakfast combos. We both ordered off the page labeled “Herkin’ Big Pancakes and Arrogant French Toast.” He got Pancakes and Pig Meat (two buttermilk cakes and bacon, $8), and I went with Too Snobby To Even Look at You French Toast (three slices, two eggs, two sausages, $9.75). Out came our very own pitcher of weak, awful coffee and a baby bottle filled with cream.
While we waited, I went into the bathroom, which has to be one of the great ones in Portland. In fact, if it isn’t in this book, I want to know why.
I was just really glad my little didn’t ask me to explain this machine:
Out came the food, and it was a tasty, rich version of your basic breakfast food. The bacon was thick and crisp and yummy, the sausage had just a little kick, and the pancakes and French toast were perfect expressions of Generic American Breakfast.
The kid, of course, started on the pancakes, quit halfway through the second one, then said he was full. Then he saw the look in my eye as I stared at his bacon — yes, I had already wolfed down my French toast and sausage and eggs — and he thought, well, he’d give it a try. The little bugger: I only got half a slice of that bacon!
Thoroughly satisfied and off to face the mall for some holiday shopping, I paid our bill ($27 with tip) and off we went, back into the sunshine. There was now one other table occupied. But as we left, the kid grabbed my iPhone and took a panorama shot.
“I like this place,” he said.
“Me, too,” I said. “Screw fancy and healthy.”
The Roxy Diner (theroxydiner.com) is at 1121 SW Stark, “in the heart of the Glamour District.” They are open 24 hours, but closed on Monday, for “community service, therapy, and hangovers.” They take cards. The coffee is terrible. Typical meal cost is about $11-13.
PS: You need to read this about the late-night scene at the Roxy.
A while back, EaterPDX posted an amazing journal of the night shift at the Roxy, written by Suzanne Hale, the owner of the place. Really, go and read this. It almost made want to quit writing about restaurants.