20 April 2008

steve & renee's diner

dining date: 04.20.08

eatery: on the very precarious corner of washington avenue and veranda, near the 295 off-ramp
pricing category:
the complete opposite of expensive -- NOTE: cash and personal checks only
guest critic:
dropsy mcfumbleones & tango and hash
overall grade:

the lowdown:
- maybe we just missed the "church crowd" -- or maybe there's no such thing a "church crowd" at steve & renee's -- but it was very nice to be seated immediately upon entering. in fact, we weren't seated. we seated ourselves. which was even better.

- more pinch pots than we've seen in quite awhile.

- the tables are covered with old newspaper tablecloths...but somehow it's cooler than when subway used to do that.

- this diner has a great "neighborhoody" feel. there are framed personal photos scattered about, and we were able to participate in a restaurant-wide, cheerful, rousing rendition of "happy birthday" to jen on the 40th anniversary of her birth.

- very comfortable place to eat a no frills, yet totally solid, quality diner breakfast. no pretensions here.

- the menu is littered with fabulous little cartoony illustrations that are reason enough to check this place out. and just for the record, the middle one on the left side of the menu is a little kid on a man's shoulders...not a very skinny, disproportioned dr. seuss character.

- very friendly and attentive wait staff with some maternal instincts...meaning we knew that they were taking good care of us and they called us "sweetie" the whole time.

- steve and renee's does not take credit cards, although they do take personal checks

- the lowdown of this lowdown is that we've totally hit the nail on the head.

the food

the benny girl
- the #3 special (two eggs over-medium, bacon, homies and english muffin), tea, half of a mickey mouse pancake, and two bites of a cinnamon bun
- grade: A-

"i've definitely seen this diner about a million times, but have never actually eaten there. i think the location kind of deters me, if we're being totally honest. first of all, it's in a mini strip mall with only a laundromat and a nail salon - and those of you who know me best know that those two businesses are tied with wal-mart and hummer dealerships on the top of my "last places on the planet that i would ever step foot in" list. second, it's located on one of the weirdest, slightly-lethal-in-the-context-of-potential-traffic-accidents corners in portland. it's just an awkward spot. and it's right off the highway, but is not a truck stop...which is the only kind of place that i generally enjoy eating breakfast while also having a view of heavy traffic on multiple lanes. okay, i'm exaggerating. you can't actually see the highway, and it's definitely located right past the off-ramp, but still. not necessarily the most enticing area of portland to want to venture over to on a sunday morning. however, thanks to this glorious The Breakfast Club column, this morning i finally stopped judging a book by its cover...or by the other books around it on the shelf, actually. steve & renee's really is a great neighborhood spot. there wasn't even a single second of a wait when we arrived (although i have no idea if that's normal or just a random lucky fluke), and the servers were prompt, attentive, and friendly from the get-go. i was happy to see that there wasn't an eggs benedict dish on the menu -- i tend to get anticipatory anxiety about the digestive aftermath of bennies from diners before the first bite even touches my lips. so i breathed a sigh of relief and ordered a version of the usual's signature item, which is honestly my favorite thing to order in diners anyway. i have to say, i really appreciated that they give you the option of having your english muffin either toasted or grilled...especially after my gray slop of an english muffin at pukey's on commercial street. anyway, the eggs were cooked perfectly and the yolks were a great condiment for my muffins. [enter vomit sound emitting from the mouth of the usual here]. the homies, while clearly made in bulk like most diners do, were really good. well grilled and just the right combination of crispiness and tenderness. i asked the usual if she/he wanted to split the mickey mouse pancake with me...not really because i wanted to eat a pancake (you know how we feel about them), but only because i really wanted to see it. it was just too cunnin' to me that it was even on the menu -- how could i resist?! check out the photo if you don't believe me -- mickey's so cute...albeit slightly stoned-looking, but hey - it is 4/20 after all. and it was pretty tasty too...as far as pancakes go. kind of flat and chewy...although that could have more to do with the fact that we waited about 20 minutes to eat it. oh, and the bacon was alright -- nothing spectacular, even on the "diner bacon spectrum" but not terrible either. just pretty nondescript, which is not what i generally like to say about my favorite food in the world. okay, and lastly, i have to say that the tea was by far the best that i've ever had in a diner. she brought me a sidecar pot of hot water! i was very pleased, i must say. so yeah. if you live in the outer washington / veranda street area, or you're out for a sunday stroll on back bay, then you should definitely check out this friendly spot. i promise it will be the best 5 bucks you spend all day. and maybe if you're lucky, the dive bar across the street will be open when you're done eating and you can have a yummy pbr for dessert."

the usual
- 2 eggs over-hard, wheat toast, homefries, 2 mickey mouse pancake ears and coffee
- grade: A-

"nobody that i know seems to have eaten at steve and renee's before, much less know where it is. i myself used to confuse it with kathy and dave's, in that they are both diners with fairly generic pairings of men's and women's names. names aside and despite it's low profile, steve and renee's is chock full of character, charm and attitude. with photos on the wall and a long welcoming bar for the regulars, the decor is homey without being overly cluttered and garage sale-ish, something that many establishments seem to struggle with. after squishing our five bodies into a table clearly meant for four, our lovely server offered up beverages and brought waters all around. things were going swimmingly and only got better when i opened up the menu. what did i find smack dab at number one? the usual. for a thrifty and endearing $2.89. honestly, that just might be the cheapest 'the usual' in town. anyway, i ordered up my namesake. the table across from us was celebrating a birthday and i was feeling so cozy and neighborly that i even sang along with them as they congratulated jen, something i wouldn't normally partake in. it's amazing what friendly service and frequent coffee refills can do sometimes. on to the food. it arrived hot and fast and with all the condiments that you might need for your journey. no waiting around for a tiny cup of ketchup while your homies get cold here, steve and renee's prepares you with pointy sharpshooter bottles of both ketchup and syrup and throws in a jumbo bottle of tabasco to boot. my eggs were perfect, nicely over-hard. the toast was just great, thicker than i'd thought it would be for a diner and extremely well-buttered. they even presented it with both buttered sides up, something that's unheard of but extremely sensible in that your butter ratios don't get skewed due to upside-down toast positioning. i appreciated it anyway. the homefries didn't let me down either. i was given a generous portion and they use red potatoes, which are my favorite. although the taters were perfectly cooked, they had little in the way of seasoning forcing me to load on the salt and pepper. a tad bit of pre-dining flavor thrown in there wouldn't hurt anybody, and might just liven it up a little. the coffee was ok, nothing spectacular except for the fact that it was plentiful and fresh. two of my favorite coffee qualities. all in all, steve and renee's cooks up a tasty meal and pairs it with friendly service, leaving its happy patrons with happy stomachs and happy wallets, a perfect combination."

wild toast

-2 eggs over easy, homefries, italian sausage, marble rye, coffee, water, a good time and mickey mouse’s nose
- grade: B+/A-

"getting off the highway onto washington ave, i was a little weary of our choice, to dine at steve and renee's. the 70's-style mini strip mall, a good whiffle ball shot from the highway and cornered by chip's subaru and that other dealership with used volvos and late model mercury tracers doesn't holler "hey you, get some grub, have some fun, enjoy meatloaf and a butter bun!" and yet it nearly did. (ok, i'll confess, i'm not sure if they had meatloaf but it seems like they could and i'm not exactly even sure what a butter bun is, but i bet they have it.) so anyway. as my fellow breakfasting fellows have surely made clear, we were all pretty pleased when we had a fine dining time. our table was clad with a nice tablecloth of old and forgotten tabloids and adloids which were entertaining, at least for a couple of seconds. our tag-teamed service was friendly and compliant, and topped off our coffees with enough frequency that i didn't really even have to think about it. my meal, a daily special, a wild choice, of italian sausage, eggs, toast and homies was the perfect amount for me to take down. the sausages had a little kick, the toast marbled and buttery and eggs fried just enough. then there were the homies. i ate them all, even though they weren't seasoned, but they were griddled and occasionally browned, and that is a good state for a homefry to be in. other than that they had an enormous bottle of tabasco, a refillable 'sharp shooter' of ketchup, pinch pots and other ceramic treasures, and the generous hum-drum of a loyal crowd. so i would recommend dropping by this unsuspecting, unpretentious eatery, especially if you can swing over to mackworth for a lovely walk to settle your homies, eggs, and your toast."

dropsy mcfumbleones
- one pancake, one egg, one sausage, one piece of bacon and coffee (from the tiny tots menu)
- grade: A-

"there is nothing in the world that i like more than pancakes. seriously, nothing. let me back up to say that, based on the name, i was expecting a home with a white sign and gold script that only serves french food but pleased to see the old dive strip mall, a locale that i thought had been abandoned for years. back to the pancakes. i ordered the pancakes. better yet, i ordered, from the tiny tots menu, (major kudos to florence for allowed me to do so) the onesie meal. from ordering to delivery, mere minutes, i managed to drop my fork on the floor and tip over my full glass of water (again, kudos to florence for her "don't worry honey. it's just water..." i love you flo.) my pancake was diner typical, if not a little sub par. it was face-sized, golden brown and relatively forgettable. i am disappointed to report that the non-displayed side of the cake was slightly burnt, though not quite an endearing crisp. i promptly emptied my egg on the pancake like syrup and was pleased with the egg's performance, but when i attempted to "cut" the pancake by dragging my fork across it but it just bounced back to being whole, much to my chagrin. the taste made up for the relatively bouncy consistency, delighting my taste buds with thick, decadent flapjack goodness smothered in i cant believe its not butter and egg goo sauce. perfect. my meats were both as expected - very crisp, mini and meaty. (note: mini is not intended as a backhanded dis but rather as gracious praise for not overfilling me with rather unhealthy, sunday-killing fried meat.) i dropped my bacon on the floor as well but ate it anyway, which can attest to my comfort level of the cleanliness of steve and renee, a diner miracle. overall, my pancake was slightly rubbery but totally satisfying and rather standard, the floor bacon and sausage were little nuggets of guilty pleasures without going overboard and the egg... what egg? the sauce was a protein power play of perfection. this meal is good enough for your kids and cheap enough that you shouldn't worry about it. "

tango and hash

- cinnamon bun, 2 eggs over-medium, corn beef hash, white toast, homefries and coffee
- grade: B+

"steve and renee's was a great place to stumble into groggy-eyed and not yet in full command of my vocabulary. the all middle-aged female wait staff was upbeat and salty (in a good way) and were prompt in serving coffee, water and taking our orders. i decided to warm up my esophagus and stomach with a cinnamon bun which was strangely dedicated to some cousin’s memory (i don't get it either). anywho, the cinnamon bun was served shortly after ordering with ample delicious frosting. i am pretty sure it was not a homemade bun but sometimes food out of a box is just what the doctor ordered and for $1.29, the doctor was in the house. the meal arrived and was pretty much exactly what you would expect from an establishment such as this. the corn beef hash was of the canned variety and was good if that is what you are looking for. the home fries were red potatoes liberally cut into decent sized chunks, nothing too special there but once again good especially with ketchup. the eggs were cooked to order and the toast came out with an appropriate amount of butter. i was unable to finish the entire meal indicating that the amount of food was sufficient and there was still coffee in my cup when we left. in summary, steve and renee's was fantastic in its standarditity and a great place to go for average breakfast food, cooked well, priced cheap and served in a welcoming and accepting environment."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The best ham and cheese omlette in Portland as well!