THE FOOD A cursory look at Screen Door’s menu reveals a straightforward list of Southern classics: Pimiento cheese. Low Country shrimp and grits. Carolina pulled pork. Fried catfish. Collard greens. Black-eyed peas. Chicken and waffles. These are dishes just about any of us can wrap our heads (and our mouths) around. But what makes this bastion of Southern cuisine rise above the rest is its ability to execute such fare with Pacific Northwest-style, using fresh, seasonal ingredients. Hence, Screen Door’s weekly local/organics sides menu (see “Flavor Profile” below), which showcases whatever’s freshest in dishes like late-summer corn pudding studded with jalapeños and chives, or an arugula-and-Maryhill-peach salad graced by shaved fennel and red onions and drizzled with a cane-sugar vinaigrette. But it’s not just the sides menu that exemplifies Screen Door’s Northwest ethos; it’s the Cascade Natural beef brisket and the Draper Valley chickens frying on the stove that prove this restaurant’s dedication to truly regional cuisine—even if the fried chicken recipe traveled here all the way from the South.
THE CHEF Though run by chef Rick Widmayer, who formerly worked at Clarklewis and Mother’s, Screen Door’s kitchen is a largely collaborative one. In fact, most of the homegrown Southern recipes came from Nicole Mouton, who owns the place with her husband, David. Having honed her knowledge of po’ boys and pulled pork while growing up in Louisiana and, later, while working the restaurant scene in New Orleans, Mouton primed Widmayer on all things Southern. But it’s Widmayer who executed the Northwest-inspired local/organics sides menu. Culling knowledge from four years spent overseeing brunch at Mother’s, Widmayer also introduced Screen Door’s ridiculously popular brunch—the chicken and waffles alone are reason to dine there on weekend mornings.
THE ATMOSPHERE Modern porch décor with a dinerlike backdrop. Jars of pickled peppers, green beans, and tomatoes line the walls. Blue-vinyl booths beckon from the back, while wooden, mom-and-pop tables and chairs fill the rest of the airy space. A small bar serves spot-on sazeracs and hurricanes, while the sound of sizzling food trickles from the open kitchen. Long lines, boisterous guests, and a certain chaotic, Southern-inspired energy makes this restaurant a bright light amid the more formal and quiet restaurants on nearby NE and SE 28th Avenues.
THE SERVICE Fast, efficient, no-nonsense servers dressed every which way may appear somewhat frenzied, but they’ll always bring your fried chicken out mere seconds after it emerged from the fryer, and if they know you’re an obsessive fan of pimiento cheese, they just might make sure the chefs fill that ramekin to the brim. A couple of servers have even exhibited a sort of Flannery O’Connor-esque Southern gothic demeanor, and a few will use a sweet-as-pie lilt when they take your order.