There aren't enough good diners in Portland. Breakfast/lunch places that serve vegan tofu scrambles and French omelets with white cheddar are good, but sometimes one just wants to be in a place where the coffee is watery and there are pictures of Jesus on the wall. Luckily, now we've got Mama's Corner Café.
"Your hosts: Pavel & Olga Shavlovsky," reads the top of the menu at Mama's. Pavel and Olga have created a menu that is basically American, but which also features some fun Ukrainian twists. Items such as Beef Stroganoff, Ukranian Cabbage Rolls, and a Hibachi Chicken Melt are thrown in with standards like Pork Chops, Country Fried Steak with real cream gravy, and a Rueben Melt.
Like any good diner, the menu is completely overwhelming because it offers so many items. There are 11 breakfast options, six omelet specials, eight variations on pancakes and waffles, and a bunch of side orders. Everything is incredibly cheap; even the Steak and Eggs special, an eight-ounce, hand-cut rib-eye steak, charbroiled to order and served with two eggs, is only eight bucks. Lunch is equally comprehensive, with 12 different sandwich combinations. Most are turkey, steak, or beef-centric, and all are incredibly filling.
Because I don't like to leave feeling like I'm going to die from overeating, I usually choose the simpler dishes at diners. The Country Club Melt, for example, is excellent--a thick inch of turkey grilled with sautéed onions, bacon, American cheese, and toasted rye bread. The turkey is tender and fresh, and the onions, cheese, and tomatoes are plentiful enough that the sandwich is a masterful balance of simple flavors.
Mama's Corner Café is all windows and light, and the booths in the front are great for sitting and drinking lots of coffee for a really long time. The wait-staff are all shiny faced and cherubic, and since it's new, it's not too crowded yet. One word of warning, however: Mama's is closed on Sunday, the best day for going out for breakfast, and the day you're least likely to call ahead just to make sure. Plan on the tofu scramble instead.