Flapjacks, Ruebens, and corned beef hash. BLTs, onion rings, and milkshakes: These are the mid-morning food dreams of the cubicle-bound. Somewhere in Kansas there's a diner with their name on it—a lunch counter, a cup of coffee, and breakfast served all day. Now, imagine a tornado destroying that diner, while simultaneously transporting the undamaged food—pineapple garnish and all—to the Blue Pig Café on SE Division. Stranger things have happened.
Okay, so the food at the Blue Pig probably wasn't carried from a Midwestern diner to Southeast Portland via a freak tornado. Still, as I sat there eating my spicy (and oh-so-crispy) buffalo chicken sandwich, something in the flavor recalled the culinary traditions of Middle American greasy spoons. Maybe it was the side of onion rings, or the thick and creamy peach shake. Either way, though the dining room resembles a farmhouse turned outside in, the food would be right at home on a Formica tabletop. It was like talking to a carpetbagger who gives himself away with his accent.
Open daily from 8 am to 3 pm, the Blue Pig focuses on breakfast and lunch. The menu offers an array of filling options—from a Belgian waffle breakfast to a classic Misty Isle ground chuck burger. There's also the weekly Blue Pig Special. When I visited, the special was a Caprese sandwich. Much like the salad of the same name, the version I enjoyed, melted between two slices of sourdough, included mozzarella cheese, pesto, and sun-dried tomato. Picking it up from the plate, the cheese oozed lusciously from the edges of the sandwich. It was delicious. Care was taken to moderate the amount of sun-dried tomato, which could have easily overwhelmed the mellow cheese and pesto. The result was a nicely balanced sandwich.
However, after eating a half order of biscuits and gravy, which weighed about two pounds, I was a bit skeptical of the Blue Pig's breakfast. Though I'm sure the flaky biscuit was competently crafted and well baked, it was overwhelmed by gravy that was far too thick. Additionally, for sausage gravy, there was surprisingly little sausage in the mass. I gave the gravy a second chance on an order of chicken-fried steak, where it fared much better. Of course, it didn't hurt that it smothered an extremely well executed, and delightfully tender, fried cutlet.
It was Blue Pig's homemade corned beef hash that restored my confidence in the breakfast options. Cut up into chunks and combined with onion and potato, the corned beef was tender and slightly spicy. The chunkiness of the hash kept it from being a mushy mess even with the addition of two basted eggs—my favorite preparation. The eggs were perfectly done, sitting on top of my hash like white hillocks, just waiting for my fork to release the creamy yolk.
Still, I'd most likely return to the Blue Pig Café for lunch. The sandwiches and soups go a long way in restoring the humanity stripped away by a day job. On one recent afternoon, the tortilla soup was a savory, brow-wiping wake-up call.
However, there is a problem: The dishes served at the Blue Pig are almost overwhelmingly large. So, bring a friend. Clearing your plate on your own might prompt an unplanned nap, filled with mid-afternoon dreams of chromed-out diners in the wind-swept expanse of Tornado Alley.