Every neighborhood needs a place like Other Side Diner, the new breakfast-and-lunch spot from Pete and Jessica Sueltenfuss, owners of the two Other Side Delicatessens in Portland.
The food isn’t fussy but it’s well-prepared with fresh, local ingredients. The interior of this updated, retro diner has been well thought out: It’s a pleasant atmosphere with plenty of seating – and parking.
The Sueltenfuss’ have done an excellent job renovating the space, which used to be the home of Hella Good Tacos and before that, Steve & Renee’s Diner. The dominant color in the diner is black (with chrome accents), but it’s not depressing or dreary. Hanging pots of ferns and ivy add a splash of green, and the traditional diner tabletops have a red squiggly pattern and look like the kind of tables you’d expect to find if you took a time machine back to the 1950s. The restaurant has about a dozen traditional black-and-chrome diner stools at the main counter where singletons can sit and read the newspaper (pardon the shameless plug) or visit with the person they’re rubbing elbows with on the left or right. The diner also has table seating for more than 20. Coffee is served at every table in a black coffee mug with the Other Side Diner logo on it, and you’ll be tempted to buy one.
The menu isn’t huge but has plenty of variety. I went for breakfast because that’s one of the things I like to do on my days off. Before I ordered, the chef sent out some of the diner’s signature Greek donuts, rolled in sugar and a little honey. From the menu I was torn between the omelet with spinach and cheddar, served with toast and hash browns ($12), and the French toast with citrus butter ($11). My server also told me about a couple of specials that were awfully tempting. I went with the omelet, which was cooked perfectly and filled with fresh, sauteed spinach. Instead of toast I asked for an English muffin, which was split and toasted on the griddle, and slathered in butter. Thin and crispy; so simple yet so good. The hash browns come in a ball shape – somewhere between the size of a golf ball and a tennis ball – and are crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside.
My best decision was to order a side of bacon ($6). Pete Sueltenfuss does all his own butchering of local meats, and it shows. The bacon was thick, chewy and full of flavor.
Other breakfast options include pancakes with Maine maple syrup for $11 (blueberry compote is $2 extra); corned beef hash with potatoes and onions, two eggs and toast ($14); and the Hercules Breakfast, which is two eggs, two pancakes, meat, toast and hash browns ($16).
The lunch menu features about a half-dozen sandwiches ranging from $11 for a grilled cheese to $14 for a roast lamb pocket with a Greek salad.
If you don’t want coffee, a large beverage list includes the usual soda and juice, but also local tea from Homegrown Herb and Tea on Munjoy Hill. (Thanks for reminding me, Otherside Diner, that I need to get back there.) If you’re having brunch, there’s a selection of wine, beer and cocktails.
Otherside Diner is kid-friendly with a children’s menu that features chicken fingers, grilled cheese, scrambled eggs and other kid favorites. (The Sueltenfuss’ have children of their own, so they know what they’re doing in that department.)
Bottom line: This is a great addition to off-peninsula Portland, and I plan to return for that French toast.
WHERE: 500 Washington Ave., Portland
INFO: (207) 772-0002, On Facebook.
HOURS: 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Monday
WAIT: 10 minutes
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes