A friend in Portland had said that The Country Cat Dinner House & Bar is one of her favourite places for Fried Chicken. Since I’m a fiend for fried chicken, I was excited to check it out while I was visiting in November. I had high hopes since The Country Cat had been featured in both Gourmet and bon appetit magazines. It was also voted by Portland Monthly magazine for having the best fried chicken for breakfast. Though situated in the heart of the Pacific Northwest, Portland, ironically, has quite a few places famous for their Southern fare, including Screen Door, Pine State Biscuits, Le Bistro Montage, Podnah’s Pit BBQ, Cackalack’s Hot Chicken Shack, and The Country Cat, to name a few. There’s definitely no shortage of places serving Southern-style hearty breakfast fare in Portland.
My friend C ordered the Chicken Fried Steak ($12), which came with mashed potatoes, braised kale, & Worcestershire gravy. For those unfamiliar, Chicken Fried Steak consists of a piece of steak that’s been pounded thin, coated in an egg batter, then dredged in a seasoned flour, and fried in a skillet. The Chicken Fried Steak (also sometimes called Country Fried Steak) is similar to the Austrian dish, Wiener Schnitzel, where tenderized veal is prepared in a similar fashion. My friend C loved this dish, especially the savory Worcestershire gravy that coated everything. The braised kale was perfectly cooked and toothsome while the mashed potatoes were creamy and fluffy. We couldn’t have asked for more in a Chicken Fried Steak dish.
Of course, I had to try the Cast Iron Skillet Fried Chicken & Toasted Pecan Spoonbread ($13). I was relieved that this portion at The Country Cat was actually manageable. This is a stark contrast to the Fried Chicken & Waffle order at Screen Door where we were served a heaping three pieces of boneless buttermilk battered fried chicken on top of a sweet-potato waffle. A steak knife had to be speared through the center to keep the stack of chicken from falling over. The chicken here at The Country Cat is first brined and then bathed in buttermilk before being dredged in flour and fried in a skillet. The chicken pieces are presented drizzled in maple syrup along with field greens and a hunk of Toasted Pecan Spoonbread. The skin was crispy while the meat was moist. I would have preferred a bit more seasoning but it was otherwise, tasty. I wouldn’t say it’s the most amazing fried chicken I’ve ever had but I could understand why they have a following. For me, I like my fried chicken spicy and I wish more places would give the option to kick it up a notch or two. I really liked the field greens which accompanied the dish. The greens were dressed in a tangy vinaigrette which helped to cut the grease from the chicken and so the dish felt less heavy. My least favourite part was the Toasted Pecan Spoonbread. Many people swoon over this spoonbread from The Country Cat, but for me, I just didn’t get it. It was more of a textural thing that I didn’t care for. It was like cornbread meets quiche but topped with a toasted pecan topping. I didn’t mind the cornbread-like bottom and I liked the toasted pecan topping. The part I didn’t really care for was the soft eggy/custard-like middle layer.
In comparison to Screen Door, I thought the fried chicken at The Country Cat tasted better. It’s an added bonus that The Country Cat serves brunch daily whereas Screen Door serves brunch only on weekends. That way I can head to The Country Cat on a weekday and not have to deal with lineups as opposed to Screen Door’s multi-hour lineups for brunch on weekends. I’ve practically tried the fried chicken at all the famous places in Portland. The one place I have yet to try is Simpatica Dining Hall. It actually was on my original list but I had to bump it off the list at the last minute in favour of Cackalack’s Hot Chicken Shack food cart since I wasn’t able to try Cackalack’s for dinner the previous night. Looking back, I’m sure glad I did as Cackalack’s has since been sold to new owners.
The Country Cat Dinner House & Bar
7937 SE Stark