Three weeks ago, the Oregonian’s editorial team decided, apparently, that the Portland area restaurants and shops most overlooked and in need of promotion by their paper were Shari’s with nearly 100 locations, Taco Time with over 300 locations, Old Spaghetti Factory with nearly 40 locations, and Dutch Bros Coffee with over 150 locations. They also featured Sayler’s Old Country Kitchen, the only non-chain — an old school steakhouse that’s been around since the end of World War II. The author of the story, Lee Williams, questions why it’s been ignored by foodies. He wonders why a place serving a 72 ounce steak wouldn’t get more notice. The owner offers an idea:
“A lot of the time, just because of our geographical location — we’re not downtown, and trendy, so we’re not on radar screens,” says Dave Sayler, 41, of why foodies tend to ignore Sayler’s. Dave Sayler is part of the third generation of Saylers to run the family steakhouse.
“Foodies don’t like anything big,” Dave’s father Gene, 65, says with a laugh.
You won’t find pommes frites, charcuterie or lobster foam here. Sayler’s is steak. And chicken. Lobster tails. And prime rib.
Enough people have attacked the ridiculousness of Williams’s portrayals of foodies in Portland that I’m not going to repeat that here. (Although, dude, pommes frites is just French for fries and, yes, they have them.) However, Sayler’s and Williams’s comments do show a basic misunderstanding: it’s not that foodies don’t like big food, it’s that we prioritize quality. Given two items of equal quality, we’d be overjoyed at a large portion or low price. Duh. (In fact, my favorite steak in town is the 2 lb porterhouse at Nostrana. Its unusual size doesn’t bother me at all.)
Sayler’s other point, though, does have more than an inkling of truth. Being downtown, in the Pearl, or in one of the trendy neighborhoods in North, Northeast, or Southeast Portland has its advantages. There are clearly foodies, such as myself, that go out of our way to explore the outskirts and promote restaurants off the beaten track. Hell, if anyone asks, I always say my favorite restaurants is El Inka in BFE Gresham.
But I often complain as restaurants I love disappear that Portlander’s aren’t willing to drive 15 minutes out of their way for great food. So maybe Sayler has something here. Maybe he’s a victim of snobbery and geographical distance. Only one good way to test that: eat there. So that’s what I did. In the same day, I ate at both El Gaucho and Sayler’s, then followed those meals the next day with a visit to Laurelhurst Market. I ate a ribeye at each. Following are the results.