Theres no cooking like home cooking
When Henry Ford's Restaurant on Southwest Barbur Boulevard closed in February after 47 years, it pointed up the significance of neighborhood roadhouses.
They're architectural comfort food: familiar, folksy and filling. Locals feel good that such landmarks remain the same Ñ like Mother's cooking.
One of the senior survivors left in Southwest Portland is the Cider Mill Restaurant and Lounge, which has had the same Southwest Capitol Highway address since the 1920s.
It's a full-service corner, with Tuck's Brewery in an adjacent building (which used to be a 7-Eleven), the Fryer Tuck chicken restaurant (which puts Colonel Sanders to shame) and the Hoot Owl Market next door.
Overlooking the junction of Southwest Capitol Highway, Southwest Vermont Street and Southwest 30th Avenue, the Cider Mill dates to when the hills were crowned with dairy farms.
The Johnson family served cider at what was then a fruit and vegetable stand and lived in the adjoining apartment Ñ these days, the restaurant's dining room and pool room. The Johnsons sold out in 1939, and the new owners, the Maynes, extended the front of the building 10 feet to accommodate bigger crowds.
When the Maynes sold to Jim Demas in 1963, Demas picked up a Fryer Tuck chicken franchise, which (despite its name) 'broasts' all its birds. At one time it was one of eight outlets in the region, recalls present owner Ed Erickson. Erickson and his wife, Peg, bought the Cider Mill in 1988, 'and we bought the Fryer Tuck as well Ñ it's the last one left,' Erickson says.
At 69, Erickson's roots in the neighborhood go deep. He grew up on Capitol Highway, and his parents, 'Swede' and Eva, owned the long-gone Dutch Tavern in Hillsdale Ñ notable for its windmill.
The Ericksons have given the Cider Mill a cheerfully cluttered look, with knotty pine walls and ceiling, and Victorian-style chandeliers with fans. Multiple televisions glare down from the ceiling on patrons waiting for another conversation to break out.
Photos of old Portland cover the walls Ñ everything from the old battleship Oregon moored at the downtown sea wall to bridges under construction and streets that haven't changed much, except for the cars.
There's a stuffed boar's head over the door wearing a baseball cap, a set of shark's teeth brought back from Mexico by a Fryer Tuck cook and a foot-tall bronze statuette behind the bar.
Among a dozen taps with standard Northwest micros and national macro beers, the Cider Mill also brews six of its own with the help of brewer Max Teiger, who's in Germany researching what to make next. From light to dark they are King's Kolsch, Bullseye, Alt, the noteworthy Catapult, Hefeweizen and Stout. There are free beer tastings at the adjacent brewery on Saturdays, Erickson says.
When the place is busy, up to 12 people can be seen serving drinks and cooking meals with an emphasis on chicken. Chicken portions range from a single leg for $1.85 to a five-chicken dinner for 20 people, including spuds, dip, baked beans and salad or roll, for $96.
Ron Overland, who runs the Kosher Deli at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center just down the street, is a longtime regular.
'I grew up nearby, went to Hayes and Wilson schools, and my teachers used to drink where we're sitting now. A lot of friends gather here. It's a great place to get work done for less than union rates,' he says with a laugh.
'The best thing about this place is it's close to home,' Erickson says.