As Miss Delta proves, excellent service can make the meal
It's hard to say which is more important at a restaurant - the food or the service.
I wouldn't go to a place with lousy food just because it had great service. But I will frequent a place with only decent food if the service is terrific.
And bad service can scare me away from even the most amazing cuisine. Last August, for example, I went to a restaurant and had sensational food, but the service was dreadful.
The snotty waiter was not only extremely unfriendly; he also disappeared for long periods of time. During one of his extended absences, in thirsty desperation I asked a busser if he could order us another round of drinks from the bartender.
When the waiter finally reappeared he could hardly contain his anger at my action. I'm not exaggerating.
The responsible thing to do would be to return to see if it was an isolated incident but, even though the food was delicious, it was such a terrible incident I haven't been able to drag myself back.
I thought back on that experience recently after I had excellent service at the much more lowbrow Miss Delta (3950 N. Mississippi Ave., 503-287-7629), which was opened in August by an original owner of the Delta Cafe. (The Delta Cafe still operates at 4607 S.E. Woodstock Blvd., 503-771-3101.)
Miss Delta sits in the cozy quarters formerly occupied by the now defunct Pasta Bangs. It's a cheerful spot, a narrow space with tables squeezed in along an exposed brick wall, and a cluttered bar almost as long as the room.
At Miss Delta, we were greeted by a superfriendly server who directed us to sit wherever we wanted.
She quickly came to our table with water, explained the menu, made recommendations (mainly warning us that certain items are humongous), then took our drink order and promised to be right back with our drinks and to take our food order. She was, and she did.
The whole night was like that: The server was prompt and efficient, friendly without being obtrusive, and seemed to enjoy doing her job well. She even delivered our check in a timely fashion, which is a trick many waiters have a hard time mastering.
Dishes at Miss Delta, though not out of this world, are sufficiently satisfying. Highlights of the menu include tender and flaky fried catfish, macaroni and cheese with a chewy crust, and crispy-on-the-outside, deliciously greasy-on-the-inside fried chicken. The best sides are creamy black-eyed peas and slightly tangy collard greens.
Skip the blackened flank steak. The flavor is OK, but flank steak is a tough cut that shouldn't be served as a big slab. It's better, and easier to chew, when it's thinly sliced and marinated before grilling.
Portions really are large, so if you order a starter, like tasty fried okra, expect to go home with a doggie bag.
Desserts, which change regularly, also are big and decadent. Chocolate cake was very rich and sticky moist. Peanut butter pie, topped with whipped cream, was sweet and fluffy - a kid's dream dessert.
Other items on the Miss Delta menu include such Southern specialties as jambalaya and shrimp Creole.
The food alone probably wouldn't lure me regularly to Miss Delta, but the stellar service and pleasant atmosphere combined with better than decent food will have me sampling the rest of the menu soon.
Miss Delta is open for dinner 5 p.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday, and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. Miss Delta is open for brunch 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
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Portland's buffalo wing lovers have reason to celebrate this week when popular wing joint Fire on the Mountain (4225 N. Interstate Ave., 503-280-9464) opens a second location on East Burnside Street (1708 E. Burnside St., 503-230-9464).
Visit www.portlandwings.com to view the menu, which is identical at both locations. It's another great place to get your Super Bowl takeout.
Send Taste tips to elizabethgadberry @portlandtribune.com.