When you walk into Steve and Renee’s Diner on Washington Avenue in Portland, you’ll see a chalkboard above the counter that declares the day’s specials and the joke of the day.
On Monday, the joke of the day read:
Pete: Waiter, this tea tastes like turpentine.
Renee: Then it must be coffee. Our tea tastes like dishwater.
Laughs are a big part of the atmosphere at the diner. The menu is adorned with small, comical hand drawings. Co-owner Renee Wright won the Comedy Connection’s Portland’s Funniest Professionals contest in 2007.
It’s the lightheartedness (or big-heartedness) of the folks at the diner that makes joking around part of the scenery. Regulars are greeted by name, and one diner who was celebrating a birthday received birthday greetings (without having to hear that withering “Happy Birthday” song or any variations designed to embarrass).
A Portland mainstay for more than 20 years, the diner has been burgled twice in the past year, but folks seem upbeat and friendly despite the unfriendly things that have happened there.
As many diners do, you can order breakfast all day at Steve and Renee’s. I decided on a short stack (two slices) of French toast for $2.89 and a cinnamon bun for $1.39. I told my waitress that I thought I was ordering too much bread (and, as it turned out, I did), but it was all good – especially the cinnamon bun, which was served to me warm.
The diner’s breakfast menu offers a number of egg combinations ranging from the Egg Bed with one egg, cheese and bacon, ham or sausage on an English muffin for $2.89 to two eggs, fries, toast and corned beef hash for $5.89.
The breakfast menu also features pancakes ($1.59 for one, $2.79 for a short order and $3.99 for a tall order), omelets ($4.09 to $6.09) and heart-friendly selections with Egg Beaters and low-cholesterol bacon, sausage and margarine.
The lunch menu offers soups ($2.79 for a cup, $3.99 for a bowl) and salads ($3.29 to $6.29), burgers ($2.59 to $3.99) and sandwiches. The sandwich menu includes a hot dog for $1.99, a turkey sandwich for $5.19, an egg salad sandwich for $3.39 and a club sandwich for $6.69.
The diner is well known for offering its Turkey Dinner Night on Saturdays between 5 and 7 p.m. Get yourself an all-you-can-eat turkey dinner for $8.50 when you dine in; $9 to go.
The Features staff of The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram anonymously samples meals for about $7.