Greasy spoons aren't exactly known for their stellar wine lists, but that doesn't mean you can't — or shouldn't — pair classic diner dishes with a drink that's a little more upscale. With that mind, Eater tapped six Portland wine professionals and challenged each to pair a glass with a classic greasy spoon dish (some, like Remedy Wine Bar's Dan Beekley, right, took one for the team and conducted their own pairing, uh, research).
Ever wonder what to pair with biscuits-and-gravy, a cheddar-topped tuna melt, or mom's meatloaf with ketchup?
David Speer, Ambonnay
The Dish: Disco fries (the NJ diner classic featuring cheese-and-gravy-topped fries)
"I've never even heard of Disco Fries, but they sound fantastically trashy! Immediately I thought I want something with plenty of acid to help cut through the weight of so many heavy ingredients. I also want a touch of sweetness to play with all of the salt that is bound to be part of this adventure. Finally with so many big flavors I want some bubbles to help clean off my palate. Specifially, I'm thinking Schwaab Dietz Riesling Sekt Budersekt Trocken 2010 ($30ish retail). This sparkling Riesling comes from the Mosel Valley of Germany, and sounds like it would be a delicious compliment to Disco Fries. At the very least, it would class it up a bit." [Photo]
Amalie Roberts, Kir Wine Bar
The Dish: Corned beef and cabbage on rye
"Corned beef and cabbage presents some very fun and interesting options. With this dish you have some dominant flavors and textures: fat, smoke, brining prices, and salt. Personally, I would go for a white like my favorite biodynamic alsatian producer, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht's pinot blanc. It has a fresh and bright character to cut through fat and shows some fennel and anise to bring out the exotic corn beef spices of coriander and pepper.
If you are an red wine person, you live in a great place for corned beef friendly wines! My new favorite is "Stormy morning" from Ribera Vineyards in West Linn. The pinot's low tannins will sooth the saltiness of the beef, and it has an earthy quality for play on the lush smokiness. Great dark red fruits make it almost like a smear of cranberry compote to plump up to your sandwich!" [Photo]
Dan Beekley, Remedy Wine Bar
The Dish: Philly cheesesteak sandwich
"Went to Grant's today — had to cram one of these gut-bombs down in order to make a good assessment. Some other Philadelphia-area natives have told me that Grant's is closest thing to the real thing. I'm not so sure, but the sandwich sure got me thinking about what to drink! At first I thought Riesling, from almost anywhere (especially considering the jumbo dog we ordered for our son). Where beer would have been the obvious "wash down" choice, I ultimately settled on sparkling wine — a nice dry one, crisp and minerally, served ice cold, like ice bucket cold.
In the store, and at the new wine bar, we serve a zippy pink bubbly called "Perles Grises" from a winemaker in the Loire named Patrice Colin. It's not expensive — under twenty bucks retail — and would have happily gone to work on the salt/pepper/grease combo of the cheesesteak. The bubbly would have handily ripped right through all of it.
Grant's offers the sandwich "[with Cheese] Whiz" as an option — using the alternative cheese by-product so famous at Pat's and Geno's and countless others. But, I couldn't bring myself to do it. Even if I had, the Perles Grises stays on the table. It would have been perfect to make the medicine go down."
Courtney Storrs, Noble Rot
The Dish: Country biscuits and sausage gravy
"I would pair the biscuits and gravy with Champagne blanc de noir (Chard/Pinot Noir) if it's breakfasty: [It has a] yeasty, full-bodied background with some good acid up front. Add bacon and eggs to the breakfast, I would want a Champagne Rose or Cameron Rose from Willamette Valley. Dinner biscuits and gravy I would pair with a Southern Rhone Red." [Photo]
Ryan Sharp, ENSO Winery
The Dish: Classic tuna melt (tuna salad sandwich with melted cheese)
"So, when we're doing the tuna melt thang at home, we're making them inside in our kitchen to eat them outside in our backyard. What then shall we pair it with? Well, depends on the time of day... If this is a lunch occasion then by all means a low-alcohol Riesling, like our 2011 ENSO Dry Riesling or the Arcane Cellars 2011 Riesling. That touch of residual sugar will pair nicely with the iron-y-ness of the tuna. It'll also quench our mid-day thirst.
If this is an evening occasion, we might move into a lighter red, like Division's 2012 Béton or the 2011 Clay Pigeon Pinot Noir. Something that is going to both compliment the mineral tones while also offering a high-contrast edge of fruitiness." [Photo]
Todd Steele, Metrovino
The Dish: Meatloaf with brown gravy
"A great pairing for meatloaf and a silky brown gravy is the 2009 Château Bellevue Côtes de Castillon, a blend of 65 percent Merlot and 35 percent Cab Franc. In good vintages, the Bellevue is a great value at under $20 retail.... When properly handled Merlot can produce wines that play very nicely with food, especially red meat dishes. With some air the wine shows delicate floral and herbal aromas, with a firm mineral finish, rich black fruits, and well balanced acidity.
Complexity and balance are the name of the game with the Bellevue and it is at its best when combined with food. While it would be just fine when paired with other variations of meatloaf, say covered with ketchup or bacon, you could opt for a Washington State Merlot like Dumas Station from Walla Walla to bring some more fruit to the party. I think Merlot shines in Washington when farmed properly as Merlot can go from balanced and beautiful to a flabby mess in a very short amount of time if allowed to over-ripen."
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Opening image of Dan Beekley courtesy Elizabeth Beekley