|Portia serves a big ol' burger|
Portia Kilburn's anniversary actually celebrates the opening of her namesake diner in its original location at the corner of Benton Boulevard and Independence Avenue; Kilburn moved to bigger quarters -- the current building at 3840 East Truman Road -- in 1986.
A friend and I stopped in the low-slung cinder-block building for lunch last week, but a little too late to get that day's dinner special: chicken-fried steak with gravy, mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese for $8. You need to eat kind of early if you want one of the daily specials at Portia's Cafe, since the restaurant opens at 6 a.m. -- Monday through Friday -- and closes at 2 p.m. Our sassy waitress -- Kilburn's sister Janie Hershell -- flirts hilariously with the gruff construction workers who are regulars in one of the cafe's two dining rooms. She told us that the daily dinners are usually gone by 1:30 p.m.
Another server -- Portia's sister Trish -- chose that moment -- it was 1:45 p.m. -- to step into the center of the second dining room (the one with the folding tables and the metal chairs) and announce: "We've got two pieces of pecan pie left. Who wants to order them?"
A couple of hands shot up, and that was that.
"There's been some kind of restaurant in this place for decades," Portia told us later. "It was DJ's Place before I moved in here 24 years ago. And another restaurant before that."
Portia serves breakfast in the mornings and sandwiches (including one of the best patty melts in the city) and dinners -- fried shrimp, roast beef, hamburger steak -- in the afternoons.