West Portland’s Classic Diner: Skyline Restaurant


Photo Credit: Sophie Johnson

Miles Meschter (he/him), Staff Writer

Standing near Forest Park at the intersection of Cornell Rd. and Skyline Blvd. is an iconic vintage diner, Skyline Restaurant. The burger and shake destination is a valuable find in scenic west Portland, where its red-lit sign stands isolated among an empty lot and tall evergreens. The diner’s outside appearance brings reference to its almost 90 year history. Right of the entrance is an undercover parking space that previously served as a drive-in area — which is now commemorated in murals on the wall. Skyline is hard to miss when approaching on the windy forest drive, decked with lights and colors on its roadside island perch.

Its current glow is quite a step back from its days as a neon spectacle in the 1950s. During these hey-days, burgers were bought with 50 cents, milkshakes for 30. Skyline was formerly named The Speck,German for homicidal doctor, and quickly gained popularity. James Beard, a nationally recognized chef and critic, rated the restaurant to have the best burgers in the country. Skyline still flaunts its praise on the building sign, reading “best burger in Portland.”

On a Saturday evening last weekend, the restaurant was in full business, families and friends packed side by side in red leather booths. Winter air kept the space brisk with the constant traffic of pickup orders through the door. The servers were quick to attend to incoming customers though, showing patience and courtesy. An expected history of wear and tear is seen within the wood-paneled interior. Skyline’s appeal is its genuinity as a iconic, historic diner. The restaurant values its love-worn aesthetic as opposed to what more trendy destinations will offer. Visitors won’t find themselves confined to their table, conversations across tables were heard all around.

On our review assignment, my colleague, Sophie Johnson, and I ordered strawberry and banana milkshakes, chicken strips, onion rings and the Giant Giant Skyline Burger staple. Amongst crowded tables, we received our milkshakes in roughly 10 minutes, and our food in around 15. Skyline’s milkshakes are a straightforward crowd-pleaser. The flavor was strong and a sweet taste that was fresh and natural. The banana milkshake, a rare and challenging flavor option for restaurants, delivered without a seeming reliance on artificial syrups. For those two kinds of people who eat milkshakes and those who drink, spoons and straws are provided for both preferences. The menu offers plenty more ambitious shake flavors including lime, pineapple, root beer and caramel apple.

The Giant Giant Skyline Burger, although not specified to be the favorite, appeared to be the staple burger option on the menu. This burger needs no french fries or side salads, nor is there any apparent room on the dish. Skyline masters the classic ingredient combo, delivering all the goods: lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese and juicy beef. One will cradle the buns in hand to hold together this grand amalgamation. Mayo serves as the inter-layer lubricant, but ketchup and mustard must be added by the eater.

Skyline Restaurant is worth the outing. The diner is a notable vintage eating experience in the Portland area— a city where growth often clears out old. Its isolated location makes for an entertaining drive down Skyline or Burnside, and puts one within proximity of Forest Park and Mt. Calvary Cemetery. The building’s walls are layered with memories and the community it has built and preserved. With its core serving items, the diner cooks burgers to crave for and delightful milkshakes of all varieties. After eating here, I would rate Skyline Restaurant a cumulative score of 5/5.

For most people in the Ida B. Wells community, the diner is easily accessible, crossing Highway 26, and making a short trip up Skyline Blvd. and Burnside. Parking is available at the front entrance, undercover drive-in spaces, and the open lot across the street.