Review: Big Red’s Western Cafe

Big Red’s Western Café (Sylvan Hill location)
5515 SW Canyon Court
Portland, OR
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Oh my. Well, here’s a real disappointment. Big Red Western Café looks like a chain restaurant from the outside, feels like a sports bar from the inside and the food was, well, pretty terrible.

Situated atop Sylvan Hill, the location could not be better, except you almost need GPS to get to the place after you exit Highway 26. It’s right next to the John L. Scott office that used to be my childhood weekend breakfast favorite, Coco’s.

When we stopped by Big Red for lunch it was almost empty, yet the numerous servers were slow and not very friendly or helpful. It took more than 10 minutes just to get water and get our drink order in.

The menu is extensive, but it’s your typical wannabe Tex-Mex menu. Burgers, ribs, chips and salsa, and daily drink specials. Literally, you can’t avoid the drink specials. The gaudy laminated beer posters blanket the walls.

Since it was the weekend, I ordered that day’s drink special, a Bloody Mary. It was watered down and there wasn’t a hint of flavor other than the weak tomato juice. I probably should have taken the hint there and skipped the meal, but I was starving, so we hunkered down in our booth amid the painted wooden cacti and Mexican blanket adornments.

My mistake.

It’s rare—almost unheard of—that I send a dish back, but this time it was completely necessary. It was brunch-time so I ordered a cheese omelet. When the dish arrived it seemed tepid at best, but once I dove into the omelet I realized the grated cheese was not even close to melted! The shock! The disgust! It was completely inedible. It was just darn gross. When it came back it was plenty melted, but still not as good as I know a cheese omelet can be.

My lunch companion ordered the chicken fried steak and, sadly, reported that it was dry and not very tasty. To be honest, it didn’t even look very tasty with that congealed gravy on top.

The worst part was the bill. After all was said and done, we spent more than $30 for a lunch that was completely not worth it.

Pros: Daily drink specials (I guess if you’ve had enough of those the food will taste better)

Cons: Mediocre food (especially for the prices), can be tricky to find, service wasn’t great


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One thought on “Review: Big Red’s Western Cafe”

  1. I have frequented multiple BIG RED’s across town and I can say that your unfortunate experience is quite uncommon IMHO. Their food is not A+ but it is quite decent for an average, as you put it, tex-mex style restaurant. Their BBQ dishes are great and burgers are top notch. The sylvan location, which is where I go the most, did go through cook issues a while back and it unfortunately may have been around your visit. The cook just never showed up one day. My friends and I go there all the time for happy hours and typically the drinks are poured with a very heavy hand and the cheap eats on happy hour menu can’t be beat anywhere! One of the main reasons we keep coming back here is that its location is off the beaten path and never crowded like every other after drink venue.

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