That Sunday would’ve been my dad’s 88th birthday- he lived a good life, I guess. He actually died twice…it’s a long story. Regardless, that day, when someone asked what kind of pie they should bring over, and mentioned that Banning’s Restaurant and Pie House (11477 SW Pacific Hwy, Tigard) had Strawberry Rhubarb, I spoke up. You see, my grandmother’s recipe was my father’s favorite (which kinda made it my favorite). However, in a fateful game of “telephone,” our wonderful neighbor brought both Banning’s Snickers Pie and Lemon Sour Cream, instead. Don’t get me wrong, both of these pies are amazing- the Snickers playfully balances a decadent sweet and salty, while the Lemon Sour Cream stands tall like a Lemon Merengue on “flavor steroids”- but I wanted what I wanted, so that meant a trip to the source.
The energy of the lunch crowd was a welcome surprise as we entered the door. It was due, primarily, to the local hotels and motels recently filling up because of evacuations from the wildfires threatening nearby towns not yet under control- but in Banning’s there is also that unmistakable buzz that you often find in hometown diners that offer a sense of belonging and something that says, “don’t worry, good food is made here.”
Co-owner and Director of Operations, Jenn Banning waved as she sped past us to help in the unexpected rush, and promised to return. When she came back, she did so bearing the gift of, wait for it…Tachos! What may seem simple, Nachos made with Tater Tots, is so much more at Banning’s- crispy tots serve as the vessel for the playful mix of savory guac, sweet and spicy pico de gallo, chipotle cream and the perfect bite of sour cream and Tillamook cheddar that dance on the palate. In fact, wife and eternal dining partner, Kristen, and I were so enamored with the appetizer, that “Tachos” has become our “safe-word” to quell any argument that may be brewing!
The rest of lunch did not disappoint, of course, what you would come to expect from a Tigard staple that has been rolling out breakfast, lunch and dinner for over 41 years. “Feeding people was in our blood,” explained Jenn, whose family opened Banning’s in 1979 and who have successfully weathered the storm of tumultuous outside factors that threaten small family businesses over the years, including most recently the COVID-19 pandemic that has placed unprecedented restrictions on dining and business. “We’re a family- all of us who work here, and members of this family have their own families,” Banning added, “and we have had to sustain and keep them working so that they may provide.”
In addition to staying relevant on Social Media and expanding their online ordering with GrubHub and Uber Eats, their main focus has remained to, “make the food that the people need.” Be it house-made Chicken Pot Pie, an overwhelming Monte Cristo, Chicken and Waffles, Turkey Dinner, Pot Roast…or as simple as a plate of fluffy pancakes- it is these traditional favorites, that Banning’s offers daily- made from only the freshest local Oregon ingredients- that will continue to help ease us and put the “comfort” back into comfort food in these all too troubling times. “We buy local,” Jenn stressed, “to support our local economy. Because, we know all to well, we wouldn’t be anything without our customers.”
And, it’s definitely a family affair- “Whole family’s still involved,” she remarked. Banning and her brother, Jake both work full time, in operational roles, and even father, Mark, “is here everyday, even though he is ‘retired.’ He loves to get on the floor and be in the hustle and bustle of a busy restaurant,” she playfully added.
As far as my slice of Strawberry Rhubarb- one bite and I was immediately transported back to my childhood in my grandparent’s backyard- that perfect play of tart and sweet, with a moist and crumbly house made crust. It reminded me of my dad, not only because he was tart and sweet…and at times a little crumbly, but because he would have approved of this Banning’s pie…and ordered another slice.
Banning’s is open seven days a week. Monday – Saturday: 7 a.m. – 10 p.m., Sunday 12 – 6 p.m. (503) 244-2558. 11477 SW Pacific Highway, Tigard – banningsrestaurant.com.