5128 N Albina Ave (in the same building as Big City Produce)
Restaurants in North Portland
Breakfast entrees are the usual cafe entrees, waffles, scrambles, and omelets, ranging from $3-$10. The Green Eggs and Ham, a frittata-style scramble with pesto, green onions and feta, and served with chunky seasoned red potatoes and toast or croissant, while devastating on the arteries, is a personal fave. Biscuits and gravy features one of the better sausage gravies in town. And huevos, a layering of tortilla, black beans, eggs, sour cream, salsa and green onions, is lacking the ranchero sauce, but it is really addictive all the same.
You can substitute tofu or 2nd Nature eggs, too—nice!
Lunches are the big triple S: soups, salads, and sandwiches, not a huge menu, ranging from $3.25 to $7.
CLOSED; now Boulevard Tacos
1942 N Portland Blvd at Denver
Looks like an updated coffee shop, like Denny's might be if it's were a little nicer. But I dare say that you're likely to have a better dining experience at Denny's: it'll be faster, cheaper, and the food will taste better. And you won't have to stir your coffee with a knife.
True, you won't be able to order espresso at Denny's (or can you?).
Where should I begin? We saw the Under new Management sign, and came in. There was one other table; otherwise, the large restaurant was empty. We were seated at a table that had some maple syrup smeared on it, probably from the day before.
Prices range from $4-$15 for breakfast (they also offer lunch and dinner), and the menu seemed pretty typical: omelets, french toast, pancakes. We ordered chicken fried steak & a green-chili/cheese omelet, with coffee.
The coffee was okay, nothing worth seeking out. The cream came in darigold half-n-half tubs. And while the table was pre-set with napkins and flatware, there are no spoons, which explains why everyone who used cream used their knife to stir it in.
And so began our long wait for food. Perhaps the waitress didn't put the order in? Perhaps the cook went out to buy ingredients? No explanation was offered, but we managed to drink several cups of coffee slowly while we waited.
Finally, our food came out. The omelet was not over or undercooked, though it was made in a very small pan which made the egg very thick. There were a lot of green chilis in the omelet. It was served with a sea of home fries and two halved pieces of toast.
The home fries were actually pretty good. Not crisp, but done in the middle. The toast was typical sliced bread, served with a variety of tubs of jams and marmalades.
The chicken fried steak was very good, and good sized, but it was covered with some non-descript gravy studded with largish chunks of sausage, ham and bacon. Somehow, all of the flavor of the meat had somehow been removed, but still, the gravy was better than a lot of sausage gravy in town, just not a lot of flavor or umph there.
It's the little things that make the experience, though. The waitresses who all talked loudly as if the restaurant was empty. The overly sweet ketchup that comes in ramekins. The sprinkled parsley that is not only all over the food, but also on the toast and orange slices.
As we were finishing our meals, people started to come in. One couple asked the waitress directly about the management change. It has the same owner... but the old manager quit. So now they have a new manager.
We chatted with them for a couple of minutes. A transformer had blown, knocking out power in a lot of North Portland, and it apparently had fried their new big screen TV. There were a number of smaller calamities as well, and they were clearly going out to eat to change their fortunes. I didn't want to tell them to run, run far away, and I also didn't want to be there when their food came.
4134 N Vancouver Ave # 207 (almost at Skidmore; entrance on Williams Street)
the menu: ethiopianbusiness.net/Advertisers/Dalos_Kitchen_Catering_Menu.html
get there via trimet
find a bike route
Vegan friends of mine have been crazy about Dalo's since it was the San Rafael Cafe. For the longest time, I haven't been eating Ethiopian after having some severe stomach distress after eating (primarily incendiary dishes like kitfo), and recently, my doc has had me on a vegan plant-based regime of no oil, no salt, and no sugar. So if it sounds like I'm not totally myself, that's thoroughly true.
Anyhow, we ended up Dalo's on a rainy Monday night. The dining room is nothing to write home about: lineoleum floors, tables and chairs, tourism posters from Ethiopia taped up next to folk art. And when I was there, there were exactly two people working, in spite of having five full tables and a lot of regular walk-in pick-up business. So to say that service was relaxed and leisurely is quite possibly stretching it. One of the two rooms has a TV if you need to catch Larry King. We didn't, so we sat in the front half.
The clientele is very interesting. Being an African restaurant, I expect Reed students and lesbians, but there were also hipsters and white guys and African-Americans just coming in to pick up their dinner. I also noticed that the staff and some of the clientele recognized each other -- this is obviously a hang out for some.
The menu is simple: a couple of American sandwiches, a handful of meat dishes, and a handful of vegetarian dishes. They have several types of Ethiopian beer as well. We ordered the vegetarian platter ($8.99) with jalapeno paste. The meat dishes include my old favorite, kitfo ($6.99/$11.99), awaze tibbs (beef or chicken in a spicy sauce,
$5.99/$9.99), and tibbs (beef, chicken or lamb [+$2] in a mild sauce, $5.99/$9.99).
Now, the press hasn't been terribly kind to them when it comes to meat dishes, and chicken in particular. Just be warned. And online blogs warn that other places are tastier. But the combo of taste and price is pretty winning to me.
When our food arrived, it came on a huge platter. Ethiopian food is all about family style, and that's the case here as well. Two huge pieces of injera (flatbread made from fermented teff) lined the platter, and our vegetarian entrees came in small dishes: atkilt (stewed cabbage, carrot & potato), gomen (spinach sauteed with onions), kay misir (spicy lentils), and alicha misir (mild lentils). Now, I might have the names wrong as I didn't steal a menu! While the spicy lentils and the jalapeno paste were spicy, neither was insanely hot, so those of you aiming for a kitfo endorphin rush will want to ask for it spicy when you order.
The injera was room temperature, but the entrees were nice and warm, and very tasty. We were both swooning over the contrasts of tastes, the 180 degree difference between the two lentil dishes, the sweet soothing cabbage, the almost greens-like gomen. We ate until we were both groaning, and we still had food to take home. The staff were as attentive as they could be, refilling water, and offering additional injera and jalapeno paste. And when I went to pay up, our total was $13, for a vegetarian platter, a beer, and some extra injera and jalapeno paste. Whoa!
That's cheaper than food!
Now, I didn't ask the hard questions about butter. Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisines both value a clarified, berbered butter which can often be the basis of the cuisine. The Willamette Week, in an undated article online, claims that everything on the vegetarian platter is vegan, but they also list different dishes in vegetarian platter. I wanted to ask, but my sweetie wouldn't let me -- I'm sure so if I choose to stay vegan, that we can come back.
3606 N Williams Ave (just north of Fremont)
September 17, 2006 | Permalink
Yes, it's a Grateful Dead reference, and a Mount St. Helens reference.
This place is unassuming from the street, except, for all the cars parked around it. It's small—you walk in and order at the counter. They offer chicken wings and all manner of other deepfried things, like french fries, sweet potato fries, onion rings, tater tots, mushrooms, pickles, twinkies. They also offer 12 excellent sauces, including a couple that will blow the back of your head off (and I'm a hothead)—lucky for us, they provide celery matchsticks that you can try all the sauces for your favorite combination of hot, sweet, and flavor.
You can order wings by the half dozen, and that's how they do the saucing as well. Each order comes with blue cheese dressing or ranch—your choice.
There are tables, natch, and some reading material. Usually, the food arrives soonish. Of course, if you're eating spicy deep-fried food, you need something to wash it down, which is where the 7 taps of microbrews and Rainer come in handy. And, they even have "Portland Wings" (sheesh, it's tempeh) for vegetarians. Damn. While I can't speak to tempeh and pickles, the wings and fries—it's all good.
I told a friend who lives in Arbor Lodge about it. "Oh, I've been there", she said. "It's good, but $3 is a lot for a waffle."
Hmmm. So I go early on Saturday morning and am pleased to see a clump of folks standing and sitting outside who are clearing enjoying their waffles. Neighborhood folks who are regulars, who have no idea that today is free waffle day, are ordering waffles and $1 coffee, or lattes, americanos, and mochas. The atmosphere is pure neighborhood.
So here's the deal: it's a waffle stand in a parking lot. You go up to the window and order. A few minutes later, you get your espresso drink, if you ordered one, and your steaming hot waffle. The waffles are folded in half and wrapped, its contents safely tucked inside, perfect for one-handed eating.
So, fresh baked waffles, made to order, range from $2 for the butter & powdered sugar to $4 for the ham & cheese or sausage & maple. The majority of waffles are $3.50: sweet cream & jam, peanut butter & jelly, s'mores, nut fluffer, peanut butter & nutella, nutella & raspberry jam, and lemon curd with whipped cream. You can also create your own waffle with one ($3) or two ($3.50) toppings.
We saw, and heard raves, about the ham & cheese, black forest ham with either cheddar or smoked gouda. We ordered the way-over-the-top sausage & maple, and the simple elegant butter & powdered sugar. Both were excellent.
The sausage & maple is just that: pork sausage patty and maple spread (100% organic—it appears that most things are groovy with obvious exceptions like nutella) tucked into a waffle, and it does taste like waffles with syrup and sausage, which is to say, one of the great joys of breakfast.
The butter & powdered sugar showcased the waffle itself—slightly sweet, crispy, lovely. A perfect carrier for all sorts of foodie delights.
You can call ahead to order, and, they take credit cards. They even have wifi. And, a $1 cup of coffee.
Now, of course, it's not without problems. There's limited seating, and no roof. And, presenting a waffle as a thing you gobble down like a hamburger means it doesn't seem like very much food. But, make no mistake—these are filling, even if they take a little time to register in the belly.
CLOSED as of 4/29/2006 - see Gotham Tavern for current review
This restaurant is closed as of 4/29/2006
Is it disengenous to have a open a restaurant in the same location, with a very similar name to a restaurant that got great national reviews but went down in flames? I'll just leave you to mull on that while I talk about the second new incarnation.
There's a problem, of course, with going out to eat at a mediocre place. There's no real incentive to writing it up. Yes, you've taken one for the team, but talking about it seems distasteful at best.
And so it is with the new owners/management at Gotham Tavern. A few months back, they had a press event that we attended where the beer was the best thing we tried. Which isn't to say the food was bad... but it was rather hotel-restaurant-esque. You know, Denny's-like rather than Clyde Common-like. And interestingly, the chef/owner was former chef at the Rose City Cafe at PDX, owned by Hilton.
They still have three taps, this time around they are PBR, Bridgeport IPA, and Off the Rails War Pigs (a hefeweizen). As soon as I saw the beer tap selection, that set the bar for me. Going from La Chouffe in the RIPE/Habetz days to Mac-n-Jacks African Amber in the Speakeasy days to PBR now -- aiming low. Aiming really low. (Though I have to admit I'm pleased to see Off the Rails in my neighborhood)
We were the only ones drinking beer. (and the only folks not dressed to the teeth). We tried their artichoke dip, calamari, crab cakes and baby back ribs, and they were all okay, but none of them were great, none good enough that I'd order them again. If anything, the fry oil seemed to not really be hot enough as the calamari was perfectly done, but not at all crispy, and the crab cakes were tough (but had some real crab shell in them).
So we went back recently. The place was quite when we walked in, with one table on the restaurant side, with a guy slumping in the booth. It was still happy hour, so we ordered our beers and an order of classic wings. Suddenly, the guy in the booth jumps up: oh, he's the chef.
The wings were very good ($3 happy hour, $7 regular menu). There were ten good-sized meaty "wings" with celery and bleu cheese dressing, and I'd go back there for them anytime.
The menu is divided into appetizers ($6-$9), greens ($6-$12), sandwiches ($8-$9), and entrees ($11-$22). There is exactly two items for vegetarians: the creamy risotto with spinach & portabella mushrooms ($12), and the portabella mushroom sandwich ($9).
So we ordered the Gotham Burger ($9) and the Bear's baby back ribs half rack ($15). The ribs are an entree, so a salad soon arrived with a sourish ranch dressing. The sourness put us off a bit.
The food came quickly: the burger cooked to order, with thickish steak fries; and the ribs with mashed potatoes and zucchini. I'm blocking out about the burger: I remember not really caring for it (and I like burgers), in spite of it being cooked to order. The baby back ribs however, were memorable: no flavor, eat-without-your-dentures-tender, with a sauce didn't really impart any flavor. The result was like eating bland pork. The mashed potatoes were also sour and a bit bitter, and the zucchini was limp, greasy, and tasteless.
Meanwhile, the place was becoming more surreal. It appeared a craigslist meet-up was happening across from us, and a young woman with a shirt cut down to there, and a skirt cut up to there was offering Kahlua drink specials with suggestive names and Kahlua recipes. The open mike was supposed to start at 8, but lucky us, it started early! Oh boy!
The time I went looking for the John Street, I got totally turned around. I'm not at all used to St. Johns. So I end up at the fire station, and not only do the firemen know of the place, they all start raving about it.
It's that kinda place. A tiny hole in the wall. Prices are kinda high for breakfast but you can't fault how good it is.
Laurel writes, "Incredibly cheap but very tasty food, good service, and they have far more than the usual stuff: everything from steak fajitas to tripas to tongue burrito. Very tasty."
Myswandive at Portlandfood.org reports a name change: it's now La Superior. No reports yet on any other details.
Still, the space is very pleasant: 3 garage doors that open onto the courtyard and Mississippi Street, ceiling fans to keep the air moving around, and an assortment of interesting art and dinosaur statues. And, like everything else on Mississippi St, they have wifi.
This evening we went, and I took a closer look at the menu. Let's begin with beer. They have 4 taps, with Laurelwood Red, Terminal Gravity IPA and Golden, and usually an Amnesia on... though tonight it was Walking Man's Barefoot Brown. They have a selection of bottled beers, bottled drinks, iced teas, etc.
The menu is divided into Appetizers, Bowls, Burritos, Salads, Quesadillas and Add-Ins. I had never spent enough time with the menu before to see that they encourage customization. They're largely groovy and organic. Okay!
Prices range from $3.50-$9. The menu is largely vegan and vegetarian, with protein items like groovy chicken, smoked turkey, tofu or tempeh as add-ons. But it's not just protein: you can add spinach, broccoli, mashed potatoes, brown rice, shitake barley-quinoa pilaf, greens, corn, plantains, grilled veggies and/or romaine. And/or guac, sour cream, jalapenos, tillamook cheese, vegan rice cheese, and vegan sour cream.
We ordered the Amaizin' Grace Quesadilla and Grilled Chicken burrito. The Amaizin' Grace has corn, green chilies and cilantro pesto in addition to jack cheese and pico de gallo. In the spirit of customization, I ordered mine without the pico.
The grilled chicken is a basic mission-style burrito, with pinto beans, brown rice, lots of jack cheese, and pico de gallo. That was ordered with guacamole.
So. Both dishes came without their customization. We sent the quesadilla back, and they comped us a bowl of chips and salsa. The burrito was also missing its rice. The chips were lackluster, but the medium roasted tomato-chipotle salsa was warm enough to keep us drinking our beer.
When we got to eating, it was all good. My quesadilla was super-cheezy, and a nice flavor combo. The burrito had nice, carmelized chicken in it in chunks, quite tasty.
In the end, this seems pricier than going out for a burrito at a taqueria, but part of that may be the fact that there's no beer generally. I 'm excited that I can bring veggie and vegan friends here, and they can have a range of ordering options. The beer on tap will probably be enough to draw us back.
But the fact that they encourage customization, and then are a bit sloppy about actually customizing isn't encouraging.
- EAT: Laughing Planet Cafe (Alisa's Adventures in Sustainable Living)
- Portland Blog
- The summer sun brings a bloom of fresh eateries (Portland Tribune, undated)
Dude, I just got the best festivus present ever! The New Old Lompoc project on N Failing, aka Failing Williams, aka 5Q, is open! They have all the Old Lompoc Brewery beers on tap, natch, including an insane five (5!) winter seasonals, as well as hard liquor. Two nitro thingees. They have this sophisticated space, not as self-consciously cool as Pix next door, but lovely in an astere, calm sort of way. They have—wait for it!—a garage door (thankfully not open this time of year). They have these crazy huge long booths which practically demand interaction, and appear to be built for beer lovers. And real adult food. The macaroni & cheese of the day yesterday was a rib-eye in a red wine-cream sauce over penne—a lovely stroganoff of sorts. The steak was delicious and a steal at $14, presented over the rich, creamy and thoroughly homemade mashed potatoes, and perfectly done veggies. Meatloaf, well damn, I loved that, too. They have a healthy list of appetizers, salads and sandwiches too, and the fries look great. No wi-fi yet. They'll start brewing in the spring, and distilling in the summer. Damn!
Regular house pints are $3.50. There's a happy hour, too.
- Like a breath of fresh air, the Fifth Quadrant beckons
Liz Colie Gadberry, the Portland Tribune
4057 N Mississippi Ave
January 24, 2008 | Permalink
The Mississippi is as comfortable as they come with its painted floors, mix-matched furniture, and post-collegiate feel. They have a couple taps, too, salads, and much improved, store-made pizza (which they'll deliver if you live in the neighborhood and they have a spare person). We had good salads and slices. Not the best pizza in town, but a comfortable place with good ambiance, decent pizza, good beer, and quite frequently live music.
February 28, 2006 | Permalink
You could do a lot worse than Muddy's. Yummy and very reasonable breakfast all day. The best french toast in town, even beating out Henry's. Homemade chipotle hot sauce. Good, groovy coffee, groovy eggs, yummy baked goods and really good bread. Homemade strata on the weekends to die for. Our only qualm was that they don't do over-easy eggs. But hey, at least they are totally upfront about it. Lunch features the three Ss - soup, sandwiches, salads, along with a quiche of the day. Not that I've ever made it to lunch, but I bet it's good. It's like hanging out at home if your home is an adorable victorian filled with mix-matched furniture, and clean. And with good food, and good vibes. They now have bottled beer and house wines to make this an excellent, low-key place to hang out and get some work done. Or not.
all over town
Of course you can buy groceries at New Seasons. But at their deli, you can also get hot food. Yay!!
We've been long time fans of the New Seasons deli, ever since we figured out that eating before shopping means we spend a lot less. But really, the food prices here can't be beat.
For example, tonight we tried the hot wok ($6.95 and up). Yum! You get a metal bowl and fill it as high as you can with goodies: noodles, rice, garlic, ginger, tofu and veggies. You can also add chicken, beef or shrimp, or white or brown rice to your wok bowl for a little extra. Now, choose from the 8 different sauces: most are vegan, a good number are gluten-free, so you have options. You can also get them to ratchet up the heat. Just a few minutes later, you have a huge hot meal on a plate. Grab a drink from the cooler, stop at the cashier, and then make your way to the dining area, stocked with condiments and magazines and lots of tables.
You can get a huge salad for $6.99 from their salad bar. Or if you prefer, they can make a caesar for you ($3.95 and up). They have 2 pastas each day, one veggie, one meat for $4.95 (and up). And two soups a day, one veggie, one meat.
You can get a bagel with lox, or cream cheese, or whitefish spread, or tofu paté (warning, not vegan!), or hummus, and veggies. You can even get your bagel toasted!
And then there are sandwiches. You can build your own from coldcuts, or tuna or chicken salad, or even grilled veggies. They have hamburgers, turkey burgers, veggie burgers, chickenwiches, even groovy hot dogs. And there's some specialty sandwiches as well.
If this isn't enough, there's always rotisserie chicken and chicken quarters, always pizza, always some type of roasted potatoes, and always some other yummy stuff. Chips and sweets are close at hand.
While the chicken and pizza leave me cold, the hot wok, salad bar, and sandwiches are consistently great, as good as you'd get in a restaurant -- but cheaper.
The only drawback is, if you're hungry and you're having them make you a sandwich or some other type of non-instant gratification, waiting may make you crazy. But no crazier than shopping with an empty stomach.
The Nite Hawk is a funny little place. A recent advertising campaign seems to be bringing in a younger than 70+ crowd to this time capsule from the early seventies. Dinner and lunch here are okay, serious family restaurant fare, but breakfast is the real deal.
This place is all about booths and a counter. The restaurant is non-smoking; you can smoke on the lounge side, and perhaps the only way to tolerate the lounge side is by smoking. They have their own parking lot as well as street parking, a little bit of bike parking, and they're located at a MAX Yellow Line stop.
Breakfast is served all day. They list breakfast specials on the board, usually about a half-dozen of them with the most expensive being $5.95. When we were in, they also listed a prime rib & eggs, which was significantly higher.
The coffee is awful. But they're lavish with it.
Menu items lean heavily towards meat, eggs and potatoes, and run from $3.95-$8.95. We had pigs in a blanket, biscuits and gravy, and the standard eggs-sausage-potatoes-toast with hashbrowns rather than the default cottage potatoes.
The pigs in a blanket was a huge plate of four long breakfast sausages tucked into pancakes, then sprinkled with sugar. It came with garden-variety "pancake syrup", and it was just fine.
The gravy on the biscuits could have been more hearty, but it was the first gravy we've had in months of eating out in Portland that actually tasted like sausage. It even had some visible sausage particles! It was easily doctored with pepper and hot sauce. The biscuits were hidden, but were fine.
And the standard American breakfast was just that. The hashbrowns were great diner hashbrowns.
If you get bored, there's Keno and scratch-offs, and the lounge features video crack and pool.
Most patrons, if they're in a for a hair of the dog, prefer a red beer (a glass of lager with a tomato juice chaser), but with a full bar and a couple of beers on tap (Bud, Coors Light, Fat Tire, Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Widmer Hefeweizen, and Black Butte Porter), you can have whatever you'd like. Or RC.
It seems that everyone in N & NE Portland were up watching the Trojan implosion, and then decided to go out to breakfast. We pulled up at John Street Cafe and were shocked to see the inside and the outside crowded with people.
I was with my companion, he who does not willingly wait for breakfast, so we obviously needed to come up with Plan B tout suite. But we're in St. Johns, which is a bit sleepy at 7:30 on a Sunday morning. There's Pattie's—no, that's out. There's the New Portland Rose, which was also deemed unsuitable. I didn't know about Slim's but I bet it wouldn't have passed muster either.
And so with lowered expectations, we went to Our Daily Bread. It's a family restaurant. However, it's not a chain, and the name is from the fact that they bake their own bread. The coffee was awful, but was there immediately with a menu and a glass of water.
The interior is all about wood, but very comfortable.
Breakfast is offered all day, and the ranch breakfasts are all about eggs and meat: three kinds of sausage, corned beef hash, chicken fried steak, and three kinds of conventional steak are among the offerings ($6.75-$19). There are pancakes, french toast and waffles ($2.50-$6.75), omelettes ($6.75-$8.50), even espresso. And from 6-10am, there are five $4.50 breakfast specials.
So, I ordered the classic ham & cheese omelette with hash browns and homemade cornbread. HWDNWWFB got pigs in a blanket.
Quickly our food came, and hey—it was great!
The omelette was perfect: a thin crepelike egg layer swaddling chopped ham and melty cheese, neither over or underdone. It wasn't an exercise in trying to pile food on the plate, but it was tremendously filling. The shredded hash browns were crispy and lovely, creamy on the inside, not at all greasy. And the cornbread was warm, obviously freshly made, northern-style so slightly sweet, served with creamed butter.
The pigs in a blanket were plate-sized pancakes rolled around link sausage, served with applesauce, creamed butter and syrup (sorry dunno if it was real maple or not).
We both attacked our plates and began talking again once we hit about half through, which was about when we had to say when.
Another example of what makes St. Johns great: unpretentious, hard-work, and value on the buck.
First, let me say: this is a family restaurant. So don't get your hopes up about gourmet or really good. But this greek diner/lounge has a pile going for it. Among other things, if you live in the neighborhood, you'll see your neighbors there. The non-smoking restaurant side is busy, bright, and very diner-like, with an assortment of booths, tables and counter seating. Go at breakfast or dinner, and you'll find kids—not a lot, but some. The lounge side is dark, soothing, busy, and smokey, with its own counter, what seems like thousands of TVs playing sports, and two fireplaces(!). You don't have to drink on the lounge side (just be tolerant of smoke)—and at breakfast time, is about half full, though there's not a lot of folks in for their hair-of-the-dog.
What the Overlook does exquisitely is the diner breakfast. Lots of options, always some cheap less-than-$5 specials, and the food is reliably solid. Get the grits if they have them—you can doctor them up into something fantabulous. The two of us went a bit nuts and still got out for less than $15, not including tip, for breakfast.
One part community meeting space, one part resale shop, one part Av0n distributor, one part diner, it's one big jumbled mess and it's Pattie's. They must be doing something right, as they've been in business since before the turn of the century (this last one at least). Breakfast there is unexceptional, and it's not for a lack of not trying. The taco meat that appears in an omelette is just unseasoned hamburger. Does the cook use salt and pepper? Everything appears to be in some sort of food service packaging, and truly, in some sort of chaos.
This is the sort of place that makes me think, yeah, if I were willing to give up my life, I'd be able to have a diner-cum-resale shop. The dining area is clean and tidy, but one of the counters is completely covered with stuff, including a soda fountain which has had better days. I admit, looking at the piled up stuff (merchandise? a goodwill donation?) unnerved me, and sort of lowered my expectations. And lowered expectations are good—no one is going to confuse this with John St down the way.
But this place has a chef, according to the Oregonian. It's a lovely, wide open space, with tables and booths, and a full wall of windows onto Interstate. And, it's owned by the Low Brow guy.
Anyways, we went in for lunch and really liked it. We had great but relaxed service (though admittedly, the restaurant only had a couple tables going). Water and cokes were refilled frequently. The menu is just one page but stocked with comfort food in the cheapish range ($7-$11). And, there is a full bar, and about ten taps (Bud, Bud Lite, Lagunitas IPA, Lagunitas Maximas, Terminal Gravity Fest, Guinness, a Dick's, Boont Amber, a Flying Dog, and Black Butte Porter). In chatting with the staff, they are planning on rotating at least part of the taps, with Hales Wee Heavy next in line for the cask.
We had the crab/cheese dip, meatloaf, and mac-n-cheese. It was quite impressive when the crab and cheese dip came to the table, in its own boat, covered with breadcrumbs, and quite molten. The dip came with grilled pita bread. It was delicious, and we made short work of it.
Next came the entrees. So, the meatloaf is not what you'd eat at home unless perhaps your mom was a Food TV addict; in fact, I'm not sure how to deconstruct it from the one bite I had. But I'm generally not a meatball fan, and this was quite tasty, like a meatball loaf. It came served on mashed taters, covered in a pancetta gravy. Health food, in other words. It was a substantial portion.
The mac n cheese came in a large, round, low baking dish, perfect for a high molten mac-n-cheese to toasty bread crumb ration. I couldn't even make it through half before getting it boxed up. It was quite delish, a nice classic mac with a smidge of heat.
So, all in all, it was great. Good food, good beer selection. Can it last? Gosh, I hope so.
Sadly, it appears Pause has settled into mediocrity. The last 4 or 5 visits have been underwhelming at best. But they do have an outdoor setting area, fenced off from Interstate, surrounded by lawn which is great for little kids and smokers.
In front of the house, there's the pizza by the joint place, where you can get a slice or a sandwich and a beer or soda and sidle up to the counter. In the back, there's a lovely, tiny dining room that looks out on the back parking lot, but in spite of that, manages to be charming. There in the dining room, you can have table service and order off a menu.
Pizza by the slice has at least 4 pies ready for munching. The prices are in the $2-$3 range for slices. They also have 4 salads ($4-$7), 4 panini, 4 heros, and 4 cold sandwiches ($6.50-$8.25), and out of each of those categories, one is vegan, and most offer a lacto-ovo veg option as well. All the sandwiches come with soup (a good vegan minestrone or a soup of the day), the house salad, or a pasta salad. They have 13 different wines by the class ($5-6.50), and 6 different beers on tap ($3-$3.75).
We ordered the Italian Job, a huge cold sandwich made of sopressato, capicola, provolone, roasted peppers, pepperoncini, tomato, red onion, lettuce, oil and vinegar on ciabatta, with the minestrone. Also, the Maspeth: fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil pesto with prosciutto on como, with a side caesar, and a pepperoni slice.
The pepperoni slice was pretty good. Pizza by the slice always tastes worse than a fresh hot pie, and that can't be helped. But the crust was crunchy and crackery, the sauce was not overabundant, but prominent, the pepperoni was good, and the cheese was okay. Still, for pizza by the slice, this was mighty good.
The Italian Job was one of those sandwiches that is so tall, it ought not fit into your mouth. Everything in it tasted zingy, tasty and fresh. The ciabatta roll from Grand Central was the perfect foil: crusty but not too crusty.
The caesar was good. Slightly undressed, which I'd rather, and some restraint with the shredded parmesan and the croutons. The Maspeth was Caprese-esque in ingredients only, though the gooey, stringy mozzarella was a delight, especially with the pesto. The roma tomato was okay, it wasn't as bad as most sandwich tomatoes out of season, though I'd rather just wait til summer. The proscuitto kinda disappeared into the sandwich.
Brunch is served on Saturday and Sundays, with prices from $5.75-$12.50, and with entrees ranging from breakfast pizza, panini, a scramble, some omelets, a tofu scramble, and polenta with buffalo brisket!
The sitdown menu has a pile of yummy-sounding Italian appetizers ($3.50-$9), a handful of pastas ($7-$13.25), and some specialties ($9-$10) like lasagne and ravioli and risotto. Of course, there are also pizzas ($9-$23), including the most decent sounding vegan pizza I've ever heard of: a white bean & roasted red pepper spread topped with tempeh (I'd pass on that) and veggies. They offer red sauce, alfredo, garlic & olive oil and pesto as bases (as well as the white bean/roasted red pepper spread), and they even offer a clam pie.
So, we went back for dinner. This was not as good of an experience.
Now, before I go any further, let me say that I know folks who have had great experiences on the sitdown side of the restaurant. It just sounds like I got unlucky. But lo, this could happen to you!
Right off the bat, we order drinks, and my Fino Fizz comes back to the table with Chambord rather than limoncello. We placed our order, for a large spinach salad, a pasta carbonara, and a house lasagne (not to be confused with the special lasagne). Our salad came quickly, lightly dressed and quite good. The fresh baby spinach leaves were tossed with tiny tiny bits of candied walnuts, cubes of roma tomato, and ricotta salata. Then began our long wait.
It appears, if you order a pizza, it will come out quite quickly. We watched two tables who had ordered well after us get their pizzas and finish them before we got our pastas. I'm estimating a wait of about 40 minutes between ordering, and pasta arriving at the table.
It should be noted that the pizzas looked really good.
As noted on the menu, the carbonara was cream-based, and was fairly garlicky. That's not traditional, but I didn't mind it. The pancetta was well carmelized, and the peas were peas.
The lasagna was made with housemade sausage, which were all the size of really small hail, or smaller. It really didn't taste unlike lasagna you can get at the grocery store.
Both pastas were accompanied by several slices of really stale Grand Central bread—so stale that I could barely bite through it.
Several times during the meal, someone would haul trash or recycling through the dining room. At several points, I could smell cigarette smoke, even though the dining room is non-smoking... maybe coming from the bar?
Service was an issue the entire meal. For the majority of the meal, there were three tables and two servers, which I suppose explains why my water glass was dry for twenty minutes. At one point when the server did come into our orbit, I asked for a glass of beer and she asked if she could take the remainder of my drink (I had maybe a quarter of it left). I had asked for the beer then because it had been about 15 minutes since she had been at the table, and it wasn't unreasonable to believe they'd leave me there with both an empty water and empty drink glass.
I watched as this same server brought tasters of red wine out to a neighboring table and then couldn't remember which was pinot and which was chianti.
This was a big disappointment after our great lunch the day before. Our dinner experiment cost us $55 after tip. So my recommendation to you is, go for pizza or sandwiches. The pizzas are really tasty.
CLOSED; now a Lucky Lab
1700 N Killingsworth St (at Concord)
Just opened in summer 2005 by the former owners of Vista Spring Cafe. We stopped in for a slice of pizza the other night. Nobody is going to give them an award for the best pizza in town, but I'm betting they're the best pizza in St. Johns. They offer three different pizzas by the slice and multiple sauce, meats, cheeses and veggie combos by the pie. I'll definitely be back. It's in a restored gas station, so it's adorable, the prices reasonable, the staff friendly. And, they have ice cream.
My favorite new place is the Taqueria Santa Cruz. It's in the back of the Panaderia & Tienda Santa Cruz, and if you didn't read the sign or the menu board, you might just think it's a tienda. And it is a tienda, but proceed to the back for the taqueria, already.
The Taqueria is a big white room—it'll get no awards for decor or comfort. The menu is reasonably simple: tacos from $1-$1.50, burritos from $3.50-$4, with meat choices of asada, pollo asado, al pastor, chorizo, tripa, lengua, cabeza. Huaraches, masa formed in a long oval and topped with beans, lettuce and cheese, are $3.50. Tortas are $3.50-$4, and have some of the more popular torta options: jamon, cubana, and milanesa. Tostadas are $2-$2.50.
There are platos too, but I didn't see anyone eating them. Instead, just about everyone around me was having one of the weekend dishes, 5 tacos with barbacoa consomme, caldo de camerones, and menudo. These all involve pho-sized bowls of soup that folks were happily tucking in to.
We ordered a couple each of carne asada and chorizo tacos, a pollo tostado, and a huarache with carne asada. These plus two Jarritos put us back $11.
The carne asada was good, small chopped pieces that had seen some fire, and had some flavor. Chorizo was flavorful and oily without being greasy (though I've heard that sometimes it is greasy there). The chicken, I never got a bite of, but I get the definite impression that it was good as well.
My huarache was like a sope on steroids. Sure, it doesn't compete with the huaraches at Ochoa in Hillsboro, but it's definitely the best I've had on the east side. It's named for the Mexican sandal, made from an oval of fried masa, topped with refrieds, lettuce, meat and a little fresh mexican cheese. It is both filling and delicious.
Table salsas are unadorned, in squirt bottles. There's a nice chile arbol red, and the usual (but delicious) tomatillo green salsas. On the weekends, you'll often get a bowl of a creamy avocado based salsa as well which is luscious.
In spite of being located in Industrial North Portland, Widmer is a popular joint. It's not unusual to have a half hour wait for a table at 4:20 on a Sunday, or 5:15 on a Thursday.
It's also a little tight. Claustrophobes beware. There are several steps to the entrance, a small area without any steps, and then steps to get anywhere else in the restaurant. Restrooms and the entrance are wheelchair accessible—if you don't mind going through the kitchen.
Mark and Lyn wrote this in 1997 and it still rings true:
Beneath the Fremont Bridge, along side Interstate Avenue, hunkers Widmer's Gasthouse. Featuring a variety of German themed entrees, sandwiches and appetizers, the place offers far better than average pub fare, and superb fresh beer, in a beautifully restored brick industrial building. Our party of four got out bloated and smiling, for a-bit-on-the-shy-side of $50.00, but we splurged. First, the negatives. Service was just so-so, which seemed odd on a pretty quiet night. The main courses, like sandwiches and german schnitzels, and even the vegetarian dishes are satisfying, arriving with tasty sides, like cabbage salad, and garlic mashed potatoes, which were raved about, and a quarter of a really good dill pickle.
Widmer's sensational Double Bock was a sterling compliment to the food. Beer fans will find much to love here, including an ever-changing roster of fresh seasonals and the stand-up roster of Widmer's usuals. The dining room is cozy and dim, and literally surrounds some of the brewing apparatus, reinforcing the industrial feel of the building and neighborhood. The food was very good, decent prices, just O.K. service, but best of all, you get all this while sitting in the heart of one of Portland's trademark brewery success stories.
Beerwise, there are a dozen taps. Beers that are always on include Hefeweizen, Drop Top Amber, Broken Halo IPA, their excellent Alt, and their Root Beer. Seasonals, the Collaborator tap, and one-offs make up the rest, and those are the beers you should try. If something looks interesting, ask for a taster; the staff are happy to show off the range and styles of the beers. When we were there, they had a Doppelbock, Double Alt (yum), Dortmunder Lager, Summit Hop Pale, Stout, Sterling Pilsner (fresh-hopped), and Collaborator's Sled Crasher.
They have a full lunch and dinner menu presentable for relatives and coworkers. The menu is heavily, but not exclusively Germanic—expect large portions whether schnitzel or vegetarian. Happy hours have food specials as well. Menus, nicely enough, are online for your pre-meal obsessing.
Yes, you can get a burger, a number of different salads or sandwiches, even pasta, but things really get interesting in the groaning entrees of schnitzel, sauerbraten, goulash, and sausages with mashed potatoes, potato pancakes, potato salad or spaetzle.
Appetizers include a german pretzel ($2), sausage sampler, and wings (most between $6-$8.50). These are fine, though if they have fondue on, get it. Dinner salads range from $6.95-$10.50, and they are dull, with too much or too little dressing; easily the worst thing on the menu. Sandwiches ($7-$9) and burgers ($8-$9) are big, served with potato salad or green salad, though the Bourbon Bock Cheese Burger is so slathered in BBQ sauce that I couldn't wait to run to the bathroom and wash my face, hands, and upperbody.
I have never tried the pasta ($10-$12.50); I never seen anyone try the pasta.
But the entrees ($12-$21). Now that's the thing. There is nothing like schnitzel and mashed potatoes to sooth the seeker of comfort food.
Sunday afternoons are an especially nice time to visit, as they have a 1-2-3-5 deal: $1 for a pretzel, a pint of Hefeweizen for $2, a pint of beer for $3 (a pint is usually $3.75), and a Bourbon Bock Cheese Burger for $5. Just ask for extra napkins... or wet naps.