Concordia Ale House

Tonight, we didn't feel like cooking. So, we headed on down to the Concordia Ale House. It's just blocks from home and it has one of the best burgers in town...the Firehouse burger. OK, it costs nearly $8.00 bucks, but it's really delicious. There were three onion rings, a whole beef patty, pepperjack cheese, bacon, jalapenos and the sauce! It seems the burger is just getting better each time I go (I've had it 6 or 7 times now). And yes, it IS in the same league as Stanich's.
If you're thirsty, the Concordia Ale house has nearly 20 beers on tap, and scores of beers in bottles. I've been fully satisfied by every meal I've had at the Concordia Ale House. The only problem is that seating is limited.


I feel a bit bad writing this post. Really, JLowe is the resident Burgerville expert. And he has a regular Wednesday night date with Burgerville, whereas I simply manipulated my wife into letting me take us there as we were running late for a meeting last night.

So, JLowe, whereever you may be, please feel free to chime in on Burgerville in a separate post. In fact, here's a new rule: all three of us reserve the right to write our own posts on the same restaurants the others have already discussed. And we reserve the right to write new posts on places we've already written old posts on. However, if more than one of us goes someplace at the same time, only one of us will write up that particular visit.

Anyway, all that said, I went to Burgerville last night. Burgerville is, in my estimation, the best local burger franchise in Oregon, and one of the better burger franchises I've been to nationally, period. And apparently I'm not alone, as the Food Network recently awarded Burgerville with it's "Better Burger" award, whatever that means.

Burgerville offers much more than burgers, though. They have fish and chips (usually a little too greasy for my liking), a wide array of milkshakes (including seasonal ones based on current fresh fruits -- right now, it's strawberry), and exceptionally good fries. And, throughout the year, other things hop on and off of their menu (sweet potato fries, Walla Walla onion rings, the recent Yukon Gold criss-cut fries) as ideas and food staples become fresh and available.

Now, when I was more corpulent, my usual BV run consisted of either two cheeseburgers with extra onion and extra pickle, or one so-altered cheeseburger and the spicy black bean garden burger. And, sometimes, fries, although I've been pretty good about not ordering those for a few years now, since it's essentially a stick of oiled-up calories. I've decided I'm too old to be such a pig, so now I limit myself to one thing. And, generally, that means the spicy black bean garden burger.

The SBBGB has been on the menu at BV now for about 4 years. The inspiration is entirely unclear to me, except perhaps that Gardenburger is a local company and, generally, BV sticks with vendors from the Pacific NW. Though the genesis of the idea isn't apparent, the goodness of it is. The burger is spicy throughout, with the patty offering a hint of spiciness which is complemented and accentuated and amplified by a delicious chipolte-mayo spread and pepper jack cheese. Mmmm!

Last night's was spicier than most. And a little spread-ier than most (they always give extra spread if asked, but I never do, so when the extra shows up, it's a nice surprise). It was, without a doubt, the best one I've ever had.

My wife ordered the fries, so I had a few of hers (she only likes the stiff and crispy ones, while I'm far less picky). The oil was clean, the fries were salted just-enough, and they were fresh and hot.

The other major plus, for me, is free refills. I didn't get them last night, because we were driving through, but BV offers free refills inside, so if you can, stay there for a bit and order a small soda to take advantage of their generosity. They are also one of the few places that consistently offers caffeine-free Diet Coke (if that matters to you) and iced tea that's actually been brewed.

JLowe informed me that he'd had a milkshake. That's his own story to tell -- since we went to different locations last night, that's allowed. The punchline is that the shake that he drank, all for himself, was the one he'd bought for his wife. Priceless.

Burgerville. It's where you go when you know.

PF Chang's

So, yesterday was Administrative Assistant's Day or something like that. We overlords at the office failed to plan for it, and so at the last minute El Jefe put out an e-mail saying that we'd be celebrating today (in lieu of bringing in kids for that special day), provided that we could all agree on a place to eat.

Normally, I love these announcements. I used to work in the public sector, so "free food" meant cookies and bad coffee at a public meeting. I moved to my new employer last fall, and since have had some very nice lunches. And when it's time to have another, I usually jump to the challenge of organizing it, because then I can usually weasle us into someplace new that I'd like to eat for free.

But, in recognition of the fact that the day is for support staff and not the supported, I put out an e-mail asking for suggestions. The first one was Sungari, which we haven't gone to yet, so I was secretly pleased at the initial wave of favorable replies. Then someone threw out PF Chang's. Been there, done that, and not impressed. Someone else threw out Henry's, another place we've been to, and then, somehow, the next 30 minutes turned into an e-mail taunting session aimed at hurting Gastro Boy's feelings (because he works with me) and putting down the PF Chang's contingent (largely, I must confess, out of my chagrin towards Vancouverites, as one had hopped squarely onto the Chang's Bus). I also tried to steer people toward The Hunan, which is one of my top two or three destination Asian joints, but I'd burned my capital in my bid to put down the PF Chang's offensive.

Eventually I created a voting system wherein staff members' votes would count double those of we, the oppressive overlords, and demanded that people weigh in. Pleasantly, Sungari won, with PF Chang's a close second and Henry's a distant third. Hunan wasn't even on the list. Gastro Boy made sure to note along the way that "PF Chang's is Asian like The Olive Garden is Italian," which qualified as the best one-liner I heard yesterday. Either that's saying alot for him, or it's a sad testament to my life.

I attempted the Sungari reservation, only to find out that they couldn't accomodate a group of our size on such short notice. So I grudgingly called PFC, and then loathingly accepted their cheerful and unflinching invitation to seat our full group at our desired time. Curses.

And so, today, we went to PF Chang's. PF Chang's, for those who haven't been there, is an upscale pseudo-Chinese-food franchise which is pretty big among the hipster set. As Gastro Boy was mumbling this morning, as we discussed our lunch sentiments, the young, rich and attractive that make places like these successful don't necessarily realize the difference between good and bad food. Or, more succinctly put (in what I suspect will be the best one liner I hear today), "places like that are good for only one thing: having a couple of cocktails and a Poo Poo Platter before you go a-whoring around downtown."

The restaurant is clean, dimly lit, roomy, and almost sterile in the sense that it lacks any real character whatsoever.

The food is generally solidly okay, never really impressive, and the portions never seem to align with the prices.

All that said, I really enjoyed it today.

We started out with some appetizers for our group: Crab Won-Tons, Salt-and-Pepper Calamari, and Spring Rolls. These were all non-spectacular. We followed up with soup, Won-Ton (which wasn't good at all) and Hot-and-Sour (which was overly thick, seemed fake, and asn't all that impressive in either hotness or sourness).

For lunch, I diverged from the normal Kung Pao tendency I tend to display and instead had "Tam's Noodles with Savory Beef and Shrimp." It's described on the menu thusly: "A unique gnocchi-like noodle stir-fried with sliced beef, shrimp and chili peppers in a subtle abalone sauce."

It looked like this:

(Well, there are a couple of Kung Pao Shrimp there that I stole from a co-worker).

The round, flat bits are the noodles. Altogether, it was very tasty. Spicy throughout, with nicely-cooked beef that was soft-but-not-limp and shrimp that were just plain yummy. And it was surprisingly filling; half of it made it back to the office for lunch tomorrow.

I sampled a couple of other people's dishes, and they were average-to-above-average. Better than some "authentic" Chinese places in town, but not as good as you can get at a non-franchised actual local Chinese joint.

The service was very good today. Normally it's adequate, but I was pretty happy with our waiter today.

For 11 people, with included gratuity, the meal came out to about $215. Not bad, but not terrific.

So, I expected to go to PF Chang's and be underwhelmed. I walked out with a full stomach born of good food. The company may have been a part of it (I have to say that sort of thing, I suppose), but the food absolutely did not disappoint.


Another Rule

As I awaited today's lunch at Tabor with Mak and Rusty, I formulated a new rule. It's the Rule of Three and it's simple.

Let's face it, an eatery is going to have an off-day. An eatery is going to have items that it does well, and items that aren't so great. Many places have more then one cook or chef, and some chefs are just superior (they've got the mad skills of culinary excellence). Ingredient issues, demand pressures, etc., all play a part.

Every place I eat, given those realities, deserves three shots to impress me, to satisfy me, to make me feel warm and full in my belly...and to make me feel good about the money I just forked over to fill my pie hole. But if I still find a place to be horrible after the third dining, then I am done and I will not return. AND you WILL hear about it.

So, Tabor was OK today (Rusty's review below is spot-on). But given the menu, I anticipate there is room to impress...

Tabor Authentic Czech Eatery

So, a reader recommended that we try out the Tabor food cart, stating in a pair of e-mails that...
I like your guys' food blog. I went to No Fish Go Fish today. It was pretty good. Have you guys tried the Tabor Czech cart yet? It's my favorite.
and then, in response to my request for more info, stating that...

5th & Stark in a lovely red and fluorescent green cart. It's best to go before noon or call it in because sometimes they stop taking orders or they run out of food.

I have tried all the following and they were delicious:

Pork Loin Schnitzelwich
Chicken Schnitzelwich
Muenster Cheese Sandwich
Bramborak filled with spinach & ham
German Smoked Sausage
Eggplant Sandwich

Anything I haven't had, my friends have had and said was delicious also.
I mentioned the recommendation to JLowe, who (like me) was intrigued, and we determined to set course today for the Schnitzelwich experience. The reader, Mak, came along to take part in the goodness.

When we arrived, we were greeted by an impressive menu that, at first, seemed a bit overwhelming...

However, the kind chap inside was quite proactive and friendly, and made sure to point out the strengths of the menu. Which, apparently, are pork, "the King of Meats," and the Schnitzelwich, advertised as being "big as Big Pink."

Not one to dodge proper advice from the proprietor, both JLowe and I diligently ordered the Pork Schnitzelwich. Mak ordered the Muenster Cheese Sandwich just to mix things up.

As we waited, the guy up front chatted us up and engaged us in wide-ranging dialogue, never overbearing but always quick to chime in with a good comment. The sort of fine balancing act that, if done well (as it was here) can really add to a food cart experience.

The Pork Schnitzelwiches were prepared rapidly. Each was $5, and the array of beverages (mostly Hansen's natural sodas and Pellegrino ades) were all $1.25 or less, so lunch is economical. The Muenster Cheese Sandwich took a few more minutes, but we were all ready to go eat within 5 minutes of ordering.

We headed over to Pioneer Courthouse Square, where they happily now have chairs and tables near the food carts, and sat down to our lunch.

Here's a picture of the Pork Schnitzelwich:

The picture doesn't tell the whole story. The Schnitzelwich is a meal unto itself. It's bulky and surprisingly filling, so it's a great deal for a guy on a budget.

Flavorwise, though, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. The pork itself wasn't seasoned, which perhaps is the point in traditional Czech cooking, but which made for a less interesting sandwich. It was also pretty greasy in its fried breading, which coated my mouth in a not-so-pleasing way and took away from my enjoyment. Also, despite a nice horse-radishey paprika-ey dressing and some caramelized onions, it was far less interesting and flavorful that I thought it would be. That said, the sauce did have a nice little kick, so to the extent that there was a flavor there, it was good.

Overall, I'd have to say the experience was a bit of a let-down. However, I'll probably go back to try something else before rendering a final opinion.

If you're on a $5 budget, head down to Tabor, give it a try. And feel free to share your thoughts with us...


Paradise Bakery

I mentioned this place the other day when I was raving about the Spicy Pickle. Today, my wife and daughter came to visit me for lunch and my wife wanted to go to either Paradise Bakery or California Crisp. I chose Paradise Bakery.

Now, I said the other day that the sandwiches at Paradise Bakery are just average. And, I am going to stick to that assertion today. I had the New Southwest Chicken Sandwich. It was OK. It was fresh. The chicken was a real breast of chicken. But, the sandwich was unremarkable. The sandwich was too tall and messy as I tried to eat it. My wife had the Chicken Salad. The Chicken Salad is tasty, but the sandwich maker never ever puts enough Chicken Salad on the sandwich.

So, why do we bother to give them money for their food? Why do we go back? Why should you bother yourself with an unremarkable, but fresh, sandwich? It's the cookie. The chocolate chip cookie is just so wonderful, that it makes the whole experience worthwhile. Maybe I'm just too easy to please?

Taco Del Mar

Its lunch time on Monday and you are hungry. The answer: Taco Del Mar's Double-Punch Monday!

This place makes great gringo burritos all week, but Monday there is a special reason to go. Like many places, T.D.M. does a frequent buyer card, where if you eat 10 burritos, the 11th is free. On Mondays, though, you get a double punch, which means that if you play your cards right, you can score a free burrito after buying just 5. Being cheap and eating out at lunch way too often, this becomes an excellent incentive to gobble down these overly large burritos.

Of course, I went today, which constitues a major tactical error. But that's beside the point, really, because the food's still tasty.

Taco Del Mar offers tacos and burritos, as well as a few nacho and salad options. In my opinion, the burritos are the best value at around $5 (depending on the filling). You choose your tortilla, with options including standard fare and also spinach or tomato wraps. Your options for meats are fish, pork, chicken, shredded beef, ground beef or their newly-added steak. There is also a choice of refried, black or whole pinto beans. All burritos come with rice and salsa, pico de gallo, and veggies. You can get cheese, sour cream, and guacamole for a bit extra.

I am generally a Pork guy, as this is the only place I can consistently load up on vitamin P. I did, however, try the steak option today and would recommend the steak also, as it is tasty and not-too-chewy in the burrito. The chicken and pork fillings are nicely seasoned too, and are good options. I have never got round to eating a fish one, but it is a popular choice and fish often runs out at the lunch hour downtown. Rusty had one today, and judging by how fast he devoured it, it must have been at least tolerable.

The burritos are definitely on the large size, and many have questioned how I can stuff one down in less than 5 minutes, but hey I am Gastro Boy! For those of you that lack the skills (aka a fat gut) to get a whole burrito in you, they do offer a half size and kid options. My seven year-old boy loves to get a kid-sized chicken with beans and rice.

The thing I like about T.D.M. is that the burritos are consistent and tasty and made to order quickly. The folks that work there are generally a fun group and can whip you up a big, steaming burrito in about 90 seconds. The burrito is always big and tasty (they never skimp on you), and does not have that fast food taste that some burrito joints have. Now, there are plenty of Burrito places downtown for lunch and some may make a more gourmet, fancy burritos, but for my $5, Taco Del Mar is the best value by far. That said, there are plenty of authentic burrito places out there too, including all the great taqueria vans. I will do a review of taco vans some time in the future, as there are now several in town that need to be mentioned due to their good authentic grub. But Taco Del Mar is that perfect gringo burrito, not too authentic, way too big and always consistent.


Caro Amico

There are many reasons to love our wives. From the various things to do to take care of us, to the various ways they make life easier, to the various surprises they throw our way. Tonight was such a night, where a pleasant surprise that could've been annoying ended up making me pretty happy.

In my experience, guys are often more free and easy food-wise than women. Most guys I know will go to any restaurant their significant other wants to go to, and most women I know eat by mood. Now, to be fair, there are certainly times I'm not in the mood for a type of food (usually it's Chinese that I'm not looking for), but in general even if I don't want to eat some type of food, I'll do it if my wife wants to bad enough, and I'll generally walk away happy.

In my home (I don't know how it is in yours), there's a nightly conversation that starts around 6pm. Usually my wife initiates it by saying "what should we have for dinner tonight?" Then the game is on. Usually I'll go through our fridge, freezer, and shelves first. So tonight, my first offer was to grill up some chicken and make up some barley; then to make up the homemade tamales we have in our freezer. After that, I offered to make grilled cheese and soup. And then the offerings dried up, because we need to go shopping.

So I started throwing out various choices. I could get rolled chicken tacos (one of my wife's favorite choices) from Trader Joe's. I could get take-out from a local restaurant. I even offered Chinese. No dice. "None of that sounds good to me, I'm not in the mood for that."

There's something she's always in the mood for, though, so I finally offered it. Pizza from Caro Amico. We've been to Caro Amico for a wide range of food. Their appetizer tray is superb. Their Caesar Salads are wonderful. Their pasta is good, their calzones quite tasty. And, if you eat there, the view out to the East is quite lovely.

But 9 times out of 10, if I'm darkening their doorstep, it's to pick up a pizza to take home. In fact, generally speaking any pizza served in our home is from there. And, generally speaking, we're eating the Stevie's Wonder with some black olives added.

The Stevie's Wonder is a thing of beauty. Take a thin-crust pizza, put sauce on it, then add cheese, pepperoni, garlic (and more garlic), and pepperoncinis. That, in and of itself, is lovely enough. The black olives are my wife's personal touch, and they push it over the edge from delightful to delectable.

It's pretty simple to place an order. Call the restaurant, order what you want, and show up about 20 minutes later. Go into the bar and let the bartender know you're there. He'll bring your food out and take care of your payment. And, half the time, he'll hand you a coupon towards your next pizza order.

Usually I try to show up about 12 minutes after my call-in, so that I have time to read the ever-present newspaper on the bar and drink a Stella Artois. The service is always prompt, and often there's someone in the bar who'll try to chat you up (tonight the guy next to me was reading a book, but last time I was there some out-of-towner was talking to me about his college football team, who was playing on the TV above).

There are a lot of great pizza places in town, and I don't mean to suggest the Caro Amico is the king. But for a very good quality pizza, at home or take out, and some nice environment while you wait (either way), you could do a hell of a lot worse.

Red Coach (and a word about us)

First, the word about us...

It's becoming apparent to me as I read our blog and see the sheer amount of reviews we've put up in just the first 5 days (I think this one will be number nine) that one could read this and draw the conclusion that we are rich. Oh, how I wish that were true.

I'm noticing the vast majority of our posts are lunch-related (we keep them categorized, for your convenience in seeking reviews) and that's fitting, considering we all work downtown and are frequently scrambling for lunch. As such, generally you are getting reviews of meals that are about $7.50 at the most, so despite the fact that we may be hitting lunch spots more than you are (or, indeed, more than we should), you are getting reviews of places that fit in the "average Joe" framework that we're aiming for.

The fact is, we've been using the blog as an excuse to get out more. I think, over time, you will see us posting in fits and spurts as our wallets (and wives) protest our excitement at "research" (or eating, however you'd rather refer to what we do).

By the way, Gastro Boy is home with an ear infection. I imagine he'll be back in earnest in the next week or so...

Anyway, JLowe and I went to the Red Coach (there are two links there...) today for lunch. Located in a non-descript location on Broadway, a half-block north of Pioneer Courthouse Square, Red Coach is one of those places that's easy to miss, but hard to forget.

The restaurant itself is interesting. Originally opened over 30 years ago in another location, the restaurant has been in its present location for about 24 years now. It's down a hallway sandwiched between an optician and some other storefront, and occupies two floors on the backside of the Charles F. Berg Building. The decor, as I understand it, dates back to the original restaurant, so there are a bunch of plush leather benches situated throughout, some looking distinctly like half-benches that, I would imagine, used to be abutted by a wall. Visually, it's kinda shabby in a neat, "Keep Portland Weird" sort of way.

Each floor has its own grill, chef, and waiter/waitress. The guy at the front is one of the owners, and though semi-retired, he's always there for the lunch hour to direct you to an open seat and to take your money when you leave. And, I swear to God, he's always wearing the same exact outfit. It's eerie; every time I'm there, it feels pretty much exactly the same. The only thing that ever varies is the company.

The food is simple. Burgers, fries, sodas, and delicious milkshakes (I've never had one, but my friends rate them highly; be warned, one shake will usually satisfy two people). Though there is a menu, you don't need it. As one commenter on the Portland Metblog once noted, "Your only reasonable options are Carl's Special, Carl's Special with bacon, Double Carl's Special, [and] Double Carl's Special with bacon." And that's true.

All of the above options are cheeseburgers. The doubles have two patties instead of one. All specials come with fries and a soda. It's hard (unless you diverge and go for a shake) to spend more than $10 for lunch there. And you can feel good about spending what you do there, because everything's made with food from (more or less) local sources, including Franz Bread, Columbia Empire Meats, and Sunshine Dairy.

Today I opted for the Double Carl. I usually don't go so far, but JLowe owed me lunch (dating back to the Podnah's outing and some creative accounting). The burgers are straight-forward, no-frills affairs. The meat is good, there's not a greasy feeling to the food, and its substantial without being overwhelming. The fries are crispy and fresh. The soda has free refills. All good traits in a burger place.

Double Carl, fries, and a soda...Heaven!

We escaped for $17.25 between the two of us (and JLowe had bacon, that glutton). And we were both thoroughly satisfied.

If you go to Red Coach, bring cash. No checks or cards accepted. But, despite the hassle, the visit is well-worth it and you'll be back again and again.

Big Town Hero

Now you know why I hate JLowe. I'd asked him if he wanted to go to the Red Coach for his first day back to work, and he blew me off for his alleged "meeting." Then he finds out he's free for lunch, and do I get a call? Nooooooo!

I ended up getting a sandwich two blocks down the street from him. I wasn't planning on it, but a morning engagement ran a little long, and I was in the Congress Center building (or whatever they're calling it now) in the 1000 block of SW 5th Avenue, and when I got off of the elevator I saw BTH.

When I'm discussing getting a quick sandwich with Gastro Boy, or my wife, or whomever I discuss such things with, the conversation is usually limited to Subway and Quizno's. And, since I really can't remember the last time I ate at Quizno's, Subway usually wins. It's convenient, it's cheap, and it doesn't offend (at the same time, it never really impresses, either). I mean, sure, there are plenty of little sandwich places here and there where you can get a mean cold cut combo, but I'm usually just as interested in convenience as I am in product when a food craving comes on.

Big Town Hero ends up being, in my mind, the exception to the general fast-sandwich rule. It's like the Burgerville of franchise sandwiches; it's just as fast, just as convenient, just as cheap, but generally leaves you feeling a whole lot better.

Yesterday I had the Very Berry Turkey, a nice throw-back to Thanksgiving. Turkey, cranberry sauce, and some cream cheese put together in an oh-so-delightful 8" onion loaf. Add to that the free refills while I waited (Subway doesn't offer that perk) and I was in heaven.

I've never had a bad sandwich at BTH, which is more than I can say for Subway or Quizno's or a myriad of other places. And so, if you're looking for a quick sandwich in Portland (or Salem, or Eugene, heck, they're all over), I recommend them to you.


Spicy Pickle

Today was my first day back to work downtown, after 8 weeks of Family Leave. I unexpectedly had time to grab lunch (I was convinced that I had a lunch-time meeting, which meant no lunch). I was headed to find a sandwich, after getting stamps at the post office, when I ran across the Spicy Pickle. It's located at 1220 SW 6th Avenue and it's delicious.

I've spent many years and many lunches consuming sandwiches. It's hard to impress me. Subway, Quizno's, Paradise Bakery, Rose's, Kornblatt's, Big Town Hero, etc. All fairly regular haunts...and all fairly the same (except Rose's...but that's a future article). My father owned a deli when I was a kid. He's my standard...and it's hard to beat one of his sandwiches (in my mind and stomach...he has a gift...back off). Usually, a sandwich is a sandwich is a sandwich.

But, I must say, this place has caught my attention. I had the Adobe Panini. Yes, $6.45 for a Panini sandwich. But, it was really really good. The corn was a brilliant addition. I will be going back. I must try all the sandwiches. Check out the Spicy Pickle. Here's another website.



Well, for no particular reason, the wife and I decided to take the family (us, our daughter, and the parentals) out to breakfast today.

There are only three or four places on my list of superb breakfast/brunch places in Portland. The Alameda Cafe, The Tin Shed, and Fat City Cafe are all on that list. But I also have a pretty firm attachment to what has become the old standby, Roux.

Roux is a great place for pseudo-Louisiana cuisine. Not quite Cajun, not quite Creole, but certainly it manages to capture that culture's tastes well in its food (or so my caterer/chef friend says).

Usually while I'm there for breakfast, things are pretty predictable. Beignets for a starter, followed by Pain Perdu (AKA French Toast) for my wife and one of the many delightful Benedicts (often the smoked oyster) for me. Usually somewhere in there are some homefries.

Today I went out on a limb and tried a smoked trout hash that they had on the menu this week (the menu is tweaked on a regular basis). The fish was excellent, the eggs were well-prepared, the horseradish-tinged creme fraiche was tasty, but disappointingly the sum was not the equal of the parts. I don't quite know how the meal missed its target, I just know that it did.

My daughter, who's 18 months-old and thus is very compliant in sharing her food, had a pancake (it's cheap for a side pancake, and it's as big as a plate), and it was well-executed, as always. My mom had a crawfish omellette which came with a side of tasso, which is a big sausage that looks much like a Polish sausage but tastes different. Spicy and smoky, it's a nice idea for a back-yard barbecue but a bit heavy as a side. A couple people ordered the white cheddar grits as a side, and from what I was able to glean when I stole a bite, it was really, really tasty.

I stuck to coffee today, but they have an excellent Bloody Mary (called the Plantation Mary there) with house-pickled veggies which you should try at least once.

Brunch for five and a half people came up to $73, which is pretty reasonable given the quality of the food and the serving sizes. The service is always friendly (if not always speedy) and the place is always kept clean and pleasant. And, if you use the restroom, check out the wall decor, which includes book pages with old Cajun axioms. Pretty fun.

Roux is a fantastic place to take the family on a Sunday morning. They open at 10 and will greet you with warm smiles, great food, and a very enjoyable experience.

Hawthorne Fish House

Last night, I went to the Hawthorne Fish House with my wife, my kid and my mother-in-law. I went with great expectations, for I've heard nothing but good things about this place. And, the food is good, but it wasn't as good as I had built it up in my mind.

The decor is kind of drab...but a lot of places with good food have a not-so-nice look about them. I ordered the jumbo size catfish, with the jalapeno tarter sauce (which WAS VERY good). But before the fish arrived, I started with three oyster shooters. Now, those oysters were HUGE...which was great. They were the largest shooters I've ever had. And, they were good, but not quite as good as the oyster shooters at Montage. But I can't complain too much, as it was $3.00 or 3.

Then came the catfish. Tasty, but a bit dry. My wife and mother-in-law shared an order of the Halibut. The Halibut was better. My wife loves the fact that they us rice flour and the rice bran oil. She didn't feel guilty at all, unlike the other place we go to very regularly...Halibut's over on NE Alberta. All in all, I feel that Halibut's fish is better. Yes, Halibut's is expensive. Yes, Halibut's is small and kind of dingy. Yes, there may be issues with the waitstaff and the owner at Halibut's. Yes, Halibut's fish uses trans fat oil. But, I have never had a bad piece of fish at Halibut's and I have always been full and satisfied.

The waitstaff at Hawthrorne Fish House was terrific.

So, I liked Hawthorne Fish House. I will go back. It's just not the best fish fry I have ever had.


Monteaux's Public House

OK, this place isn't in Portland. It's in Beaverton. But, when you visit friends in Beaverton, you've got to eat in Beaverton. Monteaux's Public House isn't a bad choice. I liked it. It's not a chain and if you have kids you won't feel out of place.

I had Dad's Meatloaf. Quite savory. The vegetables were steamed, but still crunchy. Plenty of mashed potatoes. It was a very good, hearty meal. But, it wasn't so much that I felt like rolling over and going to sleep. One of our friends had the the Creole Chicken Fettuccini. Just spicy enough (I got a taste of it).

The waitstaff is pleasant and very patient. All in all, if you find yourself in Beaverton, in need of a good meal, try this place.


Tom Yum Thai Cuisine

In my opinion, there are three or four kinds of Asian food places. Actually, this probably works for all sorts of food, but it rang especially true in my mind for Asian food places while I was pondering the issue.

Anyway, the four types are:
  1. Destination - This is a place you plan on going, seek out, recommend highly, take friends to, etc.
  2. Old Stand-by - This is a place you know will be good but you only go there in a pinch.
  3. Guilty Pleasure - This place looks horrible, and the food is horrible, but you love it. But no one must ever know.
  4. Buyer Beware - You wouldn't touch this place with a ten-foot pole, and when you see people coming out of it you wonder how long 'til they're at the ER getting their stomach pumped.

Tonight, after picking my daughter up from daycare and realizing I was on my own for dinner, I opted to swing by a place that firmly belongs in Category #2, Tom Yum Thai Cuisine. Located at 44th and Woodstock, this place is set back in a mini-mini-mall sort of arrangement.

I've been there about 5 times, since I live nearby, and usually I order some sort of Pad-something and some salad rolls. Tonight, I phoned in on my way and ordered the Chicken Pad Thai, medium-spicy. "Okay, ten minutes, goodbye."

Eight minutes later, I was there, waiting in line (the place is always busy, a sure sign of goodness) and my food was already waiting.

Now, as I type, I'm eating it. Delicious. I often get mild, but I decided I wanted some kick tonight, and I got it. The chicken is lean and plentiful, and the chunks aren't hard to find. Plenty of peanut, nice load of noodles, and a good mix of vegetables on the side that can be mixed in.

I don't claim to be a Thai food expert by any means, but let me say this: if you're in SE Portland and jonesing for some quick Thai, you could do far worse than Tom Yum.

Podnah's Pit BBQ

NOTE: Despite our rule that only reviews written within 24 hours of a restaurant visit can go up here, I'm grandfathering in a slightly edited review I wrote yesterday after lunch at Podnah's Pit. If you have a problem with that, well, suck it...

[Yesterdayday I had lunch with JLowe] at Podnah's Pit (previously discussed here by Betsy, and reviewed in depth here by the FoodDude).

Now, to give you context, I claimed that Big Daddy's BBQ was Portland's best in 2006. My love for Big Daddy's ranged back to my initial blogging days, and it sustained me for a long, long time.
Sometime last fall or winter, I decided Big Daddy's was no longer on my list, though. They've slipped substantially since their Hawthorne start-up. And in the last year I've found that if I want consistently good BBQ, I always end up at Cannon's on 33rd and Killingsworth.

I noted FoodDude's review of Podnah's with interest about a month and a half ago, and have been planning to make an excursion there at some point. Scheduling, kids, spouses, finances and life-in-general all schemed against me, but I broke free for a lunch today yesterday.

Now, the lunch menu there is limited. An iceberg wedge salad, pulled pork or brisket sandwich, pork ribs or chicken. Sides of pinto beans, potato salad, cole slaw, or corn bread. At night, the menu is far more robust, and I have a feeling I'll like the place better with a dinner in my belly.

But let me say this: based on just the lunch (I had pork ribs with pinto beans), I'm ready to say that Podnah's is in the Portland pantheon. They're not on part with Cannon's yet in my mind (I currently rate Cannon's the best Portland BBQ to which I'm privy), but I usually use brisket or other beef products to really gauge the winner. As far as I'm concerned, it's hard to find a bad pork rib.

Try Podnah's for dinner (I'm at least a couple of weeks out) and give me your feedback. Or don't, and give me your feedback anyway. Where's the best BBQ in Portland?

No Fish Go Fish: the cart continues

Rusty and I were faced with the classic downtown dilemma: a brown bag lunch meeting, and we were both sans brown bag. All the usual suspects seemed...well...usual and so Rusty suggested the No Fish Go Fish cart. Now I have sampled the No Fishes in the past, and remember when the cart first appeared on the corner of 5th and Yamhill, but have not stopped by for many years.

I have to say I forgot how much I like the guy that runs the cart, he is always chipper and offers samples of his soups made from scratch. Today there were three choices: Mushroom Barley; Barley-Risotto; and Potato, Spinach and Coconut. We both chose the Potato soup despite the fact that it qualified as vegan.

For five bucks you get soup and two No Fish sandwiches, which are basically crispy fish-shaped thingies with yummy fillings. Additional No Fish are a dollar each. There are plenty of different fillings; I chose the mozzarella/tomato and a curry/vegetable. The No Fishes go well with the soup and are really tasty.

This is the perfect rainy-day grub. The soup was hot a just a little spicy with a nice, but not-too-strong coconut taste. Rusty ordered the special No Fish stuffed with cream cheese and pepperoncini, which sounded way to high brow for me. He also ordered the special black olive and basil. He thought the former was exceptional and the latter, while good, was less noteworthy. He said he would have to keep up on

The Newest and Greatest in Portland Food Blogs

My friend Gastro Boy and I went to No Fish/Go Fish for lunch today, and on the way back we were discussing food, restaurants, and blogs discussing them. And we decided we wanted in. I've invited JLowe, as well, because he and I appreciate a good food adventure here and there.

The rules here are simple.
  1. We only write about restaurants or food vendors we've been to in the last 24 hours.
  2. We are regular guys. We write about restaurants from a Average Joe viewpoint.
  3. No snobbery allowed.

We hope you enjoy the offerings. Your thoughts are welcome throughout...