El Gaucho

Last night, Rusty and I had a meal without the wives at El Gaucho. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a fancy meal with just Rusty, but there we were, sitting, just the two of us, in the opulent, but cozy, dining room of one of Portland’s high-end steak houses.

Cozy doesn’t quite capture it. It felt cramped, like there were just too many tables for the space, and too many diners around each of the tables and too many servers and helpers moving throughout the entire room.

Although there was some lovely live Latin guitar music playing in the background, it tended to get drowned out by the chatter of the other diners. The room was packed and I was quite glad we had reservations…on a Thursday night (hint, hint, hint).

We were placed in the back, near the kitchen, which was just fine by me, as we had a front-row view of the open kitchen. There was this massive grill, buried with steaks, tended lovingly by the grill master. We watched in awe as he poured the salt on the beautiful pieces of meat…for it was quite a lot of salt…more than I would have thought to use.

Our server appeared and took our drink order, which then gave us time to plan out what we would be feasting upon that night. Rusty chose to start with the Caesar Salad (because, according to Rusty, "it’s what El Gaucho is known for"). For his steak selection, he went with the 12-ounce baseball cut top sirloin.

Salad just didn’t sound so good to me, so I opted for the French Onion soup, followed by a 12-ounce New York and a side of the Bourbon Sweet Mashed Potatoes.

By this time, we had been at our table for about 15 minutes. It was at that moment that we began to notice exactly how attentive the wait staff at El Gaucho truly is. Rusty has this thing for liquids, especially water. He drinks it like it was going out of style. But, try as he might, he could not empty his glass for long. It would seem that each time he emptied his cup, a person would be by to fill it up again, which pleased Rusty to no end. In fact, water refilling is one of his little tests for service in a restaurant.

Meanwhile, it was time for the grill master to stoke the coals of his grill. El Gaucho has this tall chimney, which houses coals to get them to operating temperature. He scraped his grill, pushed in some new glowing coals, and proceeded to layout another round of meat.

My soup arrived, hot and steamy. Rusty’s salad was prepared tableside. He adored his salad. The soup, although quite good (and very heavy on the cheese, which was a PLUS to me) was not the best French Onion Soup to pass these lips. That honor falls to another local restaurant, which I shan’t mention in the review. But, it was really very good.

Not long after the plates were cleared, the focus of our attention arrived, steaming hot and pungent with the smell of good cooking. I cut into my New York to find that it was perfectly cooked…medium rare. Sadly, it’s not often that a restaurant hits the mark dead on (even a high-end steak house...I've had problems in the past at a number of them). The steak was clearly a superior piece of cow, but I was mildly disappointed. It tasted great, but it lacked something, of which I can’t quite put my finger upon. Rusty concurred. His sirloin wasn’t a home run either.

Now, those Bourbon Sweet Mashed Potatoes were nothing less then spectacular. I would have licked the bowl if I could have gotten away with it.

Just before we finished our steaks and mashed potatoes, a most amazing thing occurred. Neither of us has ever seen its equal. One of the young ladies that had been filling our water glasses all night walked passed our table. Without stopping, she switched out Rusty’s glass of ice (for the ice nearly filled the glass, given the number of times they brought him water) with a new glass of water that had far less ice and far more water. Amazing!

To end the meal, El Gaucho provides a selection of fruits and nuts and a platter of cheese and dates; a very nice touch. Given all that we had consumed, we accepted the these plates of goodies, but opted not to have a more formal dessert.

I also indulged in single espresso. That was a mistake. It had an acid finish, which might have been cured with sugar and cream…but…I shouldn’t have to do that.

All in all, magnificent. The service was some of the best I’ve had, but the steak just didn't quite do it for me. Given the price, I think it fair to expect magnificence in every aspect of the meal, and especially in the main course. El Gaucho did not crack my top five, but it is certainly a very fine place.


Yucatan Grill

My wife and daughter came to visit me yesterday for lunch. I had not planned on having lunch, nor upon seeing them until work was over. So, it was a double-surprise. She was in a hurry, as was I, so we opted to catch a quick bite to eat at Yucatan Grill, located in, you guessed it, the Pioneer Place Food Court.

We both ordered a quesadilla. She ordered one with chicken and I choose one made with carne asada. The quesadillas were both quite large and tasty, costing just $4.79 a piece. But, I was disappointed in the salsa. There were three to choose from. I chose the two hottest salsas. They were both just kind of boring. The quesadillas were much better without the salsa.

If you are planning on using your plastic, please be warned and prepared. Yucatan Grill will not accept cards for purchases under $5.00.


Elephant's Deli

I couldn't take it any more today and I skipped out on the Food Court. Instead, I ran into Elephant's Deli, or more specifically Flying Elephant's at Fox Tower, to get a bite to eat. Yes, I've been there a few times before. In fact, I ate there last month, but failed to post a blog about it. Today was a make-up lunch (and a break).

I wanted something a little different for a sandwich and I wanted to see exactly how fast I could get in and out. Even though there is usually a full house (deli?), getting in and out is quick. That's because there are scores of pre-made sandwiches. There are also salads, hummus platters, lots of cookies, treats, candies, bread, beverages, all just a cooler away. They serve soup, but that's behind the counter. They may also make to-order sandwiches, but I admit I have never fully investigated that bit. And today was not the day, because today was all about speed.

I hit the thresh hold at 11:58:40 am. On the north side of the deli are located the sandwiches and salads. I was being blocked by a girl and one of the waitstaff. I dodged left, then right, then left again, to get into position to snag a French Baguette with fresh mozzarella, basil, oil and sun dried tomatoes. Sandwich in hand, I made the turn, cut in front of the wandering guy, and grabbed a small bottle of San Pellegrino (one of my few lunch-time beverage weaknesses...normally I drink nothing while I dine...call me wacky). Before the wandering guy realized anything, I was in line, wallet in hand, waiting to hand the cashier my debit card.

After a brief interlude of 15 seconds, with a few pleasantries, the cashier took my card, swiped it, printed and handed me the store copy. I filled it out, with a bit of a tip, handed it back to him, stashed my card back in my wallet, accepted my copy, wrote down how much I had spent, shoved the paper into my wallet, stopped for a napkin, and re-crossed the thresh hold to the outside. Time: 12:01:25 pm. That's right, less than 3 minutes elapsed. Total price (excluding tip): $7.75.

Yes, Elephant's Deli is not the cheapest spot. But all of those pre-made sandwiches (which run between $6.25 to $6.75) are quite fresh. Normally, I refuse a pre-made, spoiled brat that I am. Daddy had a deli when I was growing up...but the pre-mades at Elephant's Deli are really very good. And even though I paid a little extra, the time I saved made up for it, in my mind.

Suki Hana

Stopped by Suki Hana in the Pioneer Place Food Court yesterday for lunch. I'm not a big fan of Bento, but I am dedicated to this blog. So, I spent about ten minutes trying to decide what to have. There were three people working the counter, and they were more than willing to offer me a sample of whatever I pleased.

I settled on the Pineapple Chicken. Why? It's not deep-fried like a couple of the other choices and it's got pineapple. Although I love hot, spicy, fiery food, I also love the pineapple. Makes me think of Hawaii.

As I rarely ever get a drink with my meal, the price for lunch was $5.25. The plate was quite full (to the point where I was unable to complete the meal). Overall, tasty. What I especially liked was that the side of vegetables (cabbage, broccoli and peppers) was still crispy. That's a big plus in my book. Over-cooked vegetables are nasty. So, I was pleased.

Pix Patisserie

So, to end what (by far) has been my most prolific day of eating out in a very, very long time, my wife's family and I went out to Pix Patisserie after our tasty dinner. Pix has two locations (one in North Portland, a little north of Emmanuel Hospital, and the other on SE Division at around 34th). Since we were already in NoPo, we headed under I-5, past the hospital, and north on Williams to get our fine dessert.

Pix is extremely impressive. When you walk into the NoPo location, you are greeted by a wide-open space (especially in the summer, when they can roll up the garage-door like windows to create an open-air space) that is fairly minimal in decoration, until you look at the dessert case.

There is where Pix's art lies. In a variety of delectable, irresistable, and entirely too-good-to-be-true dessert choices that defy you to pick one.

I usually get the Queen of Sheba Truffle Cake. Last time I was there, I got the Shazam (which is served in a bag made of chocolate!). This time, I opted for The Royale.

The Royale is described in the following way:
Chocolate mousse blankets a crisp hazelnut praline filling and dacquoise base.
Grab your paper Burger King tiara and indulge yourself!

Indeed. I don't know how to put into words how good this dessert was. It was worth the entire $6.50 it cost, and probably more. Usually, when there with friends late at night, I'll order a beer to go with my dessert. Given the day's indulgences (which, as I type, I'm starting to feel rather acutely), I opted for a glass of water. I was able to down the entire dessert, but I warn you that the treats here are as rich in your gut as they are on your palate. If you plan on hitting Pix after a meal, make sure to leave a little extra room before you go there.

For four people the tab came in at $21.75. Not too bad, given how indulgent we felt in the moment. I really can't advise you in too-strong words that you need to try Pix, at least once. It is one of the guiltiest pleasures Portland has to offer.

Widmer Gasthaus

Perhaps making up for depriving me of a good lunch, my wife called me this afternoon to inform me that her mom wanted to take us out before her brother left town to go back to California. So there was free food for me, after all.

I got home, stowed my bike, showered off, and then we sped away for dinner at the Widmer Gasthaus. JLowe previously reviewed it here.

I hadn't been in awhile. As I recalled, the food is generally pretty good (I've had it bad there, and never had it great there, but on average it's fairly solid) and the prices are too high. Tonight reinforced that. Of course, since I didn't pay, it was fine.

We started with the cheese fondue ($6.25).

The fondue is served with chunks of rye and sourdough. As fondue goes, it's alright. The cheese is good. The bread is good. Really, there's not a lot to complain about. That said, it's ordinary, not extraordinary. The fondue at Gustav's, for instance, is superior.

I decided to go out of my normal range of selections and order something that wasn't in my wheelhouse (like sandwiches and salads), so I got the pork schnitzel. The price was $13.95. The plate had two pork chop-sized hunks of pork filet, lightly breaded and fried. They were served with a very light and tangy sauce, and an option of various potato sides (I chose the potato pancakes). The pancakes were very good; they were light without being boring, and you could taste the sour cream and onions in them (and not in a potato chip kind of way). The schnitzel itself was fine, nothing to write home about but nothing to turn your nose up at. There was some grilled zucchini on the side which I didn't even touch.

The real reason to go to Widmer is the beer, and I made sure while I was there to enjoy it. Tonight I had the Drop Top Amber to start out, and then switch to the L-something Pale Ale. Both were fantastic, of course, and so improved my overall feeling about the meal.

Widmer is a great place to take a group; everyone can find something to eat. Just don't take anyone who is looking to eat on the cheap, because they won't be very happy. And don't expect your socks to get blown off by the food; the restaurant is really a showcase for the beer and the brewery, and if you approach it like that you won't be disappointed.

Taste of Bali

Interesting day. My brother-in-law is in town, and my wife had the day off, so we had devised a plan on Tuesday for me to go out to lunch with them (and my daughter) today. Then we had dinner with my father-in-law, who invited himself out to lunch as well (to his credit, he offered to pay), but since they all went to the zoo today before lunch, and none of them wanted lunch near my office, I got screwed.

GastroBoy had already left to try out QDoba, a new chain burrito place, so I needed to figure out a plan. I walked down Broadway, intent on hitting Taco Del Mar, when I saw a restaurant I've often thought about trying without ever actually succeeding. Taste of Bali, on Broadway just north of Salmon.

I opted for the number 8, the Satay Ayam Malaysia. It's essentially a grilled chicken skewer on steamed rice, with a spicy peanut sauce. It costs $5.95. I had two spring rolls with it, as a side ($2.50) and a Diet Coke.

The people at Taste of Bali are very nice. In terms of the in-restaurant experience, that's about all I can say. Through the doors into the recesses of the kitchen area you can see huge stacks of dirty dishes piled high, with no apparent emphasis placed on trying to appear interested in cleaning anything. The place feels dingy. I would've taken a picture, but there wasn't a way to do so without getting pinched.

The food took about 15 minutes to prepare, and there was really not much going on in the place (I didn't get there until around 12:45). I did get through a goodly portion of Willamette Week while I waited, but that's not necessarily what I'm looking for in take-out. To be fair, there's a sign that warns that grilled foods can take 7-10 minutes to cook, but the wait got to be a bit ridiculous.

Once I got my food, I headed back to the office to enjoy. I recalled after my first skewer that I should grab a pic.

The serving was large, and I shouldn't have eaten it all, but I was hungry from biking into work and missing breakfast, and I was watching Judge Mathis in our conference room. The sauce was good, but there wasn't much of it. The rice was, well, rice. You really can't mess that up. The chicken was moist and well-prepared.

But given the money I spent, I felt let-down. The food took too long, came from a scruffy-looking place, and seemed to be a bit skimpy on the flavorful part that I bought it for.

Taste of Bali serves adequate food, but if I had to pick between them and Subway, I think 9 times out of 10 I'd go with the latter. Which isn't an absolute slap in the face (I didn't say McDonalds or -- shudder -- Sbarro after all) but it's close.



Last night for dinner, my wife and I took her parents to Paragon. I unabashedly love this place. This was our sixth or seventh time, and each time I have walked away, or perhaps waddled away, completely satisfied.

The restaurant is fairly small, so reservations are a good idea Thursday through Saturday night. Paragon has a large bar area as well, which seems to always be nearly full. The interior is comfortable and unassuming.

We always get as an appetizer the Gorgonzola cheesecake. Super-delicious. My wife is such a fan that she asked if we could get the recipe several months back. You know what? Not only did they give it to us, it was pre-printed.

The waitstaff was very attentive...and patient. And, that's the way it should be, given the kind of money you will drop at this place. I wouldn't say it was outrageous ('cause if it was, my wife wouldn't go back), but be prepared to spend between $18 to $22 on your entree. After tip, the four of us dropped $155.00. Whew! But worth every penny.

The menu is brief. I think I counted a total of eight entrees. This is comfort food; a hanger steak, a pork loin, ravioli, lamb shank, pot roast, a fish selection, you get the picture. My wife can't leave the pot roast alone. And why should she? It's tender, moist and flavorful. In case you're wondering, my wife's parents both had the pot roast, too.

I had the lamb shank last night. Beautiful. That's really all I can get out.

For dessert, my father-in-law had bread pudding and I had the pots de creme. Both desserts were fantastic.

Paragon is definitely in my top-five of the restaurants that I eat at in Portland. I don't see that changing any time soon. What are the other four? You'll just have to keep checking back.


Continuing my quest yesterday, I stopped at Sbarro in the Pioneer Place Food Court (the Pit). For $3.99 I was able to purchase a single slice of one of Sbarro's famous stuffed pizzas, the Broccoli, Spinach and Tomato. Why? I thought the vegetables might help with my guilt.

It was...filling. Sadly, it lacked any zing. It lacked character. It lacked appeal. It didn't lack grease. So, what I got was a belly full of blah for under $5.00. If you're looking for super-cheap downtown, then here's an option.


Baja Best Mex Grill

Here's the second half. While Rusty was gorging himself on Gandhi's yesterday, my lunch came from the other long-term resident, Baja Best Mex Grill. I don't eat there very often, as I give in to Gandhi's. But, yesterday was about the readers, and not my own particular weaknesses.

It's been a long time since I have partaken of Baja. And after yesterday's meal, I am really questioning myself as to why. The short of it is that I had a terrific lunch, for $5.90. I chose one of my favorites...fish tacos. I've eaten fish tacos all over Portland and I thought yesterday was the perfect chance to stack Baja's fish tacos against the competition.

There were two choices; 1) cod or 2) the fish of the day. What was I to do? At $2.95 a taco, I decided to have one of both. The fish of the day was Ahi.

Baja wasn't the fastest. It took a while to get those two tacos to me, and there wasn't anybody in front of me. But, it gave me a chance to survey the real strength of this place, which is the salsa bar. There were no less than four salsas. I tried three (passing completely on the pico and just going for the more fiery choices). There were also pickled carrots and pickled jalapenos.

The Ahi taco was good. It was grilled, not fried. Quite delicious. The cod was actually better. It was crisp and tasted quite fresh. The Ahi was just a bit on the dry side.

All in all, it was very good. It wasn't the very best fish taco that's ever passed these lips, but it was solid and well worth the price. I was quite satisfied.
My favorite part was the pickled jalapeno. I swear, it tasted almost exactly like the sweet pickles my Uncle used to make (except he used cucumbers and not jalapenos). Rusty thought I was crazy. I retorted that I hadn't had my Uncle's pickles in nearly 20 years (and as he passed away in 1992, there is no chance I will ever get them again) and it was the idealized memory of those pickles that I was comparing the jalapenos to. What does that mean for you? Nothing. But, I thought I should mention it.
So, try the Baja Best Mex Grill, if you can make it past Ganhdi's.



JLowe and I conceived of an idea last week that we thought was pseudo-brilliant: going to a food court, dining at separate locations there, and doubling up the blogging for you.

Apparently he got a head start without me yesterday, opting for Wrapture in the Pioneer Place food court while I was at Geraldi's. The funny thing is that, independently of that, GastroBoy and I almost went to the food court ourselves. Had we run into JLowe, given that he's already covered Thai Go, I imagine the choices yesterday would've been California Crisp and Paradise Bakery, although there's always S'barro (Michael Scott's favorite authentic New York pizza on The Office) or, heaven forbid, the only thing worse than McDonald's, which is McMallDonald's.

Anyway, I had a little cash in my pocket today, so I suggested to JLowe that we do our idea, but with a twist which we'd also discussed. Instead of going to the Pioneer Place food court, we would go to the International Mini Food Court (as me and my ilk affectionately know it) to dine.

The IMFC is located on SW 2nd Street, just a block south of the MAX, and contains (at the moment) a Mexican place (where JLowe went) and Gandhi's. There's also usually some sort of asian cuisine up front, but that particular kiosk changes users like I change underwear (which may not have been much in the past, but now that I'm riding my bike to work most days, I'm averaging 2.5 pairs per day). Currently they are between occupants, which made for ample empty seating upstairs.

JLowe made curry last night, and brought some for lunch to work today (and, upon getting my text message invite to lunch, promptly downed it for breakfast), so there was no fight (as there otherwise would've been) over who would get to eat, and thus blog, Gandhi's.

Gandhi, or whatever the owner's name is, runs a quick and easy business right up front in the IMFC. Lining the wall that you wait along are newspaper critics' homages to his little niche. His menu is simple. A few chicken dishes (vindaloo, makhani, and a third that simply escapes me right now) and a vegetarian option. With each you get a vegetable side, a few optional condiments (like cilantro, some sort of red spicy sauce, a yogurt-and-cucumber sauce, and another creamy something), all atop a huge serving of steamed rice. There's a lamb option, too, if you really need it, but noone does.

Most everything costs less than $6, so if you opt for a soda you generally will spend about $6.50 altogether.

Today, I ordered the chicken vindaloo, as always with spinach.

I then headed upstairs to enjoy.

And enjoy I did. The vindaloo, which is often spicy, was a little extra so today, which was a nice surprise. The spinach was creamy to the point of butteriness, but without feeling too heavy. Within the vindaloo was a lot of chicken, well over what you would expect for $5.50, and it was cooked moist-yet-firm so that it wasn't dry at all.

Given the price you pay at Gandhi's, the servings are massive. I suppose the heaping helping of rice has something to do with that. The plate is heavy as you carry it, and it's hard (though almost always possible) to finish your food because it is so plentiful. I ended up leaving some of my rice on the plate today, and still walked away absolutely stuffed.

As a side-note, GastroBoy ended up showing up as JLowe and I finished our lunches. That would be the first time the three of us have dined at the same table together. For what it's worth.

I went back to my office ready to nap (sadly, I didn't get to), happy with the knowledge that I'd cost-effectively stuffed my gullet with the best Indian fast food in town. Everyone I know who has been to Gandhi's has enjoyed it. You will, too.


I really wasn't planning on eating anything for lunch yesterday. But as I was walking around, I suddenly decided something needed to go into the pit that was becoming my stomach. That's when I found myself in "the Pit;" AKA: the Pioneer Place Food Court. Nothing sounded good. But, as I stood there, surveying the wonder that is the Pit, I remembered a little promise I had made to myself just a week earlier...I am going to try every spot at the Pit. Why? Well, much like climbing mountains....because it's there.

I've covered two places at the Pit so far on this blog. Where was I to go next? And that's when I set my eyes upon Wrapture. Wrapture makes wraps. I know, that's earth-shattering news. They also have salads. I chose the BLTA, which is a Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato and...wait for it...Avocado wrap.

The bacon was very crisp. The lettuce and tomato were fine. I couldn't really taste the avocado, mostly because there was some kind of spread on the wrap. The real problem with a wrap is that it rarely holds together. The stuff just kind of falls out as you bite into it.

I got a choice of a side salad to go with my wrap. There was a Caeser salad, your typical iceberg lettuce salad, a pasta salad, and the cucumber salad. I chose the cucumber...mostly out of guilt for consuming bacon.

How was it? Well, it filled my belly. It tasted OK. But, I felt that it was over-priced at $6.75. I paid exactly $2.00 too much for it. But, maybe that's the price of convenience?



I'm always hopeful that GastroBoy will get off his keister and write something. But, in a painful acknowledgement of the truth, I find myself jumping the gun and posting about our lunchtime spot today.

I was planning on eating in (honest, I was). I have a package of my favorite Trader Joe's freezer burritos here in the office, waiting for their 3 minutes of nuclear (or, as JLowe and the Prez say, "nukular") exposure to prepare them adequately for consumption. But GB mentioned going out, and it got my juices flowing.

We couldn't decide where to go. GB threw out many options, even uttering our eventual destination once or twice. But I was so busy mulling bad choices that I failed to hear the good one, and then, suddenly, my mind seized upon it. Geraldi's on 4th! And, like a shot, we were off.

Geraldi's, for anyone who hasn't been there, specializes in quick Italian fare, but the primary reason to go there is the sandwiches. They come in two sizes, big and bigger. All are served on fresh french bread loaves, nice and warm and sliced down the middle. The half sandwich, depending on type, costs on average $6 to $7. The whole gets up closer to $9, a good value given the size, but too big unless you're regularly a pig.

I ordered the 1/2 Chicken Parm, shown below.

Geraldi's 1/2 Chicken Parm

Not a flattering picture, for sure. The sandwich isn't supposed to look pretty, though. It's supposed to taste good.

And it does. The chicken is plentiful and filling. The sauce is always the same, which is nice in that it you want predictability in a regular haunt, and when something is so right, to change it would be a crime. And the mozarella cheese is plentiful.

GB got something different, but I was too busy madly devouring my lunch to admire his.

I don't have it in me to do a thorough expounding upon the virtues of Geraldi's. But let me say this: it is one of the most popular hero joints in downtown for a reason, and anyone who's had it swears upon it for life. If you're not a chicken parm guy, go for the meatball hero. If you aren't into that, JLowe usually gets the Chicago beef. Really, there's no way you can possibly go wrong. And, if you don't want a sandwich, I recommend the lasagna. Whatever you get will be filling, delicious, and you will walk away highly satisfied for about $10 every time. Go to Geraldi's once and you, like all three of us, will be a fan for life.


VistaSpring Cafe

Yay for payday!

My day went long today, and I was pleasantly surprised from a text from my wife recommending she pick me up from work (I biked in today) and take me to dinner. My kind of surprise.

The question, of course, was where to eat. I hate the question. The general rule is it gets asked, I throw out 3 or 4 locations that sound really good to me, and then we end up settling on Stanford's or Caro Amico (both of which have been discussed in this very blog). Not that either of these is bad, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

I threw out a Chinese food restaurant for my wife, figuring she'd bite. Nope. I didn't have the energy to try further, so then I threw out Stanford's. No dice. I even tried Concordia Ale House, figuring (since it's in JLowe's neck of the woods) that we could invite him and his wife. Again, no.

We were in the downtown area. My mind raced, and it settled upon an old standby. VistaSpring Cafe.

Vista Spring, per their menus, is now VistaSpring. The menus look different in form, but are the same in substance, which is a good thing. The restaurant itself is also exactly the same, too. So despite the new, trendy name, the place is the same old cozy place to have a bite.

VistaSpring Cafe is, as the name cleverly alludes, located on the intersection of SW Vista and Spring, on your way up from 23rd towards Council Crest. The menu is diverse, but generally contains some pastas, some salads, some sandwiches, and some pizzas (served both in a large format and in a personal size). You can't really go wrong in either category, and all are pretty reasonable priced.

The space is nice. There's an old, antique fan system hanging from the sealing, which does not appear to function but inspires great images in your mind of what it must have been like when it did. There are wood accents surrounding a pretty sparse space, where things are minimal in the good way and you end up feeling like you are in an elegant and trendy space, even if the money you pay isn't ritzy in itself.

My wife opted for a cup of the chicken tortilla soup, followed by the Southwest Chicken Salad. I was at a loss for what to order, and in a panic chose my standby item, the Reuben Sandwich. My daughter had the kids' menu spaghetti, which is around $3 and, as a warning, comes sans sauce.

I was pleased to find that I wasn't able to get my old standby beverage, Mirror Pond, or even the acceptable alternative, Stella Artois. Instead, I had to settle for Moretti, which means I was feeling pretty good about life.

The reuben itself has kraut, mayo, pastrami, and jarlsberg cheese. It's served on a light rye with kettle chips. And it is delicious. It's heavy enough that you know you've eaten a reuben, and still light enough that you don't feel like you pigged out.

I've had many of the other dishes there, and I've never felt wronged. The least impressive dish was the ravioli, but even that was good.

For two dinners, the cup of soup, the beer, a diet Coke and a kids spaghetti, we paid $32. Really not bad. The service was very friendly and very prompt, the food was quick, and we were able to get in and out without feeling rushed in about 45 minutes.

If you're in the SW foothills looking for food, definitely check out VistaSpring Cafe. You won't be disappointed.


Romo's La Jara

Okay, I'm calling an emergency suspension of the 24 hour rule. Basically, we have a standing rule here that any review has to be written by the end of the next day following the eating adventure (technically, not a 24-hour rule, but oh, well, what are you going to do?)

Last night I was sitting down to write about Romo's when I learned that my internet connection was down. It stayed down all night.

So, I discussed the issue with JLowe, since GastroBoy is indisposed and nearly disqualified from any discussions related to this blog, given his recent bout of slacking off. And JLowe agreed that, given the technological impossibility I stumbled upon last night, an emergency rules suspension is in order (sadly, he was unable to argue himself into allowing a suspension when he fell asleep last week before getting to the computer to write a post on The Hunan, so we are left with the need to go back again to allow us to blog with integrity about superior Portland Chinese food. Man, having standards sucks...). Thus, I get to offer this review.

The other night, my wife wanted to go out for dinner. I'm always game, even though we actually can't afford it right now, so it was decided that we'd head out . Lately, we've been hankering for Mexican food lately, which is hard since (as I've previously lamented in other blogs) Portland's Mexican food scene is a bit unimpressive in the last few years.

She was interested in going to La Bamba, a place on Powell that a friend of her's had recommended. But we were with child, and unsure of whether they would have the requisite kiddie seats. So, instead, we headed to Romo's La Jara, on SE 50th and Hawthorne.

Crappy cell phone picture of Romo's

When I was a kid (late 80's), Romo had a place out on NE Sandy Blvd. It was discovered by my grandma, hardly a Mexican food officianado by any means, and it became one of my favorite places to go. Romo would often come out to the table to chat, and his chimichangas were awesome.

Sadly, he disappeared, and I feared he'd never, ever return. And then, a few years ago, he did.

I've been back a few times, and typically don't like the food anywhere near as much as I used to. Mostly, I reckon, because I've avoided the chimichangas, which are steeped in all sorts of trans-fat or whatever death-dealing foodstuff there is out there to dread and fear.

But I decided on this night to neglect my arteries and opt for my tastebuds. I ordered the Chicken Chile Verde Chimichanga (about $11).

As we waited for our food, my wife and daughter and I munched on fresh, hot tortilla chips. A little bit greasy, but very good and nicely salted. The salsa that was served was a little less pico de gallo-ish, like you see commonly now. It was very wet, but among the thin wateriness were chunks of delicious and savory veggies that put a nice zing on my tongue. Actually one of the better restaurant salsas I've had in the past few years.

My chimichanga came served with rice and beans. The beans had cheese on top. The chimichanga itself was about 6 inches long, 3 inches tall and piping hot, with fresh guacamole and sour cream on top. Inside was delicious savory chicken, nicely chunked, in a wonderful, zippy-but-not-too-zippy green sauce that made me very, very happy. Normally, I try to split these things into two meals these days, to try to keep from feeling too heavy afterward. This meal stood no such chance.

My wife ordered the shredded beef chimichanga and complained that it was a bit dry and boring. I didn't get to try it, but I suspect if she'd asked for a little more salsa for the table that would have made things right.

My daughter had a cheese quesadilla (actually, one-fourth of one, which was to my delight as it gave me the next day's lunch) and it was well done. Not too much cheese, not too little, and the tortilla was very good.

So, having been to Romo's a few times, I say it's adequate in general, but the chimichangas are to die for.

By the way, I'm always soliciting ideas for good Mexican food in Portland. Please offer your suggestions in the comments.


The Dublin Pub

A bunch of the fellows headed to the Dublin Pub last night for a little bachelor party. And like a good pub, the Dublin Pub had a fairly large menu of items to choose from. Rusty and I chose to share the Nachos, which were priced at $11.00. We opted to to have ground beef added for an extra $1.50.

I admit, in the back of my mind, I was thinking I was about to get ripped off. $12.50 for ground beef nachos? The only reason I agreed to do it was because Rusty and I were splitting the cost.

Before I get to the nachos, let me tell you that right off the bat I was a bit upset with the Dublin Pub. There was a $5.00 cover charge for some band that was playing. I REALLY didn't want to pay the cover, given that I could HEAR the band in the background. It was horrid...some folk singers butchering songs from the '70s. But, peer pressure as it is, I went in (it helped that Rusty covered the cover for me).

So, back to the nachos. About 15 minutes after ordering it, the massive plate of food arrived, piled high with all sorts of goodies; ground beef, cheese, sour cream, olives, guacamole, jalapenos... It was worth every penny we paid, including the cover. Was it the best nachos that I have ever had? I don't know...but it has spark a quest that Rusty and I shall be partaking throughout the summer. We shall be hunting for the best nachos in Portland.