Gyros And Grill

JLowe's thrown this whole damned blog off. First of all, I'm behind on my blogging because I'm dealing with his being behind. So, technically, this post is an hour beyond the time limit we've imposed. But, hey, crap happens.

Second, he claims to have hit pretty much all of the Pioneer Place food court places for review, and I thought he said he'd done Gyros And Grill. But in reviewing our work, I don't find any such thing. So, thank God I had a gyro there the other day, because now we're almost done with "The Pit" and all of its infernal food stuffs.

Not that I dislike the food court. Nothing's further from the truth. But a food court, while a mecca for downtown lunchers, is not really what the bulk of a food blog should cover. I like JLowe's mission to review the whole thing, because if nothing else it's a public service. But I'll be happy when we're free of the place and can return to other pursuits.

But, I digress.

Friday, a co-worker offered to buy me lunch because I'd covered a bunch of her stuff while she dealt with kid issues. Which was awesome. I mean, my usual asking price for covering a few days of projects is a cup of coffee or whatever, and I told her lunch was unnecessary, but she demanded I allow her to treat me. And, really, I love free food. So off we went, to the food court.

The choices were California Crisp, Wrapture, and Gyros And Grill. All good selections, I made the decision based upon the only criteria that mattered on this particular day -- line length. G And G had none, so there we went.

I've been there once before, when I ordered the falafel gyro with the potatoes and tabouleh. I enjoyed it last time, though I found the falafel gyro a bit dry, and the tabouleh a bit boring.

This time I opted for the Gyro platter. I again took the side of potatoes, and again I took the tabouleh. My mom used to make it from time to time when I was a kid and she was in a hippy phase, so when I see it on a menu I order it, even if there are other perfectly good choices. Irrational, but that's okay.

The service was prompt. The servers themselves were efficient. Not super-friendly, but that was fine given that they got right to preparing the order and made short work of dishing up our food. They also didn't skimp. I watched the guy slicing the lamb for my gyro, then piling it in, and I was happy that he didn't seem to be paying too much heed to how big the mound of meat was growing.

The food was bagged up for us and we headed out, back to our office. As we sat down, I took in the delicious odor of our food. And then I dug in.

The potatoes aren't necessarily anything to write home about. Seasoned fried potato coins. They're pretty much what you'd expect.

The tabouleh was zippy and zesty. It surprised me, and I coughed a bit when it hit my tongue. I suspect they over-spiced it today, which was fine, because it was actually really good. It was spicy, which is unlike any tabouleh I've ever had, and it was a very pleasant surprise.

The gyro itself was pretty much the same as any gyro you get anywhere. The lamb was better than you'd expect from a food court, the pita-type bread was of good quality, and in all the food was good.

My lunch cost about $7.50. Probably a little more than it was actually worth, but still not offensive in any way.

If you're looking for a quick gyro in town, go to Foti's Greek Deli on Burnside. But if you're stuck downtown for lunch, Gyros And Grill won't disappoint.


Blue Moon Tavern & Grill

Last night I was disappointed and pleasantly surprised by McMenamins, all at once. Which pretty much sums up my life's experience with them.

The disappointments generally are outweighed by the pleasant times, which is why I keep going back.

Last night my wife and I and a bunch of friends (including JLowe and his missus) were all going to go to the Mission Theater to watch a movie, drink beer, and eat. When we got there, we found that the movie time was different from the listing that we'd read, so we scrambled to find an alternative. As I looked, through the magic of web-enabled cell phones, for other movies, the rest of the group agreed that, really, they were mostly just interested in the eating and beer. Which was fine with me.

So we headed a few blocks west to The Blue Moon, a McMenamins restaurant and bar located on the southeast corner of NW 21st and Glisan.

I've learned a few things over time about McMenamins restaurants. Don't expect good service. Don't expect consistent food. Always order tots. And only go there if beer is an essential part of your meal.

There were four couples in our party. There was plenty of seating, at 7:30 on a Friday, which was curious to me. The restaurant itself is neat looking, has a section near the bar with some pool tables for folks who want a more tavern-esque experience, and yet also has substantial sections of wall that can slide open on nice nights such as last night, to give the open-air effect. The only reason not to be there would be if you were looking for consistent food and/or good service.

Each of the fellows in our group ordered themselves a pitcher of beer. Really, that's the only cost-efficient way to handle things. Each pitcher is 3 pints, and for most guys that's just the right amount for a nice sit-down dinner where you plan on hanging with friends for awhile and chatting. My wife had a Ruby, JLowe's wife had a lemondrop of some sort, my friend Dave's wife stuck with water, and I don't remember what the fourth wife got. I had the Nebraska Bitter (which I liked quite a bit). JLowe opted for the porter, and the other two fellas got Hammerhead, which is my usual choice.

To start, we ordered two orders of tots for the table. I highly recommend the Cajunized tots, which are sprinkled with spicy stuff and are always delicious. We also had the regular tots, which I didn't like because they exposed some sort of odd taste in the oil. Of course, that didn't stop me from eating some of them.

We went on to scan the menu, which for me is generally a mere formality. My food choices at the McMenamins joints are usually pizza of some sort, or the Communication Breakdown Burger. I decided to diverge from the norm, though, and go with the Captain Neon. Something about bleu cheese and bacon was sounding mighty tasty last night. And, on the side, more tots.

Now, the surprise. Our server was (for the most part) very attentive last night, and the food was served rather quickly. And it was delicious. All perks, because I generally resign myself to poor service and slow food delivery at McMenamins, the trade-off being ample beverage.

For my wife and I (and keeping in mind that I had a whole pitcher of beer and we decided to pay for the two orders of tots we'd bought for everybody) the bill came up to about $37. Not that bad, really.

My parting thoughts? If you're looking for pub-type atmosphere, McMenamins is never a horrible choice. You'd do better, generally, at Concordia Ale House. You'd do worse, generally, at Widmer. If you're going to McMenamins, though, don't expect great service, order some tots, and buy pitchers, not pints.


Yento Bento

I'm still trying to decide if the blog's quest to tackle the entire Pioneer Place food court is awesome or irksome.

That as I find myself nearly falling asleep at the keyboard to capture the magic of yesterday's trip to the food court, and as I notice that JLowe appears poised to have to repeat his dreadful visit to Cajun Whatever as the clock slowly advances to the "all posts by the end of the next day" deadline that we so strictly follow. Hopefully he gets his post up, because he really, really doesn't want to re-do his experience of yesterday.

It's an interesting time here at the PDX RRbRF blog. We've been in a bit of a hiatus as I've been hording wealth for my recent vacation(s) and JLowe's been trying to maximize his budget. That said, I'm back, and JLowe's on his own in-town vacation right now, and we decided to step out yesterday for some well-deserved hooky.

So we met up at our favorite coffee shop (City Coffee on 4th and Salmon) and, after talking to the proprietor for a bit, headed off to lunch and a movie. How a movie in the midst of my just-back-from-vacation work day? The curious workings of my office, which allow for goofing off when certain pieces fall into place, which they did yesterday. One of those being the absence of my boss, another being a major project removed from my day, one which would have had me out of the office all day anyway. The office rule is, if you would've been gone anyway, and you wouldn't have been available to address anything at your desk, you're nearly required to skip work and take advantage. So the 5 hours I put in yesterday was my gift to my corporate masters. You're welcome.

The movie? Superbad. If this were a movie blog, I'd write about how good it was and how it had me flashing back to college (though it's a high school flick). Perhaps I'll hit that topic on my other blog later. We're about the food here, so back to the point.

The movie (clearly, I've no focus this late at night...) was playing at Pioneer Place at 12:50. We met for lunch at high noon, so we had limited time. I suggested the food court, and JLowe seconded my motion. We headed on down, and began to ponder the options.

JLowe noted that there were still three establishments left for review: Cajun Whatever, Gyros and Grill (which I've eaten at, but failed to post in time--I'll just say it's good, and will provide an actual review some other time), and Yento Bento. I allowed Jeff to decide which way he'd be going, and he went cajun. With the long line at Gyros and Grill, and the no-line at Yento Bento, my decision basically made itself.

Normally I would've shied away from a place with no line and the employee slumped over the counter. I wasn't feeling normal, though, so I walked right up. The employee, who's name I neglected to get, was extremely likeable. We discussed the menu (everything under $6, basically, all meat cooked on a grill over flame) and I asked him his advice on ordering. He explained that the chicken was pretty good, the salmon was surprisingly good, and he had some fresh salmon on the grill. I didn't have time though, so I asked him what chicken dish I should get. He said I looked like a healthy type of guy, so he suggested the chicken and steamed veggies on brown rice. I asked whether I should go for the curry sauce, and he eagerly answered in the affirmative. He heaped my dish together and happily sauced it up, and I was on my way. As far as food court service goes, it was the best I'd had in quite a long time.

I found a table and looked at Cajun Whatever to see JLowe still only half-way through the line. A gentleman, I waited for him to arrive before digging into my food. He was quite displeased with his order, chicken and rice and some veggies. I, on the other hand, was quite happy with mine.

I sampled his chicken, and it was horrid. It seemed fatty and fried. I gave him a sample of mine, fresh off the grill, and he thought it was great. Tender yet firm, flavorful, delicious. I picked around the squash in my steamed vegetables but devoured the baby carrots and broccoli, which all tasted pretty fresh. The brown rice was not dry, which is what I was expecting based on brown rices I've had elsewhere. It may have been the curry, but whatever the reason it was very good,

We were done eating by 12:35, and made our way to the movie. JLowe was grumbling and feeling a bit ill from his lunch. I was happy and full (I couldn't finish the plate) and very happy to have a new place I could go to when I needed a quick lunch, a short line, and a good service experience. Give Yento Bento a shot; I'm certainly glad I did.



Andina is located at 14th and NW Gleason and is Peruvian. We went with a large group, so our meal was served in this private room below the restaurant. My, oh my, what a place!

We started off with several dishes from the menu de Entradas, such as the Yuca Rellena (I had three because I couldn't stop), the Tortilla de Patata (quite heavy and quite delicious), the Conchas a la Parilla (unbelievable), the De Pescado 5 Elementos (melted in my mouth) and the Palta Rellena de Cangrejo (the crab was very mild).

I really could have stopped at that point. I was full and happy, but we pressed on to the main course. I chose the Seco a la Norena. Now, the flavor of the lamb shank was mind-boggling (sweet and savory), but, I must confess, it was also a bit drier then I like. My wife had the ribeye steak...of which I had a small bite or two. I've eaten several ribeyes in my life in several steak houses in Portland. This ribeye was phenomenal. Ruth's Chris should take note.

Dessert. Why? Because I couldn't pass at that point. I went with the trio of Creme Brulee. Each night, different flavors are used. Last night my trio consisted of coconut, key lime and Kahlua. Each was quite tasty, but each was a bit too soft.

The Service. Our server was quite gifted, well-mannered, knowledgeable, pleasant, timely, you get the picture.

Will I go back? Absolutely. Andina has won me over.