New Taste of India, SW 5th and Stark Food Carts
Ah the infamous PDX Food Carts. I, like probably so many other Portlanders, have a sincere love hate relationship with these ever present boxes of bill grabbing businesses. On the one hand, the convenience, the sheer diversity, the abundance of quality food, these are all things that make me want to go back to the carts. I’ve had many a good meal from carts all over the city, and often times from people who are serious about cooking and proud of the food they are serving up. This encompasses the love aspect of the relationship.
Where the hate comes in, for me mostly has to do with pricing, and preperation. Two things I could use do without in the cart community: 1. overly priced food. Especially sandwiches. Since when did I live in a city where a sandwich made for me out on the street cost me $8.50 before tip? I’m not paying for any kind of atmosphere, so why a sandwich priced either the same or more, than if I were to walk into another one of Portland’s indoors delis? 2. grease and butter. These seem to be pretty standard cooking methods with a lot of the carts. I’ve noticed many of my meals to be either overly heavy on the richness, or way too oiley. This is something I can get over. But it can often times make me change my mind from going to cart for lunch or swinging over to the nearby (ahem pardon me localvores) NW Whole Foods for a simple salad.
Anyway- there’s my rant on carts. I have some standard favorites, but I’m trying to branch out more. And hopefully I’ll keep updating this blog with my experiences.
One such cart that I can’t help but go to at least once every two weeks or so is New Taste of India. It isn’t the best as far as Indian goes, but with the sheer lack of this style of food in Portland. I will take what I can get.
What I love about New Taste…
Portions: the lunch special is always huge, boasting three different dishes plus naan and rice. It is easily two meals, and I’ll often save half for dinner later.
Price: the aforementioned lunch special is only $6. A fucking deal. If you get actual entrees the prices can range, and aren’t as reasonable. But are made fresh as opposed to being in buffet trays all morning.
The People: The cart is clearly run by a family who care about their business. The service is always with a smile and always fairly quick. They can get a little bogged down when the line is long however.
Things I’m not too keen on:
Undercooked food: Sometimes the food can come out undercooked even if it has been inthe buffet trays warming. Today for example there was a chickpea dish that had a nice flavor to it, but the chickpeas were pretty crunchy.
That Indian Stomach feeling: you know the feeling I mean. Full. Pungent. Harmful to those around you. I have a pretty rock hard digestive system. But New Taste of India can really do a number on me.
Prepared dishes can miss the mark: you are really better off getting the lunch special at this cart. The few times I’ve ordered an actual dish that was prepared fresh for me, it has been disappointing. Almost as if the chef doesn’t get enough practice because they sell more lunch specials than anything else. The somosas in particular have been pretty dry and flavorless the last times I’ve gotten them. And this also goes for the chutney which I almost can never resits but always kinda disappoints.
As far as standard and reliable carts go though, you’d be hard up to find a better deal down town. If you have yet to try New Taste of India, I would do so asap.
Blueplate Lunch Counter & Soda Fountain, 308 SW Washington
I had been hearing nothing but good things about Blueplate for awhile now. The premise behind this simple lunch spot is enticing and humble enough to warrant a visit: a lunch counter that serves up old time sodas and milkshakes and offers a daily special from the canon of American diner favorites.
Entering the small(ish) storefront on SW Washington, anticipation for a comforting lunch brewed within me as the wafts of grilled ground beef and sauerkraut filled my nose. My eyes caught up shortly after my nostrils. The place was packed with smiling locals, all sipping on fantastic looking floats, sodas, and shakes. A waitress who promptly told me and my buddy we’d be next walked by with a mug full of tomato soup. I was still feeling a chill from the brisk October afternoon and that soup looked perfect. This was shaping up to be good lunch.
Albeit the service was a little slow getting us water and taking our order, but you can’t fault a packed place like this that is slightly understaffed (it looked to be two servers and one cook running the busy lunch hour). And the menu appeared to be everything I had heard about. Today’s specials: A diner style Ruben Burger made with both ground beef and pork, plus all the normal Ruben fixings. And then there was the house made Jambalaya, Blueplate’s take on this NOLA classic. Other standards were tempting, the grilled cheese sandwich and homemade tomato soup that runs you back on $6. And the sliders sounded pretty excellent, with the option to add bacon for free. I however was wishing it was Thursday as looking ahead in the menu pointed to a Fried Chicken Salad that could be the perfect balance between the comfort lunch and the power lunch.
I settled for the Ruben Burger and was pretty happy with the decision. The patty of ground pork and beef was moist, flavorful and complimented the other elements in the sandwich very well. Maybe not as flavor forward as the traditional corned beef, but a worthwhile replacement. Criticisms for the dish: the use of Texas Toast. I gotta say, I’m just not a fan of using it in sandwiches. Even a breakfast sandwich, I’ve always thought it to be a style of bread that just overpowers a meal with the taste of butter and starch. And then the side of mash potatoes that comes with most sammys at Blueplate were a little on the cold and bland side. Both my room mate and myself added some hot sauce to try and heat them up a little.
I’m sorry to say, I didn’t try anything from the soda fountain. I wanted to, but alas, I don’t get paid until Friday yo, and little expenses like a milkshake can add up.
All in all though, I liked Blueplate, and I believe I’ll be going back soon.
I haven’t written a word on this thing in more than six months. What started out as a -one entry a day blog idea- has now become a forgotten artifact of a time in which I told myself I would write more.
2nd chances? Do we believe in them?
Well here’s trying one out.
I will not be posting once a day like I said I originally would. It was an admirable idea methinks, but one that was way too ambitious. I barely have time these days to feed myself or get a proper night’s sleep. But I would like to try and regularly post and provide some insights into this funny and rather beautiful place called Portland Oregon.
So on that note. Onto a review!
Pizza A Go Go, 3240 N Williams
So I recently moved into the Boise/Elliot neighborhood and my room mates have become fans of Pizza A Go Go which is only about a 5 minute walk from our house. Convenience is a good thing. And so is pizza. However, not sure if I’m as keen on the local spot as they are.
Here are the things I like about Pizza A Go Go:
- Laid back staff.
This is a nice thing to have at a neighborhood pizza joint. I wouldn’t call them friendly. I wouldn’t call them surly. They know they work in a pizza place, and that you have come in for a relaxed time with some comfort food. The best way to describe them is maybe to call them aimable couch patotoes who had to leave the couch to make some pizza. I like this behind a counter though. I don’t have to stress if you’re going to forget my order, and neither of us needs to (nor really wants to) put too much effort into the interaction. We both know that I’ve come for bread, cheese, and a full stomach I’ll be regretting at about 2am.
- Decent taps rotated in and out.
- Bread sticks.
Ample size. Cheap. Garlic filled. And they can be dipped in this chipotle marinara that is spicy and enticing.
- Fairly good ingredients and sauce on the pies.
Nothing to write home about, but the toppings taste fresh and have at least a bit of artisianship to them.
Ok here be the cons:
Sometimes the pizza at Go Go can be just right. Well heated toppings, a nice balance of crispiness and give in the crust. And just the right amount of grease.
This can completely change in one visit though. I’ve also been in a times in which everything about the pie seems stale; charred and tough crust, overcooked toppings, grease dripping off the cheese. Honestly put: the pizza can sometimes just be bad.
-No side salads. Pizza A Go Go doesn’t have an option to just get a little salad on the side of a slice or two. All of their salads are either regular or large sized and range from like $5.50 to $8. Sometimes you just want to pay a few bucks for a little roughage with your pizza but Go Go doesn’t have this option.
Hmm weighing the pros and cons, I’d say if you’re in NE/N I would give Go Go a try. It isn’t anything to go out of your way for. But tis enough to fill a pizza craving if you’ve got one.
The PSU Farmer’s Market, South Park Blocks between SW Hall & SW Montgomery
Confession: I was born and raised in the Portland Oregon. I left it to go to college in New York. I have lived back in Portland for almost three years now. This weekend I went to the PSU farmer’s market for the first time. I know. This is probably surprising to many. To some it might also be considered a crime. And to those who have told me to go, I can now say you were right. I did love it. And here are the things that I found that you can do there.
Things to do at the PSU Farmer’s market:
Spend money. There is a lot to spend it on. And it being a market, getting your money is ultimately the goal of the place. Oh, and there are a lot of locally grown, hand made, love borne, organic sundries to spend your money on. And many of these things are nice and expensive. So if you have money. You will definitely be able to get rid of all of it at the market!
Eat samples. Haven’t had breakfast? Or Lunch? No problem. You can fill up on samples! Sausage, hazelnuts, pears, honey, relish and bread, cheese, walnuts. Still hungry? Buy something then jerk!
Run into people. My companion and me both ran into several people at the market. One such acquaintance of mine said hello. Asked me how I was, and when I told her and her new husband that this was my first time at the market, they condescendingly asked me “what? really? we come here like every weekend. welcome to Portland douche.” Although the ‘douche’ part of that last sentence was in the subtext.
Get the best eggs you’ve ever had. Seriously though. The best you’ve ever had.
Feel like you’re doing something good for yourself and for the local economy. Because, well, you are.
Eat well. We die a bit everyday.
Plan your next trip to the market.
Do it all over again.
A couple things I realized this morning, when going though my various AM interweb motions:
1- I really have to get rid of these “Day xx” titles for my entries. Life has sort of swept me away and I am finding very little time to get at least one entry written a week, let alone everyday. I suppose I will have to come up with something else. I’ll be keeping the goal in mind however: a log of the places I visit in Portland Oregon, that either make an impression, or need to be talked about.
2- Topics that I have yet to write about that need some love and that I’ll try to make some time for this week:
The Victory Bar on Division - Friends were spot on when I was asked why I had never been there. It is a delight.
The Jupiter Motel/The Doug Fir - I recently fell back in love with these establishments as I spend a few days doing a promo shoot for them, and then culminated the week with one of the best concerts I’ve been to. Ever.
The Bombay Cricket Club - I heard good things about this place. But thought that for the price tag, their Indian food was a little lacking in the luster.
The Art Museum Library - Did you even know that they had one? I didn’t. And it was mind blowing. I wanted to set up a tent and live off gorp for the rest of my life!
The Coast - Went there yesterday. It is just as beautiful as the last time as I was there. But my companion was correct when saying that “sometimes you have to check on the Ocean and make sure it still exists”. It does. And I was happy to check on it and get a little reminder on just how vast it is, and how small we are.
Anyway, take these as previews. Full write ups soon.
The Vertigo Pub, 4260 SE Hawthorne
Ah the Vertigo Pub. The only reason I ever go to you, is usually to meet a cast member or two for a drink after a performance at the Backdoor Theater across the street. You are divey. You are ugly. You are not charming. But you are loved.
The Vertigo Pub is the kind of place that one doesn’t seek out, but just find themselves suddenly drunk at I think. It is the kind of place that doesn’t really have a draw, but maybe a following of less than picky patrons, that frequent it enough to keep it afloat. It is the type of place that people utter a brief “meh” and nod a meager affirmation to, when asked if it will do for a Sunday or Monday night drink. It is the kind of place that will be pondered by many, as to the reasons it is still in business. And for those who know it, it is the kind of place that has a good jukebox, a killer whiskey special (shot of your favorite plus a PBR for $7), and is pleasant enough for picnic table drinking/smoking in the waining summer hours.
I never seek you out Vertigo. You find me. And when you do. I’m basically ok with it.
Defunkt Theatre, currently showing Attempts on Her Life @ the The Backdoor Theater 4319 SE Hawthorne
There is something awe inspiring about engaging in a theatrical presentation that you don’t fully understand. Especially if this presentation is done well and if the engagement is handled with care.
I have now had two experiences of this nature while venturing out to see a show by Portland’s own defunkt theatre, a collection of talented local professionals with a penchant for the avant garde and a taste for good writing. So far, they haven’t disapointed, and I highly reccommend trying to check out one of their shows.
Their latest Attempts on Her Life by Martin Crimp, is a piece that is hard to define. The script is devoid of character breakdowns, and lacks a basic overall narrative. It basically journeys through a series of scene/vignettes that speak about “Anne” a mysterious and ubiquitous character that seems to walk in many different shoes. It is one of those kind of shows that would fail completely if not put in the hands of a talented director and a dedicated cast. Luckily for this piece defunkt has these in spades with director Grace Carter, who takes the poignancy and emotional power of the show to it’s full potential. And a cast that somehow manages to keep one attentive as they bounce around from character (or lack thereof) to character, from dialogues to monologues, to even dance breaks.
I really liked this show. But then again, I really like this kind of theater. When done right. I would be lying if I said that this is the kind of show that everyone would enjoy. If you’re looking for something cookie cutter to take your mom to, this isn’t your best bet. If you’re looking for something to impress your new performance artist friend/love interest. This might just work.
BEAST, 5425 NE 30th
There is something so very priceless about a matchless meal and a wine drunk. It is an odd equilibrium that my body experiences only once in awhile, a listless feeling of weightlessness, when the stomach is far from empty, and the head far from clear. I’ve eaten at Beast twice now. And while I am not one to talk about the spiritual nature of food, it must be said that both times have provided me with this imbibed and well fed ecstasy. A feeling I would probably not trade for a night of fairly decent sex.
A brief summary of Beast: Beast is the brain work of local food luminary Naomi Pomeroy and her take on the French pantry, Portland style. It is a tiny, hole in the wall space, that seats only about 30 a night, and offers a 6 course prefix menu full to the brim with local delights that changes weekly. The decor is simple, yet classy, an aesthetic that is meant to stand clear of the reason why gastro-enthusiasts enter Pemoeoy’s door: the food. It has been called Portland’s greatest restaurant. And while I’m sure that the title has changed hands as of late, according to current styles and food trends, it is safe for me to say, that in the two times that I have been to Beast, I have had two of the top ten best meals of my life.
Ok, so you get the picture. On to the food. Here is a play by play of the courses:
1 - A nettle and leek soup, served at a perfect tempature and garnished with a small slice of well cooked bacon. Green, floral, creamy, and wonderful.
2 - Beast’s famed Charcuterie plate: Foie-Gras Bon Bon, Sauternes Gelee, Steak Tartare & Quail Egg Toast, Chicken Liver Mousse, Pickled Shallot, Lamb Neck Pastry with pickled cherries, Tails and Trotters Pigs Head Terrine. The whole plate here is a wild success, but there are certain winners: Steak Tartare and Quail Egg Toast, Lamb Neck Pastry, and the Foie-Gras Bon Bon which you are told to eat last as a desert in a bite. Truly amazing. It is like meat ice-cream. Something I would never think I would want in my mouth.
More to come after the jump!
Read more …
Stanich’s, 4915 NE Fremont & Foster, Burger 5339 SE Foster
I don’t really know what we were thinking. It all started when over a family dinner, my brother and I started arguing over the best burger in Portland. He has for a long while claimed that there isn’t a better one than Foster Burger, a place that has garnered a fair amount of buzz in the last year or so. I however, being a bit of a stickler for old school Portland establishments, basically told him to fuck off, and that Stanich’s has been making the best burger in Portland long long before Foster burger or even Pok Pok was a glimmer in Andy Ricker’s eye. Here’s the thing though: like a couple of horse’s asses, neither of us had tried the burger that the other brother was boasting as the best. So what were these two disagreeing (slightly intoxicated) brothers to do about said disagreement? Have a gluttonous day of eating an drinking in name of all that is holy and American. We had a burger-off.
The plan: We would meet up around 1pm on a Saturday. We would try one burger. We would then take a break, take a walk, maybe a nap, and then meet back up for dinner at the other burger joint. The idea: to honestly judge the two places and see if either of us was convinced by their brother’s assertion.
Stop numero uno: Stanich’s. There is something that is beauitfully timeless about Stanich’s. For all the years I have been going there (which has basically been about twice a year since I was a sophomore in high school) it hasn’t changed a bit. It is what I would probably call a good old boy’s sports bar. There are pennets that cover the walls, the beers are mainly domestic and come in pitchers, and the servers and barkeeps are all well seasoned, grizzly, and no nonsense. It is the type of place you’d probably not want to take your girlfriend to, but is a place that I would reccomend taking your girlfriend’s dad to.
The burger: there are plenty of burgers that one can try at Stanich’s, but in my eyes there is really only one that you should bother ordering: the Stanich Special. A quarter pound patty of chuck, with all the fixings (tomato, lettuce, pickle etc.), and stacked with a fried egg, a slice of ham, bacon, and cheese. Yes indeed, it is a heart attack burger. And it is only $6.50 (without fries). It is a juicy, thick, artery clogging burger, with enough fat content to last you months (hence why I only go about twice a year). And in my opinion, it is just what one wants out of a burger. It is that guilty pleasure feeling, of putting something in you that is basically only giving you the nutritional benefit of a shit ton of protein. Great if you’ve been hitting the gym like an Olympian, bad if you’re idea of exercise is walking to 7-eleven for more beer and kettle chips. I’ve been going to Stanich’s for years. And I think the burger is still just as delicious as the first time I tried it. My bother seemed to enjoy his as well, and was done with it about 5 minutes before me.
Stop numero dos: Foster Burger. I can see why people like this place. It is an inviting atmosphere with friendly service, professional ownership, and a good looking menu. Plus it taps into a little of the -Portland as music-town-USA- nostolgia with walls that are filled up with tons of old show posters from PDX music clubs both existing and extinct. On top of this, it boasts locally sourced goods, and non-cruelty meat for those Portlanders who aim to keep their eating conscientious. I had a good time at Foster burger. I will def go back.
The burger: I went basic, The Foster Burger: “All natural, hormone free ground beef, char-grilled, on a house-made brioche bun, with lettuce, house-made pickles, onion and Foster Sauce.” $8 with fries included. And I’m not going to lie. It was a fantastic burger. The meat took center stage, the toppings tasted fresh and flavorful and I wasn’t dying to undo my belt when I was done with it, like at Stanich’s. And what’s more, my meal felt complete with the addition of a “Cockshake” one of Foster Burger’s signature alcoholic milkshakes.
But was it as good as Stanich’s? In my opinion it wasn’t. I really enjoy the messy, juicy, and classically 1980s version of the hamburger that Stanich’s offers. For me Foster’s was a little too dry, and oddly enough, too healthy in taste. But that is just my opinion. What was my brother’s opinion? Just the opposite. While he liked Stanich’s, he found it to be too much. Too much topping. Too much grease. Too much grandiose Americana.
So at the end of the burger day we had to find a middle ground, considering neither of us would stray from our original contention. We asked ourselves if we would each go back to the other’s favorite burger joint? The answer was yes. But not both in the same day ever again, for pete’s fucking sake.
Swift, 1932 NE Broadway
I’m beginning to wonder if I’m terrible at predicting restaurant trends. Case in point: I was convinced within a week of it’s doors opening, that Swift (a tiny little trend of a bar, on NE Broadway and 20th ave) wasn’t going to last more than six months. Given, this is partially due to the several businesses I’ve seen fail in the exact same space in the course of 20+ years. I can recall when it was The Merchant of Venice, a charming, delectable neighborhood pasta joint, that for some mysterious reason went belly up in the early 90s. And then there was a strange, gourmet breakfast/bar outfit that moved in. I think it was called something like Cafe Monet or some such other renaissance painter. I remember going with my dad, and a writer friend of his, and that I thought that the overly extravagant plates of eggs and patotoes were just horrible. No wonder my father and his friend were mainly drinking cocktails on Sunday afternoons. And then there was Colosso. Oh poor poor Colosso. I had a summer in which I was in love with thee. It was a time when I would sit out on your street seating, drink bourbons and beer backs, reading poetry, and smoking cigarettes. And then your owner changed, your clientele started to suck, and you employed some god awful chef who seemed to concentrate more on socializing with the customers than on actually cooking.
So yes, as you can see, I have my paranoias about this space. But what a nice space it is. And Swift seems to be having a good go at it. They’ve kept the dark, and candle lit aura that Colosso had down so well. But they have also bumped up the menu, offering tasty treats, and even meals late into the night. And what’s more, the owner (who bartends sometimes) has a great taste for fine bourbons. Ones that I simply can’t resist when walking through the door.The place has been fairly crowded the last few times I’ve been in, and it seems to be attracting a bit of a young inner NE crowd.
It isn’t my favorite bar in NE, but as far as NE Broadway goes, I’m not sure you’ll do much better. And if you’re like me, any place you can walk to, is very ok.