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Eaten, Barely Blogged: Schnitzel, Hot Pot, $1 Oysters

zum stamtisch trio

Zum Stamtisch might not serve the best German food in NYC, but you have to appreciate its longevity. (The first thing I ever wrote for money in NYC–and was paid 7 to 14 times more than what I’ve been offered for blog posts in modern day–was about German bars in Glendale. Zum Stamtisch is the only one of four still standing in its 2002 form.) And commitment to Bavarian kitsch. This is not a young person’s restaurant, especially not on an early Sunday evening. Everything could use a few shakes of salt (perhaps the clientele is watching their sodium intake). The schnitzel, available in pork only, is a stellar specimen, though, with a super crisp-and-craggy breading that’s not oily in the least. The mustardy vinegar-based potato salad is also well done; the starchy chunks have a few browned edges that add a little character. There is an impressive list of after dinner digestifs that does include Jaeger and Bailey’s but also gets a little more esoteric. Forget Fernet, this is Underberg and Escorial Grün.

little sheep

Little Lamb. I’ve said this before but I’m still not sure who’s ripping of whom. Little Lamb Happy Family, which has sat on Flushing’s Main Street for some time, is a blatant counterfeit.  But Little Sheep, which opened last year and Little Lamb, which recently appeared in the SkyView Center, are cut from the same cloth, complete with flat screen TVs showing videos of the Mongolia-based chain’s origin story. Little Sheep is bigger and has a liquor license (though Lamb serve what appears to be cola in wine carafes). Little Lamb has a view of the Applebee’s, its neighbor, and was still doing a 10% off promo when I visited (both pros, if you ask me). Bizarrely, the entire seafood section had an X through it on the order form (a con). The spicy side of the half-and-half broth contained an unusual amount of cumin–I’ve never had a hot pot where cumin seeds stick to everything, and the greens in the mixed vegetable platter were kind of strange and included lettuce (I find cooked lettuce grotesque) as well as weird frilly leaved weeds I’d never seen before. Everything was pleasant enough, though if this were a competition Little Sheep would win by a (wooly) hair.

extra fancy trio

Extra Fancy has always struck me as more of a drinking establishment even though both times I’ve eaten there in the past it has been fine (if not full of loud drunken people encroaching on my space). Apparently, they are trying to get fancier with the addition of a new chef. That seemed to translate to a $35 steak special, lobster pie and more charcuterie. I didn’t even realize they did a $1 oyster happy hour, practically a requirement in Williamsburg, but it was appreciated. A chicken pate topped with a layer of cider jelly and a big dose of toasted pistachios was one of the better I’ve had of late, bone marrow with barbecue-sauced brisket and Texas toast was also fun and now makes two restaurants in a six-block radius serving bone marrow with Texas toast (see Brooklyn Star). I stuck to the shared plates, but will most likely return in the very near future because I sometimes Lent dine to appease others and live down the street.



The Runner

twoshovelThe Runner is very much a neighborhood restaurant, and one that’s needed in this particular neighborhood. (I’m selfishly interested because it’s likely that I will move back to Myrtle Avenue in the fall.) It’s the kind of restaurant–mousses, bone marrow, oysters, brown spirits–that wouldn’t be groundbreaking in other parts of Brooklyn, but Myrtle Avenue has held out a little longer than other gentrifying drags Even in Clinton Hill, Fulton Street gets most of the newcomers.

I’m often torn between wanting to try a brand new restaurant and giving them some breathing room because, you know, kinks can cloud an experience. Then again, if a restaurant is obviously on a PR tear, they’re asking for customers. And on my first visit (I will come back) The Runner didn’t seem prepared for them.

the runner steak frites

It also seemed like I’d fallen into some vortex, arriving with reservations before the crush, yet getting lost in the subsequent shuffle. A table came in after I did, ordered steak frites, ate their steak frites and paid for their steak frites before my steak frites showed up. And the steak frites were my favorite thing (hence, the half-eaten iPhone pic because I dove in so quickly). The fries were perfect, neither too fat nor thin, and the hanger steak was spot-on medium-rare with pan juices blending with what seemed to be a scallion-based chimichurri. It’s a good deal for $18.

the runner tongue bread with pistachio honey butterThe pizza oven leftover from the previous tenant (Anima, which I walked past a zillion times but was never compelled to visit) is being put to all sorts of uses like the tongue bread that contains no offal (sadly). It’s cibatta vaguely shaped like a tongue, and really a warm, crusty vehicle for the amazing pistachio-honey butter. Even used sparingly, though, there wasn’t enough butter for the amount of bread.

the runner bone marrow

Ah, bone marrow a la M. Wells, topped with breaded escargot like a new classic. The snails and sweet onion-apple jam would be great with bone marrow, but the vessels didn’t contain enough wobbly fat to even spread on a piece of toast (in contrast to a version I’d encountered a few nights before at Extra Fancy where there was almost too much marrow for the bread).

the runner roasted cauliflower

There are two vegetable dishes. I received both; the roast cauliflower with raisins, fried shallots and parsley that I originally wanted, and agrodolce spaghetti squash with pine nuts and basil as a free buffer while waiting for entrees. They did make a good lunch the next day.

Efforts were made to smooth the logjams (initially, I attributed the issues to the oven but a cocktail also took nearly 30 minutes to arrive). I was also offered a free dessert, but declined because I’d already had more than enough food. Despite some glitches, I could see myself returning and having the steak frites (also that tarte flambé) and a glass or two of wine at the bar.

The Runner * 458 Myrtle Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Chicken Is the Real Cronut

While looking for something else completely, I stumbled upon the existence of the term “grocerant,” which really just means young people buying more prepared food in-store and ordering restaurant takeout and delivery more often (I don’t think it includes frozen Arby’s curly fries, however). “Palate” was also used correctly to describe these sophisticated types, but sophistication only goes so far.

While it may seem like the entire universe is already hip to things like Sriracha, if not totally over it and onto the next fiery thing, 63% of Americans had no idea what rooster sauce even was and only 18% had ever tried it. Only ramen burgers and cronuts had less recognition.

Then again, more than half (55%) also didn’t know what fusion cuisine is, a style so dated in merited a comeback article in The Wall Street Journal, so perhaps these respondents were just hopeless. (Even my mom who lives in a trailer at the Oregon Coast texted me about cronuts over the summer.) The only category with a majority of first-hand experiencers was the vague chicken-only restaurant. I have no idea what that is–KFC? Zaxby’s?–or how it qualifies as a new trend. Do tell, if you know.

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Austin Edition

I am not at SXSW and have no intention of going to SXSW but I was just in Austin for the first time and I did eat some food. Barbecue, Tex-Mex and chili is all fine, but my goal was to eat as much queso as possible. Spoiler: I nearly succeeded.

kerby lane cafe migas
You can get migas at 4am at Kerbey Lane Cafe. The corn-speckled rice, beans, crumbled tortilla chips, plus foil-wrapped tortillas on the side is more starch than I’d normally recommend at this hour sober. I missed a queso opportunity here.

texas chili parlor enchilada

I suspect that Texas Chili Parlor is the Gumbo Shop of Austin. I never want to eat at the touristy restaurant in New Orleans but always acquiesce. Normally, I think chili is disgusting (I also just complained on Facebook about accidentally receiving free hotdogs so I’m a monster) but that’s just because I’m biased against the soupy ground beef and kidney bean style. The dense, stewed Texan all-beef version is right on. Really, it’s like a rendang, or to be more geographically correct, carne guisada. I also thought they were bullshitting on the XXX heat level, but it was no lie. XX was safer, though I just had mine slathered on top of cheese (processed, of course) enchiladas. And yes, that’s a small queso in the background.

true detective assemblage

Bloody marys seemed acceptable on an early Saturday, and for the record, the stubby $2.50 drinks were easily 75% vodka. Two, and you’ll think you’ve hallucinated what appear to be True Detective devil’s nests at the so-called botanical garden (as no plants were in bloom, I’m still not convinced).

nuevo mexico dinner

Enchiladas y Mas down the street seemed more promising, but all the clumps of people out front was foreboding and I needed melted cheese asap, so strip mall El Nuevo Mexico sufficed, despite mildly weird service and a slightly downtrodden atmosphere (I want my Tex-Mex to be uplifting). Queso was followed by an enchilada and tamale combo bathed in more orange cheese (and also included a hard shell taco).

louie mueller bbq facade

Barbecue must be eaten in Austin, obviously, even if it means forgetting cheese for a few hours. Barbecue could also merit its own post, but I prefer to just eat it rather than rhapsodizing at length about smoke rings and bark. Since I won’t wait in line for food in NYC, no exception could be made for Texas either. Franklin Barbecue wasn’t happening. A car means you can drive 30 minutes in two opposite directions for the smoked meat cluster in Lockhart or the singular attraction in Taylor.


louie mueller beef rib

I opted for the latter, Louie Mueller, if only because of the imposing beef rib I’d been tempted by online. While everyone eating on a Friday afternoon (standing inside in 10-minute line that in NYC would take 2 minutes) had accents to my ears, they were clearly not locals because I was asked/ma’amed by a few inquiring about the hunk of meat laying on my tray.

louie mueller bbq tray

Even if one beef rib is too much food for two, get some brisket (a mix of lean and moist here) anyway and don’t stress over the sides because they aren’t really anything special. Wheat bread seemed unorthodox, but they did offer it.

louie mueller christmas in february

Louie Mueller certainly wins on decor with a patina that’s hard to fake.  (The fresh plywood version, complete with gargantuan beef rib is available at Hometown in Red Hook fyi.) How long the Christmas tree stays up, I have no idea.

Stiles Switch, lacking the history but retaining a degree of dusty main street quaintness, is not a bad bet, especially if you want barbecue in Austin city limits on a Sunday evening, indoor seating and a beer or two. I will say that my dining companion preferred the brisket at Stiles Switch over Louie Mueller and leave it at that.

tacodeli breakfast tacos

So much trauma for a breakfast taco. I not only take being open on a Sunday for granted, but that in NYC you can brunch till practically sundown. Procuring a breakfast taco at 12:06 took three attempts and ultimately brought me to Tacodeli where I encountered the longest line of the entire long weekend. Whether due to the brilliance of Tacomix’s fare (organic, free-range, not greasy spoon) or because they are the only restaurant in the entire city that serves breakfast until 3pm on weekends, I’m not sure. I would take a regular cheese-less (yes, I know) corn tortilla taco over a breakfast taco, but if you say you didn’t try one there will be hell to pay. Once again, I shirked my duties by forgoing the queso.

lone star court day

Regrets: No kolaches (also a Sunday problem), not making it to Eddie V’s, Darden’s most unknown brand, or any of the chains at The Domain, an upscale-ish mall complex next to my hotel. I mean, there was a freaking Maggiano’s directly in the line of sight from my porch rocking chairs.

Qui? I will give it its own post.

The Middle Ages: All the Bars in Al Ain

I would not be lying if I said one of my most memorable moments in the UAE involved driving around with a metal commuter mug full of Filipino brandy and Coke with Nickleback blasting, but that was Dubai–I’m getting ahead of myself.

I was told that there were only two bars in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi’s second city, but maybe it was that there were only two bars that anyone goes to. If you visit The Horse & Jockey and Paco’s, in two separate hotels, in the same evening, it’s a good bet that you’ll see some of the same people.

Advertising a Cuban bar in a Dubai Hilton, not Paco's.

A Cuban bar in a Dubai Hilton, not Paco’s.

When: Saturday, 10:16pm. Paco’s is Tex-Mex in theory but a pub in practice, filled mostly with non-American men smoking, downing pints and watching rugby on TV. Periodically, a one-man cover band played ’90s hits plus Gotye.

Possibly due to jetlag, persistent aftereffects of the previous day’s mega-brunch and/or the harrowing drive up and down Jebel Hafeet, the second-highest mountain in the UAE, I was queasy–and a little on edge, not without reason. The male-female imbalance coupled with a boredom-averting reliance on alcohol can create a wolf pack atmosphere (not quite to a North Dakota degree). A stumbling Macedonian approached my friend, completely covered in long sleeves and pants, and before his hand could make contact while attempting to paw her chest, he’d been  knocked flat onto the ground by a Scot who sprang out of nowhere.

We just missed the influx of women. On the way out, we ran into a dolled-up mixed-nationality crew (most foreigners in town teach at local schools) who reminded me of the opening sequence of Super Fun Night, the not very funny show that I can’t believe is still on and that I continue to watch.

Age appropriate? Absolutely. The women that did exist were very diverse in age. Due to circumstance and limited drinking options, it’s not rare than 20somethings hang out with women two decades older.

By 11:46pm we were in the Hilton parking lot where Peach Garden was lit up with its separate entrance like a Chinese restaurant. It’s not a Chinese restaurant. I’m still not sure what Peach Garden is but it’s definitely not the place for non-Filipinas dressed in unsexy street clothes like my leggings, flat sandals and Gap chambray shirt dress. Which isn’t to say it was unwelcoming. Just weird. We grabbed the only two open seats at the bar and suffered the curious stares.

50 dirhams (roughly $14) buys a friend. Initially, I thought I was being asked if my friend and I were friends because the only word of English the gentleman sitting to my right could speak was “friend.” From what I could tell, the men weren’t buying anything more than company, a lady to sit with them. I’ve always found this arrangement baffling since it’s not like you can hold a conversation, and in this case there wasn’t even any touching that I could see. After a few overpriced beers, though, the chasteness felt kind of freeing.

Before the girl group musical productions started, a lone man took to the empty dance floor, emboldened after talking with the two Western women in the bar. It’s not often that I get exposed to such peacocking in NYC, so I had to savor it

Later on, against my better judgment, I was on the dance floor after a mutual eye lock and head nod with the only guy in the place I thought was cute. He was the least overtly masculine, a skinny Syrian with a German passport, who wore a jeans and t-shirt and seemed to have a sense of humor. It was all about dancing. No groping or grinding, just jumping up and down and waving arms with the other women too (African ladies showed up later). I believe the term is raging.

When my new friend passed by my stool on his way out he shouted jokingly, “Don’t come back to Al Ain” meant in a why are you wasting your time here manner. I probably won’t ever come back.

Age appropriate? Not at all–there was one middle-aged boss lady–but that was beside the point. While in the UAE I began warming to the tip I received on my first day that originally seemed arrogant, “No one will tell an American woman ‘no.’” Just do, don’t ask, essentially, which can be empowering for the socially cautious (me).


Rotisserie Georgette

twoshovelBecause I didn’t see myself ever going uptown to eat expensive chicken, I never paid any mind to Rotisserie Georgette chatter–you can’t keep tabs on everything–but it turned out to be the ideal setting for a Valentine’s-ish (never on the 14th) dinner.

On a particularly brutal weeknight, the dining room was suffering from the half-empty cold-weather blight cited by Cuozzo, but still managed to feel buzzy. I stressed out irrationally over how to wear heels around unavoidable ice puddles (short of taking a cab, obviously) and figured out that you don’t. The five-inch heel crowd seemed excited for the chance to wear statement yeti boots with shaggy fur and jangling pom poms.

Simplicity really is the beauty of the restaurant, though. You barely have to think because you know you’re going to order chicken in some form, and that puts the focus on conversation rather than an attention-hogging parade of courses. The concept also addresses the FOMOOOD (fear of missing out on other dishes) factor that’s possible at other chicken-for-two notables like The NoMad.

rotisserie georgette chicken

With criss-crossed blocks of seared foie gras tucked into the back of the metal basket and mushrooms and panko crumbs smothering the breasts, poule de luxe arriving on raised platform, is where it’s at. The skin was just shy of burnished (of course the Instagram filter deceives–all my real photos turned out blurred, most likely the result of an extended stop at Subway Inn beforehand) still delicious but in need of slightly more crackle. The meat, though, was perfectly juicy–even oven-baked leftovers the next day were no worse for the wear. Coupled with a bottle of Chinon Cabernet Franc that cost less than the bird, it was a winning combo.

Sides are less important (though I still get bummed when you request remainders to go and they’ve been tossed). The red cabbage and apple was tart, traditional and contained very large nuggets of cured pork. And the sundae, advertised as a brown butter parfait, showed up with hot fudge in lieu of caramel, but before I could object, the waiter deflected, “Oh no, chocolate is wonderful” and started to pour the thick sauce in a way that couldn’t be argued with, smoothly, forcefully French.

Rotisserie Georgette * 14 E. 60th St., New York, NY


Staten Island Shutter Shocker

jose tejasOf limited interest to even residents of Staten Island and Woodbridge, New Jersey, but big news to me: the Staten Island Mall Bonefish Grill closed after little more than a year in business. Sad news (Carrabba’s, the previous tenant owned by the same company, fared no better–if a chain can’t even succeed on Staten Island) but the real story may be the poll conducted by the Staten Island Advance showing that 38% of locals wish Jose Tejas would replace the dead Bonefish.

I’ve never been able to understand the wild popularity of Jose Tejas (and I was just there a few weeks ago) a Tex-Mex-Cajun restaurant that has an un-suburban wait for tables even on a weeknight after 9pm. The rock bottom prices must have something to do with it, but I’ve also speculated that diners might think it’s not a chain because the other branches go by Border Cafe. The Chevy’s down Route 1 is never full, for instance. And my theory has now been supported; the Advance just reported that Jose Tejas is not a chain.

Say Goodbye to Casseroles and Jell-O

Photo: Lotteria

Photo: Lotteria

I’m pretty sure that The New York Times buried the lede in its whopping piece on the changing role of women in the Mormon church. Young ladies from Utah harassing Koreans on buses is kind of fascinating (especially since I just watched a similar scene–minus Mormons or Koreans–on House of Cards) but skip down to the fifth from last paragraph.

In South Korea, Ms. Farr, the former beauty pageant contestant and future businesswoman, was knocking on doors and setting a baptism date for her first convert, a teenage girl with whom she had formed a deep connection. But her mind had also been turning with new business ideas: a novel way to export and sell pearl jewelry, and restaurant chains that would sell some of the cheap Korean treats like rice burgers to students at Brigham Young. “I have to do the market research when I get back,” she said.

I am sensing a true calling here. Do you think she was inspired by Lotteria, Baburger or Mos Burger?

Drinking Chocolate

vintage chocolate fudgeIt’s possible that chocolate is the new bacon (or maybe it has been all along). First, I heard about the toothpaste, then I was emailed about the fried chicken. There was a Nutella burger at the South Beach Food & Wine Festival. And now my favorite seltzer Vintage, that I buy when I’m too lazy to use the Sodastream, has put out a limited edition chocolate fudge flavor (as well as a candy cane one–I assume these were holiday promotions still lingering on the Fairway shelves a few weeks back).

The point of water is that it’s refreshing (and people who don’t like the taste of water are seriously messed up individuals who deserve to dehydrate) so citrus I get, even berry flavors are reasonable. Chocolate is not refreshing, and chocolate-flavored water isn’t sweet so it’s not exactly a dessert replacement unless you’re someone who makes pizza crusts from ground up cauliflower.

I imagined it would taste like a Tootsie Roll, in other words, not like chocolate at all but something that’s supposed to taste like chocolate, and that’s exactly what this beverage is like. Vintage is sharply carbonated with bubbles that almost create a flavor of their own on the tongue. The fizz dominates more than the artificial  chocolate, and it works because of the subtlety.

While there is a baffling dearth of evidence anywhere online that this flavor actually exists, I have discovered evidence of a white chocolate seltzer made by a different company, so there is a precedent. A taste test comparison is surely in order.

Top 8 Pre-Portlandia Restauarants

Before there were vegan strip clubs and chickens named Colin, cinnamon-and-sugar crusted elephant ears were the only thing you order from a trailer in Portland (while shopping for rainbow kites and jewelry forged from bent spoons at Saturday Market, of course) and shunning animal products meant ordering drive-thru 7-layer burritos without the sour cream and cheddar cheese. Yet despite the last millennium lack of barrel-aged cocktails, foraged lichen or whole animal butchery, residents managed to dine out every now and then.

In fact, some of these old guard establishments are still in business and presumably maintain a loyal following. Presumably, because I’ve only been back to Portland three times in nearly 16 years so it’s not as if I’m keeping tabs on the current state of near stalwarts. And this is not exactly about the food anyway; longevity and memories count for something too.

Don’t worry, FWx kids. Someday everything you once loved will also disappear. First small plates, then communal seating…and then we’ll all die. Ok, bye!

P.S. RIP Quality Pie, Circus Burger, Pizza Oasis, Yankee Pot Roast, Macheezmo Mouse, and Taste of Bali.

P.P.S. No one ever uttered or wrote “Keep Portland weird” in my multi-decade Portland lifetime.

Photo: 10best

Photo: 10best

Old Wives’ Tales is totally where the feminist bookstore womyn would eat, yet also could function as a meeting place for your meat-and-potatoes mom. In retrospect, it seems a little crunchy though at the time it just felt like a regular restaurant. The brightly muraled kids playroom and muted mint green and dusty rose color palette is still in effect and would somehow be more at home in a second-tier city in the state or the Oregon Coast.  Frankly, the food is kind of boring—I only ever ate the Hungarian mushroom soup and salad bar and rosemary chicken sandwich. They appear to have added a Mt. Hood painting to the facade and attempted to cool-up the name with the acronym OWT. That is too much.

La Sirenita’s arrival on N.E. Alberta when it was still a dead zone, taking the bus out there seemed sketchy and prostitutes would approach my car at night, marked the dawn of New Portland. I rarely eat burritos now that I’m civilized, but no one ate tacos at this taqueria, which was actually Mexican and not gross spinach, brown rice and non-dairy cream cheese hippie-mex. In fact, there was no rice at all in these burritos (though the menu now indicates otherwise) or even cheese. They were also not Mission-style, nor any style I’ve since encountered. Maybe five inches long, and nearly as wide, these flour tortilla parcels were crazy dense and filled with lardy refried beans and meat (carnitas always) so greasy it would ooze orange through the bag and onto every surface. I don’t think these burritos cost more than $3 either; even  now they are only $4.



Rheinlander A million years ago I wrote about Rheinlander and how the long-time accordionist Victor Meindel made me cry (not food-induced tears of joy) when I was in my 20s. Instead of demurring when solicited for a request like I normally would, I asked for “Consider Yourself” from Oliver, a movie that has always skeeved me out, but that I knew he always played in the ‘80s. This was the next decade. The earnest serenading coupled with his goofy grin sent me into nervous hysterics and then tears began seeping out. I have no idea of Victor is still there; he was probably in his 50s at the time of this incident. (This is the only other photo I can find of him.)

victorRheinlander is where we would occasionally have family celebrations and where I went for my high school graduation dinner. My oversized Tasmanian Devil t-shirt-wearing former step-sister that I’ve had no contact with for over a decade once asked for more sautéed mushrooms with her jagerschnitzel like a methy Oliver Twist and they actually complied. This was only slightly less humiliating than her uncle who insisted on a beer-whisky drink that he’d had in the service even though the non-German waitress had no idea what he was growling on about. Rheinlander’s selling point was a sharp cheese fondue served in a cast iron pot, which I now know is Swiss not German, but whatever. The even more TL, DR version here.

Hung Far Low gets attention from its unintentionally ribald name. It’s not even in Old Town/pseudo-Chinatown anymore (which isn’t called Old Town anymore—Pearl District what?) and lost the classic chop suey sign, which means it’s kind of dead to me, but I will always think of the dark vinyl booth lounge (no one ate in the restaurant) fondly. It was my specter of a boyfriend’s (I’m not even dating 44-year-olds now) haunt where we’d drink whiskey sours (me) and greyhounds (him) and eat late-night General Tso’s chicken. You would always run into someone you knew here. When I fell and broke my tailbone and was off work for over two weeks, I recuperated enough to go out but didn’t tell anyone and was spotted at Hung Far Low by a coworker like in those hidden camera workers’ comp sting operations.

Photo: Google+

Photo: Google+

Chu’s Eatery Frankly, I’m beyond shocked that this column A, column B Chinese-American restaurant still exists. In middle school, I briefly lived in the divorced families apartment complex across the street, but was too young to dine on my own. By driving age, and back in a two-parent house, my sister and I would occasionally visit for a cashew chicken combo that contained more chopped celery and carrots than meat or nuts. The adjoining lounge always seemed a bit tawdry and not in a kitschy way. This wasn’t a tiki-era relic, but firmly a product of that ‘80s Northwestern bark dust moat, wooden slat style, in this case fueled by Bud Light and video poker. Because Gresham is/was a small town, I heard from a non-friend high school classmate that her mom had been at Chu’s and was upset by a group of rowdy kids with skateboards including me. She was wrong, though; the weirdo we were with was a 25-year-old man. During this period I also started my first job bussing tables at a restaurant very much like Chu’s called Hunan Garden. Crab rangoon is in my veins.

My Father’s Place This would be as if Chu’s lounge was just one big restaurant that served reuben sandwiches and was patronized by proto-hipsters. I imagine it’s exactly the same now minus the proto part.

Taco Time Burgerville is the local chain that gets the most attention, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t rebrand as fresh, seasonal and sustainable until the 2000s. It used to be a burger joint plain and simple. Taco Time describes itself as an “upscale quick service restaurant chain that specializes in freshly prepared, home-style Mexican fare” on its website, which is completely untrue. You go there for tightly rolled fried burritos, half flauta, half chimichanga, now called Original Crisp Burritos, and lightly spiced tater tots a.k.a. Mexi-Fries.

Montage Technically Le Bistro Montage, the restaurant, which I never thought of as Cajun, but kind of is,  is currently located in what’s now called the Central Eastside Industrial district. It used to be on Belmont and was kind of a big deal to be open until 3am on weekends, considering bars and most everything close at least an hour before that. With white tablecloths and non-paper napkins, Montage seemed like a fancy restaurant—and certainly a step up from burritos and egg rolls—but wasn’t expensive. It was also the first place where I encountered foil animals for leftovers.

There is also an argument that could be made for Higgins, Wildwood and Paley’s Place, but those were far too grown-up and expensive for me to have any first-hand knowledge.