I started Portland with Burgerville, partially because I wanted a Colossal Cheeseburger (they aren’t really colossal) for the road, but mostly because I needed to use a bathroom and the Beaverton location is sort of on the way between downtown, where the Bolt Bus dropped me off from Seattle and my mom picked me up, and her place at the coast. I was chided for not getting the seasonal chocolate hazelnut shake and I still regret it. Burgerville spread rules so hard they’ve jarred it.
Posts tagged ‘Beaver State of Mind’
Because I enjoy generalizing and like seeing the world through my own experiences, I have no problem stating that Oregonians don’t really eat seafood. Not natives anyway. And Dungeness crab aside, local bounties don’t get their due either. You’ve probably had Washington oysters, maybe northern Californian (even in Seattle, some Humboldt Bay bivalves float their way onto menus) but do you even hear about Oregon oysters? I don’t. I don’t even know why.
Regional chain Mo’s and its famous thick, buttery clam chowder is probably the only coastal restaurant with name recognition. And this treatment from the Sterns in Saveur a few years ago is the only food-focused article on the area that I can recall seeing in recent history. It’s strange how so much coastal food is overpriced and geriatric and ‘90s continental crusted in hazelnuts. I just wanted to eat fresh fish, which is how I ended up coercing my mom and stepdude 75 miles from where I was staying in Nehalem, and my sister and her husband (even after a decade, brother-in-law sounds weird) 120 miles from their base in Eugene to Local Ocean Seafoods in Lincoln City for a belated Christmas dinner. (Yep, it’s now April–I’m determined to rein 2016 back in.)
I post sporadically enough that I can’t imagine anyone wondering about a few days or even a week of quietude. But just in case, I have been soaking up the pre-Portlandia Northwest and avoiding the blizzard while getting rained on daily.
Goths schlumping along 82nd Avenue across from the Sizzler was my favorite Portland image as of yesterday afternoon.
And then I found out that Fred Meyer, the best regional grocery store ever, had a bar occupied by youths at all hours, so that caught my fancy.
Only two more days left of this.
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.P.S. No one ever uttered or wrote “Keep Portland weird” in my multi-decade Portland lifetime.
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.)
Rheinlander 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.
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.
Wild may be the new Eat, Pray, Love, though I'm guessing with less of the eating? I was surprised to see the Bridge of the Gods mentioned on one of the first pages; it was the author's ending point on her 1,000 mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. Do you know what else sits right next to the Bridge of the Gods? Char Burger, the world's best wild west-themed eatery with a cartoon Native American mascot and a view of the Columbia River! I waited 309 pages for the author to reach her final destination–and she celebrates with an ice cream from East Wind Drive-in. WTF? I've never even heard of it. I don't think I can be inspired by an inspirational memoir that doesn't involve Char Burger.
I hope to get around to writing more about the food—it was uniformly good, from food truck porchetta, pigeon crudo to a copy cat Mugaritz dish—I encountered in Portland. In the meantime, here are some photos and non-surprising surface observations from someone who hasn’t lived in the city for 13 years.
People move incredibly slow. You will miss the lightrail waiting for a free ticket machine even though the doors are left open for what feels like five minutes. You will not make it off the lightrail and to the corner in any reasonable amount of time because everyone shuffles in a big zombie mass (you would think sports sandals would make one zippier) and you can’t break free without being rude. I want to say that I was never this slow, but I do recall the first time I visited NYC in ’94 that the subway doors seemed to open and shut in a split second and I was hyper-concerned about not getting smashed in them.
If you don’t smile and talk a lot when making transactions or even say hi to strangers on the street (WTF? I know I never did that) you also seem rude. An NYC friend who visited Portland the week before I did, said she felt compelled to buy things she didn’t necessarily want in stores because of this. I did not.
Strangers make long, sustained eye contact, i.e. stare. You are not my lover and I don’t even abide that from people I know. This occurred on the street, in restaurants and on public transportation. I wanted to shout “What do you want?!” I guess you’re supposed to say hi?
A normal response to “I’ll have a coffee/donut/cocktail” will be “cool.” I have been known to respond similarly, probably inappropriately in business situations, but I am not in the service industry.
No one can merge onto the freeway (I can’t either and it’s the reason why I flunked my second driving test). The concept of speeding up to squeeze in does not exist.
Everyone under 35 really does have elaborate tattoos. I often feel self-conscious in NYC with two fairly small ones.
90% of families will be wearing sport sandals and cargo shorts or demin shorts. Gussied up with a polo when it’s warm or polar fleece when it’s cool, this is perfectly acceptable apparel for fine dining. Women will also be breastfeeding at upscale restaurants, but that’s probably no different from Brooklyn.
If you make a reservation after 8:15pm, it is very likely you will end up being the last party left in the restaurant.
Straight women have man hair. I like short hair on women. This is not that.
When Cochon 555 came to Portland (my love-hate hometown) strip clubs were involved (not sure if it's true but travel writers always like pointing out that the city has the highest number of tittie bars per capita) bones were fractured, heads were butted, arrests were made. And supposedly over the winning pig being from Iowa. Locavore rage! The only thing missing are vegan militants on fixed gear bikes crashing the party. Compost or die!
When I first moved here, I would often catch myself saying, "That's so New York." Twelve years later and I still don't understand why you get a straw, napkin and a bag for a soda or why people who think it's a good idea to eat fried chicken on-the-go throw the bones on the sidewalk instead of in a garbage can, but lately I find myself thinking "That is so Portland" with alarming frequency.
Image from Brownie Points