Review: Lovejoy Bakers (Pearl District)


Lovejoy Bakers
939 NW 10th Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97209
Map It!
Ph: 503-208-3113
Hours: 6 a.m to 8 p.m daily
Website | Menu | Facebook
Lunch Money: $$-$$$
Rating: ★★½☆☆

First of all, let me be perfectly clear about something. I suffer from standing-in-line-might-cause-me-to-die syndrome. (It’s a real thing, I think. Maybe.) So, I dare you to try to find a time during the day when there ISN’T a long-ass line at Lovejoy Bakers. I do like this place for the convenience, but sometimes I’m not in the mood to wait and wait and wait for my death…oops, I mean a sandwich.

OK, I know that’s not exactly fair, but are you freakin’ kidding me about the lines at this place?! On a good day the line is 10-people deep during non-peak hours, but at a busy time it’s pointless to wait. For as much as they charge for a sandwich here, you’d think there’d be a better, faster, more efficient system.

Beyond the line problem, there’s also the seating problem. Once you’re through the line there is (surprisingly) fairly limited seating…and a lot of it is communal, which is—at least I find personally—annoying. On nice days there’s outside seating, but this is Portland! It rains…a lot. Like 20 months of the year.

OK, for the good stuff. The sandwiches are good. I also think the bread at Lovejoy Bakers is excellent. (I’ve dropped by to pick up a baguette in the late afternoon for dinner a few times.)

I prefer to order the smaller Bistro sandwiches (currently $4 to $7.50). Why? The regular sized sandwiches are kinda expensive (currently $6.25 to $9.50) and come with a side of probably the most tasteless and watery coleslaw I’ve ever tried.

Sadly, coleslaw is the ONE AND ONLY free side option with a full-size sandwich. The other option, a side of chips, will cost $1 extra. I think that’s pretty lame. There’s a Subway across the street where you can get a foot-long sub, chips AND a soda for far less than a sandwich at Lovejoy Bakers…and with less attitude.

Oh, did I mention the attitude? Yes, there is a weird vibe at Lovejoy Bakers. Snobby for sure. You can’t just order a fountain soda (i.e., Coke, Sprite, etc.) you have to order a bottle of fancy-schmancy all-natural soda. I know it’s the Pearl District, but c’mon, not everyone who lives or works in the area wants to shell out extra dollars for a soda! (Note: the self-serve water is free.)

This MIGHT be OK if there didn’t seem to be some confusion behind the counter at times—or almost every time I’ve been there. I’d chalk it up to the long lines, and the frustration/confusion that all those hungry customers might cause, but then I saw people behind the counter standing around chit-chatting on a super busy day—ignoring me trying to inform them the self-dispense drip coffee was out and getting no response. Or that cold winter day they didn’t make my peppermint café mocha at all and had to ask after a looong wait! Not cool.

It’s sort of hard to believe Lovejoy Bakers is partially owned by the same people who founded Pizzacato in Portland, which I really love.

Overall, the sandwiches are tasty, but there are a lot of other issues to contend with before you sit down with your Lovejoy Bakers lunch. If you like long lines, annoying hipster attitudes and bussing your own tables, you might like Lovejoy Bakers. But I think I’ll skip it from now on.

PROS:
– Tasty sandwiches
– Fresh bread, which you can order to take home
– Breakfast sandwiches served all day
– They offer smaller, cheaper “Bistro” sandwiches

CONS:
– THE LINES!
– Can be hard to find seating
– Expensive for a sandwich
– The service is often below average, and you have to bus your own table
– Coleslaw is the only free side option—and it’s mediocre at best

Review: Mellow Mushroom (Pearl District)

Mellow Mushroom
1411 NW Flanders Street
Portland, Oregon 97209
Map It!
Ph: 503-224-9019
Hours: Su-Th: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; F, Sa: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Website | Menu | Twitter | Facebook
Lunch Money: $$-$$$
Rating: ★★★★☆

I’ve been meaning to write this review FOREVER…or maybe it just seems that way since Portland’s Mellow Mushroom has been open since October 2011, and it’s become the one of my regular pizza destinations in the Pearl District.

I really like the mellow-groovy vibe of the place. It’s sort of a ‘60s-hippie-meets-Portland-hipster attitude. I’ve been to MM for lunch, happy hour and dinner, and I’ve never been disappointed. Great service, friendly bartenders and, of course, lots of yummy, cheesy options to pick from!

Fair warning: The portions are large. Even the smallest pizza size can probably feed two people at lunchtime, especially if you’re starting with a salad or an appetizer. Likewise for their sandwiches and calzones. Come REALLY hungry, share or expect to have leftovers to take home.

On my visits I’ve typically stuck with the pizza menu (well…and the appetizer, beer and wine menus, too).

During lunch hours (usually from open to 2 p.m.) you can order pizza by the slice. You start with a basic cheese slice and can choose the toppings of your choice. I like this because it means your slice is made-to-order, fresh and hasn’t been sitting under a heat lamp all day.

While you can go with a build-your-own pizza (with tons of topping options), the specialty pizzas are probably my main draw to MM. Sure, there are your standard combo pies (the Hawaiian, the Mighty Meaty, the Mega Veggie types), but they also have some very creative options. The Caesar is actually topped with a Caesar salad. The Red Skin Potato Pie is like a deluxe baked potato on crust.

Speaking of the crust, the pizza crust at MM is pretty close to what I would call perfection. I’m not into deep-dish or anything too doughy, so the crunchy, crispy, yet still soft and chewy, crust is delightful. (Proof: I almost never eat the outer edge of my pizza crust, but MM’s is so good I devour the entire slice!)

MM is also well known for their massive beer selection—they offer more than 100 options! Seriously, I think any beer aficionado would be more than satisfied here. Of course, if the enormous beer menu is a wee overwhelming, just ask your server…they know their stuff. Definitely don’t be shy to ask for recommendations.

Some of my personal favorite things about MM are the appetizers, which are commonly discounted during happy hour.

The cheese bread is almost too good to be true—and huge! It’s a loaf of French bread smothered in cheese and served with a pot of marinara to dip in. Ermahgerd!!! So good.

My friends and I have also tried the fresh baked pretzels, which our server warned us would take a little longer than the typical app, but—let me tell ya—they’re well worth the wait. There are sweet or savory flavors to choose from (I personally love the garlic butter and Parmesan).

Overall, MM is a funky-fun place to grab a pizza and a brewski (especially in the pricey oasis that is the Pearl District). It’s great for groups and families, and on nice days there are a few outside tables—perfect for summertime people-watching!

PROS:
– Good pizza with excellent crust
– HUGE beer selection
– Gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options available
– Some outside seating in good weather
– Awesome cheesy bread!

CONS:
– They only offer pizza by the slice at lunchtime
– No delivery service…yet
– As always, the parking situation in the Pearl District sucks (but the streetcar is close-by)

Mellow Mushroom on Urbanspoon

Review: Mexicali Express (Beaverton)

Mexicali Express
12590 SW Canyon Road
Beaverton, Oregon 97005
Map It!
Ph: 503-643-3739
Hours: 9 a.m. to midnight daily
Website
Lunch money: $-$$
Rating: ★★★★☆

The Portland area certainly has a plethora of Mexican food options, but sometimes it seems very few of them are worth your hard earned dinero. In the heart of downtown Beaverton sits an almost DayGlo-colored painted building that advertises their video lottery machines. It’s not exactly the place you’d expect to find some of the tastiest Mexican food around…but it is.

Mexicali Express has actually been around for a couple of decades (they were originally located on West Burnside where Gaya Gaya Sushi is now). From my experience, local fast food places tend to diminish in quality over the years, get run out of business by the national chain behemoths or attempt to expand on their own.

Happily, Mexicali Express has remained almost exactly the same for the 20+ years I’ve been eating there, so I feel a little nostalgic every time I walk through the doors. The décor is FAR from fancy, and the relatively recent addition of a video lotto lounge doesn’t help—but you’re not coming here for haute cuisine; you’re coming here to nosh!

The menu is typical Mexican fast food: Tacos. Burritos. Nachos. Quesadillas. Fajitas. Enchiladas. You know the stuff. But this is no Taco Bell. The freshness and quality of the food is remarkable considering the slightly rundown location.

I almost always go with a burrito, a taco AND the Mexicali fries (which comes to about $6 total). I’m not usually a fry person, but there’s something special about those lightly seasoned potato discs that I can’t resist…especially dipped in ketchup. Yum!

Practically everyone I take to Mexicali mentions the tortilla chips and taco shells with delight—they’re light, crispy, and offer the perfect crunch. I always suggest ordering a side of chips and salsa or guacamole for your table as a starter. (Sorry, no free chips and salsa appetizer here.)

The food is full of flavor and seasoned well, but they do serve almost everything on the mild range of the spicy scale (of course, some items can be ordered with a more spicy sauce option). If you need that extra kick, they do offer an extensive fresh salsa bar with a boatload more options than you’ll find at your local Baja Fresh (that place is so bland and boring, right?).

Mexicali Express opens at 9 a.m. for breakfast (you can order breakfast burritos until 1 p.m.) and stays open until midnight daily. They also offer a convenient drive-thru. The service is fantastic, and I get the feeling that this is a family run operation because you tend to see the same faces behind the counter again and again.

Overall, this is the perfect place to hit up for a quick, fresh meal that won’t break your budget. Simple. Fresh. Fast. Delicious.

PROS:
– Fresh, fast food
– Very reasonable prices
– Fresh salsa bar
– Friendly service
– Open late and there’s a drive-thru

CONS:
– The video lottery area is a little weird
– The building is a bit of an eyesore

Mexicali Express on Urbanspoon

Review: Mac! Mac & Cheesery (NoPo)


Mac! Mac & Cheesery
3936 N. Mississippi Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97227
Map It!
Ph: 503-200-5787
Hours: Sunday-Thurs 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri/Sat 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Website | Menu | Facebook | Twitter
Lunch Money: $$
Rating: ★★★★☆

How many times have I attempted to try Tasty n Sons in NoPo? Three. How many times has the line been too long for my famished belly to wait for a table? Three.

Usually this is met with an annoying shrug and slog back to the car in the rain to seek out a less exciting lunchtime eatery…but this time was different.

This time I was prepared with an equally enticing eatery in mind as a backup plan. Mac! Mac & Cheesery has actually been on my “must eat there” list since they opened back in September of 2011, especially knowing one of my best friends (who was with me for lunch) is a self-confessed mac ‘n cheese addict.

Walking in, I immediately noticed the place was very clean and airy. The walls are lined with retro lunchboxes, which is a very cool, unique decorative touch.

Although I knew the place’s specialty was mac ‘n cheese, I have to admit I was still a bit overwhelmed by the number of options! There are 16 versions of mac ‘n cheese on the menu as well as a daily special or two. Wowza!

Because you order at the register before you sit down, you might want to grab a menu and take a look first (there’s also the menu on a chalkboard on the wall as you walk in). This was actually the hardest decision of my entire day! There were almost too many tasty things to pick from! The Caprese (mozzarella, basil and tomatoes), the Green Eggs and Ham (ham, spinach and a fried egg) and the Cordon Bleu (roasted chicken, Swiss and prosciutto) were on my short list, but then the hostess told us the specials….

POUTINE mac ‘n cheese?! Yes, please!! (Who can resist poutine? Not this Lunch Lady, that’s for sure.)

I’m pretty sure my lunch pal was equally overwhelmed by the number of mac ‘n cheese options, but he ultimately decided on the Cheeseburger version (ground beef, onions, bacon, Cheddar and topped with BBQ chips).

The two macs and two sodas rang up to be $21 before tip. Not bad at all.

We were given a number for our table and our drinks and headed upstairs to find a seat. We were happily surprised to see that the TV upstairs was tuned to the Timbers match and a few tables were occupied with legit Timers fans. I’m sure it helps that Mac! Mac & Cheesery offers a full bar!

The wait for our food was not long and our mac ‘n cheeses arrived on oversized, deep-dish plates. My eyes were as big as saucers when I saw the amount of mac ‘n cheese sitting before me. Seriously huge portions!

The first thing we both noticed was the massive amount of cheese. Mac! Mac & Cheesery must go through many, many pounds of the gooey stuff on a daily basis because calling it “cheesy” might even be an understatement.

Both macs were delicious. I loved the fried cheese curds atop my Poutine mac and the chips on the Cheeseburger mac added a tasty crunch to each bite.

Needless to say, and despite the enormous portions, both plates were practically licked clean!

Along with the mac ‘n cheese, the menu offers an array of sandwiches, salads and soups. There are plenty of veggie options and even a vegan mac and gluten-free pasta alternative.

Overall, Mac! Mac and Cheesery was fun and fantastic place to grab a hearty, quick and inexpensive lunch. Indeed, I keep thinking about the different types of mac ‘n cheese I want to try when I go back (I just wish they had a sampler option so I could try more than one at a time)!

PROS:
– Cheese
– Yummy comfort food in hearty portions
– Outside seating on warm days (great for people watching on Mississippi)
– TVs for sporting events
– Full bar and daily HH

CONS:
– Parking is always a hassle near Mississippi
– This is NOT diet food
– Wish there were a sampler option

Mac! Mac & Cheesery on Urbanspoon

Review: Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches (Hillsboro)

Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches
18033 NW Evergreen Pkwy
Hillsboro, Oregon 97006
Map It!
Ph: 503-567-3444
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
Website | Menu | Facebook | Twitter
Lunch Money: $-$$
Rating: ★★★★½

Just a few years ago (like two years ago, actually) there were no Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwich restaurants in Portland at all, now there are seven* of the shops in the metro area.

I know, I know. You’re thinking: “Why do we need another sandwich shop in town, and it’s a chain place on top of that…?”

Here’s why: Jimmy John’s is really good, really fresh AND really affordable.

As far as the chain shops go, Subway might have their $5 Footlongs (and those uber-annoying commercial jingles to go with), but they’re the low man on the totem pole as far as a sandwich spots go these days. Quizno’s toasts their subs, but the service is soooo sloooow and the food is still just blah. Big Town Hero? They used to be good (about 10 years ago), but as their prices have gone up, the quality seems to have gone down.

Jimmy John’s is really changing my expectations of what a “fast food” sandwich place should offer. With their delish made-daily French bread, fresh ingredients and quick service, it’s really hard to overlook this relative newcomer to the Portland sandwich scene…and with sandwiches going from $3.75 (plain) to $5.75 (loaded), it’s REALLY hard to beat their prices. (NOTE: Prices may vary depending on location.)

I was itching to get out of the city, so a friend and I high-tailed it to Tanasbourne for some retail therapy and lunch. While there are plenty of lunch places in the NW 185th area, I knew there was a Jimmy John’s nearby and I’d been craving a big, cold cut sub for ages. Jimmy John’s was next to our next retail target, Target, so it was a done deal.

Being a newbie to JJ’s, I quickly studied the menu, and decided on the 8” #5, The Vito: Genoa salami, provolone, capicola, onion, lettuce, tomato and zesty Italian vinaigrette on their famous French bread roll. My shopping pal, who’s familiar with JJ’s due to Midwest roots, went for the #10, Hunter’s Club: roast beef, provolone, lettuce, tomato and mayo.

Within seconds our sandwiches were ready to eat! It’s really, really speedy service.

While the sandwiches at JJ’s aren’t all that bad for you to begin with (it’s really easy to get the nutritional information), you can have your sandwich prepared on 7-grain wheat bread or they’ll even make your sub into a lettuce wrap. This is nice because swimsuit season will be here soon (I hope)!

One thing I really like is that JJ’s also offers delivery. This is fantastic for that workday when you don’t have time to leave the desk for lunch. Just call or place your order online and, voila, lunch is on its way!

Overall, I was very pleased with my first JJ’s experience. I actually took half my sandwich home and enjoyed it the next day for lunch and it WASN’T soggy! That’s an impressive feat!!

PROS:
Affordable prices
Just tastes better than the competition
Large sandwiches with good meat, veggie and cheese portions
FAST service
They deliver (check for exact delivery areas)
Online ordering

CONS:
Wish there were more locations!

[*Note: Currently, there are seven Jimmy John’s in the Portland area: one downtown, one in NE PDX, one in Tigard, two in Beaverton, one in Vancouver and one in Hillsboro.)

Review: Foster Burger (SE Portland)


Foster Burger
5339 SE Foster Rd
Portland, Oregon 97206
Map It!
Ph: 503-775-2077
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
Website | Menu | Facebook | Twitter
Lunch money: $$-$$$
Rating: ★★★★☆

Although I’ve known of the existence of Foster Burger since they opened in late 2009, I’d yet had the opportunity to make the trek into deep SE Portland until last week…and my visit was actually by accident.

You see, I was headed home from Happy Valley (a misnomer if there ever was one) and had planned to check out a popular noodle spot on 82nd, but then something came over me, a craving for a burger and fries. As I crossed over Foster Road, something from my subconscious said: “Make a u-turn and go to Foster Burger.”

So I did.

I easily found a parking spot (street parking only, but it doesn’t seem too tough to find spots) and my friend and I headed in with high expectations.

OK, I know this is a gritty part of town and I’m no stranger to the “weird” underbelly of this cray-cray city, but I was still a little surprised by the location of this widely praised “family-friendly” place. It’s two doors down from Devil’s Point strip club and across the street from a Fantasy Video and a place called Pussycats (which offers lingerie “modeling”).

That aside, Foster Burger is a pretty cool spot. The walls are covered with old concert handbills, the booths are comfy and the dim lighting sets a cozy tone.

We arrived right before the rush, snagged a booth and our server was promptly there to drop off the menus.

Foster Burger’s menu is simple: burgers, fries and some sides (this is a burger place, after all).

If you go the traditional burger route, you’ll pick your burger size and add-on any number of the topping options (from the basics like cheese to more eccentric items like pickled beets). The menu also offers a few preset specialty burgers. One thing to know when ordering is all burgers are cooked medium unless you request otherwise to the waiter.

I went with the standard Foster Burger (plus Cheddar, minus onion) and my lunch pal ordered the burger of the day, the Miss Piggy. The Miss Piggy is a belly-buster, with the beef patty topped with pork belly, bacon, pastrami, Swiss and American cheese. Whoa!

Because the burgers come sans sides, we decided to split an order of the Black and White Fries (topped with parmesan, truffle oil and served with a house made squid ink aioli dipping sauce).

Our Black and White Fries were deposited at out table before the burgers arrived, appetizer like. The fries were perfectly crunchy-yet-tender and the uber-black dipping sauce was initially daunting, but ultimately delicious. The one downside to having the fries arrive first is trying to resist the urge to over-snack before your burgers. Note: The burgers are BIG! So try to resist.

Our burgers arrived perfectly cooked, with just a little pink in the middle. My burger was cheesy, juicy and mouth-watering. This is NOT the place to worry about counting calories. On top of that, literally, the buttery brioche-style sesame bun is excellent (and made next door at An Xuyen Bakery). The side of special “Foster sauce” was great on the burger AND on the fries.

After my share of fries, I could only get through half of my burger (the other half was a decidedly satisfying late-night snack).

My pal’s Miss Piggy burger was massive and he thoroughly enjoyed every last bite. You’ll need to be hungry to tackle that one!

One thing that especially delights me about Foster Burger is that they offer poutine. Not familiar? Poutine is the French-Canadian delicacy of fries covered with cheese curds and then doused in gravy. Sound gooey good? It is! And you’ll be in poutine heaven at Foster Burger because they offer SIX different varieties. That might be a record number of options outside of the Maple Leaf country.

Sadly, I took a pass on the poutine that visit, but it’s on my ‘must-eat’ list for a future trip to Foster Burger.

Another thing I really like about Foster Burger is that you can control the portions you order. If even a “regular” sized burger is too much (and it is a lot), you can order the Mini Foster. If you’re extra famished, then there’s the Double Foster.

As for veggie options, well, there’s a veggie burger and an entrée-sized green salad—and that’s about it.

There are adult drinks aplenty at Foster Burger, from specialty cocktails to draft microbrews to their signature “cockshakes”—a milkshake with a shot of your choice. As for soda, you should know the colas are Royal Crown, which seem to have a love it or hate it relationship with Portland cola drinkers.

Overall, Foster Burger is a fun burger joint that caters to the neighborhood crowd, SE hipster and (it seems) parents. It might not be the burger place for everyone, but I’m certain I’ll be back!

PROS:
– Portions are as small or as big as you want!
– POUTINE
– The yummy buns practically melt in your mouth

CONS:
– Sketchy neighborhood
– Can get crowded; avoid peak dining times if you don’t want to wait

Foster Burger on Urbanspoon

Photo Gallery: Cosmic Soda Pop & Candy Shop

Cosmic Soda Pop & Candy Shop
(formerly Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shop)
817 SE 34th Avenue (between Belmont and Morrison)
Portland, Oregon 97214
Map It!
Ph: 503-894-8980
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Website | Facebook | Twitter
Candy money: $$
Rating: ★★★★½

With more than 200 varieties of unique and hard-to-find bottled sodas, more retro candy than you could ever desire, a counter-service soda fountain with floats, malts, shakes and egg creams, how could you go wrong?!

Also, did I mention the shrine to Portland icon “Ramblin’ Rod” (the charismatic hero to children growing up in PDX from the ‘70s to the ‘90s*)?

Seriously, what could be more fun than that??!!

Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shop, which opened in January in the Belmont Dairy Building, offers a convenient trip back to your childhood and a place for modern kids to explore some sweet treats from the past.

There’s free Wi-Fi and lots of space to peruse the products or simply sit, relax and enjoy a fountain drink.

This is a great place to stop on a rainy afternoon or a cool destination for a weekend bike ride…or just pop in anytime you are looking for some fun!

My only complaint is that I found TOO much candy I wanted to buy, and they don’t currently seem to offer baskets to carry around as you explore the store—but you can stash your growing candy pile at the counter while you shop.

[*Note: I was a Ramblin’ Rod Smile Contest winner, but my sugar-conscious mother never let me drink the Pop Shoppe grape soda I received as my prize. I guess I can have all the Pop Shoppe grape soda I want now!! Take that, Mom! ☺]

Review: Sushi Train (Tualatin)

Sushi Train
19239 SW Martinazzi Avenue
Tualatin, OR 97062
Map It!
Ph: 503-885-2545
Facebook
Lunch money: $$-$$$
Rating: ★★★★★

[Note: I originally reviewed Sushi Train more than three years ago (where does the time go?), so I felt I should update everyone on one of my fave “secret” sushi spots.]

I honestly have no idea how I discovered Sushi Train a few years ago, but it has become a favorite destination with a special place in my stomach (and the stomachs of several of my closest friends). You see, Sushi Train is a tiny place in the middle of a strip mall in Tualatin…yes, you read that right, Tualatin. As in the ‘burbs Tualatin. Yet, anytime I’m craving good, quick sushi, this is my go-to place.

Sure it’s quite the hike for many of us PDX urbanites who both live and work in town, but—trust me on this—it’s well worth the almost 30-mile round trip trek! If you already live or work in the Tualatin area then you are just a tad bit luckier than the rest of us sushi lovers.

As the name infers, Sushi Train is a conveyor belt sushi spot. The dining area is a mix of counter seating and tables, but even with a group I prefer counter seating…it’s just more fun!

The sushi at Sushi Train is not only very fresh and tasty, but some of the plates could almost be considered edible pieces of art. One thing that I especially like about Sushi Train is that there is typically lots of variety on the “train” to pick from. Of course, if you don’t see what you want on the conveyor belt, just ask one of the many chefs and they will quickly whip up whatever you’re hungry for.

While there isn’t much explanation as to what the plated items are (and that can be a little confusing if you don’t have sushi a lot), you can usually identify what’s on a plate by matching the plate’s color on the menu charts. Or start by perusing the sushi menu then look for matching item on the belt. This is especially fun if you are in the mood to try something new.

Plates range from $1 to $4, so it’s easy to fill up without spending tons of cash. I can usually get out of there completely satiated for less than $10. Even if you have a huge appetite and your finished plate stack goes sky high, you’ll probably be surprised how reasonable the prices are. Continue reading Review: Sushi Train (Tualatin)

Review: Boke Bowl (SE Industrial District)

Boke Bowl
1028 SE Water Avenue
Portland, OR 97214
Map It!
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Menu
Lunch money: $$-$$$
Rating: ★★★★½

Portland has a lot of noodle options. Like, A LOT of noodle options. So when the buzz-a-thon about Boke Bowl opening their first permanent location began to spread via Twitter, I knew I was going to have to check it out…stat.

If you’re unfamiliar, the Boke Bowl craze actually dates back to September 2010 when the owners launched their first pop-up dinner, and since that first special event Boke Bowl has won the attention and affection of many a foodie and non-foodie alike.

I really didn’t know what to expect for my first lunchtime visit to their new SE Water Avenue location (just across from clarklewis and next door to Bunk Bar), but I did expect it to be crowded. And it was. We arrived just before noon on a Tuesday and the line stretched the length of the front windows…but luckily there is a good amount of standing room inside (otherwise that’s a big dealbreaker on rainy PDX days).

You order and pay at the counter and then (hopefully) find a seat. There’s a massive menu displayed on the wall and the ordering process is straightforward. Pick a dashi (Japanese-style stock) flavor, choose anything you would like to add on and you’re done!

Boke Bowl also offers a couple side dishes (kimchi, assorted pickles, etc.), steamed buns and desserts just in case that oversized bowl of noodles, veggies and deliciousness wasn’t quite filling enough.

I went with the pork and chicken dashi, which includes smoked pulled pork ($9) and my lunch pal went for the seafood miso dashi with shrimp ($10). We also indulged our sweet tooths and opted to get the chocolate with coconut cream Boke twinkie.

We were lucky enough on that visit to find a place to sit right away. There are several single tables, but the most common seating option is the communal long tables. While the communal style might seem a little awkward at first, you never really feel that your dining neighbors are too close for comfort. Continue reading Review: Boke Bowl (SE Industrial District)

Brunch Review: Pink Rose (The Pearl)

Pink Rose
1300 NW Lovejoy Street
Portland, OR 97209
Map It!
Ph: 503-482-2165
Website | Twitter | Facebook |Menu
Lunch money: $$-$$$
Rating: ★★★★☆

What’s the best part of the weekend? Brunch, of course! But finding an affordable, upscale brunch in Portland (where the wait list time is less than an hour) can be difficult.

So when I recently stopped by Pink Rose in the Pearl for a quick happy hour with friends, a glimpse at their brunch menu and I knew I had to return…soon. Like that very weekend. And I did. [Note: Our server mentioned the bottomless mimosas for just $10—how could I possibly pass that up?!?!]

Seeing that their location is just steps from Stumptown Lunch headquarters, I’d been meaning to try the food at Pink Rose ever since they opened up this past August. Alas, it took the arrival of the cold, wind and rain (and the accompanying “I don’t want to go out in this weather” mood) to get me in the door.

Now I’m kicking myself for waiting so long.

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays Pink Rose has a special brunch menu that includes all things meaty, gooey, cheesy, bacon-y and toasty! Seriously, there is something to please just about everyone—although if you are veggie/vegan the options are somewhat limited (although they do seem to make some substitutions upon request).

I started off with a mimosa (obviously) and my brunch buddy started with a big cup of coffee. The coffee arrived with THREE different types of sugar and my oversized glass of chilled champagne and orange juice was pure delightfulness.

I ordered my usual, a breakfast sandwich ($6), and brunch buddy went with the turkey Benedict ($12), both were served with potatoes. The portions were perfect for my appetite—hearty, but not overwhelming. I particularly loved the very fresh avocado on my breakfast sandwich. In fact, everything tasted very fresh. My brunch buddy offered up a taste of his turkey Benedict and it was very flavorful…and completely delicious! We both devoured almost everything on the plate. There were no leftovers! Continue reading Brunch Review: Pink Rose (The Pearl)

Review: Hamburger Mary’s (Old Town)


Hamburger Mary’s
19 NW 5th Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97209
Map It!
Ph: 503-688-1200
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Menu
Lunch money: $$-$$$
Rating: ★★★★☆
 
My recent visit to Portland’s “new” Hamburger Mary’s was on a whim. I was meeting up with a friend and we hadn’t devised a lunch destination in advance. As we headed toward our planned meet up spot, he text suggested Mary’s.  I immediately agreed.

I had yet to visit the new version of this venerable eatery…and I hadn’t been to any other Hamburger Mary’s since the original Portland location closed in the ‘90s. Now the “new” Mary’s has been open for a full year…totally time for a visit!

The self-proclaimed “gayest” restaurant in town certainly has an expansive menu, but what else could you want from an establishment called Hamburger Mary’s other than a big, juicy hamburger? And the hamburger menu alone is fat with options. There are standard burgers and specialty burgers, but then you get to pick your meat (or meatless) patty options—they offer everything from vegan to black bean to buffalo to Kobe beef.

I went with the simple Mary Burger with cheddar cheese and tater tots on the side. My lunch buddy went with the Spicy Mary, which comes piled high with jalapenos, spicy Mojo sauce and blackening seasoning, and chose a side of fries.

I wasn’t truly prepared for the size of the burgers that soon landed on our table. Huge. Massive, in fact. I liked that each burger came with a extra large steak knife because a.) the heaping burgers are stuffed with toppings and b.) unless you are super-duper hungry, you’re probably going to have leftovers for later.

The burger verdict? The meat was juicy, the toppings were very fresh and the bun was, like, WOWZA! Seriously, the buns are amazing. Our server told us they are made locally daily and (*cringe*) made of 25 percent butter. So, so, so good. Continue reading Review: Hamburger Mary’s (Old Town)

Review: Agave Azul (Gresham)

Agave Azul
155 SE Vista Avenue
Gresham, OR 97080
Map It!
503-674-0654
Hours: Sun/Mon 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tue – Sat 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Lunch money: $$
Rating: ★★★★½

Just off (very busy) Powell Boulevard on a quiet side street in Gresham is a little burnt orange colored house that’s been transformed into one of the best Mexican places in the Portland area. No joke. Seriously…no joke.

Arriving at Agave Azul was a little confusing…um, which one’s the right door to enter? Um, is it OK to park on that street, there’s no parking sign? Use the side door and, yes, there’s plenty of FREE parking…even on the street. (Living in Portland can make you parking sign crazy, but this is Gresham.)

But once inside we were quickly seated and handed our menus. The dining room was tiny, very clean, sparsely decorated and (surprisingly) kinda empty considering it was primetime lunchtime on a Wednesday. (Note: there is also additional seating in the adjacent bar/lounge area through the saloon-style doors.)

Starting off, they offer a unique complimentary appetizer—a soft bean taco with a side of fresh salsa hot sauce—instead of the typical jumbo-sized basket of chips and salsa. We were, again, a little confused by this at first, but then realized it actually makes some sense. How often does your entrée arrive at a Mexican restaurant and you’re already too stuffed full of chips? If you’re like us, that happens a lot!

While the complete Agave Azul menu is expansive, we were determined to stick to the lunch menu and its super cheap prices—most dishes run about $6(!)—and we were absolutely NOT disappointed. The lunch menu was quite varied with your typical Mexican fare: tacos, burritos, lots of meat and seafood options…even the pickiest eater will likely find something to happily chow down on.

We ordered the tacos de pescado (fish tacos, duh). The two tacos were piled high with grilled white fish, tomato, onion, cilantro, lime and crème fraiche. We gobbled them both up in record-setting speed! OMG GOOD! The flavors and texture were mastication perfection on a doubled-up corn tortilla!

Our lunch buddy went with a beef burrito with mole sauce—and it was massive! We’re talking seriously substantial.

The portions were on the large size, which can be expected at most Mexican joints, but it wasn’t too overwhelming. Of course, with food that delicious, neither of us had enough left over to warrant asking for doggie bags.

The service was exceptional from beginning to end—attentive, but not pushy. Our food came out super quick, but we never felt rushed. Our check for two people was less than $15! Not bad for a satisfying, belly-filling meal.

Sure, it’s a little off the beaten path, but it’s certainly unique in its shabby Mexi-chic charm and the food rivals some of the better-known Mexican restaurants in Portland. It might just be our new fave après-ski spot after a long winter day of skiing and boarding on Mt. Hood.

GO! Just go and taste for yourself! We just wish we’d been off the clock so we could try one of the margaritas!

PROS:
– Excellent food
– Lunch menu is very affordable
– Great service

CONS:
– Could use a slight ambiance upgrade
– Might be hard to find if you’re not familiar with the area
– Wish it were closer to our house!!

Agave Azul on Urbanspoon