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: 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

Special Review: Boke Bird Dinner @ Boke Bowl


Boke Bird Dinner @ Boke Bowl
1028 SE Water Avenue
Portland, OR 97214
Map It!
Hours: Thursday nights **ONLY** from 5 to 9:30 p.m.
No reservations! Walk-in only.
Menu | Twitter
Rating: ★★★★☆

Dear Lunch Lady,

You do know the name of this website is Stumptown Lunch, right? Why the heck are you reviewing a dinner spot?

Love,
Your devoted readers
xoxoxoxoxo

OK, I know, I know…technically this is a dinner review, but it’s a very unique dinner review. While Boke Bowl is open Monday through Saturday for their very delicious ramen bowl lunches, they also open up their dining room every Thursday night for a very special eating event: the Boke Bird Dinner.

When I received an email announcing the debut of Boke Bird Dinners in late December I was so excited to try it that I pushed my birthday dinner back one day so that I could do it there.

The idea behind Boke Bird Dinner is very straightforward. Korean fried chicken and an array of sides served family style.

Like Boke Bowl at lunch, there is a somewhat limited menu, but there are options for both meat-eaters and veggies alike.

Unlike Boke Bowl at lunch, you are seated before you place your order, which gives this casual lunch spot a bit more of a formal feel. Despite that, the place will still be rather loud, very busy and your neighboring diners will likely be elbow-bumping distance away.

The chicken (or fried tofu for you veggies) is what you’re here for. You can order a half bird ($25/serves 2-3 ppl) or a whole bird ($50/serves 4-5 ppl) depending on how many people are eating. Along with the chicken come the standard sides: kimchi, assorted pickled vegetables, roasted seaweed, ginger/green onion steamed rice, steamed buns and the special orange dot sauce (ODS) for the chicken.

Still hungry? There are a variety of additional sides and desserts to order as well, including sautéed mushrooms, noodles, greens, salad, fried pears, Boke twinkies, fried pies and soft serve ice cream.

One thing I particularly liked about dinner was the pace. It wasn’t rushed and food came out in courses before the big plate of bird arrived at the table. At times it was a little frustrating to manage all the plates on our small table, but that’s a small price to pay for such high-quality, delicious food.

All in all, our dinner lasted about 90 minutes. This is not fast food by any means.

The service was good and prompt, although they do seem to get VERY busy and one of our courses almost ended up on a neighboring table.

Here’s the one thing I DO NOT LIKE: You can no longer make reservations for dinner. Initially they went with a reservation only system, then they quickly changed it to both reservations and walk-in, but as of last week it’s first-come/first-serve ONLY.

I’m sure the owners have their own reasons for this, but I’m a bit bummed. You see, there is almost always a line at Boke Bowl and not a lot of places to wait around for a table…and not a whole lot of places nearby to bide your time if you’re waiting. Even with our reservation for dinner, we waited about 10 minutes for our table. Others, without reservations that night, seemed to have to linger in the small waiting area for quite some time.

Overall, Boke Bird Dinner, like Boke Bowl itself, is quite a treat. The most important thing is to know and expect is that there will be lines and dinner will linger longer than most places. But, if you can muster up the patience, you won’t regret it!

PROS:
– Melt-in-your-mouth chicken. Delish!
– High-quality, fresh food served at a reasonable pace
– Fun family style meal
– Very reasonably priced

CONS:
– No longer taking reservations
– You’ll most likely have to wait in line ☹
– The tables are rather small for all the plates of food

HH Review: Trader Vic’s (The Pearl)

Trader Vic’s
1203 NW Glisan Street
Portland, OR 97209
Map It!
Ph: 503-467-2277
HH Hours: 3 to 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close M-F; all day on Sundays
Website | Facebook | Twitter
Lunch money: $$$-$$$$
Rating: ★★½☆☆

I wanted to love the happy hour at Trader Vic’s, I really, really did. It’s convenient to home and work, I love all things kitschy and the happy hour goes from 3 until 6:30 p.m. on weekdays (as well as from 10p.m. to close on weekdays AND all day on Sundays).

After they opened their reincarnated Portland location last summer, I noticed Trader Vic’s was almost always packed, so I assumed the famous Polynesian-themed eatery would certainly be a treat for the taste buds. Sadly, I was disappointed.

I guess my first clue should have been apparent as soon as I arrived on a Wednesday evening about 5:15 and the place was not busy at all. This seemed so bizarre. They’re located in the Pearl, where popular happy hour spots are notorious for filling up within minutes of opening. They were getting loads of positive press just a few months ago. The restaurant and bar were aesthetically pleasing and there was ambient music playing.

So where were all the HH peeps at?

Then I realized something. I don’t think anyone I know has actually mentioned they’ve tried Trader Vic’s yet.

OK, so here’s what went down. I arrived and found my party—which was easy because it was one of the few tables in the bar area that was occupied at the time. Our server gave me a couple of menus: the happy hour menu, the cocktail menu and the regular bar menu.

Complaint #1: It seemed that our table hadn’t been properly cleaned because one corner of the tabletop was so sticky my sweater kept getting stuck to it. Yuck.

Anyway, because we’ve run the gamut of wintery weather of late in Portland, I was eager to jump right in and order a fun tropical drink. I started with the Rangoon Ruby ($5), which was described to me as something of a vodka/cranberry/grenadine combo. Verdict: Blah. A little too sweet and it tasted like grenadine and nothing else.

One friend ordered the classic Mai Tai, so I sampled a sip. WOW! No wonder that’s Trader Vic’s signature drink! Delish. I quickly switched to a Maui Mai Tai and was completely content.

As for the food at Trader Vic’s happy hour? Well, this was the real problem I had. It was just not very good. It was bland. Average. Meh. More like something you’d expect from a boring chain place in the ‘burbs rather than a well-known restaurant in the Pearl.

One friend ordered the Shanghai Caesar salad ($4) and the pork sliders ($6). We both thought the salad looked good, but he said it wasn’t tasty at all. As for the sliders, he was really disappointed with the flavor and the portion size (just two smallish sliders). I noticed that the sliders reeked of onions.

Another friend opted for the mini tidbit plate ($7). “Mini” is a good way to describe it…there was hardly any food! Just one prawn, one crab Rangoon, a slice of char sui pork and one BBQ sparerib. It was about the size of a preschooler’s snack!

I opted for two skewers of chicken sate ($2 each), and I thought they were a bit rubbery and the peanut dipping sauce was one of the worst I think I’ve ever had. It was runny and lacked flavor.

Overall, the only reason I would come back to Trader Vic’s for happy hour is for the Mai Tais—and I’m disappointed that I feel this way. Totally skip the food. If you want some South Pacific-style fare in the same part of town, walk just TWO blocks west to Hawaiian Time!

PROS:
– The Mai Tais are the (maybe only) reason to come here. $6/$6.50 during HH
– The service was attentive (and, according to a male friend, “attractive”)
– Nice decor
– Live music is a plus

CONS:
– The food was bland
– Not enough food options on the happy hour menu
– Happy hour food portions are too small
– Parking in the Pearl is just ridiculous. Take the streetcar.

Trader Vic's on Urbanspoon

Video: Yelp’s Party at OMSI for Game On 2.0

We got invited to attend Yelp’s party at OMSI to celebrate the Game On 2.0 exhibit on Saturday, September 17. Although it was crazy-crowded, we had a great time checking out all that the museum has to offer…as well as all the yummy free snacks and (adult) beverages. Great party, OMSI and Yelp! Check out all the action (or at least most of it as our camera battery unexpectedly died)!! CHEERS!

Gallery: Some Summer 2011 Food Porn

Oh, summer, where have you gone? Didn’t this summer seem to fly by faster than usual? (Maybe that was because summertime weather didn’t arrive in PDX until about August?) Of course, as we look back at these photos, we realize we certainly made the most of our eating opportunities over the past few months. Here’s our (actually short) gallery of some of the tasty tidbits we consumed. Enjoy!

Gallery: Bite of Oregon (Part 2)

Yet another wonderful Bite of Oregon weekend wrapped up Sunday evening, and I’m sure plenty of Portlanders and PDX visitors happily walked away with burstin’ bellies. We know we did!

Our Favorites
Entree: Pork ribs (Adam’s Rib, Salem)
Small plate: Kobe slider with wasabi mayo (Rogue, Portland)
Side: Asian spiced potato chips (The Reserve Vineyards, Aloha)
Dessert: Miss Hannah’s Gourmet Popcorn (Tualatin)
Wine: Sangria (Hip Chicks Do Wine, Portland)
Beer: Watershed IPA (Oakshire Brewing, Eugene)

What were your favorite Bite bites and bevvies??

We already can’t wait until 2012. Cheers!

Gallery: Bite of Oregon (Part 1)

Busy, BUSY weekend here in Stumptown. We have many more Bite photos to post, but in the meantime take a taste of the 2011 event! Cheers! P.S., The Bite runs 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday, so you still have time to check out the delicious treats yourself.

Are you going to Bite?

Ready for The Bite of Oregon this weekend? We are!! It’s our favorite summer food weekend of the year. We love to taste-test delicious tidbits from all around our beautiful state. Great food, delightful drinks, rockin’ entertainment and a fun crowd…all that, and it benefits Special Olympics Oregon! Awesome! :)

Here are the deets:
FOOD
WINE/BEER
ENTERTAINMENT

WHEN
Friday, August 12, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Saturday, August 13, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sunday, August 14, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

WHERE
Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Portland

ADMISSION
$15 Weekend Pass
$10 One Day Pass
$5 Early Bird Special (Friday entry before 2 p.m.)

[NOTE: Admission does not include the price of food or beverage.]

We sadly missed the 2010 event, but check out our seriously fun photos from 2009. Gallery: Bite of Oregon 2009

Review: The Rock Wood Fired Pizza (Wood Village)

The Rock Wood Fired Pizza & Spirits
22401 NE Glisan Street
Wood Village, OR 97060
Map It!
503-328-8498
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to midnight daily
Website | Twitter: @TheRock_WFP | Facebook Page | Menu
Lunch money: $$
Rating: ★★★★☆

You could say there’s already an overabundance of pizza places in the Portland area. We’ve got the national chains (Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Round Table), we’ve the local chains (Bellagio’s, Hot Lips, Pizza Schmizza, Izzy’s), then there are the one-off specialty pizza shops (Dante’s pizza window, Apizza Scholls, Ken’s Artisan, Firehouse) and now even pizza food carts, so why on Earth would we need another pizza place?

How about a new pizza place with a reasonably priced lunchtime buffet, a fun rock ‘n’ roll theme and interesting urinals in the men’s room? Yeah, that’s right, interesting urinal artwork.

The Rock Wood Fired Pizza & Spirits is actually part of a small Washington-based chain and their very first Oregon location opened in Wood Village (that’s near Gresham) in June.

We know, we know. Wood Village? For lunch? Sure, it’s a bit of a trek for most Portlanders—especially if your lunch hour really is a hour—but if you live and/or work in the greater Gresham area, The Rock should be on your list of new places to check out.

The Rock is a classic rock theme restaurant, but the theme part is actually a lot better than you might expect—i.e., it’s not that cheesy. The interior is decked out in faux graffiti, band memorabilia, neon signs and there’s lots of exposed brick and pipes. It’s actually quite strange to walk into the rather nondescript strip mall building into the much more interestingly decorated interior of The Rock. Also, as mentioned, they have some very unique urinals (which an awesome male friend offered to photograph for us).

Initially we were planning to go big and dive into the buffet, but then (after much consideration regarding how food-filled our summer has been) decided to scale back a bit and just get a personal-sized pizza. The pizza menu is a large as you would expect, and they offer several different sauce options including classic tomato, creamy white sauce and garlicky butter.

Specialty pizzas abound at The Rock, each bearing a rock song related name (“Crazy Little Thing,” “Crazy Train,” “California Dreamin’,” and “Revolution” to name a few).

We chose the “Stairway to Heaven” 9-inch pie, which had the garlic butter base topped with mozzarella cheese and then baked. Once out of the massive wood-burning pizza oven, they added fresh arugula, diced tomatoes, prosciutto and Parmesan. Continue reading Review: The Rock Wood Fired Pizza (Wood Village)

HH Review: Emanon Cafe

Emanon Cafe
1000 NW 17th Avenue
Portland, OR 97209
Map It!
503-222-6435
Business Hours: M-Sat 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sun 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Happy Hour: M-F 3 to 6:30 p.m., Sat 3 p.m. to close
Website | Twitter: @emanoncafe | Facebook Page
Menu | Lunch Money: $$ to $$$
Rating: ★★★½☆

When we tell friends we’re headed to Emanon we often get a confused look, followed by “Where’s Emanon?” or “What’s Emanon?” And, honestly, we kind of like it that way. You see, Emanon is a cozy neighborhood café/bar tucked away on a quiet block on the outskirts of the Pearl District.

But unlike uber-trendy, sometimes-pretentious Pearl restaurants and bars, Emanon is casual and low-key. It’s the perfect place to sit outside on a sunny afternoon and partake in some happy hour-ing. A nice chilled beer or cocktail and a bite from the delightful $4 food menu (currently featuring a dozen options) can take the edge off even the toughest, roughest day.

The $4 dishes are as simple as fries or onion rings and get more substantial with nachos, sliders or crab cakes. During happy hour micro brews are $4.50, well drinks are $3.50, a glass of red or white wine is $4 and a specialty martini is $5.

We’d just finished up a grueling day of shopping at IKEA (on a Saturday, no less), so we were ready to take a seat, soak up some sun and get our grub on! We met up with friends and grabbed a sidewalk table. Our friendly lady server arrived quickly to take our drink order and returned with our adult beverages zippy-fast!

Ahhhhhhhhhhh, it was like our own little piece of paradise! Well…as close to it as you can get in an urban NW Portland setting.

After a refreshing round of drinks we were definitely ready for some food. A certain friend (we won’t name the guilty party here) said he wasn’t all that hungry. Of course, as soon as our ultra-cheesy artichoke spinach dip and grilled shrimp dish arrived he suddenly found his appetite again. Continue reading HH Review: Emanon Cafe

Gallery: North American Organic Brewers Festival

It’s the first official weekend of summer in PDX. The sky is clear and the sun is sparkling. What do you do? Go to a brewers festival, of course!!

Luckily, the North American Organic Brewers Festival was at North Portland’s beautiful Overlook Park all weekend, so we definitely got our fix of great beer, tasty food, sunshine and fun!

When we arrived Saturday afternoon the lines were long and daunting, but we were quite surprised the lines moved quickly and everyone was in a cheerful mood. What’s a little wait when there is beer at the other end of the line, right? Although, we did decide to “hold it” when we saw that the longest lines at the festival were to use the Porta-Potties! 😉

Enjoy the photos!