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:4.5]

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

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!

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

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:3.5]

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

Review: Who-Song and Larry’s Mexican Restaurant

Who-Song and Larry’s Mexican Restaurant and Cantina
111 SE Columbia Way
Vancouver, Washington 98661
360-695-1198
Map It!
[rating: 4.5]

After a morning shopping excursion to Jantzen Beach (found some adorable summertime sandals at Target for $10!), we needed to refuel. It was a sunny Saturday, so why not head over state lines and grab some Mexican food at Who-Song and Larry’s? After all, we hadn’t been to The ‘Couv in like FOREVER!

Well, we weren’t the only ones with the same idea. The parking lot was PACKED. (Note: They share a parking lot with Joe’s Crab Shack.) We circled the parking lot three times before snagging a coveted space.

The restaurant was equally packed, and the hostess said the wait for a table would be at least 20 minutes. So we scooted into the seat-yourself cantina section and plopped our shopped-out selves at a comfy table in the corner.

The service was fast! Within a minute or two our server delivered a basket of tortilla chips and some yummy-zummy salsa and we ordered a round of drinks. Me: margarita on the rocks. He: strawberry lemonade.

As we looked over the menu, we noticed how reasonable the prices were and how large all the plates being delivered to the other tables were!

I chose the grilled chicken and steak skewers served dipping sauces. It also came with a grilled shrimp taco on the side as well as yucca fries, rice and their famous sweet corn cake.

My friend ordered the spinach enchiladas, which came with beans, rice and the sweet corn cake. Continue reading Review: Who-Song and Larry’s Mexican Restaurant

Review: Silver Dollar Pizza II

Silver Dollar Pizza II
225 SW Broadway
Portland, OR 97205
503-241-3465
Map It!
[rating: 3.5]

I’m not going to try to fool you; Silver Dollar Pizza II is not an upscale restaurant by any means. In fact, the place is pretty much a dive bar, serving up their stiff drinks to the often-smoking and drinking clientele. But there is a good reason to try it out: their pizza is very, very delicious!

I have been coming here off and on for almost two years, and I’ve never had a complaint with the service or the food. Sure, it’s a little bit smoky at times, but what can expect from a bar with a façade of a pizza-serving sports bar? They do in fact have several TVs showing sports, so, yes, I would call it a sports bar. Continue reading Review: Silver Dollar Pizza II

HH Review: Dragonfish Asian Café

Dragonfish Asian Café
909 SW Park Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97205
503-243-5991
Map It!
[rating: 4.5]

It’s rare that I go to sushi places where you order off the menu, as I’m a diehard sushi train fan. But the Sushi Hour at the upscale Dragonfish Asian Café is absolutely worth a visit.

Sushi Hour is their version of happy hour (4 to 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close daily), and it’s a terrific way to sample the restaurant’s upscale fare without breaking your budget. Located in the lobby of the Paramount Hotel, the restaurant on one side and the lounge, where Sushi Hour is offered, on the other.

The best part of Sushi Hour is that you can enjoy an array of the selected nigiri, sushi rolls and small plates for possibly less than a single entrée over in the restaurant. There is a minimum drink purchase requirement, but the specialty cocktails, beer selections and the sake and wine lists should easily cover that.

On our recent visit, my HH friend and I were pretty hungry and ordered four out of the five sushi roll options, a couple pieces of nigiri, two orders of pot stickers and a plate of the caramel ginger chicken. If that sounds like a lot of food, it was! But the food was so good we ignored our filling bellies and chowed down. Continue reading HH Review: Dragonfish Asian Café

Stumptown Lunch News: Davis Street Tavern

The Lunch Lady drives by the former Three Lions Bakery in Old Town all the time (corner of NW 5th and Davis), and a while back we noticed that the place is under construction. We are so thrilled to find out the place is being transformed into a tavern with a local-centric menu!

The new place, the Davis Street Tavern, is set to open in September and they plan to be open for lunch Monday through Friday!!

Here’s an email we received today from General Manager Christopher Handford:

We are planning to open in mid-September.  Our menu will be technically “New-American” showcasing the local Oregon and Washington purveyors of just about anything we can get our hands on.  It will be nice being so close to all the farmers markets.  We’re excited about being open for lunch (Mon – Fri) as that area needs it.  Our philosophy is not to be raising the bar on the traditional tavern but bringing many elements of fine dining into a tavern atmosphere.  The only thing we won’t be bringing will be the prices.   We definitely feel like restaurant pioneers as we’ve all worked in the Pearl restaurant scene and we’re now venturing into Old Town, hoping to be part of its “rebirth.”

Hope to see you in September.  I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

Cheers,

–Christopher Handford

Something to look forward to for sure! This is exciting news for one of our favorite lunchtime neighborhoods.

Review: Virginia Café

virginiacafe_1.gif  virginiacafe_2.gif

Virginia Café
NEW ADDRESS: 820 SW 10th Avenue
Portland, OR
503-227-0033
Map It!
[rating:4]

virginiacafe_3.gif  virginiacafe_4.gif  virginiacafe_5.gif

[Editor’s Note: It’s official, the Virginia Cafe has moved to 820 SW 10th Avenue, just across from the library. We are planning to check out the new digs and let you know what we think very soon!]

Over the weekend I had probably my last lunch at the Virginia Café at its current location on SW Park Avenue. You see, just over a year ago the landmark restaurant and bar announced they would have to close down or move because the building within which they are housed is going to be torn down to become yet another shiny retail/condo high-rise. Luckily, the owners have found a new location for VC, but now it’s time to say goodbye to the old dwelling.

Sure, the place itself is nothing fancy; the décor is kitschy, the upstairs bathroom is pretty scary and nonsmokers curse the free-for-all smoking policy (that will change in the new location as they will be going non-smoking).

But there is something undeniably charming, cozy and Old Portland about the location they are vacating. Where else hipsters mix with preppy downtown workers mix with 50-somethings without batting an eye? If Pioneer Courthouse Square is Portland’s “living room” then VC is Portland’s den with a wet bar. Continue reading Review: Virginia Café

Review: Buffalo Wild Wings

 buffalowildwings_1.gif

Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar (Downtown location)
327 SW Morrison Street
Portland, OR
503-224-1309
Map It!

[rating:4]

buffalowildwings_2.gif  buffalowildwings_4.gif  buffalowildwings_3.gif

I waited patiently for months for Buffalo Wild Wings to open up on SW Morrison. Sure, I could have visited their other location out in Hillsboro, but who really wants to drive that far when there are so many tasty lunch spots closer in? So the very first week they were open, I got my taste buds prepared for the heat and headed in. I mean, who doesn’t love a meal where finger licking is practically required?

At first sight I was a little overwhelmed, the space is huge, the televisions are everywhere and it’s a little bright and loud for my taste (it’s a sports bar, after all), but from the second I stepped through the door the service was impeccable. Continue reading Review: Buffalo Wild Wings

Review: Muu-Muu’s

muu-muus_12.gif

Muu-Muu’s
612 NW 21st Avenue
Portland, OR
503-223-8169
Map It!

[rating:3.5]

muu-muus_31.gif  muu-muus_21.gif

I had heard many good things about the food at Muu-Muu’s, so I decided to check it out for myself. Earlier this week I met up with a galpal for lunch there, and I have to say that while it was decent, I don’t think it lived up to the hype I’d been hearing.

The service was good, though I was unsure when I walked in if I should just grab a table or wait to be seated—it’s seat yourself (at least I think it is, the waiter/bartender seemed too busy talking to girls at the bar to acknowledge me). I did make the mistake of selecting a booth near the door, just opposite the bar. Being one of the coldest days in Stumptown in a long time, I got a chilly blast each and every time the door opened. Brrrr! Continue reading Review: Muu-Muu’s

HH Review: The Sapphire Hotel

sapphire_1.gif

Sapphire Hotel
5008 SE Hawthorne Boulevard
Portland, OR
503-232-6333
**Opens at 4 p.m.
Map It!

[rating:5]

sapphire_3.gif sapphire_2.gif

Dark, candlelit and romantic, Sapphire Hotel is both a terrific place for a date or gathering with friends for happy hour. It’s an especially nice place to duck into on one of those long, rainy Stumptown winter afternoons, when you have some free time and you’re looking for a hearty snack and a good drink.

Tucked away on the east end of SE Hawthorne, Sapphire isn’t open for lunch (they SO should be!), but the happy hour is worth taking a late lunch and calling it an early workday. Happy hour runs everyday of the week from 4 to 6 p.m., and then picks up again from 10 p.m. to midnight (Sunday thru Thursday). Continue reading HH Review: The Sapphire Hotel