Review: Mellow Mushroom (Pearl District)

Mellow Mushroom
1411 NW Flanders Street
Portland, Oregon 97209
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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

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
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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: Skyline Restaurant

Skyline Restaurant
1313 NW Skyline Boulevard
Portland, OR 97229
503-292-6727
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Rating: ★★★★½

Foodies around the world know the name James Beard, one of the most acclaimed American chefs of all time, so it’s a little odd to see a browned-with-age newspaper clipping framed on the wall at Skyline touting Beard’s professed devotion for this tiny retro diner’s burgers.

I happen to share Beard’s devotion to Skyline, and I have been visiting for more than two decades. Even though I don’t live as close as I did growing up, the food and atmosphere keep calling me back and Skyline never fails to satisfy.

Established in 1935, you would guess by looking at the former drive-in that very little has probably changed since the days when teenagers cruised up through the West Hills to enjoy some late-night hamburgers and milkshakes.

The drive-in service is gone, but the burgers and shakes survive. The dining area is a smattering of cozy booths and a handful of stools at the counter, all of which tend to fill up quickly during peak hours. The wood paneled walls are covered with children’s crayon drawings, mementos collected over their years in business and lots and lots of business cards (some pinned to the wall four or five deep). All of which add to the charm of this bygone-era establishment, but also take into account that their bygone-era approach means this is a cash only restaurant. (They do have an on-site ATM.)

The menu is plentiful and retains a definite diner feel with some modern upgrades (like the vegan black bean burger), but the main draw to Skyline is the burgers with their toasted, buttery buns. Continue reading Review: Skyline Restaurant

Review: Billy Heartbeats

Billy Heartbeats
(Lloyd Center Mall)
2039 Lloyd Center
Portland, OR 97204
503-288-6010
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Rating: ★★★½☆

The conversation usually starts like this: “I want to get a malt,” he says.

Lunch Lady: Rolling my eyes because I know where this is going.

Him: “Let’s go to that diner place at Lloyd Center.”

LL: “You always say you want to go there to get a malt and then you never order one.”

Him: “But they also have real cherry Coke.”

LL: “Fine, whatever. Let’s go then.”

Yes, that is exactly how I end up a Billy Heartbeats every single time. It’s not that I have anything against the Johnny Rocket’s knock-off, but I feel like I get tricked into going.

To be honest, Billy Heartbeats isn’t bad at all, and it’s certainly better than most of the other greasy, bland food court options at Lloyd Center, although I am always tempted by Hot Dog on a Stick.

I typically indulge in the cheeseburger delux, which is what you’d expect—a hearty cheeseburger with fresh toppings, toasty bun and a mountain of very fried fries. Continue reading Review: Billy Heartbeats

Review: House of Louie

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House of Louie
331 NW Davis Street
Portland, Oregon 97209
503-228-9898
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Rating: ★★★½☆

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House of Louie has been around for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until a rebellious night during my freshman year in college that I actually visited the Chinatown restaurant. Being that was more than ten years ago, and the same night that I was basically dared into getting my bellybutton pierced at some seedy tattoo joint on East Burnside (it was actually cool to do back then), I can’t say if the food was better or worse than it is today.

I’ve been back to House of Louie several times since I moved back to Portland, and I find it to be a great place to pick up a fast and very filling lunch. Though I’ve only tried a few of the dim sum items, the various carts come around the tables quite frequently and it seems to be a popular lunchtime choice.

In my opinion, the best deals at House of Louie are the combination lunch specials. They offer a wide variety of Chinese entrée dishes and the lunch special includes soup, wontons, an egg roll and rice. The lunch specials are also very well priced—few, if any, are more than $10. Continue reading Review: House of Louie

Review: Virginia Café

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Virginia Café
NEW ADDRESS: 820 SW 10th Avenue
Portland, OR
503-227-0033
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Rating: ★★★★☆

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[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: Pizza Boys Plus

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Pizza Boys Plus
17788 Pilkington Road
Lake Oswego, OR
503-697-1610
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Rating: ★★★★½

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Oh. My. God! I have driven by this little pizza shop probably a hundred times, but I had never stopped in until today. Now I’m wondering why I’ve never tried it before. I called ahead and ordered a small pizza and an order of cheese sticks. My theory is that you can usually judge the quality of a place by their cheese sticks.

When I arrived about 20 minutes later, I was struck by the cute interior of the place—the walls are covered with album covers from the 60s and 70s. How retro is that? The dining area has limited seating, so take-out or delivery (it’s free within a five-mile radius) are good options. Continue reading Review: Pizza Boys Plus

HH Review: The Sapphire Hotel

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Sapphire Hotel
5008 SE Hawthorne Boulevard
Portland, OR
503-232-6333
**Opens at 4 p.m.
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Rating: ★★★★★

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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

Review: Giant Drive-In

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Giant Drive-In
15840 Boones Ferry Road
Lake Oswego, OR
503-636-0255
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Rating: ★★★★☆

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Burger lovers rejoice!

Giant Drive-In has been a Lake Oswego staple for decades, and it’s easy to see why this little burger joint has been able to last so long: They’ve got great burgers. Sure, you can go in for just a standard burger with the typical fixings, but the real find at Giant is their claim to fame, their specialty burgers.

Best known for The Filler (which the owner jokingly referred to as the “college student special”), it comes packed with the works, but other mouth-watering options include Blue Cheese, Teriyaki, Hawaiian, Jalapeno, Ranch burgers and many more. If you are a first-time Giant visitor don’t fret over all the options, just look for the specialty burger descriptions listed above the cash register. Each burger is served on a delicious toasted bun and with fresh toppings. Continue reading Review: Giant Drive-In