WW's kicking off a semi-regular series inviting a handful of food-obsessed locals to tell us where they love to eat. And Ron Dollete, whom we found waxing ecstatic over the chawanmushi (Japanese egg custard) at Hiroshi's sushi bar, certainly fits the bill.
Name: Ron Dollete a.k.a. SauceSupreme
Bio: Programmer and webmaster turned food nerd, and manager of the food message board BabbleSauce (saucesupreme.com/babble). "I love a good hole in the wall," he says. "Wait, that doesn't sound right...."
Where I eat: Taqueria La Estacion and An Xuyen Bakery
Why I go: Both these eateries are perfect examples of looking beyond the obvious, not being distracted by the decor or surrounding neighborhood, and discovering something really special in the process.
AN XUYEN BAKERY
My mind tends to get hypnotized by the sameness of the bland buildings near An Xuyen, and admittedly I sometimes miss the recessed storefront altogether. But you can't forget the bakery's display case full of Vietnamese tarts, cakes, cookies and various other pastries. Or its banh mi sandwiches($2.50). Other Viet sandwich shops in the nearby area are more famous, but An Xuyen's trump card is its housemade bread. The baguettes have a pleasing amount of chew, while the crust is firm without tearing the roof of your mouth. The baked goods here are of such high quality that An Xuyen makes regular deliveries to various restaurants and markets around Portland. I still prefer to go straight to the shop, though, perusing all the birthday cakes and rolls while I wait for a banh mi xiu mai. It's the ultimate in colonial breakthroughs: Chinese sausage in a French baguette, as interpreted by the Vietnamese. Slivers of jalapeño, daikon, carrots and cilantro give the sandwich added texture and brightness. Plus, the pork pâté here is also excellent, and they might even have a pulled-pork sandwich as a special. And yes, it's really special.
TAQUERIA LA ESTACION
If it's pork you want, you need the cochinita pibil at La Estacion. Wedged up against a strip club called the Sugar Shack out on Northeast Killingsworth Street, this "restaurant" (a big red double-decker bus acts as the kitchen) offers more than just tacos and burritos. La Estacion specializes in the street food of the Yucatán, an area of Mexico famous for slow-roasted pork (cochinita pibil) and chicken (pollo pibil). Visit later in the day when that pork has spent enough time cooking to perfection. The panuchos ($1.50) are small tortillas, pan-fried and then topped with meat, for which pibil is a natural choice. They're served open-faced, and the panuchos can be eaten like a giant cracker—or, fold them in half and you've got yourself a hard-shelled taco. The same can be done with the huaraches ($5) at this curiously wonderful taqueria. A ball of masa is pounded flat to resemble the sole of a huarache sandal, and similar to the small tortillas, it's then pan-fried and topped with meat. Of course, when there's a bus in the room and a strip club nearby, Yucatecan food might be the last thing on your mind.
5345 SE Foster Road, 788-0866, anxuyenbakery.com. Breakfast, lunch and early dinner 6 am-6 pm daily. $ Inexpensive.
6719 NE Killingsworth St. Lunch and dinner 11:30 am-10 pm Monday-Tuesday, 11:30 am-midnight Wednesday-Sunday. $ Inexpensive.