March 3rd, 2010 Ethan Smith | Food Reviews & Stories
 

British Colony

A local chef expands his food empire.

     
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POUTINE & PINTS: The Northwest meets England at Fats.
IMAGE: leahnash.com

“Happy Hour All Day,” proclaims a chalkboard suspended above a window looking into Fats’ kitchen. Take heed of this message and you’ll enjoy your time at this glass-paned Northeast Portland Brit pub. That’s because Fats’ “Happy Hour” menu is not time-specific, but rather a bar menu slyly titled to remind diners just how cheap it is; no dish tops $6 and half a dozen run only $2 or $3.

Call it New Economy, but value is like MSG, rendering already solid dishes downright delicious. And while nothing on Fats’ menu truly wows, a tour of the bar’s small plates delivers an excellent meal for the money. Buttered radishes ($3) generously doused in coarse salt are perfect tangy crunch to spur the appetite. With its runny yolk and accompanying baby greens, Fats’ Scotch egg ($3) is a welcome departure from the classic pub gut bomb. And “Angels on Horseback”—a classic English appetizer of oysters wrapped in bacon—are saved from heaviness with the acidic bite of crème fraîche and charred cherry tomatoes.

Though still reasonable, entrees ($12 to $16) come at a premium over the bar menu without offering much for the extra sawbuck. Chicken tikka masala was a passable version of Britain’s national dish, but seemed dumbed down for Western palates, lacking any real heat or vibrant spicing. And while “duck and dumplings” ($14) has a tempting ring, you’re better off directing your extra dough toward the beer list. Draft beer purists may be disappointed by the pub’s succinct tap list, but a healthy roundup of local and imported bottles fills the void. Growlers of hard-to-find Captured by Porches Invasive Species IPA coexist with English ales that reach beyond Guinness and Boddingtons. But don’t count on the staff to guide you through the brews; on two visits, neither server seemed to know their beer.

At Fats’ weekend brunch, sunlight streams through the window-wrapped space. The city’s hungover hordes don’t seem to have caught the scent yet, making Fats one of those rarest of Portland species: a breakfast joint without a weekend wait. And where else but at a place called Fats is poutine ($10) part of a balanced breakfast? This mess of fries, swathed in bacon gravy, mushrooms and cheese curds, is topped with a poached egg (See? Breakfast!) and guaranteed to be both supremely satisfying and stupefying, especially when drowned by a mimosa or two. The bacon buttie ($8), Fats’ aioli-slathered take on the breakfast sandwich, is a slightly lighter but still delicious option.

In the end, Fats is what you make of it. Don’t force it into an app-entree-dessert box, and don’t expect it to hit the haute-cuisine high notes of Micah Camden’s other Northeast Killingsworth row restaurants, Yakuza and DOC. Rather, raise your pint to the affordable, middlebrow pub Fats aspires to be.

  • Order this: Fats’ refined take on the Scotch egg ($3).

  • Best deal: Snacks from the all-hours “happy hour” menu never top $6.

  • I’ll pass: The bland, four-bite “Little Big Burger” is little more than a slider. At $6 it’s reasonably priced, but hardly a deal relative to other happy-hour offerings.

EAT: Fats, 2930 NE Killingsworth St., 206-8261, fatspdx.com. Dinner and late night Wednesday-Monday; brunch Saturday-Sunday. $$ Moderate.
 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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