In place of the usual squawk and rattle, little reviews of little places that you just might like:
Chef to Go
Black truck, corner of Southwest Park Avenue and Yamhill Street. 10 am-3 pm-ish weekdays. Great place, lovely owners, dorky name. This vegetarian-vegan lunch spot in the little black food truck that used to house Bad Kitty Koffee across from the Fox Tower. It's run by George Black (a she, named for George Sand) and David Stowell, two food-industry vets who come to Portland from Chicago.
Chef to Go offers a clutch of regular menu offerings and rotating special items. Miss Dish loves the roasted-eggplant sandwich--it's $5 and comes on a puffy, crusty roll that's been strategically toasted on a panini press. A perky roasted-red-pepper sauce is slathered on, and thinly sliced pieces of roasted eggplant are layered with spinach leaves and feta cheese. Sandwiches come with your choice of raw slaw (some kind of chopped vegetable, such as red cabbage or carrot, in a vinaigrette that's vegan-friendly) or Kettle Chips. For a very short period, the cart was pre-making some of the sandwiches, which was a bummer: The integrity of the grilled bread was compromised by the rest of the ingredients, and it got soggy. Miss Dish brought this to their attention, and they promised they wouldn't pre-make anymore.
Every day, there is some kind of chili or soup that goes for $3 and includes a few thin slices of rustic bread toasted on the panini press. The black-bean chili is husky and rich and gives the tummy-filling feeling of being meaty without actually having any cow. A recent white-bean soup with rosemary oil was loaded with pasta and beans and made the most perfect lunch for a day when the wind was smacking us around. All in all, Chef to Go is awesome. Totally.
417 NW 10th Ave., 295-9536.
Miss Dish knew this place was OK when she asked if it had any good ass-y French cheese and the waiter didn't blink. In fact, he pointed out the two selections on the cheese menu that were the closest thing to ass-y. He even said "ass-y." He also didn't get all snotty when she asked for a spicy red wine, even though it was clearly the most inappropriate selection for nearly ass-y cheese.
This is the latest wine bar to jump into the market, and boy is it pretty. Ensconced in the lovely art deco Gregory Building in the Pearl, Vigne looks like a Herman Miller wet dream, with its sleek black midcentury-designed Barcelona chairs and low-slung leather couches contrasting with rugged rock walls and a stunning ceiling-to-floor see-through wooden wine cellar. The small menu (marinated olives, bread, charcuterie plate, terrine, cheese) seems to exist mainly to prop up the wines, of which there are plenty by-the-glass options. All three of our selections, from a German white to a Portuguese red to a blend from the U.S. of A., were excellent, although the 4-ounce pours were drained quickly. This is the kind of place you go when you're sick of the oozing, embarrassing empty calories of American culture and you want to play at being refined. Even if you use the word ass-y.