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March 9th, 2011 WW Culture Staff | Food Reviews & Stories
 

Cheap Eats 2011: Listings A-to-Z

cheap_eats_2011_listings_mainLittle Big Burger - IMAGE: Allison E. Jones
     
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4-4-2

1739 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 238-3693, 442soccerbar.com. 11 am-11 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-midnight Friday, 7 am-midnight Saturday, 8 am-10 pm Sunday.

Muhamed Mujcic-Mufko’s 4-4-2 is Portland’s lone soccer bar, its walls adorned with the flags of favored teams, from FC Bayern to the Timbers’ green and yellow; the bar’s stock clientele is mostly drawn from the ranks of the American Soccer Fan, which is to say: foreigners, hippies and ex-expatriates. Some of us, however, come in simply for the hospitality and the bar food (as well as the draft beer served in true half-liter mugs). Bosnian lepinja bread, made in-house, is a singular version of the Mediterranean pita: half an inch thick and fluffy as a baguette, with a sweet outer crispness that comes from being baked in olive oil. The šiš (rich, spicy sausage patties, pronounced “sheesh”) and cevapi (beef-lamb patties akin to mini-hamburgers) are served in an array of options ranging from $8 to $12; each comes with lepinja bread, sweet-bitter yogurt sauce and ajvar, a spicy pepper-eggplant relish. My favorite, however, is the peka sandwich ($8.75), which sports wafer-sliced meat so smoked and cured as to be beef’s own thundering answer to bacon. Dear Lord. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

Al Forno Ferruzza

2738 NE Alberta St., 253-6766,
alfornoferruzza.com. Noon-10 pm Sunday-Thursday, noon-11 pm Friday-Saturday and Last Thursdays.

This Alberta pizzeria hand-throws pies using what their menu calls a “secret Sicilian recipe.” Having never been to Sicily, I can only take their word for it, but if the natives there are all about thin, crispy crust with a beautifully darkened cornicione (what we call “crust”), Ferruzza has it nailed. The pizza margherita ($7 for a 12-inch pie) balances a sweet, fresh San Marzano tomato sauce with just a smattering of mozzarella and fresh basil, resulting in a simple, unfussy, satisfying slice for the pizza purist. Ferruzza’s calzones ($8.50), in contrast, are heady, rich affairs, stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella and a pair of ingredients of your choice. Right out of the oven, they are messy, gooey and painfully hot, but oh so worth the agony. BRIAN PANGANIBAN.

Angel Food and Fun

5135 NE 60th Ave., 287-7909. 11 am-7 pm Monday, 11 am-10 pm Tuesday-Thursday, 11 am-11 pm Friday and Saturday,
11 am-8 pm Sunday.

Angel Food and Fun would be yet another hit-or-miss neighborhood convenience if it didn’t do one thing so soul-stirringly well that I hesitate to publicize it for fear there will not be any left for me when I return. That thing is called cochinita pibil ($9.99), and I want to marry it. Angel’s take on the Yucatan’s most famous dish finds citrusy, sunburn-red broth swimming with slow-cooked cuts of tender pork that fall apart at the touch of a spoon; by the time half of the bowl is empty, you will be tucking into a gloriously unified mass of steaming flesh and grease that would not look out of place burbling up from the earth as a lava-slow current of perfect sustenance. You will not be disappointed—unless you hate life. CHRIS STAMM.

Arleta Library Bakery Cafe 

5513 SE 72nd Ave., 774-4470, arletalibrary.com. 8 am-2:30 pm Monday-Friday, 8:30 am-2:30 pm Saturday-Sunday.

It’s a ballsy move, declaring your biscuits and gravy the best in Portland right there on the menu. But when the plate arrives, it’s hard to argue against a pair of fluffy sweet potato biscuits drowning in rosemary-sausage gravy and topped, just for the hell of it, with thin slices of pork loin. At this small cafe across the street from the Mount Scott Community Center, the brunch selections are the standout. Its signature dish, as featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, is the Sicilian hash ($10), made from Italian rolled beef and seasoned so richly with peppers, onions and potatoes it made Guy Fieri show the country his O-face. But don’t sleep on the lunch items either, which include the Belmont veggie burger ($7) and the Weezie ($6.50), described as “a BLT on steroids.” MATT SINGER.

Artemis Cafe

1235 SE Division St., 230-8340,
artemisfoods.com. 7 am-8 pm Monday-Friday, 8 am-5 pm Saturday, 8 am-3 pm Sunday.

It’s easy to walk past the plain-Jane exterior of this cafe in favor of Southeast Division Street’s more eye-catching eateries. Don’t. Inside, you’ll be rewarded with a deli case brimming with an ever-changing lineup of goodies, all made from fresh, local, organic ingredients. On one visit, it yielded pot pies, garlic kale, miso soup and bread pudding; a week later, it held mac ’n’ cheese, arroz con pollo, lasagna and balsamic cherry cheesecakes. Regular tenants include the tasty seasonal frittatas ($6.50) and a rotating array of sandwiches and panini ($7.50)—ours came with roasted mushrooms, thick slices of super-soft Teleme cheese and lemon aioli inside a soft ciabatta roll, and could easily have gone head-to-head with any of the more hyped sandwich shops in town. Cakes, pastries and cookies are also made in-house and the options are equally amorphous—one day croissants, the next brownies—though there’s always something vegan and gluten-free. RUTH BROWN.

Ate-Oh-Ate

2454 E Burnside St., 445-6101,
ateohate.com. 11 am-9 pm daily.

This Hawaiian fast-food joint is an homage to co-owner Benjamin Dyer’s childhood in Kona, and also something of a parody. The name is a pun (Hawaii’s area code is 808), the website is intentionally awful, the ’50s exotica illustrations pinned under the glass tabletops ridiculous, and there is no attempt to make the mounds of white rice and sloppy side-salads that accompany every entree more glamorous than the islands’ average. Foodies who balk at the mundane sides and presence of Spam on the menu are missing the point; Dyer is not after Hawaiian fine dining so much as well-made nostalgia. Plate lunches like the sweet, crisp Korean-style chicken wings and chicken thighs simmered in shoyu (each $8.95) are tasty, filling and completely unexciting, and this is as it should be. Who needs fireworks when you’ve got a volcano? BEN WATERHOUSE.

Atomic Pizza

2150 N Killingsworth St., 285-5490, atomic-pizza.com. 11 am-9 pm Tuesday-Saturday, 4-9 pm Sunday. 

Every real neighborhood needs a pizza joint. And though Portland is far from replicating New York City’s shop-on-every-street-corner scene, Atomic Pizza is a good hangout spot for anyone in the Overlook Village ’hood. Everything about Atomic Pizza has a Portland vibe, from pies named things like “Yellow Line” and “Hwy 99” to the toppings, which range from veggie faves like the “Alberta” (a large pesto, mushroom, artichoke heart and sun-dried tomato pizza for $20.40) to gut-busting meat assaults (the aptly named “Paul Bunyan” stacks four kinds of meat on one slice). Though the shop does takeout pies, it’s best to enjoy a slice ($2.95 for cheese, $3.95 for the daily special) and a pint at the cozy bar before heading out for the night. MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.

Bakery Bar

2935 NE Glisan St., 477-7779, bakerybar.com. 7 am-2 pm Monday-Friday, 8 am-2 pm Saturday-Sunday.

Tucked in a sunny, off-street industrial building on Northeast Glisan Street, Bakery Bar can be hard to find. Once you’ve visited, though, it’s similarly hard to quit. Though the name implies cakes, pies and breads—of which there are plenty, including some wicked banana bread for $2.75 a slice—Bakery Bar’s breakfast menu is the main attraction. The migas ($9, $10.50 with housemade chorizo), a Southwestern scramble of eggs, peppers and tortilla chips, is a welcome blast of Texas on a wet Portland winter. The $9 biscuits and gravy, like any dish involving the Bar’s amazing biscuits, is rich and distinctive. And for the lighter wallets/appetites, an elaborate selection of fried egg sandwiches (on equally amazing housemade English muffins) run from $4.50 to $6. Oh, and the “Bar” in this cozy joint’s name is no joke: Mimosas (served in a pint glass for $6.50) and other such early-riser cocktails help make it one of Portland’s premier hangover brunch spots. CASEY JARMAN.

Beijing Hot Pot

2768 SE 82nd Ave., 774-2525, thebeijinghotpot.com. 5-9:30 pm Monday, Wednesday-Thursday, 5-10 pm Friday, 11:30 am-10 pm Saturday, 11:30 am-9:30 am Sunday.

Unlike the all-you-can eat buffet and great simmering bowls of downtown’s Taiwanese-style Hot Pot City (see page 19), Beijing Hot Pot is a communal affair: A bowl of broth is placed in the center of the table over a gas burner, and diners order various bits of raw meat, fish and vegetables to cook in it. It’s a slow, luxurious way to eat, and the broth grows richer with each addition. Order the spicy broth, which isn’t all that spicy, and the combination for two (it comes with beef, pork, a pile of veggies, chicken meatballs and handmade noodles, all for $24.95). If you’re feeling flush, add on the shrimp balls ($6.95), which are made to order and taste astonishingly fresh, with a nice chewy-then-crunchy texture. Cook the noodles last, and slurp them down with the remaining broth. Then fall asleep. BEN WATERHOUSE.

Bella Faccia Pizzeria

2934 NE Alberta St., 282-0600, bellafacciapizzeria.com, 11 am-10 pm daily.

Slices ($3.50) so big you must fold them over to eat ’em? Check. So piping hot they blister the roof of your mouth? Check. OK, we admit our standards for a pizzeria aren’t too exacting. But Bella Faccia rates a revisit for a couple of reasons beyond easily meeting those two simple criteria: One, it offers a wide selection of pizza including vegan options. Two, we like the total-pigout option of ordering a dozen baked garlic knots ($5) and for dessert, an Aunt Rett’s Congo bar ($1.75), a sweet concoction of graham cracker, chocolate and powdered sugar sure to help with that mouth blister. HENRY STERN.

Best Baguette

8303 SE Powell Blvd., 788-3098;
3635 SW Hall Blvd., 626-2288, bestbaguettesandwiches.com. 7 am-9 pm daily.

Portland’s only Vietnamese sandwich drive-thru recently added Koi Fusion-inspired Viet tacos to the menu (three for $5), but don’t order them—they’re a trap; mediocre fillings on lousy tortillas in a plastic clamshell. Stick instead to the nigh-flawless banh mi ($2.25 each), especially the Saigon bacon, which can’t be easily found elsewhere in the city, and the pretty excellent barbecue pork. Also available: sardines in tomato sauce, Vietnamese meatballs, headcheese, pâté and even a vegetarian combo. BEN WATERHOUSE.

Best Taste

8350 SE Division St., 771-0812.
9 am-8 pm daily.

Best Taste brands itself as “Chinese BBQ,” and the owners aren’t kidding; this meat bears no resemblance to its American cousin. Right by the doorway fire-reddened ducks are strung up at the neck, while the rear quarters of pigs hang from wire looped into their unmentionables. Neither the butchering nor the spicing is tempered for American palates, which means you get everything from crispy skin to fat to bone in your literal cross-section of duck or pig ($7.50 and $8.45, respectively, with rice and bok choy garnish). The restaurant’s wide array of won ton noodle soup includes the wonderful acquired taste of pickled green soup with pork ($7), which over the course of its voluminous bowl went, for this palate, from over-tart to fantastically sui generis. Amid the 100-plus menu options, though, what always keeps this reviewer returning is the killer all-day dim sum, including shumai dumplings ($2.50 for 4), black-bean spareribs ($2.50) and sweet egg-glazed buns ($2). Plus, the fact I can hear the family’s TV from their upstairs living space lets me know they’ve really committed to the place. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

Bete-Lukas

2504 SE 50th Ave., 477-8778, bete-lukas.com. 5 pm-close Tuesday-Sunday. 

Ethiopian dining is rarely an elegant affair, and the white tablecloths, real napkins and minimalist decor of Bete-Lukas don’t exactly scream, “Pull up a pew and start scarfing lentils with your hands!” But this South Tabor eatery is all about bringing a rare touch of refinement and subtlety to Horn of Africa cuisine: the plainest-sounding dish, kategna—described simply as “warm injera with berbere and seasoned butter”—turns out to be a standout, with moist, fresh rolls of the spongy, slightly sour northeast African bread layered with a complex blend of spices. Instead of encouraging you to stuff yourself like there’s a famine on, servings are generous without being excessive. The menu offers a large range of lamb, beef, chicken and fish dishes, but its simpler, cheaper, heartier vegetarian fare is where Bete-Lukas really shines. From the fiery red-lentil misir wot to the tangy curried carrot and cabbage tikel gomen, each is distinctly delicious, and offers a taste of fine dining without the price tag or pretension. At $7 to $8 with injera and salad, every vegetable dish is an excellent value, but the $11 combo plate allows you to sample almost all of them. RUTH BROWN.

Binh Minh Sandwiches 

6812 NE Broadway, 257-3868; 7821 SE Powell Blvd., 777-2245. 9 am-5 pm Tuesday-Sunday. $10 minimum on credit cards.

Vietnamese sandwiches are pretty much the best way for hungry folks to spend $2.50 (and for whatever reason, they always seem to cost $2.50). The ones at Binh Minh, a miniature storefront with fogged-up windows next to a sketchy-looking bar in a tiny strip mall in a hidden corner of Portland, are a notch above average thanks to fresh-baked bread and housemade liver pâté. The house special is your best bet; it’s jammed with two kinds of meat and that pâté, plus the standard array of crispy carrots and veggies and, if you like, a couple of peppers. The barbecued pork and the lemongrass-chicken versions tie for second place on the menu. If you’re feeling brave, try one of the prepackaged, iridescent-pink-and-green dessert goodies displayed near the register. BECKY OHLSEN.

Black Sheep Bakery

523 NE 19th Ave., 517-5762; 833 SE Main St., 473-8534, blacksheepbakery.com. 7 am-3 pm Monday-Friday, 10 am-3 pm Saturday.

Vegans and carnivores alike, hie to this bright hole-in-the-wall deli-bakery combo with two locations hidden amid industrial buildings both north and south of East Burnside. Prepare to taste a foreign language of tapenade, Tofutti and frittata. Vegan biscuits and gravy ($4.50), polenta bake ($4.25) and macaroni salad ($3.50) beckon from behind the deli case. Meat-eaters will love the Suffolk sandwich, composed of turkey, cheddar, lemon-rosemary mayo and cucumber-pickle chutney. Vegetarians might try the Rough Fell sandwich with provolone, olive tapenade, hummus, carrot and roasted red pepper (both $6.50 whole, $4 half). And don’t forget about the vast array of baked vegan pastries, like the maple and applesauce muffins ($2), and desserts, like the peanut butter chocolate-chip bar ($1.75). Everything on the menu can be “veganized,” and might (gasp!) be tastier for it. For those on the west side, check out Black Sheep Bakery’s stand at the PSU farmers market on Saturdays. STACY BROWNHILL.

Blossoming Lotus

1713 NE 15th Ave., 228-0048, blpdx.com. 11 am-9 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-10 pm Friday-Saturday, 10 am-2:30 pm and 5-9 pm Sunday.

Since crossing the river from its original Pearl location, this local vegan favorite has indeed blossomed: The restaurant now offers lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch and has just added a full-service bar and lounge. The cocktails ($8) all tend a little to the sweet side, but are creative and well prepared. It’s already the best bar in the area by default. To accompany them is the requisite happy hour (3-6 pm), offering a range of tacos ($3 each or four for $10), personal pizzas ($6) and discounted drinks. The tacos are about as Mexican as Cool Ranch Doritos, but very tasty and deceptively filling. The Thai is a standout, full of spicy soy curls and packing more heat than many actual taqueria tacos in this town. Pizzas are heartier, but less exciting. The marinara came on hard naan bread with a sauce that tasted like canned tomato paste. One thing that hasn’t changed: The big swirls of vegan soft serve ($5) are still the best thing on the menu. RUTH BROWN.

Blue Plate 

308 SW Washington St., 295-2583, eatatblueplate.com. 11 am-5 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-9 pm Friday, 5-9 pm Saturday.

Ask people to envision a soda fountain in their heads and chances are most will imagine some kind of ’50s-themed Disneyland attraction, with checkered linoleum floors and waitresses delivering orders on roller skates and all that other Johnny Rocket’s crap. Thankfully, downtown lunch spot Blueplate forgoes the typical cheesy retro-diner decor (there isn’t enough room inside to pull it off, anyway), allowing the nostalgia to originate in the taste buds. Although it obviously prides itself on the daily specials that are its namesake—the menu cycles through a different classic American entree ($10) and sandwich ($8) each day—the perennial dishes are no slouches themselves, particularly the sliders ($7). Not feeling vintage enough? Cap the meal with an ice cream float ($3.50-$4) made from one of the intriguingly flavored house sodas. Still not taken back far enough? Well, what the hell do you want? The Fonz pounding on a jukebox? MATT SINGER.

Breken Kitchen

1800 NW 16th Ave., 841-6359,
brekenkitchen.com. 7 am-5 pm Monday-Friday.

The huge floor-to-ceiling chalkboard at Breken Kitchen serves as menu for this breakfast, lunch and happy-hour cafe in Slabtown. Breakfast is simple and good and usually frequented with laptoppers eating Kettleman bagels ($3 with cream cheese) and sipping on Umbria coffee ($1.50-$2.50 cup); lunch frenetic with a long line for counter-service soup/salad/sandwich; and happy hour sleepy. The food is kickass cafe fare with three soups du jour ($3-$5) and really good daily specials like beef pancetta stew over mashers and Italian sausage lasagna. The turkey, avocado and bacon sandwich on como ($8.95) with a Singing Pig greens salad is great. It’s even better if you sub a cup of the Yukon gold shiitake soup (add $1.50). Avoid Breken in the late afternoon unless you crave a just-out-of-school romper room—Childpeace Montessori is across the street. LIZ CRAIN.

Bui Tofu

520 NE 76th Ave., 254-6132, buitofu.com. 9 am-6 pm Monday-Saturday,
11 am-4 pm Sunday.

It’s all about excellent, fresh tofu, whether it’s fried and coated in lemongrass ($3), served hot ’n’ plain with soy sauce (60 cents for 8 ounces) or mixed with onion and wrapped around a funky pork ball. Saigon natives Thuha and Minh Bui started their family-recipe tofu biz in the garage of their Portland home nearly a decade ago. These days the couple processes up to 200 pounds of soybeans a day. Still, the two take time out to proselytize about their favorite pressed bean curd. Minh says he still eats two trays of firm tofu for breakfast every morning. KELLY CLARKE.

Bun Bo Hue

7002 SE 82nd Ave., 771-1141.
9 am-10 pm daily.

Bun Bo Hue is Portland’s signature spot for the restaurant’s eponymous meat-noodle soup. (Bun, by the way, refers to the vermicelli-style noodles; bo to the meat; Hue to the city in Vietnam; Vietnamese dish names billow out like nouns in German.) So the name of the restaurant should also be what you order here. There are only seven bun bo hue options ($7-$8.50), though all are uncommonly well prepared, with their various meats or egg rolls. The broth here is unfilmy with oil, the meat trimmed of fat, the sprouts and cilantro fresh and generous. The decor is both seedily unfinished and teeming with kitschy-domestic interest; knickknacks swarm the shelves and walls, including eight colorful calendars, a beaten-on boom box and a small fountain in which a frog eternally chases a bobbling fly. Tea comes free, but the tart house-squeezed lemonade ($3) is nonetheless highly recommended. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

Bun Bo Hue Minh

8560 SE Division St., 777-1917.
9 am-9 pm daily.

It looks like just another Vietnamese noodle shop, but this particular slurpery happens to make the city’s finest bun bo hue ($7)—a heady bowl of chile- and lemongrass-scented beef broth with thick rice noodles, beef shank, pork meatballs, pork foot and garnet cubes of congealed pork blood, with a mound of herbs and veggies, banana blossom and rau ram included, on the side. The restaurant serves several other excellent soups as well—the tomato-seafood-pork bun rieu is reliably wonderful—and tamer dry noodle bowls for the timid diner. Don’t skip the good, tight salad rolls ($3.50), either. BEN WATERHOUSE.

Bunk Sandwiches

621 SE Morrison St., 477-9515, bunksandwiches.com. 8 am-3 pm Monday-Saturday.

The pork belly Cubano ($8) at Bunk Sandwiches is stupid good, in that you tend to do stupid things when in possession of one, like attempting to eat it while driving a stick shift on the freeway. Play it safe and enjoy the tangy, fatty torpedo of toasty pig flesh while at a complete stop. Or better still, eat it while sitting in Bunk and wondering if you could fit one in your gullet along with bacon, egg and cheese on a roll ($5) without having to mainline Lipitor. If Bunk’s owners are going to go out of their way to serve their breakfast sandwiches all day, it would be the height of rudeness to not avail yourself of their hospitality. BRIAN PANGANIBAN.

Byways Cafe

1212 NW Glisan St., 221-0011, bywayscafe.com. 7 am-3 pm Monday-Friday, 7:30 am-2 pm Saturday-Sunday.

Byways is best enjoyed when your head is pounding and you need some food to devour as you try to remember what all happened last night. The travel-themed decor and ample bar seating is classic diner grunge. The “sunrise special” ($7.95) consists of eggs, bacon and pancakes, and will result in a textbook post-brunch coma. As greasy and debilitating as breakfast can be, the sandwiches ($5.65-$9.50) aren’t anything to write home about. Byways is a comfortable dive in the midst of the posh Pearl District. RACHAEL DEWITT.

Cafe Hibiscus

4950 NE 14th Ave., 477-9224, martinsswissdressing.com/cafe.html. Noon-3 pm and 6-9 pm Wednesday-Saturday, noon-3 pm Sunday.

Though the Hawaii-inspired decor might not transport you to the Alps, this tiny establishment’s menu is firmly rooted in Switzerland. The year-old cafe, whose owner was raised by a Swiss father and a Hawaiian-born mother, offers such filling, comforting dishes as wienerschnitzel ($10), hearty vegan lentil stew ($9.50) and mildly spiced Bratwurst heaped with caramelized onions ($9.50). Émincé de veau à la Zurichoise ($12), tender bites of pork in a rich, wine-based mushroom sauce, might just have you yodeling in delight. Main dishes are served with potato salad or rösti (like a latke, if Jews ate bacon), but you can ask to substitute spätzle, those delightfully chewy noodles, here pan-fried in garlic butter and dressed up with a touch of parsley. And save room for some sweets—on our visit, the cafe had a Swiss apple pie and a dense, walnut-studded torte on offer. REBECCA JACOBSON.

The Canvas Art Bar & Bistro

1800 NW Upshur St., 206-6964,
thecanvaspdx.com. 11 am-10 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-midnight Friday, 4 pm-midnight Saturday.

We all know real artists subsist on steady diets of tobacco and methamphetamines, and Canvas Art Bar & Bistro serves neither, so one does wonder at the quality of beer-fueled work being produced by the doodling diners at this high-concept establishment. The joint’s gist: Make art while you chow down. Charcoal, graphite and sketch paper is free, but if you’re more Vermeer than Cocteau, canvases and paints are available for a reasonable price. Don’t dismiss Canvas if drunken self-portraiture isn’t your thing, because the food is well worth the trip into Northwest’s boondocks. The New Jackson Pollock ($6) flips the grilled cheese script with Brie and blackberry preserves—a grilled cheese without fruit will just never satisfy again—while the Southwest bento ($7), which is what a bento would look and taste like if Laughing Planet tried and failed to squeeze one into a burrito, features a fresh mix of black beans, corn and avocado. While such fare might not make for good art—we’re pretty sure it does not contain opium—it makes for some damn fine eating. CHRIS STAMM.

Casa de Tamales

10605 SE Main St., Milwaukie, 654-4423, canbyasparagusfarm.com. 11 am-9 pm Monday-Saturday, 9 am-8 pm Sunday.

If there’s a little more focus on asparagus than you’d expect from a tamale joint, there’s a good reason: Milwaukie’s Casa de Tamales is a side project for the Canby Asparagus Farm, which means a lot of emphasis on sourcing, from the asparagus to the roasted Oregon plums and raisins in the mammoth, fantastic, oh-so-moist nacatamal (Nicaraguan tamale, $9). In specials rotation, the Casa boasts 40 tamale varieties ($6.50 for the basics); last time I was in, halibut was on the menu. An equal variety adorns the jam packed walls, from Alvin Ailey and Elvis posters to marlin corpses and literal bull horns, in an assortment so idiosyncratic it couldn’t be anything but personal. Also, if you’re lucky, the owner’s father, Charles, will sit down and tell you about his travels—he seems to like life more than most, and has been to a lot of places. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

Chiang Mai

3145 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 234-6192, chiangmaipdx.com. 11 am-3 pm and 5-9 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-3 pm and 5-9:30 pm Friday, noon-9:30 Saturday, noon-9 pm Sunday.

With its slate-blue walls and teak wood carvings, Chiang Mai just looks like a gussied-up version of your neighborhood Thai takeout joint. But the extensive menu hides far more noodle and stir-fry options, as well as unexpected dishes from the northern Thai town its owners once called home. Bypass your usual order of green curry ($7) for a rich and aromatic pork stew with pineapple and peanuts served with sticky rice called gang hung lay ($8.50). You’ll find eats often only sold at Red Onion or Mee Sen here, like spicy ground pork and tomato nam prik oong and funky Chiang Mai sausage, plus a full roster of standbys like pad kee mao ($7-$10) and puckery tom kha soup ($5-$8.50). Do not leave without devouring an order of tao hoo tod ($7), addictive wedges of deep-fried tofu rolled in roasted coconut and served with sweet peanut sauce. KELLY CLARKE.

Christopher’s Gourmet Grill

3962 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 939-4643. 11 am-10 pm Monday-Friday, 11 am-11 pm Saturday.

Once a much-vaunted local rib cart off Dekum, Christopher’s is now a local rib shack: shantied on the outside, bare bones and meaty-boned on the inside. The menu has expanded to include catfish and snapper baskets ($12.95), a hot-link sandwich featuring “6 oz. of hot sausage” ($6.50), dessert cakes in hilariously huge portions and the restaurant’s best selling item, a classic-style chipped-beef Philly cheesesteak with secret sauce ($6.50). Still, the heart/soul stays with the ribs ($9.95 for a three-bone), which are sweet-sauced, meaty and tender. Among the sides, the crisp, unstringy fried okra is probably the standout; it’s hard to do this well, and Christopher’s does. And dammit, be nice when you’re there. In case you didn’t know the score, Christopher’s has it plastered across the walls: “This is a family environment. Please watch your language. Thank you.” MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

Cool Moon Ice Cream

1105 NW Johnson St., 224-2021,
coolmoonicecream.com. Winter hours noon-10 pm Sunday-Thursday, noon-10:30 pm Friday-Saturday.

Dessert people just love to draw a line in the cocoa between “adult” and “kids” sweets, usually based on bitterness and complexity. But one spoonful of a two-scoop sundae ($5), piled high with Oregon hazelnuts, housemade fudge and drippy amarena cherries at Eva Bernhard’s Pearl District ice cream parlor totally nukes all age barriers. Only aliens and the lactose intolerant could deny the appeal of chocolate laced with cinnamon and cayenne pepper (Spicy Xocolatl Crunch) or her basic but luscious cookies and cream (it’s even better if they’re serving the version laced with gingersnaps). Unusual flavors like the pistachio-and-cardamom-flavored Indian kulfi or spicy Thai chile draw in ice cream skeptics, but a sugar cone full of mint chip or buttermilk Marionberry swirl will make you feel like one of the kids playing across the street in Jamison Square. Psst: Pints of ice cream are only $4 every day from 4 to 6 pm. KELLY CLARKE.

Dalo’s Kitchen

4134 N Vancouver Ave., 808-9604, daloskitchen.com. 11 am-9 pm Monday-Saturday. 

Tucked into the northeastern corner of a squat, windowless cinderblock building that screams of dark history—think leaflet-loving Christian cults or cut-rate laser tag—Dalo’s doesn’t offer the eye much more than a few Ethiopian tourist posters (“13 Months of Sunshine,” taunts one of them) to brighten the mood, but here’s why you won’t care: $10 for an all-you-can-eat buffet. On a recent evening, every diner in the place seemed to be on a first name basis with the proprietor—hugs and pinched baby cheeks were involved—and every one of those loyal customers eventually queued up at that buffet table. Regulars tend to know the score, so follow them to the steaming serving trays filled with awaze sigga tibbs (beef in chile sauce), doro tibbs (curry chicken), alicha misir wot (split pea stew) and other simple staples with difficult names. It’s all so good you’ll forget you’re in a building that probably once housed medical waste. CHRIS STAMM.

Dang’s Thai Kitchen

670 N State St., Lake Oswego, 697-0779. 11:30 am-2:30 pm and 5 pm-9 pm Monday-Thursday, 11:30 am-2:30 pm and 5 pm-10 pm Friday, noon-10 pm Saturday, noon-9 pm Sunday.

Man, you gotta feel bad for Portland’s Thai restaurants. I mean, with what seems like two for every Rose City resident, they must be competing in an absolutely cutthroat market. But, just like Adam Smith said it would, that brutal competition has benefited us consumers with some really good noodle-and-curry spots. Dang’s, though lacking a “Thai” pun in its name, is one of them. This slightly, but not stuffily, upscale place in Lake O does right by Thai classics: its pad see ew ($10) could be a tad saucier, but the green curry ($10) is perfect. Take the road less traveled with the kao soi ($10), a generous lake of spicy curry, veggies and egg noodles with an island of crispy noodles floating atop it. JONATHAN FROCHTZWAJG.

Detour Cafe

3035 SE Division St., 234-7499, detourcafe.com, 8 am-4 pm daily.

It’s all about the breakfast sandwich at this hideaway brunch spot. These babies are made with scrambled eggs baked into a soft and fluffy centerpiece, and served on buttery slices of Detour’s housemade focaccia. Last year, Rachael Ray named The Don ($8.50-$9)—a hefty mouthful stuffed with mushroom, onion, feta cheese, tomato, avocado and basil, topped with Italian sausage, salmon or veggie sausage—one of the best breakfast sandwiches in the country. But with all due respect for the sophisticated palate of Ms. Entreetizer, we prefer the All Fired Up ($6.50), which comes slathered in jalapeño-artichoke cream cheese topped with mushroom and peppers. Possibly not “the best in the country,” but oh my gravy is it a delicious start to the day. The lunchier side of the menu has five veggie burgers, all featuring a dense, nutty patty and a range of other comestibles—one of which is, paradoxically, bacon—crammed between more of that tasty focaccia. Yum-o. RUTH BROWN.

D.J.K. Korean BBQ & Shabu Shabu

12275 SW Canyon Road, Beaverton, 641-1734. 11 am-10 pm Sunday-Thursday, 11 am-11 pm Friday-Saturday.

If you order tabletop barbecue at D.J.K., you’ll get scissors, tongs and platters of thinly sliced rosy meat and seafood delivered and retrieved by cart-pushing servers. D.J.K.’s tabletop barbecue comes as combo platters for two or more. The two-person combo ($39.95) gets you slices of raw beef brisket, flank steak and pork loin to sizzle yourself, along with soup, rice and steamed egg. There’s also shabu-shabu ($21.95-$26.95 per person, two-person minimum), which is Korea’s version of Chinese hot pot. Basically it’s tabletop boil-in-broth meat, seafood, vegetables and noodles. If you’d rather leave the cooking to the kitchen, order Korean classics such as kimchi chijae ($8.95), grilled mackerel ($12.95) or dolsot bibimbap ($10.95). There’s bottled beer, wine, sake and soju (Korean for shochu). LIZ CRAIN.

Döner Kebab

515 SW 4th Ave., 295-4929, 11 am-8 pm Monday-Saturday, 1-4 am Saturday-Sunday. 

The Döner folk have been slinging their shaved meat sandwiches since 2008 and show no indications of slowing down—good news for those relying on a steady supply of shawarma’s European cousin. Whether you enjoy the heaping mound of spit-roasted turkey on bread ($6.99), in a wrap ($6.99) or doubled up on a plate ($7.99), the salty slices with just the right amount of char balanced by crisp veggies and a unifying yogurt sauce are going to improve your attitude. Get fries if you must, but all your attention will be on the döner, which is how it should be. BRIAN PANGANIBAN.

Dorio

1037 NW 23rd Ave., 219-0633. 11 am-9 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-10 pm Friday, noon-10 pm Saturday.

Even on a polished avenue like Northwest 23rd, appearances can be deceiving: Dorio’s decor, an anonymous blend of suburban cafe and cocktail bar, suggests a menu of wheatgrass wraps, but Dorio is actually one of the city’s best Greek lunch spots, and among the very few that stuffs its gyros with identifiable meats. All come with a good Greek side salad or garlic fries. The lamb ($10) is tender, spiked with fresh thyme and garlic, the tzatziki sauce good and sour. The chicken ($8.50) is well marinated, tender and salty. Both meats are available as “Greek bento” over rice for $6.50 and $5.50, respectively. Dinner is very nearly as cheap, and just as satisfying. BEN WATERHOUSE.

Dove Vivi

2727 NE Glisan St., 239-4444,
dovevivipizza.com, 4-10 pm daily.

Since firing up its ovens in 2007, Dove Vivi has drawn crowds with crispy cornmeal pizza crust and weird toppings like corn and butternut squash. Pies are offered at $20 for a whole and $10 for a half, but that ruins half the fun of what makes Dove Vivi a hit—experimentation. With slices made to order (at $3.75 each) from an everyday menu, it’s easy to please picky palates with the Pepperoni Classico or Quatro Formaggio, while the corn-covered slices and spicy housemade sausage add pizzazz. A rotating menu of daily specials is a bit friskier, boasting such anomalies as ham and pear, chorizo, golden chanterelle and a colorful cast of pies both strange and traditional. It’s a virtual pizza lab offering something for every taste…. Just be sure to grab a glass of wine, as even slices take 20 minutes to cook, and get ready to play willing guinea pig to the mad experiments. AP KRYZA.

Du Kuh Bee

12590 SW 1st St., Beaverton, 643-5388. 4 pm-1 am Monday-Thursday, 4 pm-2 am Friday-Saturday.

With all the press this tiny Korean noodle place has gotten over the past couple of years, it’s a wonder it isn’t packed to overflowing all the time. You can still walk in and snag one of the six tables or four bar stools and dig into handmade Korean noodles, barbecued meats and seafood and kimchi-heavy dishes while watching the kitchen work like a high-performance engine. Sitting at the bar is recommended—the fascinating noodle-stretching process works like a giant rubber band, with a disc of dough pulled and folded over and over until it’s the perfect width. Then it gets tossed into a pot of boiling water before ending up in a flaming sauté pan. Because the kitchen is small and there are just two cooks, don’t expect lightning-fast service. This is a place to linger, and food will be served in stages. DEEDA SCHROEDER.

Du’s Grill

5365 NE Sandy Blvd., 284-1773, dusgrill.com. 11 am-8:45 pm Monday-Friday.

Du’s might be the ultimate cheap eat, at least for non-veggies. The formula is simple: huge portions of grilled meat boxed up with alarming speed for scant money. It literally takes longer to wait for the crosswalk light on Sandy Boulevard to change than it does for your order to be chopped, wrapped and ready. The speed is merciful; if the wait were longer, the tantalizing smell of grilling beef, chicken and pork might just overwhelm you. Order the standard chicken teriyaki ($6.90) and you’ll get a giant pile of juicy bird on a bed of rice, with a hefty salad and Du’s awesome poppyseed dressing. You can also get combos of chicken and pork ($7.60), chicken and beef or pork and beef (both $7.90). The side of kimchi ($2.50) doesn’t add much, and the tofu bowl ($6) is an untempting concession to the veg crowd. Trust us, you want the meat. BECKY OHLSEN.

Dwaraka Indian Cuisine 

3962 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 230-1120, dwarakapdx.com. 11:30 am-2:30 pm and 5-9:30 pm daily.

A tasty shot of North and South Indian spice in the unassuming row of restaurants that also includes Mio Sushi and No Fish! Go Fish!, Dwaraka Indian Cuisine’s sparse decor and standard-issue Indian lunch buffet belie an extremely tasty, affordable treasure for the tandoori set. Vegetarian and carnivorous options abound, including spicy vindaloos, curries, masalas and saag. Lamb vindaloo ($11.95 a la carte, $14.95 thali-style with curry, dal, sambar, rice, chewy naan, raita and dessert) offers ample spice without esophageal incineration, while appetizers double as a small meal unto themselves, including crispy vegetable or meat samosas ($4.50-$5.50), deep-fried to perfection and loaded with peas, and dosas, crêpelike flour rolls stuffed with curry, lentils and a variety of sauces ($4.50-$5). Everything from the cheeses to the naan is housemade, making the sparse, family-owned restaurant a prime spot without breaking the bank. AP KRYZA.

Eastmoreland Market and Kitchen

3616 SE Knapp St., 771-1186, eastmorelandmarket.com. 8:30 am-7 pm Monday-Friday, 8:30 am-6 pm Saturday. Lunch until 4 pm weekdays. 

At first glance just a well-heeled neighborhood grocery deep within one of the city’s most exclusive residential areas, where median home prices top half a million, Eastmoreland Market has indeed long been viewed as a neighborhood asset. But the main attraction for outsiders is the Kitchen, with its lunchtime offerings of mammoth sandwiches, salads and other satisfying deli items. The meatball hero ($8) makes a prince of this blue-collar classic, with the mozzarella, meatballs and most other components housemade. The meaty muffuletta ($8) has its own following. The hoagie ($8.50), with pan-fried chicken, dressed greens, sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese, is a marvelous combination of tangy and savory flavors. Worth the trip in themselves are the arancine ($1), the delicate and mischievous-feeling Sicilian fried risotto balls, which are among the best in town. If this place is the closest most of us will ever come to living in Eastmoreland, then so be it. CRAIG BEEBE.

E’Njoni Cafe

901 N Killingsworth St., 286-1401, enjonicafe.com. 11:30 am-3 pm and 5-9 pm Tuesday-Friday, noon-9 pm Saturday-Sunday.

E’Njoni Cafe exudes warmth. The walls are painted in tones of terra cotta and butternut squash, and the flavors that infuse the dishes are equally warm, all curry and ginger and fiery berbere (a chile-based spice mixture ubiquitous in East African cuisine). Start with house favorite fuul ($7), a bowl of slow-cooked fava beans served with freshly baked bread. The sweetness of the tomatoes and the tartness of the feta balance the heat of the chile peppers. Order up a five-veggie combo plate ($12)—try the timtimo (cardamom-spiced lentils in berbere sauce), or the bamiazigni (garlicky okra and chickpeas)—and a few meat entrees ($11-$14). All dishes come served on a bicycle wheel-sized bed of spongy injera. Coffee connoisseurs won’t want to miss the elaborate coffee ceremony, a 30-minute process that takes you through the full brewing process. And for imbibers, there’s Ethiopian wine and beer on offer: Try the tej, a slightly viscous honey wine reminiscent of mead. REBECCA JACOBSON.

Escape From New York Pizza

622 NW 23rd Ave., 227-5423, efnypizza.net. 11:30 am-11 pm daily.

How paradoxical, that munching fresh, hot slices should be a form of nostalgia, but Escape From New York serves as a kind of collective Proustian madeleine for the shoppers of No-Longer-Trendy-Third. Since 1983, Phil Geffner has been pulling Big Apple pies out of the oven, with the piquantly seasoned tomato sauce as thick as the Statues of Liberty peppering the storefront. Two pepperoni slices ($3.25 each) are a perfect 12-minute lunch, and a used copy of the Times always seems to be lying near the counter. A neighborhood cornerstone that has lost little of its attitude, Escape proudly carries out Geffner’s principled fight against delivery, credit cards, wasted napkins and ranch dressing. AARON MESH.

Fire on the Mountain

1706 E Burnside St., 230-9464; 4225 N Interstate Ave., 280-9464, portlandwings.com. 11 am-10 pm Sunday-Thursday, 11 am-11 pm Friday-Saturday.

Being the deep-frying free spirits that they are, you’d think that people behind this hot wing bastion would be more egalitarian in their approach to developing new products. Why not just have an open to the public vat of 350 degree oil to throw in whatever tickles your fancy. Then again, they have a far better sense of what would benefit from an oil-delivered Mailliard reaction than most. (Deep-fried Nutter Butters? Friggin’ brilliant!). Case in point: The wings, obviously. Choose from nearly a dozen different sauces for every six wings ($5.95), choose your sides, get your fingers dirty and wonder at the restorative power of hot oil. For you more dainty eaters, try a chicken-tender-based sandwich, like the Emma ($8.95), a too-tall-for-your-mouth construction that also includes bacon, lettuce, tomato, blue cheese and a guarantee you won’t be kissing anyone soon after eating it. BRIAN PANGANIBAN.

Foster Burger

5339 SE Foster Road, 775-2077, fosterburger.com. 11 am-10 pm daily.

The meaty offspring of Andy Ricker (Pok Pok, Ping), Daniel Mondok (Sel Gris) and Kurt Huffman (developer of Whiskey Soda Lounge, Ping, Grüner and St. Jack) isn’t a “concept restaurant” or a cheeky riff on the American diner. It’s just a straight-up burger joint—thank God—with a ’90s Portland theme that shows up everywhere from the walls papered with Satyricon and La Luna posters to the Weezer and Pixies tunes on the stereo. All their messy-wonderful eats ($8-$11 or so) start with a foundation of soft housemade brioche buns, excellent housemade pickles ($2.50-$5, stock up with a jar from the fridge near the bar) and a side of crisp, skin-on fries. From there, get a bit spicy with the Burner burger ($10), packed with mellow roasted jalapeños, crunchy little onion straws and both American and cheddar cheese all drizzled with sriracha, or go Kiwi with pickled beets and a fried egg ($11). There are microbrews and booze on hand, but man, does Foster Burger make a great chocolate milkshake. If I lived in the neighborhood, my butt would never leave its wooden booths. KELLY CLARKE.

Foti’s Greek Deli

1740 E Burnside St., 235-0274.
10 am-7 pm daily.

Most people know Foti’s as “that gyro place on Burnside,” but pitas aren’t all they do right at this old-school, counter-service Greek deli. The moussaka ($5.50) is a tasty slice of spiced ground beef, lamb and eggplant, topped with béchamel that’s great for lunch or dinner. The dolmades plate ($6.95) is a steal with six lamb-and-rice-stuffed grape leaves smothered in lemony avgolemeno sauce and served with sesame bread and jojos. Everything on the menu—gyros ($5.40), souvlaki ($3.75 stick, $6.95 sandwich), fried calamari ($8.95)—is served on paper plates at checkered tablecloth tables. Grab beer and pine-flavored retsina wine to go or in-house from the attached Greek import market. If you like old arcade games, bring quarters for Ms. Pac-Man. LIZ CRAIN.

Fuller’s Coffee Shop

136 NW 9th Ave., 222-5608. 6 am-3 pm Monday, Thursday and Friday, 7 am-2 pm Saturday, 8 am-2 pm Sunday. Cash or check only.

If you’ve lived in Portland long, you probably know about Fuller’s as an old-school holdout, a well-loved relic from before the Pearl District had a fancy name. It’s a classic lunch counter-style diner, with big windows, unfussy service and a serpentine row of seats facing the kitchen. Breakfast gets crowded, but the line moves quickly. Try the “famous” omelette ($9.25), with onions, tomato, ham, cheese and mushrooms—it’s gooey and perfectly balanced. The hotcake sandwich ($7.75) is another reliable favorite. Hash browns are a little inconsistent; when they’re good, they’re very, very good, but when they’re bad, they’re blackened. And one could argue that the prices are a smidge high for what you’re getting. Still, the use of real ingredients (no plastic cheese, no canned mushrooms, no tinny orange juice) and the unbeatable atmosphere outweigh any such quibbles.
BECKY OHLSEN.

Frank’s Noodle House

822 NE Broadway, 288-1007. 11 am-9:30 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-10 pm Friday-Saturday.

For the past seven years, Frank Fong has been the Portland metro area’s king of noodles—chubby, springy, chewy wonders he creates from wheat flour, eggs, water and one pair of hands. He pulled his tasty wares at Beaverton’s Du Kuh Bee until 2010, when he parted ways with DKB’s co-owner and opened Frank’s in a converted house on Northeast Broadway. The locale may have changed, but the noodles have not. The fresh noodles are quick-boiled and then tossed into a hot wok with a variety of proteins—thick bits of pork belly or toothsome squid are my favorites—along with crisp bell peppers, cabbage, onions and a smoky Korean chile sauce ($7.95-$12.95 at dinner). Minutes later, they’re on your plate; seconds later, in your gullet. Portions are big enough to share, especially since orders come with crunchy pickled daikon, kimchi and soup. Go ahead and spring for a plate of housemade steamed dumplings ($4.25), too. Packed with juicy, sesame-perfumed ground pork and tons of chives, they’re so tender they make similar dishes around town taste like gummy hockey pucks. KELLY CLARKE.

Fryer Tuck Chicken

6712 SW Capitol Highway, 246-7737, fryertuckchicken.com. 8 am-midnight daily.

It really says something when you order a two-piece “snack box” ($6.95 for legs or thighs, add $1 for a breast) and receive a 2-pound plate loaded with a fried breast the size of a Pomeranian, three potatoes’ worth of breaded jojos and nary a speck of color aside from brown. Ah, but that’s the beauty of Cider Mill-Fryer Tuck Chicken, a cavernous Multnomah Village oasis that looks like a small-town Midwestern hunting lodge and declares all-out war on your left ventricle. Also tasty is the Pull This ($7.95), a pulled-chicken slop stuffed into a hoagie full of coleslaw and sweet barbecue sauce. But that’s a little too much color at a place where the most delicious items are the color of charred mahogany. Fryer Tuck offers fried chicken that gives the city’s best, Reel ’M Inn, a run for its money—and for chicken scratch. AP KRYZA.

Gandhi’s

827 SW 2nd Ave., 219-2287. 10 am-3:30 pm Monday-Friday.

What Gandhi’s lacks in ambience (wood-paneled walls, plastic plants) it makes up for in portion size. The East Indian lunchtime spot, housed in the shell of a former Burger King, dishes up tummy-busting servings of piquant chicken vindaloo, curried potatoes and lip-burning stewed tomatoes, all heaped over a veritable mountain range of rice. Don’t let the long line deter you—counter service is zippy and friendly, and no dish will set you back more than $8. Try the combination plate ($7.25), which gets you two chicken dishes and two veggies. The resulting muddle might resemble earth-toned sludge (ask for cilantro or tangy mint chutney to add some green to the mix), but it tastes way better. REBECCA JACOBSON.

Genies Cafe

1101 SE Division St., 445-9777,
geniesdivision.com, 8 am-3 pm daily.

Every Sunday, a line of bleary-eyed young people snakes along Southeast Division Street. They’re tired, cold, hungover or possibly still drunk, and yet they wait, patiently, for a table at Genies. For therein lies the answer to all of their problems: a tall, stiff, face-burning Bloody Mary ($6.75), stuffed with a farmers market of fresh vegetables and kicked up with house-infused vodkas like habanero, horseradish, basil and bacon. For those who can stomach them, solids are equally restorative. This is Portland Brunch 101—big plates of scrambles, omelettes and hashes made with local ingredients in myriad vegetarian and meaty variations—and almost everything rates a solid B+. Benedicts ($9-$9.25) come with large free-range eggs and a textbook hollandaise. Hefty biscuits are flecked with rosemary and topped with a comforting, creamy gravy ($8.25). And the French toast ($7.75) is made with slices of house-baked brioche so big and soft, you’ll want to curl up on top of it and sleep off the rest of your Saturday night. RUTH BROWN.

Geraldi’s Italian Eating Place

518 SW 4th Ave., 224-1865. 9:30 am-3 pm Monday-Friday.

Step through Geraldi’s tiny door and it’s as though you’ve traveled 3,000 miles east. You’ll be greeted in a thick Boston accent; the glorious scent of fresh meatballs and marinara sauce wafts through the air; the faded red gingham is exactly what you expect. Hot sandwiches are what Geraldi’s is known for, and a full 9-inch sub is truly a sight to behold—it’s enough for three meals. Go classic with the N.Y. meatball hero ($8.95), a fluffy Italian loaf stuffed with meatballs and dripping mozzarella. The recipe for the Chicago beef hero ($8.75) was reportedly passed on to Geraldi’s by a Chicagoan customer; the updated version, Geraldi’s Torpedo ($8.95), adds pepperoni to the Italian beef, bell peppers and onions. The lasagna ($7.95, $6.95) comes with or without meatballs, one of the few vegetarian options. If you aren’t already hiking it to Massachusetts, you’ll at least be back tomorrow. CAITLIN MCCARTHY.

Girasole Wood Fired Cafe 

8438 N Lombard St., 954-1671, sunflowerpizza.blogspot.com. 11 am-9 pm Tuesday-Thursday, 11 am-midnight Friday, 9 am-midnight Saturday, 9 am-8 pm Sunday.

Non parlo Italiano, but according to the menu of this new St. Johns pizzeria, girasole means “sunflower.” The name was chosen in part as a nod to the cafe’s pastoral roots: Girasole has operated as a stand on a Sauvie Island farm since last spring, and only opened as a brick-and-mortar restaurant in January. The pizza-making operation’s move from farm stand to storefront just goes to show you can take the pizzeria out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the pizzeria. Even after being transplanted, Girasole has retained its earthiness. The vegetables are fresh, the service is friendly, and much of the decor, like the old doors that serve as tables, has been resourcefully repurposed. The pizzeria serves Italian-style, thin-crust pies baked, per tradition, in a wood-fired oven. The Queen Margherita ($7 small, $14 large) is decent, and the bacon, blue cheese and caramelized onion Mimi ($8 small, $15 large) is good, but if you only try one pie, make it the Thai ($9 small, $16 large); it’s nice and spicy, and the thick peanut sauce tastes as natural as a bucolic day back on the farm. JONATHAN FROCHTZWAJG.

Gladstone Street Pizza

3813 SE Gladstone St., 775-1537, gladstonecoffee.com. 5-9 pm Wednesday-Sunday.

Serving big, cheesy, garlicky pies without an ounce of pretension, this bare-bones pizza chamber only proofs enough dough for 30 pizzas a night. They don’t always run out, but it’s not worth arriving late and missing out on the chance of wrapping your lips around a chewy-crusted slice topped with peppery arugula, sweet onions and sausage or groaning with Canadian bacon and pepperoni ($19-$28 a pie). No meal is complete without a local microbrew from the short list above the oven (Amnesia, Hopworks, etc. for $4 a pint) and a Caesar salad ($7.95), its drippy leaves groaning with Parmesan, so generous it will feed four and leave you with garlic breath for hours. KELLY CLARKE.

The Globe

2045 SE Belmont St., 488-5701, globepdx.com. 5 pm-midnight daily.

Ever since it underwent an extensive remodel in 2005, this striped building has played host to bad ideas. First a waffle-centric diner, then a Lebanese restaurant that served cheesesteaks died here. Now, someone seems finally to have hit upon a winning formula: good pizza, cheap highbrow bar snacks and live music seven nights a week. The pizza is of the California school, Italian by way of Wolfgang Puck. The 14-inch, thin-crusted pies ($12-$15), which are tomato-free more often than not and come topped with speck, chevre or pear (a pepperoni is on offer for traditionalists) make a large meal for one, and will feed two with a salad. I like the arrostito, with mushrooms and roasted pepper. Snacks ($2-$5) include olives, stuffed eggs, salami and pâté. Order three for a choose-your-own antipasti adventure. BEN WATERHOUSE.

Good Taste Noodle House

8220 SE Harrison St., 788-6909. 9 am-9 pm Monday-Saturday, 9 am-8:30 pm Sunday. 

Luckily, the NFL has yet to serve notice to this noodle shop that their won ton-, noodle, roast-, barbecue pork- and duck-laden “Super Bowl” ($9) is in violation of its trademark and force them to change the name to the Big Game Bowl. Regardless of what they call it, it remains a ridiculously good deal. The won tons are plump, serious affairs, redolent with sesame and five-spice, and the roast pork has bits of crackling skin attached. Ignoring the rest of the menu here is an easy trap to fall into, which is a shame. The shrimp fried rice ($7) is exactly the sort of hot, salty starch bomb that makes this winter weather more tolerable, especially when loaded up with the housemade chile oil sitting on every table. BRIAN PANGANIBAN.

Grant’s Philly Cheese Steaks

15350 NE Sandy Blvd., 252-8012.
10 am-7 pm Monday-Friday.

They say you can never go home again, but if you’re from a town like mine—one with ample dining options for those who crave oversized and greasy heart-attack food—outer Northeast Portland has plenty of places to carb-cram like a true bumpkin. So don’t get distracted by the word “Philly” here: The teeny country kitchen that is Grant’s Philly Cheese Steaks has formulated its own concoction of way-too-much-minced-steak and a goo of your choice (they serve provolone, cheddar, cream cheese or American—but the melted cheese, as a sign on the counter proudly announces, is nothing but the finest Kraft Cheez Whiz) on soft, grease-dripping hoagies. Peppers and onions are free on a $6 half-Philly (all but the longest-haul truckers should avoid ordering the $10.50 full sandwich), but it’s a buck more for mushrooms and other such novelty items, which will make you feel slightly less like a hyena tearing at a wildebeest carcass. We had a long time to eavesdrop on the out-of-work locals while slowly picking at a sinful mountain of cheese fries ($5.75), which turned out to be a totally unnecessary side, considering the deliciously thick housemade potato chips served for free with the cheesesteaks and gut-busting half-pound burgers. CASEY JARMAN.

Ha & VL

2738 SE 82nd Ave., 772-0103.
8 am-4 pm daily.

Tucked away behind the Wing Ming herb market, this little joint churns out soups to die for ($7.50, plus 50 cents extra if you order it to go). Regulars keep track of which soups appear on which days—these change, but it’s worth following the crabflake noodle soup (banh canh cua) wherever it appears on the calendar. (At press time, it was the Monday special.) The broth is insanely rich and vividly orange, to the point that the quail egg floating in it is tinted pink. (This is a good thing.) Another favorite is the peppery pork ball noodle soup (bun moc), currently served on Wednesdays but also worth chasing if it moves. Tuesdays are sandwiches and coffee only, but every other day of the week is a good bet. Be sure to get to the restaurant before noon if your heart is set on a particular soup, as they do run out occasionally. BECKY OHLSEN.

Habibi

1012 SW Morrison St., 274-0628; 221 SW Pine St., 459-4441, habibirestaurantpdx.com. 11 am-9 pm Sunday-Thursday, 11 am-11 pm Friday-Saturday. 

There are only a few good, authentic Middle Eastern places in this town, and Habibi surely figures among them. The downtown Lebanese-Syrian standard, which recently expanded into the space next door and added a second location on Southwest Pine Street, is dependably delicious and reasonably priced. Habibi’s mezza platter ($10.95) offers a fairly comprehensive survey of Near East flavors, from smooth hummus to tangy tzatziki; served with fresh, airy pita, it’s enough to feed at least a couple of people. For your main dish, get a sandwich ($6-$6.50), but stick with something vegetarian—the meat is a bit tough. (Editor’s note: Blasphemer! Order the lamb shawarma!) Round off your meal with a flaky, honey-suffused baklava ($3) and cups of the strong, sweet Turkish coffee ($3.75). JONATHAN FROCHTZWAJG.

Halibut’s

2525 NE Alberta St., 808-9600, theoriginalhalibuts.com. 11:30 am-10 pm Monday-Wednesday, 11:30 am-11 pm Thursday-Saturday, 11:30 am-10 pm Sunday.

Even on a slow Thursday afternoon, when the lone server is busying herself scrubbing salt shakers and kitchen chatter is getting loose and gossipy, Halibut’s keeps its customers waiting. But we’re talking fish and chips here, so that wait is a welcome one—it portends fries still sizzling from their oil bath and hot strips of Alaskan halibut ($18 for a full order, $10 for half) sporting light, crisp carapaces of flaky batter. The adjoining bar hosts live blues Thursday through Saturday nights, although it is difficult to imagine anything soul stirring occurring within walls so devoted to Oregon Ducks pride. Also, getting drunk in proximity to clam chowder ($6 for a bowl, $12 for a tureen) just seems like an awful idea, so go on a lazy weekday, when the natural light slanting in through the front windows and the happy banter of people not working too hard transforms Halibut’s into a land-locked oasis of coastal vacation vibes. CHRIS STAMM.

Hama Sushi

4232 NE Sandy Blvd., 249-1021. 11 am-2 pm and 5-9:30 pm Tuesday-Friday, 5-10 pm Saturday. 

Sushi joints can be frightening for the uninitiated, but the welcoming, family-owned Hama Sushi is perfect for rookies, with a friendly staff that doesn’t judge unknowledgeable patrons for stabbing sashimi with chopsticks. A respectable non-sushi menu includes a lunch combo of chicken teriyaki paired with the go-to for casual sushi lovers, California roll ($6.75), as well as bento, donburi and noodle options. For the true warrior, combo platters offer a colorful explosion of raw fish, including the Sushi Combo ($12.95), a massive collection of bite-sized sushi and sashimi that includes spongy river eel, tuna, hamachi, sea bass, surf clam (which resembles fishy Neapolitan ice cream) and more, paired with cloudy miso and tangy sunomono cucumber chunks. Toss in a bottle of dry sake, and Hama is a great crash course for newcomers, a smorgasbord for veterans and a date spot for folks who prefer to scarf sushi without the pressure and spectacle. AP KRYZA.

Happy Sparrow

3001 SE Belmont St., 445-0231, happysparrowcafe.com. 7 am-2 pm Monday-Friday, 9 am-2 pm Saturday.

An aptly named establishment, this. It’s almost impossible not to emerge cheerful and chirpy from this cute, colorful Belmont cafe. The house specialty is kolaches ($1.95-$2.75 each), a traditional Czech pastry that has found its way to this small corner of Portland via Texas. Every day, Happy Sparrow bakes dozens of these little briochelike buns, and fills them with a rotating assortment of locally sourced ingredients. On any given visit, the savory offerings might include spicy barbecue pulled chicken, a hearty vegan vegetable or a simple Tillamook cheddar. Sweet fillings range from the more traditional smoky, crunchy poppyseed and date to some outrageously tasty Nutella variations—ask them to nuke it first, so the insides ooze out all gooey and warm. Just to add to the cross-cultural confusion, pair it with a Vietnamese coffee, made strong and sweet with a proper phin drip filter over condensed milk. Sink this with three or four kolaches, and you’ll be one happy little bird indeed. RUTH BROWN.

Hash

8728 SE 17th Ave., 239-3966,
hashrestaurant.com, 8 am-3 pm Wednesday-Sunday.

Portland has many restaurants that do the seasonal, local, we’re-friends-with-our-farmers new-menu-every-week thing. Portland has many community cafes that do well-executed brunch classics. But this city still has very few places that do both. Whilst we wouldn’t quite call Hash the Paley’s of Portland’s brunch scene, it’s a bloody good start. The restaurant delivers its namesake dish as an artfully arranged pile of soft, herby potato cubes, individually pan-roasted with Carlton Farms pork belly ($12), house-braised corned beef ($10.50) or seasonal mushrooms (market price), and topped with a poached egg. A blackboard next to the open kitchen greets guests with the day’s seasonal offerings—on one visit, dishes were accompanied by poached pears with cinnamon, brown sugar and hazelnuts. The Danish aebleskivers ($8.50) are outstanding—soft pancake puffs served with sweet vanilla sabayon and filled with warm fruit compote that explodes inside your mouth. Caution: portions are adequate but not the three-meals-in-one many have come to expect. This is not a hangover breakfast. But when you want to start the day with a well-composed plate of simple, fresh ingredients, Hash helps fill a gaping hole in Portland’s morning dining scene. RUTH BROWN.

Helser’s on Alberta

1538 NE Alberta St., 281-1477,
helsersonalberta.com, 7 am-3 pm daily.

As we shivered outside waiting 45 minutes for a table to wolf down Sunday brunch, we wondered if this packed Alberta Street spot would be worth it. Turns out all those huddled masses were on to something: a basic brunch with servings so big that many customers are carrying leftover containers when they squeeze out through the tight entryway. Put the crispy pepper bacon and eggs with a heap of potatoes ($7.50) in that tasty/huge category. The brioche French toast ($6.95) needed a second cup of syrup for moisture. The pigs in a blanket ($8.95) did not. Our waitress was unfrazzled and patient with us Helser’s newbies despite the tumult. HENRY STERN.

Hillbilly Bento

211 SW 6th Ave., 808-9283, hillbillybento.com. 11 am-6 pm Monday-Friday.

I stepped out of the Portland drizzle and into a weird Southern dream. Shacklike downtown eatery Hillbilly Bento’s walls are lined with handmade signs that make it look more like the clubhouse from Little Rascals or a lakeside bait shop than a restaurant. Aside from a heaping pile of wet, pulverized pulled pork (served with dirty rice and flaky cornbread for $5.95), the bento menu is packed with willfully populist soul food and gut-sticking, gravy-based items you’d expect from a county fair. Great care goes into making the food, from collard greens to pecan pie. It looks and tastes homemade—or at least high-end cafeteria-made, as one can get a good look at the full spread before choosing an item. It’s just ducky. CASEY JARMAN.

Hot Pot City

1975 SW 1st Ave., 224-6696. 11:30 am-4 pm and 5-9:30 pm daily.

Sit at the bar at Hot Pot City because it’s more fun. There’s no booze, though—the only thing on tap is soda. Chinese hot pot (lunch $8.65; dinner $14.65 adults, $10 kids) is basically cook your own damn soup. Choose a boil-at-your-table broth; add whatever raw vegetables, meat, seafood, and noodles you want; cook and eat. Over and over. Fixings at the buffet include super-fresh seafood (shark, catfish, Pacific oysters), meats (various cuts of chicken, beef, pork, offal) and loads of veggies and noodles. There are eight spicy and not-so-spicy broths to choose from, including Thai hot and sour (my favorite) and Ma la Chinese spicy herb broth. Come hungry, because Hot Pot City is an all-you-can-slurp enterprise. LIZ CRAIN.

Hush Hush Cafe

433 SW 4th Ave., 274-1888, hushhushcafe.com. 10 am-7 pm Monday-Friday.

This Palestinian-owned corner bistro has an entryway every bit as quiet as its name, its view blocked from the sidewalk by a broad support pillar. The decor is also unremarkable—colorful but Spartan, and a bit cramped during busy hours. The food, however, makes Hush Hush one of the best Middle Eastern lunch spots in a downtown already packed with Lebanese options. The lamb and chicken shawarma plates ($7.50), tender-cooked and thickly sauced over basmati rice, are probably their best-loved items; the falafel, also, is crisp on the outside, flaky on the inside, just on the right side of moist. It’s the bread, though, that takes the proverbial cake; you can watch the cooks roll out their unleavened wares from scratch, if you want to make the kitchen nervous. Accordingly, I favor the pita wraps ($5.25-$6.50) and especially the sfiha ($6), a personal-size pizza topped modestly with lamb, onions, tomato and “secret spices” that (to this palate) seem to involve a healthy dose of coriander and cumin. Thick, flattened dough, soft but firm, forms the base; it is a foundation I would build nations upon. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

Ichidai

5714 SE Powell Blvd., 771-4648,
ichidairestaurant.com, 5-9 pm Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday, 5-9:30 pm Friday-Saturday.

In a town full of trendy, inventive sushi restaurants with hourlong waits, Ichidai can’t much compete on atmosphere, innovation or sustainability. Nestled in a nondescript Powell Boulevard office building also housing a Chinese income tax service and an adoption center, the restaurant is not the place to sample three varieties of Marine Stewardship Council-certified salmon sashimi. But sometimes you just want the basics, served in portions generous enough to last for tomorrow’s leftovers, and that’s where Ichidai shines. The three-roll dinner ($13.95), with choices from the usual hand-roll suspects, is enough food for two, while the colorful Tsunami salad ($9) seems to have more fish than greens. The teriyaki is unexciting, but the fried chicken katsu is surprisingly juicy. Ichidai isn’t a place you’d bring visiting guests to flaunt Portland’s foodie credentials, but with a friendly staff and an oddly compelling soundtrack of gentle birdsong and guitar, you may just want to make a stop after dropping them at the airport. CRAIG BEEBE.

J Cafe

533 NE Holladay St., 230-9599, jcafepdx.com. 7 am-4 pm Monday-Friday.

A true surprise in the midst of the Lloyd District, the J Cafe is an oasis in a desert of bland hotels, mallrats and Blazers. A clean, small space (be wary of noontime crowds), it serves typical lunch fare with atypical fervor. Choose from J’s long roster of panini, grilled wonders both gooey and fresh. The Rose City is a standout: thinly sliced black forest ham on a bed of melted Tillamook Swiss, drizzled Dijon mayonnaise adding a nice bite ($7.50). Each panino comes with mixed greens and a bag of Tim’s, probably handed off to you by J himself (owner Jonathan Cross). J-goers are dressed for business, and probably talking it, too, but the bright space and cozy, fast service (not to mention the tantalizing smell of pressed panini) makes it feel like more than just an hour out of your workday. CAITLIN MCCARTHY.

J&M Cafe

537 SE Ash St., 230-0463, jandmcafepdx.com. 7:30 am-2 pm Monday-Friday, 8 am-2 pm Saturday-Sunday. Cash only.

You may not realize, upon first visiting J&M Cafe, that you’ve never been there before. It is so very Southeast Portland in all the best ways, with brick walls, exposed wooden rafters, local and organic everything, self-serve Stumptown and a silly, tattoo-inspired logo featuring a winged pig head. So why choose J&M over the rest? Well, its relative obscurity helps keep brunch lines down, and it’s so centrally located it’s not much of a trek from any quadrant. But the best part is the breakfast menu, a revised version of which is held over for lunch. Meat-lovers choose the J&M Plate, with melted cheeses and basted eggs laid over English muffins, crisscrossed by ridiculously succulent slabs of Willamette Valley bacon ($7.95). Herbivores go for the French toast made from a baguette ($7.25) and, to keep things savory, a side of the crispy grilled grits ($3.50). Ain’t nothing like a true Southeast breakfast. CAITLIN MCCARTHY.

Jade Teahouse

7912 SE 13th Ave., 477-8985,
jadeteahouse.com. 11 am-9 pm Tuesday-Saturday, noon-6 pm Sunday.

Lucy and April Eklund’s airy Sellwood cafe offers dozens of teas from around the world and enormous platters of Thai and Vietnamese standards. The restaurant is unusual for the neighborhood in that it’s cheap, reliably enjoyable and actually a pleasant place to be, and so is usually packed. Always good are the minced chicken with mint and cilantro ($10), ridiculously large steamed hum bao ($3) with barbecued pork or curried vegetables, sweet and spicy chile noodles ($9) and sour, crispy salt-and-pepper squid ($8). Don’t be shy about ordering from the lengthy list of daily specials, either—a sweet pumpkin curry was the ideal antidote to mid-January chills. The Eklunds are no slouches when it comes to pastry, either. Try the carrot cake. BEN WATERHOUSE.

Jang Choong Dong Wang Jok Bal

3492 SW Cedar Hills Blvd., Beaverton, 644-7378. 11 am-2 am Monday-Saturday, 2 pm-midnight Sunday.

Walking in here is like getting an unexpected, welcome hug. Anchoring a strip mall in bleakest suburbia, JCD looks off-putting from the outside, but indoors is a tiny universe of delight. A few wooden booths populate the dimly lit cafe; it’s charmingly decorated, with antique-papered walls, faded paintings, basket lanterns and one big TV near the cash register, broadcasting Asian game shows. The world’s sweetest couple runs the kitchen: She takes orders, he cooks and occasionally peeks out to see whom he’s cooking for. The banchan (a variety of appetizers included with the meal) include shining examples of kimchi, thinly sliced fish cake and golden cubes of solidified heaven called gam ja—braised potato seasoned with honey and sesame. Those potatoes alone could turn a bad day around. But it couldn’t hurt to order a scallion-seafood pancake ($9.95). JCD’s version is the best I’ve had, with a hot and crisp crust around a dense, custardy middle, filled with chunks of green onion, peppers, tender shrimp, oysters and squid. BECKY OHLSEN.

John Street Cafe

8338 N Lombard St., 248-1066. 7 am-2:30 pm Wednesday-Friday, 7:30 am-2:30 pm Saturday-Sunday.

Between the pastel paint on the walls and abundance of chicken breast, blue cheese and artichoke hearts on the menu, you’d be forgiven for feeling like you’d hitched a ride back to 1993 upon opening the door to the John Street Cafe. However, given that much of the neighborhood’s main drag hasn’t progressed beyond the late 1970s (which, let’s face it, is why we love St. Johns in the first place), eating at this always-packed brunch joint feels practically modern. Fresh vegetables abound on both the breakfast and lunch menus, and the sizable lunch sandwiches, instead of coming with the diner-standard side of freezer-burned iceberg lettuce, are accompanied by either roasted potatoes or a sweet-and-vinegary cucumber salad. You can’t go wrong with the TAB—sliced turkey breast, avocado and bacon on thick and crusty whole wheat bread ($9.75)—and be sure to check the specials board above the cash register for the day’s soups and desserts. KAT MERCK.

Junior’s

1742 SE 12th Ave., 467-4971. 8 am-2:30 pm Monday-Friday, 8 am-3 pm Saturday-Sunday. 

What a novel concept—a brunch place where you don’t have to wait 30 minutes! But don’t take the lack of weekday overflow as a sign of the quality of Junior’s food, because the small Ladd’s Addition joint makes a damn fine plate of migas ($8) with a side of killer potatoes. Though they could use a bit of extra kick (that’s what the Aardvark sauce is for!), the migas at Junior’s rival Podnah’s Pit for the best Tex-Mex dish in Portland, a heaping plate of fluffy eggs scrambled with tortillas, onions, peppers and tomatoes. Almost everything on the menu has a vegan option, and an order of coffee comes with half and half, soy or hemp milk. Don’t tell Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, or Junior’s could become a new punch line. MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.

Justa Pasta 

1326 NW 19th Ave., 243-2249, justapasta.com. 11:30 am-3 pm and 4:30-9 pm Monday-Friday, 4:30-9:30 pm Saturday, 4:30-8:30 pm Sunday.

Its name might slightly irk the Italian-American Anti-Defamation League—frankly, it’s sillier than all of Portland’s puntastic Thai joints combined—but at least there’s truth in its advertising. Indeed, Justa Pasta is all abouta the pasta (my Sicilian grandmother just dry-heaved in her grave). Oh, there are other items on the menu, including daily lunch specials ($6.95-$11.95) featuring panini, risotto and lasagna, but the focus is on the food on the marquee. And as goofy as the name might be, owner Roland Carfagno is a veteran pastamaker who knows his success rests on the restaurant’s simplicity. Just choose a pasta (spaghetti, ravioli, linguine, fusilli), pair it with a sauce (the garlic chile oil is a favorite of regulars), grab a bottle of wine off the rack and voilà! A meal fit for the cast of Jersey Shore! (Sorry again, Grandma.) MATT SINGER.

Kabob House 

11667 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, 672-9229. 11 am-9 pm daily.

You’ve been looking for an excuse to visit Beaverton Town Square, right? Well, here it is. Never guessed this would be the place to go for quality Persian food, huh? Situated in the shadow of a strip-mall clock tower, Kabob House offers exactly what its name suggests. It lacks atmosphere—YouTube videos of Iranian pop stars don’t exactly qualify as ambience—but excels in taste and quantity. The kebabs, naturally, are the best things on the menu, available with beef, chicken or vegetables and served with plentiful amounts of rice. Of course, there’s always the chance you’ll fill up beforehand on the complimentary flatbread that arrives at the table with onion, basil and butter. Be careful not to gorge yourself too early. After all, when’s the next time you’ll make it out to the ’burbs? MATT SINGER.

Kalé

1628 SW Jefferson St., 957-8577, kalepdx.com. 11 am-2 pm and 6-9:30 pm Monday-Saturday. Kalé is moving at the end of March. See website for new address.

Taking a cue from Portland’s better cart chefs, who limit themselves to variations on a single, simple theme, Kalé proprietor Makoto Yoshino does only one thing—Japanese curry—and he does it very, very well. In fact, were he to ditch the buried digs in Goose Hollow for a parking spot on 10th and Alder, we’d already be tired of hearing about his specialty, a popular Japanese dish that has more in common with good ol’ American beef stew than with the Thai and Indian curries we know and love. Kalé offers two basic versions of this modest comfort food: with meat ($6.95) and without ($6.45), both served with white rice and a small side of pickled radish. The meatless iteration is slightly spicier, but it lacks the depth and range of its stout counterpart, which should come as no surprise—the menu did helpfully suggest you order the beef. Be nice, obey the menu and, while you’re at it, add a hard-boiled egg ($1), which makes for a pleasantly chilled complement to the tender chunks of meat and hearty sauce. CHRIS STAMM.

Karam

316 SW Stark St., 223-0830, karamrestaurant.com. 11 am-9 pm Monday-Saturday.

If you’re a novice to Lebanese cuisine, the food at Karam makes you feel right at home. Basics are executed quite well—silky tahini, pillows of warmed pita, and the effortless brilliance that is the restaurant’s hummus. If you’re hungry for something other than chickpeas, there’s a large menu and a staff willing to take you through it. Many dinner offerings are available at lunch at a lower price but sacrifice little in portion or flavor. Pumpkin kibbe ($9.95) is quite good, offering a hearty, crunchy and well-spiced meal. Some of the kebab meats can be tough, and the veggie grape leaves, though moist and tender, are saturated in lemon juice. If you’re more adventurous, have dinner. There you’ll find many traditional meals (goat!) served with humble panache. And when the meal’s over and you take home leftovers, which will happen, they’ll serve as the reminder you need to go back soon. AARON FURMANEK.

Ken’s Artisan Bakery

338 NW 21st Ave., 248-2202. Sandwiches, soups and salads available 11 am-3 pm daily. Bakery hours 7 am-6 pm Monday-Saturday, 8 am-5 pm Sunday.

Ken Forkish’s local bread palace is known for a lot of things, from flaky-perfect croissants to the most toothsome, crusty baguettes in town. One thing it’s been missing? Banh mi, the addictive little sub sandwiches of Vietnam. The Ken’s version ($8) is more of a happy Viet-French hybrid, smearing rough-chopped chicken-liver terrine amped up with Chinese five-spice powder, a bit of fish sauce and Szechuan peppercorns atop a toasted baguette. Add wasabi mayo, crunchy sweet-’n’-sour pickled carrot and daikon (of course), and a squirt of sriracha and you’ve got a hot and spicy lunch that’s a continent away from Ken’s usual lunch fare of soups and impeccable sandwiches. If you aren’t in the mood for banh mi, the pastries are excellent—the croissants, flaky, implausibly buttery and feather-light, are works of art. KELLY CLARKE.

Kenny & Zuke’s SandwichWorks

2376 NW Thurman St., 954-1737, kzsandwichworks.com. 11 am-8 pm daily. 

That Kenny and Zuke—what a couple of mensches! First, Ken Gordon and Nick Zukin brought Jewish deli fare to Portland with their eponymous downtown restaurant. Then, a couple of years back, they opened this sandwich-centric outfit in Northwest for our noshing pleasure. For strict carnivores, the Italian grinder ($5.50 half, $8.75 whole) is a tasty choice. It comes with four Italian meats—you’ve got your salami, your soppressata, your hot coppa and your mortadella—all on a hoagie soaked in oil and vinegar. Of SandwichWorks’ too-few vegetarian choices, the ratatouille sandwich ($4.50 half, $7.50 whole) is the way to go. The stewed-veggie filling is spot-on, and it spills luxuriantly from a fresh, aioli-spread hoagie. During happy hour (3-6 pm Monday-Friday), a half-sandwich and a cup of soup is just $6, and pints of local, seasonal beer are only $2.50. L’chaim! JONATHAN FROCHTZWAJG.

Kenny’s Noodle House

8305 SE Powell Blvd., 771-6868. 9:30 am-8 pm Monday-Thursday, 9:30 am-9 pm Friday-Saturday, 9 am-8:30 pm Sunday.

As a Chinese restaurant, it’s tough to distinguish yourself in a part of town that’s also home to Wong’s King, Ocean City, Wing Wa BBQ and Fubonn, but this triangular house of Hong Kong noodles has a secret weapon: really great congee. The staff may look askance when you request the traditional fishy rice porridge, but endure the stares and tell ’em you want both the tender rockfish as well as the pork liver and the mushroomy preserved egg in your silky slop. At $4.50 to $7 a bowl (depending on extras), it’s a unique, belly-warming dish and an unbeatable value. Kenny’s roster of other offerings, from spicy pork and egg noodles to plump dumplings swimming in chicken broth, are just OK, but that congee that might make a winter regular out of you. KELLY CLARKE.

Killer Burger

4644 NE Sandy Blvd., 971-544-7521. 11 am-9 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-10 pm Friday-Saturday.

According to Killer Burger, the no-nonsense meat shack that recently took over Nasca’s corner digs on Northeast Sandy Boulevard, a burger ain’t a burger until it’s topped with crispy bacon, grilled onions, thick pickle slices and a slather of smoky, orange mayo-relish sauce…so that’s what every order starts with. Build on that crunchy, greasy, juicy base with everything from mild green chiles and Jack cheese (the Jose Mendoza, $7.95) to housemade sweet peanut-butter sauce. Lucky for purists, Killer’s one-third pound of moist, seared beef plopped atop a buttered, toasted Franz bun is good enough to stand alone, especially since each order comes with a bottomless side of thick, deeply golden, perfectly salted fries. Killer doesn’t do options; there are no salads, hot dogs or even onion rings (although there is a lone veggie burger). And you will drink soda or beer (there’s both Ninkasi and PBR on tap). It’s not fancy, folks—just killer. KELLY CLARKE.

King Burrito

2924 N Lombard St., 283-9757.
10 am-11 pm daily.

You don’t go to a place like King Burrito sober. It’s possible, mind you, but such phenomena as coin-operated dispensers of religious-themed temporary tattoos, inexplicably hard-laminated copies of the Arbor Lodge neighborhood newsletter, and burritos the size and heft of a small log (only $3.95!) are best experienced with a drunk’s heightened sense of appreciation. Otherwise, King Burrito stands as just another solid yet geographically anonymous installment of its genre—The Cheap Yet Reliably Good Mexican Takeout Place That Time Forgot, that of the water-stained drop ceiling and hard plastic trays and white people who roll their R’s when ordering a bottle of Jarritos. Since you’re at King Burrito, odds are you’re looking for value, not foodie cred, so try the chimichanga—for only $5.75, you’ll receive a paper boat literally overflowing with meat, fried tortilla, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado and sour cream. It probably won’t be Oregon Tilth-certified, or local, or organic, or even in season, but, provided you’re still drunk, it will be, like, the best thing you’ve ever eaten in your life, man. KAT MERCK.

La Bonita 

2839 NE Alberta St., 281-3662; 2710 N Killingsworth St., 278-3050. 10 am-10 pm daily. 

Hungry Alberta hoppers are faced with a tough choice at the intersection of Northeast 27th Avenue: La Sirenita or La Bonita? Two of the city’s most popular Mexican cafes are within a tamale’s toss of one another. If you crave a California burrito, hit the former. For anything else (or for considerably less grease), La Bonita is damn near impossible to beat. Chicken enchiladas ($8.95) melt in the mouth and come swimming in a lake of green or red sauce with beans, rice and guacamole. Tacos ($2 and up) are loaded with everything from crispy carnitas to fleshy fish and some of the best slow-roasted lengua in town. Step in line (it’s worth the typical 10-minute wait, which grows exponentially during Last Thursday) and get ready for some of the best, most authentic Mexican food in town. AP KRYZA.

La Calaca Comelona 

2304 SE Belmont St., 239-9675, lacalacacomelona.com. 5:30 pm-close nightly.

From the outside, decorated with Dia de los Muertos-themed murals, La Calaca Comelona looks more like some sort of Mexican cultural center than a restaurant. And, in a way, its mission is much the same. Owner and head chef Patricia Cabrera wants to expand her patrons’ culinary literacy when it comes to Mexico, beyond the typical food-cart fare. Although she does serve the usual tacos and quesadillas—all made fresh, with house salsas and imported ingredients—the highlights are the dinner specials, which branch out to include such things as conchinita pibil ($20), a pork dish from the Yucatan cooked in banana leaves and garnished with orange slices. While it’s pricey, you get what you pay for (the $18 enchiladas morelianas is piled so high with cheese, onions, pickled jalapeños and other toppings you have to dig just to get to the actual enchiladas). The more cheaply priced tortas, tostadas and salads ($7-$8) are equally delicious and filling. MATT SINGER.

La Catrina

1235 SW Jefferson St., 478-0505. 10 am-9 pm Monday-Saturday.

As of late January, the sign out front and menus inside this downtown restaurant still bore the name Olé Olé. If you happened to miss the explanatory scrawl on the whiteboard when you entered, you wouldn’t be able to tell your shrink that it was, in fact, La Catrina’s ludicrous portions that sent you into a spiral of self-loathing so epic that you had no choice but to starve yourself back to life. It’s entirely possible that La Catrina is hiding its name out of shame for even thinking to serve its Exquisita torta ($6.25), a football-sized loaf filled with crispy bacon, fried ham, greasy al pastor, creamy guacamole, barely melted American cheese and a sprinkling of cabbage that just gets in the way of the near-death experience. This is why you’re fat? No. This is why you just exploded. Less daring diners should visit on a Monday or Saturday, when tacos are 99 cents—yes, life is cheap. CHRIS STAMM.

Le Happy

1011 NW 16th Ave., 226-1258, lehappy.com. 5 pm-1 am Monday-Thursday, 5 pm-2:30 am Friday, 6 pm-2:30 am Saturday.

Le Happy hits an ideal balance of sassy and sweet with red light bulbs and busted eyeglasses tacked to the walls, as well as a cheerful patchwork jumble of plastic flowers above the bar and votive candles set at each table. This crêperie’s offerings are appropriately varied as well. Go classy with the Ma Provence, a comforting, herby blend of chicken, tomatoes and cheeses ($8) or coarse with Le Trash Blanc, a bacon and cheddar crêpe ($6, $7.50 with a PBR). The sweet crêpes are the ones that really sing, including the tart citron gingembre ($6), filled with tangy lemon curd and punches of fresh ginger, or anything with the house semisweet chocolate sauce. Bonus points: Le Happy is open late and boasts a sizable cocktail roster, and it’s got a serious stack of board games in the back. REBECCA JACOBSON.

Limo Peruvian

2340 NW Westover Road, 477-8348, limorestaurant.com. 4-10 pm Tuesday-Saturday, 3-10 pm Sunday.

With Portland’s hunger for Peruvian food growing ever bigger, Limo could become a favorite among foodies who like their raw fish limey, checks manageable and ambience homey. Located in the building off Northwest 23rd Place that once housed Cameo Cafe, Limo is tiny and candlelit, offering a cozy dining experience enhanced by a sprawling patio. The piqueos (tapas) menu offers delights like eggplant or beef skewers, tequeños ($8)—crisp, won ton-wrapped mozzarella served with a huancaína (spicy cheese) sauce—and a globe-spanning lineup of ceviches. The classic ceviche ($12) has a spot-on citric tang, with chilled chunks of tilapia swimming in lime and cilantro. The enticing seco ($19)—braised lamb, served atop a mound of mashed potatoes and dripping with aji mirasol, garlic and spices—is tender and delicious, like a finely crafted pot roast. AP KRYZA.

Little Big Burger

122 NW 10th Ave., 274-9008, littlebigburger.com. 11 am-10 pm nightly.

Micah Camden, the seemingly tireless chef who has in the past five years had a hand in the openings of Yakuza, Naomi Pomeroy’s Beast, DOC and Fats, is often described as having a “restaurant empire.” The string of eateries along Northeast 30th Avenue is really more of a fiefdom, but with Little Big Burger, Camden and co-owner Katie Poppe have their sights set on world domination. The restaurant, which opened in September and already has two more locations in the works, has only six items on the menu: fries, floats, soda and burgers, with or without cheese or meat. There are no plates on the shiny red-and-white counter; all orders are delivered in paper bags. The burgers cost $3.25, $3.75 with cheddar, Swiss, chevre or blue; fries are $2.75. They are very good fries; crisp and sweet and adequately salted, with maybe just a tad too much truffle flavoring. The burger is also very good, with a quarter-pound patty of first-rate cow flesh, seasoned with restraint, cooked medium and slathered with Camden’s own sriracha-spiked ketchup (you can take a bottle home, if you like). The bun is sturdy but quite small, leading some Yelpers to whine that the burger is an overpriced slider. Don’t let yourself be fooled—I’d guess this is a 500-calorie burger; eating two for lunch would be unwise. BEN WATERHOUSE.

Los Gorditos

1212 SE Division St., 445-6289,
losgorditospdx.com. 8 am-9 pm Monday-Saturday, 8 am-3 pm Sunday.

Savvy Portland taco-lovers (and vegetarians) knew the joys of Los Gorditos when its oversized burritos and succulent tacos were only available via a cart with a long lunchtime line. But in its seamless 2008 transition to sit-down taqueria, Gorditos filled a gaping hole in Southeast Portland cuisine, raising the stakes for inferior local chains that have been good-enough options for far too long. We’re rooting for Los Gorditos to take over the city: Its $1.75 tacos are chunky and minimal in presentation (the carne asada is salty and suitably charred); the burritos border on obscene in size and are reasonable in price. The $6.50 Super Stacey is on the pricier side of Los Gorditos’ menu, but it’s a crowning achievement in burrito architecture, packed with cheese, red sauce, sour cream and a handful of less-important non-sauce ingredients. The restaurant is quick, and the impressive salsa bar even features queso dip. Still, vegans love Los Gorditos, largely because of the taqueria’s mastery of that increasingly invasive species, soy curls. Gorditos’ soy-curl fajita burrito ($6) is a good option for the vegetarians, as well: Just add cheese, then pray for the stamina to actually finish the thing. CASEY JARMAN.

Lovejoy Bakers

939 NW 10th Ave., 208-3113, lovejoybakers.com. 6 am-6 pm daily.

This previously cursed Pearl District space seems to have finally found a keeper with baker Dan Griffin’s new shrine to the carbohydrate. In addition to excellent artisan breads and pastries, the bakery-cum-cafe offers a range of made-to-order sandwiches, soups and salads. The sandwich menu features fancy riffs on classics like Cubanos ($8), Reubens ($8.50) and pastrami on rye ($9.50). You can pay $8 for a banh mi if you really want—the extra clams go toward high-quality, locally sourced ingredients and the privilege of dining alongside citizens of Planet Pearl—but for our dough, the all-day breakfast sandwiches are the money. Five bucks gets you soft folds of scrambled egg and fontina cheese stuffed into a buttery ciabatta roll—a sublimely simple combination guaranteed to send you into a blissful tryptophan coma for the rest of the day. Spend the difference on something sweet. RUTH BROWN.

Lucky Strike

3862 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 206-8292, luckystrikepdx.com. 4 pm-midnight Wednesday-Friday and Monday, noon-1 am Saturday, noon-midnight Sunday.

Lucky Strike moved last year from a ghetto strip mall and payday lender east of 123rd Avenue to Hawthorne, but the food remains phenomenal. Jiaozi dumplings, plump with savory pork and cabbage, nestle in a pool of ruddy chile sauce. A mound of verdant Chinese chives hides chunks of pork belly studded with ginger and mouth-tingling Szechuan peppercorns. And Lucky Strike’s signature “hot pepper chicken bath” lives up to its intimidating hype, with angry-looking red chiles spilling from the plate with each stab of the chopsticks. Nothing has changed about the crusty-edged Guinness pork ribs ($10), caramelized to a rich brown in soy and Irish stout. And the “spicy noodle with pork ribs” ($8)—a knot of noodles twisting through tender pork and aromatic broth laden with star anise and the ubiquitous Szechuan peppercorns—is still among the best things I’ve ever eaten. Newbie tip: The entrance is through the doors marked “Arista.” ETHAN SMITH.

Matchbox Lounge

3203 SE Division St., 234-7844, matchboxlounge.com. 4 pm-2:30 am daily. 

Many bars in Portland advertise a happy-hour menu that is cheap, convenient and delicious, but few actually live up to the hype. But let me tell you, the $5 happy-hour burger at Matchbox Lounge is the real deal: a third of a pound of Painted Hills beef, served with a tangy aioli and your choice of cheese (go for the manchego) for just a dollar more. It’s easily one of the best burgers in town, so good that ordering the full version ($11 with pancetta and greens) as an entree is totally worth the price. The rest of Matchbox’s menu is surprisingly versatile for a place to get a cheap drink—especially the mini pizzettas, including a crusty pie topped with squash, caramelized onions, and chevre ($10) that’s so sweet enough it almost qualifies as a dessert. MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.

Meat Cheese Bread

1406 SE Stark St., 243-1700, meatcheesebread.com. 7 am-7 pm Monday-Saturday.

I miss my sandwich. I feel like we didn’t see enough of each other. There was our initial meeting (hello, long stems of seasoned, blackened green beans, chipped Parmesan, soft-boiled egg and aioli) and then poof! It was gone. Like it never even happened. Like I never stepped foot in John Stewart’s modern-take farmtown lunch counter, never stood at that counter to discuss switching my green bean sandwich’s ($8) bacon relish for sherry onions, which were a purple hue absent from even the most colorful sunset. (Thank you to the cook who presented me with such an idea.) It’s like the footlong, rustic roll was never in front of me, because I didn’t give it much time there. Meat Cheese Bread combines local, straightforward ingredients (Neuske’s smoked bacon, grilled broccolini, preserved lemon dressing) in just the way that could break me from my vegetarianism. NIKKI VOLPICELLI.

Melt

716 NW 21st Ave., 295-4944, meltportland.com. 11 am-10 pm Monday-Saturday. 

Look, if you come to Melt, you come for the happy hour. Sure, you’d be skipping out on the regular menu’s soppressata pizza ($10), which is a shame, but Melt’s happy hour (which lasts, in near-retarded obliviousness to the form, from 2 pm to close, which means it excludes only lunch) is comfort food’s apotheosis: cheap, hearty and varied, from a $5 half-pound of wings to a duplex of cabbage-slawed pork sliders ($4) to a baked mac ’n’ cheese ($4) that lives up to the restaurant’s name. Otherwise, hey, it’s a place for a sunny drink after a book club or day hike; it’s far too well-lit, with feng shui far too domestic-weird (the kitchen imposes from every angle) to ever feel anything but wholesome. And if you don’t like what’s playing over the P.A., just go to the restroom, which has its own very private sound system in the form of an AM/FM clock radio tucked inside a little corner table by the toilet. No kiddin’. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

Miho Izakaya

4057 N Interstate Ave., 719-6152,
mihopdx.com. 5-11 pm daily.

Miho, a humble house lit gently by the neon glare of the Alibi across the street, is a fairly new entry in Portland’s recent love affair with the izakaya (Japanese food and sake bar). For that, it’s quickly carved out a niche as an über-friendly, low-price-point hangout for the Northeast crowd. Chef Michael Miho skews toward comfort Japanese with personal twists; the heaping roast pork ramen ($8) has a dominant note of smoke, while the rich pork belly skewers come seared on all sides for texture (more chefs should do this so well) with an accompanying sweet egg that doubles as goofy, half-savory dessert. Asparagus ($6) comes crisp and glazed in miso butter. Don’t worry if you don’t know what to order; co-owner Michael Carothers has a habit of cheerily soft-upselling you into sated, drunken oblivion. But be alert: If they offer you the tatami room your meat might end up tasting like your neighbor’s socks, so choose your neighbors wisely. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

Misto

3801 SE Belmont St., 206-7799, mistopdx.com. 11 am-9 pm Tuesday-Friday, 9 am-9 pm Saturday, 9 am-4 pm Sunday.

If you wander into this shiny new Italian deli-bakery, you should really order the Caesar salad ($6). It’s a testament to how the potential for greatness exists no matter how small the venue. The chopped romaine is dressed perfectly, with huge shavings of sweet, nutty grana padano sprinkled liberally over the huge platter (this is totally a sharing salad unless it’s all you’re going to eat), but the real kicker is the lightly grilled heart of seasoned romaine nested in the center. The charred ends are smoky, sweet and salty, with a hard-boiled egg, pickled in balsamic vinegar, sliced and fanned over the whole thing. The salad makes enjoying the rest of Misto’s menu difficult, since you’ll be half stuffed after eating it, but it would be a shame to miss out on one of the cafe’s calzones, like the puttanesca ($8), served with a tangy-sweet marinara laden with carrots. BRIAN PANGANIBAN.

Mojo Crepes

8409 SE Division St., 208-3195, mojocrepes.com, Noon-9 pm Monday-Thursday, noon-10 pm Friday-Sunday.

The Harajuku-style crêpe hails from a region of Tokyo known for its outrageous fashions and trendy cafes. How it ended up halfway around the world, flourishing among Mexican grocery stores and used-car yards on this gritty stretch of Southeast Division Street, we’ll never know. Mojo’s 10 crêpe variations aren’t quite as extreme as some of their Japanese counterparts, which often contain entire slices of cheesecake or chicken teriyaki, but still hit the sweet spot. Each crêpe ($5.25) is cooked up crispy and thin, then layered with combinations of fruit, ice cream, syrups and other sucrose-based delicacies, like crushed Oreos, Nutella and condensed milk. The whole shebang is rolled into a cone shape and topped with whipped cream. None of these elements is exceptional on its own, but combined they make for a sloppy, sugary, silly treat. For something a little more exotic and less likely to induce type 2 diabetes, the cafe recently added Taiwanese-style shaved ice ($5.50)—delicate milky ice flakes covered in more traditional Southeast Asian toppings, like red bean, taro, grass jelly and lychees. RUTH BROWN.

Nakwon 

4600 SW Watson Ave., Beaverton, 646-9382. 11 am-9 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-2:30 pm and 5-8:30 pm Friday-Saturday.

In Beaverton, the land of 1,000 Korean restaurants, it’s hard for any of them to truly stand out. But Nakwon tries its damndest. Folks swear by its tofu soups ($10-$12), but if you’ve got an empty pit in your stomach to fill, order the “bul-go-ki” platter ($13). Soon, your table will be filled with a steaming plate of succulent stir-fried marinated beef strips, rice and a host of other items to intermingle with the meat. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of the platters, which also include the kalbi (barbecue ribs, $14) and the budae-chigae ($13), described as a “spicy military stew” with sausage, bacon, ramen, tofu and, the coup de grâce, Spam. Add some of the delectable pot stickers as an appetizer ($7), and you won’t have to eat for the next week. MATT SINGER.

Nancy’s Kitchen

1611 NW Glisan St., 241-1137. 8 am-4 pm Monday-Friday, 8 am-3 pm Saturday, 8 am-2 pm Sunday. 

You will probably be the youngest customer in Nancy’s Kitchen, but having brunch with the octogenarian set has its perks. There’s no waiting for a table at this relatively obscure shopfront eatery, nor will it take long to have a signature Nancy’s cinnamon roll whisked to your table ($2.75). The scrambles and skillets get the job done with few frills: Take the fluffy eggs; bright, thick-cut peppers and onions; and thin strips of steak on the Portland steak omelette ($8.95). Skip the bland oven-fried potatoes and opt for a fresh biscuit as a side instead. Nancy’s turns into a deli/sandwich shop for the lunch hour, but its breakfast is highly suggested. Remember those cinnamon buns? Nancy makes a French toast out of ’em ($6.95). CAITLIN MCCARTHY.

New Delhi

9111 SW Barbur Blvd., 892-5811. 11 am-2:30 pm and 5-9 pm Monday-Saturday.

Unless you count the occasional fast-food joint along this busy thoroughfare, Southwest Barbur Boulevard is what you might call a food desert. Then consider New Delhi an Indian oasis. Tucked into the corner of a small strip mall, New Delhi is the kind of establishment you might not notice the first, 10th or 200th time you pass it by. But once you do, you’ll wish you’d spotted it earlier. Servings are plentiful; an appetizer of eggplant pakoras costs $3.95 but could stretch to feed four. Dishes are spiced to suit customers’ preferences. Vegan dishes don’t outnumber the chicken, seafood, lamb, beef and goat curries ($10.95-$13.95), but the owners of this family-owned restaurant do helpfully point out the animal-eschewing options with “vegan-friendly” labels on their menu. Online reviewers complain the restaurant lacks parking. But on a recent weekday evening, at the peak dining hour, numerous spots sat empty, ready for hungry diners. BETH SLOVIC.

Ngoc Han Bun Bo Hue

8230 SE Harrison St., 774-2761. 9 am-9 pm Monday-Saturday, 9 am-8 pm Sunday.

The selling point at this 82nd Avenue strip-mall noodle shop is the Vietnamese soup bun bo hue ($8.50), pho’s thick ’n’ spicy, blood cake-packed little sister. Ngoc Han’s version is lighter and more herbaceous than other beef broth bowls around town but still floating with fish balls, tendons and other body parts. But that’s not all that’s worthy here: Don’t overlook the airy chamber’s roster of vermicelli bowls ($7.50). A bed of slippery rice noodles and shredded lettuce is topped with piles of grilled shrimp, grilled pork, dried cold pork, bean sprouts, peanuts, green onions and shredded carrot. Pour the sweet-’n’-sour vinegar and fish sauce over the top and you’ve pretty much got the cobb salad of Vietnam. Genius. Equally habit-forming is Ngoc Han’s spicy pork roll ($3.50), a salad roll amped up with a peppery hybrid of barbecue pork and Viet ham, ready for a dip in peanutty plum sauce. Bonus: The joint often plays Viet karaoke videos on its TVs so you get to watch pretty Asian people walk along a windswept beach and cry while you slurp your salted lemonade and soup. KELLY CLARKE.

Nicholas

3223 NE Broadway, 445-4700; 318 SE Grand Ave., 235-5123; 323 N Main Ave., Gresham, 666-3333, nicholasrestaurant.com. 11 am–9 pm Monday–Thursday, 11 am-10 pm Friday-Saturday, noon-9 pm Sunday. 

The tiny Southeast Grand Avenue location of this two-decade-old Lebanese institution has always been considered the best, but since the family-owned operation morphed its “Arabian Breeze” Middle Eastern restaurant on Northeast Broadway to just become a straight-up Nicholas Part 2, it’s rocketed its level in taste and consistency (and the wait time for a table) sky high. The sunny restaurant still serves a handful of the Breeze specialties, like garlicky pickled baby eggplant makdous ($8.25) and slow-cooked lamb and garbanzo bean stew (riz-be-tfeen, $12.25), but really it’s all about basics like mezza plates ($9) and the best kebabs ($9.25) in town. The veggie mezza’s bounty, from oniony spinach pie and crunchy, aromatic falafel balls to creamy hummus and tabbouleh, are enough for a full meal along with the giant, pillowy pita that comes free, straight from the open kitchen up front to your table. Add on chicken kebabs, a pair of 9-inch skewers of ridiculously moist, marinated, grilled chicken, onions and peppers served atop a mountain of flavorful rice and garlic cream sauce, and you’ll have leftovers for a week. KELLY CLARKE.

Nicola’s Pizza and Pasta

4826 N Lombard St., 285-1119, nicolaspizzaandpastanw.com. 11:30 am-9 pm Tuesday-Thursday, 11:30 am-10 pm Friday, noon-10 pm Saturday.

It’s tiny, with faux grape vines lining its intimate dining room, workers tossing dough in open view of the cashier counter, an indoor lamppost illuminating small tables where couples sip wine and slurp pasta…hell, there’s probably a mutt in the back alley sharing a plate of spaghetti with a cocker spaniel. Nicola’s is just that kind of hole-in-the-wall Italian joint. And, as expected, the food is divine. Pizzas like the Nicola’s Special ($8.99 for a “personal” pie that feeds two) are perfectly chewy and loaded with thin-cut Italian sausage; pasta dishes such as the tortellini pancetta ($12.99) come piled high alongside flaky housemade bread and antipasti. All that’s missing is a group of serenading musicians…but chefs who chat you up while slathering to-go pies in tangy sauce are a fine substitute. AP KRYZA.

Noho’s Hawaiian Cafe

4627 NE Fremont St., 445-6646; 2525 SE Clinton St., 233-5301, nohos.com. 4-9 pm Monday, 11 am-9 pm Tuesday-Thursday, 11 am-10 pm Friday, noon-10 pm Saturday, Noon-9 pm Sunday. 

In typical Portland progression, the new Noho’s Hawaiian Cafe on Northeast Fremont Street has one-upped the Southeast Clinton Street location. The Fremont Noho’s offers the same mouthwatering, tender marinated “spicy Korean chicken” ($8.65 for a “menehune,” or so-called small, and $14.15 for a “blalah,” meaning leftovers for days) and expertly done kalua pork ($8.85, $13.85), served with sticky white rice and macaroni salad that’s better than your grandma’s. But unlike Southeast, the Northeast Noho’s has a warm, woody bar, lovely outside patio and a happy hour from 3 to 6 pm that will leave you as full as dinner anywhere else. The service is outstanding—this undercover reviewer got offered a complimentary sample plate of teriyaki steak and pork before her meal. If you have the strength to save room for dessert, the coconut cake ($3.95) and chocolate-jalapeño pie ($3.50) are fresh and flavorful. STACY BROWNHILL.

Ocean City

3016 SE 82nd Ave., 771-2299, oceancityportland.com. 9:30 am-midnight daily, dim sum 9:30 am-3 pm daily.

Sure, dinner at this stately Cantonese banquet hall near Fubonn is enjoyable, but it’s during the midmorning and lunch hours that it really comes alive as the only Portland dim sum spot to rival Wong’s King. Extended Asian families and culinary thrill-seekers wait patiently for up to an hour on weekends to burn their fingertips on hot, little foil-wrapped packages of succulent ginger chicken and glutinous deep-fried rice footballs stuffed with oozy spiced pork. All the standards are represented here, whizzing around your head in clackety little carts piloted by small, insistent women armed with ladles and scissors: The stuffed noodles are toothsome, the roasted duck is moist and juicy, and the Chinese greens perfectly steamed. Pace yourself. You’re not going to be able to resist that last order of delicate green onion and shrimp dumplings. It’d be a shame if your stomach exploded on your very first visit to China. KELLY CLARKE.

Old Lair Hill Market Cafe 

2823 SW 1st Ave., 279-0200. 7 am-9 pm Monday-Friday, 9 am-3 pm Saturday-Sunday.

Tucked into a quiet nook south of downtown, Old Lair Hill Market Cafe looks the part of an undistinguished neighborhood spot with just-OK food. The cafe starts winning you over, though, with its utterly incoherent decor—a sort of cross between a European cafe and your grandparents’ sitting room—and its general, refreshing lack of self-consciousness. Then it hits it home with equally straightforward, delicious sandwiches. The toasted Reuben ($6.75) is done right, and the avocado Swiss melt ($5.95) is a good veggie option, but it was the moist and surprisingly light meatloaf sandwich ($7.25) that stole my heart. Looking for a low-key after-work-drinks spot downtown? Lair Hill has a sensibly priced full bar as well. JONATHAN FROCHTZWAJG. 

Otto and Anita’s 

3025 SW Canby St., 452-1411, ottoandanitas.com. 11 am-2 pm Tuesday-Friday, 5-9 pm Tuesday-Saturday.

Isn’t it a shame most of us indulge in Bavarian cuisine only during Oktoberfest? Imagine if we limited our consumption of other ethnic delights to specific holidays: burritos exclusively on Cinco de Mayo, whiskey blackouts limited to St. Patrick’s Day. Sounds shitty, right? So there’s no reason to put off a trip to Otto and Anita’s in Multnomah Village. It has the look and feel of a European country cottage and a menu packed with gorgeable varieties of schnitzels and sausages. Try the zigeunerschnitzel ($12.95), two pieces of pork loin slathered in a red wine paprika sauce and surrounded with carrots, greens and spaetzles (basically German pasta). Or, for a bit more coin, order the Jägermeister steak ($23), an 8-ounce filet mignon flamed in the titular liqueur. (Note to frat boys: Don’t bother trying to take a shot of the juice.) MATT SINGER.

Pad Thai Kitchen

2309 SE Belmont St., 232-8766. 11 am-3 pm Monday-Friday, 5 pm-9:30 pm Monday-Thursday, 5 pm-10 pm Friday, noon-10 pm Saturday-Sunday. 

Greasy Thai food, like cold pizza and lasagna, is almost as good, if not better, the next day. So the fact that Pad Thai Kitchen’s servings are so ginormous that no one person could finish a heaping plate of pad Thai ($9 with your choice of meat or tofu) or the excellent, rich pumpkin curry (same price, or $10.50 for shrimp or scallops) makes the meal that much more enjoyable. Pad Thai Kitchen makes no bones about reinventing the wheel—it serves Americanized takes on Thai food, and you won’t find anything too weird on the menu. But it does do the staples very well, and any order can be made mild to appease your picky-eater parents. Just be sure to ask for a doggie bag. MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.

Pause

5101 N Interstate Ave., 971-230-0705. 11:30 am-1 am Monday-Saturday, noon-midnight Sunday.

With a meat-centered menu that could cure the most severe protein deficiency, Pause can churn out a substantial lunch or dinner for under $10. Pause looks somewhere between a diner and a sports bar, and is dimly lit, open late and an oasis of good food on an otherwise unfrequented stretch of North Interstate Avenue. The housemade pickles that garnish most dishes are surprisingly good and make an interesting appetizer on their own. Pause’s warm and cold sandwiches are good for lunch and dinner—the Cuban sandwich ($8) is a real showstopper. With roast pork, house ham and whole-grain-mustard aioli, it manages to be moist without collapsing into a soggy mess, is salty and a little spicy, and not as sweet as your average pork sandwich. Entrees like the mac ’n’ cheese with house sausage ($12) and cider-braised Tails & Trotters pork with potato salad ($14) are classic Portland collisions of gourmet and grunge. RACHAEL DEWITT.

The Peoples’ Sandwich of Portland

53 NW 1st Ave., 222-0525,
sandwichofportland.com. 10 am-6 pm Monday-Thursday, 10 am-3 am Friday, noon-3 am Saturday.

The name started out as a somewhat elaborate joke about this city’s Bolshevik tendencies (signs were made for the kitchen reading “Production”), but the gray concrete-and-brick corner shop really does feel like a grim Soviet bunker dropped behind the lines of Western decadence. It’s between the horrible Old Town bar McFadden’s and the horrible Old Town dance club the Whiskey Bar, and there are plenty of other horrible places nearby that on weekend nights flood the sidewalks with horrible people who have no idea how to walk in heels and who feel like getting in fights. So don’t sit too close to the windows, is what I’m saying. The sandwiches are good, though they should trust their Northwest-sourced ingredients a bit more; the Portland cheesesteak ($8 with house-fried chips) is packed with thin-sliced beef and thick-cut onions, but it’s seasoned with way too much pepper. Its status as menu strongman is challenged by a salami and ham grinder called the Argento arrabbiata ($8); befitting the surroundings, if you order one to go, it’s marked “AA.” AARON MESH.

Petisco

1411 NE Broadway, 360-1048, petiscopdx.com. 10 am-2 pm Monday, 10 am-9 pm Tuesday-Thursday, 10 am-10 pm Friday, 9 am-10 pm Saturday, 9 am-2 pm Sunday.

Northeast Broadway isn’t exactly the Champs-Elysées, but in the cavernous confines of Petisco, one does feel transported to some vague facsimile of European city life. Chalk it up to the ample candles, low ceilings, chalkboard menus and the open kitchen. Oh, and the food! Though Petisco’s year-round menu consists almost entirely of sandwiches (hard to beat the $6 fresh mozzarella-tomato-basil concoction, which comes with cute little salad), the brunch, dinner and soup menus all change daily—and they’re the real reason to pay Petisco a visit. Dinnertime usually features a couple of hearty meat-based dishes and plenty of pasta (there’s a nice balance of upscale and comfort food in the Italian-influenced fare), but wild-card items appear, as well. The whole menu is fleshed out daily on Petisco’s website—unlike many restaurants, it actually keeps the site up to date and even posts some food-porn photos of marquee dishes, so you can get an idea of what’s on deck before you commit. The only items not properly pimped on the site, sadly, are Petisco’s drool-inducing desserts. The $6 apple crisp I had on my visit nearly brought me to tears. Yup, Petisco nails the unpretentious European sidewalk cafe-restaurant vibe, and it’s a fantastic place to bring a date without breaking the bank. CASEY JARMAN.

Pho Hung

4717 SE Powell Blvd., 775-3170, pho-hung.com. 9 am-9 pm Monday-Sunday. 

Off-white and rust-streaked outside, mottled purple and Denny’s-esque in, Pho Hung is, by all appearances, another Southeast Powell Boulevard eatery to drive by. If you do stop to eat at this pho joint, though, you’ll forgive it for looking so bland—see, they’ve gone and put all their flavor into the food. My meal at Pho Hung was my first experience with the Vietnamese national dish, and not wanting to be revealed as a pho newbie, I fearlessly ordered a challenging-sounding variation involving tendon and tripe. The server, in a merciful and face-saving move, pointedly suggested one with eye of round steak and well-done flank ($7 small, $7.50 large)—under the menu’s “For Beginners” heading. The thin-sliced meat was succulently infused with the beef-bone broth, which in turn was infused with an unusual, at turns bitter and spicy, blend of star anise, green onion, parsley and ginger. The kicker? The portions: You won’t get this much food for $7.50 practically anywhere else. JONATHAN FROCHTZWAJG.

Pho Oregon

2518 NE 82nd Ave., 262-8816. 9 am-9 pm daily.

It feels like the pinnacle of deviance to say so, but I’m going to anyway: When you go to Pho Oregon, don’t order the pho. There’s nothing wrong with the beef noodle soup, which comes with all the usual bits of heifer in an invigorating broth; it’s just that there are so many other soups to try. I suggest the hu tieu my tho ($7.75), a pork-based broth with shrimp and slices of pork, liver and fish ball floating over a mass of clear noodles so rubbery that they can’t really be chewed. That sounds unappealing, but the sensation of slurping several feet of noodles right down to one’s belly is surprisingly gratifying; also, the soup contains enough protein to meet the RDI for a grown man for a week. As an appetizer, try the Oregon nem cuon ($6.25), a tight rice-paper package containing sweet grilled pork, lettuce, green onion and a whole spring roll. Dip it in the funky, sour chile paste stashed at each table for a bewildering explosion of contrasting texture and flavor. BEN WATERHOUSE.

Pho Van

3404 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 230-1474; 1919 SE 82nd Ave., 788-5244; 11651 Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, Beaverton, 627-0822. phovanrestaurant.com. See website for location hours.

While the elegant light fixtures and decoratively carved wooden booths might indicate spendy dining, Pho Van on Hawthorne is a good bargain. Although takeout is nice, with good service and nice paintings, Pho Van is one of Hawthorne’s most coveted pho eateries. The beef and chicken versions ($7-$8) are steamy, savory and way more than anyone should eat in a single sitting, as many phos are. But pho can be found on every corner, and Portland’s not starved for good decor. Pho Van’s real hidden gem is its honey lemongrass noodle entree ($8-$9), which is moist and intensely flavorful. And if you’re not too full of pho and lemongrass, the ginger crème brûlée ($5) is like none before it. So next time you’re stranded on Hawthorne and want a cozier dining experience than a food cart can offer, ask yourself if you feel like pho. RACHAEL DEWITT.

Pine State Biscuits

2204 NE Alberta St., 477-6605; 3460 SE Belmont St., 236-3346, pinestatebiscuits.com. 7 am-2 pm Sunday-Thursday, 7 am-2 pm and 6 pm-1 am Friday-Saturday (Alberta location only).

Let’s be perfectly clear on one thing: There will be a line for a Pine State Biscuits establishment. If you avoid peak weekend brunch hours, however, the Alberta Street outpost grants you the best chance to avoid a long wait, since it boasts a larger space with more seats and evening and late-night hours. Even if you cannot avoid the biscuitless purgatory of a long wait, the moment you stuff a fried chicken-, bacon-, egg-, cheese- and gravy-laden Reggie Deluxe ($8) sandwich in your maw, all will be forgiven. Well, maybe not all, but that’s why you order a side of tender collard greens ($2.50). Wash it down with a mug of Stumptown ($2) and revel in the fact that you won’t have to bother with figuring out what to do for lunch. BRIAN PANGANIBAN.

Pix Pâtisserie 

3402 SE Division St., 232-4407. 10 am-midnight Sunday-Thursday, 10 am-2 am Friday-Saturday; 3901 N Williams Ave., 282-6539. 8 am-midnight Monday-Thursday, 7 am-2 am Friday, 8 am-2 am Saturday, 9 am-midnight Sunday, pixpatisserie.com. 

In the land of beer cinemas and cocktail-mixing coffee shops, a sweets shop that serves liquor is an automatic hot spot. After nine years, this Portland institution is still turning out an array of pastries, cakes, ice creams, candies and cocktails. The two locations serve the same menu, but feel quite different: Pix on North Williams Avenue is arranged like a bar and dimly lit, while Pix on Southeast Division Street is painted pastel yellow and feels like an ice-cream shop. Both are ornately decorated to match the elaborate presentation of Pix’s pastries. The crème brûlée ($6.75) is a different flavor each night, and for some culinary theatrics, the top is scorched at your table. The Concord, which looks like a chocolate mousse castle ($6.25), and Tart Ménage à Trois, filled with almond and chocolate and topped with a curved chocolate spear ($6.25), are decadent treats, but they won’t pull any surprises. RACHAEL DEWITT.

Pollos a la Brasa El Inka

48 NE Division St., Gresham, 491-0323. 11 am-9 pm daily.

Why drive all the way to Gresham for some roast chicken? Because this chicken, crisp-skinned and rubbed with garlic and mysterious green spices, is roasted in a wood-fired brick rotisserie oven as big as a Volkswagen Rabbit. Because it is served over really fragrant (if not really crisp) french fries. Because it is brought to your table by a woman who seems genuinely pleased to see you and happy to explain which of the seven bottles of sauces (cilantro lime!) on her tray should go on your chicken. Because the restaurant’s mascot is a grinning cock in a tunic and no pants, like a yacht-club version of Foghorn Leghorn. Because the enormous plate of fries and chicken and pointless salad is $7.50. If that’s not decadent enough (in which case, what is wrong with you?), the pollo saltado ($7.50) takes that same chicken and sautés it with fries, onion, tomato and soy sauce, dumped over rice. It is chicken fried with fries. Now go get your keys; I call shotgun. BEN WATERHOUSE.

¿Por Qué No?

4635 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 954-3138; 3524 N Mississippi Ave., 467-4149, porquenotacos.com. 11 am-9 pm Sunday-Thursday, 11 am-10 pm Friday-Saturday.

It’s a good thing Brian Steelman’s taquerias don’t call on that electric yellow margarita mix that turns your fingers into sticky toys from the 25-cent machine—the food is sloppy enough, not to mention that the fresh-squeezed citrus and pomegranate juice you’ll find here could dress up even a bottle of Tortilla Gold). ¿Por Qué No?’s mounds of oily avocado jabbed with bullets of fresh-caught calamari and bell peppers barely tamed in their corn or flour tortilla casing are, like, the best thing I ever struggled to slop into my mouth. Housemade chips are the byproduct of tortillas cooked into crispy, geometric salt ships for importing creamy, mint-green guacamole to your face hole. Take a look at the menu before you go as the style of order is: Stand, say, grab ticket and get out of the way. There are some starving kids in skintight jeans behind you. NIKKI VOLPICELLI.

Po’Shines Cafe de la Soul

8139 N Denver Ave., 978-9000, poshines.com. 7 am-3 pm Monday-Thursday, 7 am-10 pm Friday, 8 am-10 pm Saturday. 

Deep-fried philanthropy! Po’Shines diverts most of its profits into training and counseling for young adults, and everyone from the chef to your server is volunteering his or her time to the cause. Which would, as far as your palate is concerned, amount to a hill of red beans and rice if this altruistic enterprise wasn’t also serving some of Portland’s best soul food. The barbecue rib platter ($15.95), a four-napkin meal for two, is a peerless showcase, and the three crackling chicken wings and pound of juicy pork ribs are only the beginning. You get sweet hush puppies as well as two sides; be sure to request the greens ($3.50 on their own), which are jazzed up with smoked turkey to become an essential centerpiece for this fine platter. This is all good and well, but a doubt still lingers: What in God’s name is that giant gumball machine doing in the dining room, and can someone politely ask it to leave? CHRIS STAMM.

Prasad

925 NW Davis St., 224-3993,
prasadcuisine.squarespace.com. 7:30 am-7 pm Monday-Friday, 9 am-7 pm Saturday-Sunday.

When vegan institution Blossoming Lotus vacated Yoga Pearl for a slightly more granola part of town last year (see page 11), Prasad stepped in to fill the void. It’s pretty much stayed business-as-usual: skinny chicks with neat ponytails mindfully munching on virtuous bowls of plant-based protein and complex carbohydrates. Prices are about on par with the nearby Whole Foods, but the food is infinitely better. The Soul Salad ($8) is satisfying, packed with avocado, slow-roasted tomatoes, black beans and well-seasoned tempeh. Bowls are equally formidable, layering a variety of fresh and cooked green things, stews and sauces on a base of nutty Bhutanese red rice or quinoa. The chili ($8) is insipid, but the African peanut ($9) is a winner, smothered in a warm, gooey, peanut butter stew with a zip of lime juice. The deli case also offers the area’s freshest grab-and-go options, holding granola parfait cups ($6) for breakfast and hefty raw and tortilla wraps ($7.50-$9) for lunch. RUTH BROWN.

Puerto Marquez

1721 SE 122nd Ave., 253-6842.
11 am-11 pm daily.

Like the inside of a piñata, Puerto Marquez jabs at the senses with vivid blasts of color and cheerful pop-mariachi music (with videos!). As fun as it is, the atmosphere of the place barely hints at the multisensory pleasures that will soon grace your plate. The restaurant—sadly remote in an almost-Gresham strip mall—specializes in seafood; if you opt for the more common Mexican standards, beef chimichangas and whatnot, you may be underwhelmed. But go for something coastal, like the Puerto Acapulco, for example, and you’ll feast (possibly for days) on shrimp, chicken, cheese, beans, rice and avocados, served with tortillas. Seafood empanadas don’t look particularly impressive, but the crust is crisp and delicate and the shrimp inside perfectly tender. The ceviche ($8-$14) could easily be a meal all by itself. There are several varieties—the light and citrusy whitefish version is hard not to inhale. Between the ceviche and the free chips with beans and salsa that come as appetizers, you might happily spoil your appetite. But if you can pull it off, try a made-to-share house special seafood platter, with shrimp, oysters, halibut, mussels, veggies and rice ($59.95). Margaritas, like everything else here, are enormous and tasty. BECKY OHLSEN.

Pupuseria El Buen Gusto

7732 SE 82nd Ave., 477-4402. 10 am-9 pm daily.

The pupusa is El Salvador’s answer to grilled cheese. A starchy outer layer—in this case, thick corn tortillas—surrounds a creamy, gooey mess of cheese. But don’t stop at queso. Pupuseria El Buen Gusto offers a vast slate of fillings, including pork so soft it almost melts, and loroco, an edible flower reminiscent of broccoli. This immaculate, pumpkin-walled joint features plastic tablecloth covers and a menu hand-scrawled on neon poster board, but don’t underestimate the food. In addition to pupusas ($3-$4), there’s a selection of enchiladas, tacos and tamales ($2.50-$7.75). The flaky corn tamal has a welcome sweetness. If you really wanna go for it (you did haul out to 82nd, after all), get some atole de elote ($2.50), a sweet drink made from maize meal and milk, to complement your hearty pupusa. It’s warm and rich and thick, almost custardlike, and spiced with a liberal dose of cinnamon. Eat it with a spoon. REBECCA JACOBSON.

Quan Chuc

7901 SE Powell Blvd., 788-8877, quanchuc.com. 10 am-9 pm Monday-Saturday.

It is very odd, this relatively swank Vietnamese restaurant around the corner from Food4Less, all bamboo plywood, faux temple doors and big orange lamps like bioluminescent jellyfish. It seats 50, but is often empty. The menu has fancy pretensions (quail in tamarind, $10.50), but the tea came lukewarm. Still, that quail was quite good, with three half birds marinated in palm sugar and tamarind and fried brown. There is great joy to be found in picking tiny bones out of one’s teeth. Also excellent is the catfish clay pot ($10.50), a pound or so of fried and poached fish in a sweet, tangy sauce. It looks small, but it will easily make two meals. A turmeric noodle soup ($7.95) with pork ball and shrimp was also good, but could have benefitted from more broth and fewer noodles. BEN WATERHOUSE.

Queen of Sheba

2413 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 287-6302, queenofsheba.biz, Noon-2 pm and 5-10 pm Thursday-Saturday, 5-9 pm Sunday-Wednesday.

If you’re the kind of person who does everything you can to avoid making a decision, Queen of Sheba won’t cause you any stress. Two people can easily take on four or five distinctly flavored entrées. Three veggie dishes ($10) are about the same amount of food as a single meat entree. Each dish is inundated with its own cocktail of spices, and together they make a dizzying synthesis of East African taste. Do not miss the lentil and okra stew (part of the $10 three-dish deal) or the lamb in berbere sauce ($15). With surprising haste, the dishes come from the kitchen heaped atop enormous sourdoughy, spongy injera, which are spread over one large tin tray. While dabbing injera in the stews, take it slow, as there is a high risk of flavor overload. Overstuffed dining chairs fill the open and clean dining room, which is usually crowded with loyal Queen of Sheba frequenters. RACHAEL DEWITT.

Red Coach

615 SW Broadway, 227-4840. 11 am-3:30 pm Monday-Saturday.

“We need to work on better—what’s the word?—efficiency,” complained a Red Coach server to the line cook during a recent Monday lunch rush. That’s probably a fair criticism to levy against a diner that requires two stories to make its hamburgers—patties are formed in the ground-level kitchen, then carried upstairs to the second-floor grill—but the menu is laudably succinct. If you’re eating here, you’re getting the Karl’s Special (cheeseburger, fries, soda: $9.25) or some variation thereof (maybe with the well-battered onion rings). The burgers won’t impress a gourmand, but they’re exactly what you’re always being told to drive 10 miles off the highway exit in Kansas to find, by the people who write about this sort of thing for a living. The people who actually eat Red Coach’s burgers are not the people who write about this sort of thing for a living; they are bank clerks and accountants who seem very content to feast on such reliable cheeseburgers. AARON MESH. 

Red Onion Thai Cuisine

1123 NW 23rd Ave., 208-2634, redonionportland.com/home.html. 11 am-3 pm and 5-9 pm Monday-Friday, noon-9 pm Saturday-Sunday.

The specials menu at Red Onion bears a cautionary note: “We regret we are unable to make any changes or return of your dish after serving.” Ostensibly, the warning is for white-bread customers who might be shocked by some of chef Aut “Dang” Boonyakamol’s more daring Northern Thai specialties. But for those of us prepared to push our palates to the limit, the warning might also serve as the kitchen’s insurance against disappointment with the menu’s more mediocre offerings. Red Onion was a runner-up for WW’s Restaurant of the Year in 2009, and some dishes unfailingly delight and impress. The spicy sai oua (Chiang Mai sausage) is a lemongrass-enhanced masterpiece, and standards like the monstrous bowls of tom yum soup are the best in town. But those who stick with insiders’ advice and order from the rotating specials menu could also come up short. The neau yang mamprik jaiw (marinated steak) underperforms in the flavor department, and the house special seafood curry, while highly competent, provides no surprises. Take into account the lackluster service, and it becomes clear that at least part of Red Onion’s stellar reputation is due to a dearth of high-quality Thai places in town. But the highlights still keep us hungry for more. JAMES PITKIN.

Reo’s Ribs

6141 SW Macadam Ave., 310-6300, reosribsbbq.com. 7:30 am-9 pm Tuesday-Sunday, 11 am-9 pm Monday.

Johns Landing’s unpromising melange of ’70s and ’80s office frontage might seem an unlikely spot for an old-school rib joint—Reo’s previous location was in similarly unlikely Aloha—and the new place still sports an Aztec painting from one of the many failed Mexican joints in the same spot. Still, this is what makes it ripe for a takeover; Reo’s has started with its own strip-mall parking lot, which now houses no fewer than three smokers and a quarter-cord of firewood. Starting at 5 am each morning, a thick, meaty haze drifts across Macadam Avenue to the river. The service was genuinely friendly and preternaturally swift, but the place’s real heart is in Reo’s barbecue sauce: a sweet, mid-Southern molasses honey rarely seen in Portland (you can get the insanely extra-hot stuff by request). The meat is slow-cooked, moist and tender—the chicken was almost too tender, if that’s possible, teetering over from moist into wet, but the pork and beef were succulent as hell and pretty much faultless. Fair warning: The labor-intensive slow cooking doesn’t come cheap—a rack of baby-backs snuggles against $30—but the hefty $20 five-meat sampler could stuff two. On $15 a person, including sweet tea, I left happy, more than sated and in need of a toothpick, with a spot of barbecue sauce still in my beard. This is as it should be. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

Ruby Jewel Scoops

3713 N Mississippi Ave., 505-9314, rubyjewel.net/scoopshop. Noon-10 pm Sunday-Thursday, noon-11 pm Friday-Saturday.

Lisa Herlinger, creator of the Ruby Jewel ice-cream sandwich, offers way more flavors at this spumoni-toned shop than you’ll find between the cookies at farmers markets and premium grocers across the city. Among them are vanilla, fresh mint flake, espresso, double chocolate, caramel with salted chocolate and honey lavender (already renowned in sandwich form). And there is rocky road (excellent, with housemade marshmallows), banana cream pie (with cookie chunks and swirls of marshmallow cream), strawberry, peanut butter dream and dairy-free raspberry ice and cherry-almond ice. A specials board offers even more flavors. Pints are available to go for $6, and the shop offers sundaes with housemade toppings. The best of these is the Rosemary Langer ($6), which pairs rosemary-salted pecans with dulce de leche syrup and vanilla ice cream. It’s great—a savory sundae for adults. You can make your own ice-cream sandwich with Ruby Jewel’s cookies for $4. BEN WATERHOUSE.

Sabor Salvadoreño 

3460 SW 185th Ave., Beaverton, 356-2376. 11 am-9 pm Sunday-Monday, Wednesday-Thursday; 11 am-10 pm Friday-Saturday; closed Tuesdays.

Way out in Aloha, off a nondescript road and sharing a building with Martindale’s Home Theater, is a barely marked hole in the wall serving authentic Salvadoran cuisine. Any restaurant that hard to find has to be good, and Sabor Salvadoreño lives up to its obscurity. As with all Central American eateries, any evaluation must start with the pupusas ($2), which for the uninitiated are essentially quesadillas stuffed with beans, cheese or meat. Freshly made, theirs are among the best in the city. Moving down the menu, try the rellenos de pacaya, an edible flower battered in egg and topped with tomato salsa, or the pan relleno de pollo ($4), a knee-buckling chicken stew sandwich that literally overflows out of the bun. Yes, they also serve hamburgers for conservative gringos, but seriously, who would want a plain old burger after putting in all the effort of actually finding the damn place? MATT SINGER.

Sandwich Island

827 SW 2nd Ave., 330-5002. 10 am-2 pm Monday-Friday.

Sandwich Island would make a great cart, but (for better or for worse) it’s currently tucked away in a bustling downtown food court. Lord knows its pulled-pork sandwiches would be just as loved by late-night revelers as they are by midday World Trade Center suits. Moist, smoky kalua pork—a traditional Hawaiian method of seriously slow roasting—packed in a bun, nary a sauce or topping required. Get the Little Piggy ($4.25) with a heaping—and free—side of potato salad, or supersize to the Hog Daddy, with “even more kalua pork” ($6.25). For something more entree than handheld, the Mokihana pulled-pork rice bowl keeps it as simple and savory as the sandwiches (pulled pork over steaming white rice, topped with coleslaw: $6.25). CAITLIN MCCARTHY.

Shandong

3724 NE Broadway, 287-0331, shandongportland.com. 11 am-2:30 pm and 4-9:30 pm daily.

The site of this new Chinese restaurant in the Hollywood district has had multiple incarnations, probably because there’s little parking and the location is not pedestrian-friendly. Fortunately, the latest tenant’s northern Chinese cuisine has proved enough of an attraction that Shandong appears quite capable of outlasting its more short-lived predecessors, as evidenced by a full restaurant most weekend nights. The service is friendly and brisk even on a busy night. The spring rolls (four for $5.50) are the tastiest starter on a strong list. And the entrees, with the exception of the dry sautéed asparagus ($9, and a little too dry), are equally successful. Must-tries include the spicy dry fried calamari ($10) and black bean chicken ($9). HENRY STERN.

Slabtown Ribs & BBQ

2606 NW Vaughn St., 227-2903, slabtownribsandbbq.com. 11 am-2 pm and 4-8 pm Monday-Friday.

Remember when you were in grade school and you had a shelf to display all the awards you won playing soccer and baseball? Slabtown Ribs is decorated like that, with nearly every inch of the space adorned with a prize-winning ribbon from a barbecue competition. But unlike you, the restaurant actually deserves all the merits. Slabtown’s barbecue, especially the meaty, fall-off-the-bone pork spareribs ($13 for a half-rack and one side), are among the finest in the Northwest. And while it’s hard to pass on anything with a bone in it, the giant pulled-pork sandwich ($7.50 with one side) is one of the best lunch deals you’ll find in town. Just don’t order the rancid-tasting, sewage‑y collard greens, or you’ll have a funny taste in your mouth the rest of the afternoon. MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.

Slappy Cakes

4246 SE Belmont St., 477-4805, slappycakes.com. 8 am-2 pm Monday-Friday, 8 am-3 pm Saturday-Sunday.

This make-your-own pancake joint is kid central, from the squeeze bottles filled with buttermilk, peanut butter and even gluten-free batter to the big drawer of toys near the front door (where you will wait for a table for at least a half-hour on the weekends). Luckily, the airy, bright-orange accented space caters to big kids too, with a long first come first served bar stocked with strong Bloody Marys ($7, or $20 for a pitcher) and greyhounds ($6) and a globe-spanning menu of morning eats that have nothing to do with maple syrup, from congee ($8) and Benedicts to a good, spicy chicken tinga with oozy eggs ($8.50). Everybody wins, especially families. The staff is efficient and cheery, unperturbed by the wide, hot griddles set in the middle of each table or your choice to make all your pancakes in the shape of cock ’n’ balls or amoebas ($6 per batter bottle, plus $1-$2 per topping from fruit to bacon, goat cheese and chocolate chips). They’ll even just make the pancakes for you if you’re lazy ($2 for a cake as big as your head). Otherwise, grab a spatula and get to work, you yeasty Picasso. KELLY CLARKE.

Soi 9 Thai Eatery

1914 W Burnside St., 894-9153, soi9pdx.com. 11:30 am-2:30 pm and 4:30-9 pm Monday-Thursday; 11:30-2:30 pm and 4:30-10 pm Friday; noon-10 pm Saturday and noon-9 pm Sunday.

The dining room of Soi 9 Thai Eatery is designed to blend into the design of West Burnside condo tower the Civic: bare, modernist boredom. Walking inside, however, is like tuning in to a Bangkok radio station—meals are soundtracked with Thai pop music, which sounds like a countrified J-pop with a splash of Disney ballads. The cooking likewise strikes a happy balance between the familiar and the fantastical. The name Soi 9 is a play on the Thai word for “street,” and the menu is chef Mon Gypmantasiri’s formalizing of Southeast Asian cart food. Her specialties are dishes you’ve almost had before; trying them is like sleeping with an old lover’s hotter twin. Take the guaey teaw esan ($9.50), or Eastern Province Noodle, which uses the same thin, flat rice noodles as pad Thai, but stir-fries them in black soy sauce and salted bean sauce. The panang nua curry ($12.50) is a massive plate of tenderloin that’s been simmered for an hour in its spicy bath, with large string beans and a drizzle of coconut cream. It’s decadently sweet and powerfully spicy, like candy that makes you cry. And the guaey teaw ruar ($9.50)—or Boat Noodle Soup—floats meatballs, sliced beef and watercress in a broth strongly seasoned with cinnamon. I immediately thought of it as Christmas pho. AARON MESH.

Spring Restaurant

3975 SW 114th Ave., Beaverton, 641-3670. 10:30 am-8:30 pm Tuesday-Saturday, noon-8 pm Sunday.

Spring Restaurant in Pal-do Oriental Food Market is a bitch to find. There’s a barely noticeable sign and nothing pointing you to the meat counter at the back of the store, where you head up the largely hidden stairs to the restaurant. Your reward, on arrival, is delicious, market-fresh Korean food. The tasty japchae (sesame-oil-fried noodles with strips of marinated beef and veggies, $9.95) feeds two with complimentary banchan, which is small plates of kimchi, pickled daikon and more. Spring Restaurant is decorated with paper-on-plywood photos of menu items, staffed by people who speak little English and full of hearty fare like the gamjatang ($8.95), a spicy pork and potato stew that’s simmering when served. There’s no beer or wine, so don’t wonder why the woman smiled as an answer to your request and never brought you anything. LIZ CRAIN.

Steakadelphia

5835 SE Powell Blvd., 788-7141, steakadelphia.com. 11 am-8 pm Monday-Saturday.

Nobody really knows what Cheez Whiz is. The bizarre, bright-orange slop tastes nothing like real cheese and appears to have been rendered from alien ooze from another galaxy. But one thing is certain: a Philly cheesesteak simply isn’t the real deal without it. Lucky for Portland, Steakadelphia is as real as the Spirit of ’76. Whiz aside, the unassuming Steakadelphia gets the traditional, thin-sliced sandwich right, from the perfect integration of translucent onions to the small lake of grease that pools underneath sandwiches like the Cheez Whiz Philly ($6-$10.50), making it necessary to chomp down the whole concoction before the hoagie bun disintegrates. Burgers are also great, and the Whiz-averse have the choice of other cheeses on their sandwiches. Just be sure to leave room for a terrific strawberry shake ($3.25), made with real ice cream for anyone who needs an actual dairy product to counteract the Whiz’s unforeseen genetic consequences. AP KRYZA. 

Stepping Stone Cafe 

2390 NW Quimby St., 222-1132, steppingstonecafe.com. 7:30 am-10 pm Sunday, 6 am-7 pm Monday-Tuesday, 6 am-10 pm Wednesday-Thursday, 6-3 am Friday, 7:30-3 am Sunday.

Although its slogan, “You Eat Here Because We Let You,” comes across as oddly aggressive (it sounds like a phrase that’d be emblazoned on a sign in a prison mess hall), Stepping Stone Cafe is the epitome of a neighborhood greasy spoon, with emphasis on the grease. It’s the kind of place that has kept Americans fat and happy for decades, serving up aorta-abusing burgers ($6.50-$8.50), meatloaf ($10.50) and hash browns covered in melted cheese and bacon ($7.75). All of it makes for a fabulous tribute to Western gluttony, but nothing compares to the “man-cakes,” the absurdly massive 13-inch pancakes that once challenged Adam Richman, Man vs. Food’s human garbage disposal. If you can still form sentences after consuming the full stack ($8.50), make sure to pay homage to the restaurant’s motto and thank your server for letting you eat your way toward an earlier grave at his establishment. MATT SINGER.

Sub Rosa 

2601 SE Clinton St., 233-1955, subrosa.textdriven.com. 5-9 pm Tuesday-Thursday, 5-10 pm Friday, 8:30 am-1 pm and 5-10 pm Saturday, 8:30 am-1 pm and 5-9 pm Sunday.

Nestled in the nexus of quirk that is Clinton Street—its neighbors include Scandinavian cafe Broder, the velvet painting-adorned dive bar Dots and, of course, the Clinton Street Theater, famous for its weekly screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show—Sub Rosa seems downright quaint, with its small dining area and classy decor. It keeps things simple, offering artisan pizzas and pastas with unfussy accoutrements. About as weird as the place gets is the Northwest by SE pizza ($18), which comes with caramelized onions and pears as toppings. Otherwise, it’s just high-quality Italian served with genuine smiles. Its tagline is “a friendly neighborhood joint,” and that’s an apt description. MATT SINGER.

Suzette

2921 NE Alberta St., suzettepdx.com, 473-8657. 11:30 am-9 pm Wednesday-Friday, 9 am-9 pm Saturday, 9 am-4 pm Sunday.

Steeped in French decor, with accordion practically wheezing from the woodwork, Suzette is a crĂŞpe-serving food-cart/restaurant hybrid. Order from the camper-turned-kitchen out back and then follow the gravel path back inside. Diners have a choice between couch and table seating, where they will be delivered from the trailer-kitchen out back buckwheat flour crĂŞpes folded into large, plate-filling triangles. As far as savory crĂŞpes are concerned, the marsala-soaked fig ($7) is the most interesting option, with a strong taste of garlic and the enjoyable crunch of fig seeds. Best of all are the sweet crĂŞpes: The Normandie (filled with lemon butter) and Amandine (filled with marzipan) come drizzled with chocolate and topped with poached pears and ice cream (both $8). RACHAEL DEWITT.

Tandoor Indian Kitchen

406 SW Oak St., 243-7777, portlandtandoor.com. 11:30 am-2 pm and 5:30-9 pm Monday-Friday, 5:30 pm-9 pm Saturday.

Let’s be honest—the Indian lunch buffet is all about quantity over quality. It’s the challenge of testing how much chicken tikka you can guzzle before your brain catches up to your stomach or your innards drown in ghee. But this downtown hole-in-the-wall offers a surprisingly tasty way to burst your belly. Hidden inside Tandoor’s unassuming buffet bain-marie, you’ll find rich and creamy sauces, light and crunchy pakoras, soft paneer and warm, crispy naan. It’s not exactly the pinnacle of Punjabi cuisine, but it’s fresh, full of spice and flavor and, most importantly, for $10, you can shove as much of it in your gob as is humanly possible, then chase it with free chai. Just save a bit of room for the rice kheer; it’s a little on the watery side, but so thick with flavors of saffron, cardamom and other spices I’m sure I can’t spell, it’s worth forgoing that third serving of biryani to sample. RUTH BROWN.

Tani’s Japanese Kitchen & Sushi Bar

4807 SE Woodstock Blvd., 595-3500. 11:30 am-2 pm and 5-9 pm Monday-Friday, 5-9 pm Saturday-Sunday.

For a neighborhood in proximity to a college, Woodstock falls short in the restaurant department. Reedies looking to do better than Delta Cafe have to hoof it all the way up to Southeast 48th Avenue to Tani’s, where the sushi is cheap and the air is filled with the smell of frying gyoza. Truth be told, Tani’s is no great shakes when it comes to sushi. The fish is good, but come on top of too much rice; maybe stick to sashimi or anything with eel over the too-large rolls. Where the place excels is in the hot portion of the menu: The grilled salmon cheek ($9), marinated in miso, is a fatty, savory treat; those gyoza ($4.50) are juicy and scaldingly hot; tempura is crisp and not too oily; and the tonkatsu (deep-fried pork cutlet, $8.50) is exactly like what you’d get at a Tokyo lunch counter, all crispy salty chew. Don’t skip the very good cucumber salad ($3.50). BEN WATERHOUSE.

Taqueria La Estacion

6719 NE Killingsworth St., 577-3541. 11:30 am-10 pm Monday-Tuesday, 11:30 am-midnight Wednesday-Sunday. Cash only.

One may be accustomed to seeing buildings built around trees or hillsides, but a full-size bus? A retrofitted espresso and ice cream truck (“Gargoyle’s Den” still emblazoned on the side) houses La Estacion’s kitchen, protruding comically through a wall of its building. Speaking of landmarks, this Cully neighborhood diamond in the rough shares its parking lot with the strip club the Sugar Shack—but that’s where any dubiousness begins and ends. The fresh smell of corn tortillas hits you upon entry: Tacos are cheap and abundant ($1), with enough cilantro and pickled onion to make you divorce Tex-Mex forever. If light and varied isn’t your style, try the Taqueria’s giant, perfectly toasted tortas ($4), easily enough to share. The real treasures, however, are the panuchos ($1.50 with avocado), a Yucatecan dish that fills a fried tortilla with bean paste and tops it with lettuce, chicken, onion, tomato, avocado and chiles. CAITLIN MCCARTHY.

TarBoush Lebanese Bistro & Bar

3257 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 235-3277, tarboushbistro.com. Noon-midnight Monday-Saturday, noon-10 pm Sunday.

Want to get a measure of a Lebanese restaurant? Order its veggie mezza ($12). The traditional assortment of hummus, baba ghanouj, falafel, grape leaves and tabbouleh is as good a metric as any in determining a kitchen’s acumen. TarBoush’s accompanying pita bread, which comes out of the kitchen hot and appropriately puffed, ably serves as a vessel for the spreads, but lacks the slight yeasty tang of the best examples of this staple. The tabbouleh is great with everything—an unusually high parsley-to-bulgur ratio gives the salad a bright, astringent quality with a subtle nuttiness. Nice and crispy, the falafel is at its best when you assemble an ad-hoc sandwich with the other mezza accompaniments. Over on the hot side of the menu, The grilled chicken ($14) is tender and succulent, with a lovely garlicky finish, and the kafta kebab ($14) is easily one of the best versions in town, substantial and filling while still moist BRIAN PANGANIBAN.

Taste Unique

2134 SE Division St., 206-7059, tasteunique.com. Noon-2 pm, to-go meals 10 am-6:30 pm Monday-Saturday. 

This is Italy in a shoebox, people. Born as a takeout pit stop, Taste Unique’s tiny Division Street storefront is dominated by a giant chalkboard full of daily offerings of housemade soups and sauces and fresh pasta and a pair of big fridges packed with family-sized takeout freezer trays of meat cannelloni and baked risotto pie (around $15-$20 a tray). Smart eaters claim a bar stool or one of the handful of tables for truly wonderful lunch specials: Big, peppery balsamic-dressed salads ($6); super-eggy, Parmesan-salty, put-you-in-a-coma-rich spaghetti carbonara (scarf it down fast and don’t let it congeal on the plate); or a whole crusty corner of tart tomato and meat lasagna (both $9). They’ll serve you the best focaccia in town while you wait, hot and salty, straight from the oven. All the while, the musical sound of Italian shop talk flows out from the kitchen, where Perugia-born chef Stefania Toscano lovingly prepares everything from her takeout basics to a special dinner menu of 18th-century dishes culled from a rare cookbook called Il Cuoco Maceratese. Plus, every other Friday, Taste Unique holds its “Aperitivo Italiano”—that’s $18 for a glass of wine and all-you-can-eat appetizers. KELLY CLARKE.

Thai Noon

2635 NE Alberta St., 282-2021, thainoon.com. 11:30 am-10 pm Monday-Thursday, 11:30 pa-10:30 pm Friday, noon-10:30 pm Saturday, noon-10 pm Sunday.

“Healthy Thai Cuisine,” the menu claims, with “healthy cuisine” apparently being defined against food that can literally break into your house and strangle you while you sleep. The oil slicks here might not shimmer with that familiar noodle-shack brilliance, but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that the pad Thai and pad see ew (both $8.95-$9.95, depending on your meat preference) are anything more than carefully arranged heaps of sweetened carbohydrate comforts. The sad fact of the matter is that nothing healthy can be craved with such violence on a chilly night. The tom yum soup ($8.95-$9.95) might actually be salutary to some degree, if you buy into food as a cold cure. The hot-and-sour broth with fresh chiles and lime juice cuts through stuffiness like a hot blade through fog, and unlike much of Thai Noon’s stir-fried combinations, it does not taste like dessert. CHRIS STAMM.

Tuk Tuk Thai

4239 NE Fremont St., 282-0456; 3226 N Lombard St., 719-7796, tuktukthairestaurant.com. 11 am-9:30 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-10 pm Friday, noon-10 pm Saturday, noon-9:30 pm Sunday.

Tuk Tuk, named for the three-wheeled rickshaws of Thailand, serves up colossal portions of Thai-American dishes at recession-friendly prices. Start out with a Thai iced tea or coffee ($2) and “Rock and Rolls,” refreshing lemongrass spring rolls with a hearty peanut sauce ($5). Then warm up with the tom kha hot-and-sour soup, served in a traditional doughnut-shaped firepot; the light vegetarian pad Thai with tofu; or the comforting gang massaman curry with chicken ($9.50 each). If you’re feeling adventurous, try the pla dook pad ped—fried catfish and eggplant with roasted-chile sauce ($11.50). Bring your college buddies or your gramps; Tuk Tuk’s bright walls, modern art and eclectic decor are warm and welcoming for all. Remember to make room in your fridge for leftovers. STACY BROWNHILL.

Violetta

877 SW Taylor St., violettapdx.com. Winter hours: 11 am-9 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-10 pm Friday, 11 am-10 pm Saturday, 11 am-9 pm Sunday.

Dwayne Beliakoff’s serially delayed “fast slow food” restaurant has finally opened in a modernist glass box in Director Park on the South Park Blocks, just adjacent to a strangely gonadal fountain devoted to the spirit of teaching. Despite Violetta’s über-sleek exterior, its insides are a clean, inviting Westy-lefty version of an East Coast urban burger-and-dog microshop, with terrifically specific recycling instructions decorating the waste bins. The signature Angus beef Violetta Burger ($6) is accordingly a sloppy, tasty mess to rival anything in South Philly or the old Coney Island—sealed shut by its own juice and fat in recycled cardboard and paper—with appealingly goopy special sauce, butter lettuce and something called “10-hour” tomatoes. Applewood bacon and cheese can be added, at minor expense, for even greater decadence. Violetta is a welcome lunch-dinner presence in a neighborhood that suffers from an appalling absence of affordable sit-down options. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

Waffle Window

3610 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 239-4756, wafflewindow.com, 8 am-6 pm Sunday-Thursday, 8 am-9 pm Friday-Saturday.

Tucked behind (and partially within) Bread and Ink Cafe, Waffle Window is so much more than a griddlecake-dispensing fenestration. The Liège-style waffles themselves aren’t huge, but are cakey and remarkably filling for their diminutive stature. And hey, it’s what’s on top that matters. Of course there’s all the sweet stuff—fruit, whipped cream, and Nutella are in no short supply here. Case in point: the banana/caramel/granola Banana Rumba ($4). But the savory selections are far more intriguing. The Three B’s waffle ($4.50) with Brie, bacon and basil sounds amazing enough as it is, but Waffle Window’s inspired addition is peach jam, risking overwhelming sweetness yet somehow playing perfectly nicely with the basil and the peppery bacon. The Farm Fusion ($4) is a healthier choice, piled high with veggies and a dollop of lemon/thyme-marinated chevre, lending a touch of sweetness. The best part? Waffles can be eaten inside or out, making a detour to the Window worthwhile any time of year. CRAIG BEEBE.

Wayne’s Chicago Red Hots

3901 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 493-4537, wayneschicagoredhots.com. 11 am-5 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-7 pm Friday-Saturday, noon-5 pm Sunday. 

There’s a reason Chicago has a high rate of obesity: The hot dogs are addictive. Wayne’s Red Hots offers the most authentic Chicago dogs this side of Wrigley, and the small MLK eatery—a haven for Cubs and Sox fans—even brings Vienna Beef, to the table. Purists will melt at the sight of the Chicago Red Hot ($5 with fries), “dragged through the garden” with a pickle spear, neon-green relish, peppers, tomato slices and celery salt slopped onto a poppyseed bun. The more adventurous are advised to pop a Lipitor before diving into the Ditka ($8), a half-pound torpedo swimming in enough chili and cheese to make anyone go up a bra size. The only complaint here is Wayne’s early closing time. Imagine the splendor of a late-night heart attack! Regardless, expect to tip the scales after lunch. AP KRYZA.

Whiskey Soda Lounge

3131 SE Division St., 232-0102, whiskeysodalounge.com. 5 pm-midnight Sunday-Thursday, 5 pm-1 am Friday-Saturday. 

Whiskey Soda Lounge opened in December 2009 as a place to grab a drink during the inevitable 45-minute wait at Pok Pok, but it quickly became that little brother that outshines its older siblings. Less formal, less busy, and less scene-y, Whiskey Soda Lounge serves authentic Thai food that is perfect for nibbling at the bar. The Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings ($12 for an order of five wings) are famous, and for a reason: They balance just the right amount of sweetness with a serious kick. For my money the miang kham ($7)—dried shrimp, ginger, peanuts, lime, shallot, coconut and chiles atop a betel leaf—is even better, the perfect appetizer for a killer Sazerac ($8) or the best whiskey sour ($8) in town. Prepare to be blown away. MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.

Woodlawn Coffee and Pastry

808 NE Dekum St., 954-2412, woodlawncoffee.com. 6:30 am-4 pm Monday-Friday, 7:30 am-4 pm Saturday-Sunday.

Formerly a long-vacant dry-cleaners, this high-ceilinged and light-filled room feels less like a full-blown bakery than it does a homey coffeehouse where one of the owners (Gretchen Glatte) just happens to be churning out cookies, pies and scones in the exposed kitchen. The relatively limited assortment of goods has included whole-wheat banana or pumpkin muffins ($2.50) and orange-currant and cheddar green-onion scones ($2.50), and will typically include one variety of seasonal pie, available by the slice ($3.50). A chocolate-chip cookie ($1.50) scored high with a brown sugary-sweetness surrounding both bittersweet and intense, unsweetened chocolate. Trust me, this totally works. JOANNA MILLER.

Ya Hala

8005 SE Stark St., 256-4484, yahalarestaurant.com. 11 am-9 pm Monday-Saturday.

Shaped like oversized M&Ms, the pita at Ya Hala comes out of the kitchen in steamy, soft heaps, ready to be dipped in your choice of creamy vegetable or bean paste. Ya Hala offers all the Lebanese staples—the tabbouleh($4.95) is refreshing, the lentil soup ($3.95) is comforting and the lamb kebab is tender and rich ($13.95). If you’d like a more surprising experience, try the shanklish ($4.95). These baby eggplants, poached, stuffed with walnuts, garlic and chile peppers and cured in olive oil, are like cool, savory vegetable grenades. Though Ya Hala is tucked away in Montavilla, it’s often crowded, especially during weekend lunches. When you’re done with your meal, and you want to bring the Mediterranean heat into your home, there’s a Middle Eastern food-imports store next door that can provide needed supplies. RACHAEL DEWITT.

Yoko’s

2878 SE Gladstone St., 736-9228.
5-9:30 pm daily.

Your out-of-town guests won’t give you extra points for scenery if you take them to Yoko’s, which is nestled among nondescript bungalows in the Creston-Kenilworth neighborhood. But forget scenery. Yoko’s is all about the sushi, which comes in traditional nigiri form as well as more imaginative modes. One of Yoko’s most creative and delicious offerings is called Taka’s Tuna ($7.50 for two pieces). The dish looks intimidating; it’s basically a flattened, deep-fried rice ball with spicy tuna, sliced avocado and green onion piled high on top. But eat it in small bites like an overflowing taco and you won’t regret it. Another creative option: The Walla Walla roll, which includes—what else?—onion ($7). It’s best to prepare for the possibility of a long wait, and an even longer one if you’re in a group of more than four. Just sign your name to the waiting list. Then hit C Bar next door for a beer or cocktail. One final bit of advice: Save room for tempura ice cream, which is wrapped in pound cake before it’s deep-fried. BETH SLOVIC.

Zell’s, an American Cafe

1300 SE Morrison St., 239-0196. 7 am-2 pm Monday-Friday, 8 am-2 pm Saturday-Sunday.

Brunch can be quite the ordeal in Portland. Securing a spot in a diner on a weekend morning might necessitate the occasional passive-aggressive jab of the elbow. For that reason, it’s good to know your options, and Zell’s should definitely rank among them. Not particularly trendy, Zell’s is well lit and doesn’t reek too much of diner shtick. The weekly changing chalkboard specials a bit more exciting than the staples. The baked salmon Benedict ($10.25) is one of Zell’s classics, with well-poached eggs, a generous helping of salmon and thick hollandaise. Best of all are the complimentary scones to abate your crippling midmorning hunger. RACHAEL DEWITT.

 
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