August 7th, 2013 MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN | Food Reviews & Stories
 

A Broken Spoke

Township & Range is a pedestrian addition to Ladd’s.

dish_3940(township_bookie)LOOKIE, A BROOKIE: This is what happens when a brownie eats a cookie. - IMAGE: Brian Drowns
Southeast Portland’s leafy Ladd’s Addition neighborhood is spoiled. Its stately homes are set back from tall oaks lining a Eurocool hub-and-spoke compass of streets that radiate out from the rose beds of Ladd’s Circle. And, at the end of every spoke, great food. Given the competition, newcomers serving standard comfort and pub food better be at least solid.

Township & Range, on Ladd’s northern flank of Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, relies on the tried-and-true Portland formula for neighborhood success: simple selections, large portions and budget-friendly prices. Of course, there had to be plenty of taps dedicated to local brew and space enough to welcome all the newly breeding post-hipsters and their squirmy spawn.

T&R opened in March. Early on, the space was fairly jumping with young families, curious neighbors and foodies hoping to get the inside track on a new hot spot. Another draw was the short, but alluring, list of desserts from Melissa McKinney, formerly of Bluehour and her own shop, Criollo. The sweet staple at T&R is a “brookie”, the love child of a brownie and chocolate-chip cookie served with McKinney’s own vanilla ice cream. She’s also been slinging a rotating seasonal fruit crisp ($6), most recently constructed from fresh blackberries and blueberries.

If only the rest of the menu matched the sweets. As a beer-maven colleague remarked in reference to T&R’s list of mostly local brews ($4.50 by the pint), “pedestrian and unbalanced.” That pretty much describes the food, too.

Fried items—generally hard to screw up—have been a problem. On one visit, the batter on the buttermilk fried chicken had completely separated into a thick, hard brown shell, the meat within seriously overcooked. Among the appetizer selections, the hush puppies ($7) were rock-hard, dense and nearly flavorless. A sweet chili sauce helped, but not enough.

Thick slices of “all natural” beef brisket ($15 with two sides) in a recent order were slow-cooked until they were fall-apart tender, but the meat was nearly flavorless and came with a slick of grease that coated the brisket and pooled underneath it. Underseasoning also plagued the roast pork sandwich ($9.50) with broccoli rabe, peppers and grated Parmesan cheese. The archetype for this sandwich is served at DiNic’s at Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, which features juicy pork, bright greens and shards of piquant provolone. T&R’s version rates a 3 to DiNic’s 10. A steelhead entree ($14, now changed to sockeye) was better, but still not beyond pedestrian.

It seems the neighbors have noticed. On last check-in, a couple weeks ago, T&R was nearly deserted during the Thursday night dinner service, its prospective customers having ventured down a different spoke. 

  • Order this: Brookie ($6) or any other dessert.
  • I’ll pass: Fried chicken ($15 with sides). 

EAT: Township & Range, 2422 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 943-2120, trpdx.com. 4-10 pm Sunday-Thursday, 4-11 pm Friday-Saturday. $$.

 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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