1914 Willamette Falls Drive, 387-5604, alliumoregon.com. $$$.
Allium feels swanky. It’s not intimidating, exactly, but it projects the swagger of a place that knows it’s making the best food in a wealthy bedroom community. Despite the dark woods and nouveau wine-cellar ambiance, most of the small plates hover around $10. One could make an entire meal at Allium of these smaller dishes, particularly the briny smoke of the steamed clams and the Dungeness crab toast, a delectable stack of avocado, arugula, plump crab meat and pepper aioli on a slab of ciabatta. From those highs, well-prepared entrees that wouldn’t be out of place at a traditional steakhouse can be a minor disappointment. The grilled rib-eye—with blue cheese, mushrooms and a veal reduction to wreak umami havoc—is the most popular option. JORDAN GREEN.
Casa de Tamales
10605 SE Main St., 654-4423, canbyasparagusfarm.com. $.
The menu at the Casa de Tamales has just six tamale options, but the specials board draws from scores more, and almost all of the ingredients are grown at either the local Canby Asparagus Farm or Winters Farms. The owner’s friendly dad, Charles Maes, is almost always there and happy to explain anything on the menu. The Casa’s Mexican-style corn-wrapped tamale is our favorite in town, with fluffy masa, a nice assortment of spices and beef that tastes like an especially good pot roast. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Pine Shed Ribs
17730 Pilkington Road, 635-7427, pineshedribs.com. $$.
Pine Shed is far from PDX’s best barbecue, but it might be Lake Oswego’s best restaurant, anyway. Patrons order at the counter in a suburban plaza outfitted to look like a shed, then choose between a wood-chip patio or an indoor dining area a few doors down. Cheerwine and Coke are available at the counter; you can get real wine and beer from the nearby Plaid Pantry. Diners eat with disposable utensils and dump their trash into one big bin. Pork ribs ($12) are moist and meaty with a perfectly blackened bark. Order them with spicy ranch beans ($3) and a hunk of cornbread ($2), which has the texture of fluffy grits inside a dark, crispy crust. For the smoke-averse, chicken quarters are big, moist, light on smoke and bathed in the house’s syrupy sauce. MARTIN CIZMAR.
212 Mollala Ave., Oregon City, 655-7197, sites.google.com/site/loncheriamitzil. $.
Luz Martinez’s Loncheria Mitzil, though doubly hidden by its location in Oregon City’s hilltop outskirts and equally obscure parking-lot entrance, becomes immediately welcoming once you finally make your way inside. The lunchtime menu is low-priced, simple and prepared with care—get the potato guisado molotes ($8.95)—but Martinez’s Guadalajaran roots are best showcased in the rotating dinner menus, with beautifully charred chile relleno ($12.95), rich albondigas ($10.95) and especially the chicken with rich pumpkin mole verde ($12.95). For those of us who never had the good fortune of growing up with a doting Mexican grandmother, Mitzil offers—for the brief span of a meal—the comforting illusion that we are nonetheless at home with abuela. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
4039 N Mississippi Ave, 281-4060, lovelysfiftyfifty.wordpress.com. $$.
You can’t get half pies at Lovely’s Fifty-Fifty, which is a little confusing since the pizza at the top of the website is clearly bisected. It’s also a shame, since their seasonal-topping options are varied enough that you might want duelling tastes. The layout, menu, and pizza and ice cream-centric menu are especially suited to young families craving a one-stop shop. Salads are well-considered and bursting with fresh, local produce, but the pizza crust is hardly a world-beater compared to some of Portland’s other dough-slinging establishments. Fortunately, an intriguing hand of seasonal toppings and cured meat nearly make up the difference. Pies are 12 inches around and topped with combos both boring (plain cheese for kids, $7) and inspired (chicories, calabrian chilies, garlic, capers and lemon, $16). The other half of Lovely’s balances the scales with a rotating array of typical and atypical ice cream flavors that steers clear of the overly precious offerings scooped at the city’s buzzier frozen-treat purveyors. JORDAN GREEN.
Po’Shines Cafe de la Soul
8139 N Denver Ave., 978-9000, poshines.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday. $$.
One hesitates to accuse Kenton’s Po’Shines of garnering an unfair advantage by cooking soul food under the auspices of a church, but if it works, it works. The meals are generous in both portion and spirit. The blackened-catfish sandwich ($8.95) is charred without burn and fatty without grease, the kidney beans and rice hearty as a valentine and the hush puppies gently crisped on the outside—just enough to pop—and moist on the inside. The grits ($4.95) offer not only a stacked complement of bacon but a fourfold cloverleaf of cheeses. And while it takes a mighty hunger to handle the Po’Fish platter ($13.95, with catfish, fried wings and sides), I assure you, it can be done. If you’re on your knees thereafter, consider it prayer. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.