Dear Diary,

Happy Birthday, America, you old hag. Let's eat. Here are some recent adventures recounted for your voyeuristic pleasure:


The streets were clogged with a dizzying array of mouth-breathers, while Miss Dish and her nose-breathing posse reclined above it all in the sweet embrace of this smart little restaurant that looks down onto Old Town. Beyond having a truly accommodating staff, Second Story Bistro scores the Miss Dish hat trick: great price, great attitude, great cooking. One of the best deals in town is the bouillabaisse at lunch for $9, which is crammed with almost every kind of seafood you could ever dream of (including chunks of crab) in a heady broth. They offer a lemon and a washcloth so your hands won't smell. At dinner, even if you're with a bunch of T-shirted friends and ordering off the cheaper light-fare menu (the pasta with prawns and calamari in a buttery wine sauce for $8.50 is awesome), they'll give you some sorbet between courses as a palate cleanser that makes you feel downright fancy.

208 NW Couch St., 827-5113.


If there were a prison reserved to punish those who commit crimes against puns, it'd be completely inhabited by hair-salon owners and Thai restaurant entrepreneurs (and, maybe, Miss Dish). Even though the name's lame and the healthy Thai concept at first gander seems dicey, Thai Noon overcomes it all. It's nice to have an option to indulge in your favorite Thai dishes without that oppressive food coma afterward. Particularly noteworthy was the way they did all the great Thai noodle dishes you've come to crave, and they come out without a shimmer of oil. Nice job. It's clearly a Thai class operation here...

2635 NE Alberta St., 282-2021.


Miss Dish knows that you love Nicholas' for Lebanese, and she does, too, but she urges you to visit Ya Hala if you haven't already, because both places are tied neck-and-neck for the crown of Portland's best Lebanese restaurant. Ya Hala's pillowy, hot-from-the-oven pita is carb heaven (why more Middle Eastern restaurants don't catch on that house-made pita is the key to success in this cuisine, she'll never know) and the baba ghanouj takes you on a smoky voyage five levels deep. Go there.

8005 SE Stark St., 256-9576.


Miss Dish is a condiment queen, and George's Giant Hamburgers delivers. The words fixin's bar have been known to make Miss Dish get that special tingle, and George's has one of the best DIY-burger scenarios she's ever experienced. We're talking two--that's two--kinds of pickles (chips to put on your burger, crispy kosher dill slices to eat with your burger), real lettuce leaves (not that shredded crap), salsa, red onions, and rosy tomatoes that look like they came from New Seasons or something. You almost don't even need the burger when the toppings are this good, but you won't regret the meat in the middle--house-ground beef that seems to have zero filler and is meltingly luscious. Score one for Tigard.

11640 SW Pacific Highway, Tigard, 639-8029.