No roadkill here. This is dining au transit. Last month Jorge Blackman opened the On the Road Cafe, a real bus converted into a pert dining room on wheels, complete with burgundy curtains. The former Spanish-language textbook distributor originally bought the secondhand tour bus to use as a bookmobile. But when local schools tightened their budget belts, the native of Mexico started frying up onion-and-bacon-laden Tortilla Española ($3.50) and other border-town dishes ($3.50-$5.50) on the bus's grill instead. It's a quirky draw. Customers with bemused smiles tromp up the stairs to sit at chairs converted from bus seats and slowly defrost to golden oldies on the radio.
The food is tame in the spice department, but the bus's breakfast and lunch prices are low and the portions generous. Frankly, it's Blackman's dignified demeanor that seals the deal. He makes the rounds among the cafe's three tables, fussing over his customers with the attention of a Bluehour server.
In fact, Bite Club's fave dish wasn't even on the menu. Blackman just happened to hand out fried bananas, quarter-planks of sweet potassium-goodness topped with cinnamon and a squiggle of sweet cream, to everybody on board. Could there be a better reason to get on the bus?
When noted local foodie Nick Zukin hit 240 pounds last month, he devised a novel way to shed pounds while plumping up his favorite charity, the Oregon Food Bank. Three weeks ago the 5-foot-11 Zukin, founder of www.portlandfood.org, started accepting "pledges for pounds" on his personal blog. He will chronicle his carb-free cardio-odyssey online through Feb. 12 and has so far received a handful of pledges-some up to $5 a pound. "I'm gonna try to lose 20 pounds," he told Bite Club. "I don't think I can step one foot in Pix [Pâtisserie] for the next month." To put your money where Zukin's mouth is-or get motivated yourself -check out titillating photos of his hairy man boobs by visiting www.extramsg.com, then clicking on "Diet for Charity."
We'd rather chew our own arm off than give Starbucks free advertising-but Bite Club's readers demanded that we check out the coffee gestapo's latest marketing/
world domination ploy: that freakin' Chantico (pronounced chan-TEE-koh). After gritting our teeth, we submitted the impossibly thick liquid chocolate to an informal office taste test. Nobody could stomach more than a few nips. One WW news writer summed up our own reaction to the chalky brownie sludge best: "This tastes like drinking the blood of a Keebler elf." This missive probably won't stop you from sampling this liquid cocoa crack ($2.65 for a 6-ounce cup), but be warned: This town ain't big enough for two addictive-substance mascots. It's either meth or Chantico, people. You decide.
On The Road Cafe, Southwest 9th Avenue between Alder and Washington streets.
Taste-test Chantico at any local Starbucks, then let us know if you think it tastes like gargling brownies.