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August 10th, 2005 KELLY CLARKE | z-Bite Club
 

SMALL BITES FOR BIG MOUTHS

     
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¿POR QUE NO?'s Candelaria Xaper Aguilar.
IMAGE: MICHAEL RUBENSTEIN
The Juice: Call us a drunk, but come summer Bite Club is nearly incapable of eating out sans cerveza. But at ¿Por Qué No? (3524 N Mississippi Ave., 467-4149), the sweet little taqueria that recently took over the old Grandfather's Deli space on North Mississippi Avenue, we're all about the radiation-pink prickly-pear cactus juice-or raspberry, watermelon and strawberry juice.

A tall $2 glass of tart, freshly blended fruit offsets its hearty Mexican street food. Last week, Bite Club devoured crisp, delish battered fish topped with crema, cabbage and sweet mango slices as well as a blander pile of shredded beef drizzled in a pasilla chile sauce-both swaddled in a warm, housemade corn tortilla. The cramped but comfy spot is run by Bryan Steelman, a former clarklewis server, and his fiancée, Claire Olberding, a Boise-Elliot 'hood native. Santa Cruz-born chef Mark Saldaña tends to the short menu.

The month-old taqueria is already serving up a steaming portion of controversy, too. Last Thursday, the Mercury's Katie Shimer blasted ¿Por Qué No? for its honkified policy of having Mexican kitchen staff wear "I Love Tacos" tees while "white folk" work the front of the house. "I give those shirts to all of our staff," Steelman told Bite Club last week by phone (as he drove to the Merc office to deliver a tee to Shimer). "They can wear them if they don't want to wear their other clothes to work. I mean, I'm wearing one right now." And his crew? Steelman admits it: Mexican people are working at his taqueria. Bite Club just hopes Shimer never has the shocking experience of peeking into any other Portland restaurant kitchen, places where-it's rumored-other Hispanic people have been known to find food-service positions.

The Scoop: Old Town Pizza recently piqued our interest when it opened Old Town Gelato (226 NW Davis St.), a broom-closet-sized cafe devoted to P-town's hottest icy treat. Sure, the panini are nothing more than basic prefab cold sandwiches-no grill here, folks-and seating is limited to a pair of sidewalk tables. But the microscopic spot's admirably fruity fresh-made sorbetto cups, available until 11 pm Friday and Saturday nights, mean that we can cool down from C.C. Slaughters' hot weekend beef injection without hoofin' it to the Pearl.

The Sammy: If, like the Bite, you're already physically addicted to the fresh produce, flowers and fab eats at the Portland Farmers Market, move on. But for the rest of you market-challenged suckers, listen up: Don't let another week go by without getting a mouthful of Canby-based Tastebud Farm's awesome lamb pita. This crew trundles out its wood-fired brick oven to the South Park Blocks every Wednesday and Saturday. We dare you not to drool as the Tastebudders stuff a toasty, freshly baked pita with wild greens and a bruschetta-worthy toss of fresh Roma tomatoes and basil. Then they topped it off with tahini, chile sauce and a skewer of baby-fist-sized hunks of medium-rare lamb, hot off the grill. Holy hell, it's good. And worth every penny of its spendy $7.50 price tag.

 
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