It's all smooth rock ahead tonight at the Cafe Wonder (128 NE Russell St., 284-8686), the Wonder Ballroom's congenial subterranean watering hole and diner. House of Cunt's Amber Martin greets the hungry near the door, swaying to Player's late-'70s abomination "Baby Come Back" on her inaugural Tuesday DJ night. With no concert rumbling above, the cafe makes for a low-stress hotspot with a homey menu, which moseys from Americana (meatloaf and mashed spuds for $8.50, $8 burgers) to Italian Americana (baked ziti, $8.50, and an over-sweet yet bland cioppino, $12.50). Make no mistake, there are no culinary fireworks illuminating this basement's low-lit burgundy booths, but a hearty "steak and frites" ($13.50)—quality cow, thick-cut spuds, zippy aioli—is a winning choice on the nights when a hipster just can't live on art and booze alone.
7:45 pm Tuesday, Nov. 15
Finally, after nearly four years of construction, a lengthy Historical Society vetting process and a few funding hiccups, Paul and Adrienne Van Slyke's Siam Society (2703 NE Alberta St., 922-3675) has opened in a hulking old power company substation right on Northeast Alberta Street. And not a minute too soon, the thoroughfare was positively starved for Asian love with only three other Thai joints pimping pad kee mao on the strip. But never you mind—Siam is, ahem, a bit more high-society than its earthy cousins. The hollowed-out depot's towering concrete walls, studded with rusted metal bits, provide a commanding backdrop for pixie-ish chef Adrienne's dramatic dishes. Crisp pulled-pork spring rolls ($7.50) are perfumed with cinnamon and vanilla bean, lending the appetizer standby a unique, sweet-savory flair while terrines of aromatic soups clear the sinuses. Main dishes segue from well-spiced noodle dishes to traditional curries served tableside in gorgeous copper pots. And when the menu says Sexy Beef ($14), it ain't lying. A wide bowl of perfectly cooked slips of flank steak, oyster mushrooms and green peppers luxuriating in a sweet, spicy coconut cream sauce ain't just dinner—it's foreplay.
10:30 am Thursday, Nov. 17
"This shit is amazing," Black Sheep's Amanda Felt told Bite Club. The voluble vegan baker was gushing about the pastry mastery of Li Doyle, who opened a cheery new coffee-and-cake outpost, Lili Patisserie Cafe (8337 SE 17th Ave.) in Sellwood recently. When Bite Club visited, we weren't led to amazed exclamations just yet, but there's greatness lurking in Doyle's cinnamon-sugar-topped blueberry muffins ($2), mushroom-capped beauts top-heavy enough to impress even Portland's Elaine Benes contingent. And then there's the blackberry danish ($2.50)—that perennially stale, sad bastard of the supermarket pastry world. Doyle's version is a moist-yet-flaky, über-buttery triumph. A drab, dry lemon-poppyseed pound cake and a-near empty lunch case dampened the wow factor, but the cafe's charmingly decorated floors, which feature loopy drawings of lemon juicers, cake stands and springform pans, whisper of sweet surprises to come.