Located on Southwest 4th Avenue, Romeo Bakery (520 SW 4th Ave., 241-7970) looks and tastes like what Bite Club would imagine a three-way between a subway station, a Japanese bakery and an American school cafeteria might yield: plastic English ivy strewn across shelves and a display window full of color photos of the bakery's wares. Most of Romeo's sweet and savory "international" offerings are butter- and egg-packed rolls—kind of like a light challah—stuffed with everything from butterscotch to corn, for around $2.75 each. Hot sheet pans full of vegetable curry rolls and custard-stuffed popovers make their way to the bakery case all day long. Romeo is a hit-or-miss pit stop, not a cuisine destination, but they roll a damn tasty mini wiener wrap and their sweet potato roll is fat, fragrant and topped with melted marshmallows. Mmmm.
Popcorn. The Beaumont 'hood's quaint Blue Moose Cafe (4936 NE Fremont St., 548-4475) emanates the smell of buttery popped corn and spices. It's a comforting entrance to this cozy vegetarian cafe, which doles out glowingly healthy sammies, soups and salads (around $3-$7.50) along with a side of that popcorn instead of fries. If a cup of owner Sheila Gilronan's luxuriously rich Amazing Lentils!!! (a soup worth its exclamation points) tastes familiar, that's because she's the woman behind Old Town's long gone Dogs Dig Vegetarian Deli. Her expanded spot, which opened in early December in the old Leaf and Bean space, is a fitting setting for crunchy mounds of curry-sauced peas, puckery horseradish-and-jalapeño-sauced coleslaw and big, vibrant rice-and-bean dishes. The low point of Bite Club's visit was a sawdust-dry apple molasses muffin, but our smile returned after reading Blue Moose's cheery faux-vintage cow sign marked with the legend "Have yourself a faceless lunch today!" The irony only gets thicker as you look out the cafe's wide front window: Blue Moose sits across the street from one of the city's staunchest burger advocates, Stanich's.
Lucky for the neighborhood surrounding North Williams Avenue, the new New Old Lompoc, a.k.a. the Fifth Quadrant (3901-B N Williams Ave., 288-3996), with its awesome beer and better-than-McMenamins pub eats, should feel a lot like the old New Old Lompoc in Northwest Portland—as soon as it loses its "new car smell." Christmas week the new brewery-distillery opened in a big warehouse space it shares with Pix Pâtisserie's second location. The big concrete room's walls lack accumulated debris and its huge high-backed, plank-table booths (which could seat 10 drinkers each) are yet to be roughed up. But a brain-bending Tavern Rat barleywine and a $7.50 meaty, manly burger dressed with respectably red tomatoes, make the 5Q space inviting. We warn against the wilted spinach and bacon salad, though. The orange-vinaigrette-doused dish smelled like a boiled hot dog to us. Maybe it's a NoPo thing.