August 26th, 2011 12:31 pm | by CHRIS STAMM Food & Drink |

How Portland Tastes...According to Seattle's 5 Spot

Sadly, there was no "Gus van Sandwich."

Longtime WW contributor Chris Stamm broke our hearts and moved to Seattle a few months ago. We asked him to give us his assessment of the Emerald City's version of PDX cuisine. Feel free to leave your own 5 Spot taste test notes in the comments.

As Ruth Brown reported last month, Seattle comfort food institution 5 Spot, which apparently has a rotating gimmick menu, would be putting Portland on the chopping block this summer, with high-calorie odes to Rose City indulgence.

Bothered by a tinge of homesickness and, more pressingly, incredibly hungry, I visited this vaunted hilltop diner to get some idea of Seattle’s perception of Portland.

First thing I see upon entering the dining room: Birds. On things. Everywhere. Because that joke is not old in Seattle yet. And so a ream of construction paper had to sacrifice itself so that this gag could be beaten to death on every available surface.

Where paper birds were not swarming the walls hung paintings depicting iconic Portland people, places and things: Powell’s, Darcelle (bearded and big-headed), the “Made in Oregon” sign, a Voodoo donut, and, duh, food carts (which were inserted as head replacements into a reproduction of American Gothic).

Fair enough, I thought. Those are a few Portland features I know and love or at least like enough to visit once in a while, and I’ve certainly encouraged curious visitors to check them out, as long as I’m sure said visitors have a high tolerance for obnoxious people.

An admittedly fuzzy shot of 5 Spot's Portland decor courtesy of Chris Stamm.

Now, about the menu. First, I was disappointed to find that there was not a Gus van Sandwich or a list of “BLeverages.” Second, you should know that I went with a vegetarian who was paying for me, so I felt a rare carnivorous guilt while perusing the “Portlandia” page, which offered Colin the Hazelnut Stuffed Chicken and Mary’s Club “Strip” Steak (served with “g-string beans,” by the way, which, come on, is gross). Basically, I felt weird about making a kind animal lover subsidize murder, and so I was only able to sample a few vegetarian dishes.

Which is all to say that my take on 5 Spot’s food should not be misconstrued as a careful appraisal of whatever culinary skill might exist in this Seattle restaurant. The place has been around for quite some time, so let’s just assume they’re able to please some of the people all of the time.

With that, here goes: judging by admittedly limited experience with 5 Spot’s menu, and taking a huge and irresponsible leap into completely unjustified extrapolatory madness, I can tell you with no further ado that Seattle hates Portland.

I felt not even a hint of flattered gratitude while picking my way through the Rose City Salad, a pile of butter lettuce, Oregonzola bleu cheese and candied hazelnuts drenched in a cloying vinaigrette that recalled the “healthy” options at that one Portland McDonalds everyone loves so much.

And the Brandisi Meets Burnside cheese plate, which featured a blob of fried cheese accompanied by three sad baguette slices swimming in grease, absolutely nailed the subtle intoxication that I’d once thought could only be found in a plastic container of scrumptious leftovers from that one McMenamins everyone loves so much.

The P-Town Chick-P Sandwich, essentially a falafel burger that made me wish I’d been eating either a mediocre hamburger or a middling falafel wrap, fared slightly better, if only because the mysterious “flannel fries” turned out to be spot-on imitations of those criss-cut fries that got cold on the drive home from that one Burgerville everyone loves so much.

But that, thank god, was the extent of my experience. (Oh wait, I did get to drink a Laurelwood IPA, which was quite nice.) Maybe 5 Spot is doing wonderful things with Portland-inspired meat dishes, but I have a feeling I won’t be back to find out.
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