No business wants to get called the "budget" version of anything—the word brings to mind cheap hotels and off-brand sodas—but in this case, it's really meant as a compliment. Modeled after the wood-fired parrillas of South America, the small Irvington bar and grill, which replaced innocuous tavern Sullivan's Gulch in August, prepares its meats with a similar Latin touch to the lauded Argentine steakhouse a mile and a half west, only at prices that won't make your eyes cross when the bill arrives.
For $16, for example, you get an 8-ounce tenderloin topped with verdant chimichurri sauce and a side of crispy potatoes bravas with tangy house aioli. It's not just good for the price, either—it far outstrips it. The cocktail list, too, is a marvel of value, where $7 gets you a well-made pisco sour, a Brazilian caipirinha and a calimocho—a blend of red wine and soda that combines into something like an alcoholic Mexican Coke.
On a busy night, the space can seem cramped, and the décor—a mess of plants, decorative guitars, two fake fireplaces and a pair of framed flat-screens that don't ever seem to turn on—adds to the cluttered feeling. But even when the chatter is high, the red-and-gold hue and swaying bossa nova on the stereo ensures the room maintains its romantic atmosphere. If Ox is where you go to celebrate your wedding anniversary, Carne is an ideal third-date spot. And it's hard to get to the former without the latter.
DRINK: Carne, 2512 NE Broadway, 503-206-6075, carnepdx.com. 5-10 pm Tuesday-Thursday, 5-11 pm Friday-Saturday.