Sandwiches: Beaverton Sub Station
12448 SW Broadway, Beaverton, 503-641-7827, beavertonsubstation.com, 9 am-6 pm Monday-Friday, 10 am-3 pm Saturday.
Beaverton Sub Station feels like the deli time forgot. Tucked away in a two-block stretch of Old Downtown near a cobbler and a barber shop, there's a sign in the brick building's window advertising coffee for a quarter, and regulars stop in not just to eat but to chat or read the paper. The sandwiches here are bookended with chewy yet not too hard rolls with the circumference of the thick end of a baseball bat. There are dozens of sub varieties, but the Smitty ($6) is a standout, with layers of thinly shaved turkey, cheddar, tomato and crisp cucumber that complements the pleasant tang from a cream cheese spread with a dash of dill. ANDI PREWITT.
Pizza: Rally Pizza
8070 E Mill Plain Blvd., Vancouver, 360-524-9000, rallypizza.com. 11 am-9 pm daily.
If Rally's light, chewy, char-mottled crust seems reminiscent of Ken's Artisan Pizza's, it's not mere coincidence—Rally co-owner Alan Maniscalco was Ken's pizza chef for nearly a decade. Though the dough here is gas- rather than wood-fired, the taste and texture difference is negligible, and the toppings—hand-pulled mozzarella, house-smoked belly bacon—certainly belie Rally's location in a nondescript strip mall anchored by a Parkrose Hardware. Maniscalco's wife, Shan, brings her expertise as Ken's former pastry chef to the extensive dessert menu, which matches boozy shakes like the Derby Day ($10), pairing mint syrup with Rittenhouse Rye, with upscale concretes, custards and seasonal sundaes like the Bumbleberry ($8), which swirls smoked wildflower honey, blackberry sauce and honeycomb crunch into a glass cup packed with thick, made-to-order vanilla bean ice cream. If you've not yet had reason to cross the Columbia for destination-worthy food, you do now. KAT MERCK.
Tacos: Little Conejo
114 W 6th St., Vancouver, Wash., 360-718-2633, littleconejo.com. 11 am-9 pm Tuesday-Thursday, 11 am-10 pm Friday-Saturday, 10 am-3 pm Sunday. Second location in Prost Marketplace at 4237 N Mississippi Ave.
Since late 2017, Little Conejo ("rabbit" in English) has been serving up some of the most intensely flavorful tacos on either side of the Columbia. Founded by Noble Rot's Mychal Dynes and Nodoguro's Mark Wooten, Little Conejo crafts its fare with produce from Wooten's own Phantom Rabbit Farm in Portland—one way they strive to incorporate a farm-to-table ethos whenever possible. Even the masa is made in-house from hand-ground corn, and though not grown on the farm year-round, cobs for the seasonal elotes are harvested from Wooten's plot. If a full roster of creative mezcal cocktails isn't enough to motivate you to ford the river north, Little Conejo opened a satellite cart this summer in the Prost Marketplace pod on North Mississippi Avenue. The menu is pared down (no alcohol), but hits most of the brick-and-mortar's high points with meat spit-roasted right there. KAT MERCK.
3975 SW 114th Ave., Beaverton, 503-641-3670. 10:30 am-9 pm Tuesday-Sunday.
Searching for Spring is like a culinary treasure hunt. There are few clues on websites like Yelp and by word of mouth, but you have to put in a little effort to uncover the wealth. In the back of a Korean grocery store with a shabby, peeling exterior sits a restaurant serving dishes in colossal portions and a parade of complimentary side dishes you can never finish alone. Two men unloading a delivery truck pointed me inside a side door near the rear, where you'll pass by an eye-dazzling array of cuts of meat you've probably never seen before. The feeling you've burst in on a covert club is a bit thrilling all on its own, but then a steaming stone cauldron of beef, sautéed vegetables and a fried egg on rice ($9.95) arrives and the excitement only grows. Spring also makes wonderfully moist, steamed dumplings ($9.95) plump with pork, as well as short ribs ($26.95) glistening in a sweet-spicy marinade. Forget your table manners when those arrive and just dig in, all hands and teeth. Sure, you're going to get that sauce all over the place, but nobody's going to notice because they're doing exactly the same thing. ANDI PREWITT.
BBQ: Sugarpine Drive-In
1208 E Historic Columbia River Highway, Troutdale, 503-665-6558, sugarpinedrivein.com. 11 am-7 pm Thursday-Monday.
Sugarpine isn't the type of drive-in you might imagine out of the '50s or '60s, where high-schoolers on roller skates deliver trays filled with milkshakes to your driver's-side door. In fact, you'll be fighting for a place to park if you skip the row of Subarus returning from the Gorge waiting to place an order at the drive-thru window. That's because the business essentially shares a lot with Glenn Otto Community Park—the most heavily used in Troutdale's network. Adhering to the rule of low and slow, the pair of grills near the patio hold fat-marbled pork shoulder for six hours before they're finished in an oven and shredded. Those succulent chunks are tucked into a sesame seed brioche bun to create the pulled-pork sandwich ($10), which is a balancing act of smoke and sweet, amplified by the barbecue sauce, with a surprising tang courtesy of a thin layer of whole mustard aioli. Depending on which region of smoked meat you pledge allegiance to, some purists might consider this condiment barbaric. But it tastes appropriately fresh here when combined with the carrot and cabbage slaw, while enhancing the complexity of flavors. Save room for the highly photogenic ice cream. ANDI PREWITT.
Wildcard (Fish & Chips): The Frying Scotsman
4250 SW Rose Biggi Ave., Beaverton, 503-706-3841. 11 am-7 pm Monday-Saturday.
Score one for Beaverton. Last year, chef James King packed up his fish-and-chips cart and left downtown, where he'd been stationed for almost a decade, heading for what he saw as a more secure location in Portland's biggest suburb. He landed in the BG Food Cartel, a pleasant, if prefab, cart pod laden with both artificial turf and young families. Now, Portland's best fish and chips reigns supreme in the 'Tron. A Scotland native, King knows his way around a fryer, and the hunks of cod, red snapper and haddock he produces ($8.50-$11) are works of flaky, golden-brown art. A small order should be enough for most appetites, but if you're still hungry, or simply have a hankering for quintessential Scottish sides, add mushy peas or a fried Mars bar for $3.50. MATTHEW SINGER.
Bonus: The Lighthouse
10808 NW St. Helens Road, 503-240-8827, lighthousepdx.com. 11 am-11:30 pm Monday-Friday, 9 am-11:30 pm Saturday-Sunday.
When Alex Bond took over the Lighthouse Restaurant and Bar three years ago—for over half a century the social hub of Linnton, the neighborhood most Portlanders think of as just a stretch of road between St. Johns and Sauvie Island—he fixed only what was broken, not the least of which was the food. Bringing in a sous chef from Woodsman Tavern, Bond upgraded the menu in a way that wouldn't offend the clientele's blue-collar sensibilities. The fried chicken sandwich is killer, the nachos are fresh-baked, and the chopped salad is the only dive-bar salad anyone should ever bother with.
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