Behind the Volcano

Only a few years ago, Montavilla's reputation revolved around car lots and hookers. That stretch of 82nd Avenue is still a great place to find a 2008 Silverado, but on a recent Friday night, the ladies walking the streets were young, middle-class gals dressed like Julia Roberts at the beginning of Pretty Woman—that is to say, very fashionably.

What's up with Montavilla? This was the question a thirty-something couple posed to a bartender inside Redwood, a 2-month-old restaurant across the street from the Academy Theater and Portland Tub & Tan. It was too loud to hear the answer. As at the other small bars and restaurants cloistered along Southeast Stark Street's canopy-covered sidewalks, the heavy wood tables inside the dark-walled restaurant were full.

It's not hard to see why. Redwood's small menu includes a solid selection of the Southern-fried Northwest larder that has, for better or worse, come to dominate Portland's food scene. This restaurant won't prompt westsiders to find their way to the backside of the volcano—Tanuki covers that base—but it's a good addition to the neighborhood, and worth a try before catching a movie across the street.

The best dish we tasted was a generous portion of seared trout ($14) that was deboned, served in its skin and topped with sprigs of cilantro and a thick, refreshing poblano vinaigrette I'd favorably compare to the salsa verde found in squeeze bottles at good taquerias. The fish sat atop a pile of crispy corn-specked home fries, which also benefited greatly from the sauce.

Other entrees included chicken and biscuits ($14)—a fancified version of hearty chicken stew with crisp carrots and peas topped with two flaky, herbed biscuits—and moist pork shoulder ($14) with a side of fluffy, hushpuppy-style apple fritters and a sweet-cream dipping sauce.

Those apple fritters, lightly fried in buttery golden batter, also appeared as an appetizer ($8) alongside batter-heavy fried chicken wings with a too-light drizzle of Thai chili sauce ($8) and a gratin dish of smoky, pan-fried Brussels sprouts ($6). Opt for the sprouts instead of the roasted beet salad ($8), which has a pile of beets next to a big hunk of blue cheese and large pieces of candied walnut. By the time we finished blending the salad together, we had an unappetizing pink mess.

A pork shank sandwich ($9) seemed a little light on meat and heavy on slaw, but a salad with a housemade mustard vinaigrette bettered the plate.

The desserts and cocktails are nothing special: A slice of chocolate-espresso cake tasted like a Costco defrost job, and the Young American cocktail (bourbon, Aperol, ginger ale, lime) mixed by our waitress ended up overly watery after the massive pile of ice melted.

That's not much of a loss: You're going to want to wander around Montavilla a little these days. Look for great cocktails at Vintage Cocktail Lounge nearby, beer at the Beer Bunker or Roscoe's, and dessert just next door at Pastrygirl. And those aren't hookers—slouchy leather boots, big hoops and biker jackets are big on Tumblr.

  1. Order this: Fried Brussels sprouts ($6), seared trout ($14) and a tall boy ($2).
  2. Best deal: The Brussels sprouts are only $4 and most sandwiches $7 during happy hour (4-6 pm and 10 pm-close).
  3. I’ll pass: Dessert or cocktails, at least for now. Owners of the new restaurant may put a little more work into the extras later.

EAT: Redwood, 7915 SE Stark St., 841-5118, 4 pm-close daily. $$.

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