[SZECHUAN BREWPUB] A bold prediction: Brewpub food in Portland is going to get better, and fast. Sure, it's been 30 years since Oregon brewers won the right to sell onsite, and those decades have seen little effort to upgrade the usual lineup of unremarkable burgers and pizza. BTU Brasserie on Northeast Sandy Boulevard, a "traditional Chinese restaurant" with a seven-barrel brewing system, is the best sign yet that this is changing. Don't plan a visit for the beer alone—you definitely want dinner or late-night snacks. I highly recommend the Szechuan chicken or the Ants Climbing a Tree, a big bowl of slightly sticky cellophane noodles that delivers a huge umami punch thanks to ground pork, tree ear mushrooms and a roasty soybean sauce. (If you want Szechuan spiciness, be pushy about asking for it.) If you're just in for a pint and snacks, get the gooey-sweet yet savory tempura-battered walnuts or the fried shiitakes branded "mock eel." The beer remains a work in progress but has shown big improvement. The Rusty's Red was excellent on our visit, and a clean lager made with Chinese short-grain rice was very interesting. The IPA isn't particularly strong, but there are plenty of other IPAs in this town, and only one brewpub with housemade lai fun noodles.
DRINK THIS: Rusty's red was my favorite—part of a new crop of sexy reds, which seem to be replacing the IPA as new Portland breweries' default flagship.