C'est Si Bon Crepes & Vins
22 NE 7th Ave., 935-3761, cestsibonpdx.com. Dinner Wednesday-Saturday.
Crepes are the new cupcake, or macaron, or maybe artisanal doughnut. Creperies in Portland used to be near-constant in number—a set crew of three or four shops—but in the past year, the dam done broke, with a mess of new spots opening their brick-and-mortar doors.
The best of these by far is C'est Si Bon, the only place that knows that crepes are not breakfast but dinner, the only crepe spot where I'd take a date I didn't know well enough to invite to breakfast. C'est Si Bon comes from the farmers markets, but it seems to have found its niche as a wine bistro. The tastefully minimalist, elbowed room manages to maintain much of the domestic charm of Kir—the much-missed bar that once filled the space—right down to the French accent from behind the bar and the excellent Euro-centric wine selection. There are a few salads, from blood orange to Brussels sprouts to a tasteful goat cheese and hazelnut, not to mention a fancy charcuterie plate for the wine tipplers.
But the crepes are the show, immediately jockeying with the best in town when the bar opened last year. The pork confit combines obscenely tender Tails & Trotters pig with apple butter, fried sage and onions caramelized to their melting point, to achieve a womblike warmth I remember from the cafes of France and pretty much nowhere else. A delicata squash comes equipped with blue cheese, walnut and watercress. The lemon curd crepe, folded in pleasantly eggy white flour, comes dotted with fresh blueberries that it perhaps doesn't even need: It's like a Dutch baby gone pillowy, all bright tartness and sweet comfort. Kind of like the bar. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
1739 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 238-3693, 442soccerbar.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
[GOOOOL!] Muhamed Mujcic-Mufko's Taste of Europe grocery and deli served its Hawthorne Boulevard neighborhood with fresh-made lepinja and cevapi for years before being reborn as a soccer bar in 2009. Now, you get their lepinja flatbread and cevapi sausage while watching Real Madrid play Barcelona, in a game recorded from years ago—the best game, they will tell you. The flatbread comes sliced in the middle, like focaccia, served as ground for a cevapi sandwich, and tasty as hell, as is the Sis-Cevap ($9 small, $15.75 large), a spicy version of cevapi featuring two to four golf-ball-sized beef-and-lamb sausages with just a bit of hot pepper added to keep it interesting. 4-4-2's kajmak is airy and delicate, and its ajvar is more richly flavorful than anyone's in town. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
1205 SW Washington St., 241-1133, grassapdx.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
[CRAFT, NOT KRAFT] Pastaria Grassa's atmosphere—bright lights and a goofy rock soundtrack—won't make you forget your favorite Italian spot. But like sister restaurant Lardo, it elevates simple fare a notch without hitting the wallet too hard. The housemade tagliatelle ($11) is made with the juice of roasted beets, turning it startlingly magenta, but the vegetarian dish was noteworthy for the restraint and complexity of its flavor, paired with blue ricotta, toasted pine nuts and grilled endive. Even better was the veal agnolotti ($12), delicate pillows filled with meat (there's pork in there, too) and sitting with crimini mushrooms in a shallow pool of slurp-worthy brodo. Still, don't ignore non-noodle starters such as the fritto misto ($9), a generous portion of fried calamari and fennel, and a chopped kale salad ($8) that benefited from tangy pickled squash. ROB FERNAS.
Taste of Poland
8145 SE 82nd Ave. (Cartlandia pod), 863-6924, cartlandia.com. Hours vary.
[SAUSAGE, DAWG] Founded in 1995 as a Saturday Market booth, Taste of Poland is known for kielbasa and pierogi made from scratch every week. It's classic Eastern European comfort food—rich, paprika-spicy and coated in dairy. The kielbasa ($6) is reason enough to go: half beef, half pork, smoked over alder and cherry, with lots of pepper and no nitrates. The meat plays nicely with a whole drawer of assorted spicy mustards. Pierogi ($4 for four, $9 for 10) are homespun, with mealy mashed potatoes hanging loose inside the chewy noodle. They're covered in grilled onions and served with a quarter-pint of thick sour cream and a little salad of tomatoes and cucumbers in dill to balance out the richness. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Two Brothers Cafe & Grill
829 SE Cesar E. Chavez Blvd., 232-3424. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.
[BEST CEVAPI] Two Brothers' exterior is oddly forbidding, on a busy intersection across from a gas station and a Walgreens. Despite its unpromising appearance, Two Brothers makes an almost obscenely thick, airy lepinja—Bosnian flatbread—so puffed up it almost can't be called flatbread anymore. And into this biscuity shell, whose interior must be carved out with fingers, one may stuff either five ($8) or 10 ($11) 2-inch, fresh cevapi sausages thick with the flavor of lamb and garlic, plus a sweet ajvar with earthy undertones. The meat is spiced with salt, pepper and vegeta, a spice mix from the old country. This is the best cevapi in Portland: a hearty, sweet, spicy, creamy mess in nearly ethereal bread. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
18488 E Burnside St., 328-6057, uzbekgrill.com. Lunch and dinner Sunday-Thursday. Lunch Friday.
[JAGSHEMASH!] Uzbekistan restaurant—billed as a "Mediterranean restaurant," although Uzbekistan is double-landlocked and no closer to the Mediterranean than Oslo—brings a mix of Russian and Central Asian fare to a scruffy space that formerly housed a Chinese drive-thru. It's not a down-market Kachka so much as a mongrel cuisine built from the once-Soviet pantheon. That carrot salad dressed with housemade vinegar arrived with Koreans exiled by Stalin, while the khan's hordes brought manti ($9.95), steamed dough pockets filled with stewy chopped onions and small, richly fatty chunks of beef and lamb. Here, borscht is served warm—a beautiful pinkish-red beet soup with slivers of al dente cabbage, fatty hunks of meat, vegetables and a dusting of dill. Kebabs are often overdone, but you're likely to score a hit with the samsa ($2.50), a sesame-topped hand pie made from a heartier dough stuffed with onions, caraway seeds and little cubes of lamb and beef. Ours came out perfect: crusty on the bottom, fluffy on top, soft and steamy inside. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Viking Soul Food
4262 SE Belmont St., 971-506-5579, vikingsoulfood.com. Lunch and dinner Wednesday-Sunday, or until sold out.
[RHUBARBARIANS] This Scandinavian cart uses russet potatoes for its lefse and makes only 300 pieces per week. The lefse's most simple preparation is with butter and sugar ($3), but it also comes in two more unconventional combinations: a sort of Nordic burrito with house-smoked salmon, zingy dill-inflected sour cream, pickled shallots and spring greens ($8.50); and a sweet combo with rhubarb preserves, creamy chevre, honey and walnuts ($5.50). My North Dakotan dining buddy deemed this lefse particularly thin and stretchy: a good thing. It was a decent canvas for the more complicated fillings, but in the end, simplicity won out—with only butter and sugar, we could discern the russets' pleasant, mild earthiness and, importantly, enjoy the lefse's chewiness to maximum effect. "Mmm," sighed this native daughter. "Tastes like Christmas."