When it comes to touting its achievements, PBJ's Grilled (611 NW 13th Ave., 702-300-7734, pbjsgrilled.com) doesn't play coy.
At the front entrance of the former food cart's new restaurant in the Pearl, a placard recounts its highlights: participation in Willamette Week's Eat Mobile Food Cart Festival; a feature on the Food Network. Owner Keena Tallman launched the business in 2010 and it was an instant hit for its artisanal interpretations of the mild-mannered peanut-butter-and-jelly.
After closing her two carts and catering business in 2017, Tallman opened her brick-and-mortar inside a former banquet room on Northwest 13th Avenue. With its red, blue and gold mural, retro-industrial chandeliers and hangar garage door, PBJ's Grilled successfully makes the jump into Slightly Newer Portland while celebrating its history.
All menu items are time-tested favorites from its near-decade with gourmet ingredients that expand what the kindergarten lunch classic can be. The sandwiches are built for specific taste and mouthfeel moments, carefully considered by Tallman and her crew. If you're looking for something simple and light, keep moving—the sandwiches are hearty enough to make you feel like having a nap when you're done.
The PBJ's Burger ($13) lists wasabi peanut butter among its top-shelf ingredients, yet it is less powerful than the apple slaw and sage garlic aioli it's paired with. Its medium-well beef patty could use a little more kick, as the slaw, peanut butter and aioli offer more textural contrast than definitive spice. The Smoked Goat ($12) can be made vegetarian by swapping bacon for a fried egg for an extra $1.50, and set among goat cheese, apricot jam and almond butter. Served on kalamata olive bread, it lives between sweet and savory.
The Spicy Thai ($13) is the sandwich featured on the Food Network and should work for anyone on the spice chart. The crispy coconut shrimp, served on challah bread, retain their crunch despite being doused in red curry, peanut butter, Sriracha, basil and orange marmalade.
Despite what all sound like messy sandwiches, the ingredients stick together more strongly than those in other, far simpler sandwiches around town. After almost a decade, a commitment to creativity and local ingredients remains PBJ's priority—and it's still delivering.