I have never really leave Portland.
Since 2003, my wife (colleague WW contributor Susan Elizabeth Shepard) and I have been back and forth six or seven times, usually for work-related reasons. Now we’re heading to Philadelphia to be closer to family, which means we’re already looking forward to the next time we’re back in town as visitors. Inevitably, we’ll return to must-haves like Apizza Scholls, Bunk Sandwiches, Nong’s Khao Man Gai and Ken’s Artisan Bakery, while lamenting the fact that we can’t go to Cacao, Clyde Common, Tails & Trotters or Tasty n Sons.
But in the meantime, as we approach our mid-October move, we’ve been trying to reach out to as many new restaurants in Portland as possible, whether they’ve been open for a few weeks or a few months, or at least started during the pandemic. After all, we’re going to need more places to go back to. Here are some of the standout dishes from these places that I will miss the most.
Salty Danish in St. Beatrix
3907 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 971-206-4643, stbeatrix.com. 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday to Sunday.
If you’re the type of person who can’t decide between breakfast or lunch, St. Beatrix is the answer. Consider, for example, a recent savory danish made with “little beef franks,” bright orange cheddar custard, sauerkraut, and all things spicy. Yes, in this case, a hot dog is not just a sandwich, but a pastry, with the rich, buttery puff pastry – made with Eugene’s Camas Country Mill flour – taking on an almost biscuity quality, and the pastry cream by adding so much more than if there had only been shredded cheddar cheese. Owner-baker Jessie Smith, who took over the former Bushel & Peck in 2020 and officially reopened it as St. Beatrix earlier this year, also combined this cheddar custard with black pepper and buttered popcorn in a danish, and went all out with umami in a nori croissant (nori and soy butter with caramel fish sauce and furikake glaze). And if you still prefer your morning (or early afternoon) baking on the all-sweet side, don’t worry. There are always sweet options too.
Huevos Divorciados in La Fondita
422 NW 8th Avenue, republicapdx.com. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday to Sunday.
Before Republica was a fixed-price dine-in place and enjoy your food “Best new restaurant” it was as much a daytime desayuno and almuerzo spot as anything else, with huevos, chilaquiles, quesadillas and guisados all built around – or rather around – the inside or on top – gorgeous handcrafted Gemini yellow-and-blue masa from tortilla maker Doña Chapis. La Fondita, which opened last spring as part of an ever-expanding Republica (or, should I say, “catering”) empire, is now that concept, and will soon be doing its own diners as well. Huevos divorciados are pretty much a standing order for me over huevos rancheros, because why would you get the latter when the former gives you both roja and verde? The cover of split salsas perfectly covers the fried eggs – lace-rimmed and yolks – and a luxurious black bean mash, with crispy corn tortillas on the bottom. Once the yolks and whites were gone, I had to order an extra side of soft (i.e. not fried) tortillas to keep dipping; when these were also gone, I drank the rest like soup.
Rotigo Chicken Soup
1514 NW 23rd Ave., 503-477-9533, rotigopdx.com. 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.
The name Rotigo accurately tells you that it’s one of Portland’s many casual candle-roasted chicken restaurants, with a menu featuring its Cooks Venture Quarters, Half, and Whole Birds. But the bistro is actually a chicken use restaurant. We first tried Rotigo through DoorDash delivery because my wife had COVID, and there was chicken soup. But oh, what a richly satisfying chicken soup! Almost as dark as French onion, with so much gelatin in the broth, it was almost creamy. Topped with carrots and herbs and packed with white and dark meat, the broth just to the right of the savory is strong and flavorful enough that you can easily expand your take-out bowl into two full servings at home – just add more. water. When we placed a second order – this time just for fun – we also experimented with the chicken in a sandwich (the Seville, with manchego, orange marmalade mayonnaise, serrano ham, spinach and sherry vinegar) and a spectacularly presented chicken liver mousse – possibly the best thing we’ve ever had during the entire pandemic. Just days before going to press, Rotigo announced it would temporarily close and reopen later this month with a new concept. So, we hope the chicken soup will stick around.
Smash Burger at Pleasure Burger
Pine Street Market, 126 SW 2nd Ave., pleasure-burger.business.site. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday.
For the past three years I have written about burgers for Willamette Week nearly a dozen times, but hey, there’s always room for one more. Especially since Pleasure Burger is in the same Pine Street Market location as the original Bless Your Heart Burgers, which was ahead of anyone not named Peter Bro (owner of the short-lived All-Way du downtown) when it came to high-end, high-end slinging. – greasy fast-food style burgers, crushed or not. There’s nothing sui generis about the Pleasure Burger: it’s just a messy, perfectly greasy example of the form – two thin, crispy patties, double American cheese, caramelized onion, shredded lettuce and smash sauce – which would easily slip into my top three or five if I went over all those other burgers. With a side of waffle fries and drinks from Pine Street Taproom, it was a perfect quick bite before Spoon’s gig at Pioneer Courthouse Square, as well as a “Hello again/Goodbye/See you next time” at a favorite pre-pandemic dining area.
Holy Trinity BBQ Brisket Burger
Check Instagram for pop-up times and locations, instagram.com/holytrinitybarbecue.
Make two more burgers (yes, I’m a burger lover). I had enjoyed Holy Trinity Barbecue before, well… Holy Trinity Barbecue of Texas (Breast, Sausage and Ribs) when it was still a full-time cart, which owner Kyle Rensmeyer has closed in October 2021. But he quickly returned in pop-up form, including a swanky collaboration dinner at Renata (where he also regularly lights up the smoker with a classic menu) and frequent stops at Ruse Brewing as well as the Mayfly bar and bottle shop. A longtime special at the cart that I had previously missed, the burgers are a half pound of coarsely ground brisket, seasoned with salt and pepper and smoked to a medium-rare pink for about 45 minutes, before being seized on the flat top order. It’s a big beefy, gooey pub burger, the complete opposite of squished. It’s served on a homemade bun with American cheese, mayo, mustard, pickles and onion, although you can sometimes also get it as a frito burger, with chili, fritos, cheddar cheese, onions and mustard.
Vampires hate her in Jojo
902 NW 13th Avenue, 971-331-4284, jojopdx.com. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Jojo’s exemplary eponymous potatoes and fried chicken? I went, done, I followed @jojo_pdx on Twitter. So we were very excited that Southeast food truck owner Justin Hintze had finally opened his first brick-and-mortar restaurant as we still called Portland home. Our fortuitous parting gift included a manageable crowd on Wednesday night (there were hours of waiting on the weekend), outdoor tables available and, for me, an A Milli Tru Fashions cocktail (“an old-fashioned one for those who were born in the late 1900s,” says the menu, made with Jojo’s overproofed whiskey blend, burlesque bitters, and homemade cola syrup). Then, this current specialty: fried chicken dipped and sprinkled with garlic oil on an An Xuyên butter bun with confit garlic mayonnaise, Tillamook cheddar, barbecue sauce, white onion, shredded lettuce and a side of gum à la spearmint – but do you really want to eat at Jojo’s with someone who this afraid of garlic breath? (A wet nap, on the other hand, is both necessary and available.) The oversized sandwich is tangy and perfect and surprisingly good as left straight from the fridge.
Lan Roc Pork Chop at Phuket Cafe
1818 NW 23rd Place, 503-781-2997, phuketcafepdx.com. 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday to Sunday.
Add a new one to the list for the next time a friend sends you “What Should I Eat in Portland?”, a list that Earl Ninsom and Eric Nelson’s other restaurant, Eem, was already on. And the night we went, Nelson himself was there to break down the restaurant’s already famous pork chop, 18 ounces of sliced meat – plus a gnawing bone – accompanied by both tomato relish and a mix of do-it-yourself lime juice with other seasonings and alliums. It’s as fun to eat as it is delicious, and went equally well with two sides: carrots (coconut crème fraîche, lotus, spicy peanuts, Thai chili, shiso, mint, and pluot) and potato ( with a yellow curry glaze, Thai basil and fried garlic). On top of that, the Sunday Night Dinner soundtrack featured Pulp, Belle and Sebastian and Orange Juice, all personal favorites. I thought it might be the work of well-traveled bartender and DJ Chazz Madrigal (who has since left), but Nelson confessed it was just “Belle and Sebastian Radio”.
See more perfect meal days in Portland here!