29 August 2009

Hot Damn, I want a Hoyt Dog

8 inch All Beef Hot Dog, Spicy Dog or Kielbasa $4.00

You’re out on a Friday night and suddenly hunger strikes. You scroll through the list of options: McChicken from McDonald’s, Double Decker with nacho cheese sauce from Taco Bell . . . but these are too obvious; too familiar from last weekend. Then you stumble (literally) into Hoyt Dog.

In front of a tattered house on the corner of NW 21st and Hoyt, sits a typical home grill and a plastic picnic table, covered with blue and white checkers and large variety of condiments. Two women, a mother and her daughter, stand grillin’ up three kinds of delicious Zenners dogs: 8 inch All Beef, Kielbasa and Spicy Dog.

Drunkards stand around, some waiting for a hot dog, some confused and others stuffing their faces. The mom and daughter tell us they are taking over for the owner for the weekend—their good friend who one night decided to bring out her BBQ as a joke. “She made a bunch of hot dogs and at the end of the night everyone was like, see you next weekend!” the mom told me. She said they’ve been setting up every weekend since. I didn’t have a chance to ask her when the plastic Hoyt Dogs sign was put up, but I’m guessing after they hit it big.

This place is equipped with all the condiments you could ever think of: ketchup (covered with duct tape to add to the ever so rugged ambiance), regular mustard, spicy mustard, grilled onions, raw onions, sauerkraut, relish, shredded cheddar cheese, cream cheese and Sriracha.

So we bought an 8 inch All Beef and loaded it up with ketchup, spicy mustard, onions, sauerkraut and cream cheese and walked home handing off the hot dog with each bite.

I don’t have much more information on the place, I think they are open just on Friday and Saturday nights—maybe till about 3:00 am. If anyone has more information, please email me: mangiapdx@gmail.com

Hoyt Dog on Urbanspoon

27 August 2009

Going, Going, Gone: One Week Left for Berry Milkshakes

Burgerville Blackberry Milkshake, $3.19

Burgerville, my precious gem of local fast food, is about to end their seasonal berry milkshakes. They start out the summer with strawberries, move to raspberries in July and now they are finishing up the last bit of blackberries. Growing up, my parents always made a point to take my brothers and me to get these yummy shakes . . . well until my younger brother developed a rare allergy to milk, which supposedly closes his esophagus. We still don’t really believe him though.

Burgerville sticks to the basics, using Oregon blackberries, grown on the Liepold family farm, which sits on 260 acres in Boring. They then pour in some milk, fill the rest with ice cream and stir away. This is as classic as milkshakes get and I just love the bites with ripe blackberries!

Ok, now for the insiders trick: Burgerville shakes, like any milkshake, hold a hefty amount of calories. However, you can ask for your shake to be made with non-fat frozen Yo-Cream yogurt, to cut out 270 calories and 27 grams of fat! That is over half the amount of calories in the shake and I swear, you can’t notice a difference in taste.

The shake girl told me they would keep making the shakes until they run out of the blackberries, but if you miss out, don’t forget that their classic chocolate shakes are unbeatable and fall will bring Oregon Hazelnut Chocolate Shakes.

Look--They even recycle and compost!

Burgerville on Urbanspoon

24 August 2009

The Challenge: Getting Full on a Split Grilled Cheese Sandwich - Paragon

Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Tomato Soup and Mixed Green Salad, $9.50, split $4.75

While perusing this summer’s Street of Dreams in the Pearl, my mom and I decided to try the much talked about Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup at Paragon. On our way we passed Palimino’s and suddenly we were confused and thought that was where we were supposed to be. We were seated for happy hour and after going through the menu, the grilled cheese was no where to be found. Disappointment struck. We asked our waitress about this well known cheese sandwich and she gave us a knowing look and sent us on our way.

A block and a half later, we walked into Paragon and sat at a quaint table next to the open garage door windows. The rumor was that they served huge grilled cheese sandwiches that were perfect for splitting. Sure enough, on their bar menu: Grilled Cheese Sandwich made with sharp cheddar and white cheddar, served with Tomato Soup and a mixed green salad for $9.50.

“Are you sure we are supposed to split this?” my mom whispered to me. “Yeah, I’m almost positive that’s what I’ve heard.” We ordered, making sure to tell the waitress we were splitting. When our meals came out we were sure they had gotten our order wrong; they had brought out two plates, each one with a cup of soup, salad and a full grilled cheese.

Putting aside our slight frustration in the wait staff for the mistake, we both began on our salads. Crisp, mixed greens, lightly coated with a vinaigrette dressing; the salad was delightful. I then picked up my grilled cheese, made with two giant slices of sour dough, charred to a light brown and glowing with olive oil. I dipped the tip of it into the bright orange Tomato Soup. Flawlessness: the sandwich was crisp on the outside, with a fine layer of rich cheeses; once dunked into the fresh and tangy soup, it softened just on the inside.

My mom and I sat there raving about the soup and sandwich, “They must add something to this Tomato soup—maybe orange . . .” my mom guessed. “I’m not sure,” I responded, “but it’s so fresh and you can taste the tomato seeds.” We both agreed that it was a good idea we didn’t split the meal, because it was just enough food by itself.

The waitress came by and after chatting with her about the secret ingredient in the soup, she explained that it was the only recipe they don’t give out—but, like all their recipes, it was made in house every morning. We couldn’t help but ask, “This wasn’t split, was it?” “Yes!” she exclaimed, “It’s our most popular meal and the perfect thing to split—the cooks always place it with two cups of soup and individual salads.” We both sat with our mouths opened in disbelief—this was too good of a deal! “I mean I’m not going to lie, I can definitely finish a whole one after a long shift, but most people don’t make a dent in a whole sandwich!” she explained.

With a bill of $9.50—we literally left feeling like we were stealing. “Are they crazy?” I asked my mom, “We just spent $4.75 each on dinner!” Now people, with a deal like this, there is no excuse why you to can’t eat in the Pearl. If you have a $5.00 bill—you can eat like a king!

Paragon Restaurant & Bar Portland on Urbanspoon

22 August 2009

Just a Vespa Ride Away: Bar Mingo

House made sausage with creamy polenta and braised greens, $8.00

Our beloved Annabell was in town last week and so the gals decided that a night out would be in order. The perfect place to drink wine, gossip and enjoy some of Portland’s best Italian food without breaking the bank: Bar Mingo.

Bar Mingo, which adjoins the well established and fabulous Caffe Mingo, was created to house those waiting for their tables next door, drink from a vast list of wines and cocktails and of course to share top quality food, but for a fraction of the price. If you have money to spend and time on your hands, go to Caffe Mingo; you won’t be disappointed with anything you put in your mouth or the ambiance of the small, rustic eatery. However, do not come here and think you are can skimp. The meal is only worth it if you go all out; ordering multiple bottles of wine, the antipasti plate, shrimp scampi, warm spinaci salad with pancetta and boiled eggs, asparagus covered in olive oil and roasted garlic, gnocchi and lastly their dream come true crème brule—you get the picture, you must eat like they do in Italy to enjoy this restaurant.

For most of us, seven course meals aren’t doable often and thus, we go to Bar Mingo. They have the same quality of food, same knowledgeable wait staff, a more Euro chicness vibe and louder music. With an assortment of antipasti dishes, which run $8.00 each, this is just the place to come for a small meal or to pass around and share. The one I love and which acts as a perfect meal by its lonesome is their house made sausage with creamy polenta and braised greens. If you’ve never had homemade sausage, you are in for a treat. It is much different then store bought sausage, with a unique tenderness and taste. The chefs here know the exact amount of spice as well, hot enough without overpowering the other two items. Their polenta is the best I’ve ever tasted—creamy with just the right amount of texture from the cooked grits. The mixture softens once touching your tongue and you stop for a moment to savor the creaminess of the artfully prepared polenta. It holds just the right touch of salt and cream. Some of the fat from the sausage mixes with the polenta, giving it even more flavor and a little zing. The braised greens are vibrant in color and with a sprinkling of the course sea-salt which lays the table they taste healthy enough to remind you of their vegetable background.

I have yet to try the pasta dishes, but am planning on going back soon for the Tonnarelli alla Vongole- Manila clams, pancetta, chiles, garlic and parsley, $15.00. With the same owners as Caffe Mingo, I have no doubt the pasta will be remarkable. The Panino and Salad, made with sliced meats, provolone and olive salad on ciabatta roll, served with a small salad for $11.00 is also a great choice. To drink, I’ve fallen in love with their wine menu—a double sided list, one with imports from Italy and the other more local wines. The Orvieto Classico is divine, light and crisp.

On Tuesday nights, they have a wine pairing menu. This particular night it came with a tagliatelle con mushroom and lobster ragu.

Prosciutto and Melon - San Daniele prosciutto, cantaloupe and mint cream

Bar Mingo on Urbanspoon
Caffe Mingo on Urbanspoon

15 August 2009

Pho- It’s like Beer, an Acquired Taste: Pho Gia

Pho Chin Nam $6.95

Let me first begin by saying I wouldn’t usually blog about a type of food I know nothing about. It may seem that at times I think I know what I’m talking about and you think, this chic really has no clue. The truth is, I do know—I know fried chicken, I know sandwiches, I know Italian food . . . the list goes on. However, I do not know or claim to know Pho. This is a pre-clause to let you know that this isn’t really a review, but rather a note of sorts on my first experience with Vietnamese soup.

When I go out to eat I am usually so eager for the food to arrive that I can’t concentrate on anything around me or anything being said to me. I’m sorry to everyone with whom I eat. I pretend to listen, but I’m not really hearing anything you are saying. I may nod a lot and say “Yeah,” but the content of your story is irrelevant, because my mind is racing with excitement for the food that will soon sit in front of me. The other night I was especially anxious as I had no idea of what to expect with Pho.

I dined with two friends, one a Pho expert who claims Pho Gia is one her favorite spots around town and the other in the same boat as I, just a curious eater. We walked in and Gia was extremely clean and well manicured, with perfectly set tables, newly painted walls, bright chandeliers and a flat screen television playing “Everybody Loves Ramon.”

We sat down and my Pho expert told me she liked the Pho Ga, which is traditional Pho broth, seasoned with coriander, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, star anise and fennel, with thin slices of chicken and rice noodles and Pho Chin Nam, which is traditional Pho broth with beef brisket and beef flank. I decided on the Pho Chin Nam and we split the Cha Gia appetizer, crispy rolls with ground pork and shrimp.

When our Pho arrived, I couldn’t believe how vibrant the colors were. The soup was beautiful: translucent broth, large, tender slices of beef flank and sprinkled with scallions and cilantro. To its side was a small plate with bean sprouts (giá), wedges of lime or lemon (chanh), and basil (rau que). At first bite I was completely caught off guard by the sweetness. The flavors were complex; sweet from the cinnamon and anise, but spicy from the Tuo’gn O’t (chili sauce) and rich from the Tuong An Pho (plum sauce). I couldn’t decide what I thought, but I knew I needed more. I glided my spoon across the top of the soup to pick up the scallions. However, getting the noodles was a bit more difficult. We sat there, all slurping, with both hands in the air; my left hand with the spoon and right with the chopsticks. Quite messy.

It was awkward and funny, but really I just wanted to figure out how to get a bite with both the noodles and beef. Finally, a contraption; using the chopsticks to wrap the noodles within the sticks followed by pushing the noodles against the spoon and grabbing the tender beef at the end. The beef brisket was a bit fatty for my liking, but nonetheless flavorful with hints of the cardamom.

We sat and talked, gulping down pho while it dripped from our hands and mouths. I was still uncertain; tasting each bite carefully to gather all the essence. My pho expert just kept saying, “It’s an acquired taste,” like beer, we all agreed. She told me I’d be craving it later and sure enough after taking half my bowl of pho home and coming home to write, I suddenly realized I wasn’t finished. I went back into the kitchen—the pho still hot from dinner. I took a few more bites, placed it back in the fridge and went back into my room. The more I wrote about it the more I wanted and before I realized it the pho was gone.

The moral of the story: I think I like pho and I will surely try it again.

Pho Gia
1944 NE Sandy Blvd
Portland, OR 97232
(503) 233-4916
Pho Gia on Urbanspoon

09 August 2009

Feelin' a Lil' Country: Delta Cafe

SPLIT: BBQ Pork Po’ Boy, $11.95+ extra side $4.00 and a giant Coke, $1.50= $17.45 = $8.75 per person

Take a few Tums, throw on your country mix and drive yourself over to SE Woodstock. The Delta Café is where it’s at for good ole’ southern comfort food. I had my first experience last night and my friends and I were in utter awe of everything we put in our mouths.

We walked in and to our surprise the place was dark and loud with over stimulating paintings on the walls, mismatched leather booths and an ambiance of laid back southern Goth. We made reservations and were seated right away—a good thing, because around 7:00 pm on a Friday night, there was a good sized line outside.

Our waitress arrived with long black hair, pulled up into a messy pony tail, her arms covered in vibrant tattoos. She took our drink order and within minutes we were sitting in front of Cokes in Costco sized pickle jars. Delta even has 40oz of PBR on ice for $4.50. We are planning on coming back for a 40 oz night! They have large drink menu with a full bar—and not that I drink bourbon, but it seems they serve a lot of it.

With an extensive menu of fried chicken, chicken fried steak, garlic and cheese grits, jambalaya and gumbo we were perplexed as to what to order. After asking how big the Po’ Boy’s were, our waitress threw up her hands to show us they were practically a foot long! So we decided to go the splitting route, all getting different sides and adding an extra side. This was perfect and could work for any of their meals. The Po’ Boy’s come with one side, but all their steaks, chicken and BBQ come with two, which would be more than enough food to split. Lets take a look at their sides:

Famous Mac-N-Cheese: made with large elbow pasta and an assortment of gooey cheeses.
The flavor was rich and sharp, without being overpowering.

New Orleans Red Beans and Rice with Pork: delicious blend of spicy and smoky, with chunks of pork and sprinkled with cilantro. You may forget about your sandwich these beans are so good.

Corn Bread: dense corn based bread, smothered in softened butter and sticky bee honey.

Mashed Potatoes with Red Eye Chicken Gravy: whipped potatoes, dressed with rosemary chicken gravy.

Tater Tot Casserole: chunks of tater tots, smashed together with egg, cheese, onion and seasoned to perfection. You won’t be able to put your fork down with this side.

Potato Cheese Casserole: similar to the Tater tot casserole, but instead of the crisp of the fried tots, they use red potatoes and the some skins are left to add texture.
This one isn’t as creamy as the Tot Casserole.

For the main attraction: BBQ Pork Po’ Boy. Like I said, the bread alone for this sandwich is almost a foot long—then its topped with a heaping pile of tender BBQ pork slices, which is slathered with either sweet or spicy sauce. Our waitress suggested we mix the two—brilliant combination. You can either get the Po’ Boy Original or Dressed. Original is topped with lettuce, tomatoes and Cajun mayo. Dressed is topped with coleslaw and remoulade (a cocktail sauce for BBQ).

We came to a consensus that our favorite sides were the rice and beans and tater tot casserole. FYI, this joint takes Cash or check only, but they do have an ATM inside and there’s a US Bank directly behind them.

Next to try: Better Than Mom’s Fried Chicken and Jambalaya.
Delta Cafe on Urbanspoon

06 August 2009

Gettin' on the Gravy Train, Its all Gravy, I like Gravy: Gravy

Bacato Scramble, $9.95, split $4.97+ Coffee $2.00= $6.97 per person

A certain someone used to take me to Gravy on Friday mornings. It was the perfect retreat, with the cozy interior and funky fresh paintings. Filling up on egg scrambles and “not diner coffee” is a sure fire sign of a good day. Gravy on the weekends though is a tough shot, even with two people; a significant wait is on the horizon. However, this is the indication of a breakfast haven.

Gravy, which was one of the first establishments in the Mississippi renaissance (I suppose we can call it that) holds a feel very different from other breakfast places in Portland—its homey without being dumpy, funky without being stark or cold and pleasant without being foofy. Large wooden benches line the exterior walls and a cozy booth sits in the window. Canvas curtains, hang from mismatched ties and wooden slats hang with cartoon looking patrons on them.

Above all, Gravy stays busy for one reason: their breakfast is breath taking. Their menu is hefty and not one thing on it goes unnoticed. Try anything and you will be happy about your decision. Their Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes melt in your mouth—so thick with fresh bananas that you would think they were actually filled with custard. The Blueberry Pecan Pancakes are just as good, with plumb berries popping in your mouth and mixing with the crunch of the pecans. The Oatmeal Brulee is crisp on the top, as it’s sprinkled with sugar and burned until its golden. As you spoon your way into it, you get three layers, one of the sugar, one of the hearty home stern oatmeal and one of the ripe strawberries, blackberries and blueberries, which sit waiting for you on the bottom.

Sometimes you just need eggs though. This morning was one of those days. That certain someone got me hooked on the Bacato Scramble: bacon, tomatoes, green onions and cream cheese, paired with a side of hash browns. As my father said this morning when I forced him to have a bite, “it’s so rich it makes me want to throw up. But it’s so good.” That is how a meal should make you feel; it should be so incredibly rich and vibrant with crispy bacon, sautéed tomatoes and smothered in cream, that you want to throw up from its very existence. I however did not throw up, but had a second meal to bring home. I usually split this, but since Dad only eats egg whites (he has high cholesterol) I decided to take it on myself.

For the finicky type, Gravy offers a Make Your Own Scramble/Omelet section—with a large variety of choices for fillings. Lastly, they of course have Biscuits and Gravy. Deliciousness, buttery biscuits, smothered in traditional sausage gravy (vegan gravy is available as well). Remember though, one biscuit is the size of a cheese burger, go for one and get a side of eggs to pair with it.

Egg White Scramble with Sharp Cheddar, Yellow Onions and Spinach

3957 N Mississippi Ave
Portland, OR 97227-1162
(503) 287-8800

Gravy on Urbanspoon