30 June 2009

Breakfast in NW, Besaws Cafe

Classic Eggs Benedict, $5.00 a person
What is more perfect on a Sunday morning than eggs benedict and a good cup of coffee? Nothing—quite frankly. However, the thought of spending two + hours waiting for a table during this busy meal time is daunting and often leaves Portlanders eating cereal or a fried egg, when they should be out. With an hour to spare and a busy Sunday planned, my accomplice and I decided to take a chance and see if we could get not only breakfast—but eggs benedict on a Sunday morning.

We decided to try Besaws, one of my favorite breakfast places—it’s old tavern charming and reminds me of the famous Buena Vista Café in San Francisco (known for their Spanish coffee’s). Besaws remains a Portland staple because of its classic appeal and delicious food. It has dark wood floors, a classic old-fashion bar and combines charm with comfort. It’s not pretentious or over done for breakfast, but it’s also not one of the many dive cafés--Besaws just sits nicely in the middle, which makes it a great option for anyone. Not to mention, they are one of the few restaurants that takes reservations for breakfast. This is a great place to plan ahead and come with a larger group.

We called before we left the house and surprise, unlike the other tyrant hostess that serves brunch, the woman kindly put our names down on the list. We were seated in less than 5 minutes after we got there and the service was swift, friendly and skilled.

My friend and I decided to split the eggs benedict, a perfect choice. For $1.00 extra they split it for us and we each received a pile of rosemary-garlic roasted potatoes. Oh my God—these were incredible! The benedict was cooked to perfection. Besaws’ homemade hollandaise sauce is rich and creamy—they don’t overdue the lemon juice, like some other places. Having it less tart allows you to enjoy the hearty oven baked ham and fresh poached egg. I usually like to gorge myself at breakfast, but this was a perfect split. I was comfortably full at the end. Besaws has one of the best benedicts in town—they’re tied with Mother’s Bistro.

Besaws also prides themselves on using quality ingredients, which shines through in all their dishes. They support local and sustainable farmers, use organic beef, cage-free eggs and hormone-free dairy. They also branch out on many of their dishes, including a smoked salmon scramble with cream cheese and dill and apple fritter French toast; just to name a few.

Within 45 minutes we drove to Besaws, were seated, ordered and ate a great breakfast for $5.00! So next Sunday—take a chance, if I can do it, I think you can too!

Besaw's on Urbanspoon

27 June 2009

My Big Fat Greek Gyro: Foti's Greek Deli

Gyro & Baklava $7.40

On the Eastside of Burnside sits a deli that goes sadly unnoticed. Or perhaps it’s not sad at all, because then Ma wouldn’t have been able to tell me, “take your time, dear” as I struggled to pull out my cash. Foti’s Greek Deli has been around for count em’ 29 years. The cutest married couple has owned this place since the beginning. Ma stays at the counter ringing people up and Pops is in back leading the cooks—scurrying around bagging up the food. They sell traditional Greek cuisine, along with other deli staples.

The concept: Greek food made the traditional way—that means seasoned lamb, feta sent from the islands, lots of garlic and a feel that is homey and relaxed. By relaxed, I mean they serve items for here on a paper plate with paper cups and paper napkins. This sense of casualness and routine explains why their customers have been coming back for 29 years.

Their gyros are incredible—flavorful and enormous. They have the largest gyros I’ve ever seen and Tops down, the best in town. And for $5.75, the price is too good to be true. They are even better than the ones made at the Greek Festival in October. Their gyro is filled with sliced and seasoned roasted lamb, tzatziki sauce (a garlicky, spiced yogurt) onion, shredded lettuce, tomatoes and large chunks of fresh feta with paprika. It is one of those meals you just can’t stop eating because the flavor is so intense, but you’re so full your stomach feels like it may actually burst.

I stopped just in time for a slice of their Baklava, $1.65—a traditional Greek dessert. It’s made with layers of phyllo dough and ground nuts soaked in a honey-cinnamon glaze. Baklava differs from each baker, but the owner of Foti’s knows exactly how to make these. They are impossible to eat though and I wished I would have taken her up on the advice of a fork. The honey glaze was literally dripping down my hands.

Also, if you are looking to cook some of your own Greek food at home—Foti’s doubles as a small Greek market, where they sell imported Greek/European foods, wines and olive oils. This place feels like home and I will continue to go there for as long as Ma and Pops keep it open. Don't be affraid to try anything on their menu; its all amazing!

Hours: Mon-Sat 10:00 am-7:00 pm
Closed Sunday

1740 E Burnside St
Portland, OR 97214
(503) 232-0274
Foti's Greek Deli on Urbanspoon

24 June 2009

Just Get Skinni: Skinnidip Frozen Yogurt

Small cup of Chocolate with Raspberries, $4.50

A few years ago, Portland went on an Italian gelato fad—suddenly gelaterias were everywhere. Then Portlanders realized that eating cups of gelato daily wasn’t that healthy. This summer is all about the frozen yogurt and I’m not talking about TCBY. These are trendy frozen yogurt shops with delicious yogurt, fresh fruits and other fun toppings. I have tried and tested many, in and out of Portland, but by far, Skinnidip outweighs them all (even Pinkberry). I attribute this to their ability to make their yogurt smoother than their competitors (grainy yogurt is no good) and having the freshest, most in season fruit.

Skinnidip takes real non-fat yogurt and flavors it with raspberry, mango, chocolate and original or plain— I have binged on all of them. Original, which is much tarter then the other flavors and less expensive, is really refreshing with a combination of fruits. If you don’t like the taste of non sweetened yogurt—like Nancy’s yogurt, go for one of the flavors. I love raspberry by itself. Chocolate is left for when I have real sweet tooth. I pair it with fresh raspberries and twirl it all together to get raspberry seeds in each bite!

Skinnidip is one of the more expensive yogurt places around town—which is why it’s an occasional treat—and a treat I don’t feel guilty about with only 100 calories per cup! That’s right and you receive all the benefits of live cultures as you would with any yogurt. I know this seems too good to be true and a little too much like the Seinfeld episode where Elaine is convinced the non-fat yogurt shop they keep going to is making her fat http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIr6v5LYPdc but so far, my friends and I haven't noticed any sudden weight gains and we've been eating Skinnidip religiously for a year now.

To cut cost, get a medium or large and split it with one or two others. This really is the best deal and they load a lot more yogurt and fruit on.

Skinnidip on Urbanspoon

NW Location: 2230 W Burnside &
Pearl Location: 433 NW 10th

Hours: M-TH 11-9
Fri & Sat 11-10
Sun 12-8

20 June 2009

More Cheese Please: The Grilled Cheese Grill

The Hot Brie $5.50 & The BABS $6.00

I know what you’re thinking—what is this, a food blog or a sandwich blog? The truth is I love sandwiches and if you’re against them, you should stop reading this blog, because there are a lot more of them to come.

When I heard about a grill dedicated to two of God’s greatest accomplishments—bread and cheese, I thought to myself—“get me there now!” Aside from being on the depressingly gentrified Alberta St. (which don’t even get me started on . . .) this grill has some major things going for it: its inventive as all get out, the sandwiches are incredible and from what I can tell, the owners are quirky and fun!

Where does your mind wonder to when you think of grilled cheese sandwiches? Do you remember your mom cooking up some cheddar and white bread on a rainy Portland afternoon, you anxiously waiting while watching Three Ninjas with your two brothers wrestling in the living room? Hmm, that’s exactly what I was remembering too! The owners of this place claim: “Well if you can’t get your mom to make you a grilled cheese right now, we’ll be your mom. A couple of bearded dudes in a food cart will be your mom.” Let me just say, they put my mom to shame!

My friend and I ordered The Hot Brie and The BABS—they gave us two cards for our order. I was Don Aase and she was Jerome Kersey. We waited anxiously just as we used too, but this time underneath yellow and orange umbrellas, sitting around large, wooden picnic tables. The owners used this lot fully to their advantage. Eating here feels a little bit like a playground with the gravel, a little like the front of a school, with the bus. Finally they arrived: two perfectly made grilled cheeses, with golden brown tops (honestly my mom used to burn our grilled cheeses until they were black, so already they were doing a heck of a lot better).

First bite of The Hot Brie, well hot brie of course, and tomatoes, complimented by red peppers and spicy mustard on sourdough bread. It was complex enough to make it exciting, but standard enough to remind you were still eating a grilled cheese. The BABS, which I think in the end I decided I liked a bit more—was filled with melted blue cheese and Swiss, thick and crispy bacon and apples on rye.

Just as we were finishing, the Portland rain began to pour and we were forced into the life size school bus. Two artists were finishing up a mural which will span the ceiling of the bus. The tables inside are covered with old school photos and trivia cards.

Grilled Cheese Grill really does take you back your childhood—take your kids or just your friends—and bite your way to a simpler time, a time where all that mattered was that grilled cheese your mom was cooking up for you.

Next on my list to try: The Gabby (your classic grilled cheese—but with four cheeses) and a cup of their homemade Creamy Tomato Soup, $7. And for dessert, The Jamie, mascarpone, Nutella and sautéed bananas on grilled cinnamon swirl bread.

1027 NE Alberta St
Portland, OR 97211

Hours: T-TH 11:30-9:00 pm
Fri-Sat 11:30-2:00 am
Sun 11:30-3:30 pm
Closed Sundays

Grilled Cheese Grill on Urbanspoon

17 June 2009

Don't Shoot the Messenger: Little Red Bike Cafe

The Messenger, $6.50

When I go out for a meal, especially breakfast, I always try to order something I can’t easily make myself. I often gawk at folks who go out for breakfast and order two eggs, two strips of bacon and toast. Is that not the simplest breakfast ever? And can’t a 10 year old child accomplish this meal without help? Getting to my point, I can make an egg sandwich and do so more than a few times a week. This item was never to be ordered—until I met Red Bike.

Little Red Bike Café takes a staple item, egg sandwiches, but does something spectacular with them. I’ve been hitting up this adorable café on N. Lombard (it’s not often that adjectives and noun go together) for over a year now. They are still fairly new, but locals all over the city flock here!

All their sandwiches are amazing and unique, I can’t seem to get past The Messenger: soft ciabatta bread, an over easy egg, strips of thick, crispy bacon, cream cheese gorgonzola sauce on the top and cinnamon apple butter on bottom. The combination of the sharp gorgonzola with the sweetness of the apple butter is perfect. The only problem: I leave wanting another one! Red Bike is dedicated to local, fresh foods and they always have a vegan/vegetarian option.

Red Bike is known for their incredible attention to detail; the red bike that sits on top of their café, the ever changing specials chalk board that is always a piece of art unto itself, the mason jars they fill with bottles of Coke a Cola and the perfectly arranged fruit that sits on your plate. If I can rip myself away from The Messenger, I am dying to try their BLT and a summer milkshake.

Open: Tue-Sat 8-2
Closed Monday

4823 N. Lombard St.
Portland, OR 97203
(503) 289-0120

To learn more about Red Bike, check out their delicious blog: http://blog.littleredbikecafe.com/
Little Red Bike Cafe on Urbanspoon

14 June 2009

This Sandwich Works: Kenny and Zukes Sandwichworks

Splitter Alert

Meatball Hero, $8.75 whole, $4.37 split

In lieu of my usual Italian Sunday dinner, I decided to venture over to Kenny and Zukes Sandwichworks location on NW Thurman to try out their Meatball Hero. The sandwich really was my hangover hero—filled with scrumptious lean meatballs, that are made daily at their downtown restaurant, marinara sauce and melted mozzarella. The hoagie roll was more like ciabatta bread, which I always think is a perfect pairing for hot sandwiches. The meatballs were seasoned with garlic and Italian parsley and crumbled with each bite (almost as good as my mommas).

The cashier split our sandwiches at no charge and added two pickles and two sides of potatoe chips! Kenny and Zukes is casual, yet very NW cutesy. The shop is on the smaller side, with hefty wooden picnic tables inside and small round tables lining the large windows outside. Next on my list: going back to try their Tuna Melt with aged white cheddar, The Hood River sandwich with ham or turkey and granny smith apples and before the next Portland Beaver’s game, their New York Sabrett Hotdog!

Kenny and Zukes Delicatessen is Portland’s version of New York’s Carnegie Deli. Carnegie Deli is known around the states for their humongous sandwiches, which one can hardly get their mouth around. Kenny and Zuke’s downtown location, referred to as their delicatessen has similar mouth watering double deckers, that in essence are impossible to eat with one hand. However, this adorable restaurant is on the expensive side, with $12.00 sandwiches. For a much cheaper version, head to their NW Sandwichworks shop where I got my Meatball Hero today.

2376 NW Thurman St
Portland, OR 97210
(503) 954-1737
Get directions

Kenny and Zuke's SandwichWorks on Urbanspoon

11 June 2009

Take me on a Tuk Tuk: Tuk Tuk Thai

Salad Roll, $4 lunch, $4.95 dinner

A tuk tuk is a Thai taxi, which are seen all over the streets of Thailand.

Salad rolls: goodness wrapped in thin paper and then dipped in peanut puree. Salad rolls are a Thai staple that are often overlooked. These scrumptious rolls are a light way to start off a large Thai meal or perfect on their own for lunch. Practically every Thai restaurant around town offers them . . . but only Tuk Tuk knows how to roll these suckers like Cuban cigars. I have tried salad rolls all over town and with ever restaurant I am more and more disappointed. They’re either too small or wrapped too loosely, or they leave out key ingredients like the bean sprouts. The worst though, is when they don't give you peanut sauce!

Tuk Tuk’s rolls are tightly wrapped in thin rice paper and filled with lettuce, bean sprouts, shredded carrots, vermicelli noodles, cucumbers and a long slice of tofu. They are sizable and very filling. Their peanut sauce is among the best I’ve ever tasted. Its sweet and chunky—unlike the runny sauces some places serve.

The atmosphere in Tuk Tuk is vibrant, yet casual; especially in their new restaurant on Lombard. Plus, the owner is incredibly friendly and that hospitality is shown throughout the staff. They don’t have a website, so just go check it out!

4239 NE Fremont St N. Greely and Lombard

Tuk Tuk Thai on Urbanspoon

08 June 2009

Health Freak: Laughing Planet Cafe

Grilled Chicken Burrito on a Whole Wheat Tortilla, $5.95

When I first stepped foot in this cafe about two years ago, I was very much against flavorless foods that were overly healthy—I must have gotten some vegged out meal on accident. I refused to go back and dreaded the sight of their “keep Portland weird” restaurants. This was all until my roommate came home six months ago, with a burrito that smelled so delicious; I had to curse my own name and go back again and again.

Laughing Planet’s grilled chicken burrito is rolled up with pinto beans, organic brown rice, melted Tillamook pepper jack cheese, pico de gallo, grilled chicken and a smokey, hot salsa on the side. For an added indulgence, make it a deluxe for $2.25 with guacamole and sour cream.

This burrito will treat you right, fill you up beyond belief and you can feel really good about doing so—for you and the all natural chicken! Laughing Planet is a leader in sustainable restaurants—using biodegradable “to-go” silver wear, composting and not packing your food in twenty layers of bags and boxes. Go Laughing Planet! Plus, to my dismay, their food will kick your tastes buds ass (as long as you stay away from the Che Guevara; that one is still a bit bland).

Laughing Planet on Urbanspoon

06 June 2009

Summer Pasta: Justa Pasta

SPLITTER--This one is meant for two!
Small Spinach Salad + Small Pasta, $5.00

Justa Pasta is certainly not just pasta—I have to say their spinach salad is probably the best I’ve ever tasted. The leaves are perfectly coated with a garlicky olive oil and dressed with pine nuts and goat cheese. It’s light, but still very tasteful. Ask for a small to keep the price down, or make it a large to bulk up on greens. The large is a dinner plate full!

Their homemade pasta menu changes sporadically, but they almost always have tagliatelle or parpadelle, which is a thin, wide noodle seen all over Italy but scarce in the states. If you don’t see one of these on their menu, just ask the cashier—their almost always available in their pasta case. Pair these pastas with their Bolognese sauce. The combination of thin noodles with thick meat sauce is flawless and incredibly filling.

Justa Pasta is one of Portland’s best Italian restaurants and yet so off the radar—which may be due to the location. Justa is tucked away on a random street in NW. However, that’s what makes this place so great—you avoid the large crowds that the other Pearl District Italian restaurants attract, without taking away quality.

One down fall to this joint is you have to walk up to the counter to order (this can get tricky if you are wanting your date or parents to pay for you). Don’t worry too much though, they still wait on you and deliver a plate of assorted breads, olive oil and vinegar to the table. How can you go wrong with homemade pasta!

Splurge—for $5, add a piece of their chocolate cake or a glass of house red/white.