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elbrasero

12th and Hawthorne

Date of visit: November 4, 2009

Price for 1: $9

I don’t particularly like to eat outside. I hate eating outside. I don’t care about the autumn breeze. In fact, that’s part of why I hate it. My ungroomed, overly long hair ends up in my face, and there’s no telling what’s going to land in your food next. I tend to leave picnics to the birds, but that’s just me.

Now that we’ve gotten that part out of the way, today was likely one of the last “nice” days of the fall/winter season, and we figured hitting up Hawthorne’s cart pods was best done in the sun.  There is some cover at the carts, but I can imagine a rainy day being rather moist beneath the canopies. For more on the overall “what’s offered at the carts” check out Brooke’s previous post, on what she ate. We each went to different carts, so I’ll focus my saltiness on my choice, El Brasero, or “the Mexican one.”

The nice thing about food carts is they’re typically cheap, for (in Portland at least) the amazing food you get. Some of them send you off with two meals worth of eats for around $5 (India Chaat House downtown comes to mind). But the carts on Hawthorne aren’t quite as cheap. This pod caters mostly to the late night bar crowd (some, like the popular Whiffies, don’t even open ’til the evening hours), and under those conditions your judgement can be, well, clouded. That’s not to say the food wasn’t good. The vegetarian burrito I got at El Brasero was actually really good for what it was (rice, beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato). But at $7 for the burrito alone, I felt like I could have had a roof over my head. A canopy seems more like a $4-$5 burrito covering.

El Brasero did have a nice variety of vegetarian options, and it was a good burrito. The tortilla was particularly good. But $9 for the burrito and Jarritos soda was a bit too Manhattan in price.

Would I go back? I wouldn’t go out of my way like I would say, Los Gorditos, but the burrito was good, so I wouldn’t run for the hills.

Speed: Quick

Veggie options: Solid vegetarian menu.

elbarsero2

bababernies2

12th and Hawthorne

Date of visit: November 4, 2009

Price for 1: $10

It was a lovely and unseasonably warm fall day in Portland, so we decided it was time to try the carts on the corner of 12th and Hawthorne. I should note that this is really more of a “drunk at 1 am” kind of spot than a lunch spot, but a few of the carts are open for business during lunch hours. The only real reason we’d never eaten at any of them before is Jared hates eating outside. But I will let him explain that because he going to guest blog about the Mexican cart he ate at while I tried out Bubba Bernie’s BBQ cart.

Before we get to the food though, I feel like I need to talk about how amazingly ridiculous this whole set up is. Only in Portland are food carts actually known for their quality of food. You can find some incredible cuisine in these semi-permanent structures all over the city. The Hawthorne cart pod includes 7 carts, but only 3 of them (El Brasero, Peirerra Creperie and Bubba Bernie’s) were open during our visit. But enough about that.

At Bubba Bernie’s, I ordered a breaded catfish Po’ Boy, which must be a popular item since the next three people to walk up ordered it as well. And I had plenty of time to observe what people ordered because my sandwich literally took 20 minutes to be ready. Now I will admit we were on the early side, and the lone worker was obviously still setting things up, but he also happened to the the slowest human being in existence. After waiting a few minutes for him to notice I was even standing there, I ordered and he let me know in his mellow hippie tone it would be a few minutes. About five minutes later he stuck his dredded head out of the cart to inform me of a total bum out, man. Apparently he’d forgotten to turn on the fryer when he arrived for the day. Since I still wanted the the same thing, and I had no where to be, I said I’d wait. I had about 15 minutes to enjoy the sunshine and watched befuddled hipsters walk around trying to decide what to eat before a sandwich finally came out. Jared was long done by the time I got to eat. Fucking hippies.

The good news: It was delicious. Flaky fish with crispy skin, flavorful remoulade and fresh veggies. It was everything I wanted in a catfish po boy, except maybe some chips on the side.

Speed: LOL

Veggie options: Like all the carts, there’s a pretty solid vegetarian menu.

bubbabernies

Breaded Catfish Po Boy

luckylab1

915 SE Hawthorne Blvd
www.luckylab.com

Lucky Labrador Brew Pub on Urbanspoon

Date of visit: Nov 2, 2009

Price for 2 $19.20

With all of our Hawthorning, this week we decided to mix it up a little bit. So on Monday, after staring at each other for a bit trying to decide where else we should go, we eventually gave up and drove towards Hawthorne. But as we got close, brilliance struck! We decided to go the OTHER WAY, and see what 1st through 10th aves had to offered. As it turns out, not too much. One seedy looking bar, one seedy looking strip club and the Lucky Labrador Brew Pub. Since I wasn’t in the mood for a greasy burger and boobs, Lucky Lab it was.

From the outside it almost looked closed, as the main seating area is down a hallway in the back. Inside it’s basically a giant hall with tables and a bar, from which you walk up and order food and beer. We were there on a Monday, which happens to be “Miser Monday,” featuring a dollar-off pints. I resisted lunch beers though cause I had work to do, and went with an iced tea instead.

Since the menu board didn’t specify what the sandwiches came with, we started with an order of chips and salsa, just to be safe. (As it turns out, all the sandwiches come with your choice of potato chips or tortilla chips.) Though obviously store bought, the chips were good and salty. The pico they came with was ok, but kind of tasted like the stuff you get in a tub in the refridgerated section of the grocery store. It could have been housemade, but just old…They did grab the chips for us right away though, which was nice.

Sandwiches were delivered to our table after a few minutes. Jared went with the Super Spy, which is Spicy Cream Cheese, Cucumber, Lettuce & Tomato on a Ciabatta Bun. His review: “Spicy, as advertised.” I got the half sandwich soup combo with a tuna melt and tortilla soup. Tortilla soup is one of those things that I always order, and then realize that I don’t really like. Well, I should say that. I have had two versions of it that I absolutely loved (both from Mexican restaurants) but I need to stop ordering it from American spots. It sort or reminded me of watered-down chili with tough chunks of chicken in it. The Tuna Melt, however, was awesome. Super simple, italian bread, melty swiss cheese, tomato slices, and good tuna. I definitely will just go for the full one if we go back.

Overall, Lucky Lab was good and fairly affordable. I think next time I go will be on a day I really need a lunch beer though!

Speed: Good

Veggie options: A pretty long list of sandwich options.

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

Super Spy

Super Spy

Tuna melt with tortilla soup

Tuna melt with tortilla soup

chachacha

3433 SE Hawthorne Blvd

Cha! Cha! Cha! on Urbanspoon

Date of Visit: October 30, 2009

Price for 2: $16

Cha Cha Cha is the best local baja-style Mexican chain around. Specific enough for you? Ok, so it’s the only place that fits all those criteria. But it is pretty good; sort of like a local Baja Fresh with better, more sustainable ingredients and an ever-changing menu.

Obviously there is no shortage of Mexican restaurants on Hawthorne, but there are a few reasons to hit up Cha Cha Cha instead of the others. The menu is quite extensive, it’s fairly reasonably priced, and as I’ve already mentioned, the ingredients change with the season. There is also a sizable, covered outdoor patio, great in the summer months.

On this visit, as usual, we started with chips and salsa. The chips are house made and the salsa is super fresh pico de gallo (in fact, I’ve seen them dicing it up in the open kitchens.) Unfortunately, an order does run ya a couple bucks, but what can you do.

For entrees, I went with the enchiladas verde plate, which comes with rice and beans. I am not typically a big fan of enchiladas, mostly because the sauce tastes like burnt chili to me, but the green sauce used on these is awesome. And they come with a heaping portion of guacamole. My only real complaint is that the enchiladas themselves are tiny, basically just one taco-sized corn tortilla filled with chicken for each, and I usually feel like I could easily put down two more.

The always-adventurous Jared broke out of his bean, cheese and rice burrito box and went with a special, the chipotle tofu burrito. I asked him what it tasted like and he answered, “Chipotle tofu.” Helpful, right? Eventually I got out of him that he liked that it included spinach and was better than his usual order.

Cha Cha Cha has a couple locations around Portland and while it’s by no means authentic Mexican, it’s definitely good if you are in the mood for baja-style food. I should note however, that I’ve heard a few people complain it is “hit or miss” (I’ve always been happy) so if you have a bad experience, you shouldn’t write it off completely!

Speed: This is one of those places where it says right on the menu “we make your food fresh so it may take longer” but it’s still relatively quick

Veggie Options: Several tofu burrito varieties, etc.

chips and salsa

chips and salsa

chicken enchiladas verde plate

chicken enchiladas verde plate

Chipotle tofu burrito

Chipotle tofu burrito

johnnie-paxson

Johnnie Paxon man handling the rail. photo: Geery

I have been to some miserable inner city rail jams in my day. I’m talking bitter cold and/or pouring rain, and because you are there simply to spectate, you are never dressed for such elements. But this year’s Backyard Bang was actually the most pleasant urban snowboard experience I have ever had.

Not only was there a VIP area with free food and beer, provided by Kona Brewing, who also gave away a trip to Hawaii to some lucky bastard, but the jam was short, sweet and interesting. The new and improved SnowBoy productions set up included a brand new box jump, and let’s face it, all rail jams need more air.

brodeo

Jordan Kelly logs some air time. photo: Geery

Even for the non VIPs, spectating was easy with a nice covered section provided by a nearby building, and overall tolerable weather. There was one minor incident with a inevitable rain shower, but it quickly passed. Unfortunately, the riders did have to suffer slightly when the sky opened up, as most participants weren’t really dressed for the elements. There was a taco, a chicken, a hobo, a bearded lady with a baby, but very few people dressed in actual snowboard gear. What else would you expect on Halloween?

In addition to the jump, there was a solid down bar and two wall ride options to keep people from flying into the crowd. A few people still managed to find their way into spectators due to getting extra aggressive, but thankfully the random dancing man on a podium behind one of the jibs was not harmed.

shifty

Nick Jacobsen is one shifty guy. photo: Geery

After a frantic 10 minute final jam, the winners were announced. For the women top honors went to Celeste Rhoads who landed a frontboard to fakie as well as a switch boardslide, and was 180ing on to the rail both switch and regular. “It was kind hand to land because the landing was rough, but it was a really fun event,” Celeste said.

chicks1

Kumara Kelly, Celeste Rhoads and Megan Middleton. 3, 1, 2

The guys’ podium was almost too close to call but the top three stacked up with Austin Sweetin in 3rd, Johnnie Paxson in 2nd and Jonah Owen taking first. Jonah was able to throw down a opposite toe 270 to 270 out, which he reportedly had just learned a few days prior.  “The jump was really fun, just flipping off that thing was a blast,” Jonah said seeming somewhat in disbelief he’d won. “Johnnie Paxson was doing some ridiculous moves. Sawyer Dean was doing some crazy technical rail tricks. He did really well too. It was a fun comp and everyone killed it.”

dudes

Austin Sweetin, Jonah Owen and Johnnie Paxon. Winners.

Thanks to event sponsors Salomon Snowboards and the Art Institute of Portland for putting on one of the most painless rail jam experiences out there, and so close to my house!

thanthoa

4005 SE Hawthorne Blvd

Thanh Thao on Urbanspoon

Date of Visit: October 29, 2009

Price for 2 (with tip) $16

Though there was nothing particularly Vietnamese or Thai (as the sign implies) about the lunch I ate at Thanh Thao, it definitely is in the running for my favorite new lunch spot on Hawthorne. Today’s visit was actually our second attempt to each there. The first was on Tuesday, the one day a week they are closed. That day, we ended up eating at No Fish, Go Fish right across the street instead, so it wasn’t all bad.

Thanh Thao is decent sized and was nearly full with diners, which is always a good sign. We were seated quickly and given the lunch menu, which includes a list of lunch specials as well as some classic dishes and tons of drinks. I resisted a cocktail and went with the Chicken with Mushrooms and Snow peas lunch special. All the lunches come with vegetarian hot and sour soup, a spring roll, fried or white rice and fried won tons. Jared also ordered off the lunch menu, getting sweet and sour tofu. Like I said before, both of these dishes seemed more “generic Asian” than what I’ve come to expect at Thai or Vietnamese places, but that’s not to say they weren’t good. In fact, my dish was super flavorful, no added soy sauce needed. At first I was a little bummed that the spring roll didn’t come with any dipping sauce, but then I just started sopping up the extra sauce from my entree with it and was perfectly happy. The best thing on the plate though honestly, was the friend won tons. They were so light and crispy and obviously right from the fryer.

Before we’d even finished eating, the waiter set down the check on the table. This place was winning on all accounts. That is, until I opened my fortune cookie and found NO FORTUNE! I made a little pouty face until Jared opened his and found it contained two fortunes, so I got one after all. And with that, Thanh Thao is a new favorite place for sure. 🙂

Speed: Really fast

Veggie options: It’s the lonest section of the lunch menu, plus all side dishes are vegetarian

Hot and sour soup

Hot and sour soup

sweet and sour tofu

sweet and sour tofu

Chicken with snow peas and mushrooms

Chicken with snow peas and mushrooms

Kabobi

Posted by Brooke in Afghani - (0 Comments)

kabobi

3962 SE Hawthorne Blvd

Kabobi on Urbanspoon

Date of Visit: October 28, 2009

Cost for 2 (with tip): $22.80

It’s official: we need to stop bombing Afghanistan. Not only because it doesn’t seem to be making a damn difference, but because after my first experience with Afghani cuisine at Kabobi, I must say the food is damn good. I had no idea what to expect walking into Kabobi (other than that they had a $5.95 lunch special, thanks to an outdoor a frame.) We’d actually been curious about this place before, but never went in, in case Afghani food was like chicken feet or something. Well, as it turns out, it’s basically Indian Food. Same curry/chutney-style flavors, served with basmati rice and naan.

As it turned out the advertised lunch special wasn’t all it was cracked up to be: it was only a few fully-vegetarian options, which were not served with rice, only a side of naan. For that reason, both Jared and I ordered off the main lunch menu. I got chicken kabobs, served with regular rice, and Jared went for the vegetarian sampler, three small items with regular rice. Both were a bit more expensive, but not outlandish at about $8 each. They did not, however, come with nan and we failed to order a side of it.

While we waited we were invited to help ourselves to hot chai tea, which is a favorite of mine, and the waiter made some friendly conversation. Of course, spare one other take-out customer, we were the only people in there, but it was nice to be acknowledged.

The food came, and the waiter explained each item as we’d told him it was our first Afghani food experience. Jared’s three dishes were chick peas, green peas and spinach in various sauces. I am not going to pretend to know every ingredient but I tried them all and damn, they were good. I especially liked the light, sweet green pea dish. Yum. My plate was filled with rice and tender chunks of well seasoned chicken, garnished with pickled onions. I dribbled on some of the chutney left on the table which added a nice sourness to it. My food was good, but I honestly found myself jealous of Jared’s vegetable medley since it was a bit more interesting (a first for sure.)

All in all, a good meal, and good to know about, since due to the departure of India Oven, there’s no actual Indian food on Hawthorne.

Speed: fairly average

Veggie options: yes, and the “lunch special” is only vegetarian options

Chicken Kabob

Chicken Kabob

Vegetarian sampler

Vegetarian sampler

nofish

3962 SE Hawthorne Blvd

www.nofishgofish.com

No Fish! Go Fish! on Urbanspoon

Date of Visit: Oct 27, 2009

Price for 2 (with tip) $16.50

The concept of No Fish, Go Fish is great. A lunch place that basically just serves soup and sandwiches. Ingenious really. For $6 you get a giant bowl of your choice of the 4 soups of the day and your choice of two sammies from the lengthy menu. I am sorry that I just referred them as “sammies,” but when you get a petite pressed sandwich shaped like a fish, I really feel like it’s the appropriate term. There are a also a few other items on the menu (fried stuff, pasta and noodle bowls) but honestly I didn’t have any inclination to order anything besides the lunch special.

Today I tried the Chicken Rosemary Stew, a thick, creamy soup that tasted like, well, chicken and rosemary. It was good though, I didn’t have to add salt or hot sauce (which is apparently self-serve) and it was flavorful. I wasn’t as excited about Jared’s choice, the vegetable barley, which was colorful and looked great, but was a bit bland for my taste. In addition to the soup, the special comes with your choice of two sandwiches. I went with Turkey and “Cheese” (which turned out to be American, and I sort of felt like I was 12 eating it) and a spinach and feta. Unfortunately the latter must have tried to swim out of the oven, as it didn’t arrive until I was basically finished with everything else, and was delivered not on a plate, but wrapped in a napkin. For Jared’s sandwiches he got a tomato mozzarela and one premium choice (50 cents extra) which was filled with curry vegetables. Somewhat ironically, the said the tomato mozzarella was actually more flavorful.

The food at No Fish, Go Fish isn’t anything amazing, in fact, the obviously frozen spinach inside my little fish was actually sort of unappealing (though it could have just been because I was already full.) But the kitsch and concept of this place make it definitely something special. And some days a hot bowl of soup and a sandwich is pretty much the perfect lunch.

Veggie options: menu is about half and half

Speed: I would call it “relaxed.” Not bad, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by how quick it was either.

Rosemarry Chicken Stew lunch

Rosemary Chicken Stew lunch

VEgetable barley soup lunch

VEgetable barley soup lunch

the late-to-the-game Spinach and Feta Sammie

the late-to-the-game Spinach and Feta Sammie

Oasis Cafe

Posted by Brooke in Pizza - (2 Comments)

oasis

3701 SE Hawthorne Blvd

www.oasispizza.com

Oasis Cafe on Urbanspoon

Date of Visit: October 26, 2009

Price for 2: $16.75

I was trying to decide what makes a slice of pizza perfect for me and I realized I don’t know. It’s just the sort of thing where you bite into and say, damn this is a great slice of pizza. But like everything in life, it’s going to be different for everyone. And honestly, I don’t even really like pizza that much. Call me un-American, but rarely when we head off for lunch do I say, I really want a slice of pizza right now! But unfortunately for me, there are two people on this blog venture, and the other one really likes pizza. Add to that there are several pizza places on Hawthorne, and I am pretty much screwed.

So today we hit up Oasis Cafe. This place actually came highly recommended, and I decided I could satisfy my lack or urge for pizza by getting a sandwich instead. One cool feature about Oasis is the giant windows overlooking Hawthorne. You could sit in them and entertain yourself hours watching oddly-dressed humans walk down Hawthorne. As for the food though, it’s either grab pizza by the slice or order something off the menu.

Jared got two slices, a cheese and a special veggie with tomatoes, basil and feta. Unlike the other two pizza places we’ve tried, the crust is thick, almost sicilian-style, and rather than reheating them in the oven when you order, they pull them from under the heat lamp and slap ’em in front of you on the counter. Jared said he actually prefers not having them reheated, but if you ask me, it just made for soggy crust.

As I had planned, I ordered a sandwich, the Paisano. The ingredient list read: proscuitto, roasted red peppers, mushrooms, mozzarella, garlic-infused olive oil, which sounded pretty damn good. After about 10 minutes (and Jared had polished off both his slices) it came out piping hot. The menu said it was served on foccacia, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the fillings were basically sandwiched between two slices of dry, over-cooked pizza crust. It was also served with store-bought tortilla chips and a plastic cup of whatever brand of salsa must have been on sale that week.

I have left a few new places a bit unimpressed, but I have yet to be so bummed on a meal as I was at Oasis. I made it through about half of the sandwich before just giving up. I can see if you wanted to grab a quick slice and have entertainment while you eat, this could be a cool place. But as far as an actually good lunch spot, sorry, this was not it.

Speed: For slices, really fast, but the sandwich took its sweet ass time

Veggie options: yeah, and gluten free pizza as well

slices

slices

Paisano Sandwich

Paisano Sandwich

bagdad

3702 SE Hawthorne Blvd

www.mcmenamins.com/index.php?loc=9

McMenamins Bagdad Theater & Pub on Urbanspoon

Date of visit: October 23, 2009

Price for 2 (with tip and lunch beer): $23.70

Today was the final day of our goal within a goal of the 4600 block of Hawthorne, but as we drove towards Thai Thai, we passed the Bagdad Pub. Seeing the big windows filled with happy dinners enjoying their microbrews on a miserable, rainy Portland day made me realize: I wanted a lunch beer! So we turned the car around and headed back to Bagdad, one of two McMenamin’s options on Hawthorne Bvld.

The Bagdad (they spell it wrong, not me) is part of the chain of Portland restaurants famous for repurposing old buildings into casual pubs with a twist. This location is a movie theater in addition to a restaurant/bar. As with all McMenamin’s it offers house brews and basic pub fare. While all of the locations offer a slightly different menu, the gist is the same: burgers, sandwiches and a few more entree-style options.

I almost always get the same thing at Bagdad for lunch: a half a tuna sandwich with tots. At $4.60 it’s an amazing deal and the perfect amount of food for lunch. So today, I ordered it as usual, and didn’t notice the server (who didn’t bother to write down our order) had actually brought me a turkey sandwich instead, until I actually picked it up to take a bite. Now I have worked at enough restaurants that I really don’t let stuff like this bother me, so instead of complaining, I just ate it. I must say, the cranberry sauce made it something special, and honestly, I might just switch things up to the turkey sandwich from now on, and that’s not just the lunch beer talking.

Jared went with a communication breakdown burger, veggie-ized. That’s a burger with cheddar, onions and peppers, and having had it in the past (but with real meat), I can vogue for it’s quality. In fact, all of the burgers I’ve ever had at McMenamin’s have been good. As pub food goes, they’ve got it down. Eventually we’ll make it back to The Barley Mill, actually the oldest McMenamin’s pub, also on Hawthorne, but for today, Bagdad was pretty much perfect.

Veggie options: Burgers are good here and any one is available with your choice of two veggie patties.

Speed: Generally understaffed (one server/bartender for the whole place at prime lunch time) so not the fastest.

Hammerhead Ale

Hammerhead Ale

1/2 Turkey Sandwich with tots

1/2 Turkey Sandwich with tots

Communication Breakdown garden burger

Communication Breakdown garden burger