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porqueno

4635 SE Hawthorne

http://www.porquenotacos.com/

¿Por Qué No? on Urbanspoon

Price for 2 (with tip): $21.50

¿Por Qué No? is one of those places that the hipsters in Portland will tell you is the most amazing place around. And why wouldn’t they, “why not” is the name of the restaurant after all. With two locations in the hip areas of Hawthorne and Mississippi, happy hour drinks, and seemingly cheap food, all served up in a casually-busy decor, Por Que No is a total hipster dream come true. Unfortunately, it’s not actually very good.

The food at ¿Por Qué No? is definitely not trying to be authentic Mexican (despite the over use of Spanish) but is more tex-mex style. Honestly, on previous visits I remember the food being a high point of my experience, (compared to the wait, the ambiance, the price, etc) but today I was not impressed with a single thing I ate. I ordered a horchata, which is “house made.” By definition horchata is a bit of a gritty beverage (basically cinnamon rice milk) but this was hands down the worst horchata I have ever had. It left me feeling like I attempted to swallow a glass of sand, but it was nicely garnished with fresh cinnamon! Oh yeah, and one glass costs $3, and there’s no booze in that ($3 more gets you rum.)

On to the food. We ordered chips and salsa (not free) which took a solid 5 minutes to make it to our table. The chips are thick-cut homemade tortilla chips and are probably the best thing to come out of the kitchen. That said, the cooking of them is fairly inconsistent and one bite will be too hard to bite through and the next totally chewy. I got two tacos, a pescado (cornmeal-crusted snapper, sour cream, cabbage, salsa, onion, cilantro and pineapple) and a basic carne asada. Now I am all for creative takes on basic food, which is why I ordered the pescado. And it while was the better of the two tacos, didn’t actually include any pineapple (maybe they they were out?), and just tasted like spicy cornmeal. The carne asada taco was just a bummer. Not tender, not flavorful, just a tortilla filled with chewy beef that left my hands covered in red salsa.

The vegetarian got a bean and rice bowl: beans, rice, sour cream, guacamole, “salsa fresca” and three tortillas. I asked him how it compared to other times he’s had the same thing to make sure I wasn’t just having an off day. “I’ve never thought that place was very good,” he replied.

As if sub par food was reason enough never to go to ¿Por Qué No? again, there is constantly a line stretching out the door, and even though they will take your drink order before you reach the counter to make you feel like you’re not waiting as long, it doesn’t actually speed things up any. And during prime lunch hours, you are forced to sit uncomfortably close to yuppies, as either the hipsters have figured out that paying $3 for a tiny taco you could get at Pepino’s for $.99 isn’t a good deal, or they only frequent this place at Happy Hour. But no matter when you go, it doesn’t change the fact that it just isn’t good.

Veggie options: as mediocre as the meat options

Speed: Hurry up and wait

horchata

horchata

chips and salsa

chips and salsa

Bean and rice bowl

Bean and rice bowl

carne asada taco/pescado taco

carne asada taco/pescado taco

toji

4615 SE Hawthorne Blvd

Toji Korea Grill House on Urbanspoon

Date of visit: October 21, 2009

Price for 2 (with tip): $18.90

Toji is one of those places I’ve always wanted to go, but trying to drag a vegetarian to a restaurant where one of the main options is roasting raw meat on a grill in the middle of your table has proven difficult. But since this week has been designated for the 4600 block, it had to happen and today we hit up the Grill.

I guess I expected it to be expensive (it is designated with two dollar signs on Urbanspoon) and was pretty sure Jared would be forced to eat salad, so when I saw the lunch menu I was pleasantly surprised. I’m not trying to be racist here (or whatever the positive version of racism is), but damn, Asians “get” lunch. Like most Chinese and Thai places I’ve been to, the lunch options were complete meals for a very reasonable price.

I couldn’t resist the bento box, which came with your choice of meat (I got Chicken Katsu), salad, rice, pot stickers and noodles for under $8! I feel like Jared may have just ordered the bimbimbop for the sake of the blog, and I almost feel bad. It was one of the two vegetarian options on the lunch menu, but getting it without the typical ground beef and fried egg on top basically turned it into rice with veggies and tofu. Even though he was the one who ordered it with no flavor, he proceeded to complain that it was “bland.” Next time I’ll try the real version and be the actual judge.

My meal on the other hand, was awesome. Every individual element of it was really good. The salad was fresh lettuce, carrots and other veggies with a sweet sesame dressing. The chicken katsu was crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, and cut into manageable strips even for me with chop sticks. Two potstickers and some noodles made it better than I even expected.

Not to mention, and our meal was served with a table full on miniature dishes of fermented goodies, which even though she described as she was placing them on the table, I’m not even going to pretend to know what they are. I was particularly fond though, of the kim chee cucumbers, one of three kim chee style options. Basically it was more food than we could eat, and cost less than $20. Not bad, not bad at all.

Veggie options: Tofu items yes, but limited and most include egg

Speed: respectable, but we didn’t order anything we grilled ourselves, which seems like it might slow things down.

Vegge bimbimbop

Vegge bimbimbop

Chicken katsu bento

Chicken katsu bento

fermented shmorgasboard

fermented shmorgasboard

eastside

4626 SE Hawthorne Blvd

www.pdxdeli.com

East Side Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

Date of visit: October 20, 2009

Price for 2: $14.50

A good deli can actually be hard to find in Portland, so when a vegan friend told us we had to try East Side Deli, I was initially skeptical. But this place is hands down the best deli I have ever been to in Portland, and it just so happens it’s on Hawthorne and in the 4600 block, at that.

The sandwiches turned out of the open kitchen are huge and more importantly, completely customized with super high quality ingredients. No limp, shredded ice berg lettuce here, the stuff they use is fresh and leafy. And it’s like that for everything you choose, from the cheese and meat, to the veggies and sauces.

When you go in, you grab a dry erase card and select what you want. First you choose from breads. A six inch sub is giant, so I usually go with locally made Dave’s Killer bread. Then you choose hot or cold, meat, cheese, spread, veggies, extras (s +p, etc) and then add-ons that cost .50 extra (bacon, avacado..) Today I went with tuna on toast, with Vermont cheddar, sun dried tomato mayo, pickles, tomatoes and avocado. I’ve previously gotten the roast beef with horse radish, which on my next visit, I will probably go back to because damn, the roast beef is good.

Jared got the field roast, which is sort of like veggie roast beef, stacked high with every type of veggie you can imagine. Add on $1.50 for each for chips (a selection of Tim’s and Hawaiian kettle chips that even for bagged chips is pretty awesome) and a can of soda for each, and you have basically the best tasting, cheap lunch money can buy.

Of course, there is some bad news. Even when the place is empty, the sandwiches take some time, and on some of our visits the place has been packed to the gills. There is also limited seating (one indoor table and a bar, and a few outdoor tables) so East Side Deli is a better grab and go spot than eat in. And hey, if you call ahead, they’ll have your sandwich waiting for you.

Veggie options: Tons of veggies and Field roast “vegan meat”

Speed: For a deli, it can be kind of slow. Depends on how busy it is.

Tuna melt with Sun dried tomato mayo

Tuna melt with Sun dried tomato mayo

6" field roast sub

6" field roast sub

zachs

4611 SE Hawthorne Blvd

http://www.myspace.com/dogswithasnap

Zach's Shack on Urbanspoon

Date of visit: October 19, 2009

Price for 2: $17

Today we realized the 4600 Block of Hawthorne may just be the ultimate lunch utopia. We originally set out to eat at Por Que No (more for review purposes than because we wanted to) but were distracted by the neighboring Zach’s Shack and the East Side Deli. Also on this block is Dingo’s (where this whole project started), Toji Korea Grill House, Thai Thai and Angelo’s (which I’m a little scared of.) So for this week we’ve got a goal within a goal: eat at all of these places. Ok, so it will actually take a week and a half, but you get the point. Today we opted for hot dogs at Zach’s Shack.

Hot dogs, when not gotten from a cart, seem like sort of a weird thing to eat out for to me. Realistically it’s one of those things that even a helpless bachelor can make at home! But that said, Zach’s Shack is a definite favorite lunch spot. It’s cheap and it’s good and sometimes a hot dog with all the fixin’s is worth going out for.

I’ve always gotten the Chicago dog (tomato, onions, relish, pickle, mustard, celery salt, hold the hot peppers) with the classic all-beef hot dog. You can also get a turkey dog or veggie dog at no charge, or sausage for a little bit extra. Today Jared went with a veggie Chicago dog as well as a Greatful dog (cucumber, tomato, onions, celery salt) cause he has a man-sized appetite. One order of regular fries between the two of us (which was more than enough), drinks, and Zach’s Shack still came in well under my $10 per person limit.

Everything about these hot dogs is good. The buns are soft and big enough to hold every together without falling apart. The beef hot dogs have an almost-crisp casing due to the steaming process (which explains the “hot dogs with a snap” thing.) And the fries are your classic crinkle cut, lightly salty and perfectly simple. The ambiance in Zach’s is the only thing sort of lacking, that is, unless you really like dive bars, but other than that it gets a thumbs up. That’s why Zach’s probably beat out Por Que No today, but we’ll get there soon.

Veggie options: Yes, and no extra charge to sub a veggie dog.

Speed: Faster if you don’t have a damn vegetarian in the mix, as the special order takes 3 extra minutes. But still fast overall.

Veggie Chicago dog

Veggie Chicago dog

Meaty chicago dog

Meaty chicago dog

Greatful dog

Greatful dog

french fries

french fries

portland

Like Breckenridge in the 90s or Mammoth in the early part of this decade, Portland has become the hot spot for snowboarding. It’s an interesting choice, since the mountain is actually over an hour away, but it seems that being hip and urban is in these days. But as a Portland resident who has lived here since before it was cool (but not actually a native, those are like unicorns), I am here to tell you Portland is TOTALLY overrated. Here are ten definitive reasons why.

1.    It rains

You’ve probably heard this rumor and it’s true. From Nov- March it rains pretty much every day. The worst part is all that rain is snow in the mountains, so you are pretty much ALWAYS forced to ride powder. Stupid northwest.

2.    Affordable housing

It’s actually possible to buy a house here, and with that comes all the headaches of home ownership. You’ll likely end up a slum lord, renting out your house all of your dirt bag buddies and actually paying less than you would to rent. Damn that responsibility.

food

3.    Really good, cheap food

Portland has more good, cheap restaurants than most places, which leads to two problems. The first is trying to decide where to eat, which can take longer than the eating itself, and two, you’ll probably get fat.

4.    Cheap beer

PBR is kinda of gross, but in Portland, you will be forced to drink A LOT of it, as it is available at basically every bar for $2 or less. Also, you will probably turn into a drunk living here.

20090730_hcscpw_0010

Summer at Mt. Hood. Photo Amy Galbraith

5.    Year-round snowboarding

It’s nice to be able to get away from snowboarding every one in a while, but here, the mountain literally never closes (well ok, it does for like a week sometimes.) There are also four resorts on Mt. Hood to choose from (3 you would actually go to) and all these choices get exhausting.

6.    Job opportunities

If you live in Portland, you might find yourself in a position that you actually want to get a job. Companies such as Bonfire/Salomon, Holden, Airblaster, Nike, High Cascade, Grenade, Atmosphere and more call the city of roses home. What is the world coming to when you get a job somewhere that you actually might WANT to go to work?

7.    Cool people

Seriously, people here are so cool. So if you don’t like hipster bullshit, you’ll have to actually find a group of the normal people who lurk in the outskirts to be friends and ride with. There are plenty of them.

photo4

photo: Jared Souney

8.    Tons of skateparks

If you’re a typical snowboarder, you probably think you like skateboarding, but are bad at it. So there’s a better-than-normal chance you will manage to hurt yourself skateboarding and then be out for the season thanks to endless free concrete parks.

9.    You don’t need a car

Having a car is awesome. You can get a bitchin’ one that chicks will dig and will probably get you laid. But here, you can ride your bike and take the Grease Bus to the mountain. This will probably not get you laid (or if it does, it will probably be by a snowboard chick.)

10.    We don’t need any more idiots

If you haven’t figured out by now that Portland is actually the greatest city to ever become “hip” in snowboarding, seriously, don’t move here.

vincentes

1935 SE Hawthorne Blvd

Vincente's, the V Room & the Winking Toad on Urbanspoon

Date of visit: October 15, 2009

Price for 2 (with tip): $20

It is my firm belief that when you see the words “gourmet” and “pizza” together, you should not even consider going inside. But since the goal of this blog is to eat at every restaurant on Hawthorne, we were going to have to bite the gourmet bullet and eat at Vincente’s eventually, so today was the day. I should also note I have been here before, but only for drinking purposes while waiting for movies to start and Cinemagic across the street. But this was my first pizza/lunch experience.

The slice options were limited, today it was cheese, pepperoni and once special slice with pesto, cherry tomatoes, roasted garlic and feta. Since we were at a gourmet pizza shop, I figured might as well go with the fancy one. Jared got two slices of cheese and we also got a medium garden salad to split. The menu said it “fed 2” and was actually served family style with two separate bowls, which was nice. It also looked really good with fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, red onions and garnished with poppy seeds. Unfortunately, the ranch dressing (the only option presented) was perhaps the blandest we’ve had since Bridgeport Ale House. The lettuce was ok, but overall, even a bunch of salt and pepper couldn’t help this bowl of ruffage.

As for the slices, as one would expect from “gourmet pizza” they were expensive and mediocre at best. The crust was way too thin and tasted more like corn meal than anything else. And even the fancy slice was really not that flavorful, though thanks to the giant garlic chunks, left me with a lovely after taste for hours to come. At least the check came with Andes mints, right?

Veggie options: Slice of the day was veggie, but otherwise, custom order or plain cheese only

Speed: Considering we got slices and a salad, kinda slow

Garden Salad

Garden Salad

Cheese slices

Cheese slices

Special slice of the day: Pesto, tomato, garlic and feta

Special slice of the day: Pesto, tomato, garlic and feta

Pho Van

Posted by Brooke in Vietnamese - (0 Comments)

phovan

3404 SE Hawthorne Blvd

Pho Van on Urbanspoon

Date of visit: October 14, 2009

Price for 2 (with tip): $26

Though we’ve been to Pho Van’s 82nd Ave location many times, this was the first visit to the somewhat more swank Hawthorne location. On the corner of 34th and Hawthorne, the booths here are divided by ornate woodwork, and the light fixtures are especially awesome, but this is a food blog, not about interior design. And since I’ve been to another Pho Van location, I knew what to expect in terms of food quality. The real test was the ambiance, and of course, the lunch specials.

Ironically, Pho Van seems to have an anti-lunch special. $5 Pho from 11am-12 and then again from 3-5, in other words, not during the prime lunch hours. I guess it’s understandable, as the restaurant during the noon hour was packed, and at first I thought we may actually have to wait to be seated. Luckily there was one giant booth waiting for us and we were seated quickly.

We started with Veggie salad rolls, which would have been better with shrimp, but that’s our fault, not the restaurant’s. For the main course, I went with the usual, Pho Ga, or as I like to order it, chicken noodle soup. What can I say, I am from New England, we don’t even have Asian restaurants… Pho Van doesn’t offer a Veggie pho, so Jared went with a chef’s vegetarian special consisting of wide rice noodles, tofu and vegetables. The tofu was cut like crinkle cut fries which seemed odd to me, but Jared seemed to enjoy his meal. The Pho, which luckily comes in two sizes (I got small and couldn’t finish it), was delicious as expected with light and dark meat chicken and plenty of fresh veggies to mix in.

Then the bill came. The issue with Vietnamese food is you can get the very best versions of it at the dirtiest places, for dirt cheap. But at Pho Van you are definitely paying to sit in a nice place. $26 for both of us, not outrageous, but certainly not cheap, especially considering neither of us got drinks. But overall, Pho Van gets a thumbs up.  I think I’m definitely more likely to hit up the one on 82nd though; it has more seating and it’s own parking lot!

Veggie options: Yes, but no Veggie Pho

Speed: Food was quick, but overall service was slow

Veggie salad rolls

Veggie salad rolls

Pho Ga

Pho Ga

Chef's vegetarian special

Chef's vegetarian special

hfh

4343 SE Hawthorne Blvd

http://hawthornefishhouse.com/

Hawthorne Fish House on Urbanspoon

Date of visit: October 13, 2009

Cost for 2 (with tip) $28.25 ($28.50 w/ dessert)

On a cold, stormy Portland day I wanted something hearty and wholesome, so I figured fish and chips would be just the ticket. So we headed to Hawthorne Fish House, just for the halibut. No wait, because we cod. Ahahahahaha. Ok, I’m done now.

The sign on Hawthorne Fish House (sister location to Corbett Fish House on the west side) says “Portland’s Best Fish and Chips.” Now this isn’t a small claim, since this city is filled with amazing food. To say you have the BEST of anything is quite ballsy. In fact, since I am by no means a fish a chips conessuir I don’t even really feel comfortable confirming or denying it. I will say they have a lot of variety in terms of types of fish and batter, but because I am a cheap ass, I went with the cod. A half order was $6 (good lunch size) and I splurged for the $1.25 to get it chili fried. It was good, not greasy, and the french fries, while basic, we’re quite good.

But on the vegetarian side of the table, things weren’t as positive. I mean, it’s not a huge surprise that a fish restaurant wouldn’t cater to the veggie diet, but this is Portland! Jared ordered a veggie burger, which was available in either regular or spicy. He got the regular one, which was doused in mayonnaise and didn’t come with anything other than a pickle. This prompted a potentially overboard order of the Packer Fries, which cost more than the burger itself. The order was huge, but basically was just fries covered in partially melted cheddar and sliced jalapenos, and way over priced at $7.25.

Hawthorne Fish House is a little over priced in general, but I should note we potentially blew it on the lunch special. Even though it was clearly advertised outside and on stand-ups on the tables, we didn’t really notice it until after ordering. There were several options for $5.95 that included a drink and basically, I could have gotten what I ordered for $5.95 (except not chili fried) instead of around 9 bucks, and it would have come with coleslaw too. Come to think of it, it would have been nice for the waiter to point that out.

Veggie options: Limited, and kind of overpriced, but plenty of gluten free

Speed: Casual (ok, slow)

Packer Fries

Packer Fries

Chili fried Cod fish and chips

Chili fried Cod fish and chips

Veggie burger

Veggie burger

Dessert!

Dessert!

Lek Thai Food

Posted by Brooke in Thai - (0 Comments)

lek

3145 SE Hawthorne Blvd

Cost for 2 (with tip) $21.50

If we’re in the mood for Thai, we normally don’t venture to Hawthorne, as our office is one block from Thai Thai on Stark. But when I saw the building that was formerly The Italian Joint had been painted lime green and purple and filled by Lek Thai, I figured I might as well throw myself on the fire and try it out.

Like Chinese places, Thai restaurants usually have bitchin’ lunch specials, so I expected a discounted menu, which they had. Unfortunately, the specials weren’t all that great, all over $7 for a single dish. Since most of the other Thai places I’ve tried cost less, and include soup, things weren’t off to a great start.

Since there was no appetizer included, we started with an order of vegetarian salad rolls. They came with sweet and sour sauce with peanuts in it, instead of the peanut sauce I’ve come to expect with the dish. Personally, I would have preferred peanut sauce, but Jared seemed to like it and proceeded to eat it with a fork after the rolls were gone. The rolls themselves we ok, but nothing special.

For entrees I got the yellow curry with beef and Jared got Pad Thai with tofu. I guess I’ll start with the good news. The beef was some of the most tender I’ve ever had in Thai food. Now that bad news. I ordered the curry mild, not bland, and the potatoes and carrots were cut in huge, unappetizing chunks. I sampled the Pad Thai and the noodles actually seemed undercooked (which I didn’t even realize was possible with rice noodles, or at least, I’ve never had it happen before.)

Perhaps Lek is still working out the kinks, since I only noticed it opened a week ago, but with the plethora of Thai options out there, I don’t think we’ll be back any time soon.

Veggie options: Standard issue Thai

Speed: It was empty, they got us fed fairly quickly

Salad rolls

Salad rolls

Pad Thai

Pad Thai

Yellow Curry

Yellow Curry

Mio Sushi

Posted by Brooke in Sushi - (0 Comments)

mio

3962 SE Hawthorne Blvd

www.miosushi.com

Mio Sushi on Urbanspoon

Date of visit: October 9, 2009

Cost for two (with tip) $36.10

Sometimes at the end of a long, hard week, you just have to treat yourself to a really bitchin’ lunch. For me, sushi is the ultimate extravagance because I am 100% incapable of doing anything less than completely over ordering. In fact the only real difference between sushi lunch and such dinner is I am much less likely to opt for a saki bomb mid day, so I guess that makes it a bit more affordable.

Mio has been a favorite sushi place in Portland for awhile now, and actually has several locations around the metro area. One of the major appeals of Mio is the dining rooms are decent sized, so even during the dinner rush, you can usually get seated quickly. This is not to say it’s not a busy place, and on our visit the dining room was nearly full and the servers were buzzing around and multi tasking like crazy.

Though we were no offered any specific lunch menu, there are several affordable bento boxes on the menu which would probably be perfect for lunch. However, as I’ve already mentioned, I don’t go small when it comes to sushi, so we ordered cucumber salad, miso soup and two rolls each. Another thing I love about Mio is the number and variety of rolls they offer. I always go with at least one “crispy” roll, rolled and then tempura battered and fried, this time it was the Crunch Roll, with spicy tuna with avocado. The best part is the sweet sauce drizzled over top of it. I also got a yellow tail roll with avacado. The fish is always fresh and “spicy” isn’t too spicy, which I like. As for the vegetarian, there are several veggie rolls with more variety than many places which simply offer the standard cucumber, avocado choices. Today he got the Super Vegi roll and the Sweet Vegi roll and both were delicious as expected.

Since it’s a chain, Mio definitely has a bit of chain feel, with weird little drink and dessert cards on the table, and if it’s an authentic Japanese experience you are after, it’s not it. But if delicious and realatively affordable sushi is what you want, Mio certainly delivers.

Veggie options: Better than most

Speed: Fresh not fast

Miso Soup

Miso Soup

Cucumber Salad

Cucumber Salad

Sushi!

Sushi!