Beyond the Mason Jars: Good Food in Portland

Portland, as all of us Carrie Brownstein fans know, is an easy target. The Portland restaurant scene falls victim to parody just as easily as the rest of the place. I could most likely close my eyes and land a finger on a Portland Monthly restaurant review that would lead me to mason jars, biscuits, repurposed wood furniture, a farm-to-table menu, a charming bearded white guy, and an adorable tatted up chick with glasses and messy bangs. Portland is fun, but when I think about the idea of living there, I think about what’s missing, and as my boyfriend puts it… it’s missing everyone else. Still, when I sit down to brunch in Portland or when I take my first sip of a pint-sized cocktail, the terrariums and the jam band music float away, and I focus on what’s really great here. Brunch. Portion sizes. Pork. Beer. And I’ll be damned if I don’t mention the great Vietnamese soup that humbled me. Here are some top pics:

Sweedeedeee

Cozy up in a wood booth here for perfectly executed homefare. We came twice for brunch. The morning menu options mostly come topped with baked eggs, and what lays underneath ranges from smoked trout and potatoes, corn-cakes, to a delicious farro and arugala salad. The stacks of soft brownies and cookies at the front counter are enticing, the mismatched ceramics are adorable, and you can imagine that if the sun did decide to shine its rays on a winter day in portland, it would send them beaming through the front window, resting on a shelf of sparkling mason jars and pitchers of lemon water.

Screen Door

The menu here is split between seasonal dishes like root vegetable hash and crab cake benedict, and playful southern-inspired food like grits and fried oyster benedict. Sound good? You’re not the only person who thinks so, so get in line at 8:45 a.m. and you’ll probably get a seat. If I could make one suggestion to them, it would only be that they hand out their delicious pumpkin ricotta fritters to the hungry patrons while they wait. However, the star of this show is the fried chicken and waffles. Fried chicken rises almost a foot high on top of a waffle, with a steak knife stabbed into the top piece. The servers come flying out of the kitchen holding the plates in their hands like some kind of twisted, Oregonian version of Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham. “Have you ever seen anyone eat the whole plate?,” my friend asked the waiter. “Once, and I almost threw up for him.” At a table near us sat two guys, one in a baby blue velour jump suit, both with their sleeves rolled up. They sat in silence as they ate their chicken— methodically clearing a few peices to the side, working on the bites at hand, and slowly transferring the rest of their meal back under the fork and knife. I committed to a similar routine but I didn’t have a pile of chicken on top of my waffle, I had prailene bacon inside of it. Mason jars with pickled veggies, check. Absurdly friendly host and waiter, check. Giant portions, check. Ridiculously good thing with pork inside of it, check.

Luc Lac

If you grunt every time you see a happy hour menu in San Francisco that lists $7 or $8 cocktails, you’ll understand why I really like Luc Lac. The happy hour here menu consists of $2 and $3 small plates, with a rotating $6 cocktail and $4 local draft beers. How the place pays rent while churning out good crispy rolls, charbroiled chicken skewers, garlic string beans, and coconut prawns for $2 is beyond me. Hopefully the grandpa stirring the pho in the back is getting paid enough, because making a broth that flavorful is the work of a bonafide professional.

Lardo

The cherry on top of this bloody mary was in fact, a chicharron. Lardo is a sandwich cart turned brick and motor, heavy on the meat, fries, and good drinks. The bartenders churn out pint-sized cocktails with the speed of a good deli. When it’s crowded (most of the time) the food may take significantly more time, but it’s worth the wait. If you like pork, order the Pork Meatball Bahn Mi. It’s not a typical Banh Mi, but the bread is better and the siracha mayo is tasty. If you don’t like meat, order the chickpea sandwich. And if you liked the idea of a bacon waffle, try the dirty fries— a plate of fries, crispy pork scraps, fried herbs, marinated peppers and parmesan.

Sweedeedeee
Screen Door
Luc Lac
Lardo
Taking a day trip outside of Portland? Visit Walking Man Brewing on the Washington side of the Columbia River for an amazing cherry stout and a cozy atmosphere.