Our final day in Portland provided us with about eight hours to crank out as many stops on the list as we could. The most painful restaurant miss of all was Expatriate, a reservation we sacrificed to be with our friends. I still cry a little inside when I think of the butter and onion sandwich that could have been. We wanted to move in the general direction of the airport, and we had plenty of spots mapped out in that trajectory, so, we started with brunch at Broder, a Swedish spot in Southeast Portland (oddly, Broder is directly across the street from Dot’s, the ending to our previous night’s adventures). The whole of Broder is pretty adorable, from the Hansel and Gretle exterior, to the warm, cozy, yet sharp interior. There is a tree theme of sorts, on their t-shirts and what-not, that is replicated in the long, branching light fixture that runs the length of the ceiling. I also enjoyed some pleasant, mounted-bass-induced Soprano’s flashbacks, from my back-to-the-wall vantage point: I started with a bloody, positively loaded with pickled goodies: Jake ordered one of their aquavit cocktails which was spectacular to the point that I became filled with regret over my drink order. We had a smorrebrod sampler, one with pickled herring (a little rough on my tummy, that morning) an egg salad, and a gravlax with crème fraiche. While the sandwiches were tasty, that giant disc of potato hash was an absolute masterpiece. Especially when mixed with the swedish meatball gravy that came with our other order. Our second item was a bigger success; Swedish meatballs swimming in the most delectable
butter gravy, lingonberry jam, hearty walnut bread, and chard. All sitting on the cutest damn little board with checkered paper. Broder’s food was great, and while the menu had so many wonderful options that we would have loved to try, we imposed a two dish limit upon ourselves to save room for our next stop, Pok Pok, which was a very close ten or so block walk away. http://www.pokpokpdx.com/ Yes, I know Pok Pok is old news, but none of us are of the mentality that something has to be new and exciting to be worth a visit. Pok Pok is as well-known as they are for a reason; It’s AWESOME. I was really into the space, a sprawling network of pathways that lead to indoor/outdoor tented areas, with little Christmas lights all over the place, some bizarrely fabulous, old school Asian sounding tunes playing…Pok Pok really has the most authentically Southeast Asian feel. This the main pathway off of which the various nooks are located: All of the staff wear walkie talkies, cop style, which is slightly off-putting in the huge operation kind of way. However, with the maze-like layout, it makes a lot of sense. Our server was really knowledgeable, really friendly; he took the time to figure out what we were looking for and what dishes would best serve our tastes, he thoroughly explained ingredients and preparations, as well as teaching us the best approach to eating each dish. Being fully immersed in the vibe, and wanting something sweet to balance salty flavors, I ordered the Mango Alexander, a coconut cream and Mango cocktail, to start. I’m not normally a sweet cocktail person, and I don’t really want another Mango Alexander in my life, but I did totally enjoy that one. It was…decadent. I felt like I was guzzling sweet, sweet, creamy fat. Mikey ordered this magnificent rendition of a Vietnamese coffee with a Brandy spike We knew we had to get an order of the quintessential Pok Pok dish, “Ike’s Vietnamese fish sauce wings.” The texture was dry and sticky, the wings having been marinated in sugar and fish sauce, deep-fried, then tossed in a carmelized sauce. They were quite good but not my favorite order that day. The dish that threw us all into fits was the Papaya salad, “Isaan style” (read: hot) And hot it was. At one point I looked over to see both Randi and Jake, two really tough customers when it comes to spice, with runny noses and eyes, bright red faces, sucking air in a desperate attempt to cool whatever nuclear spice had just planted its capcacin stickers in their tongues. To be honest, I was a little terrified, since I am a far bigger spice whimp than they. I was informed that the perpetrating pepper was swimming somewhere in the sauce pooled at the bottom of the dish, and I did go in for it, but alas, it never made its way to my palate and that’s OK with me. The joy inducing ingredient, for all of us, was this stanky, salty, fermented crab that I have searched high and low for since. Our server explained that it is some special variety of tiny crab that comes from southeast Asia, in a jar, mixed with a bunch of gnarly shit, and left to soak and seethe for like a year or something before it’s time to serve. God, it was good. Our last dish was the Muu Paa Kham Waan, or grilled boar collar, served with chilled mustard greens for intermittent palate cleansing and heat relief. Randi and I were fools for the fresh, bright flavors (think lime, garlic, and coriander) and juicy, soft meat. Our server recommended that we get an order of sticky rice to use as a conduit for picking up the meat. We were enjoying the food, atmosphere and drinks so much that we decided to order another round before moving on.
I believe that would be a Rhubarb Blush, a Lord Bergamont, and a Deviation, but don’t quote me on that. There was nothing else on our list that was nearby and open, so we asked our server for a recommendation. He told us about the Reel M Inn, a nearby dive bar with fried chicken and jojo’s. That billing was one million percent up our alleys, so, with a tip of the hat to Pok Pok, we set off on another short walk to our next destination. Our trip was momentarily interrupted when we were sucked in by the adorably crisp Little T American Baker: The goal was, at first, an espresso for Jake, but then, who could stand in front of this and give it the cold shoulder? We opted for this caramel cream filled chocolate éclair: Seriously. OMG. OH. MY. GOD. Dudes. That éclair was freaking nuts. Soon, we came upon the Reel M Inn http://www.yelp.com/biz/reel-m-inn-portland: The Reel M Inn was dark, homey, lively, and divey:
The perfect place to digest, drink, watch sports, and kill some time before our departure. It occurred to me then that my father in law had recommended it as one of his favorite dives in Portland, and rightfully so. The moment a tiny bit of tummy room made itself known, we ordered the fried chicken and jojo’s that the Reel M Inn is known for: There were a variety of dipping sauces from which to choose; my favorite was the honey mustard, and I don’t remember them all, but I’m fairly certain there was also a BBQ and a ranch. Other than that, you got me. The fried chicken was a collection of piping hot, salty, crispy, juicy dark meat. The jojo’s…well, who doesn’t love jojo’s? Awesome spot, the Reel M Inn. As I went through my photos, in preparation to write this post, I was slightly horrified to find that this completely unneccessary nonsense happened at the airport. Way to go, guys. Broder: Pok Pok: