January 2009


The Dining Report – Tapalaya

Try Chewing Those Patooties Without Any Etoufees

Kudos to 28th for attracting another reasonably priced restaurant. Is there really another street in Portland that within about six to eight blocks you can find restaurants like Pambiche, Dove Vivi, Fonda Rosa, La Buca, Navarre, Esparazas, Ken’s Artisan Pizza, and now Tapalaya? Lots of good quality food at a moderate cost. Sure, Alberta and Mississippi have good places in close proximy to one another as well, but lots of those places will set you back more than a few bucks, where basically every place on 28th can be relatively inexpensive, at least as far as our trying economic times go and how much things cost these days.

Health nut that I am (????) I love Southern food, and basically when I hear a new Southern inspired restaurant is opening in these parts, I’m there.IMG_0873 Except for ribs though, Portland’s interest in the food from down South seems fleeting at best, so many of the Southern places don’t seem to last around here for too long. I’ve always been rather ambivalent about Bernie’s, but most of the other Southern places we have in Portland I love, Acadia, Roux, The Screen Door, Miss Delta, yum, yum, yum. So imagine my excitement when I read a few months ago that a New Orleans inspired restaurant with small plates would be opening soon in the space vacated by the unfortunate Taqueria Nueve, especially since small plates means you can sample lots of different things, which is just what out group of eight did this pre-inauguration Friday night.

It’s easy for me to make positive comments on the dinners, because as hostess and RR promoter, it’s my job, but I think this was a relatively fun and lively outing for us. For one thing, Southern food is almost always fun, much having to do with the names. Who can really take dishes with titles like Etoufee, Gumbo, Jambalaya, Sweet Patootie, or Hominy too seriously? IMG_0869Just ordering makes you feel goofy, especially once you get some of those extra strong New Orleans style beverages in you. Also, we had a couple of new recruits joining us on this evening, actual Southerners (originally Floridians) drawn by the promise of down home cookin’ and reasonable prices (one of the two is famously thrifty when it comes to going out to eat.) So thank you Betsy and Dennis, for finally giving RR a whirl. It was fun having you (even if I do see one of you over 36 hours a week,) I hope we see you again someday (I’ll let DM know when we have another inexpensive restaurant on the horizon.) Actually this was an evening when I had two of my co-workers join my table, so not only was my profession well supported, but we also had three people who work in the medical profession, at least three avid readers who obsessively purchase and borrow books, and several rabid Obamites at the far end of our table. (Although the way things are right now, I think we all need to be rabid Obamites and offer our support.) (more…)

The Dining Report – a Cena

Can I Get A Side Order of Baby?

Sorry folks, this review is not exactly starting off with a bang. First, I managed to screw up at least 2/3rds of the photos by having my camera in some weird mode (not movie though, even I know when I’ve stumbled into that strange camera setting.) Then, it’s taken me almost two weeks to even start this review, largely because the room where my computer is has just been too cold to work in. Right now the ridiculous snow is still swirling, and a million inches are still on the ground, but I’m forcing myself to at least start this review on this listless Christmas Day by sitting a foot from a space heater throbbing away on high and trying to keep the blood circulating through my fingers with some vigorous typing. (Most of it incomprehensible words.)

I must say, however, that this is the first month since Restaurant Roulette began that I was happy that I didn’t even try to schedule two dinners for the month. IMG_0823That second dinner would have been pretty tough with my car basically buried in a four feet high snowdrift for most of the later half of December.

Originally I thought I was going to have my largest turnout in months for the a Cena dinner, a whopping seven (these are lean days,) but after a last day flake out, we ended up with a more typical count of five bodies. IMG_0766Luckily these were fun and lively bodies (fun and lively makes up for late) and it was really great to have our old friends Grace and Frank rejoining us after a long absence, they are such an interesting couple.

When old favorite Assaggio bit it in fall of 2007, no matter how torturous our last dinner there was (in the last week of their existence) I wasn’t exactly champing at the bit to go when I read that a new Italian place would be filling the Assaggio space. For one thing, I always loved the way Assaggio looked inside, especially the cozy and quaint wine bar area, I didn’t want to cope with how someone would wreck the wonderful little space (although Assaggio always seemed to have issues with clogged toilets, which were much too close to the dining room and kitchen for comfort.) Also, I heard or read that the people who were opening a Cena had some sort of connection to the people who bought and seemingly trashed Assaggio, which didn’t inspire much confidence in me. you should be able to take over one of the area’s favorite restaurants without wrecking it within a couple of years, especially when you don’t really change the menu. And then, there was the name, a Cena, who knows what that means or how to say it? ( ah chay na, I think is how it’s supposed to go.) Somehow I really got rubbed the wrong way when I read the owners say before opening that they had confidence that the type of clientele they were interested in drawing would know how to say it. Attention, all you really pretentious people, this is just the dining venue for you!