Thai Treats From The Concrete Bunker

IMG_3560When I first heard of a new Thai Restaurant called PaaDee, I assumed it was one of those tacky play on English words that often form the name of local Thai restaurants (the worst I ever saw was Thai Beer. This was a strip mall restaurant in someplace like Salem. I guess they wanted to combine two items that are really popular here. So what if it makes no sense). Yes, I can imagine it now, PaaDee all night long! Thankfully, it turns out PaaDee has an actual Thai meaning, which is “to bring good things”. That makes me feel a bit better, although each time I mention PaaDee people always say “what, where?” because they are thinking I am mumbling PARTY!!!!!!

PaaDee is situated in that “love it/hate it” modern building at the corner of 28th and E. Burnside, where the Hungry i Tiger restaurant existed for many, many years. IMG_3559Normally I get totally tweaked and bent out of shape when they plow-down those older buildings for these new concrete condo things, but to be honest, all of the buildings on this corner were pretty skanky, and it didn’t seem the tragedy it usually does. Do I like the replacement building? Hardly. Things like this hulking behemoth do not belong in beautiful Laurelhurst, and now they have put another one up across the street about two blocks down on Burnside. Why does our city keep allowing this? That being said, many of the ground floor restaurants that are going into these urban eyesores are good places that fit in these modern concrete settings, and PaaDee is a good example of that. The inside of PaaDee can certainly be described as somewhat bunker-like, but it’s still got a good vibe, with big windows, banners, wooden birdcage lighting, and terrariums throughout. Also, owner Earl Ninsom seems to have good taste in music, so when you hear bands like Radiohead coming through the speakers, a group who is constantly changing into something even more modern sounding it’s barely music, your first thought is, hey, that really fits with the setting. (more…)



Trendy, Smoked, and Charred,  But Where The Heck Did All The CDs Go? 

Oh, who could have known eight years or so ago, when I was at the NW outlet of Music Millennium, buying a Garbage CD, that the next time I passed under that locally famous marquee, I would instead be doing some fine dining, not CD buying.IMG_3514 (Gee, could it be that my once every 8 year patronage cycle contributed to their demise? You can’t make me feel guilty! Not only do I regularly buy music at the E. Burnside location (I always preferred aged hippies to those trendy snots that were at the NW store ) I don’t even own an iPod.) I guess it’s not too surprising, if you count the number of record stores left compared to how many restaurants we have in Portland, that even our most famous music seller would end up being replaced by a restaurant, especially considering the fact that 10 years from now every establishment in Portland will most likely be a restaurant. Just think, the physician office/restaurant, the shoe store/restaurant, the dog wash/restaurant, the “massage parlor”/restaurant, the taxidermist/restaurant, and the morgue/restaurant (bon appetite!) Some of the restaurants will probably even have additional restaurants inside them, just for variety. The possibilities are endless!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Their website mentions that the inspiration behind Fireside (Portland) is the outdoors, camping, sitting around a fire, or a cozy gathering around the fireplace at home. IMG_3504Consequently, they have not one, but two fireplaces inside a modest sized restaurant (hey MM, that’s why you bit it, no fireplaces.) When we visited Fireside Portland, we probably didn’t get the full effect of what the owners had in mind, as it was a really warm Spring day, and no fireplaces at all were burning. I’m sure in the winter it is pleasant and cozy. It seems kind of sad though, to call your restaurant Fireside, and have two fireplaces, but only be able to use them in the chillier months (okay, here in P-Town that means cold hearths in August and September.) If only they could devise a Fireplace that spits out air conditioning. Also, since Fireside was full of trendy, beautiful, NW Portland people, it was a bit hard to imagine I was out camping, as no where was there a screaming baby, or a yellow jacket buzzing around my head (or a skeeter) or white trash 70’s rock, or a deafening throbbing generator. They did have S’Mores for dessert though, so really, what more can you expect? (more…)


Ya Gotta Beat The Clock! (But deliciously)

IMG_3465As I’ve mentioned ten quatrillion times before, I love John Gorham’s restaurants. As I’ve mentioned about three times less than that, his restaurants are incredibly difficult for group dining. None of the Gorham restaurants is overly large, and they have many “table regulations” that make bringing more than four people really tricky, like the fact that you need to have at least seven people for a reservation, but can bring no more than ten, and that you need to guarantee each space you have reserved with a credit card. Since our group is all about knowing we have a place waiting for us when we get there, RR has not been able to set foot in Toro Bravo (my fave) for at least five years now, TB having the most restrictive reservation policy of the bunch (no reservations on Friday or Saturday.)

When I heard, last year, that Gorham was opening a new restaurant in downtown’s West End in the early part of 2013, I was excited, because I thought this could potentially be a bigger space, with a looser reservation policy! As it turned out, Tasty n Alder is about the same size as Gorham’s other restaurants, but at least for now, a couple of months in, they do accept three group reservations an evening, for seven to ten people. You still have to guarantee your spaces with a credit card. You also have to promise to only stay two hours as well, for they have three seatings each night, 5:30, 7:30, and 9:30.

When the hostess called to confirm my spaces the day before the dinner and to snatch my credit card number, she once against asked me if we willing to turn the table in two hours.IMG_3467 I told her we would do our best, but asked what would happen if the party before us straggled and cut into our time. She told me she would personally boot them out at 7:30. I know when we arrived at the restaurant we waited a few minutes past 7:30 for our table, and didn’t see if the party before us left on their own volition or were given the hook, but I really do wonder what happens when your two hours are up if people are still eating dessert or haven’t finished paying yet? Do they make you stand in a corner until you are done, or maybe do you have to relinquish any uneaten food, or if time is tight, do they come and tell you you don’t have time to order dessert? I really don’t know this, as I was in the restroom right before the check came, and don’t know if the waitress even offered dessert or tried to hurry us out. It wasn’t an issue on this evening anyway, as we were all over satiated with savory foodstuffs, and none of us was planning on having dessert anyway. Obviously, we could hardly wait around for our food to settle and make more room for sweet items. (more…)


Yes, Mucca, Not Lucca, And Certainly Not La Buca!

Around a year ago Glenda mentioned visiting a somewhat upscale Italian restaurant downtown, although she struggled with the name and exact location.IMG_3421 She said the food was good, but the prices were on the high side. Then a bit after that, someone else in our group was talking about Mucca, and that they thought it was a worthwhile dinner venue, and it turns out this was the same place Glenda had previously alluded to. Although many of them aren’t great, we have so many Italian restaurants here, I tend to have no trouble finding one to add to our itinerary. For this reason (and the fact that the online menu did seem really expensive for casual Italian) I filed Mucca in the back recesses of my Swiss cheesy brain.

The odd thing about Mucca was that I had never heard of it before. Through daily reading and perserverance, I’m really pretty good at knowing about any decent restaurant that opens in this general area (unless they are in that crazy BeavTigard farther West than downtown area.) I think Mucca has been open about two years, and I’ve never read one reference to the name or any articles tracking their opening or a review of the food. IMG_3425This is really strange. The owner is from Rome, and usually when real Italians come here to open restaurants, someone gets hot and bothered and mentions there is real Italian cooking to be had. The location is certainly not out of the way; long ago, before the “Portland Food Revolution” this block of Morrison between 10th and 11th used to be one of the best for finding an interesting ethnic restaurant (and while this block still has a Persian restaurant, an Italian restaurant, a Lebanese restaurant, a Mexican restaurant, and an Indian restaurant, it’s become rather passe – although a good place to find lunch if you work downtown.) Even the Mucca space, 25 years ago I used to come in here regularly, when I worked downtown, and it was Kent’s Bento (still my favorite bento.) After that, about 15 years ago, I ate at this address  a good number of times, when it was Pasta Veloce, the predecessor to Pastini. The first time I visited the Mucca website I recognized it immediately, the brick East wall and long, narrow space are very distinctive. (more…)


Down With the Industrial Revolution!

A few months after it opened, around three years ago, I took a group of diners to Ned Ludd. I was infamously late to that dinner, as I kept driving down MLK, back and forth, without spotting the building (it didn’t look like I had planned.) This time I knew right where to find Ned Ludd, and felt a little better when two other people this evening had difficulty spotting the restaurant  (it sits back behind a little courtyard, and the signage is very low key.)

IMG_3380Because I dribbled on plenty about the Ned Ludd concept a few years ago, I’m going to attempt to keep this brief. As many people know, Ned Ludd was the figurehead for a British labor movement long ago that protested the Industrial Revolution by breaking their machinery. They understood that machines were taking human positions, creating less work and fewer jobs, much like the Computer Revolution is screwing many of us over now (hey, I’m in printing, we’re really screwed. What we need is a modern Luddite Movement!) Anyway, those folks believed in a more back to basics ethos, which is the entire concept behind Ned Ludd, cook everything on one old fashioned, tried and true piece of equipment, in their case a wood burning oven. (more…)


The Curse Of The Overdressed Salad!

I know you hear it all the time, what an exciting dining town Portland has become over the last few years. We have so many wonderful ways to buy, experience, and even grow great food in this area.IMG_3316 Over the years my members and I have talked about how much fun it would be to go to wine country, have some sips, and eat at one of the interesting sounding restaurants in the valley. Never made it though, largely because of the drive, and the thought of that fun 99W traffic, and because I’ve been too lazy to do the additional work to make it happen. Not to fear, though, this is Portland. You can actually have a French wine country themed dinner at one of the wineries in the gritty SE Industrial area, and be home in 20 minutes. Sometime last year (Fall, I think) the Fausse Piste Winery opened their own restaurant called Sauvage, and although it looks like it’s still relatively lightly patronized, it’s a fun place to grab some drinking snacks, some heartier plates, and some lovely wine sips. And, it’s at SE 6th and Ash, in the same building as the always modest J & M Cafe, just a block or two off Grand Avenue. It’s very indiscreet location, so it helps to know where you are going. They must have seen us coming though, as when Glenda and I approached the door we found it locked on the outside (but not on the inside?) and I had to yell in the window that someone needed to let us in (Glenda said to tell them there was a disabled person outside. Milking her injury, I guess.)

IMG_3305Anyway, for whatever reason, our group seems to be suffering from a reverse-kick again, so there were five of us for this dinner (2012 was up in attendance, so I guess the law of averages for independent dining groups would indicate 2013 could be an “off” year. I DON’T WANT OFF YEARS !!!) I did have my first member ever, Michael, rejoin us for this evening, however, so that was a good thing. Incredibly, he had already been to Sauvage once for happy hour, amazing since almost no one seems to have heard of or know where Sauvage is. David and Shuhong also joined us, so at least we were a bit groupy, even if we looked a bit diminutive huddled around the end of the community table.

IMG_3313Sauvage is sort of daylight basement level, so it’s somewhat dark and cozy. If you look through the doors off to the side you can see giant barrels of wine. The decor is pleasant enough, sort of rustic with dead animals and such hanging from this and that, not a really fancy space, but pleasant for both a glass of wine or a casual meal. The menu is quite interesting, made up of small plates and a tasting menu that is available if everyone participates.The cooking style is billed as French Farmhouse, and is an interesting collection of down home (Smoked Chicken Wings) and fancy (Roast Quail Skillet.) (more…)


She’s Baaack!

As a “from the beginning” Portlander (my beginning, not the city’s) Ladd’s Carriage House is a lifelong memory for me. IMG_3265In long ago days, the intersection of Broadway and Columbia tended to be one of those you circled constantly, perhaps looking for parking somewhat near the movie theaters that used to line Broadway (I think they are all gone now?) or near the Paramount (the Schnitz) where you might be attending a concert and perhaps sleeping on the sidewalk the night before. The Carriage House was always there (unless you were born before 1883, not me) and while you never saw any activity there, you were happy to see it still existed, even with its somewhat gloomy charcoal and white paint job. As this isn’t Elizabethan England, the building was always a distinctive one here. Portland has been lame when it comes to cool looking timbered construction since the early 20th century, we used to have lots of cast iron (and still have a decent selection) but really no comparable buildings in the Ladd’s Carriage House style.

Yes, it’s true this building was erected to house horses and carriages for the mansion that used to sit across Columbia where that Chevron station has been abandoned for years. Can you imagine what this block would look like if the Ladd Mansion still existed? (Yes, thank god there’s an abandoned gas station there instead!) It seems an interesting juxtaposition though, from horsie stable to multimillion dollar eatery.IMG_3286 Luckily they cleaned up all the poo years ago. There was a time when some offices were in the building, but that seems to have ended decades ago, so all you had over the last 20-30 years or so was a fancy but drooping shell. I read a feature story with Lisa Mygrant, the owner of Raven and Rose, saying one reason the build-out of the restaurant took so long, 14 months, and surely cost so much, was because there was nothing really inside the building to work with, no ducts, plumbing or wiring. I’m not sure what happened to all the infrastructure after the offices moved out, maybe they were removed to make the building “easier” to move and to create more possibilities for a future buyer?