Once again, this has nothing to do with Gwyneth. (If you want a laugh at her expense, though, check out this brutal blog post, sent to me by my sister.) I’ve been super busy this week, so there’s been no time to cook or even grocery shop. As a result, I haven’t been too healthy since I returned from Orcas Island. But today’s post DOES have to do with food, so let’s give me another pass on the Gwyneth stuff today. Instead, let’s talk about what makes Portland so fucking great.
First of all, for those unaware, I’m not originally from Portland. I hail from the great (now not-so-great, thanks to Scott Walker) state of Wisconsin, and I ended up in Portland the same way 95% of the city’s residents got here: After graduating college I came to the swift realization that I had no longer had any purpose or responsibility in my life, so why not move to Portland? More specifically, I got drunk with two friends (actually, one was sort of an enemy at the time, oddly enough) one night in Madison, and we boozily made a pact to move to Portland together. Within a couple months, improbably, we had a three-bedroom apartment in Northeast Portland. It may have been the best decision I’ve ever made.
Now I’ve been here two years, and it’s still a fun and exciting place to live (although I do wish people wouldn’t hole up so much during winter — it’s just rain, people! It won’t hurt you!). I don’t know where I’ll be in five years, or even if I’ll be here by this time next year, sadly, but I now understand why today’s version of the Oregon Trail is almost solely made up of aimless, recent college graduates migrating to Portland. It’s the perfect place for a person in their mid-twenties to live, to simultaneously grow and expand their horizons, while also remaining firmly locked in adolescence. Forgive the cheesy, extended metaphor, but it’s a bit like Never Never Land. Peter Pan and the Lost Boys all refused to grow up, and in many ways they always remained kids, but even they couldn’t stop becoming halfway-adults; they learned to fly, they fought a war, they fell in love. Portland is a place where people go if they refuse to grow up, but still find themselves surprisingly older, wiser, and more experienced not too long after they arrive.
Anyway, why am I getting all rhapsodic when what I really came here to do was talk about the best fucking dinner I’ve had in Portland? Let’s get on with it.
After leaving Orcas Island, my parents spent two days meandering down the Oregon coast, arriving back in Portland on Tuesday night. For their last meal in town, we wanted them to eat the best Portland had to offer. So, after much agonizing and Yelping, we realized there was one perfect option: Tasty n Sons. Tasty n Sons is the second Portland restaurant by John Gorham (the first being the similarly lauded Toro Bravo), and it’s gotten rave reviews from just about everybody.
Now, Tasty n Sons is almost exclusively known as a breakfast joint, and ever since being named Restaurant of the Year by Willamette Week (as well as John Gorham’s recent James Beard nomination), weekend lines are around the block before the place even opens. Unless you wake up at dawn and pack a tent, it’s hard to get yourself a spot for breakfast. A couple months ago, we managed to rustle together a group of 8 people to meet the six-person minimum required for a reservation. And even then, we had to reserve our table over a month in advance. But we eventually brunched, and it was glorious. So I was slightly skeptical as to how a breakfast joint would fare during dinner. As I quickly learned, I needn’t have worried.
The way Tasty n Sons serves their food is “family-style,” so dishes are meant to be shared. Dishes are also served as they come out of the kitchen, so if you order enough, you’ll have a seemingly never-ending flow of food arriving at your table within minutes. We started with some bread and butter, and even that was better than the bread at any other restaurant. Soft, fresh sourdough, and greatly aided by some sort of delicious butter to spread on top. My mom wanted to immediately order more, as it was only a dollar, but we had a whole menu to get through, so we didn’t. Happily, a mistaken second plate of bread arrived on our table a little while later, and we quickly devoured it before the waitress could correct her error.
We then ordered one of the specials, even though we didn’t understand every other word the waitress used to describe it. I don’t know, I think it was sauteed or grilled onions, with bacon and lots of other delicious stuff? Whatever it was, I loved it. We almost bit the waitress’s hand off for trying to clear the dish before every last bite was gone. Next up were Low Country Hush Puppies, which were deep-fried and fantastic in the jalapeno dipping sauce. We also got Grilled French Green Beans and, uh, holy shit. Those were gone in seconds, and now we really had to struggle against the urge to order seconds. We each also had a bacon-wrapped date, which are stuffed with an almond and smothered in maple syrup. Need I say more?
We then moved on to some main courses, ordering the Pork Cutlet with spaetzle & sunny-side up egg, the Pork Souvlaki with flat bread, tzatziki and cucumber salad, and the Quajado, or “Mediterranean Jewish frittata.” Giving in to the restaurant’s breakfast proclivities, we also ordered a Bambino Plate: scrambled eggs, bacon, a biscuit, and honey butter. And good thing we did, because this was mind-blowing. I don’t think any of us have ever had eggs that perfect in our lives. We practically turned into wild hogs over the plate. The Pork Souvlaki was the least favorite of the group — the pork was slightly over-smoked, giving the dish a bit of a burnt flavor, although I found that if I layered on the tzatziki and cucumbers, it balanced out fairly nicely. The Quajado was really good, but seeing as we had two egg dishes, the Bambino Plate was obviously going to demolish everything in its path. The Pork Cutlet was, in my opinion, fan-fucking-tastic. Obviously, the egg on top was cooked perfectly, and the pork, spaetzle, and broken egg yolk sent me into a torrent of obscene expressions of delight.
Even then, guts expanding, my parents weren’t done. We ended up ordering THREE desserts: warm chocolate chip cookies baked to order with vanilla ice cream, a root beer float, and Auntie Paula’s French Toast sundae with bananas, caramel, and nuts. The first two were really good — and by that, I mean quite possibly the best fucking cookies and root beer float I’ve ever had in my life — but nothing compared to the french toast sundae. Holy god, we went INSANE over that dish. I can’t even describe it. I’ll start crying if I think about it too hard. Just, you know what? Picture God. Cover him with caramel sauce. That’s what it tasted like.
Overall, it was the kind of meal that not only reaffirms your conviction that Portland has some of the best, most exciting food in the United States, but it also just reaffirms your faith in HUMANITY, after three months of cooking nothing but Gwyneth Paltrow’s food.