Welcome to another edition of First Tastes, were we showcase good eats at new-to-us spots in Portland. This city is full of delicious food and lots of places to check out, so no doubt this column will run for some time.
Avocado Toast | Radio Room. I’ll start with this because I have been critical of avocado toast for many years as “too precious” and/or “twee.” However, the time was right for me to give it a try, and I’m here to tell you—glad I did. At that moment in time, I wasn’t super hungry and this dish seemed light yet substantial, and it was hard to resist the siren song of the avocado that morning.
Toasted multigrain bread was spread with soft, ripe avocado topped with caramelized onions and a poached egg; nutritional yeast is sprinkled on top. I liked that the eggs had runny yolks and were not overcooked. The avocado tasted fresh with no off flavors. Overall a really satisfying breakfast. Radio Room, 1101 NE Alberta Street, Portland
Enfrijoladas | Alto Bajo. A couple weekends ago we decided head to the coast for some heat relief, and picked up a rental car in downtown Portland early on a Sunday morning. But before we left town we needed breakfast. Our first choice was Mother’s but it was a madhouse of tourists and locals, so we ended up wandering a block or so away to Alto Bajo, the restaurant in the Hi-Lo Hotel, for some modern Mexican grub.
I chose the plate of Enfrijoladas—scrambled eggs rolled in tortilla, topped with black bean sauce, crema, cotija cheese and escabeche. I’d not had this dish before but it made for a very good breakfast. The egg-tortilla mix was tender, and the black bean sauce was rich and smooth. The escabeche was tasty, but colder than the tortillas, which I think detracted from the overall dish, but not by much. The pickled vegetables were a nice foil to the richness of the rest of the dish. Alto Bajo, 310 SW Stark Street, Portland
Pollo and Chile Verde Tacos | Robo Taco. On a recent wander session, we found ourselves at Robo Taco. Now, I had recently read some razzing online of said taco spot, but I wanted to make my own decision. They were tasty, with flavorful meat and simple flavors. The chile verde taco had a little more liquid in it than I’m used to, but overall these were really decent tacos. I’d eat them again. Plus, they are open quite late, which is a real bonus. Also, my watermelon agua fresca was great! Robo Taco, 607 SE Morrison Street, Portland
Pulled Pork Plate | Russell Street BBQ. I met up with my friend Judith for lunch the other day and we decided to get lunch at the SE Belmont location of Russell Street BBQ. I thought the plate of pulled pork and sides would offer me plenty of taste options, and it sure did—there was the pork (more chopped than shredded), a good amount of greens, some coleslaw and cornbread. The pork was porky and tender, and I loved the segments of bark on it. I added the Classic sauce, at medium spiciness, and I loved the flavor—sweet and spicy. It went perfectly with the pork. Russell Street BBQ, 4246 SE Belmont Street, Unit 2, Portland
Mango Slaw | Chef Salimatu Amabebe. I tasted this mango slaw from Chef Salimatu Amabebe at a recent blogger meetup at Room & Board in The Pearl. It was sweet, crunchy, and so refreshing. She does vegan Nigerian meals with Feastly—check them out! The next one is September 16.
Chocolate and Hazelnut Gelato | Pinolo Gelato. We’d had dinner on SE Division Street and stumbled upon this little gelato place which made some of the best gelato I’ve had in a while—better than Grom, better than Il Laboratorio in the LES. I was amazed by the incredibly creamy texture and clean, focused flavors. I was in love at first bite and can’t wait to stop by and try more flavors. Pinolo Gelato, 3707 SE Division Street, Portland