Friday, September 14, 2012

Shut the Screen Door!

Abbe and Jebby are back with a mouth-watering review of one of Portland's most accomplished Southern cooking establishments; Screen Door.

 Abbe’s Meal: Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich with Mac n’ Cheese
          First of all this meal doesn’t look like a sandwich when it comes to you, it looks like someone put a piece of toast on either side of a pig and then made it a coleslaw hat. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get this luscious beauty into my mouth, but I knew I was going to make my most valiant of efforts.
The textures and flavors of this meal were amazing; a lightly toasted bun with crisp edges, tender melt in your mouth smoked pork, reminiscent of good old backyard BBQ,   and fresh, crisp slaw in a tangy sauce. The way these 3 simple ingredients complimented each other was like nothing else I’ve tasted. Usually you would expect some BBQ sauce dripping all over your plate, enticing you with sweet and savory scents of honey and chilies, but this little darlin’ stands on her own, no “secret is in the sauce” needed here, just a skillful chef with a whole lot of love in his hands.
          My sandwich came with a heaping pile of fresh fries, which did not disappoint. Cooked to perfection and lightly salted, I was practically licking the crumbs off the plate.
          I also ordered myself a side of Mac n’ Cheese. I have tasted my share of this internationally loved dish all over Portland, from The Delta Café’s jumbo rigatoni noodles in white cheese to Le Bistro Montage’s Old Mac with a garlic cream sauce and parmesan, so when the waiter brought me a bowl covered in melted cheddar, my taste buds were tingling. This mac n’ cheese was far different from my previous exploits; with traditional tiny elbow noodles swimming in a creamy medium cheddar sauce and topped with a bubbling layer of cheddar that’s baked immaculately. And when I say “side” of mac n’ cheese, I mean I was given the smaller version of a bucket.
         Overall this meal was everything I could have wanted from its menu description and more, I left with a full fundus and penguin like waddle.

Jebby’s Meal : Crispy fried buttermilk –battered chicken with tasso ham gravy, mashed potatoes, and collards.
          What a mouthful! In every single way, this was a spectacular meal. A visit to this restaurant is a treat. It is the type of place I wouldn’t want to go more than a few times a year because it is special, and I wouldn’t want to ruin that specialness by making it a common occurrence. Something about this place has a way of uniting us, when we all begin to drift our separate ways, the atmosphere of Screen Door pulls us in for a big to-do and we all remember just how much we enjoy breaking bread together.
I ate the fried chicken last year on my birthday, and this year I considered shrimp and grits, but the fried chicken at Screen Door is so amazing I had to have it again, it is simply too luscious to pass by. You receive an impossible amount - huge slabs of the moistest, mouth-meltingest chicken that has ever had the good fortune to pass through your eager lips. I don’t know how they do it, the batter is thick, audibly crunchy, peppery as the dickens and wouldn’t dare slide off the chicken. Dear Screen Door, please tell me your secret to keeping your fried chicken dressed, even as we obliterate it with our forks and knives.
The mashed potatoes are buttery smooth and creamy, but I do take issue with the tasso ham gravy. The last time the gravy tasted the same. It has a bit of a… I hesitate to say it, but a gym-sock taste. It reminds me a bit of the Easter ham end that has been left in the oven too long and has turned into a piece of strange ham-jerky. It just tastes… weird. I don’t find it to be a particularly tasty complement to the mashed potatoes, but thankfully they are delicious enough to eat on their own. It’s not horrible gravy, but it doesn’t do the chicken justice. Pro-tip: cut a strip off of your chicken and dip it in mashed potatoes. Dunk in gravy if desired. You’re welcome.
            I would eat a bucket of Screen Door’s collard greens. They are perfect. The stalks are tender, the leaves just degraded to the point where they begin to give up their delicious liquid. Every so often, a delicious chunk of ham will appear, tucked into the fold of a leaf. If all mothers made Screen Door’s collard greens, I don’t think we’d ever have a problem getting children to eat their vegetables again.
Finally, I had a few hurricanes with my meal. The specialty cocktail choices are slim if you aren’t a fan of whiskey, which I am most certainly not. The hurricane looks and tastes like a tropical vacation in a glass. It comes to you in a tall fluted goblet full of pink deliciousness topped with fruit. They don’t taste like they’re going to get you hammered, but before you know you’ve had two of them and you’re walking up to Chopsticks 2 to make a fool out of yourself singing Patsy Cline. Or maybe that’s just me.

Abbe and Jebby’s Dessert: Banoffee pie, Lemon Pudding pie, Pecan pie, and Pineapple upside down cake.
We ordered a smorgasbord of deserts and shared with our friends.
The banoffee pie was a surprise; Jebby doesn’t normally enjoy the flavor of bananas. But smother them in rich caramel and envelop them in flaky pie crust with fresh whipped cream, and even the most anti-banana banana haters will be singing a different tune. Although, Abbe still refused to try it. She is an extreme anti-banana banana hater.
The pecan pie came in tartlet form, with the same sumptuous caramel paired with candied pecans and more fresh-whipped cream.
The lemon pudding pie was tart and refreshing, topped with heaps of fresh, ripe strawberry slices.
Our final dessert was a pineapple upside-down cake, which was served with ginger ice cream, the perfect complement to the warm, caramelized pineapple and decadent buttery cake.
Screen Door Overall:
Many Portlanders already know the secret of Screen Doors magic, so if you want to eat here expect a wait. If you have a party of 6 or more you can skip the line with a reservation, but don’t dare be late or show up without your complete party, Screen Door’s policies are strict and an empty table doesn’t sit empty for long.
Screen Door uses all local and seasonal ingredients so they can “maintain the connection between farm and plate” as they put it. Their southern inspired menu brings a fresh perspective on down-home soul food cooking to Portland and definitely gives some of Portland’s other Southern inspired eateries a run for their money.
The atmosphere at Screen Door is unique; not an overtly large establishment, but well laid out; my favorite aspect being the open kitchen, which we had the pleasure of sitting near. Watching as the busy and always good looking staff hustled people’s meals to and fro, we got to indulge our foodie fantasies of trying everything on the menu by being true voyeurs. Drooling with gaping maws at the myriad of meals being carried past us only heightened our desire dive face first into our plates.
The décor at Screen Door is somewhat rustic with a modern flip. Lots of wood paneling and lots of wood in general, Screen Door has a clean and simple look. You won’t find a lot of kitschy Portland art or clever and snarky chalk board specials, but you’ll find it comfortable and that’s all that matters when your knees deep in your Mac N Cheese pouring Hurricanes down your gullet.
All around Screen Door offers a new way to eat Southern in Portland and a better way to get tipsy enough to sing Karaoke two blocks down. 

Screen Door's memorable menu can be ogled over here:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Divine State Biscuits

Here is the Abbe and Jebby post you've all been waiting for, PINE STATE BISCUITS FTW!!!!! ENJOY!

Jebby’s Meal: The Reggie

The Reggie – it’s a silly name for a serious sandwich. Who is Reggie, the man behind the biscuit? Whoever Reggie is, or was, he had good taste in food. Can you put every single one of my favorite things in a sandwich without the world imploding? Yes, you can. The Reggie proves it. What does my favorite breakfast sandwich (yes I said it) have between its buttery biscuit halves? I’m glad you asked. I made you a bullet list because each item is so special.
·        Fried chicken
·        Bacon
·        Cheese
·        Gravy
It makes you want to bury your face in it and never leave, doesn’t it? As far as I am concerned, this sandwich is beyond reproach. The biscuit on its own is dense and buttery with a tender, flaky crumb. I could eat this biscuit every day for the rest of my life and not get tired of it. But when you add moist chicken encased in a thick, crunchy, perfectly seasoned batter with countless nooks and crannies to hold the creamy, peppery gravy in place and top that shit off with toothsome thick cut bacon and tangy cheddar? Let me tell you folks, you are in for the mouthgasm of your lives. I would worship this sandwich and make sacrifices to it. I would smear mud on my body and dance around a fire chanting its name. I would go on a crusade in its honor.
And just in case there wasn’t enough cholesterol in that orgy of deliciousness, you can add a soft-yolked fried egg to this bitch for a dollar more.
Bam, Reggie’d.
Jebby out.

Abbe's Meal: TheMcIsley

Ain’t nothin’ finer than a lil’ bit o’ chicken fried. Stick it between a fresh and flaky biscuit, add on top of that any number of worthy garnishes, and you’ve got something close to the proverbial “mind blow” that us foodies search for day in and day out. Well fellow foodies, I’ve found somewhere you can get your next high; Pine State Biscuits.
I knew I wanted to try this sandwich before entering Pine State. This little number consisted of fried chicken breast atop said biscuit with pickles, stone ground mustard, and honey. Can I get a hell yeah?
While Jebby went for a more topping heavy approach, I wanted to see just what the minds behind the Pine had up their sleeve, including the various ways they apply the common condiment. The first bite was like an introduction; a stranger setting foot in a foreign country and carefully making the acquaintance of its inhabitants. The second bite was like being hit in the face with a unicorn. The supple and juicy center of the chicken breast was perfectly incased in a crispy and delectable shell of batter that had been scalded by a talented hand. The stone ground mustard added a sharp note to the bite, while the vinegary pickle added tang, and in the midst of it all was a healthy helping of luscious honey taking just enough edge from the bitter flavors and enhancing them with a wave of sweetness. Then there was the biscuit surrounding this entire concoction; oh the biscuit. The texture and aroma was that only of a fresh from the oven confection with a light crunch on its outermost parts and then devilishly soft and flaky at its innermost. With a buttery and sweet flavor all its own, this pastry literally melted in my mouth while it tangoed with the chicken.
Hands down this sandwich is genius. Throw any and all doubts to the curb before you enter this restaurant, because even your highest expectations will be exceeded.

Our overall review

We could find only one major downside to Pine State Biscuits, so let’s get it out of the way early. This place is TINY. If you like to stretch out and put your feet up on the seats, forget about it. I’m going to crush your dreams of laying spread-eagle across an entire table while you eat your biscuit concoction into the dust. You will be lucky to find a chair, but you might be better off eating your meal in the car so the entirety of Portland doesn’t see your O face. One other potential downside (if you’re lame) is that everything on the menu is made of biscuits. If you don’t like biscuits, you should walk, not run away from this place. Actually, you should probably just walk off the planet, because life isn’t worth living without a healthy love of biscuits. The word’s in the name – if you don’t want a biscuit, don’t go here.
The décor in Pine State is… piney. There’s a big old blackboard at the front of the restaurant announcing the delicious biscuity fare, and a counter where you order your food. There is a table, or maybe two, and a small counter at the back. That’s about it. The atmosphere is sparse, but the flavors are big.
And really, with flavors so epic, we didn’t mind cramming ourselves into the tiny counter seats to wolf down our food. It’ hard not to, everything we ordered was top quality. You can tell the folks at Pine State put love and care into their food. From the compostable “corn cups” to the flavorful sweet tea, every part of the meal felt like someone who knew what they were doing really gave a crap about what was being sent out. It’s a good feeling.
The portions at Pine State are ample, and the prices are tiny. Abbe and I got so hungry while writing this review that we started to leave to go there, only to find out that this leavened heaven is only open until 2 on weekdays, though the Alberta location does have late night hours on weekends. In all seriousness, do yourselves a favor and eat here.  We do not give our seal of approval lightly, but Pine State Biscuits is all the big down-home comforting deliciousness you could ever ask for in the smallest possible package.

Pine State's amazing menu can be viewed here!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sabur-oh no

Long time no see! Here at Abbe and Jebby headquarters, we have been busy as bees the past few months – between my graduation from Portland State, a bout of illness for Abbe’s beloved pooch Kiya, and fabulous new jobs for both of us (at the same place, no less), we have been a little indisposed. But we are back in the saddle with another review! This time, we visit Saburo’s, a well-established institution in the little neighborhood we both call home.
            For this review, we’re going to do things a little differently. We both ate the same food, but we had very different opinions. Instead of separate reviews for each of our meals, we will each write an overall review of our experience. For the record, we both ordered miso soup and edamame and shared salmon sashimi, an alaskan roll, a spicy tuna roll, and a cucumber roll.

Jebby’s Overall Review
My family moved to Sellwood when I was eight years old, and the most consistent thing about this neighborhood has been the masses of hungry people lining up outside Saburo’s. Shitty Thai restaurants come and go, the space on the corner of 17th and Sherrett has been a thousand things while I’ve lived here, but the little sushi shop on the corner of Bybee and Milwaukie has endured, and so have the hordes of customers. Not rain, nor sleet, nor driving wind can keep them away – in the dead of winter or the middle of a heatwave, it doesn’t matter, there will always, without fail, be a line outside Saburo’s.
            So, you could say that this review has been seventeen years in the making. Honestly, the thing that makes Saburo’s so distinctive, their enduring line, is the very thing that has kept me away. When you see a line in front of a place, it usually means it’s good, but it also usually means a long wait. In our case, it was also a really unpleasant part of our dining experience. I expected friendly banter with the other customers waiting to dine, but Abbe and I were pushed and jostled, and when we got inside and saw how small the space was, it became a bit of a nightmare. The place was jam-packed full of people, and seemed short staffed. We were hurried to a corner and treated as though our presence was a nuisance.
            The décor of the restaurant was pretty awesome, with a full wall ukiyo-e style mural in the back. Unfortunately, the layout went beyond “leaves something to be desired.” We were crammed into the tiniest space possible and I could literally feel the next diner over breathing on my hand they were so close. I just don’t understand. The restaurant is obviously successful. If you have enough diners that you have a line of people outside every night waiting to eat there, you should consider expanding to a space where your diners can be comfortable and enjoy their company while they eat your delicious food.
I did happen to think the food was delicious. Abbe and I varied wildly in our level of gustatory enjoyment, but my overall opinion of the food was very favorable. Our appetizers, miso soup and edamame, were well-prepared and arrived hot, cooked well, and liberally seasoned. The sushi and sashimi we ordered were fresh as fresh can be. The salmon sashimi was the highlight of my meal. The chunks were admittedly a bit large, but the fish was beyond fresh, with just the right amount of unctuousness, and tasted as good naked as it did with a few scant drops of soy. It was the perfect accompaniment to the fresh cucumber rolls we ordered. They were liberally stuffed with cucumber matchsticks and wrapped in a thick layer of faintly vinegary rice. They were excellent for cutting through the richness of the salmon.  The Alaskan roll was ample and tasty, if not especially memorable. The spicy tuna roll, for me, was the only thing that wasn’t particularly delicious. The fish was fresh and tasted good, but the spicy tuna mixture was a bit bland, and I’m being kind. It really could’ve used a generous dose of soy or more spice. It didn’t have fabulous mouth-feel either… the spicy sauce had an almost watery texture that didn’t cling to the fish very well and was unpleasant on the palette.
Despite this one shortcoming, I felt the food was top-notch in quality and had obviously been prepared by someone who knows what they are doing. Will I return to Saburo’s? Maybe.  Like I’ve said before, a restaurant is a melding of food and atmosphere, and Saburo’s is seriously lacking in the atmosphere department. It’s also expensive. I’d expect that for the quality of the food, but the dining experience we had there was one of the worst in recent memory. I’m willing to sit in a shitty place to eat amazing food, and especially CHEAP amazing food, but there’s really no excuse for the lack of service and terrible atmosphere at such a successful restaurant.

Abbe’s overall review:
Honestly, I was a bit disappointed, Saburo’s. All this time Jebby and I have fantasized about visiting your alluring sushi bar, but the moment we walked through the doors I felt you were underwhelming.
The seating arrangements in this place suck. They’re all over the place and crowded and we were shoved into a tiny little booth like seat in the back, crammed in between other tiny booth like seats that were full of people squeezed together.
The service took forever and a day, at a busy establishment you can expect some waiting, but when you have 5 servers splitting up a house of 15 tables, I feel like it shouldn’t take 20 minutes to get a soda.
I’m a Sushiland kind of gal myself, so I figured, this place must be like Sushiland except 10 times better because it’s fresher and more high quality ingredients. Well, high quality ingredients aside, which I will admit they were, everything we had was lacking flavor. The Alaskan roll was surprisingly bland for what was in it, the spicy tuna rolls were OK, but the spicy sauce they use leaves much to be desired. It was basically some version of watered down Sriracha. I will say the edemame was enjoyable, warm and salted and tender, the way it should be. And the miso soup was good, nothing that stands out from other competitor’s miso, but still good.

Overall I think Saburo’s is an overrated sushi joint that attracts hipsters. The layout is a cluster fuck, the service is slower than molasses in January, and the food is mostly bland and unexciting.
The coolest part of our trip to Saburo’s, for me, was the picture of the white cat dressed in Japanese garb at a table of sushi.

Friday, June 3, 2011

We Want Your Feedback!

To all our lovely readers out there in foodie world:

     Abbe and Jebby want your feedback and your recommendations! Is there something that you've been burning to tell us about how we can better our blog and make your food voyeurism more enjoyable? Do you know of an amazing restaurant that should get some A & J recognition? Tell us about it!
     Here at Abbe and Jebby headquarters (i.e. Jebby's living room) we have been brainstorming some new and exciting ideas of how to better our blog and all of this collaboration wouldn't be complete without the opinions of the people who matter the most; YOU! So tell us what you think, how you feel, what are your deepest and most forbidden food fantasies? And watch the magic unfold. 
     You can submit your suggestions to us via Twitter, our Facebook page, our Tumblr, or here on our Blogger with a comment. Keep an eye out for your recommendations to be featured in our poll, where all our readers will vote for our next two restaurant reviews!
     With tender, juicy love,
     A & J

Monday, May 9, 2011

Más cornadas da el hambre!

Hunger strikes again! Read on to find out how our brave foodies, Abbe and Jebby, have conquered the beast!

Jebby’s Meal: Pozole with chicken
Jebby's Drinks: Mojito and Tamarind Margerita

I think I’ve come to the conclusion that pozole is just a food that I’m not that into. Hominy, garlicky pork broth, shredded chicken, chilies, lime… all these things are things that I enjoy greatly. Yet, when you put them together, the   whole is somehow less than the sum of its parts. The pozole at Casa del Matador was actually pretty solid, I just wasn’t blown away. The broth was moderately flavorful, full of tender hominy and piled high with shredded chicken, chunks of creamy avocado and crunchy tortilla strips, but it was really just okay. I’m pretty sure that I think pozole in general is just okay – nothing to really write home about, but probably very comforting the morning after a long night of drinking or if you grew up on the stuff. 
I feel really bad giving the pozole a less than stellar review because our appetizers and Abbe’s food were so delicious, and a subsequent visit yielded an extremely tasty entrée. However, I think it is in the reader’s best interest for me to say that you should go to Casa del Matador, you should not order the pozole. There are far tastier and more delicious options (like the carne asada enchiladas) and unless you’re really into corn soup you’ll probably be disappointed when your friends get plates of tacos and enchiladas with steaming piles of fragrant beans and rice and you’re eating some meat broth with tortilla chips on it. I will, however, mention that the more I drank the tastier it became, but I suppose that’s true of all food.
The drinks at Casa Del Matador are something I can rave about. These people know all about tequila and most of their drinks are tequila-based. The mojito was good, but the tamarind margarita was absolutely stellar – refreshing, well-blended, unexpected. It came garnished with a cinnamon-sugar rim and got me positively schnockered. A+, would drink again.

Abbe and Jebby’s Appetizer: Spicy Fried Calamari


Who doesn’t like some fried squid? Jebby and I are seasoned calamari tasters, having eaten at every end of the fried squid spectrum. But when we tasted the Matador’s Calamari, all bets were off. Everyone knows that calamari has a specific rubbery texture that makes it unique, what a lot of people don’t know is that well made, fresh calamari can still have that rubbery texture, but can also be tender and buttery.
Our squid was melt in your mouth delicious with a crisp coating of flour and spices that created an inspiring combination of textures. The garlic aioli was like something out of a Gordon Ramsay fantasy, thick and creamy, absolutely bursting with flavor. I don’t think the plate lasted longer than 3 or 4 minutes before Jebby and I had obliterated any evidence of there ever having been food there. It was drool generating magic.

Abbe’s Meal: Mole Con Pollo
Abbe’s Drinks: White Peach Sangria and Blackberry Margerita

After reading the description of this meal on the menu, I needed look no further for what I wanted to try. I was absolutely giddy with excitement to get this food into my fundus. Watching the waitress carry my massive plate of steaming magic towards our table was like watching a moment from a romantic comedy where the two lovers finally reunite and everything is in slow motion with some sort of Celine Dion song playing in the background.
I immediately began piling my warm corn tortilla high with beans, rice and all the amenities. When it was time for the chicken I delicately took my fork to the tender meat and watched as it effortlessly fell off the bone. Before mixing it in with all my ingredients I took a blissful bite of my mole and chicken; the tasteplosion that followed was unlike anything I could fathom. The mole was sweet and spicy with an ethereal undertone of cinnamon and chocolate that swirled around the flavors of chilies and garlic. Combined with the velvety and juicy chicken that was cooked to perfection, I was practically drunk on the taste.
Added to my lovingly built taco, the mole and chicken were even more titillating when garnished with warm black beans, steaming Mexican style rice, sour cream, house made guacamole and unbelievably fresh pico. I had found the Spanish dish that I’d always dreamed of. The dish I’d dreamt of sharing over candlelight with Simon Baker, the dish I had only thought existed in a world where unicorns were a reality, the dish that Walt Disney himself couldn’t put into a cartoon fairy tale because the movie reel would explode.
And if that wasn’t epic enough to put me into a food induced coma, my white peach sangria was so flippin’ scrumptious I wanted to cry.
Just do yourself a favor and eat at Casa Del Matador. Nothing else in life matters.

Overall Review:
I spend most of my food related time thinking about Spanish dishes; rice, beans, slow cooked meats, melted cheeses and so on. All those sticky fumblings at other Spanish restaurants and I could only dream of getting out, getting anywhere, getting all the way to the Matador. Jebby and I discovered this little gem by accident, we were actually on our way to dine at a southern food restaurant owned by the person who previously owned the Delta Café, one of our favorite places to eat. When we drove by and saw 10-20 hipsters lining the outside of the building waiting for a table, we decided to put that dining experience on the back burner for now and happily drove across the street to the Matador, which had enticed us with the giant cow skull crowing it’s emblem and the moody lighting shining like a beacon from inside it’s burgundy draped windows.
Once inside we looked around in awe of the gorgeous décor and all around amazing interior of this new found treasure. Wooden paneled walls adorned with various bull and cow skulls, large floor to ceiling windows garnished in deep red and burgundy velvet drapes, antique chandeliers and unique light fixtures hanging above each table, a rustic fire pit in the middle of the room surrounded by a table and chairs, and lastly a huge bar lined to the ceiling with bottles of Tequila sparkling in the dim light and tinted by the stained glass mosaic of what looked like a sacred heart and another bull skull.
I just want to point out that the interior of this restaurant is how I wish the inside of my house looked. I want to live there.
Jebby and I were greeted by a friendly hostess and seated in a large booth. You get two menus, one for food and the other for Tequila. Casa Del Matador has on of the largest Tequila bars in Portland and they aren’t kidding around. The menu has three full pages of every Tequila they carry, prices ranging from $5 for a shot to $400 for a bottle. This visit was solely for the purpose of food review, but someday we vowed to return and have a Tequila tasting night.

We were blown away with how fresh the ingredients in our food were. The master minds behind the food at Matador create their own unique recipes that put a completely new spin on “tex-mex” and put a completely new feeling of satisfied in your belly. Every meal is preceded by a large bowl of hot tortilla chips and house made salsa, as much as you can eat.  The Matador even has a fresh sheet for each month that contains recipes using ingredients that are specifically in season at that time.
You too can enjoy the magical atmosphere and food of The Matador at one of their numerous locations including two in Portland, four in Washington, and one in Idaho

Casa Del Matador's brilliant menu can be slobbered over at

Monday, April 11, 2011

24 Hour Party People

It's been awhile, but your favorite food fanciers are back with a vengeance, this time with a review of an old favorite, the Original Hotcake House on SE Powell.

Jebby’s Meal: Bacon cheeseburger, fries, and a coke.
I know what you’re going to say. I can hear the words coming out of your mouth right now – “You went to a hotcake house and didn’t order breakfast?” I know, I know. I am a heretic of the highest order. When Abbe and I approached the war-torn counter, I noticed a small laminated sign advertising that for a short period of time, all beef served at the Hotcake House would be 100% organic and come from cows raised by the owners. I looked at the picture of a happy black and white milk maker on the laminated sign and my mouth began to water as I pictured it between two toasty halves of a sesame seed bun. When I saw that a bacon cheeseburger was one of the specials, I nearly died.
The burger was voluminous, with a patty of sweet, sweet cowflesh nearly as thick as my hand. This masterpiece of meat had a blush in the center that would make a milkmaid jealous and was swaddled in a thick blanket of cheddar cheese. My beef beauty came with a hot, toasty bun and a massive heap of crisp lettuce, tomato, and onion. The bacon itself deserves a round of applause. It was bacon that meant business. The slices were about ¼ inch thick and cooked exactly how I like my bacon – not too crisp, not too soft. I’m getting a little hot under the collar even talking about it. There is just something special about a really well-made burger. The different flavors, textures, and temperatures of the ingredients come together to play a symphony of deliciousness to your tastebuds.
The fries were oily and unspecial, but considering that I would’ve paid twice as much for a burger of that caliber, I could overlook some sub-par fries.

Abbe’s Meal: French Toast, hash browns, and bacon
I still don’t understand how Jebby’s bacon came out so well on her burger, yet mine was a catastrophe. I can only assume it was a different cook who made our meals. My bacon was so over cooked, it was literally black and crunchier than the captain’s cereal. I pondered approaching the sweaty line cook and asking for a better batch, but the house was busy that night and the cooks were looking surly. I bit in, one unsatisfying bite at a time and hoped my hasbrowns and toast would bring me more joy.
My hashbrowns weren’t much better than my bacon, dry and also crunchy, I found myself weeping for the poor potatoes that sat on the stove too long and lost all their illustrious flavor. Every other bite I would get a nice soft glob of perfect browns, followed by an unpleasant crunch and sand like texture. What a waste.
My french toast was the belle of the ball. Soft and tender slices of toast, in all their glory, steaming with the sweet aroma of cinnamon and maple syrup. Each bite erased a small portion of the memory of my burnt bacon and crunchy potatoes. The hotcake house has one consistent thing, which seems to be their hotcake batter and their French toast. I still haven’t experienced a bad pancake, only bad toppings on good pancakes.
So overall my meal was a mess of bad textures, but ended with a nice soft pillow of maple smothered french toast.

Our overall review:
                I’d just like to preface this review by saying that Original Hotcake House is not a place you necessarily go for an amazing meal. In a town where most establishments close before 10, it can be difficult to find places to eat. Enter OHH. The first time I went to the ‘House was in high school, and I remembered it being like stepping into a Quentin Tarantino movie. Not much has changed since then. Every surface in the OPH is still slick with grease, the staff still looks like they just got off the prison bus, the jukebox still cranks out everything from Buddy Holly to Ciara for patrons willing to shell out the change, and the food is still inconsistent as hell. 
                While my bacon cheeseburger was a dream, Abbe’s meal was a nightmare. In subsequent visits, we’ve reached the highest highs and lowest lows of greasy spoon diner fare. The quality of the food seems to depend largely on who is cooking it. Things at the Hotcake House can be very hit or miss. But one thing is for sure, the people are always interesting. A year or so back my friends and I struck up a random conversation with a gaggle of train-hopping punks from Tennessee. Last time, Abbe and I spent the entire meal trying not to laugh at a highly intoxicated woman whose sweatpants kept migrating down her butt as she danced to the music on the jukebox. It’s an excellent place to get a big, cheap plate of hot food and strong coffee and just watch the madness unfold.  Just don’t expect that big cheap plate of hot food to blow your mind every time.   
               Here at Abbe and Jebby Eat Portland, we don’t always go to a restaurant because the food is amazing. Sometimes, we go for the experience. The Original Hotcake House is a perfect example. While the food can certainly be amazing at times, it can also be really bad. But the people, the atmosphere, the place itself are what keeps us coming back, and we urge you to give it a try if you’re racking your brain for a place to eat after 10 p.m.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Let's get TOASTED!

After two recommendations from our facebooking friends Hazel and Craig, we finally decided to visit the morning meal magicians at Toast to put their plates and our palates to the test. So, grab your breakfast eating hats and hold on as Abbe and Jebby visit Toast to see what their friends say is a meal to remember.

Abbe’s Meal: Badass Sandwich- Fried eggs, Bacon, Goat’s milk cheese, and greens on toast with a Rosti.
This sandwich was badass to say the least. The inspiring combination of fresh goat’s milk cheese, melting all over tender bacon and eggs with “I just picked this off the plant, literally” tasting arugula and crispy, thick cut toast was enough to convert me to a permanent Toast patron.
When my plate of food first came to the table I was dismayed to see my eggs very undercooked. I had asked for over medium, which in egg speak, usually means fully cooked whites and mostly runny yolks. What I got at first was runny whites and runny yolks leaking all over my rosti and toast. The waitresses however were extremely hospitable and immediately had my eggs re-cooked and my plate cleaned of the previous egg’s innards. This time the eggs were fully cooked, which still wasn’t what I asked for, but nonetheless was delicious with my sandwich.
The bacon was perfectly crafted, thick slices cooked to a crispy edge and a tender middle. All the flavors complemented each other so well and to top it all off was my delicious rosti. Up until our visit to Toast I had been a rosti virgin, only having eaten similar provisions like potato latkes that my bubby makes. Once the eye-popping flavors of butter, eggs, tender yet crisp potato and salt and pepper hit my anticipatory tongue I walked through a newly opened door of the magical myriad of potato application. Who knew you could take a rather plain yet versatile vegetable and turn it into a Disney World type experience for your mouth? Obviously the Swedish knew and then they gave us rosti.
I would highly recommend this meal to any knew visitor or seasoned frequenter of Toast, in fact I’m half tempted to do that car salesman pitch of “I’ll eat my hat if you aren’t satisfied” shpeel. It’s THAT good.
Abbe’s Drink: Grapefruit Mimosa- Fresh Grapefruit juice served with Cava.
I’m a mimosa advocate. By the time we sat down I was ready to blurt out “I’ll have a mimosa!” to our smiling waitress. She recommended the grapefruit to me and I am pleased to say she has good taste. The combination of champagne and juice seems simple enough, but believe me, it can be a horrendous experience when not done with craft. However, not by the master mimosa makers at Toast; they use a Spanish sparkling wine called Cava, which I had never tried before and it was a delicious replacement for champagne to accompany my grapefruit juice. After one sip I asked our waitress if they fresh squeezed the juice because the flavor was so exquisite it HAD to be fresh squeezed. In fact, the juice came from a Portland based company called Aloha, no I don’t mean the dismal SW city next to Beaverton. I was excited to learn about how local Toast’s ingredients truly are. The coffee, the juice, heck I expected a goat to be tied up in the back yard named Bessy who gave them the milk for their cheese.
In summation, try their cocktails, or better yet, just have a MIMOSA!

Jebby’s Meal: Dismal Times - Ground hanger steak, white cheddar cheese, chives, greens, served open faced on toast with two fried eggs and a rosti.
If you had told me before I came to Toast that an open-faced egg, ground beef and cheddar sandwich on toast would be one of the better breakfasts I have eaten, I would say you were nuts. But it was. Honestly, I only decided to order the Dismal Times because they were out of what I REALLY wanted, The Occasional Hedonist. I was really in the mood for breakfast, and many of Toast’s dishes sound more like lunch or dinner. Cassoulet? Tomato sauce? Steak? I came to eat breakfast and that’s what I intended to do. I figured that you guys probably get sick of listening to me review biscuits and gravy and eggs Benedict, so I ordered the only other thing on the menu that sounded breakfasty enough to satisfy my cravings without being made out of cereal, and that was Dismal Times.
            I didn’t really get it right away. After the first bite, I remember asking myself “Um, why did you order this, again?” but the second bite… oh, that second bite. I cut into the over-medium egg and the hot, runny yolk filled all the nooks and crannies made by the ground hanger steak and melted the cheese a little more thoroughly. That second bite was breakfast heaven on my tongue. The ground steak had just a little pink on it still and was full of big, beefy flavor. I don’t eat red meat very often, but when I do I like it still bleating for clemency, so good on you, Toast, for not overcooking my meat. This isn’t just ground beef.  The ground hanger steak at Toast has that nearly indescribable savory richness of beef flavor that you get when you eat the first bite of a filet mignon. Combined with the peppery arugula, rich yolk, creamy white cheddar and pillowy toast, it makes for the perfect breakfast sandwich. You will never want to defile your palate with an Egg Mcmuffin again. My parents have this incredibly annoying habit of dumping loads of hot sauce on everything they eat, so I usually make it a habit to avoid doing it myself. However, Toast makes a mighty fine hot sauce, and a few splashes of it taste really great on the Dismal  Times.
            Another thing Toast does really well is their rosti, which graces most dishes where hash browns or home fries would usually reside.  Their rosti is simple, but delicious: shredded potato, egg and butter that is crunchy outside and creamy on the inside. My favorite.
Jebby’s Drink: Apricot Fizz - Dark and spiced rum with apricot, lime juice, and ginger ale.

            I am sad to say that my drink at Toast was not as tasty as my food. I was really looking forward to the Apricot Fizz, as I love both apricots and booze, but I was disappointed here too. The apricot was sadly absent, and all I could taste was sweetened lime. Don’t get me wrong, I love limes, but I wanted apricot and I was let down.  Don’t let the Apricot Fizz put you off going there though, the food is more than worth it. 

Our Overall review of Toast:
So what makes a restaurant cool in Abbe and Jebby's growing book? Our list, let us show you it.
1. Local/ fresh/ seasonal: Restaurants that serve locally purchased and seasonal produce, cruelty free meats, and vegan/vegetarian options are always a bonus. Toast is about as local as you can get, serving fresh and delicious items from awesome P-town purveyors, whether it's veggies, meat, coffee, or juice.
2. Knowledgeable: We always feel that a restaurant can far surpass it's many competitors by being knowledgeable about the food they serve, what's in it, where it comes from, if they've tried it, and what they think of it. We want to know what's going in our bellies and if you think our bellies will be satiated. The very knowledgeable people at Toast gave us great recommendations and were happy and ready to answer all of our inquisitive foodie questions.
3. House-made accoutrements: There is always originality in a restaurant that makes it's own versions of condiments, drinks, seasonings, etc. Toast makes their own badass hot sauce, which complimented both our meals and we think that making something common into your own unique creation, makes you stand out.
4. Good service: The service that the staff at a restaurant gives can make or break any one's experience, whether they're unfriendly or just inattentive. Toast's friendly service and smiling staff made our meal one to remember.
5. Atmosphere: We feel that the atmosphere of any eatery is a cornerstone to a positive nosh, heck, even distasteful art can ruin a good meal. Toast is a warm and bright environment with comfortable seating, good ambiance, adorable art, and overall aesthetically pleasing surroundings. We felt right at home as we dove face first into our delicious meals.
6. Coffee: Nothing goes better with a taste-bud-bursting breakfast than a strong cup of well crafted Joe. Toast serves a locally made coffee called Courier, which at first taste was a little weak for Jebby and I. The second time around was stronger and I sipped with pleasure, but Jebby felt it was still a skosh too flimsy. Obviously everyone has their feelings about how they like their coffee or don't like it for that matter, but for us, we like it strong, bold, and fragrant.

These six points are just an outline of how we like to grade our restaurant experience and I think we'd both agree that Toast deserves an A!
So if you're looking for a locally minded, friendly, attentive, and unique meal, we would recommend you give Toast a try.

Toast's brilliantly crafted and mouth watering menu can be viewed at