I have been eating at Portabla somewhat regularly for about a year now. It all started when I read some publication proclaim their carved turkey club to be the "Best Turkey Sandwich in Austin." Now, since I have been romantically involved with a rather enthusiastic turkey sandwich connoisseur for going on 5 years now, this really meant something. I informed him of the declaration and we made the (very short) trek to verify the claim.
Now, I must interrupt to inform you, that while excellent, the carved turkey club is not the real story here. Pretty much everything here is at the very least "good," and on average "really really good." I'm actually here to tell you about the "holy crap this is fucking awesome" stuff. These happen less frequently but they haunt my dreams. I go in, praying that one of those things might be in the deli case, or if I'm a day or two late, in the cold case near the drinks.
The other thing that has permanently endeared me to this establishment is the passion and accessibility of the chefs. I have met both, Chase and now Mark, and their love shines through when giving simple explanations of the items in the deli case.
My first of these items was the duck taco. These were had a month or two before Chase's departure. Delicate corn tortilla, mango chutney, and a crumbled cheese that was somewhere between queso fresco and chevre. Oh man. Oh man. I got two of them and upon arriving home and warming them up, immediately called aforementioned turkey sandwich expert to inform him that he has to go get more on his way home from work. No dice. They were gone. Apparently they make them about once per month. I have yet to coincide with them again.
Today, I had another amazing lunch/dinner/probably breakfast tomorrow. Upon arriving, I was determined to finally try one of their pizzas. Usually, if there isn't something irresistable in the deli case I have to get either an Aubergine or Roast Beef panini. I walked in and ordered a 7" Margherita.. THEN I looked in the deli case. There they were. Golden, creamy, crusty bricks that I knew I could not resist. I canceled my order for the pizza and pointed at the case while I attempted to form words. "Oh man.. That? ... Maca - "
"Macaroni and cheese casserole. I used a béchamel base and -"
"YES. I need that."
I have been nibbling on that brick for most of my waking day and I am happy to say that I have about 1/3 of it left for tomorrow. It is gentle and mild, not gooey like most of your macaroni dreams (and mine) probably are.. But that's ok. The flavors are delicate and subtle, but still pleasantly rich. It's like mac'n'cheese crossed with a delicately flavored noodle kugel. As it warms, it softens but keeps its shape and most of its firmness. It doesn't smash you over the head with its "OMG CHEEEEEESE!!!!"... The cheese weaves gently between the tender elbows, baked into them. It has a lightly sprinkled layer of crumbs crisped on top. It has a slight amazing hint of something a little unconventional that I haven't been able to put my finger on and it's driving me crazy. So crazy that I've been eating one slow bite at a time, saving more for later when I might realize what it is. If I can't figure it out, I'm going back to as tomorrow.