Great places to eat on Rainer Avenue South in Columbia City are popping up like mushrooms on a warm day in the rainforest. I am talking about the block or two or three that starts at Hudson and Rainier Avenue S. and heads north. Having tried two of the newer places in the last little while, most notably the Columbia City Alehouse, I felt compelled to share some of my thoughts with my fellow chowsters about three of the eateries in that stretch
Columbia City Alehouse: WOW! Fabulous FOOD! Hurry on over before the fish tacos go off the "specials" menu. I went last night for the first time with a friend who has eaten there several times. I couldn't believe the quality of the food. Outstanding! I was very hungry when we went in about 9:30pm on a Friday night, and couldn't decide between the Southwest Turkey Burger, the Spirelli with Chicken, or the fish tacos. The waitress said they were all really good, but said the fish tacos were on the "specials" menu, so they likely wouldn't be available next time we went in..so eat 'em now! Gee whiz. She was so right. I have never had such incredible fish, in a tavern OR a restaurant. The quality of the fish was unbelievable. The fish was advertised as being fresh true cod, in a light batter. Well, it was light all right, lighter than the spring air of a May night, crispier than a paper thin Tim's potato chip, and fresher and "truer" than could be imagined. And even that doesn't do those fish tacos near the justice they deserve. There were two HUGE pieces of fish, in a kiwi salsa and light slaw, in two very fresh tortillas, served with a generous helping of mixed greens in a chipotle dressing. Even though I was starving when I went in, I could only eat one of the two huge tacos. My friend ordered soup and salad, a "bowl" of simmered pork chunks in pinto beans, chili, basil, coconut milk, tomate sauce, onions and green chilis. He received a HUGE bowl of the day's special soup, and a very, very tasty caesar salad. The soup was served with chunks of como bread and sweet butter. So delicious. Since it is an Alehouse, the lagers, pilsners, porters and stouts are also exceptional. We both had the Black Butte Porter, very creamy and delicious. It was a bit noisy in there, but then again, it was a Friday night and every table was filled when we went in. It was only half full when we left at 11pm. I will be back...this afternoon would not be too soon for another try out of that menu.
La Medusa: This little restaurant has been around the longest, and is a neighborhood favorite for us. We have had many great meals there. Billed as "Italian Soul Food", we usually start with the "Grandma's Greens", a dish of cooked to perfection, very fresh mix of greens in a garlicky broth with plump golden raisins. From there,one of us usually gets the fish special, and the other gets the linguine con vongole. The last time we were there, the fish was a wonderful mustard seed (I think) crusted halibut. The linguine con vongole (clam sauce) is a standard on the menu, heavy on the garlic in a light, fresh sauce, plump clams and lots of bite to the dish. The fresh pizza's are also delicious...and the wine selection is small, but excellent and reasonably priced. They seem to have access to low cost, great wine we don't find anywhere else in the city, and we have never been disappointed by any dish we have ordered. It is a small restaurant, a very nice neighborhood place, with friendly, attentive service, and a sentimental (for us) favorite.
Salumeria: Bummer. Great, great service, terrific waitress, but we won't eat there again. The waitress was by far the best part of our evening. Wait, the complimentary bread and olive oil were very good, too. BUT, very disappointing food. The calamari appetizer was bland and boring, served in olive oil and tomatoes. Blah. The lobster ravioli in a light tomato sauce with peas was also dull. The mixed antipasto platter? Blah. Boring. Tasteless. Both the caesar and mixed green salads were overdressed, and the caesar was overpriced at $6.95. Maybe we didn't order "right", but we struck out on every dish.
Deux Tamales: Haven't tried it yet...read the menu posted in the window, sounded good..looked a bit pricey. Have you tried it?