Many thanks to the Portland Hounds who commented on my query thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/902578 Herewith a rambly report on our fifth gastrotrip to your lovely city.
Our first stop was at Mr Green Beans on Mississippi to pick up quite a few pounds of green coffee beans http://diycoffeeroasting.com/green-co... and a simple Hario hand grinder for $30. We got this little guy last trip and the SO has been enjoying learning how to roast in it: http://diycoffeeroasting.com/shop/fre...
We got to Toro Bravo at opening for a DIY happy hour (they don't offer any discounts). This place is super popular and while we by no means ordered a representative number of dishes, I'm afraid I don't quite get it. My chef's choice cocktail was fine, and our snacks were okay to not great (speck and cheese with olive oil on it? overprocessed mayo on a flavourless salt cod fritter? overcooked padrones -- sob!--?) We won't be rushing back.
Dinner was at Cabezon, where the outside dining is right on the street so though it was warm enough we opted for a cozy window booth. I'd booked here especially for the petrale not realizing the menu online was a sample one only, though it is clearly marked as such, duh.
I really wanted fish and the kitchen was kind enough to swap the sides from the sturgeon (not a fan) onto the lingcod for a $1 charge. I started with an outstanding local asparagus soup with Manchego cheese and croutons ($7; served piping hot, yay!), and the aforementioned ling cod with excellent mashed potatoes, strangely hard English peas, baby carrots, T&T pancetta and jus for $26. Fish was done perfectly and all the flavours worked well together.
The SO opted for cioppino with white gulf shrimp, local fish, Dungeness crab, manila clams, mussels and calamari ($22.50) which though a tad tomatoey for his taste was well executed and generous without being overwhelming. It went well with his pint of Hop Lava Double Mountain IPA ($5), while I washed my meal down with The Bee's Needs (Aviation gin, St Germain, lemon and sparkling water $9) which was a bit more medicinal-tasting than I like.
I couldn't resist the Deep Roots Farm strawberry crisp with caramel and vanilla bean ice cream ($7) which was good but not special. If I lived near Cabezon I would be here a lot: good value, tasty food and solid service.
The SO had some work stuff to take care of so I headed off to Sweedeedee. The place was almost full at 10:30 and very warm inside. Kind of amazing that there could be 30-odd people under 30 all at loose ends on a Thursday morning. Nabbed a counter seat and settled on the breakfast which contains the famous corn cakes, braised greens, eggs and bacon (forgot to note the price).
I had decided I couldn't get the vaunted honey pie as well, and wistfully asked the woman sitting next to me if that was what she was having. She said yes, and insisted that I take a piece of hers to try (!). It was lovely, sort of like a pecan pie without the pecans. The breakfast was also delicious with nicely prepped greens and perfectly cooked eggs and bacon, and very hearty -- I could only finish one of the pancakes.
I read some complaints on another site about the counter service and lack of seating after the fact. I could see how that might be an issue with a group but it didn't bother me as a solo diner. I sat close enough to where the orders are taken to request butter and receive it speedily.
Picked up the SO and we headed out to Hawthorne and another Evoe revisit. Chef Kevin was in the house, as were sand dabs! I am obsessed with sand dabs and petrale, and will order them whenever they are on a menu. These might be the best ones I've had yet (vying with a dish made by Chef Dennis Leary at Canteen in SF).
I was delighted that my best-evah beet salad survived from March. We also tried the Basque-influenced txistorra with frisee and a sunny egg, a fave of the SO's whose love of gnarly sausages knows no bounds. And we had to have the fava beans with pecorino which were either a hair past their prime or slightly overcooked but still very tasty.
I really wish we'd tried the artichoke, fennel and guanciale but we were running out of room. As usual, an exemplary repast in a charming setting. There was a fellow next to us who had a when-Harry-Met-Sally moment with the lamb meatball sandwich; will have to try that next trip. Washed it all down with a Commons Madrone and an elderflower spritzer. Sigh.
We noodled around a bit more on Hawthorne and then decided it was time for a cold drink and a sweet snack. The lefse at Viking Soul Food beckoned, as did the delightful lingonberry iced tea, which I would recommend in the strongest terms. The lefse (one honey, one strawberry, goat cheese, honey and pistachios) were tasty but didn't seem all that different from a sweet crepe.
We also tried a malasada from Namu -- while nicely made to order, it was kind of a glorified Timbit.
The day was unseasonably warm and the iced tea wasn't enough so we next sought out some cold beverages of the hops-based variety at Horse Brass Pub, largely on the advice of the lovely young man at Namu who goes there most every day before his shift.
This place styles itself an English pub with all of the stereotypical flotsam on the walls and stodgy-sounding grub on the menu but more than two dozen daily drafts on offer. Very comfy and welcoming with lots of snugs to sit in and a well-versed young waitperson who clearly know her beer. She hastened to point out that virtually every draft is available in 10-oz pours when we asked about smaller sizes. Sold!
The SO tried the Full Sail Session Dark Lager ($2.25) to start and followed that up with an ESB ($2.95) from the same brewery, giving the edge to the first one. I was tempted by a Summer Radler from Ten Barrel Brewing in Bend ($2.95; mmmm fruit beer! a bit sad that we didn't make it to the fest for these lovely beverages) which was super drinkable and one of the best beers I've tried.
Photos: sad padrones and ham at Toro Bravo, Cabezon bar, lingcod and cioppino, Sweedeedee breaky and honey pie, sand dabs, sausage and beets from Evoe, wonderful fruit beer from Horse Brass, lingonberry juice