Eat and Drink Guide Fall 2016
AS WITH ANY restaurant opening, Ben Meyer took a gamble when he debuted Old Salt Marketplace on a lonely stretch of NE 42nd Avenue in May 2013. But his vision was especially ambitious: turning a 6,000-square-foot industrial space into a full-service restaurant, in-house butcher shop, and event space, with a meat and sandwich retail store to boot—all on a block where the few restaurants in business were bars and taquerias.
But Meyer, who lives not far from Old Salt, was drawn to the availability of a big space at prices unseen closer to downtown, as well as NE 42nd’s classic Main Street vibe.
“This was us putting our foot down,” Meyer says, adding that he made Old Salt so multi-faceted in order to bring services like a coffee shop and butcher to the underserved Cully neighborhood. “This is us sticking somewhere and continuing long term.”
Other streets—SE Division, N Williams, NE Killingsworth—can also claim the title of a restaurant row. But they’re all under major redevelopment, with high-priced apartments and retail build-outs that require incoming restaurateurs to pay top dollar. The restaurants on this stretch of NE 42nd between Killingsworth and Alberta Court are repurposed buildings, allowing for a mix of ambitions.
Within less than a half-mile, there are great longtime taquerias; bars NePo 42 and the Spare Room; a pair of pizzerias in Pizza Jerk and Red Sauce Pizza; the Southern pop-up Mae at Old Salt; rotisserie chicken spot Pollo Norte; and a burgeoning food cart pod. The collection has grown gradually over the last three years, with one opening following another.
Melissa McMillan moved her excellent Pastrami Zombie food cart next to Pollo Norte this summer after a short stint on E Burnside.
“What I love is that it’s a community,” McMillan says, taking a break from the lunch rush. “I wanted to be surrounded by people who love what they do, take a lot of pride in it, and work really hard.”
She says she sat at Pollo Norte—whose opening in 2015 saw hordes of chicken lovers form a line out front—for months, asking questions and taking in the foot and vehicle traffic. When she opened, Tommy Habetz from Pizza Jerk down the street was one of her first customers, and she’s run down to Red Sauce to borrow tomatoes and towels when she’s been in a pinch.
Meyer of Old Salt adds that, while more restaurants would certainly fit the street, he actually hopes more housing is built along this stretch, along with more basic services like a greengrocer. McMillan, who also runs the successful Sammich sandwich shop in Ashland, says she plans to open a brick-and-mortar shop of her own—hopefully nearby so she can find a kids’ baseball league to coach like she did in Southern Oregon.
“I know it isn’t booming here yet,” she says. “But I knew this was the place for me.”
1. Ole Frijole
4125 NE Killingsworth
I will always have a soft spot for Ole Frijole’s chicken burritos, which routinely get the job done. They offer solid chile rellenos and other taqueria fare.
2. Santo Domingo Taqueria
5447 NE 42nd
Most items are better at Ole Frijole, but WHOA, Santo Domingo Taqueria’s weekend-only menudo is a favorite of local chefs and others in the know.
3. Pastrami Zombie
5429 NE 42nd
This newcomer is the best of the several food carts located next to Pollo Norte. The smoky, fatty meat in the pastrami sandwich (or piled onto a burger) will become an obsession that’s hard to shake.
4. Pollo Norte
5427 NE 42nd
A friend of mine literally saw two guys throw elbows over who was going to get the last of these Mexico City-style roasted birds. With a side of the pinto beans and the amazing cabbage cooked in the drippings, it’s easy to understand why.
5. NePo 42
5403 NE 42nd
Wings. Trivia night. My favorite unhealthy salad with a fried chicken breast on top. NePo 42 has become a neighborhood classic.
6. Pizza Jerk
5028 NE 42nd
Tommy Habetz’s ode to his time coming up as a pizza cook gives the NE 42nd neighborhood some seriously good pies that range from simple pepperoni to an homage to dandan noodles.
7. Old Salt Marketplace
5027 NE 42nd
Opened in 2013, this is chef/owner Ben Meyer’s temple of butchery and meat craft. Old Salt is one of the best (and best-priced) dinner options in town. And those pork rinds... damn.
5027 NE 42nd
Mae pops up on Monday and Wednesday nights, and Sundays for brunch, behind Old Salt. It’s a monument of Southern cooking, with the chicken fried in three fats being chef Maya Lovelace’s crowning glory.
9. Roses Ice Cream
5011 NE 42nd
Roses has known what’s up with NE 42nd for a long time—since 1950, actually. It’s the kind of burger and shake joint where you could totally see Rizzo, Sandy, Danny, and Kenickie out on a double date.
10. Red Sauce Pizza
4935 NE 42nd
Perhaps a bit overshadowed by the opening of Pizza Jerk, Red Sauce holds its own, with creations from a former manager of Apizza Scholls. Eat the “Jill of All Trades” underneath the upside-down “Pizza” sign.
11. Spare Room Lounge
4830 NE 42nd
This is where the magic happens. This longtime bar and former bowling alley plays home to hard rock concerts, old-person bingo nights, country-western dances, and a hell of a karaoke setup.