1028 SE 12th, 231-6068
Each dish at The Basement is served for one dollar a plate. (Or, if you feel like going crazy, you can get the dinner plate for $5.) The menu includes standards such as chips and salsa (pineapple or tomato) and black bean hummus. There's also the option of the simple, spicy chicken taco, served with a load of chopped onion, chilies, and cilantro. Thai noodles are a possibility--a little heap of ramen-style noodles tossed in a peanut sauce and topped with purple cabbage and carrots. It's best to keep in mind that none of these dishes are culinary masterpieces, but hey! They're only ONE DOLLAR, and a welcome relief from the standard soggy fry available on most bar menus.
1735 W Burnside, 224-1341
So grease is gross and starches are bad for you and carbohydrates turn you into a grotesquely obese sloth, but who wants to eat a fruit plate the morning after you've been drinking like a goddamn fish? Booze isn't exactly health food; you might as well make it a double-header (and hey... why not just start in on the day's next beer as long as you're back at the bar?). That's probably why the Marathon Taverna, a gloriously seedy bar on West Burnside, serves the Gardenburger. The 'Thon's Gardenburger, a squishy, greasy, cheese-dripping study in arteriosclerosis, is pure unadulterated heaven. It literally drips with gooey vegetarian love. Comparable carnivorous dishes also available in excess. So are old, old men.
East Bank Saloon
727 SE Grand, 231-1659
East Bank requires absolutely nothing of you, the customer. You can roll into the EB wearing a muscle-tee or a suit. Chill at the bar, or make tavern chit-chat with some peeps at the long community tables in the smoking section. The specialties include the fish and chips, (light and delicious), the juicy steak sandwich (more steak than sandwich), and the two-pound bucket of clams For $9.75 (nice, aye). EB also has a meatloaf or veggie sandy, the extremely rare but extremely spectacular turkey Rueben, and a variety of seafood soups and regular old salads. Go if you like low-maintenance, cheap food, no bullshit, and a breezy, weekday atmosphere...
2821 SE Stark, 232-3704
Blood-red walls and candles adorn this low-lit establishment, lending the slight impression of goth-iness--but without the depressing aftertaste. And though it is definitely more "lounge" than "restaurant," Bonfire offers a brief but extremely satisfying selection of foods on the cheap. Vegetarians and meat-lovers walk hand in hand on this menu, which features options for both. The Portabella mushroom burger offers a juicy marinated counterpart to the Bonfire Burger, which we've got to say (thanks largely to a nicely cooked patty and chipotle mayonnaise) is the best sandwich of its type we've had in this burger-deprived town. The gyros (Portabella or Beef) are equally attractive, heaped with Tzatziki, tomatoes, onions, and feta. Plus, they have a lot of booze and you can smoke cigarettes.
15 SW 2nd Ave, 790-9090
XV is a proud bar that inspires intimacy. It's lovely, not because it's perfect, but because it gets an A for Effort. The staff works hard on the food, which isn't too spendy, and the cocktails are sublime--a genuine taste of the islands. Try the Grand Cayman or sample a Brazilian Caipirinha made from cachaça (sugarcane brandy) and limes. Both food and atmosphere are so confidently executed, you don't question whether they are an appropriate match. Especially notable are the Vegetarian Spring Rolls, Coconut Onion Rings, Jerked sandwiches, and Beef Picadillo (Sloppy Joe-licious!). In addition to transcendent cocktails and a reasonably priced wine list, beers are both high and lowbrow (any bar that serves Pacifico is dreamy).
250 NW 13th Ave, 226-3394
Bluehour doesn't suffer from the typical restaurant owner malady of great concepts, but shoddy execution. And it doesn't insist on venturing into crazy, uncharted territory. Blue is simply successful at accomplishing what everyone has tried before. Take the scallops and bacon appetizer. Nothing you weren't served at the last wedding you attended--except this time the scallops are cooked just right: tender, slightly sweet, and matched well with salty, crisp bacon and a mysterious, tangy sauce. Bluehour refuses to go overboard with bells and whistles. In fact, the list of entrees is downright plain. Food and cocktail presentation is smart but not overwhelming, just like the surroundings--swank but unadorned, bold without being imposing.