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Favorite Places

    Mezza Middle Eastern Restaurant
    This cute little spot on Woodstock offers quality, authentic, homemade Middle eastern food. As it is homemade, it may take a little longer than the pizza joint down the street, but the wait is worth it.
    Korean Grill House where you get a little grill at your table to fry up meats and such. Helpful servers will show you how to do it right so don't worry about making an ass of yourself, worry about eating too much.
    Tambayan, an unassuming, sparely-but-lovingly decorated restaurant on a visually bland strip of SE Foster. Though roughly finished, it is spacious, and the child-friendly buffer between its sturdy utilitarian tables is a bit of a luxury.

    The first dish, the pata ($8.99, or $5.50 during happy hour, which runs Wednesday through Friday, 4-6 pm) is a braised and deep-fried pork hock (the structurally complex and un-sexy knuckle above the ankle and below the ham). It became a favorite item over subsequent visits. The pata features a moist, salty interior encased in a chicharrón-style crisped mahogany skin, with rich, caramelized edges on the exposed flesh. The accompanying soy-based dipping sauce completes this palate-invigorating shared starter. Also along these lines is the tokwa't baboy ($5.99, one of the menu's better values), deep-fried cubes of firm but yielding pork belly and custardy tofu, and thirsty for the sauce's sweet soy bath.

    The sinigang na baboy ($7.99)—a light tamarind-broth soup generously strewn with firm, meaty eggplant, tender pork shoulder, and string beans—is pleasantly sweet and citrus sour, reminiscent of lemongrass. The more exciting paksiw na lechon ($6.99) is a soup of deep-fried pork belly chunks in a tamarind-liver broth. It has a richer viscosity, an intensified sweet-sour flavor, and is deeply infused with dried bay leaf and black peppercorn, although the flavor of liver is—to the relief of some— not obvious.

    The kare-kare ($8.99), stewed beef in a rich peanut sauce with eggplant, bok choy, and green beans, is served slightly under-seasoned so that bagoong—the intense fermented shrimp paste common to this pantry—can be stirred in to taste. This presents a problem: Those not inured to the flavor of bagoong may find it not unlike an explosive mouthful of angry poultry feces. Approach this condiment with extreme caution, or perhaps just opt for table salt.

    Bobis ($6.99), which is described as braised pork entrails sautéed with red and green peppers in a vinegared soy sauce, is confirmed to be pork heart. It is a coarse, meaty mince with the tender texture of a crumbled pâté, served hot. The braise mellows the organ's flavor, making it approachable even for those with a basal aversion to offal. A similarly surprising offering is the ginataang langka ($5.99), green jackfruit and bay shrimp in a rich, salty coconut cream the consistency of yogurt. It is colored bright pink with our old friend bagoong, which thankfully is added by an expert hand in the kitchen and disappears into the flavor like any good, respectful fish sauce or anchovy.

    Pancit bihon ($6.99), rice noodles sautéed with pork and mixed vegetables, is a perfectly balanced and seasoned hot side dish, generous again with the meat. The pancit palabok ($7.99), rice noodles with diced pork, tofu, chicharrón, julienned egg, scallions, and fried garlic, is a less interesting option that never attains its gestalt. Another also-ran is the squid adobo ($6.99, fully intact, which I was assured is authentic to the cuisine), overcooked and inert on the tongue, and rather aquatic tasting.

    Six adults ate full and well for $60, a great value for the money. Individual combo meals, at $6.99 with garlic rice and an over-easy egg, are large and served all day.

    Tambayan, the only Filipino restaurant in our grid, is worth checking off your international bucket list; stray not far from the pig and coconut path for a solid, novel, and affordable initial foray.

    Sorabol Korean Reataurant
    A destination for Korean cuisine with a clean, airy, comfortable and hip interior. Specializing in Korean dishes like bulgogi (beef, green onion and rice) and bibim bop (mixed rice) Kimchee and of course that awesome Korean barbecue. You can also get some Japanese staples like sushi and sashimi to balance it out. Either cook your own at your table yakinku style or let the chefs prepare your meal.
    Sel Gris
    (Closed due to fire. Will not be reopening)
    Helmed by highly regarded chef Daniel Mondok (formerly of Carlyle), the menu at Sel Gris relies on seasonal, local produce to craft creative preparations of contemporary American dishes with a French twist. The service is gracious and the ambiance intimate and cozy, featuring an open kitchen and comfortable booths. A great place to impress someone special or celebrate an event.
    Romo's pulled up stakes on its previous Hawthorne location and is now serving the Montavilla neighborhood with burritos, enchiladas, tacos, homemade tortillas, chips & salsa, and of course those tempting tequila-filled margaritas.
    Pine State Biscuits
    A long time Portland Farmer's Market favorite in its own storefront without the half-hour-long lines. The heart-attack-inducing Reggie Deluxe (fried chicken, gravy, cheese and bacon in a homemade biscuit) is selling like hotcakes. But don't worry: Their cream top biscuits are also available with fillings like homemade jam, roasted red pepper & goat cheese spread, and sausage or shittake mushroom gravy—along with eggs, bacon, sausage and cheese. Just remember to go jogging or something afterward.
    Nuestra Cocina
    This unique Mexican kitchen makes a mean mole and margarita. The menu's staples include small plate fare and larger platos such as: beef tips, prawns and enchiladas. The place is visually warm, and has a beautiful patio to sprawl on when the weather allows. They do NOT take reservations and the place gets packed in quickly, so plan on a wait to dine.
    New Copper Penny
    Family friendly restaurant and sports bar offering burgers, steaks and other usual suspects as well as Greek specialties, plus off-track betting to fill your gambling itch, on one side. Huge meat-market nightclub on the other side with different themes, bands and/or DJs almost every night and pretty cheap drinks to get you in the mood.
    Get your fix of Korean mixed-rice, noodle dishes, Soups, stews and yes, kimchee.

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