Best of Melting Pot Portland 

Written by Chas Bowie, Amy J. Ruiz, Ezra Ace Caraeff, Courtney Ferguson, Alison Hallett, Marjorie Skinner, Erik Henriksen, Matt Davis, Scott Moore, Christine S. Blystone, Lance Chess, and Will Gardner

BOSNIAN PITA
The lovely Ziba gets up super early each morning to bake her fresh filo pitas stuffed with meat, cheese, and spinach, for your delectation. For $6 you can have eggplant and paprika relish with cucumber salad on the side, not to mention a fascinating conversation with the proprietress. "I can't speak good enough English to work anywhere else," she says, but it's probably a good thing—after all, Portland should never be deprived of pitas this delicious! MD

Ziba's Pitas, SW 9th & Alder


Best Secret falafel joint
Why no one knows about the Hush Hush Café, I have no idea. People will line up for hours outside Nicholas' to get their falafel and hummus fix—yet even though their food is just as good, the Hush Hush is never quite as busy as it should be. Do yourself a favor, and check this place out—the service is fast, the falafel is crispy and flavorful, the chicken shawarma has been known to induce powerful cravings at strange times, and the Palestinian owner is the friendliest man on the planet. AH

Hush Hush Café, 433 SW 4th


Best Example of embracing diversity
Northeast Portland's Pacific Supermarket is the lovechild of a Red Apple Grocery and an Asian superstore like Uwajimaya—there are bags of dried anchovies near the canned bubble tea, green papaya and taro root in the produce department, and shelf after shelf of translucent noodles. But what sets this place apart is what you'll find in the aisle mysteriously marked "Hair Spray, Shampoo, Dental": A mini tienda, stocked with all the essentials of Latino cooking, from masa flour to preserved peppers, and packaged delights like "Arcoiris," a marshmallow cookie with a package entirely in Spanish. Props to Pacific Supermarket, for bridging cultures! AJR

Pacific Supermarket, 6750 NE Broadway

Best One-stop pinata shop
The day will come when you need a piñata. Maybe it'll be next week; maybe it will be when your illegitimate Oaxacan son decides to look you up for his 13th birthday. And when that day comes, god help you if you try to score a good piñata at some warehouse party store. Piñatas are folk art, and they're supposed to be full of character, humor, and charm. And to get that, you're going to need to drive to Boom-Boom's Balloons, where you'll find fantastically skewed SpongeBobs, hand-mached Spider-Men, and terrific My Little Pony starbursts, complete with pink and purple streamers. They even have a bucket full of piñata sticks for sale (sawed-off broom handles, wrapped in colored crepe paper) that are way more fun than swinging a Swiffer around. What about brightly colored rope for sale, right by the pinatas, so you don't even have to go digging for a spool of twine to hang the thing with? Hey—we're not calling it the best one-stop pinata shop for nothing. CB

Boom-Boom's Balloons, 2739 N Lombard

Best presentation of pita and hummus
Habibi serves its hummus off plates in the shape of huge brass leaves, while your pita bread is kept warm on top of a ceramic Morticia Adams head, with a candle inside. If you order the rice pudding, it comes in a cocktail glass only slightly smaller than Mount St. Helens. All of these are nice touches reminding you not to take life too seriously, while you polish off another stuffed vine leaf and settle back to watch the people walking by. The lamb shawarma is also uncommonly good. MD

Habibi, 1012 SW Morrison

Best place to make your house 100 percent awesome
Nestled in the Russian area of SE Foster, EuroClassic Furniture has some amazing stuff. Sure, they've got couches and tables galore, but it's the accessories that make this place great—they've got a bubbling fountain featuring playful dolphins, statues of Betty Boop and the Blues Brothers, and even a lamp made to look like a naked fairy (perfect for the bedside table of a lonely Tolkien fan!). What's more, EuroClassic has some gorgeous landscape paintings, including one that features both a waterfall and a volcano. Once I grow up and get a real house, I'm furnishing every room with stuff from EuroClassic. I'm starting with my favorite piece: an elegant, curvy, classy headboard that has a built-in mirror. I'll send you a housewarming invite, ladies. EH

EuroClassic Furniture, 6602 SE Foster

Best place for avocado smoothies
Hot damn, I love an avocado smoothie on a hot summer day, especially the ones from My Canh. This yummy Vietnamese restaurant in the heart of the Hollywood District has especially good pho, bean curd dishes, and affordable combination dinners (in fact you'd be hard pressed to spend more than $8 on dinner). Don't be fooled by the strip mall setting, because My Canh is simply delicious. Ah, I'm drooling right now over the thought of a decadent avocado concoction. CF

My Canh, 1801 NE 39th

Best ethiopian dinner, for cheapskates
Few things beat the wonders of splitting a delicious Ethiopian feast with the one you love. But the romance dies a quick death when the check comes and you try to split that as well. Thank the lord for Dalo's Kitchen which is not only one of Portland's best spots for tasty injera and mounds of favorable options, but it's also very kind to the wallet. A massive vegetarian platter for two, a pair of amazing Harar beers, and a nice tip will set you back less than $20. A wonderful meal and the heart of your date—what else can you ask for? You cheap bastard. EAC

Dalo's Kitchen, 4134 N Vancouver

Best schnitzelwich
Nestled among the food carts on SW 5th, Czech immigrants Karel and Monika Vitek of Tábor make the best bloody schnitzelwich you'll ever eat. Breaded pork or chicken with horseradish and lettuce in a ciabatta set alight by a tangy paprika paste—now that's a working lunch. The Viteks are a friendly pair too, enjoying a good political discussion while they serve up whichever other Czech, Hungarian, or Polish delicacy takes your fancy, usually with a Joni Mitchell CD blaring. It's all remarkably convivial for a food cart. MD

Tábor (Czech food cart), 433 SW 5th

Best place to buy barpy!
I don't know what the hell Barpy! is, but he looks delicious (and slightly insane). Taste of Europe has got Barpy! by the bucket, a ton of scrumptious cheeses and sausages, European candy and chocolates, and a full lunch counter. You can enjoy one of the many vegetarian sandwiches (mmm, eggplant) and a cup of espresso on the market's charming sidewalk patio. But don't forget the Barpy!—he'd be very, very angry if you forgot him. CF

Taste of Europe, 1739 SE Hawthorne

Best ethiopian market/cafÉ/combo
Wahid Market is a combination corner grocery and café that stands on the unassuming corner of NE 27th and Alberta. They have a front window corner sectioned off in the market for dining and have an abbreviated no-nonsense menu; each combo priced around $5 a serving. The veggie combo is dynamite and features an outstanding spicy red lentil dish. Even better, the friendly proprietress checked on me at appropriate intervals and even offered me seconds! The combination of sunny disposition, cheerful ambience, super affordable prices and great food make Wahid Market hard to beat for an exceedingly pleasant casual lunch spot. LC

Wahid Market, 2738 NE Alberta

Best sugarcoated garbanzo
While browsing through the little Lebanese market, International Food Supply, I found many excellent treasures—yogurt soda, hookahs, banana-flavored tobacco, black currant juice—but nothing comes close to being as awesome as the large package of multi-colored, sugarcoated garbanzo beans I found settled between packs of banana chips and Jordan almonds. They look like mini brains, taste like your favorite breakfast cereal from your childhood, and are overall a fantastic delight. CSB

International Food Supply, 8005 SE Stark

Best Balkan comfort food
In a word: goulash. Hearty, belly-warming beef stew served over your choice of noodles, rice, or mashed potatoes. The two brothers that own Two Brothers are ethnic Serbs dishing up Balkan street food that's perfect for a rainy summer's day. In addition to goulash, hit the bright red restaurant for their chevapi, seasoned sausages served in the yummy house pita bread. AH

Two Brothers, 829 SE 39th

Best Parking lot (for light petting)
When Stanley and I were going on our first date two years ago, I suggested we go to Koreana because it was in between Portland (where I lived) and Beaverton (where he lived). That night, we both got loads of great kimchee, some spicy soup, and afterward, some play in my front seat. Since he's not speaking to me anymore, I had to go alone this time. I had the same piquant broth with spot-on sticky rice and endless kimchee. I also got hit on by the barmaid there who, while pouring my Korean bottled beer seductively into my glass, remarked that I was "quite handsome." Could I have gotten some afternoon delight from her in my Oldsmobile then and there? Perhaps. But, out of respect for Stanley, I passed. Despite our differences, that parking lot will always be sacred. WG

Koreana Restaurant, 9955 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy (in Diamond Park strip mall), Beaverton

Best place to get pad thai for $3.50
Lily Market is housed in a cute orange building surrounded by lush green plants—it's like a tropical oasis... an oasis complete with tasty Asian food. Their small deli serves up green papaya salad, fried rice, steamed buns, spring rolls, and a giant $3.50 pad thai. And after you've crammed that delicious $1.35 sticky bun down your gullet, there are plenty of kickass Thai DVDs like Ong-bak for $8.95, fresh produce, and a great collection of teapots and bowls to browse through. CF

Lily Market, 11001 NE Halsey

Best DIY SOUP
Hot Pot City is steamy little gem of a Taiwanese restaurant, tucked into a business park in Southwest. In front of each seat at the L-shaped bar is a small well where a pot of broth can be inserted. You pick what kind of broth you want—veggie, hot and sour, pickled cabbage—then choose your ingredients from a buffet of fresh ingredients including meats, tofu, veggies, and several types of noodles. Your broth boils away while you load it up with as many ingredients as you can, cooking it all yourself so it's just the way you like it. AH

Hot Pot City, 1975 SW 1st

Best excuse for being closed on sundays and mondays
"To prepare more schnitzels." That's what the folks at Otto and Anita's European Cuisine claim, and I believe them. Their weinerschnitzel sandwich comes with a perfectly golden, crispy schnitzel on a poppy seed bun that spills over with spicy mustard, grilled onions, and sauerkraut. But even better than that was their phenomenal sauerkraut soup, which was seriously among the two or three best soups I've ever had in my life. You know how some potato chips are so addictive that you can't quit eating them, full as you might be? This salty sauerkraut soup had the same effect, with a lick-your-bowl finish that will definitely have me driving back down to Multnomah Village to experience again. Plus, the place has that kitschy chalet vibe, with awesome "old country" murals all over the place and Kiwanis Club meetings there regularly. F'schnitzel my nitzel. CB

Otto and Anita's European Cuisine, 3025 SW Canby

Best One-stop shopping
Uwajimaya is no secret for anyone who loves cooking. Fabulous, well-priced produce, an entire aisle of ramen, incredible seafood, fresh pig intestines, plus dishes, knives, Hello Kitty schwag, Shiseido cosmetics, ninja shoes—the Japanese super-grocery store truly has everything. But they say you shouldn't shop on an empty stomach, and you won't want to when you discover Hakatamon, the fantastic adjacent Japanese restaurant. The menu, which includes a huge variety of udon, sushi, and tempura, among other staples, is augmented by a seasonal menu, where the kitchen's creative streak really comes into play. MS

Uwajimaya & Hakatamon, 10500 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy, Beaverton

Best (And biggest) Large Wafers
One of my favorite places in Portland proper, the Anoush Deli is truly an international market. With no fewer than five types of capers in a space half the size of Dante's, Anoush proffers a sizeable assortment of Russian pop CDs (only place in the city), Ukrainian beer, Armenian bread, Greek olives, and most certainly the largest wafers (24" x 12") in the Willamette Valley. I visited initially for their pickled okra, but now return for their deli items (10 of which are vegetarian). Featuring gyros and falafel (and even Cajun tater tots), the best bet is a pita filled with exquisite dolmas, drenched in their house sauce. WG

Anoush Deli, 1710 NE 122nd

Best place to fight romanian vampires
Acting on a "hot tip," we traveled to the Johnson Creek Boulevard area off of I-205—we'd heard that the spot was a "hotbed for Romanians." Turns out that was a LIE. But that's okay, since the only thing I've ever heard about Romanians is that they're vampires. But whether bloodsucking Romanians terrorize the Johnson Creek area or not, it would behoove you to stop at the Johnson Creek Fred Meyer to pick up some garlic... just in case. EH

Fred Meyer's Vampire Killing Supplies and Groceries, SE 82nd & Johnson Creek Blvd.

Best mexican meat market
This paper has often sung the praises of Don Poncho's taqueria on Alberta, so I'll save my breath, and just remind you to go. But if you're wondering where their sweet carnitas comes from, take a walk next door to Don Poncho's Market where, along with an expansive selection of piñatas and candles, you'll find a truly impressive meat case featuring all the best ingredients for your next home-made Mexican meal: chorizo, puerco adobado (marinated pork), puerco al pastor, chicken fajitas, and the aforementioned carnitas. Pick up a pound or two, cook it up, and impress the crap out of your friends with your true-life south-of-the-border style. WSH

Don Poncho Market, 2000 NE Alberta

Best place to purchase kewpie mayonnaise
You've driven by it a billion times, and while its diminutive storefront may keep you driving—stop, look, and marvel at Anza's Asian Grocery. A quick step inside shows that your initial assessment was way off, as it's three times the size you imagined—a mini-Uwajimaya, if you will, crammed tight with a bounty of Asian food and wares. Are you a sushi lover? Pick up your fresh yellow fin tuna, octopus, and tuna belly here (along with all the sushi-making supplies, including knives!). Scan their aisles of chips, fascinating candies, cookbooks, martial arts uniforms, fresh produce, and of course, the crown jewel of Asian culture, Kewpie mayonnaise. Actually, I've never tried the stuff, but with a name like that, it's got to be AWESOME. WSH

Anza, 736 NE MLK (across from Convention Center)

Best ukrainian snacks near the new max line
When I lived in Kiev as a student, my stipend stretched pretty far. Movies cost about $2, CDs were $5 new, and Latvian-bottled Red Bull was cheaper than water. Even more cut rate was my favorite kiosk snack (10 cents each), the pirozhki—fried pockets filled with mushrooms, cabbage, or meat. This downtown branch of the local Java Man chain serves Ukrainian food:borshch, pelmeni (bite-size and ravioli-esque), golubtsi (cabbage rolls), and vareniki (larger ravioli). They have pirozhki as well and, though they cost more than a dime, they're as satisfying as the ones in Ukraine. The comfortable interior of the café is a fine spot to dodge the interminable construction outside. (Let's snap it up, guys!) WG

Java Man Café, 518 SW Taylor

Best Place to get your spicy crispy squid fix
The Om Seafood complex consists of two buildings. One is a live seafood market whose many tanks offer everything from market-rate king-sized lobsters to otherworldly geoducks. This serves the neighboring restaurant well—its menu is aplomb with the swimming fare from next door. The sauteed crispy squid with hot pepper is excellent—not chewy and yet spicy enough for a Hong Kong stunt man. The seafood chow fun is loaded with tender fresh scallops, shrimp, fish, and squid. Be sure to check out the daily specials on the board as they often feature seasonal items not listed on the menu. Om's motto is "Seafood excellence is our main key goal"—I believed it after two bites. LC

Om Seafood, 7632 SE Powell

Best place to break out of your candy rut
If you've ever stood in the candy aisle of Plaid Pantry for seven minutes or longer, eyes glazed over as you try to select the perfect brand of candy to satisfy your fickle sweet tooth, you know that this is true: The world needs more candy. (And not that disgusting fake hot dog and booger-shaped crap they sell at Walgreens.) Fear not: Asian market An Dong has an incredible selection of sweet treats, including mouth-puckering lemony ginger twists, Hi-Chew candies from Japan (AKA those amazing gummy candies they give you at the end of your meal at Biwa), and White Rabbit, which, unfortunately, does not taste like heroin. CB

An Dong, 5441 SE Powell

Best place to say "Hello Kitty"
While many have given up on the Lloyd Center Mall as a place to find inexpensive and interesting gifts, there is one hidden gem I use on a frequent basis. It's called Morning Glory—a store designed to make your average Japanese schoolgirl go ba-zonkers. All your favorite adorable products are there—from pencils to stickers to backpacks to watches to slippers— all adorned with bafflingly cute Japanese characters. However, all Mercury employees are banned from shopping there... because that's where I'll be purchasing all your holiday presents! WSH

Morning Glory, Lloyd Center Mall, bottom level, just outside of Ross Dress for Less

Best Orange Curry that's Really Orange
Gandhi's has dispensed with some of the subtler aspects of authentic Indian curry (complexity of flavor, for example... and, er.... the obvious presence of vegetables) to serve up a brightly colored dish that packs a punch, rather like the kind you might find in Britain, on a night out drinking. For $6 (with that missing veg on the side and a piece of naan bread), it's not understated, and it's not gauche. But by god, it's ORANGE. And that's good enough for me. MD

Gandhi's, 827 SW 2nd

Best place to feel as if you are in india even though you are not, in fact, in indIA
India is an amazing nation with one big problem: It is too far away. Traveling to India takes months, and—as far as I can tell—the only way to get there is to stow away on a steamer ship, ride a camel for two weeks, and bribe Pakistan's 80 million al-Qaeda agents to let you cross the India/Pakistan border. But instead of all that work, just head down to SE Hawthorne, where India 4-U is the next best thing! The delicious, freshly made vegetarian take-out is the real draw, but while you're waiting for your food, peruse the rest of the store: There are spices, Bollywood DVDs, books, jewelry, clothes, cooking supplies, CDs, hair care products, and a whole lotta incense. Plus, everyone there is super friendly. Plus, you don't have to stow away in a steamer ship to get there. EH

India 4-U, 3341 SE Hawthorne

Best Out-Of-Place clown statue
Housed in a Frank Gehry (albeit on quaaludes)-inspired building, Sam Jin is packed to the gills with goods. Antique Korean chests line the walls, tea sets and housewares fill the aisles, and humidifiers and Korean music cassettes (few CDs) occupy the rest. There's a room off to one side, though, designated as the "antique room." Authentic Korean masks adorn the walls, more Korean chests take up more space, and ornate Buddha statues inhabit the floor. Among them stood a lone clown statue. Perhaps he's from northern Asia? WG

Sam Jin Asian Imports, 9955 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy (in Diamond Park strip mall)

Best Place to guzzle tarragon-infused soda
Looking like an early-'90s outlet mall, this international (read: Russian) grocery not only features tarragon soda (like 7-Up with a hint of Pine-Sol—trust me, it's worth the jog), but also handmade Russian pelmeni, Russian cakes, Russian chocolate, and compote as far as the eyes can see. Their selection of candy— complete with Kinder Eggs—is deliciously extensive. WG

Imperial Euro Market, SE Powell & 110th

Place to buy christian-themed portland postcardS
The building bearing the words "Russian Books" (in Russian) initially filled me with great anticipation. I had a wad of $2 bills to blow on a Mayakovsky first edition or, at least, old copies of Russian Vogue. No such luck. The space—as big as the kitchen in my studio apartment—was all about Jesus. Every book, leaflet, and periodical involved Christ (and not in a funny way). Fortunately, I found this postcard (with Psalm 8:10 soaring above the Portland skyline). Hallelujah, the day is saved! WG

Russian Bookstore, 6146 SE 111th

Best Makers of vietnamese-style tofu
Bui Natural Tofu shakes up the tofu realm by making creative versions of the stuff about six feet from where you buy it. That's some fresh tofu. One type has chopped scallion, glass noodles, and mushrooms embedded right in it. Forget the noodles—they're inside! Both this version and the classic plain style can be purchased fresh or fried, whichever you prefer. Other styles that come pre-fried include lemongrass and hot chili, or a dichotomy stuffed with marinated round pork and the same ingredients that are in the mushroom version. Their deli has tons of other goodies too, including fresh soymilk and yummy sesame seed-speckled Vietnamese doughnuts. LC

Bui Natural Tofu, 520 NE 76th

Best Beaverton Korean hole in the wall
Almost literally a hole in the wall, the tiny Du-Kuh-Bee restaurant has no signage in English, and in fact, hardly any signage at all. Wedged between a Korean beauty parlor and another restaurant that advertises Korean BBQ in neon, it could easily be mistaken for the back door of either neighbor. Once inside, you'll find both Korean and Chinese specialties, with an emphasis on pork, beef, and calamari. They too offer BBQ, but don't overlook the rest of the modestly priced menu—try the freshly made noodles; thick and satisfying, they come in huge portions with vegetables or meat. MS

Du-Kuh-Bee, 12590 SW 1st, Beaverton

Best hidden treasure thai cart
You won't find this one unless you listen carefully, so pay attention. Right off I-5, on the east side, on Killingsworth, there's the Lao-Vieng Market—a deceptively large store that sells a vast array of Asian goods, plus live crabs (be sure to stop in, it's interesting). Now, pull into Lao-Vieng's parking lot, and in the back corner there's a brand-new Thai cart called Thai Touch—and trust me, it's worth the hunt. Delicious, weighty pad thai that's perfectly prepared and sauced, plus a very wide variety of favorites such as fresh rolls, drunken noodles, curries, and a dreamy Thai iced tea that's infused with lime instead of heavy cream. This place was my secret, now it's yours. WSH

Thai Touch, 1032 N Killingsworth, parking lot of Lao-Vieng

Best pan-asian superstore
From pig's feet to incense coils, teapots to Chinese eggplant to fresh seafood to frozen dumplings to loose leaf tea to... okay, you get the point. Fubonn is a great place to buy tofu and produce on the cheap, and their selection of ramen will blow your mind. They also, a very immature friend insists that I note, sell Wang Mandarin Juice. AH

Fubonn, 2850 SE 82nd

Best trip to cookie heaven
Across the shop from an illuminated cheeses and cured meats counter—tended to by a clerk who's also manning the shish kabob grill just beyond the back door—Ril's European Market devotes a ton of shelf space to cookies. There are giant round ones that look like crispy waffles, Italian almond cookies, and EVEN boxes of snacks adorned with the Russian version of the Keebler elves! Then there's the entire shelf stocked with tall tubes of Ukrainian Kracik—or sugar cookies—in flavors like condensed milk, caramel, and lemon! (And just 89 cents each? I've died and gone to cookie heaven!) AJR

Ril's European Market, 8220 SE Harrison

Best place to watch telenovelas over lunch
Inside Chilangos Tienda y Taqueria in NE Portland, you'll find the standard elements of any little Mexican sundry shop—masa flour, jars and cans of spicy sauces, bottles of Jarritos soda. But, as the name implies, this shop also boasts a small, super casual restaurant, with delicious burritos, sopes, and tacos. At lunch, you'll find a handful of regulars all facing the same direction as they eat—the small television, perched on top of the Coke cooler, that's broadcasting a juicy Mexican soap opera. If Fernando continues to run around on poor Maria, I swear to God I'll kill him. AJR

Chilangos Tienda y Taqueria, 1473 NE Prescott

Best place to question your liberal cred
For all of its low-priced, delicious Lebanese food and charmingly low-rent décor, Riyadh's suffers from one killer of a problem—it's located right across the street from Fish Emergency Services, which gives food to the needy. What's the problem? Well, say you're sitting in a window table, looking across the street while waiting for some killer veggie mezza, and you happen to notice that even though Fish is closed, there are a few people hanging around, just waiting for food. "God, I'll bet they're hungry," you'll probably think. And when your food comes, you'll scarf it down, but not without thinking, "Hmmm, I bet they're even hungrier now." And when your dining companion suggests you not eat your whole meal in order to give some to the needy people across the street—you're a little thick around the middle anyway—there's a 90 percent chance you'll say, "Fuck it," while licking your plate clean. As you leave the restaurant, try not to look anyone in the eye—your liberal shame is contagious. SM

Riyadh's, 1318 SE Hawthorne

Best world's biggest beer stein
Edelweiss makes its own delicious German, Hungarian, and Polish sausages, salamis and braunschweiger, which you can sit down to eat, hot, in the deli, or buy some to take home. They also stock German wine and more Swiss chocolate than you've ever seen in one place, but the highlight is the five-foot tall "WORLD'S BIGGEST BEER STEIN," perched on a shelf in the back, next to a sign that reads "IF YOU CAN FINISH THIS, YOU'RE A REAL MAN." And an alcoholic, presumably. MD

Edelweiss Sausage Company & Delicatessen, 3119 SE 12th

Best "colonization sandwich"
I'm not going to say that the ends justified the means, or anything... but it is true that one delicious result of France's occupation of Vietnam was the introduction of French bread to Vietnamese cuisine. The sandwich that resulted from this clash of culinary cultures is called báhn mì, and it's cheap, tasty, and addictive, usually featuring jalapenos, carrots, cilantro, and meat on a crunchy baguette. The tiny Binh Minh deli, tucked in between between Pacific Market and some apartment complexes, bakes their bread on site and turns out arguably the best báhn mì in town. AH

Binh Minh, 6812 NE Broadway

Best baba ghanouj
When Southeast staple La Villa closed earlier this year, I despaired that I would never have baba ghanouj so delicious again. At most places, the baba is barely recognizable from the hummus, but La Villa's had a tangy, smoky flavor that gave my tongue multiple orgasms on every visit. And now I couldn't be more thrilled to discover Ya Hala in Montavilla, where the baba ghanouj is every bit as good as (if not better than! Heresy!) the dearly departed La Villa's. Get it on the massive mezza plate, or get straight to the point with a huge plate and some piping hot pita on the side. Then send your compliments to chef Mirna Attar and ask her nicely not to change a thing. CB

Ya Hala, 8005 SE Stark

Next Best baba ghanouj
No matter how you spell it, the baba ghannooj at Al-Amir is damn near perfect. It's creamy, yet still chunky and filled with texture. The mere touch of tahini is right on the money, and, best of all, the mixture lets the roasty-ness (there's no better word for it) of the roasted eggplant shine through. It almost makes up for their hummus; I don't know how you screw up hummus, but Al-Amir's tastes a little—hang on to your hat—mayonnaise-y. Eeep! Avoid that, and the place is a charm, filled, of course, with wall posters of Lebanon, and a friendly, attentive staff. SM

Al-Amir, 233 SW Stark

Best hum bao for a buck
While Asian markets may not be the first place you think of for a delicious and cheap lunch, it's time to start re-thinking. Take for example, Thanh Thao Market on Sandy. Not only will you find a bounty of noodles, tofu, and sauces, as well as fresh produce and seafood, they also have a spanking deli counter featuring roasted pork sandwiches, curries, and (my favorite new find) delicious, pillowy hum baos—for only a buck! If you're unfamiliar with this delicacy, you're really missing out; this soft steamed bun is a doughy delight filled with mouth-watering barbecue pork, and two will totally make for a great lunch. WSH

Thanh Thao Market, 6517 NE Sandy

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