Built in an old garage off the NW Park blocks, Baobab makes a noble attempt at capturing some of the charm of the owner's home country of Senegal. The entire front of the restaurant opens out onto the Park Block lawns and, in the late summer months, with the door swung wide open, creates the feeling of an open-air cafè.
There is a static menu with a handful of dumpling and soup appetizers, and 11 dishes, all hovering around $10. There are vegetarian dishes, but mostly the dinners are a study in seven different ways to cook a chicken. PHIL DOT BUSSE
Country Morning Cafe 8202 SE Flavel, 771-0088
Little more than a roadside shack at the far end of Southeast 82nd Avenue, Country Morning serves two disparate clienteles: recent Chinese immigrants, and longtime, long-haired residents of this down-and-out area. There are two separate menus--one for the ethnically challenged (omelets, biscuits and gravy, sandwiches) and one for the Asian folks. If you don't ask for the Chinese menu, you won't get one.
Dive into a bowl of noodle soup with wontons, and your choice of beef stew, roast duck, or other animal parts too gross to mention here, and the adventure begins. The stew is richly flavored with copious amounts of ginger, orange rind, and star anise, and the meat is extremely tender, if perhaps a bit fatty for American tastes. Roast duck isn't as refined as in a larger banquet-style Chinese restaurant, but looks (and crisp skin) aren't everything. These ducks are more succulent and more ample than I've encountered anywhere else in Portland, except maybe at Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. PAUL LESCHEN
Taqueria Nueve 28 NE 28th, 236-6195
Fish-centric Mexican food is my favorite, because the fish is always jazzy, instead of slathered with butter and plopped next to some rice pilaf. The fish at Taqueria Nueve is one of their many strengths, and their keen ingredient choices (pickled mushrooms, mango, cilantro everywhere, pineapple, etc.) give each dish a summer freshness.
Nueve's atmosphere is bright, open, and airy. All tables are close together in one room, but it's always fairly (or super) crowded, and conversations overlap so you don't feel like the neighboring table is listening to your life story. Try going on a Monday night if you don't like to wait, or a warm weekend night if you're patient. SHIMER