Katie Hinkle
Equinox

N. Shaver at Mississippi

460-3333

For the past year, the buzz around North Portland has been that Mississippi is the new "it" neighborhood. The proof to back this claim seems to be the steady stream at the Fresh Pot and a nightly bustle at Mississippi Pizza. But in the past week, Mississippi's claim as an up-and-coming neighborhood took a leap forward when two new restaurants opened--Equinox and, further down the street, Lovely Hula Hands. A bar--The Crowbar, from the owners of the Basement Pub--is also on the way. In search of a cheap buzz and good eats, three Mercury writers who live in the neighborhood dropped in at Equinox's happy hour.

LANCE: In general, happy hours should accomplish two things: First, make you happy. Next, they should save you dough. Since Equinox's menu has nothing over $3 and cheap well drinks, it meets that criteria--if not exceeds it.

PHIL: You didn't think the happy hour menu was all over the place? Hamburgers and fries, Asian spring rolls and Mediterranean food?

LANCE: I thought the happy hour menu was big and creative. The Mini Meza? A triple threat of Mediterranean standbys, with a nod to contemporary cuisine--artichoke hummus, tabouleh, fresh parsley; andÉ baba ratoush. What is that anyway?

ERIN: It's a blend of beets and garlic. I thought that it was a nice switch from baba ganoush.

PHIL: The American dishes were less impressive than the exotic ones.

LANCE: The Mac & Cheese was bearable, but could've been a little less runny. Baking is always a better way to prepare Mac & Cheese. The French fries showed up pale and distastefully un-rigid!

ERIN: Hey. For a dollar, the fries are great! Simple, not too crispy, but also not too flaccid.

LANCE: I do think it's cool that all the meat served at Equinox is locally grown. Also, they only serve free range, hormone-free chicken, pork, and beef.

PHIL: But Lance, you don't eat anything that has a face. You missed out on what I think is the best happy hour dish, the Green Curried Beef Satay with Cashew Sauce. Aggressive garlic and lime marinade balanced out by a mellow peanut sauce.

ERIN: The Skewered Curry Chicken with Coconut Rice was also impressive.

LANCE: But it was hard to stay to the happy hour menu. I also ordered the "Horns of Diablo," partly just because of the name. Portabella-stuffed peppers and spicy creamed corn--weird, but good. Like an unconventional sex act, I found the sensation unnerving and delightfully taboo.

ERIN: The desserts were also good. The Chocolate Pot de Crème was lush and creamy. The Fig Gingerbread Pudding sounded better than it was. A little too heavy on the raw ginger, making it more an in-your-face meal and less a dessert.

PHIL: Final words?

LANCE: It's like they knocked $2 off everything on the menu at The Farm and moved it to within walking distance of my house.

ERIN: Thumbs up. It's all welcoming: squash-painted walls, a full bar, and cheap, dirty martinis. Most likely will be a second home during the rainy months.