Though only in business since June 2, Vendetta is already a hot topic among bar hoppers. However, its biggest strength is evoking a homey, living-room-style establishment for residents of the Boise Neighborhood. One of the owners previously managed the Bagdad Pub, and he's brought much of its hassle-free atmosphere along for the ride.
Arriving with my companion on a Friday night following a stressful week, the red neon "R" in the front window lured us with a promise of relaxation. In fact, it was advertising Rainier beer for $2 a pop—and though its reputation may be watery, the native Washington brew goes down nicely, especially on a hot day.
There's shuffleboard lining the wall—sitting pretty under paintings of tripped-out wasps by local artists Alex Robbins and Nicky Kriara—and a lively game was underway as we perused the menu. Vendetta keeps the lineup simple—a mixture of Tex-Mex and classic American bar food with no item costing more than $6. At those prices, you can afford another drink, and it didn't take much convincing to order the $5 fresh-squeezed margarita.
We got going with a "Casey"dilla, named after one of the bar's owners. It combined tender, nicely marinated pinto beans with fresh jalapeño salsa, sour cream, and a satisfying quantity of melted cheddar cheese. This was followed by a beef Sloppy Joe—also available as a vegetarian option with textured bean curd, as a Sloppy Jane. I love Sloppy Joes, and while they're rarely served in my native Europe, it's surprising how much they remind me of being at home—slumping on a sofa in front of the TV. Sloppy Joes are, therefore, the answer to all of life's worries in my book, and this one's spicy Worcestershire sauce and unusual sweetness (aided by molasses), had me smiling and mumbling, "this is good" throughout the meal.
The Joe was followed by more beef, this time in a $5 pair of tacos, and while there are more (and bigger) tacos to be had in Portland for the money, not all cooks take the time to spice their achiote rice so well. Though to be honest, my heart was still reminiscing about that delicious Sloppy Joe....
By this point my companion was tired of hearing about my Sloppy Joe lust and luckily, the $5 mac and cheese was a dream of a dish that shut me up. A delicate tartness in the ricotta was preserved in combination with the other cheeses, as well as nutmeg and a little cayenne, which culminated in a dish you'd happily come back for.
On a second daytime visit I tried the cilantro and citrus tofu sandwich with garlic habañero sauce, which was very flavorful, having been marinated for 24 hours by chef Genevieve Stevens. For me, vegan food can be a flavorless turn-off—but this sandwich comes highly recommended. In daylight there was also an opportunity to properly look at Vendetta's garden, which has been nicely remodeled with a calming nod to Japanese minimalism.
But why is this place called Vendetta? If that delicious Sloppy Joe is any indication, perhaps they subscribe to the old adage, "Revenge is so sweet."