Meg Nanna

This summer, Northwest Portland Vietnamese restaurant Fish Sauce suffered a fire, which knocked them out of business for a month—a devastatingly long time without Fish Sauce’s chicken wings, bún, and bánh mì.

There’s no good time for a fire, but on the scale of relative bad times, this was high. Mother-son Fish Sauce team Ben Bui and Lauren Huynh had just opened Short Round, sort of a sister bar, on Southeast Hawthorne. It could have been a disaster, but happily, Short Round came roaring out of the gates with a cocktail list from Fish Sauce’s KJ DeBoer (with a hand from La Moule bar champ Tommy Klus), wine and Thai lager Singha on draft, and—obviously most crucial—a consistently solid menu featuring many favorites from Fish Sauce plus some Korean dishes from Bui’s mother-in-law Jinnie Song.

How could you not support a family business like that in a rough time? In the case of Short Round, it was kind of like if every time you watched an episode of your favorite TV show, a rescue puppy got adopted: Everybody wins. You chow on fried wings ($5 for four) or pork ribs ($7 for 2) with your choice of sticky sauce: fish sauce, gochujang vinaigrette, or lemongrass (every one a star, but the chojang is sweet and just spicy enough to be a personal favorite), and you put money in the pocket of someone whose restaurant just died in a fire.

Once Fish Sauce reopened, the dichotomy of the two places became clear: Despite being open for lunch, Short Round is clearly a bar—roughly half its open hours, 3-6 and 9-12, are happy—and while the menu isn’t straight from Fish Sauce, it’s obviously geared toward drinking snacks.

Meg Nanna

Those snacks run the gamut from wings and ribs to more idiosyncratic bites like bánh tèt, a fried puck of squishy sticky rice filled with pork belly and mung beans, which for $4 will be on the table every time I eat at Short Round.

Those snacks include some of those things you sort of have to try—like a translucently thin, chewy filefish jerky called juipo, which looks and tastes like a fish hammered thin and caramelized (i.e. it’s delicious, $3) or a Vietnamese style preparation of the Pacific Northwest’s fat phallic clam, the geoduck, served warm with veggies in soy sauce ($8).

The one that feels most like a challenge, though, at least for those of us scarred by the golden age of curmudgeonly food/travel show hosts, is a Vietnamese version of balut, a Filipino-style boiled fertilized egg. Like, there’s a bird in it. This is one of the many dishes the servers are happy to explain to you, but where you might welcome an explanation of how to make your own sugarcane shrimp salad, it’s harder to listen to someone say, “Some of it settles at the bottom and it’s... a textural nightmare.” Honestly, if you knowingly ordered balut, that’s not a turnoff, it’s just good advice. Ultimately, it’s one of those dishes that’s never going to blow your mind unless it goes wrong, so when it’s prepared and served right, as it is at Short Round, it’s pleasant—a hard boiled egg but richer and we’ll say texturally varied—but not life-changing ($4).

The larger plates are similar to Fish Sauce currently: pho, various kinds of bánh mì (a Korean short rib kalbi is a favorite here), curry, Botta’s Favorite (pure comfort food: fried eggs over rice with pickled veggies and choice of protein, $13), and Thit Kho (huge slabs of pork belly and boiled eggs in coconut water, which despite the visible sheen of oil on top, is light and clean, among the most delicate presentations of pork belly, $13) but also a Korean bibimbap-style rice bowl and some dessert options like grilled banana sticky rice (which will knock you out, $4).options like grilled banana sticky rice (which will knock you out, $4).

The drink menu is vaguely punny, including a jackfruit addition to the traditional applejack cocktail, the Jack Rose, or a Hawthorne By Night which features grenadine made with hawthorn berries, but the best cocktails are the simplest: a Japanese whisky and house matcha bitters Matchmaker, for instance, demands patience as its flavors intermingle in the melt of a huge ice cube ($13); or the Jade Trade, a gin-and-lychee sipper in a coupe glass, pleasantly green with pennywort ($10); or, duh, a slushy—a watermelon margarita with caramely depth, like grilled melon ($9).

Short Round’s long bar with three TVs right next to each other (as likely to show sports as they are Star Wars) and emphasis on drinking snacks make it seem like a drunk little brother to Fish Sauce, but the lunch hours and similar menu make it feel more like a second location with a hipper aesthetic. Either way, cross your fingers, Northeast and North Portlanders, that this is a sign that we may one day have an iteration of Bui and family’s homestyle cooking in every corner of the city. If a fire can’t stop them, I don’t think we have much to worry about.

11am-midnight, happy hour 3-6 and 9-close Heads up: Parking sucks around Hawthorne, but you know that.