First we couldn't go outside, then we could only go outside—as we learned that the indoors was where coronavirus thrived. Now with all this climate apocalypse wildfire smoke (that has thankfully lessened today, although the Air Quality Index still reports Portland's air as Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups), we're back indoors again!
In response to Portlanders' return to responsible home arrest, here are a few reviews where we salute Portland takeout—new and old—to cheer you on and keep your belly full.
Do not sleep on the miso ice cream at Nanban, the new non-traditional Japanese-inspired comfort food restaurant (currently only doing takeout and delivery) that took over Noraneko’s spot under the Hawthorne bridge. Nanban's menu is built on owner and chef David Edwards' own approach to Japanese cuisine, which he fell in love with while working as an engineer in Japan. By example, his miso ice cream is creamy, savory, and not at all the taste you'd anticipate from the word "miso."
Nanban's arrival is exciting for a number of reasons. Firstly, they've got delicious, fried Okonomiyaki on the menu—in vegan, pork, and calamari options.
Secondly, their tangy jackfruit karaage sandwich offers a less common vegan sandwich centerpiece. Jackfruit is a savory fruit relation of the fig, but in taste and texture it's more like marinated tofu or pulled pork. Nanbaan builds the sandwich on a toasted hoagie roll and covers it in generous amounts of miso slaw for a messy, satisfying sandwich journey.
Lastly the most outstanding thing about Nanban is their desserts. I didn't even order a chocolate toffee Taiyaki, but I'm glad the server slipped one into my bag. The fish-shaped pastry—which is commonly filled with sweet red bean paste in Japan, but actually originates in Korean cuisine—came filled with chocolate and scattered toffee bits to crunch on. Those toffee bits in combination with the richness of the baked dough put it in one of the top desserts I've had this year.
Do you ever have that dream where your crush flies through the window and gives you a salad? (No? Just me?) Well, have you ever been working at home—stress-sweating and mashing your keyboard—and suddenly you think “FUCK! I’M SO HUNGRY! AGH I HAVE NO FOOD!” And you wish your crush would bring you a flippin’ salad? Well, I have news.
Portland has a new delivery service, Thistle, that brings salads, juices, and other plant-focused meals to your home. It's kind of like a meal-kit delivery service, but the food is already made. The seven-year-old West Coast start-up expanded their delivery options to Portland about two weeks ago.
After trying Thistle on for two deliveries—one delivery made it during the window, the second arrived the morning after it was scheduled at 5:30 am—what really impressed me were the interesting flavor combinations of their juice and wellness shots. Their “Spark” juice (orange juice, lemon, aloe vera, and cayenne) and “Fuego” wellness shot (apple cider vinegar, ginger, and cayenne) were my favorite and nice to have in the fridge for when I was snack-hangry. Thistle doesn’t offer a “juice only” subscription yet so they have to be added on to meal delivery. Thistle co-founders Ashwin Cheriyan and Shiri Avnery mentioned via Zoom interview that they have an entire subset of customers that "hack" their Thistle orders, doing things like deleting their meals and only ordering juice.
Thistle’s plastic-boxed salads are not all that superior to those one might buy in the grocery grab-and-go, but there are small touches (like the coconut “bacon” in the Roasted Corn and “Bacon” Salad) that push them over the top. There are options to add meat to meals, but Thistle’s literature conveys that they want to push customers towards a plant-based diet so the recipes seem orchestrated to wow vegans and vegetarians the most.
Since Thistle was woo-ing me—and through me Mercury readers—there's a promo code they asked me to pass on: PORTLAND50 gets you $50 off the first two weeks of Thistle orders.
In the midst of coronavirus winter—with everything shut down and the city eerily silent—Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen's new mint paint job was a sign we all clutched to our hearts that one of the city's most beloved Vietnamese restaurants would soon return. In response to the demands of social distancing, Luc Lac wasn't able to unveil the remodeled, larger dining room that they originally closed in January, but they've adjusted magnificently to our new takeout, delivery, outside seating existence.
You may remember that if you wanted to pick up a takeout order with the old Luc Lac setup, you had to squeeze past long lines of patient, good people, enduring the occasional misunderstanding ("I'm not taking cutsies!") and negating the whole purpose of takeout which is ease and solitude. Now Luc Lac has three glorious windows, one for each of the separate kingdoms of delivery, takeout, and those who wish to be seated at the restaurant's new, raised outdoor patio area along SW 2nd. Luc Lac's delicious vermicelli bowl—which comes with fried crispy rolls and without a lot of noodle to slow you down—has never been easier to order and enjoy!
Breakfast Sandwich of Note: The Ranger Tavern
There are times when you want a breakfast sandwich you can hold in one hand as you drive to work. The breakfast sandwich you find at The Ranger Tavern in St. Johns is not that. Their sandwich is more of a sit down "how am I going to hold this?" two-fried-eggs number, which makes it perfect for the slow intentionality of a hungover morning. Choose your bread, type of cheese, ham or bacon—there's even an option for Beyond Burger—and receive a delicious brick of solid breakfast glory, with a side of hash browns. Even better, you can order the Ranger's breakfast at any time of day—whenever breakfast happens FOR YOU!