There’s nothing quite like Pot & Spicy in Portland, although a lot of what they do will seem pretty familiar to fans of spicy cauldrons of piping hot Sichuan soup.
Most importantly, it’s pretty darn good, and very cheap.
In an epic round of musical chairs at the city’s best Asian strip mall, located at Southeast 82nd and Harrison, Pot & Spicy took over the space of the Vietnamese Quán Linh. And until not too long ago, that strip mall was where the celebrated Chong Qing Hot Pot was located, but that closed also, leaving the real estate primed for takeover.
It’s a long, narrow space with tables best suited to groups of two to four, a little kitchen window, and a single cooler with bins stacked with skewers. This is where you want to be.
The hot pot most Portlanders know involves a burner placed on the table, where a pot sits bubbling away as diners add their own ingredients to cook. Not at Pot & Spicy, where the ordering process involves choosing your skewers—all 99 cents each—and giving them to the kitchen to cook. While I find this to be less interactive and a little less fun than the format of Hot Pot City or Little Sheep in Beaverton, my husband, who hates to cook, finds it to be less stressful.
There’s a dizzying array of skewers: single octopi skewered lengthwise, lobster and fish balls, beef, shrimp, chicken, Napa cabbage wrapped around cartoon-character enoki mushrooms, and even intestines and tripe. I repeat: Each of these is 99 cents. Six is ample for a single diner, and also earns free vermicelli rice noodles to boot.
Choose from among four different broth bases to have your skewers cooked in, but just go with the spicy—it imparts the most flavor to those chicken and fish bits. (Our sleeper fav: lotus root, which remained crisp while absorbing maximum broth flavors.)
And, this is very important, grab a few more skewers to deep fry. Oh goodness yes, they’ll deep fry anything you hand to them in a rice flour mixture that causes what was once a partially-frozen piece of chicken to come out succulent and crisp, ready for dipping in sauce. (Skip the $5.99 Taiwanese popcorn chicken and just have a couple 99 cent skewers deep-fried, baby!)
There are very good Beijing jiang mian noodles, a slew of appetizers, and dry hot pots that run upwards of $23 or more. These are worth a try if you’re feeling fancy, but not absolutely necessary.
The quality here isn’t what you’ll see at higher-priced places—there’s no housemade lamb dumpling to be had, or any dumpling for that matter. But you’re still going to get a fine bowl of soup and skewers at a price that you can’t poke a hole in.