BEST PLACE TO DRINK A STEAK
Pho Van, 1919 SE 82nd, 788-5244
Pho Van is very possibly the best Pho in Portland. Seriously. It's a giant, cafeteria-like restaurant that serves with the efficiency of a nuclear power plant. You can order, eat, drink, listen to the couple seated next to you fight for awhile, and have some tea--all in about 25 minutes. For those who aren't familiar with Pho, it's a yummy beef or chicken broth with finely sliced pieces of boiled meat--delicate, tender, kind of like drinking a big steak. And the most fun part is that you get to add really yummy stuff, like cilantro, basil, rice noodles, jalapeno peppers, and bean sprouts. Yum! We also highly recommend stopping here when you're hitting 82nd bottom, like, when you've been thrift shopping for about five hours and feel like you're about to expire from trying on sweaters that smell like your grandma's basement, or ignoring crazy people.
BEST HELL OF A GOOD RESTAURANT
Legin, 8001 SE Division, 777-2828
Q: What do all these restaurants have in common: Hung-Far-Low, Miso Happy, Yum Yum House, Typhoon, Beau Thai, Chop Socky? A: They all have ethnic jokes for names, and only white people eat there! Meanwhile, Asian people eat at Legin--lots of them, six, eight, 12 at a time, especially on Sundays. Sunday is the traditional day for families and friends to get together over a lunch of dim sum, that fantastic Chinese fusion of main course and desert.
Bigger is better with dim sum, and you'll find every table in both of the vast dining rooms packed with families in animated multilingual conversation, while a small army of efficient women push around carts laden with tiny trays of succulent meat dumplings, glistening noodles, sweet pastries, and weird lumpy things. Try anything that smells nice, or that other people seem to enjoy. But pace yourself, or the meal will end too soon.
Here are some interesting facts about the Asian people who eat at Legin: Most of them are friendly, and some of them eat chickens' feet, a dim sum staple. PM tried the chickens' feet, but found them a bit too chicken-foot-tasting. Still, PM is glad we tried. Legin also serves tripe, brains, and other worrying meats, but don't let it put you off. Any random, scary-looking item that the waitress is unable to explain in English is about 80 percent likely to be delicious, and will only cost $3 or so. The risk of eating weird food is rarely this low.
Last interesting fact about dim sum: PM is part vegetarian. Except for dim sum. Because PM believes that eating animals is wrong um, except for dim sum. Eating animals is not necessary um, except for dim sum, which PM doesn't feel that we could live without. So okay, PM's morals are soft, ever-changing, adjustable to whims but then, so is dim sum.