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Best Of Portland: 2000
Restaurant Guide 2000-2001
Cheap Eats 2000

masthead
photo by Martin Thiel

cheap eats index: a | b | c | d | e | f | g | h | j | k | l | m | n | o | p | q | r | s | t | u | v | y


Restaurants by Neighborhood

Restaurants by
Flavorhood

 

 


SPECIAL SECTION
CHEAP EATS 2001

Mad Hatter Lounge
The Mad Hatter offers one of life's great pleasures: sweet-potato fries. It has to be one of the best comfort foods in the city: a heaping platter of breaded and fried sweet potatoes with blue cheese dressing on the side. All for $5.25, but you can save a buck if you go during happy hour. Don't be seduced into thinking that the MH is all about finger food, though. The place may epitomize the cheap-eats philosophy--a hidden wonder with delicious, affordable food. The zesty Cajun chicken pasta alfredo was only $8.50 and enough food for two days. They've got salads, burgers, the works. It can take a little work to get one of the servers to understand that you didn't come in just to admire their thrift-store outfits, but it's worth it. Once you catch their eye, they'll treat you right. (PW)

203 SE Grand Ave., 231-2925. 5 pm-1 am Tuesday-Friday, 5 pm-2 am Saturday.

Mama's Corner Cafe
You almost need a shoehorn to get into the place, but the food served up at this sliver of a cafe makes the tight squeeze worthwhile. There are a few tables, and one booth in the back (the only place for a group of four), but the best seats are at the counter. Perched on a stool, you can watch chef and patriarch Pavel Shavlovsky cracking eggs, pouring pancake batter and frying potatoes while the rest of the family takes orders and delivers plates. The menu includes all of the breakfast standards at below market prices, but check the board for specials like the buckwheat pancakes for only $2.50. If you're really hungry, get the Russian-style pork chops, a pair of boneless slices from the loin dipped in egg and seasoned flour, then grilled and served with a dollop of sour cream. Served with two eggs, home fries, and two thick slices of homemade bread for only $5.95, it's one of the best breakfast deals in town. (JD)

14035 SE Stark St., 257-2753. 7 am-3 pm Monday-Saturday. no credit cards

Mandarin Cove
In recent years, cost-conscious fans of Asian fare have celebrated the opening of several Vietnamese, Thai and Japanese restaurants downtown. But what about the poor egg-roll addicts among us? Mandarin Cove doesn't provide a perfect fix, but the corner atrium eatery, which specializes in northern Chinese cuisine, does cover the main criteria: It's quick, cheap, convenient, and a notch above fast-food fare. The best bang for your buck is during lunch, when all 25 plates (from Kung Pao shrimp to Mandarin chicken) are priced at less than eight bucks. Dinners run a bit more, but portions are huge, allowing diners to skip the appetizers and invest in the extensive wine and beer offerings. Favorites among the regulars include sesame beef ($13.50), which arrives sizzling and tangy, and the "dry sautéed string beans" ($8.50), which, despite its pedestrian name, will do a jig on your tastebuds. Although many dishes carry "hot and spicy" warnings, none should be feared (but steer clear of the deep-fried dishes, which come out like fritters gone awry). (Tip: With a $10 order, you can park free at Columbia Square, 2nd and Jefferson, after 5 pm.) (JS)

111 SW Columbia St., 222-0006. 11 am-2 pm Monday-Friday; 4:30-9:30 pm Monday-Thursday; 4:30-10:30 pm Friday; noon-10:30 pm Saturday; 4-9:30 pm Sunday.

Marco's Cafe
St. Peter must be the sous chef at Marco's. In my version of Heaven, breakfast will be served all day, there will be a killer wine list, and Glimmer Train will be on the news rack. Marco's is all that and more. Weekend mornings will find lines out the door at the Multnomah Village neighborhood cafe. A second Marco's on Northeast Fremont Street is just as popular. It's worth the wait, but if you don't venture south after dark, you're missing out. Check the website (www.marcoscafe.com) for the nightly dinner menu. It's eclectic, inspired by everything from Euro to Asian styles. A recent offering of Oregon winter ravioli was stuffed with smoked chanterelles, walnuts and other yummy things ($8.95 with salad). Beyond the specials are the Marco's standbys like Thursday-night mulligatawny soup or one of the seven different burgers with your choice of beef, chicken or veggie patties. (PW)

7910 SW 35th Ave., 245-0199; 3449 NE 24th Ave., 287-8011. 7 am-9:30 pm weekdays, 8 am-9:30 pm Saturday, 8 am-2 pm Sunday.

Marinepolis Sushi Land
Whenever I hear the Cibo Matto song "Sci-Fi Wasabi," I think of this cute, bizarre little suburban sushi spot. Like a mid-century rendering of the future, Marinepolis features a conveyor belt on which plates of sushi perennially encircle the tables. Just grab whatever raw delight looks appetizing--your server will scan the plate's bar code at meal's end. Peculiarity aside, it's a great place for novice sushi eaters to find their way. After watching chefs in the restaurant's open kitchen roll and slice away, start with inari, simple rice wrapped in fried bean curd. Or perhaps explore tamago, a sweet egg concoction. The tako (octopus) is a little dry, but the maguru (tuna roll) is soft as can be, while the familiar cucumber roll will make you bow uncontrollably toward your server. And it all costs about half as much as at most sushi establishments. In other words, Marinepolis restores the mystery, value and novelty of fast food. (BL)

4021 SW 117th Ave., Suite C, Beaverton, 520-0257. 11 am-9 pm daily.

Milo's City Cafe
If you never venture far from the familiar comforts of the Southeast Portland breakfast rut, you're missing out on Milo's. Don't let the semi-chi-chi address fool you. Milo's is a solid, penny-saving neighborhood joint with big booths, umbrella-decorated hot chocolate for the kiddies and a wide counter near the kitchen for those of you who are solo New York Times readers. It also has smart-cracking waitresses, a fast-moving line and a goldfish (though not on the menu). All this (and hollandaise, too!) can be yours for $6.50 to $7.50, depending on whether you want your eggs Benedict to come vegetarian, traditional or with smoked salmon or filet mignon (topped with béarnaise sauce). Beyond the benedict, Milo's serves up a slew of omelets, including the Santa Fe with the best spicy guacamole this side of, well, Santa Fe ($7.50), and all the bacon/sausage a carnivore could want. If the daily special includes biscuits and gravy, grab it. It's made with puffed pastry and gravy that's light yet rich, something you'd expect to find at a much more upscale place. (PW)

1325 NE Broadway, 288-6456. 6:30 am-2:30 pm Monday-Friday; 7:30 am-2:30 pm Saturday-Sunday.

Mio Sushi
Very few combinations of words throw caution into a fella like cheap sushi. On the other hand, first-division fruits of the sea generally outstrip the daily lunch budgets of working people (and journalists). Mio Sushi, though...we could make some beautiful music together. Tucked in a converted house in Northwest, Mio is unprepossessing in appearance. In fact, its random decorations and sardine-packed tables give it a distinct cafeteria vibe. Don't be put off. The fast-cutting crew of pros behind the counter dices out some of the best, freshest, heartiest raw fish around, pouring out piles of delicious octopus, sea bass, albacore, salmon roe, et cetera. The usual concessions to the American sushi palate--your Cali rolls, your Philly rolls--receive respectful treatment, perhaps more than they deserve. And while the bill does start to climb as the protein addict in you frantically marks one item after another, a more sober approach will get you in and out for $10 or less. (ZD)

2271 NW Johnson St., 221-1469. 11:30 am-9 pm Monday-Thursday; 11:30 am-10 pm Friday and Saturday.

Morning Star Espresso
Portlanders love places like the Morning Star. It's quirky: Sandwiches have funny names such as "Yes, M'Ham" and "Loony Tuna." It's cool: Achingly beautiful arty hipsters work there and play punk rock on the sound system. It's comfy: Try to nab the sofa at the end. But most importantly: The food is amazing. Rustic bread, so fresh you leave your fingerprints where you grab, bookends layers of high-quality deli meat and cheese and veggies. "The Growler" is $6.75 for a whole (or $5 a half) and almost dares you to finish it, so flush is it with black forest ham, smoked turkey, salami, provolone and assorted veggies. Veg-heads can gorge on Greek sandwiches layered with feta, cucumbers, red onions, tomato and alfalfa sprouts--or that old standby, peanut butter, this time gussied up with banana, honey and cinnamon. With each sandwich you get a cute little orange wedge to stick in your mouth and real potato chips to crunch on the side. (CBB)

510 SW 3rd Ave., 241-2401. 6 am-6 pm Monday-Friday, 8 am-3 pm Saturday. no credit cards

My-Canh
It's not easy to find My-Canh, tucked neatly away in a strip mall in the Hollywood District, next door to a Baskin & Robbins. But the stuffed eggplant makes the search worthwhile. Long, slender eggplant is bias-cut into thick slices, slit open to hold pork or chicken, then lightly battered, deep-fried and served in a translucent red pool of chili-flecked Vietnamese sweet-and-sour sauce. Check the specials board, and if anything includes the words "salt and pepper," order it. Combining these elemental seasonings with cornstarch to make a simple coating for fried foods is a common practice in Chinese and Vietnamese cooking, but few kitchens do it as well as My-Canh. Green beans look like spider legs but taste wonderful, and salt and pepper bean curd could replace French fries if people didn't know it was really tofu. (JD)

1801 NE 39th Ave., 281-0594. 11 am-10 pm every day.

Nicholas' Restaurant
If you long for an opportunity to eat solid Eastern Mediterranean food without having to dodge plate-breaking jackanapes, this unassuming Grand Avenue hangout makes a fine choice. The Grecian mustache count hits an all-time low in the slightly ragged confines of Nicholas', while an oh-so-Portland "hipster celeb" sighting is virtually guaranteed. The board of fare relies heavily on the kissin' cousin cuisines of Greece and Lebanon; a few pan-Med hybrids, like the excellent cheese pizza appetizer, ensure that even the most timid palates will find succor here. It must be said that not every menu item is a singing success--the gyros, in fact, are quite ordinary. However, delicious mezza plates, a variety of mix'n'match options and a healthy selection of vegetarian and vegan choices insure Nicholas' continued (and deserved) popularity. You may not have call to shout o-pah whilst jigging on a table-top--but that might just be for the best. (ZD)

318 SE Grand Ave., 235-5123. 11 am-9 pm Monday-Saturday, noon-7 pm Sunday. no credit cards

Nick's Famous Coney Island
Nick's isn't a restaurant--it's a time capsule. Step through the modest doorway and you've left 2001 Portland for 1961 Brooklyn, complete with yellowed photos, Yankees memorabilia and a minimalist menu that remembers the era when burgers and dogs ruled the Earth. Looking at recent local developments (the spreading downtown condo cancer, the increasing tyranny of the yuppie-gourmand mafia, the insidious proliferation of vegans), Puddletown's probably on the short end of that temporal yardstick anyway. So raise a glass of Heidelberg and sing Hallelujah for Nick's, a place where a guy can still buy a hot dog smothered and covered in Coney Island sauce for $4 and love every gut-bomb bite. Old? Yeah. And still kicking ass. Respect your elders, dammit. (JG)

3746 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 235-4024. 11 am(ish)-8 pm(ish) every day. no credit cards

New York, NY
Woody Allen summed it up best when he said pizza is like sex: "Even when it's bad it's good." The problem with most Portlanders is that they can't tell good pizza from the stuff that's delivered to their door in 30 minutes or less. Sad is the town where some of the best pies can be found in your grocer's freezer. But practically hidden on Barbur Boulevard there is hope for pizza lovers. Serving--you guessed it--thin-crust New York-style pizza, New York, NY's pies have a tasty sauce with a unique kick. "What's in the sauce?" will be the question running through your mind as the tangy topping leaves its perplexing taste on your tongue. My guess: sun-dried tomatoes. A medium-size pie runs in the neighborhood of $12 and should feed two or three people. (DW)

7737 SW Barbur Blvd., 768-4408. 11 am-midnight every day.

The Original Pancake House
Tucked in with shiny wood furnishings and decorative plates on the walls, this Tigard-area haven is like the expanded living room of the Nordic grandmother you never had. The mom, pop, son, daughter, uncle, aunt and college crowd get along just swell--everyone's in high spirits from this unbeatable breakfasting! You won't mind paying the $2 for an endless cup of coffee because it's so delicious and the cream comes in miniature milk jugs. OPH's menu is a vast array of pancakes, waffles, crêpes, omelets and some other specialties, like corned beef hash. But it really doesn't matter what you order because it's all just perfect. (I think there's an invisible dairy farm out the back door, where milkmaids are constantly squeezing udders and churning fresh sweet butter.) Meals range from $6.50 to $9.75, but you'll find that the more expensive plates are big and yummy enough for two. (SS)

8601 SW 24th Ave., 246-9007. 7 am-3 pm Wednesday-Sunday. no credit cards

Paradox Cafe
Perched cozily next to the Avalon Theater on Belmont Street, the Paradox is a true gem. It's the perfect place to gnaw on tasty vegan delicacies in a cushy booth or at the diner-style counter. The menu is healthy, fresh and pleasing to all. You can get a humongous veggie/tofu burrito filled with fresh veggies fighting for plate space with spicy beans and brown rice for a mere $6.95. But with breakfast served all day, you'd be a fool not to try the corn cakes--plate-sized saucers of cornmeal pancakes, deliciously buttery and filling. A plethora of sauces, including applesauce, almond butter, plum and homemade fruit sauce, are offered with all of the delicious pancake choices for a nice change from the norm. Top off your meal with a fine vegan dessert and you'll wonder why you ever ate dairy. (SS)

3439 SE Belmont St., 232-7508. 8 am-9 pm Thursday-Monday, 9 am-9 pm Tuesday-Wednesday. no credit cards

Pasta Veloce
From a time-sensitive point of view, 'round noon is not a good time to go to Pasta Veloce's Morrison Street branch. A line stretches from cash register to front door. But, for those who harbor a holistic love for Italian food--the sights, sounds, smells, you name it--and an appreciation for raw kitchen-theater, noon is a great time to hit Veloce. Orders hemorrhage through the single register station. Line cooks, in combat whites, blast along in full view of the dining public. Yards of flame erupt from the grill. Veloce indeed.

Fortunately, this local outlet has more to offer than vicarious stove-rat adrenalin. As lunch tabs creep ever upward, Veloce's generous portions and slabs of bruschetta make it possible to observe the old $5-max rule; the savory spaghetti alio i olio rings in at $4.95. Prices creep up from there, but it's possible to nab a plate of food and a glass of wine for $10.

Stick with simpler dishes like the olio and the thick, zinging marinara sauce; Veloce does less well with meats (including meatballs) and more complex presentations. The salads are hit and miss. In general, though, Pasta Veloce has more than earned its standby status. (ZD)

1022 SW Morrison St., 916-4388; 933 SW 3rd Ave., 223-8200. Other locations: 12700 SW North Dakota St., Tigard, 421-1099; 246 N Main Ave., Gresham, 492-9534.

Pearl Bakery
It's a bakery. No, it's a lunch place. It's a bakery and a lunch place! Many of this city's finest restaurants get their bread from the Pearl. And they know they're getting some memorable dough. Artisan breads that don't take a jackhammer to get though are the Pearl's specialty. Lucky you, then, because you can come in and try out these yeasty joys at lunchtime. Think peanut butter and jelly is for kiddies? Wait until you try the Pearl's on Italian bread. The Gorgonzola, pear and arugula on walnut bread is simple, yet crave-worthy. But don't just fill up on the sandwiches: There's a whole line of just-out-of-the-oven desserts to choose from. (Psst: Get there early and nab an espresso brownie if they have 'em.) (CBB)

102 NW 9th Ave., 827-0910. 7 am-6 pm Monday-Friday, 7 am-3 pm Saturday. no credit cards

Philadelphia's
You might have to be from Philadelphia to understand what a godsend this place really is. Ex-pats from the City of Brotherly Love have very specific tastes when it comes to hoagie rolls and the way meat is sliced, and good ol' Philadelphia's comes through. Their hoagie rolls (chewy and crusty at the same time!) perfectly nest fillings ranging from thinly sliced steak to Italian luncheon meats to meatballs. The house also offers the rolls for sale, but get there early; they fly out the door. During the long drought when you couldn't get Tastykakes outside of the Keystone state (they now are marketed at local mini-marts), this was the one place where you could find them. So hunker down, grab the Philadelphia Inquirer (a gem of a daily paper) and put on the tough façade of someone living in a city with a chip on its shoulder about everything except its world-renowned street food. (CBB)

6410 SE Milwaukie Ave., 239-8544. 9 am-10 pm Monday-Thursday, 9 am-11 pm Friday-Saturday, 10 am-8 pm Sunday. no credit cards

Pho Hung
Portland has many pho houses, but the menu here adopts all-American marketing to make the national dish of Vietnam a little more approachable. Instead of just listing the multiple variations of the beef noodle soup, Pho Hung uses categories like "Adventurer's Choice" and "For Beginners" so you can quickly skip over those ingredients--such as soft beef tendon--that require a little more cultural assimilation before they're ready for prime time. The small bowls ($4.25) hold about a quart of soup, with thin slices of beef floating in the richly scented broth and a tangle of rice noodles at the bottom. If you're not feeling like pho, a plate of grilled lemongrass chicken with broccoli and rice is only $5, or you could go for a vermicelli bowl. These layer a saladlike mixture of lettuce and cucumber with thin rice noodles, then a topping of shredded carrot, daikon radish, bean sprouts and cilantro. Pick one of several meat options, such as barbecued pork and skewer of shrimp ($6), and pour the accompanying bowl of nuoc mam fish sauce over the whole thing. (JD)

4717 SE Powell Blvd., 775-3170. 9 am-9 pm every day. Other locations: 7330 NE Fremont St., 284-8355; and 13227 SW Canyon Road, Beaverton, 626-2888.

Pho Van
If I were insane enough to decide to open a restaurant, I would pay for a consultation with the Van family first. Talk about a success story! When they first opened in Portland in the early 1990s, they turned some former fast-food real estate into a lively dining room offering the best in Vietnamese noodle soup and other Far Eastern delights. Then they moved down the street and gutted what used to be a Mexican place, created a sophisticated dining room and increased the size. Now the Vans are planning to take a stab at the downtown market when they open an offshoot in the Pearl this spring. They're bound to succeed, as long as they keep offering their avocado smoothie, a sublime shake with just enough hint of the fruit to keep it interesting. And don't forget their crispy flour crêpe ($5.50), which looks like some rich lady's streamlined pocketbook laden with turmeric, shrimp, pork, bean sprouts, mung bean and onion. Oh yeah, and they better keep selling that soup: a lake of tangy chicken or beef broth that's home to rice stick noodles and mix-and-match meat options. Ah, there's no business like restaurant business. (CBB)

1919 SE 82nd Ave., 788-5244. 9 am-9 pm every day.

Pizzicato Gourmet Pizza
When, in 1989, Portland's Pizzicato was born, the term "gourmet pizza" was an oxymoron. Oh, how times have changed. Today there are 15 Pizzicatos, but the concept is still fresh. What other pizza joint suggests wine pairings for particular topping combos? The chain's uniformly clean blonde wood design is further evidence that this ain't no Domino's. But the true proof is in the pizza: Fresh dough is tossed before your eyes, then brushed with garlic and olive oil prior to baking; toppings are precious, not perfunctory. My favorite: The aromatic Marco, which teams savory house-made lamb sausage with prosciutto, smoked mozzarella and mushrooms. Although the menu offers more than 30 variations--from puttanesca to Bangkok shrimp--diners may also create their own combinations. Colossal salads ($3.75-$8.75) and pies ($7.75-$18.75) should be shared; solo diners can order a slice for $2.25-$3.25 or a hot panini for $5 or less. (KC)

705 SW Alder St., 226-1007, and several other locations. 11 am-9 pm Monday-Friday, noon-9 pm Saturday-Sunday.

Produce Row Cafe
The menu at Produce Row looks pretty much like standard bar-food fare, until the food arrives. That's when you realize you're in for a challenge. Served on fresh rolls from Portland French Bakery, the burgers and sandwiches at Produce Row, which come in various sizes, easily separate the hungry from the ravenous. What does that mean? Well, even the medium-sized Produce Row Burger ($5.95), which only comes with the basic trimmings, is a formidable adversary. Forget about the Deluxe Burger ($7.15 for a medium), which also includes Canadian-style bacon and grilled mushrooms. Unless you have an unhingeable jaw, you may have trouble stuffing one of these into your mouth. Vegetarians can chow down on Gardenburgers ($4.25), but for the most part the menu is for carnivores. The only draw back is that Produce Row doesn't serve French fries, but with these colossal sandwiches, there's really no room for fried potatoes anyway. (DW)

204 SE Oak St., 232-8355. Summer hours (March 15-Oct. 15): 11 am-1 am Monday-Friday, noon-1 am Saturday, noon-midnight Sunday. ATM. no credit cards

Queen of Sheba
I don't go to the Queen of Sheba for the muted store-turned-restaurant vibe or the friendly yet aloof service. I go because the food is so wickedly, reliably good! Every time I see that silent man slide up to my table with the order, my heart does a little pitter-patter of "could it possibly be as good as last time?" Will the enjera (the large, floppy bread/silverware) be as fresh and pleasingly sour? Will the stew arrive as piping hot as I remember? I guess the law of averages just doesn't apply at Sheba, because I've never received a glass that wasn't as frosty as the North Pole or a plate of Mushroom Stew (extra spicy) that didn't give my tastebuds some sweet, sweet discipline. Still, make sure you go with someone you're lovey-dovey (or at least comfortable) with. The large communal platters encourage sharing and will almost always result in dinner-mates fingering your food. (IM)

2413 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 287-6302. Noon-3 pm Thursday-Saturday. 5-10 pm Monday-Sunday.

Red Electric Cafe
In a serendipitous little strip, just over the bridge from the Hillsdale shopping center, the Red Electric Cafe announces its presence with some discreet, charming neon signs alongside the Vis a Vis Salon. Inside it's a homey, woodsy joint consisting of three rooms and loads of regulars. Named for a commuter train on the Southern Pacific line (it ran from 1914 to the late '30s), Red's is at its best during breakfast. In addition to the traditional scrambles and omelets (you can create your own from a long list of ingredients), you'll find apple-cinnamon couscous in cream sauce with bananas, caramel and almonds: gooey and daring. The fried sweet potatoes put a new note into morning proceedings. Portions are ample and then some. This is comfortville, with hearty dinner soups, a delectable pork chop with those same fried sweet spuds, and lots of appropriate seasonal offerings, like a winter curried sweet-potato purée and roasted vanilla-scented acorn squash. You won't find startling innovations here, but the word "honest" will keep coming to mind. (RJP)

6440 SW Capitol Highway, 293-1266. 7:30 am-8 pm Tuesday-Friday, 8 am-1 pm Saturday-Sunday.

Richie B.'s
If you didn't know any better, you might think that Richie B., the eponymous owner of this New York-style deli, was shining you on. The guy is always playing the part of the attitudinal New Yorker who just wants everyone to be happy with his goods. One night there were three of us waiting for our sandwiches, all parked like assholes in the middle of the street with our blinkers on, when Richie comes from behind the counter and asks if we like eggplant. We all nod yes, hungrily. He had three slices of eggplant with marinara on his big fingers--we each opened our mouths and he popped in the eggplant, one after another, like we're his baby birdies. That's a long way to go for an act. Besides the Passion of St. Richie, there are plenty of other reasons to be seduced by this wondermart for New York-style street food: It's authentic and it's good. The chicken cutlet ($6.75) is hand-pounded and breaded and tastes filler-free. The Italian sub is slammed with every great luncheon meat from that boot-shaped country and dressed with both hot and sweet peppers, onions and a few shakes of oil and vinegar. The pizza is foldable, but for this East Coast cuisine-head, the reason to go here is the sandwiches. And, of course, Richie. (CBB)

2272 NW Kearney St., 299-1200. 11 am-9 pm Monday-Saturday, 11 am-8 pm Sunday. Open until 11 pm in the summer.

Riyadh's Lebanese Restaurant
This softly lit Middle Eastern restaurant is an excellent spot to sneak into a booth or huddle around a small table to share a shawarma plate and devour a couple of gyros before a night of gallivanting. The tabbouleh isn't worth jumping up and down for, but the salads, combos and vegetarian dishes (the moussaka holds a special place in my heart) don't disappoint, and the menu offers plenty of lower-priced options. A perfect spot for ordering a mess of lamb, pitas, hummus and salad and holing up for a couple hours of unhurried talk. (IM)

1318 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 235-1254. 11 am-8:30 pm Monday-Saturday, noon-8 pm Sunday.

The Roxy
Creatures of the night are well acquainted with the Roxy as a den of after-last-call depravity (and hamburgers). But your best bet for quick service is to avoid the 3 am rush--when drag queens, queers, drunks and punks flood this small Southwest Stark Street eatery with decor by Tarantino--and hit it for a late lunch or early dinner. That's the prime time to flip through the well-thumbed menu and pick your choice of burgers, grilled sandwiches or salads (generally ranging from $5-$7 a pop), then sit back and rock to the techno/punk/funk/industrial jukebox while calmly waiting for your food to arrive. The waitstaff, which makes no bones about its collective bitchiness during the late-night crush, might even be friendly. And the food? Mmm...greasy. And maybe even meatier than the neighboring male strip clubs. But then again, maybe not. (JG)

1121 SW Stark St., 223-9160. Open 24 glorious hours a day (but closed Mondays).

Sahara Deli
The Sahara has a...um...shall we say minimalist glory. There is no scene here, and there are no belly dancers. The restaurant is a tiny space that might once have been a store or insurance-salesman den: dark and undecorated, with a long counter adorned with pictures of questionably colored specials. Still, though the ambience may be ambiguous, the food is solid and dependable. You'll find gyros, combo meals and salads at a good price. Open only during lunch hours, it's a great little hole to (try to) grab a table for a quickly served, pleasantly unshocking and completely satisfying Lebanese meal. The meat pie and hummus may not inspire sonnets, but they definitely make the trudge back to the office in the Oregon rain much more bearable. (IM)

420 SW College St., 224-7915. 11 am-6 pm Monday-Friday; noon-4 pm Saturday.

Skyline Restaurant
Nothing radiates Americana like a classic '50s burger joint, and Skyline is the best one in town. After more than a half-century of service, this old drive-in may show its age with a worn booth here, an outside bathroom there. But Skyline remains a refreshingly nonchalant alternative to its more lavish West Hills neighbors. Recently sold to an employee after nearly becoming a Chinese restaurant, Skyline still has the same old menu, as tasty and familiar as ever. The peanut-butter milkshake is divine: frothy and smooth. A cheeseburger with the works--dripping, bountiful--is the best three bucks you'll ever spend. For vegetarians, the grilled cheese is a crispy and gooey pleasure. You can find better fries and onion rings in the city, but with a squeeze of Heinz they play a respectable supporting role. Here's hoping this unassuming burger heaven lives forever. (BL)

1313 NW Skyline Blvd., 292-6727. 11 am-9 pm daily.

The Soup Station
Located in the Pearl District, this vegan/vegetarian-friendly deli is appropriately named. Considering all the foot traffic and the lack of eating space in the deli, it feels like they want you to chug through like a tummy train. The soup/sandwich combo goes for $6.25; the cream of mushroom is a puréed dream of porcini, portobello, champignon, parmesan and green onion. The deli case proffers some intriguing items and changes every day. The Soup Station is known for daily soup and sandwich specials with jump-up-and-slap-you fresh ingredients. The salads are enticing, especially the house with mesclun greens and a balsamic vinaigrette. This is good neo-gourmet healthy eating. (BN)

520 NW 12th Ave., 228-2466. 10:30 am-3 pm Monday-Friday.

Stanich's
Ah, Stanich's: Sports pennants blanket the walls; the place oozes '70s brown tones, and the requisite television sets hang over the bar. The menu is short and boasts the World's Greatest Hamburger, a.k.a. "The Special." This monster is packed with hamburger, cheese, ham, bacon, egg and all the usual veggies. The "Bo" (several burgers are named after offspring of the late, great burgermeister Stanich) is a sloppy chunk of love sliced in two, making it easy to manage. The fries were nicely crispy with the elusive large and golden cut thrown in at about one to every eight wimpy fries. The rest of the menu consists of sandwiches: egg, BLT, ham and even PB&J. Stanich's also offers a salad, filled with meat of course, and the "Mallory Rose" cheesecake. Our waitress, sweet and helpful, warmed the whole place up. With the sandwich prices ranging from $2-$5 and mighty cheap pitchers, this is an awesome place to play pool and slouch on some vinyl. (BN)

4915 NE Fremont St., 281-2322. 11 am-10:30 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-11:30 pm Friday-Saturday. ATM. no credit cards

Stepping Stone Cafe
Stepping Stone, slinging hash in Northwest Portland since the Truman administration, trumps every requirement demanded of an old-line city diner. The staff dishes ample servings of sass along with ziggurats of home fries and deep slabs of griddlecakes. Sure, maybe they could refill the coffee just a little more often. However, since you're very likely to linger for an hour or more in this über-cozy L-shaped space, you'll get your fill of rocket juice. Finally, when you emerge from the Stepping Stone's tight spaces and steamed windows with a fresh layer of carbs in your belly and stimulant in your veins, it will actually seem like a new day. Beats a grim extension of last night all to hell. (ZD)

2390 NW Quimby St., 222-1132. 6 am-2 pm Monday-Friday, 7:30 am-2 pm Saturday-Sunday. no credit cards

Stickers Asian Cafe
The offerings of this small Westmoreland cafe are based on the street foods of Asia. A handful of different dumplings provides a nice starting place. Try a half-dozen of the namesake potstickers ($3.95), pork-filled and nicely pan-crisped, and perhaps six of the boiled version tossed in a sinus-clearing blend of hot chili oil spiked with garlic, red pepper flakes and fermented black beans ($4.95). Noodle dishes include chow mein, rice stick pad Thai, or peanut-sauced yakisoba, each with a chicken or shrimp option and priced from about seven to nine bucks. Check out the blackboard for daily specials like the baby bok choy stir-fried with garlic ($5.95). Wash it down with a cold beer or bargain-priced cocktail. (JD)

6808 SE Milwaukie Ave., 239-8739. 11:30 am-10 pm Monday-Saturday, 4-9 pm Sunday.

Thai Peacock
Many Thai connoisseurs consider Thai Peacock the best game in town, for good reason. The fact that it's so reasonably priced is further cause for joy. The food here is so lively, you'd swear the vegetables had been picked to order, the chickens butchered at your command. Even the fried wonton appetizer ($6 for plenty) with spicy peanut oil dip has a fresh-from-the-ground taste to it, avoiding the heavy staleness of many such dishes. The Thai BBQ Chicken, the restaurant's signature dish ($9), is subtle and tasty. Also recommended is the pad prik khing with tofu ($7.50), a zesty mixture of chili paste, lemon leaves, onions and green beans. For curry, stick with the mussaman; it's spicy without being overwhelming. (PW)

219 SW 9th Ave., 223-2310, and 11525 SW Durham Road, Tigard, 639-7988. 11 am-11 pm every day.

The Tillicum Club
A colleague once described the interior of the Tillicum as "'70s rec room." And he wasn't far off: Pool tables, wood paneling and Seagrams-inspired art give this place a very neighborly feel that's only slightly punctured by the Keno screens on the wall. As pubs go, the Tillicum offers a far better than average cuisine: Hearty breakfasts served all day long; good and greasy Reubens; tasty roast beef, grilled onions and swiss cheese sandwiches that will spike your cholesterol in a nanosecond. Daily specials, such as turkey sandwiches and seafood stew, will convince you that mama is in the kitchen. Finish with Papa Hadyn's Chocolate Suicide Cake and you'll need to crawl to the health club next door. Or at least grab the cue stick and challenge anyone in the room to a game. (MZ)

8585 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, 292-1835. 7 am to 2:30 am every day.

Todai
For lovers of Japanese treats, this place is like walking into Willy Wonka's Tokyo factory. It advertises as a 160-foot seafood buffet, and boy, does it deliver. On the cold side, sushi is laid out like little dolls waiting to be taken home by a good family. You've got your nigiri made with salmon of all variations, eel, tuna, shrimp, screaming "Pick me! Pick me!" You've got rolls, the Philly, the California, the Rainbow, all vying for attention. On the hot side are fried rice, BBQ pork and other guilty pleasures. Unfortunately, even though there is a quick turn-around, these dishes suffer from being under the heat lamps. For some reason there's a dessert crêpe station, but if you've done it correctly and overstuffed yourself with sushi, all you'll have room for is one of the tiny wedges of cake and pie you can choose from. Lunch is a steal at $12.95 weekdays, but dinner, with a wide selection of seafood including lobster, isn't such a bargain at $21.95. (CBB)

340 SW Morrison St. (Pioneer Place, Upper Level), 294-0007. 11:15 am-2:30 pm and 5:30-9 pm Monday-Thursday, 5:30-9:30 pm Friday-Saturday, 5-9 pm Sunday.

Toney Bento
At Toney Bento, every day is rockin'-out day. Techno. Disco. Breakbeat urban dance flavor. The mood is Asian groove food, healthy-style. Bento fever. Bowls of rice or ramen or yakisoba noodles ($4.50-$6.75) with whatever (and we mean whatever!) you want on top: smoked salmon, Thai chicken, veggie potstickers--even a shameless Mexican-style bento with refried beans (yikes!). The hidden secret is that, if you show up on the right day, when the crazy dancing-and-screaming sushi chef is really in the groove, he'll have two or three sushi specials worth scooping up, particularly the dragon roll with spicy tuna and barbecue eel. Though not as hefty as the rolls from other haunts in town, these are economical, rolled tight and, most important, freshy-fresh. Toney Bento is a mix and mash of American and Japanese culture--much like many fast-food joints in Japan, come to think of it. And its randomness and hipster savoir faire make it a kickin' place for a quick meal and as many fortune cookies as your conscience will allow you to snag from the self-serve bowl. (BF)

1423 SE 37th Ave., 234-4441. Open 11 am-8 pm Monday-Saturday. Hours change in the summer.

Utopia Cafe
Portlanders must not get hungry before 11 am, because there seems to be a mysterious dearth of decent breakfast cafes in P-Town. Fortunately, there's Utopia. It sits squarely between vegan playgrounds like the nearby Paradox Cafe and your average greasy spoon. On weekends, you can't get a table until 1 pm (without a wait). There's a perfectly good reason for the fuss, of course. Whether you choose one of the six "scrambles" with home fries and toast ($6.25) or brioche French toast ($4.25-$5.25), breakfast is served, quickly and tastefully, all day long. Utopia also offers one of the best cheeseburgers in town ($5.95) as well as a range of simple, exquisite sandwiches. (PD)

3320 SE Belmont St., 235-7606. 7:30 am-3 pm every day.

Vita Cafe
If you want some fun while you're dining, Vita's funkified hip-meets-hippie interior and vegetarian/ vegan cooking won't let you down. The likable staff dishes out healthy comfort food--served in booths the size of a small studio apartment--that's as easy on the pocketbook as it is on the eyes. But for those who fear Vita's inventive take on tempeh (chicken-fried steak, anyone?), tofu and other forays in enviro-friendly cooking (check out the salads, pastas or out-of-this-world chili), there are more than enough burger options to satisfy even the most oblivious palate. Try the popular Jimbo burger with egg, bacon and special sauce. Vita serves brunch on the weekends, too. And for arty types, there's whimsical folk art adorning the W.C. to offset even the longest bathroom break. (IM)

3024 NE Alberta St., 335-8233. 5-11 pm Tuesday-Saturday, 5-11 pm Sunday-Monday. Brunch 8 am-3 pm Saturday-Sunday. no credit cards

Yam Yam's
If home cooking were this good, no one would ever leave home. The question is not "What's good at Yam Yam's?" but "What isn't good?" There's not a single bad thing on the menu at Yam Yam's. Fried catfish that's crispy without being greasy and fried chicken that slides off the bone may not be the best thing for the heart, but it's well worth the risk. The pork chops are so tender there's no need to bother with a knife, and the meatloaf is a culinary masterpiece. Then there are the side dishes--lightly spiced macaroni and cheese, smooth and creamy mashed potatoes, yams that literally melt in your mouth--which offer the perfect excuse to order any entree. This place is heaven. (DW)

7339 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 978-9229. 11 am-11 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-3 am Friday-Saturday, all you can eat buffet noon-5 pm Sunday.