July 21st, 2010 WW Editorial Staff | Special Section Stories
 

Best Bites

     
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Busiest Guard Dog



Eric Vetter and Bastard. IMAGE: Rob Delahanty

Half the time, it seems, Bastard tends the store. Bastard is an old, fat, knee-high, black-and-white pied terrier of uncertain provenance and gait—not much of a barker, not much of a fighter. His back end wobbles as much as his tail. He is also the de facto guard dog at Eric’s Odditorium (7600 N Interstate Ave.) whenever owner Eric Vetter pops out for a business call or a drink at the nearby World Famous Kenton Club. “Back in a few,” says the sign on the door, entreating would-be visitors to call Vetter’s cell. He invariably arrives soon after to man the till for the store’s sundry merchandise: drinking men’s vintage wear, innumerable cigar boxes, bronze sabots, a ’30s-era Donald Duck. In the meantime, Bastard will face you down from the door—gratefully, even. You see, Vetter, who has the manner of a pirate and the manners of a gentleman, forcibly rescued him from a house of abusive meth heads by punching one of them in the face. It’s all a sort of North Portland gothic, and we’ve decided to really like it. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

Most Sustainable Sushi


As nice as it is to imagine our seafood comes courtesy of a gentle old fisherman bobbing serenely on the great ocean, most of the industry is an environmental nightmare. And in a recent survey of sustainable seafood practices conducted by Fish2Fork.com, a new website designed to guide diners to sustainable seafood, sushi restaurants were the worst offenders of all, serving up endangered stock from overfished areas. Which is exactly why Bamboo Sushi (310 SE 28th Ave., 232-5255, bamboosushipdx.com) is such a local treasure—not only does the Laurelhurst-neighborhood eatery offer excellent vegan, meat and seafood rolls, but it was also ranked No. 1 in the nation for sustainability by Fish2Fork. So relax, eco-conscious Portland sushi lovers. Try the Green Machine, or the Lucky 13. Then try the Green Machine again. What is it they’re putting in that Green Machine? As it turns out, the only question about Bamboo Sushi’s sustainability is whether you can stop eating it. CAITLIN GIDDINGS.

Best Distiller (of Water!)


Let’s be clear: Paul McGuire’s stills are not for rum runners, bootleggers or other anachronistic scofflaws. Yes, his Treetop Home Distillation Systems bear a strong resemblance to the pot stills used by moonshiners in the Prohibition era, but that doesn’t mean McGuire supports illegal activities like the unlicensed distillation of alcohol for human consumption. Doesn’t anyone want to drink river water anymore? McGuire started Treetop last August as a way of simplifying still technology and reducing the price for curious experimenters. Inspiration came from two places: his great-grandma, a “bathtub gin lady,” and his experiences transporting water crates while serving in the Air Force during Desert Storm. Now, McGuire sets up shop at events like First Thursday and skirts around the OLCC with an anti-moonshine disclaimer. Although McGuire admits some are probably buying his $100 to $140 stills to make whiskey, he says he gets more business from “doomsday survivalists” concerned about water. Last year, Treetop even passed the ultimate test with glowing, neon colors: purifying water from the Willamette River. Who needs alcohol when you can drink that? CAITLIN GIDDINGS.

Best Burgerrito


Walk into La Sirenita No. 2 in Sellwood (8029 SE 17th Ave., 234-3280) and you’ll see a sparsely decorated dining room, a giant mermaid mural and a line of backlit photos of the various meals on offer suspended above the register. Let your eye drift south to the main menu, where you’ll find a recently taped-on paper star with the words “California Burrito” in large type. This flavor tube is roughly the size of a bouncer’s forearm and stuffed full of carne asada, french fries, guacamole and salsa. It’s the approximate equivalent of a fast-food value meal wrapped in a tortilla, and is somehow able to satisfy your burger and burrito cravings in a single, habit-forming package. Try it slathered in the house green sauce. BEN BATEMAN.

Best Way to Save the World at Breakfast


When you first walk up to Solar Waffle Works (2314 NE Alberta St.), you might think you’ve just happened upon any old mobile grub-rustling outfit. But take a closer look. The ponytailed kid patiently grinning while you decide between the Good Gravy and Maple Bacon can’t be older than 19, and is it just you or does the cook have braces? What are those gigantic panels on the cart’s roof? And how come those waffles are so dang cheap ($2.50-$5)? Because this food cart not only serves tasty waffles, but is also partially solar-powered, run voluntarily by young adults in a nonprofit vocational training program for underserved youth, uses food mainly sourced within 200 miles, and is entirely dedicated to funding local education programs. Making a difference never tasted better. NATALIE BAKER.

Best (and Only) Reason to go to Gladstone


Welcome to Gladstone; now go eat some strawberries. Tebo’s “world-famous strawberry shortcake” says it all. The expansive, cafeteria-style eatery (19120 SE McLoughlin Blvd., 655-6333, tebos.net) has been a staple of that nebulous land between Milwaukie and Oregon City since 1954 (when it was called Gene & Joe’s). It sure feels like a trip back in time: bussers in all white, servers in red aprons, cheap pies and cakes, and a mostly antediluvian clientele who have been coming every Sunday since 1954. (Barbershop quartets are known to drop by now and then for unsolicited serenading.) Shortcake dots every diner’s tray (small, $4.50; large, $5.50)—the crumbly biscuits and piles of syrupy berries in whipped cream should be shared, lest you risk a sugar coma. Slices of pie (from rhubarb to gooseberry, $3.50) beckon any anti-strawberry weirdo, and there’s a host of lackluster burgers and sandwiches for the savory-toothed bores among us. But seriously—Gladstone is spilling over with strawberries. CAITLIN MCCARTHY.

Best Soft-Serve


Mike’s Drive-In (1707 SE Tenino St., 236-4537; 3045 SE Harrison St., Milwaukie, 654-0131) is a paean to the roadside diners of yesteryear, and while the photos of classic cars and pinball machines are nice touches, it’s the soft-serve that really sends you back. Your first lick of Mike’s sweet, silky-smooth swirl instantly transports you to an age before buzzwords like “artisanal,” “organic” and “hand-scooped,” when there was a new machine for everything from warming your food to improving your golf game. As you cruise down the highway in your imaginary convertible with Betsy, your imaginary girl, in her suggestively ankle-length skirt, you feel a sense of purpose and progress; the future is now, and to prove it, there is a robot making your ice cream. And you know what? That ice cream tastes damn good. BEN BATEMAN.

Best L.A. Import


Los Angeles: A cancerous lesion on California’s bottom, founded on a criminal disregard for water rights and sustained on a steady diet of shattered aspirations and overpriced vodka. What has L.A. ever given us? American Apparel ads, Scientology and Lakers fans. But I will say this for the City of Smog: It is the birthplace of the K-Taco, the single greatest achievement in culinary crossbreeding since the Vietnamese decided to stuff a baguette with head cheese and pickled daikon. Koji BBQ founder Roy Choi debuted his short-rib- and kimchi-stuffed tortillas at the beginning of 2009, and it took just three months for Portlander Bo Kwon to open a local imitation. Fourteen months later, Kwon is running two Koi Fusion trucks and a food-court booth at 827 SW 2nd Ave. He’s even got an imitator of his own: Boolkogi Taco Korean BBQ has been pushing kimchi-stuffed tacos and burritos at Southwest 5th Avenue and Oak Street since May. BEN WATERHOUSE.

Best Aquatic Cook



Weenies on the Water. Image courtesy of Jeff Dood.

Summer boating has a lot of perks: wind whipping your hair, pretty shoreline vistas…the intoxicating scent of sautéed onions and grilled sausage. OK, you can’t get that last one unless you’re sailing on the Willamette River, where Portland’s boaters, kayakers and stand-up paddlers are treated to the sight (and smell) of Jeff Dood’s Weenies on the Water boat, which has been grilling up made-to-order dogs and burgers for ravenous river folk these past two summers. “They come once for the novelty of it,” says Dood, who serves five to 10 boats per hour on a sunny weekend day, often while wearing his trademark white chef’s hat. “They come back for the taste.” Dood’s got a gift for grilling, loading up his plump, perfectly seared weenies (“the term ‘hot dog’ is outlawed on the W.O.W. boat”) with spicy-sweet barbecue sauce and caramelized onion chunks, or wrapping them in grilled focaccia and sprinkling them with cheddar. He’s even got Spider-Man ice cream bars and Choco Tacos for the kids—all carefully handed over boat to boat with the aid of Dood’s trusty PikStik.

A self-employed architect who moonlights as a musician—often drumming for Lions of Batucada—Dood spent two years and thousands of dollars customizing his floating camper boat and licensed food cart, installing red, sparkly diner booths and laying checkerboard flooring in the vessel’s galley kitchen all on his own. Now, after two successful seasons on the Willamette and a few catering jobs under his belt, he’s ready to branch out, with an ambitious plan to become the gourmet Ray Kroc of the water. That’s right, he wants to franchise. “The Willamette could support at least two W.O.W. boats; same with the Columbia,” he says, getting excited. “Then every Oregon lake, then the world!”

But until he gets a nibble from a buyer, he’s content to just steer his boat closer to another waterlogged regular in need of a weenie fix. “It’s tough. Out here you have to be a short-order cook and a boat captain simultaneously. Sometimes while I’m busy grilling something and I’m not anchored I end up drifting into a tree branch,” Dood says. “But this happens to be the most fun job in the world, just out here floating. How many people get to spend their day on their boat?” KELLY CLARKE. Visit weeniesonthewater.com and check out the GPS W.O.W. tracker to find out where the weenie boat is headed.

Best Concert Freebie


Cloudy October is one of Portland’s favorite MCs, thanks to the sick beats and Cloudy’s sharp, unusual flow on his debut EP, The Aviator Is Dead. But Cloudy—born Kizzy Yokomura—has some unusual gimmicks in his corner as well. At a late-2009 show at all-ages club Satyricon, he threw plastic bottles of pear juice out to his crowd. “Many rappers are force-feeding crowds and listeners stuff that isn’t very good for them,” he tells WW. “I figured some well-thought-out music and healthy juice would break up the monotony.” How will he top the pear juice? Yokomura says he’s started giving away “even healthier gluten-free snacks” to people who buy his album. CASEY JARMAN.
 
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