3862 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 206-8292, luckystrikepdx.com
[SPICE PUSHERS] In a meek-tongued city like Portland, spice-pushers Lucky Strike are like shady guys sitting in a Camaro across the street from other subpar Chinese restaurants, enticing customers into sampling their wares. “Hey, man, you really wanna ride the Sichuan snake? Take a dip in this Hot Pepper Chicken Bath! You’ll see God, man!” The menu at this Southeast Portland restaurant, an outgrowth of the Hawthorne Theater next door, proudly touts its ability to singe mouths, stomach lining and other parts: Items are measured on a four-level “ass-kicking” scale, represented by pictographs of tiny, lit bombs. But anyone can dump a grillion peppers atop chunks of chicken and challenge patrons to finish the plate. Lucky Strike, despite its bravado, is more than just daredevil cuisine. It’s some of the most flavorful Asian food in town, and you don’t have to call in the full bomb-squad to experience it. Start with the spicy pork ears—small, chewy strips that look like miniature bacon slices, which rank on the lower end of the heat index but still provide a kick to the sinuses—and the top-shelf JiaoZi dumplings. For entrees, the twice-cooked pork belly isn’t so hot as to obscure the hints of ginger, while the two-alarm eggplant, braised with a sauce more tangy than fiery, melts so deliciously it might as well be pork belly. And if you’ve come to get your ass-kicked, well, that pepper-ensconced chicken—which this writer it was too much of a wuss to try—is allegedly the heroin of the Portland food scene: You’ll wake up the next day on the bathroom floor, but you’ll just want more.
Ideal meal: Dumplings and braised eggplant paired with one of the spicier dishes—perhaps the pig intestine?
Best deal: $6 Guinness pork ribs at happy hour.
Pro-tip: Mixing and matching spice levels is key to not hating yourself in the morning.
4-10 pm Sunday-Thursday, 4-11 pm Friday-Saturday. $$.