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November 23rd, 2005 12:00 am LIZ CRAIN | Food Reviews & Stories

Love At First Bite

Valentine's vaults the sandwich to new heights.

smoke break: Tom Greenwood prepares to devour a chicken-pesto sammy. Jeffrey "Wonderful" Wilson looks on.
The sign propped on the sidewalk in front of Valentine's reads "food.music.art," keying you in to the fact that here servers are rockers and sandwich-making is art. Located in the West Burnside archipelago of clubs and late-nighteries just shy of the Burnside Bridge, Valentine's beckons hungry wayfarers as well as night owls craving low-decibel conversation.

The vibe is super-mellow. A small couch, a few wooden tables, a large magazine rack—displaying a jumble of art and culture mags as well as local zines—and a four-stool bar that wraps around the tiny exposed prep area sit in this airy, ground-level space. A flight of steps lead up to a small performance space for DJs and bands.

Whether you want coffee and a cookie or to wine and dine, Valentine's has a way to woo you. The bulk of the menu features sandwiches, however, and at first glance you may feel a snore tickling your nose. You'll soon find that Valentine's co-owner/chef Jason Bokros' sandwiches are special.

Take the Reuben ($8), for example. The thinly sliced corned beef is so pink and well-pickled it deserves to be sniffed like a flower—revealing hints of peppercorns, mustard seed and caraway. It's slathered with a bright-red, piquant chili sauce rather than a tired Thousand Island.

Most sandwiches are branded by the grill press, giving them ample crunch and oozy insides. All come with a house-cured sweet dill pickle and chips or a tangle of field greens. The Black Forest ham and Gruyère sandwich ($7) is simple and delicious, as is a tofu sandwich ($7) with a sticky-sweet peanut, mango and ginger chutney.

The roast-pork sandwich ($7) is dressed for success (caramelized onion, sautéed spinach, spicy marmalade) but somehow falls short. The thinly sliced meat cooks a bit dry, and the jam sitting on top binds the vegetables but does little for the meat.

The cheese plate ($4/$8) stars a rich and creamy Stella bleu alongside a hunk of fontina, a wedge of brie and a mound of goat cheese. The meat plate ($4/$8) stars Salumi (Seattle's cured meat mecca) salami—one favorite is intoxicatingly perfumed with allspice, while a softer salami bites back with red chili.

Good-value red and white wines—mainly from Spain and Italy—are poured into generous tumblers. Beer is by the bottle, from Stella Artois to Guinness, unless you want a ubiquitous can of Pabst—it's a buck.

There are many incarnations of Valentine's, depending on the time of day you visit. Doors open at 11 am, when the smell of Stumptown's Hairbender blend and egg-and-cheesy fill the air. A full-bodied Côtes-du-Rhône may be a suitable nightcap before doors close at 3 am.

Since this savory spot opened last summer, devotion to creative culture has been evident. Valentine's is young and full of wall space constantly checkered with rotating local art. And crafting a killer sandwich—well, that's an art unto itself.

Valentine's, 232 SW Ankeny St., 248-1600. 11 am-10 pm Monday-Tuesday, 11 am-3 am Wednesday-Saturday, closed Sundays. $ Inexpensive.
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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