Monday, May 07, 2007

Outside insight!

You can bet that as soon as the sun comes out and it's even halfway warm, sun starved Portlanders are going to be flocking outside to eat. I was meeting mom today for a little lunch and vacation photo sharing opp, and we ended up stopping by Meriwether's up at 2601 NW Vaughn. This has been on my list to try for weeks, ever since I had heard that former Gotham Tavern chef Tommy Habetz had taken over the reins in the kitchen. As we were driving by today on our way to another destination, I noticed the open sign out, so within moments of pulling a quick u-turn in the middle of the street, we were walking in the door. The hostess informed us that their patio was open, so even though I'd like to think I'm not like everyone else, when it comes to eating outside on a beautiful spring afternoon I’ll do the lemming thing too.
The bottom line: this is one of the nicest, if not the nicest, outdoor dining spots in the city. Some tables are completely in the open, and they also have a covered area with a fountain in he middle that burbles just enough to drown out other diners. Very Euro feeling, and an especially nice transition home after w and I spent the last two weeks having much the same experience in Italy and France. Also, the ceiling of the covered area has a line of heaters attached on two sides, so I'm guessing even when it gets a little chilly out, you can still be pretty comfy.

The menu has lots of tempting choices, but having a craving for all things good and American, I had to go with the char-grilled burger while mom had the roast chicken salad sando. I also added on their escarole hearts Caesar salad, and we each felt the need to relax with a glass of vino. The Caesar, even though the greens were a tad limp, was quite good, lightly dressed in a piquant dressing with crunchy foccacia croutons and shaved Parmagiano.

Our sandwiches arrived, and both were wonderful. Mom's chicken salad had a tarragon dressing and was mounded high between sliced foccacia with apple wood smoked bacon and avocado, with a small arugula salad on the side of the plate. She loved it, and there was enough to it that she took half home. Now I'm kind of...okay, extremely...particular about my burgers. For me, the Castagna Café burger remains at the pinnacle of local offerings. Having said that, this Meriwether's hunk of beef was delicious, and something I'd order anytime. Cooked perfectly medium rare as ordered, the meat was juicy, really nice "beefiness" to the flavor without that disturbing fattiness that you get when restaurants try to foist off inferior beef on you. But with a guy like like Habetz in control, and with his rep for getting the best local ingredients, I had a feeling that this hunk of cow would be about as good as it could be. It was topped with apple wood bacon and fried onions, and I added cheddar because I can. A pile of fries came on the side, good but to me could have been crispier and less limp.

Mom's chix salad sandwich

My super delish burger & fries

All in all, though, this was a first class burger and a top quality lunch in a really nice setting. The outside was packed and the servers were super friendly, even those who weren’t waiting on our table! I would absolutely put this on your list, especially if you're looking for a little al fresco experience, and I can’t wait to try the dinner menu 'cause I hear Habetz has a way with all things porcine!

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