Monday, February 23, 2009

Quick Bites PDX: 5 Guys Burgers and Fries; Spella Caffé; EVOE

I haven't seen Slumdog Millionaire. I wanted to earlier, but never made it. Now that I've seen the Academy Award ass-kicking they gave the American movie industry, I'm still a little leery. It's almost a matter of no way can they meet my expectations. My friends are about 70/30, loved it/meh, and I know it's theater worthy, but still.....
Right out of the bag and looking a bit worse for wear, but it's all about the flavor, right?
I bring that up as a prelude to my visit to the new-to-PDX 5 Guys Burger and Fries out in Beaverton. This east coast chain was also much anticipated, kind of like if In-n-Out came to town....which they haven't....yet! I read a mention in our local fishwrap, and have a good friend who swears it's the deal. I did a post about its opening and got about the same 70/30, love it/overrated feedback. So today I made the trek to the 'burbs to check it out. I am nothing if not a huge burger fan. From the perfection that is the Castagna Café burger and fries to my twice yearly Big Mac. So while I lust after the great burger, I'll also slumdog my way through fast food on occasion.
The kitchen at 5 Guys, where esprit de corps seems to be in abundance. Go, you'll see what I mean. And, no, I didn't photoshop the "place order" sign in.

So how did 5 Guys measure up? For a fast food burger their hand-formed beef patties are pretty rocking. They come two patties to a burger (I had the bacon cheeseburger), are properly cow-like, meaning pretty clean tasting and not industrial fatty (I would also never eat the plain patty off of my Big Mac by itself. It needs all that other shit they layer on it to make it edible) like McD's. Thicker than our own Burgerville chain's patties, with cheese that was melty-gooey and the bacon not bad, and a bun that held together. I'd have to rate it pretty highly. The fries were the best part. Thicker cut, fried in peanut oil and lightly salted, with good starchy texture, they are way above other chain fries. They also post a sign (pic at left) on the wall telling you where that days spuds came from. Today's were the pride of Warden, Washington. Word to the wise: the regular order of fries at $2.79 was plenty big enough for 2, maybe 3 people. They have big boxes of peanuts in the shell set out to munch in line or at your table, and in their aw-shucks-we're-just-regular-folks shout out, they let you throw the shells on the floor. Schticky, but kind of cool, too. So would I make the special trip to Beaverton from the east side just to indulge? Eh, probably not. It was okay, and while I like the hand-formed patty thing it wasn't transcendant, and I can get any number of just okay burgers at any number of bars in town...with a beer!
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So I'm driving back into town, thankfully out of suburban mall madness, and decided to cut through downtown to have one of the legendary coffees from Andrea Spella's cart on SW 9th and Alder, Spella Caffé. To reference the open, not all legends live up to the hype. Spella does. From his hand-roasted beans to the perfect hand-pulled espresso, this is what every coffee bean dreams of becoming. You did know coffee beans have dreams, didn't you? The espresso in the picture, that perfectly chocolatey looking dab in the cup, maybe two tablespoons of caffeinated pleasure with it's lightly foamy crema floating on top? THAT is exactly what I want to see when I order a doppio espresso. Not this half a cup of watery, thin, bitter swill sloshing around a cup like 90% of places give you. I want body and texture. I live for the roasted, bittersweet chocolate taste with a sublimely smooth finish. I need to feel the love. At Spella, it's all about one man's love, passion, coffee, and the pursuit of perfection. Bravo, Andrea!
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So yesterday, after a pokey morning and my gut-busting breakfast torta from Por Que No, hunger slowly crept up on me about 4. Luckily, with the magical chef's table at EVOE about a two minute drive from our front door (I know, we could've walked...heck, we snowshoed there before...but that pokey feeling hadn't quite gone away) relief is never far away. Kevin was as usual throwing down his usual dazzling array of simple, flavor packed small plates. The EVOE blackboard menu always presents almost too many options, because with me, the more I see, the more I want. Luckily, w is always there to talk me down, so we you ever just "settle" at EVOE....on, among other things, this......
Lomo (cured pork loin) with a mache salad
Baby calamari, achingly tender and delicious, with an almond, pea,
and mint dressing on toast. AMAZING!!

We also had some perfectly seared scallops with grapefruit and avocado and a hearty nettle dumpling soup. Both, again, delicious. I am continually astonished at the value and beauty of the food at EVOE!


dds said...

I am SO over duck confit and lamb shanks...your pics of EVOE are turning my mind (and tastebuds) to spring.

bb said...

dds...Who wouldn't be over duck confit and lamb shanks. Wait, I can't believe I just wrote that..... EVOE is the perfect "welcome back to Portland" after your French indulgences!