Food tastes better outside. I don’t know why, but it is an absolute fact. For me, a lazy spring Sunday requires a picnic. During the summer, there are always a couple of barbeques you can go to on any given weekend. But you aren’t stuck eating indoors on the weekdays, however. There are tons of places where you can eat at a sidewalk table. I’m going to focus on three restaurants, for three separate reasons.
Chipotle – Campus community support
1948 S.W. Broadway
For all you McHaters out there, Chipotle isn’t wholly owned or run by McDonald’s – although they are a majority shareholder (65 percent, according to the best figures I could find on the web). Chipotle doesn’t follow the standard franchise model favored by the hamburger clown. Secondly, McDonald’s isn’t going away, no matter how many unscientific, biased and critically flawed documentaries get made. If the corporation can see that a more sustainable business practice can be more profitable than their historical model there is a good chance the clown burger might incorporate more sustainable business practices.
Chipotle is very proud of their commitment to sustainability. Using not only grain-fed and organic meats and veggies, but also inspecting the farms for the living conditions of the animals, is part of a process they call “food with integrity.” In a different city, this ethic might be enough to set them apart from the other restaurants, but not in Portland. The reason that I recommend Chipotle without reservation is their support for the campus community.
If you have been to just about any student group function since the relatively new restaurant opened their doors, there is a good chance you have been served their foil-wrapped burritos. The company has offered free food to any student group that requests it, an especially great offer since Sodexho has reinterpreted their contract with PSU to require that they provide all food service to all on campus events, unless the other options are less expensive. Chipotle, in the act of marketing their products to our campus, has saved us from countless bland cracker-and-cheese platters. For that accomplishment alone, they deserve a medal.
Situated very close to a fairly busy street, the outdoor seating isn’t necessarily the best. If you are into watching cars or simply can’t venture far off campus during lunch, this might be a good option for you, although I suggest getting your food to go and heading out to the Park Blocks.
I always order the Baracoa burrito, which shows the standard hallmarks of “casual quick-dining” food. It is made with fresh, high-quality ingredients when you order it, and you get options for all of the ingredients, Subway sandwich style. The fact that they only really offer two different types of food (burritos and tacos) allows them to focus on those two products and deliver consistent, high-quality food, for about $5. Show your PSU student ID and get a free drink!
McMenamins Market Street Pub – proximity and beverages
1526 S.W. 10th Ave.
The outdoor seating at Market Street Pub is much better, being in the courtyard of an apartment complex. If you have lived in Portland for very long, you probably already know all about McMenamins. In many neighborhoods they seem to outnumber Starbucks.
As a matter of fact, McMenamins could take a few customer-service pointers from their caffeinated spiritual brethren. In asking my friends about their experiences at the Market Street they all mentioned how terrible the service usually is. I don’t personally feel that it’s “terrible,” just inattentive, especially in a place known for serving beer and other alcoholic beverages.
The beer goes a long way to making the lack of attention in other regards a lot more manageable. This time of year practically begs for a nice pint of their Ruby, a light and almost sweet beverage which was the first beer to legally use whole fruit in the United States, over 55 pounds of raspberries per batch.
As far as food is concerned, I usually pick the Neon burger or the Cajun Cobb salad. Many of the dinner options are priced slightly outside of what most students can afford on a regular basis, but there is a good selection of side orders and a decent happy-hour menu, which can make it more affordable. The vegan split-pea soup is a passable version, even without the ham-hock flavor.
If you are looking for a good, quiet place to study, without the hassle of always being asked if you need another beer, this is probably a good place for you.
Rose’s Deli on 23rd – People watching, food and dessert
838 N.W. 23rd Ave.
There is one area on Northwest 23rd where the desire to be in “America’s City” is so intense that it has manifested in a trio of New York-style restaurants. Escape From New York, a great place to get our pizza freak on, bears its genealogy in the name. Kornblatt’s Deli has a sign in their window proudly proclaiming that they fly their bagels across the continent from New York each morning. The most authentic, longest established (except for an absence of a few years in the late ’90s) and least pretentious of the three, is Rose’s.
The extensive menu features an amazing panoply of standard deli-type food, although I usually opt for the Uptowner, a Reuben sandwich with a mixture of corned beef and pastrami, served traditionally with kraut, on rye. It’s exactly what a Reuben sandwich was intended to be. There is also a full bakery and Rose’s desserts have justly gained the reputation of being slightly too big for one person to finish. I really like the rum balls, but everything I have tried was excellent.
People-watching from the sidewalk is also terrific. Rose’s is the perfect place to spot hipsters, yuppies and other assorted trash cavorting with punks, students and working-class people in the most unexpected and terrific ways. Rose’s is a quintessential Portland experience.
Wherever you choose to dine this summer, consider doing it outside. I promise that the sunlight will make the food taste better, at no additional charge. Why would you pass up an offer like that?