Powell Boulevard’s food mecca

As restaurants, bars and pubs pop up in Portland’s trendiest districts one after the other, few palatable choices can be found in areas like Powell Boulevard.

As restaurants, bars and pubs pop up in Portland’s trendiest districts one after the other, few palatable choices can be found in areas like Powell Boulevard.

The street is often thought of as another 82nd Avenue, rather than a hotspot for new eateries, typified by its rows of car lots and fast-food restaurants. The area is filled with students, families and everyday Portlanders wishing they had more satisfying culinary options nearby.

But now there’s Hopworks Urban Brewery (2944 S.E. Powell Blvd).

Both the food and beer at Hopworks are unmatched on Powell Boulevard. The cheapest meal you’ll find is still a little too expensive, but it’s worth it. For $6.75, you can indulge on the tastiest chicken tenders you will ever try. Batter-fried and covered with a tangy homemade BBQ sauce, the tenders are the best option on the menu.

That’s setting the standard high. If you pay $2 to $4 more, you can get one of Hopworks three natural beef or garden burgers. They’re pricey, but take a bite into one of the 1/3 pound burgers garnished with Rogue River blue cheese ($9.25) and you won’t complain.

On the side of most of the meals, such as the burgers and the tenders, come their Organic Rustic Thick-Cut French fries. Get them Cajun-style, not regular. Don’t worry if you think you can’t handle heat, the spice is subdued by the thick, real-potato fries.

Organic is the name of the game at Hopworks, which opened on March 25. Not only do they use as many organic foods in the kitchen as possible, as well as recyclable napkins and to-go containers, but all of their beers are also 100-percent organic.

Stop by soon for their seasonal, the El Diablo, a Belgian ale with a tangy kick. The Cultivator Doppelbock, another seasonal, is excellent for lovers of ESB. It’s malty, with an intriguing mixture of sweet and tangy tastes.

The Survival Stout is the best coffee stout made in Portland. Brewmaster and owner Christian Ettinger has perfectly prevented the strong flavors of Stumptown’s Hairbender espresso from overcoming the grainy malt taste of your typical stout.

The low-point of Hopworks beer list is their IPA, which lacks finish and any kind of hoppy punch. The Crosstown Pale Ale makes up for it, with a strong, crisp flavor.

For the most part, the rest of the menu consists of salads, sandwiches and pizza. The Hopworks Sub ($9.25 for meat, $8.75 veggie) is like the combination of gyro and an Italian meat-lovers sandwich, a remarkable and delicious concoction. The self-explanatory Powell Steak Sandwich ($10.75) is overpriced, but one of the best you’ll find in Portland.

The pizza, although a focus of the menu, could use some reworking. The crust is dry and tasteless. The pizza toppings offer both the traditional and innovative, but too little marinara sauce makes patrons turn too quickly to their glasses of water (or beer).

Hopworks has an exceptional happy hour. From 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. every day, you can get a small selection of the regular menu for under $4. Try a slice of their pizza for $1.75 or the Black Pepper and Garlic Beer Sausage for $3.75. You can also try the Pint o’ Peanuts for $1.75 (normally $2.75)-that is if you don’t mind paying for peanuts. (C’mon Hopworks, loosen the purse strings a little, peanuts should be free!)

A converted warehouse and former home to Sunset Fuel, Hopworks has just the right blend of characteristics to match its Powell neighborhood, combining the industry that drives that sector of Southeast Portland with the culture that makes this city unique.

Dozens of bicycle frames are welded into the industrial piping that loops over the restaurant’s bar. The 16,000 square-foot building has a setup very similar to Henry’s Tavern downtown–a downstairs and upstairs restaurant to one side, with a bar, pool table and all, at the other.

The building has features leftover from when it was Sunset Fuel that add to its unique feel. A concrete box, the size of a small closet against one wall of the bar, is now used like a private-party room. The outdoor sign that once read “Sunset Fuel” has been converted to read “Hopworks Urban Brewery,” and still has the same lightning-yellow lettering the fuel company used.

If you plan to hit Hopworks on the weekend, make sure to get there early. The restaurant calls for at least a half-hour wait on Fridays and Saturdays, and the bar fills quickly. Hopworks is great for a casual meal, first date or grabbing a beer with friends.

Hopworks Urban BreweryAddress: 2944 S.E. Powell Blvd.Phone: 503-232-HOPS

HoursSun. to Thurs.: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.Fri. and Sat.: 11 a.m. to midnight

Happy hour:Every day: 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.Sun. to Thurs.: 9 p.m. to closeFri. and Sat.: 9 p.m. to close