Etta in the Park

The mobile outpost of someday-to-open Violetta restaurant, the “Etta” truck’s cheery bright yellow and blue visage was a beacon of lunch in the midst of downtown Director Park’s cool granite and glass facade this afternoon.

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After a series of setbacks–including construction delays, Parks & Recreation red tape, and the infamous explosion that allowed Byron Beck to have some headline fun with the term “restaurant boom”–pushed Violetta’s opening from January to March to June, owner Dwayne Beliakoff (formerly of Roux), sent a letter to the staff explaining the new timeline and Etta’s operating plan, hopes and dreams, which you can read here at PDX Eater.

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According to the letter, the truck is staffed by Violetta chef Jeremy Niehuss and crew, all of whom peek out the narrow tinted windows at the top of the cart at you when you order. I’ve actually never seen so many people inside a food cart, but it’s great that they’re employed despite the restaurant’s unfortunate delays.

I made a classic lunch choice, opting for the Violetta (burger) with Cheese, and a small order of the Yukon Gold Fries. As a recent and traumatic milkshake experience has turned me off to milkshakes until I book a session of shake-therapy at Blueplate, I was actually sort of relieved to see that they weren’t offering shakes, because then I might have felt compelled to order one and and risk traumatization all over again. You can however, order from a selection of cold Pacific Northwest pop, which includes Hot Lips, Crater Lake, Thomas Kemper, and Jones’ sodas.

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My burger and fries came in a sweet little brown paper handle bag. I admit to having a fetish for small bags with handles, so I was immediately taken with my lunch. Call me a simpleton, I don’t care.

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I’d ordered the 1/3-pound burger, which allows you the choice of Nicky Farms Grass-Fed Beef, Natural Turkey, or Spicy Lentil (order the 1/2 pounder and you’ll get Highland Oak Farm Pasture-Raised Beef and like it). I like my burgers made of beef, so I opted for the first. The burger came on a soft buttery Grand Central brioche bun, with white cheddar, Violetta burger sauce, roasted tomatoes, pickles, lettuce, and a few tender ringlets of red onion. I thought the roasted tomatoes and secret sauce added a nice depth to the burger, the patty of which wasn’t extraordinarily robust, but was juicy and flavorful.

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All in all, I found it to be a very tasty burger. It’s possible that some people will balk at the price tag (burgers range from $7-$11) for what is essentially, despite the upscale fast-slow food mothership associated with it, a cart burger, but you can probably guess my shortsighted position. I’ll pay almost anything for something that comes in a small shopping bag with handles.

The Yukon Gold fries ($3 for a small box) were just how I like them, thin, golden, and expertly-salted, with a nice crisp that held its ground despite the cold wind that rapidly reduced the surface temperature as I ate them at a little bistro table on the Director Park patio. Ketchup came in small pre-filled cups below the display sodas, but you could pay $.75 extra for herbed aioli, harissa ketchup, Willamette Valley Ranch, or burger sauce.

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The menu has more than burgers and fries, there’s also an assortment of soups, salads, and franks. There are a few daily soup specials and a burger special posted–today’s was a portabello burger with caramelized onions and gorgonzola. I neglegected to take a picture of the menu I ordered from, but you can get a general idea here, or have at the truck’s picture above with your Airedelsur magnifying glass. The truck is currently serving lunch/early dinner Monday through Friday from 11am to 6pm, but beginning next week, if Parks & Recreation approves the permitting, Etta will commence opening at 7 am for coffee (Caffé Vita) and breakfast service.

As far as seating is concerned, there is an assortment of ledges and tables within Director Park, most of which have a view of Nordstrom, which is always nice. Thankfully, I was able to score a tiny table on the covered patio, so the soaring glass shield above didn’t allow the winter drizzle to render my laborious morning hair-straightening a waste. It was a noisy position, between the grumble of Etta’s generator and the omnipresent clanking coming from the tangle of construction along SW 9th Avenue, but the people-watching was excellent, and I can only imagine how pleasant this vantage point will be in the summer.

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Maybe by then Etta will be serving shakes to go in their little brown paper shopping bags with handles, and I’ll be over my shake tremors so I can enjoy them, and Violetta will be open and never explode again, and everything will be grand. Summer tends to have that effect on things.

Etta, a mobile annex of upcoming Violetta * SW Yamhill & 9th * www.violettapdx.com * 503-233-3663 * Mon-Fri 11am-6pm