The Hungry Hallows of NW Portland

I’ve known for a while that I have magic powers. I figured it out not long after I read the first Harry Potter. We had so much in common. I wore glasses. I had a weird scar on my forehead. I was kind of whiny. My mom made me sleep under the stairs. (Just kidding, I was in college at the time so if I slept under the stairs, it was because my room was sooooo far away and the jungle juice had made my legs sooooo heavy). My powers weren’t as pronounced as Harry’s, but they were definitely special.

If I walked into a room, not five minutes later all the chocolate had vanished into thin air, racing via Portkey to my stomach. At a party, I could instantly divine who the champagne hogs were as though I had my very own internal Champagne Marauder’s Map, and when it was time to wash the dishes after supper club, it was like I was wearing an Invisibility Cloak. But most importantly, now that I’ve just recently moved back to the Alphabet District, new eateries have begun sprouting up around my apartment as quickly and lushly as Hagrid’s beard. Coincidence? Probably not. Here’s a quick rundown of four new Northwest Portland dining destinations that you and your wand should explore.

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The Bent Brick
1639 NW Marshall St.
503.688.1655

www.thebentbrick.com
Tue-Sat 5-10pm * HH Tue-Fri 5-6:30pm

Although my initial impressions of this ivy-swathed new eatery were that it was going to be a local ingredients-driven tavern, The Bent Brick doesn’t really seem like a tavern, (and it doesn’t have a burger, which to be fair, was disclosed early on in this Portland Food & Drink interview), but it’s gorgeous and mixes a mean cocktail so I’m not kicking it out of the ‘hood for eating crackers. Exposed brick walls, playful summer breezes wafting through the glass rollup door, gorgeous bar rife with superb local spirits and expertly-crafted cocktails, cushy curvy waiting lounge sheltered by a sturdy Lincoln Log sculpture, memorable mussels with smokey aioli and tabasco mignonette that come over big rocks which you can use to defend your share, delicate slices of albacore with fennel shavings, green strawberries and watercress, Xocolatl de Davíd’s dense, luscious dark chocolate cake with bourbon glaze–tavern or not, The Bent Brick’s a new lower Alphabet District gustatory destination all its own…or makes for the ideal gastro-pit stop en route from Metrovino to M Bar.

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LeLa’s Bistro
1524 NW 23rd Ave.
503.719.4744
www.lelasbistro.com
Tue-Sat 11am-9pm * Sun 11am-5pm

Walking up the stairs towards LeLa’s Bistro’s front door, the first thing we noticed was the row of very quiet intellectual types perched in the rocking chairs lining the wide, cheerful front porch overlooking NW 23rd Avenue, tapping away on their laptops and iPads. We were all quite taken with this Norman Rockwell-meets-the Apple Store scene.  Once inside, we were promptly offered hot tapioca cheese puffs, essentially muffin-shaped gougéres made with tapioca flour. We were quite taken with these too. LeLa’s bahn mi were constructed on terrifically fresh, crisp baguettes that are baked daily by owner Laura Le’s mother Gale Le, who owns Portland’s popular Binh Minh bakeries with her husband Howard. The baguettes were layered with savory stuffings like housemade pork meatballs and lemongrass chicken and bulgogi beef with garlicky housemade kimchi (made by co-owner Min Matsumoto’s mother Nina), the salad rolls were stuffed with tender pork and fat pink shrimp and served with a mild peanut-hoisin sauce, and the housemade Thai chile-infused Spicy Tamarind and summery Raspberry Lychee sodas were sweetly refreshing without being cloying. I could easily sit on the front porch all day and sip them while reading the Daily Mail Online…I mean, creating important spreadsheets and other intellectuallish stuff, on my iPad.

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Olympic Provisions Northwest
1632 NW Thurman St.
503.894.8136
www.olympicprovisions.com
Mon-Sat 11am-10pm

The most venerable of the Northwest Newbies at a ripe three months of age, Olympic Provisions is now one of my favorite haunts in Portland and not because I get a discount thanks to tirelessly slinging chubs at OP’s Portland Farmers’ Market booth. It’s because lovely executive chef Erin Williams’ menu is simple, pure, and flawlessly executed, featuring seasonal-to-the-minute fare like crisp-skinned trout with fresh asparagus and orange mint, al dente chitarra coated in creamy, impossibly fragrant arugula pesto, and a deep bowl of velvety polenta studded with crisp farmers’ market vegetables, swimming in cheese broth and topped with a fried egg, a dish that makes even the most devoted carnivore mewl like the little lamb that was not harmed in the making of it. Not to mention, OP Northwest is serviced by OP Southeast-based pastry queen Amelia Lane, who sends her sweet wares across the river in special gilded caravans guarded by Taser-wielding winged monkeys, who deliver her chocolate salami and salt ‘n pepper shortbread and light-as-a-freeze-dried-feather strawberry mascarpone cake and tantalizingly puckery Grapefruit Campari sorbet safely to the Northwest industrial shores. And who else in town has a ruddy vintage French rotisserie drooling roast chicken fat onto tiny honey-colored Yukon Gold potatoes, which are then tossed with lardons of bacon, freshly chopped scallions and sea salt? Nobody, that’s who. I rest my case.

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Q-19 Cart Pod & Quimby’s at 19th
1502 NW 19th Ave.
503.222.3416
Cart hours vary

Do you hear that? It’s the sound of me snapping my fingers because your eyes glazed over at the mention of yet another new and unfamiliar cart pod. Don’t make me get out the smelling salts. I preserve those for special occasions, like the one where some lost great-uncle I don’t know leaves me his favorite Greek villa, complete with a lifetime supply of Agiorghitiko. For months, the Q-19 pod has been marinating at the corner of NW Quimby and 19th Avenue, the concept mirroring Mississippi Marketplace–build a bar and surround it with food carts and they will come. So far there are only four carts, the revered Sawasdee Thai, Chili Inside/Chili Outside, the Farmhouse and Philly’s Fat Omelets & Breakfast Burritos, but quite honestly you’ll hardly notice the carts because the giant gently-rolling Water Marble out front has hypnotized you. Huh? What? Anyway, if you are the kind of person who needs bourbon with their chili (and who isn’t?), take your cart eats inside adjoining Quimby’s at 19th pub (or order their extra-large nachos for $19.95), and enjoy a full bar, eclectic soundtrack, World Extreme Cafefighting on the telly, and nicely renovated restroom facilities that boast a toilet with a strategically-placed mirror that allows you to check your teeth for bits of frito chili pie while you answer the call of nature. Huh? What?