Memorial Day Weekend 2014: Day 3 - Newport, Tualatin, and back to Portland (Fishtails Cafe, Panera Bread, and more Voodoo Doughnut)

My alarm went off at 6 am.  Not exactly the most sensible thing for someone spending a single, relaxing night by the ocean, but I didn't know if the morning crowds were as bad as the evening ones at the local restaurants.  I love breakfast food, and don't go out for it anywhere near as often as I would like because, well, I loathe getting up early.  Yet here I was, doing it on my vacation, and all because someone on my Facebook page happened to mention an eatery that I had already been kind of interested in while I was griping about my disappointing dinner the previous night.

Welcome to South Beach...

Memorial Day Weekend 2014: Day 2 - Portland and Newport (HK Café, Ocean Bleu at Gino's, Nana's Irish Pub)

Sunday morning was kind of a blur.  We got up, got ourselves together, went to look around the awesome Safeway Sis and I had spotted the day before (yes, I get geeky about nice grocery stores), get some coffee, then we checked out of the hotel and headed off to break my three year dim sum fast (I'm not counting the handful of selections available here or the occasional Asian market freezer purchases).

On my first trip to Portland as an adult back in 2010, I did a lot of research on the available dim sum places.  The big contenders at that time were Wong's King and Ocean City.  I ended up choosing Wong's King, loved the experience, went back again the following year, and it would have made sense to go back there on this trip as well.  But of course, I'm me.

Memorial Day Weekend 2014: Day 1 - Portland (Sen Yai, Uno Mas, Voodoo Doughnut)

A little less than a year ago, I embarked on a road trip to Seattle for a three day weekend (meaning that I really only got to spend about two days enjoying the city).  This time around, I decided to step up the crazy by going on the single strangest vacation of my life (so far)...

At roughly 5:30 on Saturday morning, we hit Starbucks for coffee and breakfast (I do NOT recommend the bacon Gouda breakfast sandwiches) before jumping on the freeway.  In one car rode myself, my roommate and her kids; in the other, my mother and sister.  In Boardman, we stopped to visit with my aunt for a few minutes and gas up the vehicles.  At that point, the roommate's kids hopped in the car with my Mom and Sis so their mother could crawl in my back seat, and then it was straight through to Portland.  We reconvened at a shopping mall that I don't recall the name of, where the roommate's BFF awaited to whisk her and the younger child away to the Oregon Coast.  

The older child would stay with me and my family, spending the rest of the day and part of Sunday exploring Portland.  Sunday evening we would drive to Albany to visit with my cousin and her kids, and after a bit of that I would continue on to the Coast alone to spend the night relaxing (and hopefully indulging my rarely-addressed seafood cravings).  Monday morning I would collect the roommate and younger kid, swing back by Albany for the older kid, and then head homeward.  Yes, I agree that it seems a bit insane looking at it all laid out like that, but at the time it seemed perfectly sensible (or maybe I was just glad to be out of town for the weekend).  We checked into our hotel, which was a lot nicer than I expected, even though they charge three bucks to rent one of their severely limited selection of videotapes and were completely out of complimentary cookies.  Then, it was on to lunch.

The Counter

I like burgers.  A lot.  In fact, I've taken some ribbing over how many burgers and burger joints I've written about on this blog.  I can't help it, I like options!  And like pizza, sandwiches and salads, the burger is just one of those foods that lends itself to customization.  I've driven all the way across town on occasion just because someone tells me that some joint has put out a new novelty burger, and one of the things I've always loved the most about Fuddruckers is the amount of veggies and sauces available they have available for you to choose from.  Still, how many times have you been eating a novelty burger and wished that an item could be added or taken away, or that a different sauce or bun was available?  What if there was a place that put a dazzling number of choices directly into your hands, and built a burger to your exact specifications?  You see where I'm going with this, right?

Yeah, this place.

Street Food Weekend

Even though it ended up so bloated that I posted it as its own review, my visit to El Habanero was just the first of what ended up being four street food meals last weekend, and it was originally supposed to be part of a compilation write-up.  Here are the other places I finally got around to checking out...

Scotty's Hot Dogs has been around for less than a year, but they've been pretty prolific.  They have a couple of regular lunch spots, occasional gigs at places where adult beverages are vended, and have made appearances at Boise Music Festival and a few food truck gatherings.  I caught up with them at Settler's Park in Meridian, where they were taking advantage of the warm weather crowds.

As you can see, the menu is a little limited.  If you're looking for mustard, chili, relish, sauerkraut, or (blech) ketchup, you're out of luck.  Scotty's specializes in two things: big dogs cross-cut and grilled, and their signature sauce.  The staff are genuinely friendly and proud of their product.  I'm something of a hot dog purist, and since I was going out of my comfort zone anyway, I decided to shoot the works and ordered one with everything.

Scotty Dog

This was a good quality dog, and I'm a big fan of the cut-and-grill method, which I see far too rarely.  Getting all of the available toppings might have been a mistake, because it was nigh impossible to eat the thing without making a mess.  I have to say it though: I'm not a convert.  The thin, red sauce was too sweet for my liking, and got very sticky as it dried.  If they would make some of the more classic toppings available, I would definitely seek them out again, but I don't think that's likely to happen.  Still, they seem to be doing pretty well with their own thing, so more power to them.

Like most meat enthusiasts, warm weather turns my thoughts to barbecue.  More so than normal, even.  So when my roommate decided she wanted to hit up The Cheesecake Factory's curbside to-go service for a sandwich, I stopped at Back Porch Smoked BBQ on the way back home.  After perusing their menu, I ordered a family meal to split with the roommate's younger child, a budding barbecue enthusiast in her own right.  I chose the half pound of shredded pork, slaw and potato salad as my two sides, and added on a couple of ribs for good measure.  Two things took me by surprise here.  First, I was asked if I wanted the pork heated up or if I wanted to take it home and warm it myself.  Second, when asked what sauce I wanted, I was given a choice of Sweet Baby Ray's (one of my favorite store-bought sauces, but still a national brand, pre-bottled one), or their house Carolina-style mustard sauce.  I opted to have my pork heated and served with a little of each sauce.

Potato Salad and Cole Slaw

The kiddo decided to skip on the sides, but her mother sampled them.  We both agreed that the slaw was one to pass on, being mostly dry and tasting basically like plain shredded cabbage.  It got pushed to the side pretty quickly.  The potato salad seemed to have been made with Greek yogurt rather than mayo, which took us aback at first, but I have to admit that it kept growing on me as I ate it.  By the time I finished it, I was a fan.

Individual "Rib Snacks"

The ribs were a hit with both myself and my young dining companion, especially the skin.  The kid has mentioned them several times in the days since, and if I were to return for anything, it would be more ribs.

Shredded Pork

I would not return for the shredded pork, however.  It was a little too finely shredded for me, a little dry, a little bland, and still a little chilly.

Shredded Pork with mustard sauce

I wasn't a big fan of the mustard sauce, either.  It lent some much-needed moisture, but didn't have the tangy quality I'm used to in that style, not to mention being a little thick and kind of...chunky?  I think I'll stick to my smoky sauces.

The next morning, on my way back to Meridian, I finally stopped by a place that came up in a conversation about tamales on my Facebook page last year.  Well, not a place so much as a car that happens to be parked across from the Catholic church at the corner of Meridian and Chinden on Sundays.  There, a woman and her kids peddle pork and chicken tamales for a buck a piece.  I decided to surprise some of my family, and purchased ten of the pork ones.  I was about to ask for recommendations for warming them, but when the bag was handed to me I could feel the heat coming through it.  Nice!

Pork Tamales

The tamales themselves were hot, moist, and big.  When I cut into one, the angry red color of the filling had me bracing for spiciness that wasn't there.  In fact, there just wasn't a lot of flavor at all.  I was wondering for a moment if I'm becoming jaded or something, but my Mom (the biggest spice wimp I know), my eight year-old niece, and the roommate's six year-old daughter concurred, all saying they would be better with some kind of sauce.  I don't know if they tone them down for the gringos or what, but I need a little more kick.  Looks like I will continue to get my tamale fix at Lorena's.

Not a very thrilling write-up, I know.  Good dogs with toppings that didn't grab me, hit and miss barbecue, and tame-ales.  Still, it was exciting to try so many new places in the course of less than 24 hours, and I'm sure there are those among you who would be perfectly happy with at least some of this stuff.  You are, as always, invited to try the stuff yourself.  I'm always up for hearing other people's opinions.

Scotty's Hot Dogs on UrbanspoonBack Porch Smoked BBQ on Urbanspoon