26 Hours In Portland: Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen

Welcome to the Pacific Northwest

After a satisfying lunch (pulled pork and side dishes aside), we went and got checked into the hotel, made a quick trip to my favorite Safeway (and a not-so-quick trip to the Fred Meyer down the street due to its horrible parking lot) for some essentials, then back to the hotel again to enjoy not being in a car for a while.  We had originally planned to hit a happy hour prior to the show, but the aforementioned Festival festivities were making a mess out of the entire downtown area.  By the time we found a parking garage that wasn't full and managed to locate the happy hour spot I had chosen, the line waiting to get in convinced us there was no way we'd have time before we had to be at the venue, so we ended up just hiking straight over there and buying overpriced drinks at the concessions counter where a bottle of water costs almost as much as a shot of whiskey for some psychotic reason.

He's crushing that guy's head!
They've still got it!

I know nobody is coming here to read about the nearly-finished tour of a Canadian sketch comedy troupe, so suffice it to say that it was almost two hours of awesomeness.  After the show ended we had some time to kill because our car was now trapped in the the garage where we'd left it, because said garage was locked down until 11 p.m. due to the Starlight Parade.  Luckily, the place I'd wanted to go for happy hour earlier was still open and a lot less busy now, so that's where we headed.

Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen

Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen is my kind of place.  It's dark and divey and they serve adult beverages, but it's also clean and they put out a whole lot of Vietnamese food.

But be advised, there are rules...

Not convinced?  What if I told you they're open seven days a week, and have happy hour from 4-7 p.m. each of those days?  What if I told you they're open till midnight every day, except Fridays and Saturdays when they stay open until four in the morning?  If I ever move to Portland and you need to track me down, this wouldn't be the worst place to look.

Hello & Goodbye

To be honest, I didn't pay too much attention to everyone's drink orders because I was too busy perusing the menu.  I ordered the first drink on the cocktail list, the Hello & Goodbye, which consists of Bacardi Silver rum, roasted coconut water, and lime.  And just for fun, it's carbonated.  It was a little sweet, a little tart, a lot refreshing, and most of all just plain strong.

Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen

To be honest a lot of our party's energy levels were flagging at this point.  Lunch had been expensive, and most of us were looking to be economical.  So, everyone except me just ordered either the pork or vegetarian Crispy Rolls off the starters menu.  I wanted something with some veggies and starch to it because I had skipped breakfast and lunch had been so rich.  Besides, why pay four dollars for an appetizer when I can pay ten and get an entree that comes with a couple of that same appetizer?

Combination Vermicelli Bowl

Ah, bún.  I know that the first thing everyone thinks of in Vietnamese cuisine is phở, but bún is my personal go-to dish.  It's a beautifully simple pile of rice noodles and veggies, available with a variety of toppings and generally accompanied by a side of fish sauce and a little something spicy for those who want it.  My favorite variety that's widely available locally is bún thịt nướng chả giò, which is topped with grilled pork and Vietnamese egg rolls.  Luc Lac has dispensed with all the pretty wording and sells this stuff as "Vermicelli Bowls" and they have all kinds of toppings, from rolls of marinated steak wrapped around veggies to minced shrimp on sugar cane skewers (good luck finding either of those options around here).  I could have gotten my usual combo, but for two dollars more they have something even better.  If your eyes will adjust to the crappy picture above, that's indeed a bowl of noodles and veggies.  It's topped with a skewer of grilled pork tenderloin marinated in lemongrass and spices, a skewer of grilled chicken breast glazed with honey, a skewer of grilled shrimp marinated in garlic and sesame oil, a skewer of barbecue fried pork sausage, and a couple of the crispy pork rolls to boot.  Did I mention it's only ten dollars?.  Look at it.  Don't you want that in your life?  I'm half tempted to call out from work tomorrow and go get a bowl right now.  Despite all the marinades listed above, they go pretty gently so the flavors don't clash and so you can still taste the meats themselves.  Rather than two sauces, they serve this with one tub of a spicy fish sauce vinaigrette.  I shared bits and bites of anything that anyone else at the table wanted to try, and I still wasn't able to finish it.  This place is definitely high on my "must return" list, but with my drive to always try new places, we'll see how it goes.

We ended up leaving Luc Lac pretty close to 11:00, so we headed to the parking garage to pick up our car.  Unfortunately everyone else had just been waiting until the garage re-opened to get their cars as well, and the garage we were in was just one of many.  Add that to all the normal traffic and the people who had been parked on the street, and it took us almost an hour just to get out of the garage.  Despite being tired and nearly overcome by exhaust fumes, we headed across the river to Voodoo Doughnut to get some treats to have with our coffee the next morning.  Sorry, no pictures.  I've been there enough times to know what I like, and I can only post so many pictures of their Bacon Maple Bar.

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