I am not a fan of fast food “restaurants,” and by fast food restaurants I mean gargantuan roadside chains with dollar menus that tend to star as villains in films such as “Super Size Me,” and “Fast Food Nation.”
And it’s not so much the food I am talking about; I’ve been known on the odd occasion to spring for some Taco Bell on a roadtrip (I just love all the sayings on the hot sauce packets!) or have some masala mix Micky D’s fries delivered to my penthouse (okay…this was in Delhi). But what I am more talking about is the atmosphere of fast food restaurants; I suppose if you get carry-out you can go home/to a park/to the roof of some abandoned industrial warehouse and concoct your own atmosphere, but with eating INSIDE a fast food restaurant. Yeah, so not conducive to a social meal experience.
And hey, that’s okay, not every time you decide to have an afternoon munch does it have to be an intimate prolonged conversation with some fries on the side- but something I do remember learning from my freshman year Communication 100 class was that fast food restaurants are DESIGNED to make you to eat and leave. The colours, the discomfort of the seating, the distance from the seats to the table (not to mention that you can’t even move the chairs).
Needless to say, I prefer to cook rather than eat out alone, and if I am springing for some of the Colonel’s fried chicken with a fellow chicken-vore, we’ll probably take it to go and douse it in our own designer honey mustard sauce, pop open a bottle of Moet while having a Gossip Girl marathon in our velvet slippers and silk robes. Bringing the class to the fast. (This might be an exaggeration of my perceived ridiculousness)
Alors, I am getting sidetracked, I have gone out to eat a couple of occasions in the past week where I lingered past the ninety minute mark–or rather lost track of time (which is only really possible if you’re parked in a SE Portland neighbourhood without time-limit parking or if it’s after 7pm in the Pearl District):
My friend, Ben knows a thing or twelve about eating out in Portland- especially in terms of ethnic food, in fact we initially bonded over our adoration of the spicy chicken wings at Pok Pok, Portland’s critically acclaimed Thai restaurant. However, for lunch he suggested Chiang Mai, what he (and many others) consider the best lunch time Thai in Portland, which I surprisingly haven’t before visited nor even heard of
As pictured above, I ordered the Pad Ga Prao Khai Dao; which is ground chicken with garlic, fresh chili, onion, chopped haricots verts, basil…and the best part: a crispy fried egg atop:
It was delicious; and the food here does take a while, but it’s well worth it; plus I’m a sucker for nearly anything topped with a fried egg. As for the spice metre, it was not as spicy as I had hoped for, but was nothing a douse of chili oil and assorted chili condiments couldn’t fix
What’s different about Chiang Mai from most of the other seemingly hundreds of Thai restaurants in the Portland area is that it specialises in Northern Thai cuisine; particularly from the region surrounding Chiang Mai. For instance, the menu also contained Roti Mataba as a starch option besides rice (which if you’re familiar with Indian food is bread); however the Northern Thai version is stuffed with yellow curry, potato, carrot, and onion and served with a cucumber sauce. I am definitely trying this next time.
In terms of atmosphere, Chiang Mai is small; very small- perhaps five or six tables tops and the fact that the food takes a while to come out encourages one to relax, focus on socialising, and be rewarded with something delightful. On that note; it’s probably best not to arrive famished.
On Monday night, I went out for a rather pleasant and relaxed dinner. However, the preface to it was a tad towards hectic to say the least. For the past three or so weeks, I have attempted with my friends Kyle and Connor to arrange our schedules such that we could meet for a dine-out sesh. Of course, due to the busy-ness that is life, it had been near impossible to find a two hour window in which all three of us would be available–that is until we were able to single out Monday night; 7:30pm
Initially, we intended to venture to an acclaimed Ethiopian restaurant in SE Portland only for me to randomly check their website to see that they are closed on Mondays. So, instead we agreed to try Le Happy, a hipster-esque hole-in-the-wall crepes & steak just past the Pearl District
However, after arriving, there was randomly a party of twenty hogging up the entire restaurant for the night so we decided to improvise a new location. Monday being Columbus Day resulted in an hour long walk in the rain around the Pearl finding each potential restaurant either closed (or about to); until we stumbled across Via Delizia, which had an hour left prior to closing.
Via Delizia, is a corner Italian cafe cum evening restaurant with an attractive gelato showcase and some cheesy faux olive trees and castle motif encasing it’s cafe tables. However, the menu looked absolutely scrumptious, not to mention VERY affordable for a dinner menu in the notoriously expensive Pearl
Connor and I on the other hand each got an order of the bistecca flatbread- a flatbread blanketed in garlic aioli, tender slivers of sirloin steak, gorgonzola, and tomato topped with a Mediterranean Salad of mixed herbs, greens, kalamata olives, cucumber, and feta. It was delectable and fresh and a steal at $12; and even though we were the only patrons and the place was due to close, the waiter was kind, accommodating and soft-spoken. Plus, it was wonderful to finally be in the company of these fine people, hearing about Kyle’s artistic pursuits on his upcoming London semester abroad and about Connor’s interest in studying the Political Food Culture/Revolution in Sweden (on a side note, Connor speaks fluent Swedish from doing a year abroad there despite being an Oregonian).
So even though, I was initially Le Sad that Le Happy didn’t work out, we ended up getting an hour of exercise around the empty streets of the Pearl, and a meal from this gem which I may have never stumbled across otherwise. Plus we kind of got to feel like we were in some Medieval caricature of a Roman ruin- bonus points for atmosphere.
What is your ideal atmosphere for having a social meal out?
What’s your favourite fast food place/order?
Do you ever eat out alone?