Let’s Sit for a Bit

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

Ben on the other hand went the classic route with the Pad Thai- his method of gauging how good a Thai restaurant is (sort of like how I use the taboula as a standard at Middle Eastern restaurants).

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.

Chiang Mai on Urbanspoon

***

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

Kyle sprung for the Chevre salad with some fried goat cheese, poached pears, almonds, mixed greens, among other hidden ingredients

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.

Via Delizia on Urbanspoon

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?

13 thoughts on “Let’s Sit for a Bit

  1. I hate fast food. But if I am going to order something I tend to lean towards Asian cuisine’s or a pizza place. This is mainly a last resort if I am too tired to cook something or fridge is empty.
    I love how your not afraid to try different types of cuisine’s…I’m eating at a middle eastern restaurant tonight!

  2. My favorite fast food is a McFlurry, but I’ve found that I’ve grown to prefer higher quality ice cream. :P I’m not even a fried egg fan, but somehow everything does look better with one on top (everything savory, that is)!

  3. Haha Sara, you make me laugh…and assure me that I’m not the only food snob around! Gah you couldn’t pay me to dine at a fast food restaurant like Maccy D’s- I feel so dirty when I walk in there, let alone sit there! I will give it credit for its ice cream though, both the vanilla soft serve cones & McFlurry’s….I don’t care what goes into it while making but both are winners in my book!
    That Thai food looks amazing, I am partial to Pad Thai but that fried egg looks great- I hope the yolk was dippy!
    Via Delizia sounds like my ideal dining venue: I love cute Italian restaurants where the food is delicious yet reasonably priced and the waiters are super interactive with the customers- it really adds to the whole dining experience.
    As for eating alone, I don’t think I would leave my house specifically but if I was out and about and hunger struck, I would absolutely hit up a restaurant solo. I have no qualms about it- as long as I have some entertainment (i.e. a magazine/book or my Blackberry). Hope your weekend is off to a great start, my friend!

    Anddddd essay over :)

    • You are the best commenter in the universe! PS my friend, Nazneen and I are kind of creepily obsessed with your comments and how amazing they are- in fact she actually reads them to me out loud sometimes. Alright, totally hope I didn’t scare you off now haha.
      But yay we can be food snobs together! I didn’t want to be too rude on the blog but I DESPISE fast food, and I absolutely know what you mean by that “dirty” feeling, I get itchy around fast food places, and I swear it’s just not psychological! I do agree though that McDonalds has good soft serve cones and sundaes ;)
      And dippy yolk is the best the best the besttttttttttt :)

  4. I love having dinner with friends in relaxed atmosphere. italian or lebanese (sit on the floor, have a hookah) restaurants are usually a good pick. I also love lounges that have cocktails bars and serve food. there are some great places in london, in delhi i am still searching for the good ones.
    I am not a fast food fan at all- and the only FAST food i get here is the roadside DAL that you can get at every corner :) In Europe I used to go out to eat by myself too. Whenever i had a stressful day I just went to my favourite restaurants, ordered a glass of wine and some good food and sat in the restaurant thinking about my next yoga sequence or writing down my thoughts. Its great bc u can eat as slowly as u want and enjoy every minute with yourself! :)

    • I agree with you about the Lebanese restaurants- I love hookah, just not too close to after I eat otherwise I get nauseous. Hmm, I’m trying to pick my brain about where I ate in Delhi- most of the places I went to were in Khan Market since I stayed in Golf Links colony; but have you been to Karim’s yet in Old Delhi? It’s a classic for Mughlai food. As for more upscale- I most definitely recommend Bukhara at the Sheraton Maurya- for sure the best mughlai food I’ve ever had :)

  5. Ahhh I’m back! I’ve missed you and your posts, I feel like I’m so behind. I have to catch up on all my favorite blogs, but I’m glad you’re doing well! :) I don’t mind eating alone. Sometimes I bring a book and go to a restaurant to get away and have a little bit of me time!

  6. That’s so funny (but true) about having a yardstick meal to measure how good food is at a restaurant! Pad thai and tabbouleh are excellent examples.
    I’m with Khushboo on this one – fast food repulses me and I could happily go the rest of my life without having another McDonald’s french fry. If I am going to order in though, it almost always has to be indian or thai. Last year I lived a stone’s throw away from what is possibly the best indian takeaway in West London – it was seriously restaurant grade food (safe to say they made a sizeable amount of money off of us).
    As for dining out solo – I think I would but only if I was on the go. I can’t see really see myself leaving the house to eat alone. That said I’m not opposed to the idea, especially if the food/restaurant warrants it :)

    • Yes and tabbouleh is so important to get right- I find many times in the states they put FAR too much bulgur in the tabbouleh- my favourite is that it has to be mostly parsley, not too salty, and with the right sprinkling of bulgur and right proportion of lemon juice/olive oil :)
      And ughhh nothing grosser to me than fast food to be honest- I don’t know how people find McD’s fries palatable considering how greasy and ugh they taste.

  7. I love this — “Bringing the class to the fast”

    I am right there with you — why is everyone in such a rush??

    I see people driving down the street eating in their cars and I get the distinct thought “That shiz just ain’t right!”

    But then two weeks later I find myself with one hand on the wheel and the other shoving an apple in my mouth. LOL. I think we all gotta “git her done” sometimes but in this country people do so TOO often.

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