The complete Portland meal

If you’re ever in Portland, you have to try these two places. They’re within a block of each other. I know nearly everyone has heard of Voodoo Donut’s. They’re known for their crazy donuts with cereal, oreo, candy, caramel, bacon… whatever you can think of! In my opinion, it’s all about the novelty of how unique they are but if you’re looking for something delicious, you have to try Bluestar Donuts. If you’re still hungry, walk down a block to a sandwich shop called Lardo. This post will highlight these two places.

I’ll start with Bluestar. So we went here around 3p and they only had 2 types of donuts left by the time we made it to the front of the line. They sell out FAST of their good stuff. I’m thinking okay these donuts have probably been here for most of the day and I assume they make it fresh daily so here’s what’s left..
Atmosphere: Small donut shop. Expect a line that would probably go out the door! This one is located in SW Portland.
Pricing: $3-$4
Service
: Quick service at the counter
Food: They also have coffee!
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Left donut: Meyer lemon custard filled donut. Their filling is concentrated in the direct middle so you don’t really get it after one bite, but once you get a taste of the filling with the donut it’s oh so good!
Right: Green tea donut. I was surprised at how GOOD this donut was. Sure these were leftover but I’m still in awe that they’re both so good. They weren’t stale or anything and still tasted quite fresh. Great light green tea flavor that wasn’t overwhelming of matcha. This was 10x better than Voodoo and I really wished we came earlier.

IMG_0013Overall: You will NOT be disappointed if you try this place. I bet everything is good and I can’t wait to come back to try new things. I’m eyeing that apple fritter I see online…

Lardo: They have very unique sandwiches and let me warn you, are on the heavier side. Come hungry and prepare to leave very satisfied and full (as implied by their name)
Atmosphere: You order at the counter and they’ll bring your food over. Not that much space for seating so I wouldn’t go with an enormous group. FYI, I went to the SW Portland location.
Pricing: $8-$12. Pretty average for a nicer sandwich shop
Service
: The wait wasn’t terrible for your food. Not much service as you are just ordering in the front. I’m sure they’ll be glad to help you decide on what to eat.
Food:
IMG_0003On the bottom left is the Korean pork shoulder sandwich with house kimchi, chili mayo, cilantro, and lime. Like I said a very heavy sandwich. Lots of dark flavors but the kimchi brightened it up a little. My critique on the bread: a little hard for my liking.
Right sandwich is the pork belly gyro with cucumbers, lettuce, tomato, tzatziki, and aardvark sauce. Everything was good until this one bite…. it had what appeared to be actual bits of lemon peels. Not sure if this is normally in there but it was such a bad taste that I didn’t like the gyro at all despite the yummy crispy pork belly.
In the background is their dirty fries of pork scraps, marinated peppers, fried herbs and parmesan. Super heavy and we could barely finish it. I thought overall these were okay!
Overall:
I was not as impressed as I thought I would be at Lardo. The pork shoulder sandwich was good but not mind blowing. I hear their meatball banh mi is probably the most popular. I would try this place again just to give it another shot. It seems to have potential!

Hidden deliciousness

The first time I went to Tsukushinbo, it was a little hard to find. They have an entrance through a plain door with no sign or anything. There’s a window with curtains. We maybe walked around the block looking lost for a few minutes but eventually found it.

Atmosphere: A pretty small restaurant with a sushi bar and maybe 10 tables. Minimal decor, but you definitely get the vibe that it’s a traditional Japanese restaurant. Go with a party of 4 or less!

Pricing: It really depends on what you order. They serve Japanese dishes as well as sushi with a variety of appetizers and entrees. Appetizers are around $5. Rolls range from $6-$10. Main entrees such as katsu, salmon, chicken teriyaki, noodles ~$10 as an entree.

Service: Quick service for being how busy they were. I thought they did a good job.

Food:

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Tuna avocado salad with fresh tomatoes, sprouts, tofu, and oranges. It was very fresh and I loved all of the colors. Tasty salad and surprisingly filling. I’ve also had their mushroom, green tea soba salad and it is also very good. You can’t really go wrong at this place.

IMG_0029Chicken karrage! This crispy chicken was a delicious side to our meal. I’ve never had it before and I would definitely say it’s worth getting. 
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All of our food! The bottom dish is buckwheat soba, tempura, and green tea soba. It also comes with a dipping sauce for the tempura. I love this combo and it’s a good bang for the buck around ~$12.

Overall: I think this is a local local in the International District that you should try. I would also suggest trying Maneki, another Japanese restaurant that is a block away. Be sure to make reservations or else you may not even get seated. This is a small place! I haven’t tried much of their sushi besides the salmon and it was pretty good. We tried ordering the uni (sea urchin), but it was sold out. Bummer city. I also hear their Friday ramen lunch special is superrrrr good and sells out quickly. If I can get a day off from school, that’s my next item to get from their menu.

Tsukushinbo on Urbanspoon

Cafe, bar, and dessert all in one

I’ve driven by this place so many times and it always looked crowded. I put it on my list to try especially since I’m always in the area. They have happy hour from 5-8p and who could pass that up? It’s located on Taylor in lower Queen Anne and is called Citizen (bar and cafe).

Atmosphere: We peeked inside and saw that they also had an upstairs in addition to their ground level seating. It was a little bit dark in there from what I remember. They also have outdoor seating, which we opted for on a nice evening.

Pricing: $6-$9 for most of the entree items that include sandwiches, tacos, salads, and their infamous crepes.

Service: It was busy, but the food came out pretty quick and service was efficient.

Food:

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Pulled pork sandwich – juicy pork with caramelized onions, house aoili, pickled jalepenos,  and cilantro. Nice crunchy bagette with the pork. Quite saucy and messy but delicious!

IMG_4237Korexican tacos with bulgogi, pickled cucumbers, cheese accompanied with spicy mayo, black beans, and salsa verde. Killer combo with all of these in the taco. Beef was nice and tender and as a whole, a really great dish.

Overall:
This place is quite promising and just from these dishes, I can tell it’s more than just a cafe. They have more variety in their dishes than your typical sandwiches and pastries. It was pretty hard deciding what to eat and I love their play in food in mixing different cuisines. I have yet to try their coffee or crepes, but those are next on my list. I looked at their menu again and they also serve breakfast! The real question is.. What do they NOT serve??

Cheeky cheeky cheeky

Cheeky Cafe is located in International District and is a great find for some brunch, lunch, or dinner! It’s far away enough from ID that there’s plenty of free parking around the area, but close enough to still be in ID. This post will be a 2 in 1, brunch and dinner.

Atmosphere: Upon walking in, we were greeted by a server who told us to sit anywhere. This place has a nice cafe feel with puzzles, games, and cards in the corner and plenty of kids art decorated along the walls. It has a very family oriented vibe with bright colors.

Pricing: Reasonably priced for everything. I would say on the cheaper end of things. Brunch ranged from $6-$10 per dish and lunch/dinner ranged $6-$12.

Service: Both servers I’ve had are quite friendly and smiley. They were very polite and left a positive impression on me.

Food:
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Cheeky pancakes! Green tea pancakes with two eggs and two slices of bacon. The green tea pancakes weren’t too overwhelming and had a nice flavor to the pancakes.

IMG_3537 Breakfast sandwich – english muffin, scrambled eggs, cheddar, bacon served with sweet potato fries (loved that they serve this instead of regular fries!). You can sub a tortilla for the english muffin for no charge. This was a really great wholesome sandwich. Simple, but everything was cooked just right.

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Dinner! Spicy mac and cheese – this had a Korean kick to it. They added kim chi! I can’t handle too much spice, but this was not overly spicy. Very creamy. I prefer mac and cheese that has some burnt parts to it that make it crunchy, but that’s just my taste!

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Balsamic mushrooms – marinated mushrooms that have been deep fried served with roasted pepper and caramelized onion dipping sauce. It’s even gluten free. I thought it was a little heavy after eating a whole skewer, but it’s all like that with deep fried food.

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I’ve been looking for a place that serves okonomiyaki and I have finally found one! This is a Japanese dish of savory pancake batter with shredded cabbage, slices of beef, with shaved bonito and Kiyomi’s special sauce. I’m used to having noodles with my okonomiyaki. I wish they had that with their dish!

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Grandma Kam’s dumplings – This is a family recipe that has a crispy, deep fried outer coating with a mochi like interior that is filled with peas, carrots, kohlrabi, onions, pork, chinese sausage, and dried shrimp. Apparently, the cook is particular about these and thought these were a little overdone so they comped this dish for us. I thought this was super nice of them and shows how much care they put into making their food. This reminds me of a dish at dim sum called “footballs,” because of its similar outer texture.

Overall: I think this is a great cafe that’s welcoming to everyone. Their style of asian-fusion with many types of asian styles is unique, but at an affordable price. They incorporate Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian, etc cuisine. It’s a casual place with good pricing and parking. I’d definitely recommend this place to everyone for some good cheaper eats!

Cheeky Cafe on Urbanspoon

“I’m Top chef, you’re top ramen, I’m top shelf”

This post will be a combination of two different locations! This will feature Santouka, a ramen restaurant that is world wide. The first one I went to was in Vancouver, Canada. This past spring, one opened in Bellevue!

Atmosphere: Vancouver – It’s on a pretty busy street downtown. There’s a large table near the front that’s for community seating. There’s some seats wrapping the bar/kitchen and more tables in the back.
Bellevue – Also in downtown Bellevue. The decor here is much more modern and I feel like there is probably as much or maybe less seating at this restaurant. For the first few weeks of opening, there’s a line that forms outside of the restaurant and what’s interesting is that there is a sign saying there’s a max capacity of 48. That seems so little!

Pricing: Same average price of ~$11-12 for a normal size and you can get a smaller bowl for $1 less and a large bowl for $1 more. I added a soft boiled egg for an extra $2, which is a lot more than I would have wanted to pay.

Service: Pretty average in Vancouver. In Bellevue, they mixed up my friend’s order (but this was a couple weeks after opening so that’s understandable).

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Vancouver – Tonkotsu shio ramen! This was probably the best tasting ramen I’ve ever had (or that I was really hungry). The char siu was SOOOO tender and literally melted in my mouth. I added the soft boiled egg for extra. SO good.

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Vancouver – The second time I went to Vancouver, I had to stop by again. This time, I got gyoza along with my order. This was the tonkotsu miso ramen!

IMG_3654Bellevue – Tonkotsu miso ramen along with my $2 soft boiled egg. This serving platter is a staple of Bellevue’s compared to Vancouver’s. I just wish the egg was cut in half for me.

Overall: Vancouver is still by far much better than Bellevue, despite being the same chain. I’m not sure if it’s because Bellevue is still new and working out the kinks, but I prefer Vancouver. I have yet to visit Bellevue again after everything has settled down, but I definitely will give it another try. They also now have happy hour from 3-5p. There are a couple of other ramen places in Bellevue so I will be sure to try those before finding my favorite in the area.