Saturday, March 22, 2014

Lardo on Hawthorne and the Legend of Porklandia

Portland might as well change it's name to Porkland. This city fetishises pork all day every day. Enter Lardo, a porky wonderland of a restaurant with a uniquely Portland evolution. Lardo went from food truck to restaurant to triple outpost chain in roughly five years. That alone is a testament to this city's love of swine. It's not surprising that Lardo has seen such success, they take their pork mad serious, and this is a city that generally rewards dedication and perfectionism especially when it comes to charcuteries on wheels.

Burger: Two 1/4 lb patties, smothered in cheddar and topped with another 1/3 lb of Lardo's famed "porkstrami", a thick cut pastrami that falls apart like the stuff of meaty daydreams. This towering meatscape was habilitated with a rich, velvety aioli and romaine confetti exploding out of the sides like a new year's party popper. The fluffy brioche and  hunk of dill pickle provided the sweetness and tartness necessary to balance the salty mountain of meat. It was a beast to wrangle into my mouth, but once I got my jaws around it I was in hog heaven. Personally, I'm not super-into loads of mayo, but some people are. And if those people are also into bachanals of grilled meat they are going to lose their minds over this burger.

Fries: Lardo fries are legendary. I aint foolin. Cooked in lard and tossed with fried herbs and parmesan. I have some favorite spots for fries in PDX, but Lardo just took a dump on all of them. These are the best fries in Portland and I'm sorry if I ever made you believe otherwise.

Service; The food truck aesthetic is alive and well at Lardo's Hawthorne location where you stand in a fast moving line and order at a counter. They also have an impressive draft beer lineup, if you're into that.

Where; Multiple locations. This review took place at 1212 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland.

Don't Get Your Hopes Up For Redwood

The Montavilla 'hood on SE Stark is real hit and miss when it comes to getting down on big plates of food. Tanuki,  fighting tooth and nail against their popularity, is pretty much making all the restaurants on the street look like amateur baby kitchens. Admittedly I've only reviewed one other burger in Montavilla and it was legendarily bad. Wait, I feel like I'm starting on the wrong foot. Lemme start over -Ahem- *nervously adjusts collar* Redwood is a dark, semi romantic bar with a cozy atmosphere, perfect for a boozy date night. It's got rich wood interior that feels like hanging out inside of a wine barrel. I could drink many craft beers at Redwood but it's unlikely I will be eating any more of their craft beefs.

Burger: Sometimes a burger has everything going it for it except a chef. For instance, even though this burger was dressed with fresh leaves of pastel green butter lettuce, carefully sliced red onion and a hedonistic quantity of white american cheese, the meat was so well done it was like chewing a sponge made of beef flavored leather. The bun was grilled far too aggressively and then sloppily dressed with a flavorless "special sauce" (read; this was bottled mayo someone forgot to season) I thought that this burger was disrespected by its chef and I was disappointed. Even burgers on a Friday night deserve our respect.

Fries: The second the first fry hit my lips I could tell it was at least an hour old. It had begun the process of becoming stale and overcooked. It tasted as though  it had been hovering over a fryer long after the fry basket had been lifted. And every other fry after it tasted the same. Blech.

Service; Redwood has exceptional service. Our server was exactly the perfect amount of chatty and attentive, but there was a sadness in her eyes that totally foreshadowed my burger experience. SHE KNEW!! I should pay better attention to my instincts. She was nice though.

Where: 7915 SE Stark Street Portland

Editors Note: My constant companion and I worked in tandem to try both the basic burger and the vegetarian variety. I wasn't impressed my the texture of the vegetarian patty, it was mushy/mealy, but the flavor profile- a hodgepodge interpretation of Southeast Asian - was ambitious, which was impressive considering the "who cares" construction of the beef burger.