I recently was on a trip to Florida. My brother was flying in a couple of days after my boyfriend and me, so on the day of his arrival we went to the Orlando airport to get him. On our way back to our rented home, we decided to grab some lunch. As we passed a Chili’s on the left, my brother cracked “How about Chilis?” and being the food snobs that we all are, this comment sent us into a frenzy of sardonic laughter. After driving back and forth on the Orlando highway strip ninety times, seeing nothing but Cracker Barrels and gas station “cafes,” we found ourselves slinking into Chili’s with our tails between our legs. Luckily, they had 2-for-1 margaritas, so all was not lost. However, this encounter got me thinking about what spoiled brats most of us are in Portland. While I am sure downtown Orlando must have better options than the highway strip we searched on, the town of Davenport, where we stayed for a few days, boasted nothing but chain restaurants and “cheap” Disney ticket sales at the grocery stores. So, being the never satisfied person I am, instead of relishing in the wonderful restaurants scattered throughout Portland, I began to think of what could be improved upon in our city. My conclusion was that late-night dining could definitely get beefed up. I’d like to see some “street meat”: taco stands, gyros, etc., ready at my convenience past normal business hours. Sadly, the world does not always serve me at my convenience. Even so, I am not going to be a complete glass-empty kind of girl (today), and instead, I will celebrate the places in Portland which do offer good food past ten.
I know most of us have been there. Last call has been called. The very bottom of your warm Bud Lite has been drank (although, you’re not quite sure why), and just as you’re gearing up to crawl in that cab and then superman into your amazing bed, it hits you: hunger. Now if this were some time in the not-so-distant past, you perhaps would have begrudgingly made your way down to Bill’s Pizza to get some overpriced cardboard, guaranteed to treat you to one heck of a belly ache when you arise in the morning. However, get pumped Portlanders, gourmands, or just drunks kids, because this city has wised up recently and slowly accumulated some great late-night dining spots.
1) Best Late Night Pizza can be found at Otto’s. Now, for a lot of you, this is old news. You’re saying to yourself, “of course Otto’s…that was cool years ago—why am I even reading this stupid blog?” Fair enough, but I am mentioning this lovely little pizzeria because I can’t seem to wrap my brain around that fact that a lot of the Old Port’s biggest frequenters seem to continually settle for Joe’s Slice Bar & “New York” Pizza, when the delicious and far superior Otto’s is just a skip and a jump away. Let me tell you something about Joe’s Slice Bar. Not only is it stupidly overpriced ($10 for 2 slices! Unreal!), but it’s not even very good. The pizza is usually just lukewarm when you get it, there aren’t that many slice options, and on several occasions I’ve seen Kevin Federline look-a-likes get into fights with each other, all over some lovely girl wearing a sparkly tube top with a bedazzled “bitch” written in rhinestones across her chest. I guess you take what you can when you’re next door to The Cactus Club and Foreplay, still it kind of kills the appetite. Even more ridiculous is the “New York Pizza” added at the end…really Joe? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that when people say they’re craving some New York pizza, they’re not fondly thinking of elbowing their way through a sea of cologne-soaked drunks to buy one of your overpriced second-rate slices. So, instead of subjecting yourself to pizza that’s slightly better than Bill’s, take the brief stroll up to Congress and enjoy some Otto’s. As most of you know, every slice is $3 and they like to get creative with their pizza---you can get mashed potato on your slice! For those more conventional pizza fans, fear not; they also offer the old failthfuls like cheese and pepperoni. So skip the mediocrity, and save money. All you have to do is a walk a little further, and if you’re making a habit out of eating pizza at 1 in the morning, you could probably use the exercise. Best of all, while Otto’s is open until 2 am on the weekends, it’s good even when you haven’t been drinking, so stop by for lunch.
2) Treat yourself to a tasty sandwich at Nosh-This place, I will admit, is not as cheap as my usual suggestions. A late-night sandwich at Nosh is going to cost you from $9-11. However, you won’t regret it, unless you hate delicious food, in which case—stop reading this and go to Bill’s. This is a dining option I recommend on a night when you aren’t really “getting after it” too hard (isn’t that what all the kids are calling it?). In other words, don’t spend $10 on a scrumptious Steak N’ Cheese only to wake up the next morning wondering why you have heartburn and bits of cheese next to the mascara stains on your pillow. Since Nosh serves food until 12:45 AM, it’s a good place to go if you get out of a concert late and realize you've skipped dinner, or if you have what I will argue is a healthy appetite and want dinner round two come midnight. Nosh also has a full bar, so enjoy your favorite drink while mowing down on late night snacks. If your wallet isn’t cooperating with your sandwich needs, split one with a friend. It’s late anyway, and your digestive system will probably thank you. Plus, they’ve got more than just sandwiches. Their fries and fried pickles are more affordable ($5-6) and equally delectable. I stopped by the other night with a friend and split an incredible meatloaf panini and some of the seasalt and vinegar fries. I went home a very happy lady.
3) Check out the late-night menu at Sonny’s. Jay Villani (Local 188) has got a new spot and it’s a great place for lunch, dinner, drinks, or late-night munching. I’d been there for lunch and really enjoyed my meal, so I was pretty excited to discover that they have a late-night menu. I know a lot of people frequent Sonny’s during the night scene, as it really is a nice spot to meet up with friends for a drink. So, if you’re hungry while you sip, order an empanada off the late-night menu. Everything is under $10 on this later menu, and if you’re a fan of “new world cuisine” (fancy shmancy way of saying delicious Cuban, Mexican, and Brazilian influences), then you’ll most likely leave happy. One funny thing about Sonny’s is that the crowd on a weekend night is often mixed. Look around and you’ll see your barely graduated twentysomethings probably ordering shots, wealthy (or at least trying to look so) 40 year-olds sipping on martinis, the typical Elvis Costello-glasses-wearing hipsters most likely drinking Brooklyn Lagers, followed by the group of single women bordering on 30 and “totally cool with it,” as they sip their vodka and soda water through tiny straws. What does this mean? Well, if you’re anything like me this translates into “there’s a surplus of people to make fun of.” So sit back with friends and make fun of everyone while you destroy some empanadas and drink a tasty beer. But don’t think you’re too cool—some other group a few tables down is probably laughing at you and your friends as you chow down.
Until next time, stop going to Joe’s Slice Bar, enjoy the weather as it (hopefully) gets warmer, and bon appétit!