23-09-2011

On drinking, ćevapi, etc. in Portland

It’s often the case that wherever we go, we’re always on the lookout for ćevapi. These tasty little Balkan sausages can be rather elusive and despite the large diaspora, nearly impossible to find in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is why we were thrilled to find Two Brothers Cafe & Grill in Portland. This is pretty true to form Bosnian food from a family that came from Sarajevo. Not only do they have ćevapi, but they also have pljeskavica and a whole slew of other Balkan meats which were readily being consumed by a group of South Slavs out with the families for their Sunday get together.

The ćevapi were indeed delicious and we highly recommend stopping in if you’re in Portland, not only because it’s the only choice, but because it’s good. Some people on review websites don’t really “get” the place, but that only shows they’ve never been anywhere near the Balkans.

In addition to the delicious grilled meats, they also have a surprising number of beers and wines from the Balkans. I say surprising because Oregon apparently has some odd alcohol import laws and as such, establishments such as Two Brothers have to work through one single distributor to get their beers and wines. Even still, they have that Dalmacijavino red blend of Kaštelet from Croatia, the Žilavka from Čitluk in Herzegovina, and ever-present Plantaže from Montenegro. Having had a great deal of wine, I opted for a Laško which I hadn’t had since hanging out with my cousins in Slovenia. It’s quite enjoyable with ćevapi.

On the fancier front, due to a recommendation by Alison at McQuade’s Celtic Chutneys, we checked out happy hour at clarklewis. They put out a fine spread for happy hour along with a really extensive wine list that features a great many of the local wines.

The staff are fantastic and friendly. When I couldn’t decide between two wines, the bartender let me sample each of them. We then chowed down on a great slew of bites, including a generous meat plate as well as a mac n’cheese with fancy cheeses in it. While definitely not the cheapest place to eat in Portland, it’s one of the classiest in an area near the railroad tracks that’s been re-developed a great deal in recent years. Still, it rivals any number of San Francisco restaurants and is probably 25% cheaper along with no additional sales tax (an extra 10% on your bill in SF) to sweeten the end of the meal.

One of our evenings in Portland, we headed up to Noble Rot. First things first, the view, even on that crappy, cloudy evening was fantastic, looking back over downtown Portland. The interior is quite fancy and well-designed as well. Unfortunately, that was the best of it. The wine list, while extensive is definitely not very full of local Oregon wines. In fact, they only had three reds and three whites when we were there. Toss in to that the fact that the server kept trying to upsell us on more expensive wine and the crowd seemed to be more interested in beer and liquor despite this being a wine bar, it added up to a spot that isn’t terribly recommendable.

We need to close with mentioning both Tasty n’Sons up in the revitalized Mississippi neighborhood as well as Broder in the (I think) Clinton neighborhood. No, they don’t really have anything do with wine, but they’re both delicious and worth eating at, but do not go on weekends. Saturdays and Sundays mean waits of about an hour to get in. Otherwise, they both offer unique choices (Tasty n’Sons is more in to traditional/hearty [above] while Broder is Scandinavian [below]), have cool interiors, and again, great service.