Cortez in Echo Park is serving fresh farm-to-table family style Mediterranean food. Their approach is simple: Good food sourced really close by and prepared with love. The lunch menu is not exploding with options. A prosciutto baguette, two salads, a quiche, chicken kebabs and a couple of desserts are pretty much all you will find (Cortez’s dinner menu is probably 3x larger).
When I arrived, they were already sold out of the chicken kebabs in yogurt sauce. The carnivore in me wanted to head elsewhere, but I stuck it through and ordered their wheat berry salad (pictured above) and spinach/feta quiche (below). Neither item is something I would ever choose to anchor my lunch, but I was not let down. Wheat berries, spring onions, pine nuts, dandelions and currants was a pleasant surprise and a pretty hefty portion for just one person. The flavors were fresh, earthy, sweet and ripe. Every bite just seemed as if each ingredient was taken from the earth at the peak of its edibility. The quiche was by no means hot right out of the oven, (not a problem for me…I am in love with food at room temperature) the crust was flakey and crisp without a trace of sogginess. The creamy sharp feta flavors accompanied the wilted spinach perfectly. I was impressed, and I am by no means a quiche guy!
Cortez feels like your moms kitchen if your mom was an amazing cook who knew all about sourcing the best possible ingredients to whip up simple and fresh Mediterranean fare. Everything is meant to share which can always go here or there depending upon your personality at the lunch table. All in all, Cortez is a beautiful, clean and quaint spot to dine on some of the freshest food in the city. If you join their mailing list, the owners are constantly featuring new dishes inspired by what is currently being sold at your local LA farmers market. So expect their menu to change with the season.
The lemon-clove cake was a slice of heaven. I love it when the insides of a good fresh cake are soggy and moist but still thick with a whole lot of texture. With a mixture like lemon and clove, I was expecting the cake to be less like dessert and more like spiced bread, but it definitely tickled the sweet tooth. And my macchiato brewed with Sightglass espresso…Superb!
If you are still wishy-washy about just how fresh Cortez’s meat and produce are, they have a small market not too far away on Echo Park Blvd. called Cookbook. Check it out and everything will make much more sense. Cortez cares about what you eat and where the food you eat once called home.
First stop on my NFL Draft Journey was to Bar-B-Q King (my first ever drive-in!) It was incredible. Real Carolina vinegar based BBQ sauce. The flavors were incredible. Sweet, acidic, and tangy marinated pull pork, slaw, fries, hush puppies and a sweet iced tea! What an experience. LuncHaim gettin’ schooled in the deep south!
The Jarbraltar: Courier Coffee Roasters‘ wide mouth Mason jar take on the Gibraltar Cortado. This was my third trip through Portland and sadly my first time walking through CCR’s doors. I’ve gone twice a day to Stumptown, sipped some of the best espresso roasters in the US featured at Barista, and crossed the river to Ristretto. They are all great, but Courier stands out above them all. Maybe it’s my affinity for Mason jars? It can’t be. Courier is just that good. Look at that creamy glass of goodness!
I’m going to say it very bluntly. Pok Pok is the best restaurant food in the country. Cuisine is like language and in each countries cuisine there are different dialects. The type of Thai cuisine dialect Pok Pok speaks may be one none too unfamiliar in Thailand. But in America, I haven’t seen a place that serves Thai quite like this. Street style drinking food. [ I know what you're thinking: every time I post, I say something is the best.]Pok Pok is my favorite culinary excursion because it takes you somewhere far off. I feel like I should be bringing my passport to the damn place! Just click on this menu above. If you’re not Thai, I’m willing to wager you’ve never seen or heard of a single item listed, like Muu Paa Kham Waan (pictured above): boar collar meat rubbed with garlic, coriander root and black pepper glazed with soy and sugar, grilled over charcoal, served with chilled mustard greens and a spicy chili/lime/garlic sauce!
I’m not going to sit here and review how the pad thai stacks up, because they don’t serve it!Pok Pok’s signature noodle dish instead is Khao Soi: Northern Thai mild curry noodle soup made with secret curry paste recipe, natural chicken on the bone and house-pressed fresh coconut milk. Served with pickled mustard greens, shallots, cilantro, crispy yellow noodles and roasted chili paste.
Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings: fresh natural chicken wings marinated in fish sauce and palm sugar, deep fried, tossed in caramelized Phu Quoo fish sauce and garlic, served with Vietnamese table salad. If you’re more than three to a party, get two orders. They flew so fast off the table I couldn’t take a good picture. The mixture of flavors and textures encrusted on the wing are numerous. The meat within is still juicy making the seemingly coarse outter crust fall off the bone. [ Cue salivation! ]
If you don’t live in Portland, I’d suggest taking a trip out to visit. PDX has an incredible culinary scene with tons of local restaurants in all four quadrants of the city.Pok Pok has two locations, one on the southeast end and the newest location, Pok Pok Noi, with a smaller (but still incredible) menu and more of a bar type scene in the northeast (there are also two locations in NYC…menu differs slightly at each location.) If you can’t afford a trip to Thailand, I’d highly consider saving big and flying to Portland to get your culinary passport stamped at Pok Pok!
The daily deliciousness being whipped up at Blue Plate in downtown Portland, Oregon is a quaint flash to the past without any overbearing gimmicks. Just old-timey 1920′s goodness delivered in the form of lunch counter comfort food and savory soda fountain sweets, helping PDX’ers cope with their notoriously relentless stormy weather. (check out their Twitter feed!). A true glimpse back into American culture through delicious food!
The menu features a small but versatile selection of lunch staples cooked on a small grill and sandwiched with thick slices of crisp Texas toast (and sliders). The grilled cheese with bacon and sliced tomato served with tomato soup was the best rendition of the comfort combo I have ever tried. The presentation alone brings you to a smile. I am a dunker at heart and could not wait to get those thick slices of toast smothered with their homemade tomato soup served in a coffee mug.
I did my Lunchaimer’s a disservice by visiting Blue Plate on a Monday. They have a special item devoted to each day of the work week starting on Tuesday’s that I hear are all must haves. With only limited time in Rip City I called upon my sister (who has certainly been a strong contributor to my current lunch credentials) to chow down on the “American in Paris” sandwich: thick slices of roasted chicken, savory thick cut bacon, Swiss cheese, honey mustard book-ended with slabs of charred Texas toast and a side of plain but delicious mashed potatoes with skins. From a food perspective, Blue Plate wants you to feel like you’re right as rain under the grey Portland sky.
As for the soda fountain and Blue Plate’s dessert menu…I don’t know where to begin. Their creations are exponential in comparison to how direct their lunch menu is structured. Of all the different homemade sodas, shakes, malts and sweets, I had to go with my favorite dessert beverage of all time. The egg cream: milk, chocolate syrup and seltzer water. What a spectacular treat. I am smiling right now as I type. It was so rich and delicious that I got all chocked up and nearly started raining tears of joy down my cheeks. The soda fountain menu is very long. If you’re an out-of-towner, choose wisely and choose from ingredients that you wouldn’t be able to find in your everyday dessert spot. When was the last time you went to a lunch counter and found star anise (pictured above) as an ingredient to construct your own handcrafted soda?
Blue Plate’s lunch counter and soda fountain are a homage to a time when life was simpler. But don’t think for a minute that choosing what to lunch on will be simple at all. Life is always filled with tough decisions! If you’re feeling blue, hungry, happy, or any other emotion for that matter, Blue Plate is here to help you deal with whatever life is serving you up today.
American’s always associate fries with the French. After my trek to Europe, I quickly found out that it’s the Dutch and Belgians who reign supreme in the pomme frites category. Back home the fry torch is being taken by a strong wave of German sausage kitchens popping up in LA, cutting their fries with incredible girth, crisp and flavor. Berlin Currywurst in SilverLake gets LuncHaim’s blue ribbon for best homemade fry in Los Angeles, be them freedom fries and on down the line. BC’s fritten are cut thick out of organic potatoes, resembling long Tetris blocks and fried well done with charred imperfections. There’s only one way to order them, in my opinion: topped with grilled onions and jambalaya (lemon herb seasoning…its incredible). Step 2, their house mayo and ketchup. Served with a bunch of napkins to get messy. Like Vincent Vega says, “…drown’em in that shit!”
My problems with being a creature of loyalty remains true to form at Berlin Currywurst. I’ve visited at least 20 times over the last two years and only ordered currywurst once. The staff thinks I’m nuts. I don’t care. Its the best fry in LA and I want to leave room to enjoy it as a main dish! They’re that good. But don’t be a nut like me. Order a currywurst. Served Berlin street style, cut up into nice bites with sauces/flavors of choice and fresh slices of artisan bread. And they now serve draught and bottled beer! Prost!