Good evening, friends and neighbors.
I was not always me. This is how I decided I didn't have time to not be me anymore.
"Japhy got out the tea, Chinese tea, and sprinkled some in a tin pot, and had the fire going meanwhile, a small one to begin with, the sun was still on us, and stuck a long stick tight down under a few big rocks and made himself something to hang the teapot on and pretty soon the water was boiling and he poured it out steaming into the tin pot and we had cups of tea with our tin cups. ... 'Now you understand the Oriental passion for tea,' said Japhy. 'Remember that book I told you about the first sip is joy the second is gladness, the third is serenity, the fourth is madness, the fifth is ecstasy.'"
Where: The Tao of Tea, 3430 SE Belmont St, Portland, OR 503-736-0119
The sun beat on my back as I biked up Belmont Street. Every three minutes or so, though, it would hide again and the wind of the otherwise crisp spring afternoon would chill the sweat.
It had been an another day in the bakeshop, and while I wasn't necessarily eager to run to home just yet, I wasn't feeling the noise and stimuli of a bar. I'd spent the day setting everything up and double-checking supplies so the new kids first solo day in production would be smooth- and now I needed to let go. Find a quiet place where I could crash in silence, chain up my bike, and slip into some light fare.
Fortunately, I knew such a place.
Good evening, friends and neighbors.
It has been months since I have had dinner with my family.
UPDATE (8/19/2018)- Likewise has since closed its doors. I wait to see what Adam and Nancy intend to do next. In the meantime, I'm keeping this up as a memoriam to a great concept and bar.
Full disclosure: While I am a "member" of this establishment, I have no stake in it, financial or otherwise. Similarly, this review is entirely unsolicited by the establishment, and all opinions are inviolably my own. The nature of my membership will be expanded upon further in the review. - BHB
Where: LIKEWISE, 3564 SE Hawthorne Blvd., SE Portland.
When you're mostly-unemployed, you find yourself pounding pavement a lot.
Sidewalks meld together, the curbs all start to look alike, and your eyes only really respond to flashes of neon, streetlights, and window displays of things you'd love to be able to afford one day. The only things that stir you up are potential places to look for work- or places to make you feel a little better about not having it.
In short, it's a wonderful excuse to go exploring- and I was in exactly such a state clomping down Hawthorne Boulevard a year or so ago.
Hawthorne Boulevard is a local strip comprised of bars, restaurants dedicated to various cuisines and budgets, and intriguing shops varying from the mundane stationery to exotica. The street is rife with nightlife venues- a barcade (Quarterworld), a kitschy sci-fi bar from the 50s (the Space Room), and a number of restaurants, food carts and stands ready to offer delicious boozemops for when you just need SOMETHING to get you home.
This considered, the presence of LIKEWISE is not remarkable.
It's really the ONLY thing about LIKEWISE that is not remarkable.
Good evening, friends and neighbors.
I'm camped out in Beermongers on SE Division, nursing a Sour Cherry Torment (dark, heavy, malty, and riddled with sour cherry) and waiting out the typically schizophrenic weather of springtime Portland.
The last time I was here was a little strange...
Good evening, friends and neighbors!
As you may have noticed, I love food. I do some of my best writing when sitting in a cafe or bar, and over the course of two years I've accumulated a list of favorite places- some are great to write in, some have great music. Some have amazing food, others their drinks are the stars. Socialize in some, hide in others.
I've also got more than a few opinions on what good food and drinks ARE, and I don;t mind telling anyone that'll listen.
So, at Emily's urging, I'm gonna use this space maybe once a week to review the places I've been!
No totally negative reviews- every restaurant deserves a shot and your own opinion- but it will always be the honest truth. I'll tell you not only where to go, but when and WHY.
So let's talk balls.
WHERE:24th and Meatballs, NE 24th + NE Glisan St.
A few weeks back, the planets once again aligned in a felicitous manner, and I had a day of beautiful weather off. Donning my favorite aloha shirt (they are always in fashion and I will friggin' fight you), I took to the streets for a bit of a wander around parts of the city I don't often get to see.
As I walked and soaked up the sun before the inevitable days of rain, I found myself around NE Glisan. Before picking up my current job, I'd had an (obviously) unsuccessful job interview at a restaurant nearby, and found myself with some time to kill. If memory served, there was an interesting meatball place around here....
So it was. 24th and Meatballs clings to the end of an unassuming string of restaurants, with indoor and outdoor seating. The placement is perfect for people-watching on the busy street, with food well-bent toward the mid-afternoon doldrums.
Even before you walk in, the elephant in the room comes out and greets you. There are a LOT of testicle jokes everywhere- and yes, you ARE there to eat balls. Their phone number (50-EATBALLS), their menu, their advertising all make it quite clear that the dining experience will not include high-brow humor.
Now that the 12-year-old in you is satisfied, you can medicate the adult. The beer and cocktail menus are limited, but effective. Beers are mostly local microbrews, and the cocktails are twists on classics (with yet MORE ball jokes.) I put in for a Baller-Melon (vodka, lime, watermelon juice). The fruity, neon boat drink fits the weather- cool, refreshing, and pairs nicely with obnoxiously loud clothing.
Next comes ordering, done off a chalkboard. It's a simple progression if there ever was one:
1. How do you want your balls? 24th and Meatballs offers their wares in various platings and numbers, including pasta and sandwiches, ranging from the humble slider (one ball on a bun for $3) to the Hero (three balls, sauce, cheese, on a hoagie roll for $10)
2. Pick your balls! (Choice of Classic Italian, Pork Piccante, Chicken, or Vegan)
3. What Sauce? (Classic Marinara, Creamy Cheesy similar to an alfredo, a pork bolognese, or an arugula pesto.)
All balls apparently work with all sauces, but I go with the Classic Italian and the Marinara- just three on a plate, with foccacia, referred to on the menu as "Balls, Balls, Balls" for $7. If you need extra balls, it's $2 a pop. Much easier than getting surgery. (Crap, they've got me doing the jokes now. Sorry about that one.)
My order comes out pretty quick, though I was maybe one of 5 people there on a Friday afternoon. Meatballs and booze in the sunshine? This I could do more often.
The meatballs are VERY good- very meaty, with not much filler. Most of the meatballs I'd had use bread crumbs or eggs as a binder. The ingredients are locally sourced, and the texture is firm and satisfying. The sauce, however.... oh good God that SAUCE.
This might be a nitpick that'll earn me a beating in some circles, but I can't stand sweet tomato sauce. I want fresh, spicy, zesty- but not sweet. Pizza, pasta, it doesn't matter- if the sauce is noticeably sweet, it's an instant turn-off to me.
24th and Meatballs' classic marinara is exactly what I want out of a tomato sauce. When I think of "the gravy" in Italian-American cooking, this is what I come up with now. Take a look at that plate again. When I'd finished the balls and had run out of bread, I was sitting there scooping up with sauce with a fork. If I wasn't sitting in public, I probably would have gone ahead and lapped at the bowl like a dog.
A cocktail, meatballs, and an aloha shirt in the Portland sunshine. I could REALLY do this more often. I need more of these balls in my life.
I'm sorry about that one too.
When To Go: Anytime seems right, but pick a day with good weather- indoor seating is somewhat limited.
Why: Because you need a simple, delicious, meaty lunch and a good drink to wash it down with on a lazy afternoon.
How: Visit them, or their other location on 87th and N Lombard St here in Portland (appropriately named "87th and Meatballs.") If you're stuck at home, they deliver! Order through their website at 24thandmeatballs.com, or call in at 50-EATBALLS.
P.S. Maybe you're a purist who needs to have wine with your Italian. In yet another cosmic alignment of convenience, directly across the street from 24th and Meatballs is Pairings, "Portland's Weirdest Wine Bar." This guy sells wine the way I pick restaurants. Need a wine based on your zodiac? They got you. Pairings based on movies and tv, and even a wall of choices based on which awkward social situation you feel compelled to bring a bottle to. Eat your meatballs, then slip across the street for a glass of something red and weird. You might even see my wife there- it's her new favorite spot.
About the Author
The Black Hat Baker, a.k.a. Matt Strenger, lives in SE Portland, Oregon as a professional baker. Here, Matt bakes, cooks, exercises, and explores, returning to his wife and their hobbit hole up Mt. Tabor to write about all of it.
Email the BHB at blackhatbakery(at)gmail(dot)com
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