New to town, I had but a handful of places I really wanted to visit in Portland. Most of those involved beer, truth be told, so any suggestions for food prior to drinking were appreciated. So when my local friend, OMF, suggested an early lunch at Blueplate, I leapt at the chance to take the MAX all by myself across the river and meet up for some good eats.
I later learned that Food Network had descended on Blueplate some years ago, but thankfully (for us) the tourist hype had died down a bit since then, and we secured a four-top in the small restaurant. The menu is short and sweet; there are typically two daily specials, and a few all-week items on offer for lunch, and the table split in its preferences.
The wait staff, like most places in Portland, was friendly, young, pretty, pierced and inked. I think that list is a requirement in Portland.
I started off with an egg cream, since, well, it’s $2. I don’t think I’d get one this size in New York for half that. Granted, this is not Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup, but it served as a tasty beverage, appropriately fizzy and chocolatey. That is a cherry through the straw, yes.
Blueplate makes its own sodas, and OMF, the Portland native, went with the Chai Bomb (also $2). Loaded with cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, cardamom, cloves, and star anise, it served as a reminder that I’m not a fan of spice-drinking, but he liked it just fine.
CJ ordered from the everyday part of the menu, and was presented with this grilled cheese sandwich (adding tomato) and tomato soup. That there is Oregon’s finest Tillamook cheddar cheese between two slabs of fluffy white bread. All told, this was $7, and enjoyed thoroughly, judging from the Clean Plate Club he joined.
In the background you can sort of see AJ’s boring grilled chicken salad. Silly healthy eaters.
OMF and I had ordered the Wednesday special, Northwest Jambalaya ($12), a “risotto style take on a deep south classic…. creamy rich rice with tomatoes and peppers, topped with roast chicken and Cajun sausage.”
So, taking a step back from what one might expect from something called “jambalaya” and just enjoying the dish for what it is, this was quite delicious. The rice base packed a bit of heat, to be sure. Little chunks of bell pepper and onion dotted the dish, but I kind of wanted to see some okra in there to round out the flavors. That pile of sausage slices hit the spot, too, and the roast chicken, breast meat of course, was fine — I’d have preferred more spicy sausage, but then who wouldn’t? I polished this off in anticipation of a long day of “touring” Portland, and it held me for several hours. It’s a healthier size that it may appear.
I like the throwback aspects of Blueplate enough to be willing to return for a look at another day’s specials, certainly. The meal wasn’t oh-my-gods exciting, but it was plenty tasty. The drinks are certainly a main focal point here, and while it seemed the line forming as we were ready to leave wanted to eat a real meal, I wouldn’t mind just going for a soda and small bite, either. If you’re on the west side of the river, it’s rather convenient and inexpensive, so sure, treat yourself to a handmade soda and step back from the bustle for a bit.