The last post about "Mexican" food in Indiana, got my mind thinking about restaurants we like. I much prefer a small local restaurant to a large chain one. However, when we're out traveling, and are in a hurry, it's so easy to go with the chains. You know what you're going to get. It may not be the best, but it certainly won't be the worst. They're predictable.
Tour books often list local places, but the reviews are kind of canned. It's hard for me to pick a restaurant from a Fodor's or Frommer's travel guide.
So, I thought I'd give my 2 cents about some of my favorite local restaurants.
Thai Food: My favorite restaurant in town is probably Thai Country. The owners are always there, and the waitstaff, while small, is quite friendly and familiar. My favorite dishes are the Pad Thai w/Chicken (hold the peanuts for me, please). It has a mild, but flavorful sauce that just hits the spot. We've tried making this dish on our own or from kits (Thai Kitchen's Pad Thai was HORRID...tasted like noodles and ketchup!), but can never quite match the flavor from a Thai restaurant. So we'll stop trying and leave it to the pros. Another favorite (and very spicy!) dish is their Spicy Chicken Basil dish. It's not on the menu, but is usually listed on a chalkboard near the cash register. It's not for the faint of heart...the longer the chicken absorbs the sauce, the spicier it gets. The basil is quickly fried, becoming a crisp garnish, which they don't skimp on. There are also plenty of vegetarian offerings at Thai Country. Located: 707 NE 3rd Street, 503-434-1300
Pizza: Hands down.....there's no place like 3rd Street Pizza! The crust is not pasty. The toppings are not too greasy. It's hand-tossed with several big air bubbles by the crust (people really seem to go for those pieces first!). They have the traditional offerings, but also have some specialty combos. My favorite is their Thai Peanut Chicken pizza. Never ever did I think I'd like chicken as a topping on pizza. This is a spicy sauce (see a trend here....??) which is flavorful, without being too peanut-y. I'd LOVE to re-create this at home, as the pizza here is pricey. In addition to great pizza, they also have fabulous salads (HUGE!), and a great sandwich selection (not your ordinary turkey and cheese). They do offer delivery, though the wait is often 45 minutes. There's a reason they're so busy!! It's often easiest to call ahead with your order whether you're eating there or taking it to go. Located: 433 NE 3rd Street, 503-434-5800
Breakfast: Wildwood Cafe or Crescent Cafe. This is a hard one. They are so different, and both SO good! I'll start with Wildwood: The decor is kitchy....egg beaters hanging from the ceiling, vintage ads and signs on the walls. The chairs and tables are 50s diner style and don't match. The kids' menu comes glued to the back cover of a well-worn children's picture book. There's nothing pretentious here. It's a great place for breakfast or lunch, though I do prefer their breakfasts (which thankfully are served anytime). My favorite: The Wildwood Toast, their version of French toast. You receive thick cuts of bread, dipped in a crunchy granola-y batter, and cooked until golden. One piece is probably all you need. They are filling! Over at Crescent Cafe, the decor is much more upscale which probably attracts more of our wine tasting tourists. The owners (at least at this point in time) will greet you, tell you all about the food, and treat you like no other small-town restaurant has ever treated you. First class service, and first class fresh, organic, & local foods. It really is an impressive place, though not stuffy. They, too, have their own version of French toast, and while very different from Wildwood's is nothing like the egg/milk batter version most of us make at home. Highly recommended. Expect a short wait at both restaurants during the breakfast rush. Location: Wildwood Cafe (319 NE Baker; corner of 3rd Street/Baker St., 503-435-1454); Crescent Cafe (526 NE 3rd Street, 503-435-2655).
And that's all for now....I'll post more another time.