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“I’m just the chef…” {Newport Seafood Grill and Popehouse Bourbon Lounge}

May 18, 2011

Saturday morning we slept a little late. I’ve been desperately trying to get to Voo Doo Doughnuts for months now. Though it’s the one place in Portland I truly want to visit, it just hasn’t happened. It wasn’t until we got home that I learned they were closed for renovation. This helped a little (just a little) with my bitterness over not getting my donut. The whole point is to say that we slept through breakfast. We opted for coffee instead at Javaman Deli (just behind the hotel). Now I know why the nice folks at Hotel Modera always recommend coffee shops far from the hotel. Terrible coffee… I mean, truly awful. It’s not often I say that about a place, but this was truly, memorably bad. It held us over until lunch, though.

After lots more walking (partly due to our our cheapness in not wanting to pay the fare on the train and disembarking before the free zone ended) and a trip up the aerial tram, we decided on the one and only new restaurant of the trip. On our walk the day before, we wandered by The Newport Seafood Grill on the river. A quick check of Yelp on my phone revealed slightly less than average reviews, so we opted out for dinner. With such a nice view on the river, though, we were willing to potentially sacrifice lunch. We weren’t looking for anything fancy, just a good lunch.

The restaurant itself is a little bit worn down, but they have a fantastic location right on the water (their patio floats) and everyone was very, very friendly. Seems most people in Portland are generally nice. We didn’t get fancy for lunch. Fish and Chips sampler for both of us. Cod, Salmon, Prawns and fries. Good stuff.

It wasn’t an especially memorable meal, but it doesn’t always need to be. Sometimes, solid fish and chips are all that one needs. For us on this mild Portland Saturday, it was just the fuel we needed to get out walking and shopping.

Why is it when you really want to shop, you can’t find anything to buy? We’d stopped into a couple stores the night before after leaving Deschutes and I saw a few things I thought I’d want to come back and buy. Once we set out to really shop, though. I couldn’t find much. I picked up some new gym clothes, but made no progress on the fact that I’m severely lacking a Spring work wardrobe. We shopped until we were pretty sure there was nothing else to be found. One nap, a visit to the gym for B and a couple hours later, it was time for dinner.

B loooooooves Popehouse Bourbon Lounge. It’s super awesome, so it’s not like I blame him, but he really, really loves it. I get it. The whole idea behind Popehouse is Kentucky. I would love, love to have someplace in the area where I could go and really feel at home… New Mexico home. That doesn’t exist (that I’ve found anyway) in the Northwest. I suppose it’s a bit strange that Kentucky exists in Portland, but I’m really glad it does.

We weren’t able to snag bar seats straight away, but I was just happy we found a table. We ordered drinks and quickly ordered some food before Happy Hour ended. We had the Country Fritters (fried puffs of cornbread, ham, and cheese served with grainy mustard). Goooood stuff. Really good stuff. B wanted another order, but we held off since we knew what else was coming… Louisville Hot Browns. This is the same menu we had on our last visit, but oh my… It was so much better. The food was great last time, but this time, but it was really, really oustanding. The Hot Brown was huge (mine with a Mint Julep on the side), but it was delicious. B ate his and half of mine.

Sad photo, I know. I wasn’t really planning on writing about them since I have before, but the food was just so good. We finished our dinner and moved to the bar for dessert and after dinner drinks. We ordered the Popehouse pie. It was pretty much a Derby Pie... super sweet and delicious. Jenn, the bartender we met on our last visit asked if we wanted ice cream with that. I was thinking like a scoop of ice cream with our pie. What we got were three small dishes each with a scoop of a different kind of ice cream. One was mint julep flavored (with chocolate vodka for good measure). One was Sarah Connor on Fire (habanero and French vanilla). I didn’t get the name of the third type, but it really was very good. All the ice cream was made in house by their chef (whose name should be on the menu, but isn’t).

Oh the chef… As B enjoyed his flight of Four Roses bourbons, the guy sitting next to us struck up a conversation about animation (Transformers was on the tv above the bar). B remembered him from an earlier mention that some of the folks from Popehouse had traveled to Kentucky to choose their Four Roses barrel. He thought the chef was one of the people who’d gone on the trip and asked him where they had to pick up the barrel. Then he uttered the four words that totally broke my heart. “I’m just the chef.” In other words, he hadn’t visited Kentucky for the Four Roses barrel, but really? You’re just the chef? You’re the chef! I know Portland has it’s fair share of great restaurants, but the tone of the food scene just feels different from Seattle.

We ended the night a little later than the night before after a lengthy wait for a cab (and I thought Seattle cabs were bad). Come morning, it was time for a long drive home through a torrential downpour. I’m just glad it waited until we were headed home again.
Newport Seafood Grill at Riverplace on Urbanspoon

Pope House Bourbon Lounge on Urbanspoon

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