Whether you want to avoid seeing people making googly eyes and kissie faces at each other while you try to eat or whether you just want to avoid paying double for a meal served by a frazzled waiter, here are 10 options to escape the trappings of dining out on Valentine’s Day. They’re un-hip and non-trendy. And most are inexpensive and casual, too. Also, because most of these places are rarely slammed, it’s a good list to keep around for a Friday or Saturday night when waiting 45 minutes for a table sounds especially miserable.
Michael’s Beef & Sausage Combo — Wet
Perhaps Clint Eastwood’s sleeper Gran Torino was overlooked by the Oscars for non-PC exchanges like this:
Barber Martin: There. You finally look like a human being again. You shouldn’t wait so long between hair cuts, you cheap son of a bitch.
Walt Kowalski: Yeah. I’m surprised you’re still around. I was always hoping you’d die off and they got someone in here that knew what the hell they were doing. Instead, you’re just hanging around like the duop dego you are.
Barber Martin: That’ll be ten bucks, Walt.
Walt Kowalski: Ten bucks? Jesus Christ, Marty. What are you, half Jew or somethin’? You keep raising the damn prices all the time.
Barber Martin: It’s been ten bucks for the last five years, you hard-nosed pollock son of a bitch.
Walt Kowalski: Yeah, well keep the change.
Barber Martin: See you in three weeks, prick.
Walt Kowalski: Not if I see you first, dipshit.
PC or not, though, it has a certain authenticity. And I’ve lived it at Michael’s — just substitute the racial slurs for political rants.
Last time I was in, Michael saw one of his regulars sit down and he emerged from the kitchen to announce to the entire room that Obama was taking our country down the road of Nazi Germany. In between bites, the regular responded that Michael must have heard that from his buddy Rush Limbaugh while he was selling him oxycotin. Another customer across from me got up in disgust, moving to the other end of the restaurant. A lady from behind the counter came out to tell Michael to, “Shut up and go home,” while another customer started going off about how it was Bush who was the Nazi.
There was thumping of chests and busting of balls, but it was all for show. I’d heard about Michael’s rants, but never really seen one. I always assumed that he was a bit of an asshole, but worth putting up with for the food. Now I think it’s just a wonderful schtick from another place and another era — a welcome anachronism in a blue collar neighborhood undergoing a lot of change with the addition of Le Pigeon, Biwa, Simpatica, and Noble Rot.
And if you can’t handle the schtick, get the food to go, because they make some great sandwiches.
Ed Levine, perhaps the foremost authority on pizza in the United States, likes to point out that pizza is really just bread, so you can’t have good pizza without good bread. The same certainly should be the case for sandwiches, which are just meat and cheese stuffed into bread. Thus, in looking for a good sandwich in Portland, the artisan bakeries deserve special focus.
In tasting sandwiches at all of Portland’s best bakeries, none better shines a light on the importance of good bread and the way that bread can give character to a sandwich than Little T. The fillings are fine, but the breads are the star of each sandwich.
Bunk’s Meatball Hero
“You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
~ 20th Century American Idiom
“Beauty … is but skin deep.”
~ Sir Thomas Overbury, 1613
“Food all looks the same coming out.”
~ Some Smart-Ass
Often suffused with smoke with a dinky storefront, there’s not much to draw you to or in Bunk Sandwiches except the line of people out front. Their sandwiches don’t often photograph well for whatever reason. Neither does my wife. But I don’t eat a photograph of a sandwich from Bunk anymore than I kiss a picture of my wife. The sandwiches may not be pretty, but they sure taste damned good. Thus, the line.
On the continuum of sandwiches from traditional to gourmet, Bunk’s give the impression of something traditional and comforting, yet the menu indicates, and the patient palate discovers, something creative and distinctive. But somehow, the flavors are never unexpected.