Best Mix of Salty, Savory, and Sweet
One of the best things that’s happened to Portland is the East End’s re-gentrification into a neighborhood with its own local shops and restaurants. And there’s nothing better for an evening plan than throwing on some boots and traversing the snow, even in April, to BAR LOLA for a glass of wine and the best appetizer ever to be paired with an Oregon Pinot. The idea is so simple that at first you might overlook it on the menu listed under small plates (the menu includes small, medium, salads, and large plates). It’s simply HARICOTS VERTS (French for green beans to you plebeians) wrapped in prosciutto and baked until hot. The sweet edges of the beans have caramelized as they’ve baked and their sugars have intensified under the tiniest slick of butter. This whiff of natural sugars makes the perfect marriage with the salty-savory prosciutto, the flavor of which has become deeper and more bacony with the warming and is crisp at the edges and mellow and warm at the center but does not have that pulling, stringy tendency that cold prosciutto can have. It is absolute heaven with a glass of wine. You might have to order another.
Bar Lola | 100 Congress Street, Portland | 207.775.5652
Best Four-Star Dinner Date on a Budget
It can sometimes be a challenge to go out for a dinner date that feels romantic and special and yet doesn’t put your bank account and then, consequently, your fridge into shock. The BLUE SPOON has managed, with their romantic lighting, spare decorations, and attentive care, to give their small space the totally relaxed, special-night-out feeling you crave as a refuge from the world. For a totally special and affordable dinner date, the SIRLOIN BURGER, filled with burgundy caramelized onions on a bulky roll with lettuce and onion, is the best burger anywhere in town. If you’re really decadent you’ll ask for their fresh goat cheese on top; it's tangy and will melt when warm complementing the onions and fresh meat beautifully. The burger is served with oven-roasted potato wedges, which you can dip into any condiments your heart desires. You even get a small salad on your plate. Put two of these $8 burgers with a couple glasses of wine and you and your date will get a wonderful gourmet meal for under $30 plus tip.
Blue Spoon | 89 Congress St, Portland | 207.773.1116
Best Market to Stretch a Twenty Spot
Twenty bucks these days can only get you so far. It can’t come close to filling your gas tank or paying for a movie date. That said, it’s hard to believe that $20 can buy you enough groceries to require a friend to help you carry them. HAKNUMAN MEANCHEY, an Asian market on Forest Avenue, boasts an impressive selection of fresh produce and Asian groceries, all at impossibly humble prices. Less adventurous shoppers will find the familiar conventional produce: peppers, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, fresh herbs, and citrus fruits are just a few. More experimental and left-of-center epicureans will immediately notice taro root, a plethora of exotic herbs like lemongrass, baby eggplants that resemble miniature watermelons, and several choices of chilis. Many of these wonderful things are packed in bundles for a dollar and change. Their fresh foods are just the beginning. They have shelves and aisles full of cans and jars of sauces, pastes, and preparations that pique the curiosity and, at their reasonable price, make it easy to try something new.
Haknuman Meanchey | 803A Forest Ave, Portland | 207.347.5029