Best Restaurants 2012

Five Things You Must Eat in 2012

You don't need to rent a tux to tackle these low-brow dishes.

By Mike Thelin Edited by Rachel Ritchie and Karen Brooks October 16, 2012 Published in the November 2012 issue of Portland Monthly

 Mole Tots @ Bunk Bar 

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1028 SE Water Ave;; $5

One part Oaxacan soul food, one part school lunchroom, and one part bong hit, Bunk’s mole tater tots live on that delicate intersection of culinary cred and stoner food. Crispy, fried, straight-from-the-bag tots are smothered in a complex mole that wreaks a havoc of ancho chile, raisins, cloves, cinnamon, and Mexican chocolate—all capped with sour cream and avocado. Damn you, Bunk Bar. You always know what we want. 

Kimchi Buns @ Tanuki 

1112 kimchi buns tanuki wjbv4v

8029 SE Stark St;; $2

Tanuki has the ambience of an eclectic college kid’s basement: loud hip-hop, a constant reel of Japanese horror erotica flicks, and close to zero lighting. This rough-around-the-edges punk-rock gem is not for everyone, but if you can handle the noise and grit (and the arcane seating rules), the omakase (chef’s menu) buns studded with kimchi, blue cheese, and sake-cured bacon will summon a delicious worldly vision—one where the Koreans have colonized the French and appointed Flavor Flav dictator for life.

Tex Cobb @ Podnah’s Pit Barbecue   

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1625 NE Killingsworth St;; $9.50

“Brisket” and “lettuce” are rarely mentioned in the same breath: in Texas, good men have met the electric chair for crimes lesser than combining the two. But in a city where the entrée salad is a rarity, the classic mix of romaine, crispy bacon, avocado, egg, and blue cheese, charged with a shot of the city’s best brisket, is a welcome find. 

Tabor Burger @ Tabor Tavern

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5325 E Burnside St;; $12

The burger of your dreams lives at E Burnside Street and 53rd Avenue: two slices of a toasted brioche bun, a palm-size hunk of ground chuck, pungent blue cheese, a fistful of peppery arugula, and, last but not least, a glob of bacon jam—an addictively sweet and fatty marriage of pork fat, bacon, and caramelized onion.

 Mac and Cheese @ Free House  

1112 mac and cheese freehouse om4c2x

1325 NE Fremont St;; $7

Here’s a vision of heavenly indulgence: a never-ending bowl of Free House mac and cheese whose eater never gets full, with every bite of penne pasta, smoked cheddar and swiss, and tiny wheels of Olympic Provisions hot dogs (optional) tasting as good as the first. 

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