Sunday, July 31, 2011

Marco Polo Global Restaurant

Marco Polo Global Restaurant is a restaurant on Liberty St. SE in Salem, Oregon. They serve up Asian and European food.

I had just trashed the poor food I got from Orupa (see the previous review) and was still hungry. The lunch menu at Marco Polo looked pretty good, so I went with their mixed veggie and mushroom plate with chicken, brown rice, and black bean sauce ($7.95). It came with my choice of soup, and I went with the Hot & Sour soup.

Mixed veggies, mushrooms, and chicken, with brown rice and black bean sauce
Apparently this meant to combine the brown rice and black bean sauce....
It came with soup, so I got the Hot & Sour soup
I liked the soup. It had a nice tangy flavor, but I also got the very slightest bit of spice in there. Seasoned very well. No complaints here.

I liked the take-out container that my entree came in. And yes, the food inside that container was also quite good. I was caught a bit off-guard seeing the black bean sauce and the brown rice combined together like that, but it gave the rice some flavor. The white chicken meat was nicely cooked, retaining a bit of moisture. The mixed vegetables and mushrooms were also cooked perfectly, the juices from the chicken and the mushrooms made a lovely broth for the entire meal to sit in.

It was actually my second visit to Marco Polo that day (I got my lunch at about 1:30 p.m.). The first time, I went to get a menu, deciding to sit down near the entrance to figure out what to order and to get an idea of the service. A couple of people waiting to be seated were complaining about slow service, but it was around the peak lunch hour at the time.

Overall, I'm satisfied with this place. Marco Polo did not wow me with amazing flavors, but they at least served me some pretty good food. I would gladly pay $7.95 for the meal I received. Very filling and quite tasty. 6.75/10

Orupa (Part 2)

(Original Review -- May 2011)
(Went back for Part 3 -- May 2012)

I decided to stop at Orupa again to try another menu item. Basically over the last few weeks, I've been re-reviewing some of the places I've given outstanding ratings, just to see if they really deserve it.

After a bit of deliberation (and hearing the specials), I went for something that had intrigued me for a while: "Chicken Tandori," which they described as chicken with a mango curry sauce. Not what I would say tandoori chicken is, but I gave it a shot anyway. It cost me $10.25.

I got the dish to go, because I had places to go and people to see.

The side of bread was actually the best part....
OK, what in the bloody hell was I just given? I paid $10.25 for this?!

First of all, the rice was quite dry and pretty much unacceptable. They decided to go with adding some Indian spices on the rice, probably for both presentation and to add flavor to the rice? Wrong move, sucker. The only thing it made me do was stop eating the rice altogether.

But the worst was to come: the "chicken tandori" itself. I figure it's bad enough that it's spelled incorrectly, but then I'm not even served anything resembling tandoori chicken. What you see in the picture is chicken with mango sauce, period. And it was horrible. I don't think they were intending to pass this off as a curry, but if they did, it's one of the worst I've ever had. It had probably the faintest hint of curry taste, and I tasted no mango -- as they had advertised. The execution was just absolutely awful. No general flavor in anything whatsoever. The vegetable strips were overcooked and unappetizing.

Upon closer inspection, I saw the chef had put some of Orupa's "special sauce" in that curry concoction, the same sauce I had enjoyed on my first visit. It gave the curry a peculiar red-orange tinge. I normally wouldn't mind too much if I enjoyed the flavors, but apparently the flavor got lost on the way to the dance.

Oh, you must be wondering about the chicken. Yeah, I got three thin slices of chicken, all of which were overcooked/dry. Nothing further needs to be said about that.

Sadly enough, the best part was the bread. Nothing wrong here, just their usual roll sliced several times, yet kept intact all the way. At least it wasn't too bad when I ate some of the bread with the curry "sauce."

The service was OK. The woman at the front of the house and the female server were both friendly. The service was average this time around, which really does make my first experience a huge anomaly.

Two final notes. First, take a look at this wrapping on my take-out order:

It looks like someone decided to wrap the bloody hell out of the containers and think that would suffice instead of bringing it to me in a plastic bag -- or heck, even a paper bag. The food was at least still warm, and I could feel the flimsy take-out plate give way a bit as I walked with it in my hand.

But second -- and worst of all -- they didn't even give me plastic utensils or napkins on the take-out order! What if they did this to someone who wanted to eat in the park on a gorgeous day? Yeah, that was me. I headed to the closest restaurant (which just happened to be Alcyone, a place I gave an average rating to) just to get a fork. I was so flustered I forgot to ask for napkins. I ate this food anyway because I paid for it (otherwise it would have been in the garbage in two seconds), wiping my face with my hands like a damn fool with no etiquette. Perhaps, in hindsight, I would have been better off taking the meal back to Orupa and asking for something different. Or at least get the meal comped. It was really that bad. The chef should be ashamed this even left the kitchen to get served to a customer.

This is by far the biggest disappointment in my food adventures. After everything went so right on my initial experience, it seemed like everything went so wrong on this one. Obviously, Orupa's rating severely drops, but it would be fairer to average my two experiences. After all, I still stand by my statement that Orupa makes a good Croque Monsieur sandwich and awesome pomme frites.

So you must be asking yourself, "Aaron, why not get the same thing as last time?" Because a great restaurant cannot live and die by one dish. The whole menu has to be good. If it's being offered on the menu, the chef is basically saying, "Try this, you'll love it." Otherwise, it wouldn't be on the menu at all. My food adventures will take me to different places, and also in the case of places I give a favorable rating to, they will make me try different dishes just to be sure the rating was accurate the first time around.

The first experience at Orupa was a 9.5, but this latest visit feels like a 0.5 (for the friendly staff and the bread). Orupa should be fortunate to even get points for serving me something so blasphemous, let alone charging $10.25 for. So basically now, after averaging the two visits, Orupa is an average joint to me, and they'll have to really try hard if I think of heading back there for a third time.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Wicked Wing Shack

Wicked Wing Shack, located in SW Portland, serves up a bunch of wings, tenders, and sandwiches. They also give you a choice of six different sauces, ranging from Sticky Sweet to "Hotter than Hell." I asked what was in the "Hotter than Hell," but basically got denied with one of those "can't tell you, it's a secret recipe" dealies. Fair enough!

UPDATE: As of 9/10/11, Wicked Wing Shack may be found at the D-Street Noshery food pod on SE Division St.

UPDATE: As of 12/8/11, Wicked Wing Shack has closed

Love the cart design!

Sauces (as of early July)
First off, I really liked their eye-catching food cart design. It's clear a lot of time and effort was put into it.

I arrived just before opening time, so the woman running the cart that day was still prepping the wings. Fortunately, the sauces were all ready to go, so I sampled three of their spiciest offerings: Black Berry Bomb, Smoky Peach Chipotle, and Hotter than Hell.

(L to R) Black Berry Bomb, Smoky Peach Chipotle, Hotter than Hell
Black Berry Bomb: Decent, but mild for me. I picked up the berry flavors right off the bat.

Smoky Peach Chipotle: Probably my favorite here. Good smokiness, and the peach flavors complement that. Again, not very spicy for me.

Hotter than Hell: This definitely was the spiciest of the three, and definitely took on more of a traditional hot wing sauce than the others.

I just wanted to get in and out real fast (and not wait for bone-in wings), so I just got three chicken tenders for $4. The woman running the cart also was kind enough to let me have two sauces (instead of one), so I asked for the Smoky Peach Chipotle and the Hotter than Hell.

Three white-meat chicken tenders
Smoky Peach Chipotle is the sauce on the left, Hotter than Hell on the right
The chicken tenders were cooked to order in peanut and grapeseed oils. They were cooked perfectly here. The breast meat stayed moist. The breading had a welcoming golden brown color and wonderful crunch. While that breading was also seasoned nicely, I think just an extra bit of seasoning on the chicken would have made it a bit better. As a note, I got two decent-sized chicken tenders and one dinky chicken tender piece. Oops.

I think the portion was barely worth $4 to me. For a buck-fifty more, I could get six wings and get down and dirty with the food at the same time. But with the chicken tenders, I basically played the role of a six-year-old kid again. And hey, that can be construed as a good thing to take me back to my childhood.

As stated above, I liked the sauces I picked, and I had a little bit of "eye sweats" as the kick of the "Hotter than Hell" built up. A pleasurable heat for me.

I'm on the fence about returning, although most of that has to do with the craziness that is downtown SW Portland. If I do decide to go back, I'll try the bone-in wings because those should have more natural moistness and flavor, being from a fattier part of the chicken.

I appreciate Wicked Wing Shack's house-made, unique sauces. Yes, I got the eye sweats from the Hotter than Hell, but it really was not that spicy for me in the grand scheme of things. If they make a hotter sauce, I'll be sure to try it! My loyal readers (probably fewer than 10 at this stage of the game) will know I am a total spicehead.

Wicked Wing Shack's chicken tenders are very good, but not mind-blowing. Regardless, this is also about the overall experience. I'm giving them a solid score for the chicken tenders, with a slight bump up for making their own wing sauces (and allowing me to sample the sauces for free). Even more props go to whomever designed that cart!

Perhaps I will get the wings next time, since I've read such great reviews on them. According to the people at Wicked Wing Shack, a vegetarian decided to try their chicken wings for the heck of it and loved them, so those wings must be damn good, huh? 7/10

Friday, July 29, 2011

Aiea Grill

Aiea Grill, located in Beaverton, Oregon, serves their take on Hawaiian BBQ.

How to order at Aiea Grill
Ordering at Aiea Grill is pretty simple in general: pick a regular or mini entree (regular has one choice, two choices, or three choices; mini has up to two choices) and pick two sides to go with it. I did need a few minutes to pick which entrees to go with, since they all looked pretty good. In the end, I went with a mini 2-choice plate of teriyaki chicken and pork adobo, with potato-macaroni salad and brown rice ($7.25).

The teriyaki chicken is a marinated, grilled chicken breast, drizzled with teriyaki glaze. Aiea Grill makes their pork adobo by simmering chunks of pork shoulder in a garlic-soy sauce until the meat is tender.

Mini 2-choice of teriyaki chicken and pork adobo with potato-mac salad and brown rice
One of my good friends got Aiea Grill's Mushroom Moco, one hamburger patty topped with grilled mushrooms, grilled onions, gravy, and two eggs, with a side of potato-macaroni salad.

Mushroom Moco with potato-macaroni salad
The pork adobo was very good. The pork was extremely tender and the amazing flavors of the garlic-soy sauce really made it successful.

Unfortunately, that's pretty much where the positives end. The teriyaki chicken was quite bad. The chicken breast was dry and was not marinated too well (at least in comparison to other places). It was a struggle to cut the chicken. Mild teriyaki flavors here, but that's really due to the sauce on top. I wouldn't even say it was a glaze (as Aiea Grill puts it) was more like a sauce on my portion.

The cold potato-macaroni salad was average at best. The elbow macaroni was cooked nicely, and they added a nice proportion of mayonnaise (not too much). It's better than a couple of places, but still could use work on flavoring and color. Adding more seasonings (especially more pepper) and vegetables (like peas or shredded carrots) would really do wonders here.

I sampled my friend's Mushroom Moco. Good flavors on the gravy, and the mushrooms really come through in the dish. The patty was just OK. But a huge error here on the eggs: they were basically fried eggs...a huge no-no in mocos! The eggs should be over-easy, so when cut into, the runny yolk coats the rest of the dish, marrying its flavors with the savory gravy, hamburger patty, onions, and rice (and in this case, mushrooms as well). Such a shame.

The man taking my order and my friend's order really did not seem too helpful when I asked him for recommendations. He was not very enthusiastic...seemed like he wanted to just go home and take a nap instead.

Even though the pork adobo was delicious, I'm just not a fan of Aiea Grill overall. 3.25/10

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Monkey's Subs

Monkey's Subs, located in Beaverton, Oregon, serves up various sub sandwiches. One of my co-workers, a big fan of Monkey's, recently described the food as an "upscale Subway," which really got me interested.

A very nondescript sign, but this is Monkey's Subs!
Monkey's Subs has a very nondescript sign: "Sub Shop." It really is one of those hole-in-the-wall places; no fancy signs and a small interior.

Walking inside, I was met by an enthusiastic African American man and another friendly man who could pass off for a biker dude. Both made me feel welcome...good start here.

I found out that Monkey's makes their own bread, their own roast beef, and their own bacon. Normally, I'd probably just get a turkey sandwich from a sub shop and call it a day, but I had to get something unique to Monkey's. I got a half roast beef sandwich for $5.75. Lettuce, tomatoes, provolone cheese, and mayonnaise join the roast beef on your choice of white or wheat bread. I asked for wheat bread and no mayo, but added, at no extra cost, jalapenos, Dijon mustard, and pickles.

Finishing the wrapping of my roast beef sandwich
Monkey's roast beef sandwich (wheat bread)

Monkey's has several different sandwich specialties, and you can customize your order how you want it. Most of the toppings and condiments are free, which is always nice.

The roast beef sandwich was good. I liked that the bread was firm enough to hold all the sandwich components, but the bread was also soft enough so that it's not a life-or-death struggle to eat the damn thing. However, I would have liked the option to toast the bread (Monkey's doesn't let you toast the bread). To me, there's nothing like biting down into a sub sandwich with warm, toasty bread -- especially when you'd have the crunchy outside and the soft inside.

Overall, I liked the roast beef. It was tender, properly cooked, and sliced very thin. I was puzzled as to why I was asked if I wanted more salt and pepper on my roast beef sandwich, but now I see why. I would have liked more flavor on the meat itself. But major kudos for making their own.

Another reason why I wanted the bread toasted (like how a Subway or a Quizno's would): melting the provolone on the roast beef would have been freakin' awesome. Instead, it was just sliced cheese on meat, topped with condiments and vegetables.

Monkey's does hot sandwiches as well, such as a meatball sandwich or a French dip. I would be concerned with how the bread will hold the hot components in place if the bread is not toasted.

I wouldn't say Monkey's makes the greatest sub sandwich that I've ever eaten, but at least it's better than other places I've been to. I'd go with an average rating for the sandwich, with extra points for friendly service and for making their own product (i.e., roast beef and bread). 6.25/10

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Gyro House Mediterranean Grill

Gyro House Mediterranean Grill is located in SW 205th Ave. in Beaverton, Oregon.

Slicing some meat off the gyro machine!
I had seen several positive reviews of this place, so I decided to try them out. I went with their chicken gyro ($5.99), asking for their spicy garlic sauce on the side. Lovely grilled chicken pieces marry with special spices, topped with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, and tzatziki.

Menu description of their gyros/wraps
Chicken gyro with spicy garlic sauce on the side
I received a lovely portion for six bucks. I got a lot of grilled chicken, and I loved that curry-like color. The Mediterranean spices really penetrated that poultry well. I enjoyed the fresh vegetables and the warm pita itself.

The spicy garlic sauce was not spicy at all to me, but I really liked the garlicky flavors. It is a welcome complement to the seasonings, chicken, and vegetables. The tzatziki is also very nice here. Both sauces also give this gyro great color.

I'm not sure what to make of having pickles in my gyro. I know that cucumbers can be found in gyros and in a lot of Greek dishes (especially because tzatziki may incorporate small diced cucumbers into it), but pickles don't sound very traditional to me. Still, I appreciate the briny taste the pickles bring to the dance. That extra layer of flavoring was something I probably would not expect to find in a gyro.

It costs 50 cents more to add Feta cheese to your gyro. Mixed feelings about that one. I like Feta cheese and always felt that it should just be a part of the gyro, no questions asked. But I can also understand that there are people who may not care for the cheese. Or maybe Gyro House wants to cater a little more to people that lead a dairy-free lifestyle.

I saw a few people in front of me that appeared to have roots in the Middle East or in that Mediterranean region. One of the workers there (at least the one who took my order) also appears to have such a heritage. That's definitely a good sign that you will be getting some great food.

I don't think the inside decor is too much to write home about, but I will mention that I saw the lamb-beef combination sitting on that gyro machine. A great visual for anyone walking into the establishment.

Overall, Gyro House serves up a very good chicken gyro. Be sure to get their spicy garlic sauce -- especially if  you're a garlic lover! 7/10

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Five Guys Burgers & Fries

Five Guys is a national burger-and-fry food chain. I went to their Salem location on Lancaster Drive NE. Five Guys has received several awards throughout the nation, including "Best Burger" in the University Daily Kansan; "The Best $5 Burger a Man Can Eat" (GQ Magazine '09); "Rated #1 Burger for Lunch in NYC" (Time Out New York '08); and ZAGAT Survey rated for ten consecutive years (2001-10).

Another thing at Five Guys: free peanuts!

Free peanuts!
Yup, a lot of free peanuts....
An older male cashier greeted me and asked if I had ever been here before. When I shook my head no, he gave a nice, five-second rundown of their offerings. I went with the little hamburger "all the way" -- but no mayonnaise for $3.59. Basically, "all the way" or "everything" would get you mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, ketchup, and mustard. But again, I told them to 86 the mayo.

As an aside, you can also ask for toppings like relish, fresh onions, jalapeno peppers, green peppers, A-1 sauce, BBQ sauce, or hot sauce on your burger. All toppings and condiments are free!

Little hamburger (one patty) with everything except mayo
It was a pretty good burger, and they filled my order properly (yup, no mayo). While all their beef patties are  cooked well-done, the beef remained quite juicy. But what really made this burger, in my book, was the grilled onions and mushrooms. They brought a new dimension that not all burgers "with the works" will give you. This is not your run-of-the-mill fast-food burger here. Going here and eating this burger after celebrating our great nation's birthday was a kickass idea. Not too many items are more American these days than a hamburger. I like that you can customize your burger in a ton of different ways.

I did have a few concerns. First, I did think that the patty was a bit small -- which is probably why people get the regular-sized burgers that have two of those patties encased inside the bun. Second, at first glance when unwrapping the foil, the bun looked a bit shriveled or slightly crushed due to a little careless handling from the food handlers. Finally, some of the fresher, raw vegetables -- like the lettuce and tomato -- were already losing their freshness due to the numerous warm/hot items surrounding it. The lettuce (just your regular head lettuce) in particular was practically wilted. They could have considered a lettuce like Romaine that has a stronger likelihood of holding up to the heat. I think it's important to keep the cold condiments very cold (I even think ketchup and mustard should be cold, but it won't matter to the vast majority out there) and the hot condiments nice and hot until the very end.

For people who do not want a burger, they also offer hot dogs. At the Lancaster location, a Kosher style dog is $2.99, a cheese dog is $3.79, a bacon dog is $3.79, and a bacon cheese dog is $4.19. Maybe you're a vegetarian? Five Guys offers a veggie sandwich ($2.69), a cheese veggie sandwich ($3.09), and a grilled cheese sandwich ($2.69).

Let's not forget about the fries, coming in regular ($2.89) or large ($3.59) sizes. You can get it "Five-Guys" style or "Cajun" style. I'm not huge on French fries, so unless I return with a friend, I'll pass on those. Five Guys has won awards for their fries as well, so I'm sure they are quite good. They fry the fries in no-cholesterol peanut oil.

My friends told me to check Five Guys out because they thought the burgers were pretty damn good. While I did list my concerns above regarding the burger, I generally agree with my buddies. If I return, I'll probably sample their veggie sandwich next, just to see how they cater to the vegetarian. 7/10

Monday, July 25, 2011

J's Teriyaki

J's Teriyaki, located in Salem, Oregon, is a tucked-away, hole-in-the-wall dive serving up Japanese teriyaki bowls/plates and sushi.

Specials for July 6, 2011

As appetizing as all their food looked (thank you, pictures), I went with their Teriyaki Bowl special for $4.95. And a huge bonus here to really note: I asked the female cashier (she may have been one of the owners/managers) if I could get spicy chicken teriyaki for the bowl. She said it normally costs $1 more, but today, since it was my first visit, it was on the house. Now that is going beyond the call of customer service!

Spicy Teriyaki Chicken bowl (in a to-go box)
I got the food to go, but it looked so damn good when I opened the to-go box that I just noshed away at it in the car.

It was very delicious. It was still temperature-hot, meaning it had just been cooking on the stove minutes earlier...super fresh. The mixed vegetables were wonderfully cooked and added amazing color to the dish (heck, I even saw some broccoli in there). The sesame seeds added an little extra appeal for the eyes, but it seemed to get lost in the shuffle here otherwise. I got a nice bit of spice, but nothing overwhelming. I'd say Fuji Rice Time's spicy chicken is still spicier. The chicken was juicy and moist. I would have liked just a bit more teriyaki flavor here, but maybe the spice negated some of that. All in all, a very successful dish that I would eat again and again.

The rice was also cooked very well and, when mixed with the teriyaki and spicy sauces, really made me one happy panda. Flavor, people! So important!

I received a bit more of their house spicy sauce on the side (not pictured). Good flavor in that as well. I dumped that all over my food after snapping the picture you see above and continued to chow down.

Chuck B., a person I know through Yelp, had reviewed this place last year and had an awful experience. He then went back (on the request of another Yelper) a month ago and gave it rave reviews. Chuck mentioned that new management was the reason for the turnaround. I can confirm that with the extremely friendly service I received on my visit. Just a great place to go.

It's a bit of a shame that the place is a bit hidden behind a Wendy's; otherwise they would be getting far more customers. But hey, go check out J's Teriyaki for yourself! 8.25/10

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Golden Grill

This will be a more informal review than usual, mainly because it was one of those spontaneous "hell, let's try this food stand and see how it is" dealies. I was walking on Court Street during the Hoopla 3-on-3 basketball event (in Salem, Oregon) when I spotted one of Golden Grill's food stands at the corner of Court St. and Capitol St. NE. Curious, I ordered a pound of their Hawaiian chicken ($5).

Golden Grill's "Hawaiian Chicken"
Love how that teriyaki sauce coats the chicken, making for a glistening appearance
Where I come from, it would be called teriyaki chicken, but whatever. I was very skeptical at first because I had never heard of these guys before. But as the cook scooped the extremely moist chicken out of the chafing dish, my tune changed. I also saw lemon halves on the corners of the chafing dish, which I knew would make for a great mix with the sweet teriyaki sauce.

Golden Grill uses dark cubed meat for their Hawaiian chicken here. As expected, I loved the chicken. Very moist, very tender, and full of teriyaki flavor. The lemon in the chafing dish may have been more for decoration, as I did not get much lemon flavor in my serving.

I personally added some sriracha to my serving and happily wolfed down the chicken in about two minutes. I did get a few fatty pieces of chicken, and some of the pieces were not cut all the way through. I would have also preferred the chicken hot off the flattop grill, as opposed to the warm pieces in the chafing dish. But other than that, I really can't complain. $5 got me a pound's worth of chicken, stuffing me to the gills quite nicely.

Overall, I was pleased with this experience. I failed to ask if they have an actual restaurant in Oregon, but if I happen to see them again, I would gladly go back for more of their Hawaiian chicken! 7.5/10

Off Center Cafe

(UPDATE May 2013: Off Center Cafe is closed, despite what apparently was a last-ditch effort by Off Center to turn things around. Now, Iggy's Catering and Cafe stands where Off Center Cafe used to be. I'll make it a point to stop by the next time I'm in Salem!)

Off Center Cafe is a breakfast/lunch establishment located on Center St. in Salem, Oregon.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

PFE Sushi & Chinese Food

PFE Sushi & Chinese Food is a food cart located on SW 3rd Ave. and SW Stark St. in Portland, Oregon.

Sushi menu
One of my friends decided to get the large (8-piece) spicy tuna roll ($4.99).

Spicy tuna roll
I sampled a piece of sushi and just shook my head in disapproval. In spicy tuna sushi, the tuna (and spices) must be the star, and here, it wouldn't have even made it to the casting calls.

The tuna did not taste very fresh and did not have much flavor. In fact, we put wasabi and soy sauce on each sushi just to eat the damn thing. I didn't even taste any spice in the spicy tuna itself (although my friend could sense it). The rice was average at best. On the piece I ate, I felt some of the rice was a tad overcooked/mushier than I would have wanted it. The avocado enhanced the creamy texture of the sushi, but I would have wanted something crunchy (like cucumber) instead to take the sushi to the next level. At least the toasted sesame seeds on the rice brought texture and flavor to the dance.

I realize that this place is also a Chinese food cart. But when you're advertising sushi as part of your food cart name, that sushi better be good, too. I find it amusing that virtually all of the reviews I'm seeing on Yelp are really talking about the sushi, not the Chinese food.

I may decide to try their Chinese food one day (I like that they have no MSG at that cart). But that sushi was really a letdown. At least the food looked pretty good, but in my eyes, that's a small consolation -- a very small consolation. 2/10

Friday, July 22, 2011

El Masry

El Masry is an Egyptian food cart located on SW 3rd Ave. and SW Washington St. in Portland, Oregon. Egyptian food and Mediterranean food are virtually identical, as I've found out. It's pretty much the same menu items, although they may be called by different names.

After looking at all their choices, I asked one of the workers what their best-selling item was. Unfortunately, the language barrier was in full effect and communication was tricky. They did mention their Kofta Kebab was a big hit, so I went with that.

Kofta Kebab
I was astounded at the size of the food. Nice pieces of freshly cooked, flavored meat engulfed with vegetables, tzatziki sauce, and hot sauce, wrapped in a pita.

The Middle Eastern/Mediterranean spices in the moist, flavorful kofta sent bursts of amazing flavor into my mouth. I thought the tzatziki and the hot sauce really rounded this dish out as a successful one because it added those extra elements of zing and heat. The fresh vegetables (onion, tomato, lettuce, and a bit of cucumber) were a welcome addition here. I know Feta cheese is Greek, but adding that would have really worked wonders for me. But given the size of the food and the wonderful flavors, I wouldn't mind paying $7 to get another one.

Basically, two nitpicking criticisms here, both dealing with what I felt was subpar customer service. First, the size of the food really requires a big mouth or a utensil. I probably should have asked for a fork at El Masry, but forgot to do so. Regardless, maybe they could have asked me if I needed any utensils or napkins? This leads to the second issue: the language barrier. What if someone (like myself) didn't know what to get and needed suggestions? Surely, one of the first places to go is to ask the people running the food cart on what their best-selling item is. No discrimination is intended here, but maybe someone who can better communicate with the customers needs to be at the front of the cart. At least I know that the food I'm about to receive is probably as authentic as can be, but on my food adventures, customer service plays a factor in the rating as well (now you can really see how it's practically impossible to get a 10 from me). The food (and the price for that food) was close to a 9, but I'm deducting some points for the service.

Anyway, I'll shut up about that now. If you just want a big pile of delicious food, head to El Masry for a great food experience! 7.75/10