Monday, February 24, 2020

Saying Farewell to the Pacific NW

After living in the Pacific NW for 12 years, I moved back to Hawaii last November to accept a new position in the Aloha State. I know, tough decision for me, right?

But before I left, I wanted to take one last food adventure as a NW resident, going to some of my favorite spots. Unfortunately, I could only get to a select few, and I apologize if I couldn't get there one more time.

Minutes before landing in Honolulu

The last hurrah of these adventures started in mid-October, right after I got my initial job offer.

Please note that this post does NOT include the spots I still went to in the Pacific NW for the first time. So I definitely got my final fix of food and drinks in the area before I departed.

I started on October 19 with Pip's Original Doughnuts, a place that had significantly grown in popularity since my original blog post. Compare my pics from the 2013 blog post to the below pictures. The space is bigger thanks to expanding into the adjacent area, and even with that, the line was out the door. I must have been in line for a good 50 minutes.

One latte and a dozen mini doughnuts later, I was a happy panda. Four chile mango, four candied bacon maple, and four Dirty Wu (cinnamon sugar, nutella, and honey).


A few days later, my mom flew up from Hawaii to help me pack and take care of other business to help me with the move. It was only fitting I include her on my subsequent adventures.

The following weekend (October 26), we went to Pepper Box Cafe so I could introduce mom to New Mexican cuisine. I had been a fan of this place from the time the owner, Jim, had his food cart. I first tried this place in 2011 and came as often as I could.

While I usually got the breakfast tacos (two tacos, one with red chile and one with green chile), the breakfast burrito won out for my farewell meal here. Eggs, potatoes, pinto beans, and cheddar smothered with both red and green chile sauce. So good, and mom approved.


The week after (November 3), mom and I went to Salem for breakfast at Word of Mouth. They open at 7 AM, so we got there at 7:30 AM - and the wait list was still crazy long, probably anywhere from 45-60 minutes. But we happily waited.

Having gone to nearby Willamette for law school, this was my first true favorite food spot in the Pacific NW. They opened over 10 years ago and I was a fan from the beginning - even though my blog started officially in 2011.

The owners want to keep the intimate small green house as their spot, instead of expanding to a larger space or a second location. Also, if you only have to serve 75 people and not 150 at one time, presumably this helps with keeping the food quality higher. Legend has it that WoM turned down an invite to be on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

We feasted on some great food as usual. Garden omelet, corned beef hash, biscuits, and the thick-cut toast they always provide from a local bakery. Top it off with their crazy-good (and rich) hot chocolate. Just a sampling of why they remain popular after a decade in business.

We even got a complementary veggie burger (house-made) topped with hollandaise. Delicious.

With my last day of work being November 8, I then had a little more time to get some food adventures in - whenever I wasn't frantically packing or getting last-minute improvements done on my property.


One week later (November 9), it was Monk's Deli. They first set up shop in 2015 at the now-defunct Good Food Here pod on SE Belmont, but have been a mainstay outside Belmont Station since that pod shuttered.

Back then, Monk's offered a bag of chips with your sandwich. Now the sandwiches are a la carte, but pay a couple bucks more, and you'll get freshly made fries or potato chips from their cart.

My mom got the veggie sandwich, and I picked the Cubano. And you bet we got fries and chips.

I wish I had gotten fries or chips sooner, because they are both hot out of the fryer and game-changers. Everything is perfectly seasoned and delicious. Even the veggie sandwiches have tremendous flavor.

If you are a beer lover, this is the spot to go. A beer at Belmont and a meal from Monk's should make your day.


On November 13, I took mom into downtown Portland to try Stretch the Noodle. Hand-pulled noodles, proper spice levels, and gigantic portions, all for a very reasonable price.

Not surprisingly, the secret was long out that Stretch the Noodle was a go-to place in downtown Portland. It was seriously the only cart in that food pod (SW 3rd and Washington) with a sizable line, and the wait time at peak lunch time could get up to 40 minutes. The cart was only open on weekdays, so that really was the only factor stopping me from going here more often.

In the year and a half since my initial visit, there were a couple more protein options when ordering noodles. You could get a mix of chicken and shrimp now, or even andouille sausage. Mom's also vegetarian, so we got tofu as the protein option.

Prices used to be about $8 in 2018. In late 2019, they were anywhere from $9 (tofu or chicken) to $11 (beef, chicken/shrimp, or andouille). But the portion size has remained the same - ginormous. Still one of the best deals around.

Since my mom doesn't want the real spicy option, we agreed on a medium spice level. Perfect for both of us, and to my knowledge, it was my mom's first experience with real hand-pulled noodles. Chewy noodles, still with the slight crunch of all the veggies. The extra firm tofu was perfectly seared on the outside.


November 15 took mom and I back to Tater's Cafe, a spot popular with locals in the small town of Dallas, Oregon. It was also the day I said farewell to my 2002 Honda Civic, selling it to my best friend living in the area. As much as I would have liked to take the Civic home with me, having to drive it up to Seattle, coupled with numerous requirements and restrictions in shipping anything to Hawaii, made selling the car the more prudent play.

Typical American breakfast on this day. Corned beef hash and eggs. But Tater's is more known for the fresh-baked bread. Fluffy, buttery, and delicious.


On November 17, the night before mom and I left for Hawaii, I had to take get one last meal and beer in. We started at Saburo's. I came here with a friend several years ago, and I learned two things: (1) it's easy to over-order if you aren't aware of their massive portion sizes, and (2) you can only order once, so if anything, err on the side of over-ordering.

Saburo's only opens for dinner, but locals know that you need to wait in line to be among the first to get seated. If you can't get there at least 10 minutes before opening, chances are you'll be waitlisted.

I got my unagi (eel), spicy tuna, and California rolls. Mom got a tempura combination meal. Even though her combo meal was significantly larger than my order, it was also cheaper. Go figure.

(At front left is the sauce is for the tempura)

Mom's combo meal also included this miso soup

We valiantly tried, but didn't get through everything. But they served as leftovers before our flight to Hawaii,

To cap the festivities, I got one last beer at Belmont Station. It seemed like the people at Belmont almost knew I was leaving, because some of the popular beers were back on tap, including Russian River's Blind Pig and Pliny the Elder.

But I got a glass (8 oz) of Surly Brewing's Todd the Axe Man IPA, because it had been years since I had one. For those wondering, Russian River and Surly Brewing don't distribute their beers to Hawaii.


Since mom and I still own properties in the Pacific NW, we should be visiting as often as possible. It'll just be more difficult for me, since I work and mom has retired.

Pacific NW, you know I'll be back eventually.

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