I love Portland – it’s the land of perpetual weekend. Throw on whatever is on the floor and clean-ish, shower if you feel like it, wander out and find good food and drink, whatever you’re in the mood for. And since you don’t have anywhere to be really, why not wait in line – or better yet, in a bar – for authentic street Thai.
Pok Pok, here we come!
After a long flight – delayed, of course – we were in the mood for something to pick us up. So we put our names in at Pok Pok PDX, the original location, because if you’re going to Pok Pok, might as well go to the source, and then headed across the street to their sister bar Whiskey Soda Lounge for a snack and drink. There’s also a full menu here, featuring lots of noodle variations, that on another evening, would probably make a fun meal. In this case, we opted for a few snacks to tide us over.
You’ve had the chicken three ways, our server asked.
[pause] Nooooo …. [pause]
Because it’s not actually chicken.
Got it. Hmm. But let’s try it anyway.
Verdict? Highly recommend. Only wish there were more. A plate of peanuts with slivers of Thai chiles and spicy shallots, minced ginger and most intriguingly, tiny dices of juicy limes. Mix together and let your mouth tingle with heat, cooling citrus and the interplay of flavors. If this is a preview of Pok Pok – and it really was – wow.
About an hour or so later – and Pok Pok was pretty on-target with the wait time – we went back across the street for the main event. The restaurant looked like it was bolted together, or more like it had expanded without a plan, which is probably true. We sat in what seemed to be one of the main dining areas, squeezed into a corner, where we viewed – and scented – the dishes that came out.
I’ll admit: the menu was overwhelming. And also in very small print in a dark room after a long day of travel. In retrospect, I ordered poorly. Oh, my roasted chicken, purportedly the inspiration for Pok Pok, was good. It just wasn’t as intriguing as either what G or our friend Gary ordered. Their dishes tasted more like the chicken three ways across the street, with flavors bursting in every mouthful. My chicken would have been the choice for someone less adventurous.
That said, Pok Pok was worth the hype, especially with the easy wait across the street. Next time, I would definitely try something spicier and odder. Or maybe go to Whiskey Soda for noodles? Or try to beat the line at Pok Pok mid-afternoon and graze and then quench? All good options, to be sure.