Friday, February 22, 2013

Hummingbird Saloon

The Hummingbird Saloon is a new bar in Columbia City and I am pretty darn excited about its existence. The bar is  owned by the same southend locals who own Full Tilt ice cream, and it is located right next door in the same "transitioning" parking lot a smidge south of the heart of Columbia City. The aim of the bar is to be a neighborhood hangout, and the proprietors have made all kinds of good decisions to make it so: cheap drinks, good food and games.

First item of business: The hummingbird has tasty, stiff,  $6 well cocktails, made with attention and care by a skilled and friendly bar tender.

Second: The Hummingbird Saloon is still working on building their menu, but has chosen to go the route of high quality food. In addition to a handful of salads, there are currently at least two satisfying vegetarian options on the menu, including a crumbly, spicy, savory scone with homemade marinara sauce for dipping (can be made with a homemade meatball if you eat meat), and a "Butter Pie," which is an intensely delicious, flaky-crust savory hand-pie filled with a confetti of chopped veggies, potatoes, and butter (of course there are meat pies as well, and a vegan and gluten-free option coming soon). The Hummingbird Saloon has an in-house baker who creates the baked goods, and I found both of these to be dangerously easy to eat alongside my drink. I'm excited to see how the food menu continues to fill out.

Third: The Hummingbird Saloon has shuffleboard. And pinball. And vintage video games. AND a giant chess set. 

There are a few additional things that I really appreciated about the Hummingbird Saloon, including the fact that the owners are dedicated to keeping music volumes low enough for conversation, there is a "phone booth" in which you can duck to get a little quiet to use your cell phone, it is clearly owned by real people who are dedicated to the vision of the approachable neighborhood bar, there is a good happy hour ($2.50 wells), the owners are aware of vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free needs and are giving good options that satisfy those restrictions, and it is in position to stretch the "cool" part of Columbia City another block or so to the south. 

I hope word spreads and folks are willing to venture a few paces south... this is just the sort of hangout that the neighborhood has been missing. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Northwest Tofu

Northwest Tofu is a dingy looking restaurant/factory on Jackson, near the Moonlight Cafe. I had long desired a trip to taste the fabled salt and pepper tofu, but had been thwarted by the lunch-oriented hours. The stars recently aligned, and I went in for a lunchtime feast. 

The restaurant was small and packed with people. The menu is loaded with tofu, but has a relatively small number of vegetarian and vegan options. My dining companion and I ordered vegetarian MaPo tofu, Chinese broccoli, and salt and pepper tofu. 

The dishes came to our table in a massively time staggered way. We received the broccoli first. It was mediocre in the MSG/cornstarch/oil sauce kind of way. 

Then came the mapo. I appreciated the addition of the edamame, and the tofu was silken and fresh, but this dish was also mediocre. Rather than spicy or rich, the sauce was excessively oily and laden with MSG. 

At first we attempted to nibble our first two dishes and save some appetite while we waited for the star to arrive. Unfortunately this took so long, we had polished off the broccoli and the MaPo by time it finally did. This was a shame, because the Salt and Pepper Tofu was truly a delicious, satisfying dish and I was too full to really enjoy it.

The Salt and Pepper tofu felt to me like a perfect vegetarian junk food, like the vegetarian equivalent of fried chicken on the comfort food satisfaction scale. The inside was custardy smooth and piping hot, and the outside a light and perfectly fried crust flavored with salt and pepper. If I were to visit NW Tofu again, it would be to order this dish.

I had high hopes for NW Tofu, and was a little disappointed to discover that most of the vegetarian options, with the exception of the delicious salt and pepper tofu, were somewhat mediocre. 

Northwest Tofu Inc. on Urbanspoon