Violetta heads in the right direction

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Photo by Adam Wickham

On a recent July-uary (these jokes aren’t funny anymore, are they?) day in downtown, the sky resembled a quilt of confusion: cloud here, sun there, another cloud here. The beautiful thing about Oregonians is their extreme weather optimism. Sitting on the everlasting patio of recently-opened Violetta in Director Park, diners enjoyed their burgers as if there was not a chill to be found. Sure, the sky above held some threatening darker clouds, but Violetta’s covered patio melted worries away.

After much talk, Violetta’s permanent restaurant spot is finally open.  Back in December, the restaurant suffered from a fire and had to delay its opening. With the true optimistic spirit of Oregonians, it opened a taxi yellow food truck named Etta that rolled around town inviting Portlanders to engage with what was to come in June.

It is too early to give an official review of the spot (it’s just not right to give a restaurant a full review before it has some time to grow), but here is my blind date experience with the new kid in downtown.

The inspiration behind Violetta is to take what everyone likes to eat, and to tweak it in a healthier direction. This slow-fast restaurant offers up your standard fast food fare of burgers, fries, hot dogs, milkshakes and sodas, but does so without clogging the items with unknown chemicals.

The restaurant’s dishes also fall under the slow food movement category because eating healthy at Violetta is not an altogether impossible feat. Among the restaurant’s pasture-raised Black Angus beef burgers are also turkey burgers and a polenta and mushroom burger that is not only vegetarian-friendly but also accessible to vegans as well. There are also four separate salad options that are standard diner fare, like the Violetta Caesar as well as the cobb-like Director Park Salad.

The burgers really take the time to correct the less-memorable fast food versions we are used to. The burger patty itself, which in a drive-thru can be found to be gummy and thin, is replaced with a thick (one-third to one-half pound), juicy patty. Violetta shakes its head to wilted iceberg lettuce and a sad, watery tomato. Instead, the burger is topped with “10 hour tomatoes,” which deliver an excellent tang as well a nice chewy texture. Crisp butter lettuce and super dill pickles add crunch, and a creamy sauce stands in for the mayo that is usually slathered on the expected Mc-you-know-who burger.

The hot dogs also have been slightly tweaked, offered with super dill relish, house kraut, sweet onions and a smoky harissa ketchup. One customer found the beef chili frank to be especially delicious, saying that “the caramelized onions taste nice and sweet—the consistency adds a really nice touch!”

In addition to lunch and dinner options, Violetta customers can hit up a hefty breakfast menu as well, which includes whole wheat biscuit sandwiches, creamy coconut oatmeal with seasonal fruit, and light, doughy beignets (France’s powdered sugar dusted version of the doughnut) served with either an espresso chocolate sauce or a fruit spread.

On a positive, environmental note, the restaurant offers not only a recycling bin for disposing, but also a compost can as well. Another aspect to note is that when you receive your meal, it always comes in a to-go container, which is helpful for those with small appetites, but could be perceived wrongly as “hurry up and eat.”

Violetta is new on the block, but if the restaurant continues to grow and offers something for every kind of diner, it may become a local favorite.

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