Find my published version of this article in the Vanguard here
In the past year, Portland’s French scene has grown significantly, with three new spots
popping up in various corners of town: there’s downtown’s Little Bird, North Portland’s Cocotte and St. Jack on Southeast Clinton. It’s hard not to feel left out when your slightly slim wallet won’t allow you to try them all in the same month—not to mention keeping up with old favorites like Paley’s Place. Yet, it’s important to remember that while some parts of France are stereotyped (or known for) their big attitudes, good French food is not actually about ego or even about being expensive. Simplicity and quality ingredients are all you need to enjoy a fabulous French meal, in your home or at a restaurant. Here are three ways to consume French excellence without having to pay a Paris-sized bill.
This appendage to specialty food shop Pastaworks doesn’t primarily serve French dishes, but their food holds the true spirit of the cuisine. The chefs at Evoe build sandwiches from the fresh produce, carefully crafted charcuterie and array of cheeses from the next-door shop in an uncomplicated yet careful way. Sitting belly up to the counter or at the few sparse tables in the room, you’ll sip rosé while the sun pours in through the window that you will use to spy on Hawthorne shoppers. Each sandwich is elegant and intelligently built; rarely do you leave feeling uncomfortably stuffed.
What to mange: The Parisienne sandwich (thinly sliced ham on a light-as-air baguette) or croque madame (open-faced sandwich with a fried egg and a dab of creamy Mornay sauce).
3731 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Open Wednesday–Sunday, noon–7 p.m.
While it’s always fun to go out and let others cook for you, sometimes the best way to eat French is to cook French. I’m not saying you need to pull out every recipe in Julia Childs’ “Mastering The Art Of French Cooking,” but you’d be surprised what a quick jaunt to the market will do for even the shyest of home cooks. Head to Whole Foods, grab a Ken’s Artisan Bakery baguette, some good cheeses and perhaps a hard cider and take them home to enjoy. If you have some extra cash, asking the deli to thinly slice you a little ham wouldn’t hurt either.
What to mange: Ken’s Artisan Bakery Baguette, Le carrer d’affnois (ridiculously creamy double brie) and some Gruyere for good measure.
Whole Foods Market
1250 NW Couch St.
Open 7 a.m.–10 p.m., seven days a week
Amongst the new French garçons in town, St. Jack stands out. With lovely mood lighting and a classy bar seating area complete with photos of stunning French actresses from the past, happy hour feels a whole lot more elegant than PBR and onion rings. The happy hour menu at St. Jack carries dishes for seafood enthusiasts and carnivores alike. To start, try the butter-lettuce salad, carefully dressed with Dijon vinaigrette and tossed with hunks of avocado and thinly sliced radishes. Later, you can get a decently sized bowl of light broth, creamy clams—each stuffed with garlic—that’s served with French bread for dipping. The burger is over-the-top-memorable with a juicy patty, lardons (for $1 extra) and Gruyere, dabbed with a slightly spicy mustard sauce to balance the richness. On the side are parsley-sprinkled frites with a generous amount of aioli for dunking.
What to mange:Le Hamburger with
Gruyere & bacon
2039 SE Clinton St.
Happy Hour: Monday–Saturday 4–5:30 p.m.