Today’s a Saturday, so instead of going to the office I’m planning to walk all over Beaverton, Oregon. I’m not even sure there’s a “there” there, but there’s only one way to find out.
It’s a beautiful day, exceedingly clear and sunny with promises of warm midday. Time to grab my bag, phone, and head out the door.
@La is a special place.
Y’all know I love “dropping pins” in new ethnic experiences. I came across @La the first few hours I was in Aloha, but I couldn’t make it to their open hours until today. I’ve been thinking about the Phat Wings since then, and it was a pleasure to finally meet La, chat about her vision for creating a Hmong presence in the food ecosphere, and then to try the wings.
They’re very, very good! Subtle, crispy, filled with goodness, accompanied by a typical sweet-and-sour red sauce or a unique fish sauce, lemongrass, and spicy pepper “salsa”. Filling, yes, but a light eat.
Also fabulous, but completely different, are La’s pork sausage, made from locally-sourced meat. (La’s husband works with the pig farmers & butchers.) Tasty, plump, with the mildest hint of fish sauce and cilantro.
La and her husband were a pleasure to meet, their creations a pleasure to eat, and she teases upcoming Hmong treats (which I can’t wait to taste).
Getting to “downtown” Beaverton
Things are really spread out in suburbia. Much as I like walking, it’s just too far given the number of daylight hours. So I jump on the bus for a half-hour ride, with a stop near downtown. Yep, more walking, which brings me by this bit of public art. Big, shiny, and perfect for jumping your dog through, I guess.
Dogwoods, exploding with blooms of pinkish white, dot the sidewalks and gardens and scatter petals all over like showers of beauty and hope.
Solace & Fine Espresso
A fine little coffeeshop, delightfully decorated, with a very mellow medium brew drip coffee which has almost no tannins and doesn’t get bitter as it sits.
Free Wi-Fi, nice seating area with couches, parking lot, near to the bus line and transit center. Solace is a fine place to take a break, to relax in the middle of a long walk.
In addition to eating I love cooking. So discovering a spice shop is an unexpected delight.
Penzey’s Spices has a large footprint, almost completely covered in individual spices, with some curated collections scattered about. Spices are sold in three sizes: small glass jar, medium glass jar, and large baggie (to refill the glass jars).
My go-to test for spice-sellers is bebere, a staple of Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine, made from a mix of chili peppers, garlic, ginger, basil, fenugreek, and korarima, rue, nigella, and ajwain or radhuni. Some bebere are primarily spicy, others convey a more subtle bouquet. Penzey’s offering is right in the middle of that range, which I like.
Test passed, I put Penzey’s on my list for a return when it’s time to refill my kitchen supplies. BAM!
Being that I live(d) a few hundred feet from the Alameda Trader Joe’s, and it’s my go-to for some zero-carb keto food, it’s always a joy to come across a TJ’s in a far-away place. I didn’t spend too much time checking the shelves, but it seems to have the same stock and the same high-energy, enthusiastic staff.
Finally I make it to downtown Beaverton. Yep, this is downtown, all one-and-a-quarter blocks of it. Tiny, but
Gloria’s Secret Cafe
The first thing you have to know about Gloria’s Secret Cafe is that it runs out of food. Get here early if you want to partake.
Gloria is a charmer, with a wide smile. She presides over a teeny tiny queendom, an almost-perfect hole-in-the-wall gem of a Latin American eatery.
Even the salsa is a cut above, and that’s saying something. If she can elevate the most basic of condiments, imagine what she can do with the foods of her homeland.
Get up early, get out, and hie the on over to Gloria’s!
Clockwork Rose Tea Emporium & Confectionary
The front door proclaims this a “steampunk tea house”, and that’s a perfect description of the vibe. One enters through the confectionary, chock-a-block with chocolates and other sweets, then it’s the tea rooms.
There’s a tea bar to your left, and a seating area with two large tables for having that tea party with the ones you love and the ones you’ve been missing. Dress-up is encouraged, whether it’s the aforementioned steampunk or traditional Sunday best or even a Halloween spectacular. It’s all good.
Pretty drinks, special foods, enthusiastic and participatory staff. Go!
Big O’s Wood Fired Pizza
I’ve mentioned it’s an uncharacteristic warm and clear day, and Big O’s has the perfect set-up to enjoy it: huge roll-up doors with tables spilling out onto the sidewalk, with diners inside and out enjoying the sun and food.
The interior is dominated by a large mosaic-decorated open pizza oven, the exhaust being reminiscent of the hilarious ducts in movie “Brazil”. The globe lights cast an eerie, nostalgic glow over the place. It’s a very casual eating space, with unadorned tables; the whole thing feels like you’re eating lunch in a ski lodge.
Guate Mex supermercado
One of the things that I’m enchanted with in Beaverton is the number of ethnic supermarkets. Each has its own character, and they seem spaced out so that one is near anyplace you happen to be.
Today I came across Guate Mex, a Mexican supermercado. More than just a place with Mexican foodstuffs, this place has a bit of everything from the land south of the border. From belts to candles, from spices to canned and bottled everythings. I found items I hadn’t even thought of since being in Mexico.
The counterperson was gentle and curious, and proud of the most excellent collection of edible Mexicana available to you. Enjoy.
I can’t remember the name of the smoke shop in which I saw this black-light tableau, but I wanted to share nonetheless. Pretty, eh?
Powell’s Books in the Cedar Hills Mall
Powell’s bookstore in a mall. It’s not as impressive as the multi-story one in downtown Portland, but if I lived here this would be my suburban literary Mecca. A monstrous selection of books, a garden reading area, a gargantuan parking area. Mall goodness!
New Seasons Market in the Cedar Hills Mall
Not since the Food Courts at Harrod’s have I been so happy in a retail space. We’ve been to New Seasons Markets, on prior trips to Portland, and while there’s one opening up in Emeryville, California, I have to wait for Oregon to enjoy this most delightful of markets.
Whole Foods may have higher-end items, Trader Joe’s more down-to-earth staples, and Fred Meyer just more of everything, but somehow it comes together at New Seasons Market. I think it’s the can-do attitude of the employees, who serve with a helpful verve.
There’s prepared foods, great fresh meat and fish around which to plan meals, Stumptown coffee shop, even an advice bar. When I’m in the mood to cook things up, NSM is where I want to go!
Irony of ironies, I’ve been savoring the last of the Frontier Co-Op bebere that I picked up on our last trip to Portland. So today I was excited to fetch another jar or two. On these shelves, Frontier’s spices from A to Z, guess which one is missing. Yep, the bebere. This location has none in stock. Oy!
Ranchito Super Store
I came across the Ranchito Super Store a few hours after shopping at Guate Mex. The contrast between the character of the two stores is wonderful.
Ranchito brings me right back to the little tiendas we visited during trips through Mexico (and Costa Rica). Everything you need, even thrive, can be found on the shelves: from savories to spices to sweets.
Most exciting to me (today) was the chicharron, recently-made and kept hot, waiting to be tossed into a pink bag and nibbled on my next few hundred steps. Salty, crunchy, with enough meat attached to make it a super veto meal for only a few dollars.
Well worth a stop, should you find yourself on this side of the railroad tracks.
So those were my visits around Beaverton. Thanks for coming along.