Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Falling in Love Again

Falling in love again,
Never wanted to.
What am I to do?

It's that feeling you had about the boy (or girl) who sat two seats back in the row next to you in fifth grade. The one with the cute cowlick and the horn-rimmed glasses. The one you'd steal glances at in class, hoping he'd notice you and smile.

Fried chicken, biscuit and gravy and a fried egg…awesome!

It still happens to me now, only with pubs. Remember when I was whining, asking if it was too much for a tavern in Portland to have really good food, food that measured up to the quality of the beer it served, something beyond pizza and burgers? It's all because I've been disappointed before by a promising place with a great beer list that falls short on the food end.

But now it looks like that place does exist, and I am head over heels about it. I stopped in at Spints Alehouse with Dave for happy hour last fall and got an initial frisson of excitement over the tap list and the menu of house-cured meats and sausages with intriguing preparations. But it wasn't until we'd gone back a few more times and sampled the menu that I knew this could be way more serious than mere infatuation.

Alyssa Gregg, with Jacob Grier at a recent Kopstootje tasting.

Owner and chef Alyssa Gregg is familiar from her stints at places like Castagna, Evoe and the Teardrop Lounge, and she's known for her quiet confidence in the kitchen and solid chops shaping a menu. At Spints she's inspired by (but not shackled to) Northern European cuisine with nods to France and Belgium, plus she throws in a few of her own faves, especially at lunch and happy hour.

OMG pulled pork sando with boiled egg.

Her spaetzle, which is served as a side with beef brisket on the current dinner menu, is worth having all on its own and, for me at least, is in a photo-finish with Chris Israel's version at Grüner. And while Gregg is known for her way with meat, she's also no slouch when it comes to salads, with interesting combinations like golden beets, scallops and crême fraiche (top photo).

For value you can't beat Spints' lunch, and when we stopped in the other day for a pint, we were seduced by the irresistible, give-it-to-me-now fried chicken with biscuit, gravy and fried egg and the pulled pork sandwich.

The tap list is chock-a-block with the latest releases from local favorites like Fort George, Laurelwood and Double Mountain, but it also has some intriguing global selections from Hacker-Pschorr, Affligem and Steigl. And as you might expect from a place that puts an emphasis on its excellent malt beverages, there's an impressive collection of brews in bottles. Cocktails are also a premium draw, with the back bar full of local spirits as well as the latest lovelies like Bulleit Rye and Bols Genever, with many of the mixes and condiments made on premises.

Cozy on cooler days with a black Naugahyde booth anchoring one corner and 70s-era matching stools at the bar, on sunny days the French doors along one wall open up to sidewalk tables lining the street outside, making for a lively summer scene.

So really, all things considered, is it any wonder I'm smitten?

Details: Spints Alehouse, 401 NE 28th Ave. 503-847-2534.

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