Tonight’s Agenda: The Slingshot Lounge
Cost: $7 for a wedge salad, $5 for a vegetable soup.
Anytime Mark asks me where I’d like to go for a quick bite to eat, I have developed an automated response, “The Slingshot!” I love this neighborhood haunt! There is always this big dude carding at the door who greets us with a smirk every time we walk in. Probably because we are clearly the only people over 50 in the house. The darkly lit lounge is surrounded by wall-sized photographs of tattooed samurai’s wearing nothing more than a loin cloth.
I have no idea why this was chosen for the wall décor, but it makes me smile every time I enter.
My preferred cocktail here is the “Baby Lola.”
It has guava or papaya in it and is served up like a martini. The cool fruity flavor is refreshing on a hot summer night. The grub here is really good. Foster Burger is just down the street, but the Slingshot’s burger are superior to the Forster Burger. I keep meaning to order another burger, but I always get tempted by other menu items or specials. Tonight’s special has me swayed for the wedge salad and fresh vegetable soup.
The healthy broth-based soup was packed with every garden vegetable that you can think of. Every veggie tasted freshly picked. It wasn’t overly salty or spiced. Rather the Chef chose to let the flavor of the veggies speak for themselves and they said, “Eat me!” I love a good soup. The wedge salad had crisp chunks of bacon that even, mostly vegetarian me, cannot resist. The crisp cold iceberg lettuce was judiciously smothered with a fresh blue cheese dressing. Yum!
There are always house made deserts here. I thought I had gotten bored with cheesecake until I had their key lime cheesecake with its sweet/tart lime flavor and graham cracker crust. This desert tastes just as good, if not better, as any desert served at a fine dining establishment. Except I get to eat my dessert while surrounded by tattooed samuri that appear to have had one too many cheesecake specials!
The concrete floors make it very difficult to hear. Even though I like the music streaming from the jukebox, it makes it even harder to have easy conversation here, especially at my age. So we come here not so much to converse, but to eat and read each other’s buoyant facial gestures as each dish is eagerly indulged
It is always a question: stay in our comfort zone or try something new. This is always a huge problem at Thai or Chinese restaurants as there is that one dish I really love and it can only be had here. My kids have only had satay chicken and sticky rice in a Thai restaurant. It is not that they are picky eaters, it is they love satay chicken and Thai restaurants are the only place they can get it.
Hamburgers? Those are everywhere. So trying something other than the burger on a menu does not represent a lost opportunity. There will always be another burger.
Except what if it is the best burger in the city? Thems fighten words.
Summertime in Oregon is too precious to spend indoors so we tend to go out late and when it is late we like to go places that are relatively close by. Us old geezers should not be behind the wheel of a car after dark after all.
So rather than someplace new, we went to what is perhaps our favorite place, the Slingshot Lounge on Foster. They do not have a website but I can point to their Facebook page. While I am more than a little internet savvy, Facebook is one of several popular pastimes that mark me as an out of touch geezer. I just don’t get Facebook.
Squirrel. But I digress. What makes the Slingshot Lounge special is simple: Best Burger in Portland.
The clientele is young, tattooed, mostly couples. Not my generation. Don’t care.
The atmosphere? Basic bar, with a gentleman out front who recognizes that we do not need to be evaluated for age but for code status. There are booths, tables, a bar and an adjacent room for pool and pinball.
The usual liquor bottles line back of the bar, and I always find such a display lovely, like flowers. I have seen innumerable bouquets and they are always easy on the eyes. Same with back bar. I know the proper phrase for the glasses and liqueur is the back bar, but we need a better collective noun. If crows come in murders, then the bottles in the back bar should be a drunk? a DUI? a bliss? I will have to work on that. Back Bar must come from England where the place to park your car is cleverly called the car park. Anyway, their back bar looks particularly inviting.
It has cement floors and lots of echoes. The music is loud, which I don’t mind. I like my music loud. And it is mostly alternative, which is my preferred genre. And it is through horseshit speakers so it sounds like crap, distorted and fuzzy. Another feature that marks me as old. I hate music through lousy speakers. Why bother? But my kids have no issue with listening to music through the phone or computer speakers. It is a generational issue that Drives. Me. Nuts.
But the overall vibe is good: everyone is having a good time in a welcoming environment.
I always have the Hauser: a shot of whiskey with a glass of Olympia. Brings back memories before craft breweries when the three lagers in two were Olympia, Rainier and Blitz Weinhard. I always assumed the origin of the slang to get blitzed, not the Nazi attack on England, although the term only dates from 1966. And because it was not filtered, there was a time when Coors was THE beer to bring home to PDX. Sad times.
The first beer I ever ordered after I turned 21 was a Blitz. The waiter, a friend, brought me a St. Pauli girl instead. So my first was really a St. Pauli girl. Make of it what you will. Although I still think German beers have a weird metallic taste to them .
But five dollars for a shot of tasty whiskey and a pint of Oly? It is great way to start the evening. Later I will try some craft draft or other from the rotating menu. But the second drink is never as good or as interesting as the first.
While the lounge is always busy and seems to have only one waitress, they take the drink orders quickly and get them on the table right away. This is a lounge that cares.
I have had their meatball sandwich and the BLT, but it is the burger that is almost perfect.
One of the problems I have discovered early with this blog is trying to find language to describe food that is not trite. Is it enough to say the burger is good? No. But most of my writing and time is spent in the world of infectious diseases, and that background makes for poor metaphors: the burger oozed warm juices like a draining abscess? No. Doesn’t work.
So that begs the question. What makes a good burger? Never really though about it. At some level it is like Justice Porter Stewarts definition of pornography: I know it when I see it.
The bun. Has to be toasted. And from a local bakery, not mass-produced. Check. We like to make a lot of our own breads and Kerry has killer buns, so I am picky. I think they put the who burger in the oven to finish it, as the bun is warm and slightly crunchy.
Choices for the condiments: check. Everything from avocado to grilled onions. Only negative is shredded lettuce. I prefer my lettuce in big, crunch leaves.
The meat. They grind their own hamburger so it is not one of those patties that seems to held together with dental floss and it is thick enough the have a center. My grandmother used to ask at McDonald’s if they could her cook her patty medium. She never realized McDonald’s has two-dimensional meat patties and when both sides were brown, the whole burger was done.
The meat should be a little smaller than the bun and the whole burger slightly larger than my mouth so I have to smush it down to stuff it in my mouth and as the various juices spill out they are absorbed by the bun and do not run down my arm. Hence the earlier pus metaphor. And the bun should not fall apart when wet. It should be bread, not toilet paper.
And all the criteria are nicely met, perfect save for the lettuce.
But in the end, as in any complex emergent system, the result is somehow greater than the sum of its parts. There is in all great art, be it food or music or painting or sculpture, more to the experience than the sum of the parts. Greatness, even a great burger, has an indefinable component of mystery.
In the end I can describe what went into Portends best burger, and show a picture (I know why there are photographers who specialize in food. Phone cameras may be good at selfies, but somehow they make food look less than palatable), but like all art, in the end words fail to describe the experience.
It was good. Eat one.
I passed on the desert. I tried the S’mores cheesecake in the past and while good, was not worth a repeat try. The Key Lime would have been a different manner. That was a cheesecake that an ancient roman would vomit in order to eat. And I learned as a result of looking for a link for the last sentence that a vomitorium in a misconception.
The whole night less than 40 bucks. Not bad.