As I mentioned last week, I left Portland on the Monday night red eye in order to get back to Chicago for work on Tuesday. Traveling in the middle of the night meant very little sleep. It also meant more time for going out to dinner with my family. Mango Mama was all set to take us out for tapas at the brand new hot spot Toro Bravo, but that was not meant to be. A writeup in a city magazine and a review in The Oregonian meant everyone and their mom was there to give it a try. When we arrived the hostess told us the wait would be an hour. We decided to go looking for something else to eat, and we only ended up going to the end of the block. There we found Russell Street Bar-B-Que, a down-home, but hip, all-out meat haven.
As only a barbecue joint in the Pacific Northwest could do, Russell Street pulls its barbecue styles from all across the South, including Virginia, Texas and North Carolina. There are five different sauces, including three degrees of a Virginia tomato-based option, a Kentucky-style sweet-hot mustard sauce and a spicy North Carolina vinegar. All meat is vegetarian-fed, and all fish is wild. Among the menu options are pork and beef ribs, pulled pork and barbecued wild salmon. And, in a very Portland turn, Russell Street also serves smoked and grilled tofu for the vegetarians and vegans. Needless to say, we stuck to meat.
Daddy Salmon and I tried the Texas-style smoked beef brisket (pictured above) topped with the medium Virginia sauce and with all of the other sauces to sample. The meat was soft, falling apart at the touch of a fork. It was tasty, although it could have been a little bit fattier and more moist. The entrees came with cornbread (so-so) and two sides. I tried mixed sauteed greens and barbecue beans with bits of meat, both of which were excellent. Mango Mama tried a tasty smoked meatloaf made with a mixture of pork and beef. Trader Joanna opted toward the healthier choice of a barbecued chicken breast, but she couldn’t resist the crispy handmade fries. The most impressive dish was Flava Flav’s beef ribs (pictured here). The menu said they would make you feel like Fred Flinstone, and these massive meat-laden bones fit the bill perfectly. The meat was rich and delicious, and Flava Flav did her best to eat as much as she could. She took the rest home along with the bare bones so our dogs Mattie and Athena could enjoy the meal too.
I was more than sated when they all drove me to the airport afterward and waved goodbye. I’ll have to bring Empanada Boy back to Russell Street the next time we’re in Portland.
Russell Street Bar-B-Que
325 NE Russell St.
Portland, OR 97212