Next up, on Iron Skillet Chef America our celebrity judge feels he’s entitled to share his opinions. Alloy cuisine!!! –Ed.
As a proud “native Oregonian” I’ve lived in Portland, on and off, since 1981. I’ve been to a few places to eat along the way. From food carts to neighborhood pub n’ grubs to world class cuisine, Portland has a veritable plethora of long waiting lines guaranteed to satisfy most any connoisseur of the latest trendy thing.
Voodoo Doughnut? I’ve never been. The line has always been too damn long. Who has that kind of time for a doughnut with bacon on it? My trick? Go to two different places, grab a doughnut from a regular place and a side of bacon from a diner. Voila! I call that Voodoo without the wait. When you’re downtown you’ll people toting around with their little pink boxes of Voodoo doughnuts as if to say, “Look at me! I did the wait!” Pro Tip: That pink box goes really well with plaid.
There’s an ice cream shop called Salt & Straw. Would you wait 45 minutes on a sidewalk for ice cream? I can’t even imagine the pressure when I finally made it to the counter. “So, what do you got here? Let me think. Can I have a taste of the salted caramel? Or maybe the Oregon pear with a balsamic vinegar reduction? How about the coconut fried in duck fat?” Once, and this is a true story, we took a stroll down NW 23rd and there was no line. At last. I sampled the must-have go-to masterpiece of salted caramel. If you’re going to a place known for a thing, I figured, might as well try the thing. Meh. It was merely okay. That’s when a little light bulb went off over my head. Lines don’t necessarily equate to the best thing ever. Mmm. Mmmm.
Me? I don’t like crowds. I like to take the path less traveled. Way less traveled. I’d rather take a picnic on the lush green grasses outside the local sewer treatment plant than sit elbow-to-elbow with a bunch of oily assholes on the finest beach in the world. If it means no waiting I’ll gladly settle for the second or third runner-up experience. The so-called “best” simply isn’t worth the premium in terms of crowds and waits.
I decided to put this sort of wisdom and knowledge into a handy chart. I’m too lazy to make it graphical, so here it is in plain text. It’s a system based on Yelp stars which loosely correlate to the trendy crowd experience. (Not exactly, mind you, but this is intended to be a general sort of thing.)
Yelp Stars: 1 (One)
Typical Wait: None
Crowd Density: Minimal
Pro Tip: Sure, it’s only one star but how bad can it be? I am so there.
Yelp Stars: 2 (Two)
Typical Wait: Less than five minutes
Crowd Density: Light
Pro Tip: Can be low-hanging fruit if you are adventurous and know how look. Like under rocks. With potato bugs and such.
Yelp Stars: 3 (Three)
Typical Wait: Less than 10 minutes
Crowd Density: Light-moderate
Pro Tip: This is heartland Americana. The break basket of the average thing. Ride that Gaussian bell curve to moderate eats with moderate waits.
Yelp Stars: 4 (Four)
Typical Wait: Consistently 45 minutes, especially at peak times like weekends and dinner
Crowd Density: Moderate-heavy
Pro Tip: This path is not for the weak. You better bring your zen game and like sitting six inches from your closest neighbor. Find places with a nice bar. Booze is a wonderful way to pass the time.
Yelp Stars: 5 (Five)
Typical Wait: 2-1/2 hours (minimum)
Crowd Density: Are you fucking kidding me? You better wear protection.
Pro Tip: I informally call this of experience the Do-It-Once-A-Year-At-Gunpoint-Or-Your-Wife-Will-Divorce-You-Meal. Unfortunately, no food, no matter how good, can live up this level of hyperbole. The secret is not complain for four hours out of your life. If you can do that the night will be a success.
I hope you found this humble guide useful. Bon Appétit to you and all of your lumbersexual friends!