I never have a quick answer about where to go when someone wants to go out to eat with us in Portland. There’s plenty of great reastaurants and lots and lots of very good ones. I rarely pick the most expensive or the cheapest even though some of those are my faves, trying to find the best balance of great food, atmosphere, and prices that won’t break the bank.
A perfect place to take friends doesn’t really exist because everyone has different tastes, but the first thought that came to mind this time when friends said they were coming to Portland was a place I’d been looking to return to. Little Giant, opened earlier in the year on Danforth St., was a locale I had visited over the summer and needed to revisit. Last time, the scenery was relaxing, the food rock solid, and the drinks worth taking an Uber home for.
Mrs. Portlandeater and I got to the restaurant before our friends and were seated. It brought back memories of the warm atmosphere I remembered from the last time we were there. We started looking at the drink menu. She had heard so much about the Espresso Martini with rum, tandem coffee, and coffee brandy which the menu touted as the best. She was certain she wanted that. I was up for the Born to Run – vodka, lime, agave, clove, bitters – which sounded pretty boss.
When our counterparts arrived a few minutes later, we had our drinks and they ordered another Born to Run and Angel Eyes – rum, lime, grapefruit, pineapple gomme, blue. I loved my B2R which tasted like a slightly tart juice mixture. My wife’s martini was excellent – reminding me of a spiked coffee, because I suppose it pretty much was a spiked coffee. She indeed confirmed it as the best she’d had.
I’m not sure I knew I was ordering apps for the table, but I ordered some and no one asked for any others. I started with Little Biscuits – maple-whipped lardo, pepper jelly – and the Cheese Ball – made with blue cheese, aged cheddar, dried blueberries, toasted pecans. Then I threw in an Oyster Taco – cabbage slaw, chipotle tartar sauce, house-made tortilla – just for myself. We then each ordered our main courses individually.
Our apps arrived and I jumped right in to the mix, taking half a biscuit into my palm. Smearing some lardo and jelly on top of it, I drove it toward my mouth. The herby, sweet, mildly spicy combination on top of the flakey biscuit provided quite a flavor combo and it was good – a bit more complex than standard biscuit fare. It was a starter I would want after a day of hard work. They were comfort food tailor-made to relax with.
On the other hand, the cheese ball – sweet, barely pungent, and crunchy – was party food. Perfect with my drink, or probably any drink, that little ball of love was as delicious as the day is long. I ate more than my share on the butterfly crackers it came with, seriously considering ordering a second when it was done. The oyster taco fit the bill too as the crunchy, fried seafood was pleasantly paired with the slaw and tarter flavors for a solid spin on both oysters and tacos.
Shortly after the apps were gone, we received our entrees. I had ordered the LG Burger – American cheese, pickled grilled red onions, iceberg lettuce, BBQ mayo. My buddy went with the Grilled Bavette – green beans, romesco, buttermilk onion rings. The ladies both were recipients of the Mushroom Agnolotti – winter squash, cranberry beans, house-made ricotta, Swiss chard, bread crumbs.
With the new food came another round of drink orders including a rosé, prosecco, and a Chuparosa – tequila, lime, grenadine, chile. As the waiter left, I grabbed my burger and took an initial bite. Fresh, juicy, and delicious, the burger was simple, but abundantly satisfying. Potato wedges on the plate were piled on top of each other like a game of Jenga and a bite revealed a nice potato that was as I remembered from my last visit.
As I ate my burger, I briefly took the opportunity to try Mrs. Portlandeater’s agnolotti which is a version of ravioli. The mushroom flavor was powerful and I thought it brilliant. Mushroom in pretty much any dish is a winner, but this one was so potent, I gave it extra points. We all worked on the meals until we were finished and decided it would be a good idea to order dessert.
Another drink, a coffee, two Mexican Chocolate Donuts with mocha pudding, whipped cream, and pretzel crumble, and Apple Pie with maple whipped cream completed the dessert order. I was only planning to have a single bite of donut, but when the surgared ring came out, sprawled upon the plate in a bath of pretzeled pudding with whipped cream nearby, I quickly changed my tune.
That first bite of donut was perfect. The whipped cream took the edge off the double chocolate which would have been too much for me without it. I liked the pretzel crunch which added some noise to the dish. My buddy found the apple pie a little doughy for his tastes and I agreed after trying a bite, but it wasn’t bad and the serving was particularly large compared to what I’m used to.
After three full courses, a magnitude of calories, and our fill of alcoholic beverages, it was time to say “goodbye”. The tab came to $233 before tip for four of us with eight drinks and lots of food. Little Giant continues to please. I love their ambiance and the food makes me smile. After a couple visits, I have a good feel for what they’re doing, and I like it. I’ll be returning to try more of their menu, reordering some favorites in the process, and quite possibly bringing new guests to check it out.
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