MAMA SAN SOUL SHACK—Oregonian critic Ben Waterhouse recently lunched at St. Johns' Mama San Soul Shack, which he calls "the sort of place that makes Los Angeles food writers drool and neighborhood preservationists lose sleep." The look of the "Vietnamese-Japanese-Southern-Mexican fusion joint...is calculated, down to the plywood banquettes and the porch lights that dot the walls," and he writes that the fried chicken and "the classic soul on the stereo and good beer on tap [...] might be enough to keep you around."
B&T OYSTER BAR—The staff over at Willamette Week recently undertook an oyster crawl led by critic Matthew Korfhage, stopping by nearly a dozen to see who did what best. The overall favorite was Trent Pierce's B&T Oyster Bar. "Each oyster, without fail, was a pillowy work of art, shucked both shell- and grit-free." The crawl also visited three oyster-serving joints—Jake's Famous Crawfish, RingSide Fish House, and Bar Avignon—that apparently weren't worth writing about at all.
TAYLOR RAILWORKS—"Sometimes fine dining is like a trust fall: You look at the ingredients and just have to pray that the chef's got your back," writes Portland Mercury critic Andrea Damewood of Erik Van Kley's Taylor Railworks. Even though his menu is "littered with culinary non sequiturs—greens, sorghum, honey, dry Monterey Jack cheese, and bee pollen (!?)," she closes her eyes, holds her breath and waits for the kitchen to break her fall. Highlights include "salmon poke with avocado," "an Indian-infused fried chicken," and the "almost uniformly perfect" "raw and cooked fish preparations." Disappointments were the "bone marrow banh mi plate" and the "bone-in pork chop," which had a "cloying" "oversweet brine." Pro-tip: "Start at the bar, which you'll have to do anyway during peak hours, since the restaurant is already quoting hour-plus waits on weekends."