As it’s been a while, I’ll try to keep this review brief. The strength of my memory, however, is strong, on account of one of the best ‘zas in Portland. Yes, it is pricier than some for their speciality pies (though no worse than Hammy’s), but for a tasty, luscious, fresher-than-fresh pizza, one must look no further. Except maybe Apizza Scholls, the review for which is also long overdue.
First, a bit of history:
Tastebud started as a farm. An organic farm, actually, and in 2000 began making wood-fired baked goods for the Portland Farmer’s Market. These baked goods were good. Very good. And last summer (2008), chef/owner Mark Doxtader opened the restaurant on SE Milwaukee, across from the Aladdin. Tipped off by Jeremy, the owner of Cellar Door Coffee Roasters, JMR, EDP, and I took a ride down to the dining room in August to get a pie to go. I’ve been going back ever since.
The first thing you notice about Tastebud is that it really feels like a dining room. Not in a restaurant sense, but in a this-is-your-aunt’s-house kind of way. At first, I felt the space strange, almost artificial seeming, but now I’m fond of it; mirrors, vases, mismatched plates, and all. There’s also the smell – the wonderful aroma of a wood-fired brick oven doing its thing back in the kitchen. Tastebud offers other hearth-roasted appetizers and goodies (including bagel brunches on the weekends) and some delicious salads – on a good night, their caesar with bagel-croutons may be the best in town. But that’s on a good night, and quality, I must admit, has seemed to vary.
But on to the ‘za.
The most amazing thing about Tastebud’s pizza is the crust. Crisp, firm, dusted with flour on the outside; fluffy, airy, soft, and moist on the inside. The flavor is there too, with just the right amount of salt to bring out the flavors of their dough. The sauce is also quite good, and I’m always struck by a faint fennel taste in the bright, clean tasting tomato sauce. The mozzarella, it has to be said, isn’t the best. It’s good, sometimes very good, but occasionally it will taste a little too briny and once they ran out and used different cheeses. When they use fresh mozzarella it is amazing (creamy, goey, tender), but sometimes they don’t and it is a little-bit lacking. But not very much. You can also get their specialty pizzas (but be careful, because sometimes they don’t tell you if the pizza has sauce or just olive oil) or you can customize the basic cheese, starting at a reasonable $14, with arugula, various meats, olives, and other seasonal items for a few extra bucks. I can eat a whole one, but I think less gregarious folks can (should) split one between two, or even three people if you get an appetizer.
Service is always very kind, though sometimes a bit slow. In the earlier days, I was stuck waiting for water, waiting to order, or waiting for my pie, but in recent months, this hasn’t been a problem.
Minor flaws exist, but I still can’t think of many pies and rather be eating right now. Now. Maybe I’ll go back tonight.
(oh: they usually have a pretty good beer selection: Caldera, Hair of the Dog, and some others. Wine, I’ve been told, is also good.)
|3220 SE Milwaukie (map)|
|(503) 234 0330|