Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Otto's: One in Ten

I think we may have been in Billings, Montana (or was it Coeur d’Alene, Idaho?) when I saw Food Network's Guy Fieri (Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives) visit Otto’s Sausage Kitchen in Portland, Oregon. We were going to be in Portland, and we love German sausages. Should we go?

Today, this combination café and meat market and home of one of the top ten hot dogs in the country is run by the grandchildren of Otto Eichetopf, who opened Otto’s in 1937. As soon as you walk through the front door your olfactory senses are assailed by the aroma of good smoked meats. In one corner of the store is a four-foot long counter where you can get either a half or a whole specialty sandwich. Sandwiches can be ordered “to go” or can be eaten at one of about six small indoor tables or ten outdoor tables.

One of the cold sandwiches, the Oktoberfest contains: hunter sausage, smoked ham, cheddar and swiss cheeses, mayo and mustard, cream cheese, pickle, tomato, and either lettuce or sprouts on a toasted French roll. One of the hot sandwiches, the Kitchen Sink includes: hot pastrami, salami, summer sausage, pepperoncini, olives, Swiss and smoked munster cheeses, mayo and mustard, cream cheese, tomato, pickle, and lettuce on a french roll. Whew!!

We had come to shop and not to eat. After about fifteen minutes in front of the meat cases reviewing the seventeen types of fresh sausage, the fifteen types of smoked sausage, the eleven salamis, and the seven deli meats, we were ready to order. Into my rapidly-filling basket went a dozen old-fashioned wieners, six smoked pork links, four Tuscan sausages (pork with sundried tomatoes, red wine, basil, and oregano), four bratwurst, two linguisa, two fresh kielbasa, and two chorizo. And when I asked the young man waiting on me if they had any kraut that didn’t come in a bag or a can, he smiled and admitted that there was good bulk kraut back in the chiller. Would I like to buy some? You bet.

In front of the market in the Woodstock neighborhood stood two young men with a charcoal grill, cooking up wieners, pork links, and chicken sausages. Do you remember that we had come to shop and not to eat? Do you think we could leave without a small snack? If you answered yes, this is your first time reading this blog. Pictured here are Chuck’s two wieners with mustard and onion (center and right in the photo, right) and my smoked pork link with mustard, onion, and kraut. Just a little something to tide us over until we got home.

I confess. Chuck and I ate at a chain restaurant and enjoyed it. Is an intervention needed? BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse was located near our campground and had parking available (across the street at a shopping center) to accommodate the truck. The menu is huge--appetizers, salads, soups, chili, deep dish pizza (which to me is not pizza), pasta, sandwiches, half pound Black Angus burgers, stuffed potatoes, barbecue, and other entrees.

When I am confronted by a multi-page menu like this, my inclination is to keep it simple. Both of us ordered burgers: mine the California burger on sourdough with avocado, roasted green chilies, jack cheese, chipotle mayo, and ranch dressing (shown in photo); Chuck’s was the grilled burger melt with cheddar and Swiss cheeses, and caramelized onions on sourdough. Both of the burgers came with crispy thin fries and we shared an order of the onion strings.

We both ordered the burgers medium. Here is my eternal dilemma. I like my burger medium rare but the shorter cooking time doesn’t allow the flame broiled char to develop on the meat’s exterior. These had the aforementioned char on the entire surface and a crispy, just-short-of-being-burned circumference. Wonderful. Both the onion strings and fries were indeed thin and crisp and the portions were so large that most of my fries and large share of the onion strings were taken home for a later meal.

Now BJ’s is corporate food. It is the epitome of corporate food. I hate to admit it, but it was excellent corporate food. Maybe some of the best corporate food I have eaten and earns a 4.0 Addie rating. (You didn’t think I’d give 5.0 Addies to corporate food, did you?)

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