Portland's own James Beard once said, "Too few people understand a really good sandwich." As is evidenced by what's going on between two pieces of bread all over our city, that statement simply doesn't apply here anymore. Recently, the man who represents all things gluttonous, Travel Channel's Adam Richman, paid a visit to Portland and declared Big Ass Sandwiches' burrito-sized roast beef stuffed with two layers of shoestring fries, the Northwest king of sandwiches over Bunk's pork-belly Cubano and the Oxtail from storied Seattle shop Salumi. Runner-up status won't phase Bunk, though. The growing sandwich empire has diversified beyond its massively popular original sandwich shop to offer a wider variety of awesomemess at its Bunk Bar on Water Street, a magnet for 20 and 30 somethings (and even guys like me and my college-aged sons) looking for something with punch to wash down their ultimate PDX meatball parm. (Thanks to Tommy Habetz' east coast roots). To appeal to everyman and woman, they've even just announced a Bunk Food truck will mobilize to deliver fresh injections of flavor at the drop of a tweet. Lardo has just advanced from food cart to brick and mortar sandwich and airy beer garden. Located on Hawthorne as the new gateway to Ladd's Edition (lucky neighbors!), it's been packed from the day it opened in early July with people inside and outside enjoying Rick Gencarelli's signature sandwiches, ranging from a downright pigged-out porchetta with fried egg , one killer banh mi and burger featuring two patties with a layer of pork belly to a bunch of new offerings the new digs give Lardo the opportunity to kick out--with specialty cocktails and over a dozen local brews. Rick, and his boy wonder Chaz have been joined by former legendary Garden State owner Kevin Sandri--a trio of sandwich masters worthy of a triple crown--and your order. Double Dragon's Rob Walls sports one serious resume. He's cooked at NY's famed Momofuku, Portland's Beast and honed his sandwich skills at Bunk before opening up his killer Banh Mi outpost on Division. The varieties are not your usual Banh Mi fare, although that is available and delicous. Try roast duck, chorizo and of course, it wouldn't be Portland if there wasn't a pork belly offering. All are big on flavors and meat and surely won't let your appetite or your tastebuds down. Meat Cheese Bread just keeps doing what they do so well. On any given morning or afternoon, some of Portland's best chefs and food service workers can be seen stopping in to enjoy some of John Stewart's masterpieces. Enjoy flank steak with blue cheese mayo when you order the Park Kitchen, named in honor of the kitchen where John earned his culinary stripes. Or try my favorite escape into the veggie-based sandwich world, grilled green beans, bacon relish, soft boiled egg, parmesan and aioli. You can't miss here. Nuvrei is a must-try bakery in The Pearl. Marius Pop's macaroons may be the first thing that catch your eye, or even the flavored croissants--banana included. But any sandwich (smoked salmon, for one) on a pretzel bagel is worth the experience, but I can't keep my mind off of the shrimp salad stuffed into/on their pretzel croissant. Eurotrash now owns the sandwich spotlight at The Good Food Here Pod. Charles Thomas' Prawn Baguette showcases his slaw-based curry flavor sensation. And where else would you find a razor clam sandwich? Piri Piri chicken features chicken, bacon and capers, and the final result of the trashy Squid Fana is worth the stop alone--from their website: "It's like being hit with a hammer from God's very own toolshed." Two toolsheds operate daily, both on Belmont (Trashmaster Gus) and in the big pod downtown on Washington and 12th (Trashmaster Charles). The Grilled Cheese Grill is an expanding sandwich powerhouse. What started with a school bus dining room on a well-positioned lot on Alberta has grown now to include a double decker bus on 28th and Ankeny. Stay with the familiar-- the simplest grilled cheese we remember as a kid -- The Kindergartner -- or stray adventurously into a world of different cheese and meat varieties, all -- and in this case the term means something -- grilled to perfection. It didn't surprise me recently when I asked Vitaly Paley if he had been to the food carts, and he replied that he had just been to his first one the night before to dine--the Grilled Cheese Grill. The Iron Chef-killer gave it a smile and had no complaints. You won't either, especially if you get yours with a tomato soup chaser. At the end of the day, when you go into brainlock mode trying to decide what to eat, just make it easy--mash together two pieces of bread and all the talent here in Oregon, and you're good to go. Or eat in. By Chris Angelus of Portland Food Adventures.
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