Bread and Brew
Good meat, good bread and generous portions have made Bunk Sandwiches a star.
So the opening of a satellite Bunk was a natural development and a relief. At the new Bunk Bar, you can get that perfect roast beef sandwich without standing in line.
But the thing about Bunk Bar is that it really is a bar, and a bare bones one at that. Any time after 3 p.m., when it opens, you have to order your food at the little window and your drinks separately from the bartender. Later in the evening, it takes some hustle to get a good table.
A po'boy full of shrimp and fried oysters, though, floods your senses to the point where you could be in a Siberian prison camp or the palace of Kubla Khan and not really notice the difference. The shrimp was buttery and excellent, the oysters were crisp and fresh, and the bread had the perfect amount of give to play second fiddle to the filling.
As at Bunk Sandwiches, different sandwiches are assigned different and appropriate types of bread and rolls.
The menu at Bunk Bar is longer than the one at Bunk Sandwiches and includes standards like the Italian grinder and innovations like a Vietnamese bahn mi that contained duck pâté one night and pork meatballs with liver pâté on another.
Bunk's formidable meatball sub is here, and it's certainly dinner-worthy. A raft of soft, springy bread is filled with a boatload of tangy red sauce and hot muscular meatballs, all simmering under a blanket of melted cheese.
The 'debris' fries are similarly over-the-top. The crisp, thin fries are topped with gravy that's a log jam of shredded meat, all covered in mild melted cheese. They're served with a fork.
Pork is everywhere - even in the potato salad, which is flavored with bacon. Diners can often choose between three or four different types of pork sandwich.
A sloppy pork shoulder with chanterelles was tasty but positively dripping with grease. Pork belly on baguette was much more well-balanced. The pork belly was meltingly tender and sweetly glazed, offset by a pile of shredded lettuce and the crunch and vinegar of pickle relish.
Many restaurants would have settled for the same lettuce and pickle combination to complement the pulled pork, but here pulled pork gets its own considered treatment. The meat itself is juicy and tender, almost creamy, balanced with the zing of mustard. A slaw of cabbage and apples adds sweetness and crunch, and a bouncy poppyseed roll ties it all together.
A poppyseed roll also improves the egg and cheese breakfast sandwich (do add bacon). Served until closing time, it's among the top late-night snacks in town.
There's a care and generosity put into each sandwich that tends to make small issues more glaring. The biggest issue is simply not being able to get exactly what you want. The kitchen tends to run out of things, and the sandwiches are not entirely assembled to order, so you can't make special requests.
The tone overall is unapologetically casual. The space is an angular, echoing concrete rec room, with a row of booths along the big windows that look across the street at Clarklewis. There are a couple of pinball machines, some couches and a few tables surrounded by black vinyl chairs on wheels.
Occasionally, the occupants of these chairs are asked to move, so that the chairs can be rolled away and a makeshift stage can be rapidly constructed in their place.
Table service? No. Spontaneous dance party? Always a possibility.
Bunk Bar, 3 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. daily, 1028 S.E. Water Ave., 503-477-9515, bunkbar.com, sandwiches $5-$12