Bread and Brew
The Westmoreland neighborhood has held on to its small-town-within-a-city quality as well as any neighborhood in Portland. Its heart is still the Moreland Theater, which has been playing first-run movies since 1926. There's still a barbershop, a hardware store and a giant clock outside the jewelry store.
Its identity is secure enough to absorb the occasional newcomer. Three spots that have opened recently near the intersection of Southeast Milwaukie Avenue and Southeast Bybee Boulevard seem to fit right in.
What was for many years the Springwater Grill is now Moreland House, a similarly grown-up dining room that has been warmly updated. Dark wood flooring stretches from the entrance, giving the place the look of a ballroom. But the wood isn't glossy, and seems to absorb light and prevent echoes in the wide open space.
High street-side windows let in lots of natural light, making happy hour a good time to be here. From 4 to 6 p.m., there's a short menu of discounted food, including a $5 burger with fries. All drinks are $1 off. That includes a well-chosen house red wine, and cocktails that pack a punch. The Green Gin Fizz was mostly gin, with slight hints of cucumber and lime, and a bit of carbonation. Its name, like 'dry martini,' is just a fancy way of saying 'cold gin.'
The Ole Bourbon Cup, served in a snifter, was a more gentle concoction of bourbon, lemon, honey and egg white, which gave it a smooth, frothy quality. It was very easy to drink.
There's a flatbread pizza, which recently was topped with fresh tomato sauce, two kinds of cheese and house-made sausage. It would have been a little bland if not for the bright topping of sliced pepperoncini. On one visit the crust was crisp and crackling, but on another the pizza was cold.
The Caesar salad was boldly dosed with garlic, and I want to thank it for breaking a long losing streak. I've been served so many boring Caesars that I was about to give up hope.
The dinner menu is extremely simple - salmon, pork loin, steak, roast chicken - which is just what you want in a neighborhood spot. You wouldn't go here for something new, but for the location and atmosphere.
Atmosphere is also a strong point at Corkscrew Wine Bar, just around the corner.
In choosing which wines to serve by the glass, owner Tracee Danyluk aims for variety, so that drinkers can have a choice from mellow to peppery to big and fruity. She brings in wines from Oregon and Europe, favoring those that are sustainably produced. That philosophy carries over to the fixtures. Sparkling vintage chandeliers hang from the ceiling and the tables are made out of old sewing machine bases with ornate cast-iron legs.
Food is limited to snack plates, most featuring charcuterie from Olympic Provisions. There's beer and port, but no hard alcohol. In addition to house red and white wines, there's a charming house rose, perfect for a spring night.
Now for something cool
For the younger set, Nectar Frozen Yogurt Lounge is nearby. One of the legion of self-serve frozen yogurt shops that have invaded Portland, it's got plenty of seating and, on a recent Friday night, appeared to be hosting a church youth group.
The self-serve thing takes a little getting used to. You pay by weight, so you don't know exactly how much you're spending - my cup of mixed chocolate and lavender with toppings was $4.
Poor impulse control could result in some scary combinations: the toppings range from raspberries and kiwi slices to miniature M and Ms, jelly beans, cookie dough nuggets, Froot Loops and chocolate and white chocolate chips (a little waxy).
The yogurt is supplied by YoCream, a large, international supplier of frozen yogurt which also happens to be local. YoCream is made here in Portland, and it is real, cultured yogurt, not a reconstituted powder.
Still, I prefer the more intense hit of gelato from nearby Staccato Gelato.
If it's a nice day, one of the best views in Portland is a few steps away, from the bluff overlooking Oaks Bottom.
Moreland House, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, 6716 S.E. Milwaukie Ave., 503-477-5517, moreland housepdx .com
Corkscrew Wine Bar, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Sunday, closed Monday, 1665 S.E. Bybee Blvd., 503-239-9463
Nectar Frozen Yogurt Lounge, noon to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, noon to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 1631 S.E. Bybee Blvd., 503-206-5061, nectarfroyo.com