The menu at Slabtown Ribs & BBQ contrasts starkly with your garden-variety fast food menu. That's because Pitmasters can spend most of a day tending to their meats, with smokers set to low heats for long periods of time to bring out each cut's flavors. Though this flavor alone is juicy and savory, they can further enhance these flavors with one of their trio of barbecue sauces. Pitmasters take cues from barbecue regions from throughout the country to make sauces including the tangy Carolina mustard, the spicy Texas hot, and the complex Kansas City classic.
While the Pitmasters specialize in brisket?which they put in everything from platters and sandwiches to the house chili?they also prepare a range of other barbecued meats. They cook up Zenner's German sausage with a scoop of sauerkraut, serve barbecue chicken in a flavorful sauce, and grill their pork spare ribs St. Louis style?in one giant arch.
Before Memphis spare ribs or Kansas City rib tips are seared and glazed with barbecue sauce, Seven Rivers BBQ's pitmasters slow-smoke each rack for four hours. That's on the shorter end of the spectrum at Seven Rivers, where brisket cooks for 10 hours and Carolina pulled pork for 12. Once the cuts are ready, cooks pile them into lunchtime sandwiches, assemble them into feasts for up to six diners, or sell them by the pound in catered platters. Sides such as cajun macaroni salad accompany mains, as do libations such as three varieties of Johnnie Walker scotch whiskey. And while the business is a vendor for the Portland Trail Blazers, it also has its own dining room that serves as an homage to sports with billiards tables, buck-hunting arcade games, and rounds of tackle karaoke.
Salvador Molly's staff emulates legendary namesake Captain Salvador by pillaging culinary treasures from Ethiopia, Hawaii, Thailand, New Orleans, and Jamaica and gathering them together in an eatery that grew from humble beginnings as a hot-tamale cart. Frequent food challenges, the proceeds of which help low-income Oregon families foot heating bills, revolve around consumption of the menu's signature Great Balls of Fire fritters–spicy spheres featured on the Travel Channel's Man v. Food. Patrons who demolish all five habanero-cheese fritters with all the accompanying sauce get their picture added to the Hall of Flame and move onto the subsequent challenge of making out with a bonfire. Other far-flung entrees, such as the Hawaiian-inspired Tiki Mac with cheesy sweet potatoes, the Bayou Crunch catfish, and Molly's hot tamales, stuffed with yucatan chicken and cotija cheese, mirror the interior's exotic décor.
Photos of foreign locales crowd Salvador Molly's walls, surrounding colorful baubles that illuminate tables embellished with painted flames and vibrant cocktails. A wall dedicated to Africa flaunts a mural depicting desert terrain, stationed caddy-corner to African artifacts including a wooden mask. On Monday, diners feast upon culture by projecting two featured films directly into their mouths.
Seasonal Fine Dining | Award-Winning Wine List | Acclaimed Garden Patio | Late-Night Bar Menu
Where to Sit: Hailed as "the prettiest garden patio in downtown Portland" by Frommer's, Veritable Quandary's flower-lined patio is an idyllic space for summertime feasts. If you wind up inside, try nabbing a seat near one of the dining-room windows, which overlook Tom McCall Waterfront Park.
While You're Waiting: Start mulling over the award-winning wine list. The restaurant stocks more than 200 bottles—plus 35 wines by the glass. This collection tends to highlight global varietals and wines from the Northwest.
When to Go: In addition to changing her menu daily, Chef Annie Cuggino crafts her local ingredients into an eight-course tasting dinner every Saturday at 7 p.m. (reservations required). Each course can also be paired with a glass of wine.
Inside Tip: Attention night owls: Veritable Quandary's culinary team cooks upscale bar bites from a late-night menu until midnight, and the bar itself stays open until the wee hours of 2:30 a.m.
While You're in the Neighborhood
Before: Expand your collection of vinyl LPs, 45s, and 78s with a trip to 2nd Avenue Records (400 SW 2nd Avenue).
After: Rock out to live music—or show off your singing chops during weekly live band karaoke—at Dante's (350 W. Burnside Street).
Duke's Country Bar & Grill brings the flavors of sizzling Southern and Southwestern cuisine up north, sating diners with juicy, marinated sirloin steaks, slow-cooked barbecue pulled pork, and hulking burgers topped with fried onion rings, pepper jack, and bacon. Sports fans can watch football and basketball on six 32-inch plasma TVs and two 50-inch screens, fueling their game day fervor with fried chicken tenders or nachos slathered in salsa and bacon black beans. Guests can also pair sizzling chicken enchiladas and saucy smoked pork ribs with frosty draft beers and potent specialty cocktails while enjoying the grill's regular schedule of entertainment, including monthly line dancing and twice-weekly karaoke. Additionally, in the bar's spacious music venue, throngs of concert-goers cheer as guitar-wielding troubadours take the stage in front of a wall-sized American flag and perform rousing anthems of country music and heartland rock.
Grand Central Bowling Lounge's 12 lanes provide bowlers with all the entertainment they could ask for, but the bowling alley doesn't stop there. Grand Central is also outfitted with couches, HD projection screens, and computerized systems that keep track of scores so players don't have to. After a hard-fought game, take a breather at the bar and restaurant, where you can order up a burger and cocktail while catching the day's joust on TV. And don't forget to head upstairs before leaving; the second floor is stocked with classic arcade games, including pinball machines; Fruit Ninja; Batman driving games; four-way Pac-man; beer pong; Big Buck Hunter; Guitar Hero; ESPN Snowmobiling Multicade Classic Games; Dirty Drivin'; Skeeball; Pop-a-shot; air hockey; billiards; shuffleboard; and Operation Ghost.