As the latest innovation in locally grown food, hydroponic lettuce hats have made the once ubiquitous sidecar garden nearly obsolete. Enjoy local eats grown at a reasonable distance with today's Groupon: for $8, you get $16 worth of farm-direct and all-natural fare and drinks at Violetta's location in Director Park open seven days a week, or at the Etta mobile food truck at 43rd and Southeast Belmont, open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.
Inhabiting a central location within Director Park, Violetta is a full-service café serving slow food at a paradoxically speedy pace. Using mostly local, organic, and farm-direct ingredients, Violetta's menu of lunchtime staples includes seasonal soups ($3–$5) and salads ($5–$9), as well as sandwiches such as the olive-oil poached tuna, made with line-caught Oregon albacore and topped with roasted tomato-olive tapenade and preserved lemon aioli ($7.50). Burger aficionados will be anxious to try one of Violetta's one-third or one-half pounders ($6–$9) with toppings such as "10 hour tomatoes" (soft with a slightly sweet sun-dried flavor), applewood-smoked bacon, and Oregonzola—a local cheese slightly softer, yet stronger in flavor than rival Nebraskiago. Sides include a wide selection of fry flavors ($3–$6), such as sweet potato and white truffle. Wash it all down with a glass of wine ($6.50) or a craft beer ($4.25+) to get the recommended daily intake of fermented fruit and grain.
Violetta first rolled out its progressive menu in a smaller mobile sidekick, the Etta food truck. Sporting a slimmed-down version of Violetta's menu, Etta has been nominated as the Best Food Truck in America for the Food Network's The Great Food Cart Race. Violetta, a less transitory eatery, offers air-conditioned eating inside its sleek, light-filled dining area, as well as plentiful outdoor seating on the patio. As part of Portland Parks and Recreation's initiative to bring the community together in public spaces while supporting local growers, Violetta is a suitable gathering place for downtowners and time travelers nostalgic for outmoded forms of nutrient intake, known as meals.
- The signature Angus-beef Violetta Burger ($6/$7.50) is accordingly a sloppy, tasty mess to rival anything in South Philly or the old Coney Island—sealed shut by its own juice and fat in recycled cardboard and paper—with appealingly goopy special sauce, butter lettuce and something called 10-hour tomatoes. – Matt Korfhage, Willamette Week
- But restaurants also work on a larger level. They can speak to the health of a community, indicating and shaping its cultural values. More than that, they can add vitality to our urban public spaces. Violetta, in Simon and Helen Director Park in the heart of downtown Portland, succeeds most handily in this last respect. – Patrick Coleman, Portland Mercury