50 Plates—a newish, modern Pearl District eatery—has somewhat of a kitchsy concept. Its cutesy menu inhabits the murky hinterlands between playful and hackneyed cornball, sort of like HBO’s True Blood.
Castroville Artichoke Rolls. “goat cheese, roasted garlic & artichoke filling, avocado ranch”
These sounded quite intriguing, though what we received was incompatible with my expectations. These were more like eggrolls, and were disappointingly on the small side. But they were fine.
50/50. “aged cheddar on tomato bread, roasted tomato soup with oregano”
This is essentially a take on the childhood comfort staple of grilled cheese and Campbell’s tomato soup.
Unlike the overly processed banality of the latter, 50 Plates’ take on tomato soup was full of vibrant, intense tomato flavors, simple and delicious. The sandwich was a grilled cheese sandwich. It was eaten.
T.J. Caesar. “hearts of romaine, charred corn, cherry tomatoes, fried croutons and cave-aged gouda”
I’m usually not a big fan of “non-standard” Caesar salads, and despite the initials in the name (“T.J.” = Tijuana) that implies some sort of lineage to the birthplace of original Caesar, this salad certainly qualifies as non-traditional. Nicely dressed and composed, the dressing itself was too mild to be considered proper “Caesar” but the salad was enjoyable nonetheless.
The seafood chowder (“Today’s Chowdah“—implying naturally that a different chowder is featured each day) was quite good, featuring plump mussels, clams, and nice chunks of tender white fish in a rich broth not overly thick and maudlin like many seafood chowders can be.
Sliders are ordered at 50 Plates a la carte, and each separate slider came with a flag to distinguish its sovereignty. This must be a tedious step for any cook. Plus, it’s needlessly nationalistic. I live by the motto “hamburguesas sin fronteras”.
Lil’ Kahuna Burger. “Kobe beef, Canadian bacon, pineapple, & teriyaki glaze”
Old Faithful “Kobe beef, Tillamook cheddar, tomato jam”
As you can see each miniature burger was expertly constructed, and the flavors were spot on. My quibble was with the size of the sliders. They were literally about two bites, diminutive even for burgers in slider form (and at $4 a pop, no bargain either). You would probably need to eat four sliders to properly get your grub on.
The fresh-cut fries were good, and the house made ketchup (“Nikki’s Ketchup”) was a terrific, tangy complement.
So in addition to combining two overwrought beef trends (“Kobe” beef and “sliders”), these burgers were ultimately a smidgeon too twee for me, I suppose. When I want to get my burger on I’m more in mood for Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run than Belle and Sebastian’s Boy with the Arab Strap.
A platter of biscuits and assorted starches accompany your meal at 50 Plates, including a savory, crumbly cheddar biscuit that my daughter loved dunking in her bowl of “chowdah”. Major bonus points for going beyond the perfunctory bread basket.
333 Northwest 13th Avenue
Portland, OR 97209-3144