SW 12th and Washington (Southwest Portland)
Portland, OR

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Rick Gencarelli's ballsy and unapologetic food is, for the most part, a genuine pleasure. His smoked coppa Cubano ($9) tops their best-of list. With the house's thinly sliced roast pork and salty coppa, provolone, dijon, and pickle, it's roundly flavored and spiced, and the tender grilled ciabatta roll helps the sandwich eat cleanly. The pork meatball banh mi ($8) has the emotional presence of a half-pound burger, but features large, smoothly textured sliced pork meatballs with Sriracha mayonnaise, as well as the traditional accompaniments of cilantro, pickled daikon and carrot. Rounding out the top pork items is the griddled mortadella ($8), which pits one of the least-loved but most-deserving classic salumi against marinated peppers for a surprisingly dynamic combination.

If you want to eat here more than once a week, two lighter options are the Italian tuna melt ($8) and the rotisserie chicken ($9). Lardo's albacore tuna salad favors a citrusy tang over mayonnaise (though it has both), and the generous serving is brought to life with Mama Lil's peppers, a salty olive tapenade, and a little shaved fennel. At the heart of the chicken sandwich are large, warm shreds of a beautifully roasted bird under melting white cheddar, brightened with pickled onion and a delicate horseradish aioli.

The double burger ($9) is clearly a new contender for top honors in town, but it has an Achilles' heel. Two lightly packed, juicy patties of Cascade Natural beef are cradled in a tender brioche bun with melting white cheddar, lettuce, and "Lardo sauce," a seasoned aioli. From top to bottom it's perfection in flavor and texture... save the emblematic slice of pork belly, whose dull and chewy nature sapped the strength of the deeply caramelized beef. The Korean pork shoulder ($8) had the opposite problem: The flavor of the meat couldn't stand up to the outsized dose of strong house-fermented kimchee (though frankly, I don't know what could).


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