Published 11/29/2019 at 4:53 AM PDT
By OREGON TRAVEL DAILY STAFF
(Portland, Oregon) – If you commute between Beaverton and Portland, you know: after the Hillsdale area westward, Beaverton / Hillsdale Highway and Canyon Road are a bit drab to commercially garish at times. The charms of downtown Beaverton aside (and a striking culinary scene there), there’s not much to look at. Often the food selection along this nether region where Beaverton blends with SW Portland has more fast food joints than need be. (Above: Noodles Restaurant)
Yet some jaw-dropping culinary secrets exist here, hiding in plain sight. There’s more than three, to be sure, but these almost secretive standouts are a bit of a revelation: Ernesto’s Italian Restaurant, Noodles Restaurant (not the chain) and Canyon Grill.
For more than 20 years now, a somewhat unassuming eatery near that chaotic corner of Beaverton / Hillsdale Hwy and Scholls Ferry Road has been slightly tucked away, across the street from the Dublin Pub. Noodles Restaurant is an astoundingly fancy pasta spot without all the price and pretense. Not to be confused with the Noodles chain, this is a decidedly indie spot with almost a revolutionary approach: imaginative pasta dishes at really low prices, especially considering the portions.
Owner David Peacock runs the place with clockwork precision and invents these wildly diverse and fascinating pasta concoctions, along with elegant, rich deserts that are so good they’re almost deadly.
Every main dish runs in the $9 to $10 range, boasting unique creations like a capellini with Greek olives and feta cheese, chicken picatta with a vibrant lemon cream sauce, mac ‘n cheese with turkey, a crack black pepper sauce that is filled with soaring layers, down to a simple tomato meat sauce or marinara that isn’t that simple in reality. Pastas here are light, not unlike actual European cuisine, yet thoroughly American and modern.
There’s intense complexity here, where – in the beef stroganoff, for example – the creamy sauce and tangy aspects are evident but whole other layers of mystery are piled within. This, their hands-down most popular dish, it’s paradoxically slightly heavy yet it wants to float at the same time. One of Noodles’ specialties are these exceptionally, tender even dainty beef chunks that are simply flawless, and these are part of the secret of the stroganoff.
There’s a wildly creative brain at work in Peacock’s head – and maybe even an evil genius. Check out the wide-eye-inducing deserts and you’ll understand. No one is safe from how addictive these are. 6830 SW Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy Portland, Oregon. 503-292-6480. Noodles website.
Where Noodles is light and airy, like a pastoral artwork, Ernesto’s Italian Restaurant features sauces that are hearty and woodsy in flavor. Down the road about a mile, it’s decidedly downhome in an old school Italian way. Like your Old World grandmother would’ve concocted.
Their thick, rich meat sauce runs like a yummy undercurrent through many of their dishes: from varied pastas like the substantial manicotti, noodles of all types, the sizable ravioli, their meatball sandwich to even the lasagnas. Or you can snag other sauces like pesto, marinara and alfredo, which are equally layered in elements. There’s a massive menu here, allowing you to mix and match sauces, pastas and meats ($14 - $18). Other more complex dishes like a parmigiana or an al marsala ($20 or more) exist in varied combos as well, and their meatballs have a definite old European slant with much depth to them.
Pizzas are in great abundance here as well with a large selection of meats and veggies to pile onto what is definitely some of the tastiest pizza sauce in all of Portland.
Chris Wegner is now the owner, but the whole place has a storied history here in Ptown. It all begins decades ago when Ernesto and Emilia Ceccanti immigrated from Italy and founded the famed Monte Carlo around the '30s. In 1987, their grandson created Ernesto’s in the Raleigh Hills area, while another family member darted off and founded Nona’s in Aloha. The whole ancestry of Ernesto’s Italian Restaurant is rooted in Portland’s Little Italy that actually existed until the mid century or so. 8544 SW Apple Way, Portland, Oregon. (503) 292-0119. Ernesto's Restaurant
The relative new kid on the block, right in the middle of Canyon Road’s “Auto Row,” the Canyon Grill is a true mom ‘n pop operation that likely serves up the best burger in all of the Rose City area. Parry and Opal Lawson over a decade ago took over a weird little building on an even weirder triangular block and turned it into a vibrant and innovative burger joint that is so much more.
Painted Hills beef burgers are just the beginning at this quirky...well it’s like an upscale dive. They have a few secret approaches to those burgers that send the palate new places in leaps and bounds. Then there are a myriad of other intriguing inventions like a unique chili, a monstrous burrito, various sandwiches with wondrous surprises, and exceptional milk shakes. One even comes mixed with beer.
Yet Canyon Grill’s most engaging dishes can be their varying specials. One day there’s a hearty but eye-rolling meatloaf that’s dense in flavors and yet so light it threatens to levitate in your mouth. Another is the spectacular Dominican Chicken, where yellow rice is mixed with bundles of little veggies and accouterments, and there’s an entire explosion of flavors that happens. It’s downright stunning. 8825 SW Canyon Rd, Portland, Oregon. (503) 292-5131. Note: their website is not quite accurate as of 11/29/20 but will be soon.
SPECIAL NOTICE: as of 2020 COVID restrictions will apply to these eateries.
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