Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Rainy, Windy, Gloomy New Year's Day in Portland: Lunch at the Nite Hawk

The New Year dawned, gray, gloomy, and wet in Stumptown. Dolly-girl put the percolator on the stove while I poured us a couple eye-openers to get past the day-after-the-night-before, know what I mean? Another year, shot to hell. I cataloged the Coldspot, but nothing appealed. We headed out in the beater, looking for an open restaurant.

Dolly-girl has been angling for a trip to the Nite Hawk ever since we moved to Stumptown, over a year ago. It's the kind of place that time doesn't count; it just sorta slides from one day to the next. Changes of season are marked by the decorations on the booths and the jackets the clientele wear on their backs.

The place wasn't three-quarters full, and quiet. Spoons stirred blondes with sand in Syracuse China mugs. We took a booth by the front window where I could keep an eye on the interurban platform and tracks outside. This part of town never sleeps and the neighborhood punks got a way of finding trouble in an empty room. Sure, it's a holiday, but that don't mean much up this way--someone's aching to be Booking #1 down at the Police Bureau.

The whadda-ya-want said "Serving Unique Individuals Since 1931" so Dolly-girl and me was in the right place. But the URL on the menu cover sorta took the shine off the feel of the joint. That and the composite countertop that held up the elbows of 4 or 5 diners that looked like they felt like we felt before the eye-openers, know what I mean? Formica with a metal edge would have been a better match to the Naugahyde seats and stools.

The card is just what you'd expect in a hash house like the Nite Hawk. Breakfast served anytime, lunch and dinner start at 11, beer and booze in the back, through the door to the lounge. You could see down the counter through a window in a mirrored wall into the kitchen. The cook was all business and looked like he knew how to make the special--chile verde, rice, beans, and a tamale. Dolly-girl wasn't having it though--she's a BLT with cole slaw in the alley chiquita in a joint like this one. Oh, and a glass of milk. I settled on the meatloaf, mashed, veg of the day, and cow feed with thousand on the side. I was tempted by the joe, the real stuff here, not that designer java they serve all over this city. But I'd had my fill off the stove top at home.

The interurban slipped by in the mist and bad 70s music played in the background, coming from a speaker by the Keno screen. The Hawk is missing a juke box. I fought back the urge to play a couple 6 spots. I was feeling something, but it wasn't luck. Maybe I needed a shot out of the blue bottle. I heard "Missy, order up" and the soup jockey brought the food, and Dolly-girl's baby. I don't know how she drinks that stuff.

Dolly-girl pushed a wave of hair out of her face and tried the slaw. "Some of the best in Stumptown. Tastes like Dot's." Dot's her mother. The BLT was good looking and the way it went down it must of hit some spot. The loaf was dense and sliced thin-a little too thin for my taste. The what's-up-docs were done just right and beat the hell out of the canned Frenchmen I expected. The spuds were whipped, not mashed--I'm thinking the Murphies came out of a box. But the gravy was thick and salty and made up for what could only be called an average plate of comfort food. Texas toast took the place of the menu-promised dinner roll. It survived the meal.

We pushed the plates back and I reached for my Luckies. Damn, I'll never get past that feeling. Missy brought the check and out of habit asked if we wanted pie. She'd seen what we'd left and knew we'd had what we'd come for. I dropped a Jackson on the table and tossed down a couple extra for a Happy New Year. I slipped Dolly-girl into her coat, pulled my collar up and my hat down, and we stepped out into the wind and rain, headed back home to listen to Bob Dylan on the radio. You might run into Bob at a place like the Nite Hawk...


Karen said...

More, more!!

Ronna said...

Cow feed with thousand on the side?
Love it!