Last night I decided to treat myself to a solo dinner. I grabbed the book I'm currently reading (Ruth Reichl's Comfort Me With Apples), stuffed it into my bag and walked the 20 minutes it takes to get to the Ace Hotel. My plans to sit at the bar at Clyde Common were sidetracked, however, when I got to Kenny and Zuke's. Located at SW 11th and Stark, on the opposite side of the Ace from Clyde Common, I've walked by Kenny and Zuke's many a time with the intention of visiting for lunch, and truth be told I read a recent review of the place in last week's Willamette Week. WWeek had mentioned K&Z's dinner as "Portland's best-kept secret," and being Sunday night at 8:30pm, the traffic was light. The sight of matzo ball soup on the menu pasted on the window was all it took for me to step in the front door from the chill outside.
The waiter walked me to a two-top, and I took the seat with my back to the door. I ordered a glass of tempranillo (I'm kicking myself for not writing down what it was because it was excellent), and after careful deliberation I picked the pot roast sandwich, subbed mashed potatoes for fries and added a bowl of chicken soup with matzo balls to start. While waiting for my soup, I pulled out my book and continued reading Ruth Reichl's account of her affair with... wait for it... Colman Andrews. As in Saveur Magazine's editor-in-chief Colman Andrews. It's a foodie's version of US Weekly, I'm telling ya.
The soup was homey and hearty, with savory bits of onion and veg swimming in the mostly-clear broth. The sandwich was served open-faced and slathered in a tomato-based gravy, with full cloves of garlic and chunks of stewed tomato swimming over a ridiculous stack of thick-sliced, perfectly fatty pot roast. All on house-baked rye bread, might I mention. Ugh. Is there such a thing as too much deliciousness?
I devoured what I could and asked for a to-go box for what remained of my massive plate of pot roast. I was in the mood for something sweet, so I got up to look at the baked goods in the display case. I chatted with the guy behind the counter, who told me "Everything is terrible" with a laugh. He casually pointed out the cheesecake in the fridge behind him, which immediately caught my attention. Cheesecake it was.
Now, I am and have always been somewhat lactose intolerant. By "somewhat" I mean I can usually have a cup of yogurt with no problem, and ice cream is hit-or-miss: sometimes my body rebels, sometimes it doesn't. If I were smart, I'd avoid all dairy, but what fun would that be? My plans last night were to eat half of the huge slice of cheesecake and save the rest for later.
Unfortunately no one warned me exactly how retardedly delicious Kenny and Zuke's cheesecake is, and I gobbled down the entire thing before I realized what I had done. The guy from behind the counter came over to check on me, and while I raved about the cheesecake, further chatting revealed that he was Michael Zusman, a food writer for the Oregonian and that many of the bread recipes at Kenny and Zuke's belong to him. I envy anyone whose paid job it is to write about food, and he kindly offered to take a look at ye humble blog (Hi Michael!).
A little tipsy from the wine, I gathered my things and left, but not before my super-friendly waiter had invited me out with him and the rest of the K&Z's staff to go to Touche for a service industry party. I told him I'd think about it and headed back to my apartment...
Which, upon entering, my lactose-intolerant intestinal tract threw a fit and I spent the next 45 minutes between the bathroom and huddled under the covers in my bed suffering cold sweats. Blasted cheesecake! No Touche for me. Sorry waiter!
The saddest part of this all is I'll never learn: I'm definitely making my way back to Kenny and Zuke's for the cheesecake (and the rest of the menu). Yessir, I am definitely willing to suffer for cheesecake that good.
(Sorry no photos--left the camera at home. Next time!)