Monday, July 7, 2014
Portland, Oregon's New Sprawling Strip Mall China Town on 82nd Avenue
Portland, Oregon's New Sprawling Strip Mall China Town on 82nd Avenue Lex Loeb Contributor Network . 82nd street has the reputation of being one big used car dealer after another stuck between countless strip malls and dive bars. The street has to be one of the longest commercial strips in all of Portland with no less than two separate Walmarts on the same avenue. 82nd street is a wide four lane commercial street long favored for cruising by local auto enthusiasts. 82nd street would have remained a major highway it must have once been before the giant Interstate 205 route was carved out of the urban grid that runs along side it. The advent of I-205 minimized traffic that would otherwise be on 82nd street and helped cause it long delayed redevelopment. The surprise is that China Town has come to the avenue in recent years and it is competitive with China Towns you find in Vancouver, BC, though it still lacks Chinese National Bank outlets, but there is a good chance they will follow. The sign that China town started to move to 82nd Ave was the relocation of Portland China Town Icon Hung Far Low to the avenue. Hung Far Low now occupies a prominent corner on the avenue but it has lost its great old town location upstairs. The food there is still less Chinese than Chinese-American but it probably does more take out orders than it ever did downtown. The sleazy downtown Hung Far Low is a tremendous loss to the character of downtown china town because locals had to visit the place at least once as part of their Portland initiation rituals. The restaurant was a wonderful living anachronism with the funky neon sign and the two fights of steps up to its other worldly reality. The big guy guarding the gates of the bar was a Portland fixture. It is great to see that the low humor joke about Hung Far Low is still in Portland. There are lots of other Chinese-American joins with take out on the avenue but there are also all new restaurants including the five star, multi award winning Wong's King restaurant on Division , a few blocks off 82nd, with it's bus girls in old fashioned airline stewards uniforms with caps , formal dim sum mornings and afternoons and its relatively high price fare. Wong King is the top of the line restaurant on the strip that bills itself as a "Chinese sea food restaurant". There are other cheaper versions along the strip. One has a Cantonese chef further down toward the airport and its prices are half of Wong king. There are several others toward town down Powell specializing in Chinese sea food . Further down the avenue in the old pipe organ pizza space there is a massive Chinese all you can eat buffet that costs around $12 for dinner. There is a similar Chinese buffet next to one of the two Walmarts on the strip. Besides Chinese food restaurants in the Asian category there is a Malaysian , Japanese in the Foubon Mall and there are multiple Vietnamese restaurants. The fancy "Pho Van Restaurant" on the avenue has interesting Vietnamese landscaping with decorative bamboo tied up in bundles growing in the parking lot. Cheaper pho van places are in the Foubon Mall one specializes in rice paper wraps where you can wrap your own before eating with big plates of greens to wrap. The place is called " Tan" which might fool you into thinking that it is a tanning salon. Down on Powell there is one of several Vietnamese sandwich shops. This one bakes French bread loafs and makes various sandwiches out of them. Going back to the subject of china town is the Chinese Grocery Store in Foubon mall --the Foubon store. It is a great place to find a lot of things you wont find in other stores but certainly not the only Asian market in town. Their fish department is one of the best in Portland. There are other Asian stores along the avenue. The best Korean super market is in Beaverton and so is the best Japanese super market. Foubon has lower price except for one small Sandy blvd Vietnamese super market that often beats the Rest in prices. Also in Foubon is the Chinese Tea shop. If you like real Chinese tea this shop is a great resource. Foubon also has a business selling giant carved marble statuary from China. If you need a pair of new solid white marble carve Foo Dogs that weigh a few thousand pounds each this is the place to buy them. Foubon's even has a Starbucks if you are not interested in trying a bubble tea in the bubble tea shop in the mall. I find bubble teas too sweet. there are several bubble tea shops up and down the avenue. In a strip mall further down the avenue there is a bubble tea hang out that you want to avoid when the local high school is out. There is also a coffee shop on the mall with wifi called karma café that might be interesting to explore. Instead of Tea I like to buy the young fresh coco nuts from the refrigerator case in Foubon . They range from $1 to $1.25 and have only natural sweetness no added corn syrup. I like drinking the coconut milk out of them and refilling them with water and using them over and over again 3 to 4 times to flavor tap water. How do you refill a coconut? you can use the straw to drip water from the faucet back into the coconut. Sometimes the second refilling tastes better than the first because each successive refilling is less sweet. After refilling the coco nut leave the straw in and refrigerate till cold again . China town on 82nd street is becoming more and more concentrated. In another 15 years the avenue may fill out and maybe start to get the flashy neon signs and Chinese tile roof tops as a few more used car dealer lots are converted to Asian strip malls. Time will tell. It is worth visiting 82nd street and exploring the far flung china town. Foubon mall is the biggest concentration so far but you still need a car to fully explore an avenue the length of 82nd. HK Café is now the place for Dim Sum. Near The Walmart. .