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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Portland
Food
Feel
Price
8.1
9.0
$35
Cuban, Nuevo Latino, Baked goods
Casual restaurant

Hours
Sun–Thu 7:00am–10:00pm
Fri–Sat 7:00am–midnight

Features Outdoor dining
Bar Beer, wine
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Not accepted

www.pambiche.com

Northeast Portland
2811 NE Glisan St.
Portland, OR
(503) 233-0511
Pambiche
A cheery Caribbean vibe and legit dishes made with amor

Cuba has captured and held the American imagination since it was concealed behind the Iron Curtain several decades ago. It has since given us an immortal and iconic dictator, surreptitiously smoked cigars, Buena Vista Social Club, and Reinaldo Arenas. From inside its arcane shroud, the country remains, visually, pretty unchanged since the mid-century, as evidenced in its slew of American classic cars, mottled and fading rainbow-colored façades, and refreshing lack of Big Macs.

Pambiche exemplifies the colorful charm of Cuba, or at least America’s romantic ideal of it. The exterior is unmistakable, a screaming purple, yellow, pink, and aqua paint job on a Victorian building. Faux-vintage posters invite you to “revolutionize your morning,” and this is a really cheery, bustling breakfast scene. A main draw here is the bakery, which puts out some excellent Cuban pastries. A variety of eight minis—from coconut-ginger biscuits to rum-raisin cakes to passion fruit muffins with chocolate chips—comes in a basket for only $8.

A Cuban take on the classic tortilla española gets plantains instead of potatoes, but the same bell pepper, olive oil, and onion treatment. It’s much denser and bigger than what you’d find in a tapas bar, of course, but the flavors all mix together for a great, shareable breakfast. There are over a dozen more choices, some with Creole touches and some with more Spanish and Italian influences.

At lunch and dinner, empanadas are great and fairly cheap, especially one filled with a simple picadillo that sports herby beef, potatoes, and vegetables. The shell is crisp, but relenting, and the insides steamy and good. Red beans with rice and smoked ham is impeccable, as are salads, like a traditional beet salad with lightly bitter watercress. An orange vinaigrette also perks up ripe, creamy avocado in the excellent ensalada de aguacate.

There’s very little emphasis on alcohol here, save for a decent and very small selection of Spanish and Latin American reds that’s well chosen for the low price point. A few rudimentary sherries are quite nice. More the point here are fun espresso drinks, fruit juices, and old-school, cane-sugar sodas.

Best of all, Pambiche’s proximity to Laurelhurst means following up dinner with a $3 trip inside America’s own Art-Deco past. How much more cultured can it get?

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