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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Casual restaurant

Thu–Sun 5:00pm–10:00pm

Features Date-friendly, outdoor dining, veg-friendly
Bar Beer, wine
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Not accepted


Southeast Portland
3220 SE Milwaukie Ave.
Portland, OR
(503) 234-0330
Farm-fresh ingredients and anything you can toss into a wood-fired oven

These days, making a pizza is like running for office. It’s not good enough to have a wood-fired oven: this guy imports his from Naples. But this one over here is the only one to get above 800°. Then the upstarts come, touting coal as the new deal. The truth is, none of these methods is guaranteed to make a great pizza—that’s still up to the maker. A beautiful black, blistering sear is still the product of the marriage between humans and fire.

Tastebud first came on the scene at the farmer’s markets using seasonal, fresh ingredients. They’re out there every week selling pizzas baked in a mobile wood-burning oven, and other items. We’ve had a salad with fresh, interesting veggies, but leg of lamb comes overcooked, underseasoned, and totally dry. Wood ovens alone don’t make superior food.

So how does the crust measure up? It’s quite puffy, much thicker than the wafer-thin crusts at Ken’s, properly blistered and a little chewy. But when loaded with Tastebud’s generous, rich toppings, these already formidable crusts can become real belly burdens.

The restaurant is located near the Aladdin Theater, and looks more like an elegant osteria than a pizza joint. There are communal tables, arrangements of fresh flowers, pictures of the old country, and a patio shaded by some trees and vines with an ambient fountain.

Combinations change with the harvest, and some are better balanced than others. One particularly successful version saw roasted peaches paired with house-made pancetta, creamy mascarpone, and peppery arugula. Fennel sausage is a rightfully popular choice, and is best with just tomato and mozzarella. But some combinations, like morel mushrooms and zucchini, have been bland. Appetizers are strangely oily, no matter what they are, and fruity desserts baked in the oven have systematic crust problems. Bagels are rock hard—in this case, just because you have a wood-fired oven doesn’t mean you should use it. The wine selection is better than at most pizza joints, but there’s a reason Italians prefer beer with their pie; here the beer choice is right on, local-minded, with Hair of the Dog and others on draft.

More than anything else, Tastebud’s incredibly fresh ingredients and seasonal combinations are what make it a worthy contender. This crust may not be for everyone, but diversity is a good thing.

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