Thursday, February 10, 2011 | 7:08 AM
Editor’s Note: While we’re in Portland over the next few weeks, we wanted to bring some local flavor to the blog by asking writers who live in the area to contribute Hotpot-style city guides: recommendations on where to eat, where to shop, where to hang. Below, locally based writer Geoff Kleinman discovers three local gems using Hotpot — little places in scale, but each with some very big ideas.
One of the great things about using Hotpot is discovering businesses that you may not already know about. We thought we'd profile three small Portland businesses that we found using Hotpot, each doing something pretty big and each with unique ideas about who they are and what they do. While these small businesses may be easy to miss (both because of size and location), they are just the kind of places you can discover using Hotpot — a recommendation based on your tastes or based on a friends’ rating can lead you right to them.
Little Big Burger
Portland is known for having great hamburgers, so we wanted to find a place that we hadn’t tried yet. I had rated other burger joints in the past, and a quick Google.com search for “burger” turned up a personalized recommendation for Little Big Burger. The concept of Little Big Burger is very simple: Offer fantastic small-sized burgers with fresh and local, high-quality ingredients, plus a simple menu that supports it.
The real star of Little Big Burger is, of course, the "Little Big Burger,” which is larger and more appointed than your typical “slider,” but smaller than your typical “bistro burger:”
A recent google.com/hotpot search for “portland cocktails” pointed us toward a place called Central. Located behind the Perierra Creperie, there's no sign on the door or building to indicate that Central is here. Walk through the door next to the creperie and then through the black curtain and you'll find yourself in one of Portland's best hidden nightlife gems.
Don't call Central a restaurant — owner Dustin Knoxx will quickly correct you — as it's one of the few places in Portland where the cocktail is the focus. While Central does serve food from the adjoining Creperie (and we highly recommend the sopressata crepe and mushroom crepe), their true mission is to be masters of the classic cocktail.
Central often hosts some of the top bartenders in Portland who can be seen both behind the bar and in front of it. Central also recruited Lydia Reissmueller from New York's PDT (Please Don't Tell), Wildwood's Jacob Foster, and The Farm Cafe's Daniel C. Osborne to create a team of bartenders who serve pitch-perfect cocktails seven days a week and into the wee hours of the morning.
There are a number of well-known coffee shops in Portland, but we wanted to find one that we’d never tried. Since we had given great ratings to places such as Stumptown, Google search recommended to us Coava Coffee. Co-located in the design showroom for Bamboo Revolution, Coava is another one of those Portland gems.
As with Little Big Burger, Coava is focused on picking one thing and doing it well. For Coava, the focus is buying, roasting and serving unique and high-quality coffee from around the world. Coava's menu is five items — no grande, extra-this, triple-that here — just five classic coffee drinks served to perfection.
For their coffee, Coava innovated by creating a custom-designed cone filter made from weapon's grade stainless steel. They did it in search of pouring the perfect cup of coffee from their beans and the result has been national media attention, including a write-up in The New York Times.
Coava treats its coffee like a seasonal product, so the coffees they roast and sell change from week to week, as beans from certain regions around the world go in and out of season. While they don't promote this, Coava Coffee owners Matt Higgins and Keith Gehrke typically put their very best coffee in the grinders. On the day we visited, Coava was serving the Ethiopian Kemgin which retails for a staggering $25 per pound, and yet it was being served at the same lower price usually charged for drinks.
Little Big Burger, Central and Coava Coffee are just a few of the great small businesses we've discovered using Hotpot. What hidden gems have you found in your city?
Posted by Geoff Kleinman. Geoff is the editor of DrinkSpirits.com, a national blog helping people figure out what to drink, and OnPDX.com, helping people figure out what to do in Portland.