|The Fixin’ To, Brief Review|
|Overall||Service||Food Quality||Atmosphere||Vegan Options|
|Location: 8218 N Lombard St. Portland, Oregon 97203|
|Recommended Dish: Hail Setain Sandwich|
|Hours: :Monday-Saturday 4pm-2am
|Times Visited: 4|
The developing population of Southern style restaurants into Portland has brought more vegan options to this not-so-obvious genre with Miss Delta, Bye and Bye, and Delta Cafe, among others. This is no different at The Fixin’ To – Vegan options abound! If you can get past the odd name, then make your way to St. John’s and squeeze past the awkward entrance and try some of their vegan junk food bar food.
When you enter into the Fixin’ To, you are forced to belly up to the bar since it’s located feet from the entrance. From there you either go right to grab a table in the dimly lit dining area, or take a left and head outside to the partially covered patio. The interior dining area is a smallish area with a variety of comfortable booths and tables that seems to be arranged differently each time this reviewer visits. But the tvs on the walls are always showing the latest game, but The Fixin’ To doesn’t have a sport bar feel. This is the place for the more casual sports fan. The fenced, private, outside dining area is twice as big as the interior and the heat lamps even make it a comfortable option in the colder months. The high fence, made of old doors, and the crunchy pea stone ground cover will take you to a place where time stands still and all that matters is your current experience.
The menu is small with the vegan items clearly listed: Bean Dip, Hail Seitan Sandwich, Chicken Dumplings, Frito Pie, and The St. John’s Chili Bucket. All are comfort foods that should be consumed with a stiff drink served in a mason jar, or with a cheap tall boy. The lemonade, with or without booze, will help get you in the mood for some grub. The drink menu is not listed on their website, so a visit is a must.
The Frito Pie ($6) is more like Frito nachos. A pile of Fritos are topped with chili, lettuce, and tomatoes. A fork is required to consume this mess of a plate. The chili beans and sauce are spiced with a flavorful but mild heat seasoning well so it does not need anything else to make this dish whole, unless you like it super hot, then grab the hot sauce. There is no need to expedite consuming these Southern nachos to avoid sogginess because the Fritos are firm enough to hold their crunch for awhile. The lettuce and tomatoes on top do a nice job at making a stick-to-your-ribs meal feel lighter.
The most unappealingly named dish on the menu, The St. John’s Chili Bucket, ($7) is much better than the name implies. Is it just me – but a bucket of anything from St. John’s just sounds suspicious. In fact, the dish is smaller than a bucket. A shallow bowl containing a soggy corn bread, aka corn pudding, is topped with the same vegan chili used for the Frito Pie. The corn pudding tasted a bit old with stale corn and jalapeno chunks among the dense pudding cake. Since the chili is only medium in thickness, it works well with another element like the Fritos or corn pudding. However, even if this dish was fresh, I do not think it would be a favorite of mine because of the consistency of the mushy corn pudding.
The Chicken Dumplings ($7) contain The Fixin’ To’s wonderfully tender housemae seitan in a soupy gravy that is poured over some very tender dumplings. Again, it’s a consistency issue for this reviewer – perhaps I am not a fan of dishes where the sauce, or in this case, gravy, is mixed with a soft central item. The gravy tasted great with a strong pepper and thyme flavor. The few pieces of seitan really made the meal, but only left me wanting more seitan. A serving of dirty rice would make this dish better to enjoy the remaining gravy, but this isn’t an option at the Fixin To. If you’re a dumpling connoisseur, please, let us know your thoughts.
The menu item I will continue to order time and time again is the Hail Seitan Sandwich ($9). Tender housemade seitan is marinated in a bourbon BBQ sauce and served with cabbage on an onion roll. The menu notes the cabbage is actually a cirtus apple slaw, but the power of the BBQ sauce over-powered every other taste, which I could not complain about. Because the BBQ sauce had a deep, warm flavor of tomato, bourbon, and cayanne, it worked in contrast to the cool and crisp cabbage. The seitan is tender without the chewy, rubbery, or even the too bready texture that some other restaurants in town serve. The way The Fixin’ To’s seitan seems to melt in your mouth with the great bourbon BBQ sauce makes it a little too dangerous because you can eat the whole thing before even knowing it’s gone!
The Fixin’ To’s service is friendly and quick. I don’t think I’ve ever waited more than 10 minutes, even on a busy night. The laid back atmosphere will have you coming back for the stiff drinks and the tender seitan and to hang out with friends on their back patio for long summer nights. Dishes range from $7-9, with the vegan items being cheaper than the the others.