Somehow I missed the item that Johanna Ware was spinning off a lunch/event spot across the street from her wonderful smallwares/barwares restaurant. The lil’ wares summer-long pop-up is in the former Red Fig Cafe, a bungalow with a 30-seat shaded patio on Fremont St. in NE Portland.
I was excited to enjoy it as I am always looking for a great lunch spot and I love Johanna’s “inauthentic Asian” cuisine. When the weather is too hot, windy or rainy I far prefer a sit-down restaurant to a food cart. So I kicked off July on a near-100F day with lunch at lil’ wares.
They are open 7 days per week from 11 am – 3 pm. The smallwares weekend brunch has moved over to lil’ wares for the summer. The focus is on grilled items.
I was happy to discover that the dining room inside the converted bungalow was air conditioned. The server was friendly and I settled into one of the two-top tables. There are other tables set for 4 and a small counter bar, in addition to a variety of patio seating. The space is available for hosting events as well.
I settled on the General Tso Sandwich – fried chicken, broccoli slaw, thai chilies and fried shallots. I also ordered up a Thai iced coffee (without the additional rum). They have a full beer, wine and cocktail menu.
The sandwich arrived on a toasted roll like a great banh mi. In fact, a lot of the elements made it pretty much a banh mi with spicy sauce, pickled veggies, lots of cilantro and tasty chicken. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The price was great and from seating through check the lunch took under 45 minutes. I was happy to see plenty of other customers arrive by 12:30.
I look forward to exploring more menu items. They definitely vary from the smallwares offerings, but pack the same big flavors from a variety of asian influences.
4537 NE Fremont St, Portland, OR