My friend was in town for a conference last week. She likes to play tour guide so, even though I know Portland like the back of my hand, I let her pick and choose all of the places to visit. This was great it took the pressure off of me for sure. I love hosting, but the added pressure of choosing what to do, where to eat, and etc. can be daunting. Bless her heart.

    “For lunch,” she said, “Let’s check out this place called Pambiche. Cuban food.”

    “Sounds good to me,” I said.

    So we and the family took the MAX out to Hollywood and made our way.

    “Wow! That building is amazing!” My friend said, pulling out her ever-present camera and taking a picture of the brightly colored building. Turns out, the building housed Pembiche. Situated in the Apambichao Building, a Portland Weird turn of the century Victorian landmark on East 28th Avenue. The bright colors recall old time Havana—not that I’ve ever been.

    For more than seventeen years, Pambiche has been feeding Portland with traditional Cuban dishes that have been in the Maribona family for generations. The recipes, straight out of abuelita’s kitchen, are fresh, healthy and delicious and could be described as Cuban soul food.

    Inside, the color theme continued, with bright colored walls bestowed with paintings and artifacts that give Pembiche an authentic feel.

    But, who are we kidding? It’s about the food. Ambiance is nice, but we go to restaurants for the food. Everything else is secondary. So, how does the food do? At Pambiche, it delights and inspires.

    Serving lunch, dinner and brunch, there is something here for nearly everyone. I had the Cuban sandwich with a side of tostones—which is a fancy word for fried plantains and a beer on the side. My friend had the Potaje de Frijoles Negros, which is, according to the menu, “Abuelita Ninfa’s Cuban black beans. Made with black turtle beans, fresh oregano, Spanish olive oil sofrito and mucho amor.” Served with love. You read that correctly.

    Finally, my wife had the Plato Cuban, a stereotypical Cuban dish of Adobo rubbed pork shoulder, slow roasted and slathered in a piquant herbed creole gravy and served with black beans and rice. Of course, we all shared and everything was muy bueno and delicioso. I was very pleased with my friends’ choice. She was pleased. Everything about the night was perfect. The Hollywood neighborhood here in Portland has some hidden gems. It’s worth the trek.

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