Friday, September 9, 2011

Impressions: Sunshine Tavern

3111 SE Division St.
Portland, OR 97202
(503) 688-1750

[Photo: Portland Mercury]
While much talk has been made in the early reviews about how much Sunshine Tavern isn't much of a tavern at all (true), virtually no attention has been paid to the pizzas. And while they're not like to swear anyone off Ken's or Scholls, I have to say that they're quite fine, and better than expected for a place that doesn't even specialize in pizza.

[All remaining photos by Adam Lindsley]
Let's start with the crust. It hits the table hot from the gas deck oven with a crisp, bubbly shell that crackles nicely when bitten into or folded, yielding to a somewhat dense, bready center. Co-owner Jenn Louis experimented with the dough until settling on a version using high-gluten flour, salt, water, yeast, and a little olive oil. It's not the absolute most flavorful crust you'll ever eat, but it's far from bland, and that alone puts Sunshine Tavern above 75% of everyone else slinging pies in this town.

The tomato sauce on the pepperoni pizza ($14) wasn't memorable, and spread pretty thin. Thankfully the creamy fior di latte (that's fresh cow's milk mozzarella to you) has plenty of rich milky flavor, and the pepperoni from Molinari Salame is cut paper thin, crisping up in the oven and offering a both crunch and a little kick of spice. The sliced red onions are a nice little touch, imparting even more crunch and, occasionally, that unmistakable onion flavor into the cheese and sauce. Altogether it's far from a blow-your-mind pepperoni pizza, but it's a wholly solid one.

I liked the NY white pie ($14) even more. The ricotta isn't spread on too heavily, as is often the case with many white pies, and the same great fresh mozz makes a reappearance. But the best thing about this pizza? The sprinkling of fresh thyme. It really cuts through the richness of the cheeses and balances out the fats. Pair it with a pint of Upright Brewing Four and you are set, my friend.

Sunshine Tavern features two other pizzas on their current menu: one topped with parmesan, wild oregano, olive oil, and a hen egg, and one topped with zucchini, oil-cured olives, red onion, tomato, and fontina. Both sound good, and on my inevitable return to this establishment, I will absolutely order them. Unless of course they've been replaced by something else, in which case I won't, now will I?

Proprietors David Welch and Jenn Louis have a great little place here with Sunshine Tavern. They make a good burger, and the soft serve honey ice cream from Fifty Licks they're serving right now is out-of-this-world delicious (I would avoid the housemade chocolate "magic shell," though, which tastes strongly of chemicals to my palate). Service was spot on and very friendly. And they have shuffleboard! A welcome addition to the neighborhood (as if you didn't have reason enough to dine out on Division).


RECOMMENDED: NY White Pie (and don't forget that ice cream!)