In case you haven’t noticed a theme, Mark and I absolutely love Latin American inspired cuisine. The only type of food we might even come close to loving more is Italian, and these are two of the hardest types to find in, and around, Portland. I will say, the Latin American scene has come a long way in the two years since we’ve arrived. People have been telling me for months that Sonny’s on Exchange Street is excellent, but I guess I hadn’t been ready to dive in yet. Maybe it was the fear that it wouldn’t live up to the hype, or maybe it was the fear that it would and I’d never be able to drag myself away from this place—turns out the situation is closer to the latter. So, Mark and I headed out for dinner and some late night drinks there with our pals Ben and Laura.
Sonny’s and Local 188 share the same owner. That fact alone should have been enough to alert me that we would be in for a treat. We’ve also been told that Sonny’s is home to some of the best bartenders in Portland, and with one look at their menu, I saw why. One look and I was instantly excited.
There were some very obscure drinks on the menu. Mark decided on The Wilkenson, which was their version of a Manhattan made with Rye Whiskey. He loved it so much he had two more before the night was over. I ordered the Caipirinha, which I have always had with vodka before, but was made with rum here. It was delicious and refreshing.
After we got all juiced up, we were ready for some tapas. We decided to order the Cuban Meatballs and the Pork Empanada to start.
Both were surprising and delicious. When the Cuban Meatballs arrived, they looked just like a bowl of ordinary meatballs. One bite had me standing corrected though, as they sent a burst of flavor into my mouth, the likes of which my taste buds had never experienced from a mere ball of meat. They were hot and spicy, and the tomato-based sauce was so delicious we sopped every last drop of it up with our bread. These were definitely a winner, and since it came with four it was really filling for two people.
The Pork Empanada was the next to succumb to our hungry wrath. It was perfectly fried in a substantial pastry packed with meat and other fillings. Possibly the best part (aside from the luscious pork) was the interesting chipotle sauce that was on the side along with some cabbage slaw. We ate this in about two seconds flat.
By this time I was feeling quite full and satisfied, but we still had our “entrees” to eat. When I wasn’t sure I had any room left, let alone desire to eat, the Burger and Chili Relleno arrived.
Mark’s burger was the best we’ve had in Portland. It was so juicy and with the cheddar and roasted poblanos on top, it was a home run. The flavors and quality were unsurpassed. Mark said this tops the list of his favorite “gourmet” burger in Portland.
My Chili Relleno was also excellent. I will say this with the caveat that I do feel, while the one at Zapoteca is saltier, it is decidedly better. I will also say that this one was a very, very close second though. I would order it again and definitely recommend it to others.
After dinner our dear friends Ben and Laura popped into meet us for some more drinks and dessert.
I ordered a Pisco Sour, a drink made from a clear Peruvian bandy with foamy egg whites one top. I am really picky about my Pisco Sour’s, and this wasn’t the best I have had. The egg whites on top were more slime than foam, so I don’t think they shook them long enough before pouring the drink. It was fine other than that.
Ben ordered a Pink Stiletto and Laura ordered a Pinky Tuscadero. They both seemed happy with their choices, as I heard zero complaints. Then, as if we hadn’t ordered enough food, each couple somehow found it imperative to order a slice of German Chocolate Cake for dessert.
The cake was quite delicious, but a little dry for my liking. Ben pretty much single-handedly ate his and Laura’s slice. After that we were all really regretting the choice to top off our tanks with an ever-expanding piece of cake. The coconut didn’t help matters either— it left me in complete misery. I wouldn’t recommend dessert to those who are already too full to speak.
Sonny’s turned out to be a great double-date night spot. The striking red brick walls are loaded with big, bold art, while the bold and colorful flavors were served up on bright white plates. The ambiance is superb, and the service is fantastic. This is an upscale establishment, but it doesn’t feel stuffy in the least. The wait staff is alternatively clad lending even more depth to the vibrant and eclectic atmosphere of the space. If you haven’t gone yet, GO! If you don’t like the food order another cocktail. If you don’t like the cocktails, you should probably just move out of the state.