Last week, Fooditka and I went to North Light, a relatively new spot on N. Mississippi, that fits right in among all the other restaurants and bars in this pretty happening section of North Portland. We went to meet a friend of mine who's visiting from New York and is currently in the grip of the Portland tractor beam, contemplating if she should make the move. I'd venture a guess that our experience at North Light and the rest of the Mississippi neighborhood would be a check in her "pro" column.
The vibe inside North Light is definitely of the sleek and shiny variety. A lot of the restaurants here go for that "modern rustic" feel that I've often described, but North Light is just modern. It has a very fresh and clean feel, but it is warm and bright at the same time. The overall space is not very large, but they use it efficiently, and there is plenty of seating, as well as a nice looking bar that you can sit at if the main area seems too crowded. The location is excellent as I've already pointed out, smack in the middle of Mississippi.
North Light has a pretty extensive dinner menu, and they also do brunch on the weekends, but this was another happy hour mission, so we stuck to that. They offer happy hour from 5-6 p.m. most days, and a late night happy hour from 10-close, as well as all day Tuesday. The happy hour menu has plenty to choose from, both food and drink, so I'm sure there is something for everyone. They also have some gluten-free, dairy-free, veggie and vegan options for those with special dietary needs and preferences. We ordered a nice variety of different food, giving us a pretty good idea of the style and quality of the fare that North Light offers.
Stuffed Cheese Curd Burger - This was Fooditka's choice for her main, and right off the bat, I'd say she was the big winner. Invoking husband privileges, I helped myself to a few nice sized bites, and I have to say it was solid in every way. Not huge, but very dense, the cheese curds inside the patty added an extra dimension, as did the kimchi and garlic aioli. The brioche bun was spot-on as well, bringing the whole thing together very nicely. This burger goes for $6.00 during happy hour, and is well worth it. Next time we go, I'm probably going to order one for myself.
Rosemary Garlic Fries - Another Fooditka addition to the table, the fries were very solid. Crunchy, salty, and plenty flavorful with the garlic and rosemary, they were a great complement to the burger. They were pretty addictive, and I'm sure I ate the majority of them. I'm not sorry. The happy hour price tag for the fries was $3.00, and the portion was pretty big. One order was more than enough for the three of us to share.
Crispy Chicken Skins - This was one of my selections, and in all honesty, I'd say it was the one "miss" of the evening. Basically, it's a plate of deep-fried chicken skin, and more than one or two just weighs too heavy on the palate to really enjoy, but I'm not sure what I was expecting there. I didn't come close to finishing them, and neither of my companions really helped me out. They do come with a cayenne-honey dip, and that was great, but I ended up using it for the fries. Next time, I'll skip the chicken skins and go for the crispy chicken lollipops instead.
Crispy Chicken Lollipops - Hell yeah. This was Rachel's choice, and they were a close second to Fooditka's burger for tastiest on the table. Fortunately Rachel is a generous sort, and shared her dish. They were delish. Crispy, meaty and juicy, they were exactly what I needed after my disappointment with the chicken skins. They are prepared with a caramelized tamarind glaze, which adds the perfect amount of sweet to the savory. I highly recommend them.
Mac & Cheese - This was my main dish. The pasta happens to be gluten-free, which works for me, and I'd bet that if you didn't know it in advance, you'd have no idea. The mac & cheese was surprisingly tasty; I say surprising, because when the plate arrived, it didn't really look like much. Upon first glance, I wasn't too impressed, it just looked a little blah, but the flavor was anything but. I really enjoyed it, and inhaled the dish pretty quickly. And because the pasta is gluten-free, that familiar "Ohh, I ate too much too quick, I'm going to explode" feeling was noticeably absent. Again, this is a dish I'd recommend, especially for people with gluten issues.
In addition to all the good food, the happy hour deal extends to the house cocktails, draft beer, and Oly Tall-Boys.
Service and Cost:
Another bright spot was our waitress. She was very attentive, very friendly, and pretty helpful with answers to questions about the menu. She seemed to be teamed up with another server, and that lady was great as well. As far as cost, being that we stuck to the happy-hour menu, the total bill was very reasonable, and I'll definitely be going back.
North Light - 3746 N Mississippi Ave Portland, OR 97227