Dining in Portland: Ate-Oh-Ate offers a refreshing break from winter’s grip

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the Kal-Bi ribs, thin cut beef short ribs in Korean marinade, with white rice and the macaroni salad. Photos by Ethan M. Rogers.

Punxsutawney Phil woke up in February, saw his shadow and, with it, six extra weeks of winter in the Pacific Northwest. It doesn’t seem fair that a small furry animal in the Northeast has that much control over our weather, but there it is.

In an effort to get away from the winter blues I took lunch at a local spot that evokes the sun and cool tropical breezes of Hawaii.

Ate-Oh-Ate, a play on the area code for Hawaii, blends Hawaiian food with other Asian and Pacific delights like Japanese and Korean food.

I ordered the teriyaki chicken, grilled boneless thigh meat flavored to perfection. I’ve eaten more than my fair share of teriyaki chicken and I can attest that it is easy to get wrong, but Ate-Oh-Ate’s teriyaki chicken was a delight, being both tender and flavorful without being overpowering or pretentious. This dish was easily my favorite part of the meal.

The counter-man informed me that, for just a dollar more, I could add a second item to my plate so I opted for the grilled Korean chicken with spicy sweet Korean chili sauce. The sauce was definitely spicier than it was sweet, and I thought for a moment I might have to call the Portland Fire Department to extinguish the flames on my tongue. Thankfully, the burn was quick and short-lived, and my side of green salad and white rice was enough to soothe my tastebuds. I opted to forgo the kimchi side that comes with the grilled Korean chicken and stick with the green salad and rice.

My lunchmate got the Kalua pig, made from pork shoulder slow roasted in banana leaves with steamed cabbage, and added on the Kal-Bi ribs, thin cut beef short ribs in Korean marinade, with white rice and the macaroni salad in lieu of the green salad. How someone came up with the idea of calling macaroni a salad is beyond me but some people, my friend included, seem to like that sort of thing. Admittedly I did not try the pork or the macaroni salad but I did try the Kal-Bi which I found to be quite tasty, being both flavorful and well cooked – though perhaps not as tasty as the ribs one finds at Kim Jong Grillin, a great little Korean spot on Division that has taken more of my money than I should probably admit.

I was pleased to find they had Coke in a glass bottle while my partner in food opted for a can of Hawaiian-made fruit juice of some type – they had three to choose from but for the life of me I can’t remember what was ordered. To top everything off we split a butter mochi, their only available dessert. If you like egg custard you’ll enjoy this. If not, skip it.

The atmosphere at Ate-Oh-Ate, with its plethora of surfboards, frisbees and vaguely Hawaiian music was a nice diversion from the gray and wet day in the long line of gray, wet days that have plagued Portland these past several months. The food itself was more than acceptable, and even somewhat enjoyable, in terms of taste and tenderness. It was, however, a bit on the pricier side for the fairly middle-of-the-road menu coming in at around $54, drinks included, for two people. 

Ate-Oh-Ate is located at 5200 SE Woodstock Blvd, in Portland, Oregon. They are open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Ethan M. Rogers