Remember the 1970s jingle that went "It's gotta be good, and it's gotta be a lot, and ...," well, I can't remember the rest of the verse.*
People also think in those terms when dining out, especially at lunchtime. And in addition to being good-tasting and substantial, most folks want their food to be inexpensive, too.
Here then, are four of Astoria's tastiest less-than-$7, fast-food noontime meals: a couple sandwiches, tacos and take-out teriyaki chicken. Why $7? Well, five bucks doesn't buy much food anymore, and $10 seems too dear for an inexpensive lunch.
Street food is a sign of a city's vitality. Astoria, of course, has its seasonal Sunday Market featuring vendors serving everything from artisan cheeses to barbecued oysters. Angella Coscia, who purveys fresh fruit juices and teas at the market, hopes to remain open year-round in her newly christened Tiki Juice y Tacos, located inside the former Wombat Moon Cafe (1009 Commercial St., no phone).
Actually, Coscia's operation spills out onto the sidewalk, where every Wednesday through Friday she sets up her Tiki Bar, complete with a faux-grass umbrella and a couple stools. Her two-for-six-bucks tacos can be had with beef, fish (mahi-mahi), chicken or a host of veggies, and every version comes packed with a luscious mishmash of black beans, rice, grated cheese, chopped cilantro, slices of carrot, tortilla chips, lime wedges and a tiny Mexican toothpick flag stuck in the top.
Tropical fruit lemonade, Key limeade, lavender-mint julep tea, horchata (a surprisingly satisfying rice drink blended with fruit) and other refreshing Tiki libations (all $3) include tiny tropical umbrellas.
Coscia, a Seaside native who now resides in Astoria, is chatty, enthusiastic and eager to please and reminds of Alma "Kookie" Rubenstein, who used to purvey steak salads, meatloaf sandwiches and such out of nearby Godfather's Books, but has since left town for big city life.
Admittedly, we've had mixed experiences at Tokyo Teriyaki (225 14th St., (503) 338-5151), a narrow rectangular space that probably has housed more ethnic restaurants (Scandinavian, Korean and others) than any other storefront in town. Lately, however, meals at this Japanese joint have been solid, and prices are still low.
Most diners would be hard pressed to wolf down an order of spicy chicken teriyaki ($6.99) in one sitting. A portion includes mass quantities of sliced charbroiled chicken, a healthy scoop of white rice and a side of overcooked veggies, which add little to the mix but color. No worries, because chicken is the focus, anyway. Fueled by chili peppers, this fowl is indeed high-octane; those miniscule seeds dotting the teriyaki sauce pack a wallop and may leave your palate pleading: Stop it, I love it. Opt for the regular chicken teriyaki ($6.50) if you can't handle the heat.
Rosemary Baking Company (333 10th St., (503) 325-0580) is a delightful backstreet sandwich shop and bakery that sells a host of sandwiches and salads, soup du jour, clam chowder, Thai noodles and a killer potato salad, along with breads, brownies, lemon shortbread, frosted scones and an array of cookies. At first glance, the pastrami and Swiss sandwich ($6.50) featured on the bakery's weekly specials board appeared to be a basic but hearty sandwich. Closer scrutiny, and a big first bite, suggested otherwise. Thick-cut pastrami, roasted in the bakery's ovens, was stacked six layers high, and aromatic slivers of red onion spent time in a herb-and-oil marinade. Innards were held firm by two slices of Rosemary's onion-dill rye bread (try it toasted).
Rosemary's menu claims the bakery's sandwiches are "big enough to share, but so good you won't want to." Both are true statements.
Every time I pick up a sandwich at the Astoria Co-op (1389 Duane St., (503) 325-0027), I wonder why I don't return more often. The selection is unusual - where else in town might you order a tofu-pate sandwich? - and the quality is extraordinary. Hummus, avocado and cheese and Tofurkey are other possibilities, and they all fetch $5 or less. My albacore sandwich came stuffed with tomato, onion, lettuce and grated carrot, all layered atop a thick coating of albacore spread between two slices of stout and chewy oat bran bread (four-grain, whole wheat and wheat-free rye are other choices). Every sandwich is bursting with fixings and flavor. If you've never tasted a ripe organic tomato, for instance, you'll be wowed by the difference.
Co-op sandwiches are premade and wrapped in wax paper with a label explaining what's inside. Just grab one from the cooler and head for the cash counter. Everyone is welcome; you don't have to be an Astoria Co-op member to shop here.
Contact the Mouth at The Daily Astorian, P.O. Box 210, Astoria, OR 97103, phone (503) 325-3211 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
* Anyone remember what product this jingle touted? Send your reminiscences to email@example.com