A Snazzy Vietnamese Bistro in Columbia City
WATERCRESS VIETNAMESE BISTRO: Tucked in the same little Columbia City strip mall that houses Full Tilt Ice Cream and the Hummingbird Saloon, Watercress Vietnamese Bistro distinguishes itself from its shopping-plaza exterior the second you step in the door. Not only is the space surprisingly airy and expansive, it’s straight-up snazzy, with careful modern decor and a menu that closes each item with a suggested wine pairing—pretty fancy for a place adjoining a pool hall. Nevertheless, with entrées running $8 to $12, it still counts as cheap eats, providing a party of two with a seriously good meal for $20 and some change. (Tip for thrifters: The lunchtime menu shaves a buck or two off everything.) I had the stir-fried green beans and tofu ($9, with a light garlic braise and the most tasteful slivers of tofu), and my date had the caramelized prawns and pork in a clay pot ($12, and essentially a bowl of meat, with a sweet-and-spicy vinegar sauce and a surprising lightness). Neither dish really stood on its own as a dinner entrée—Jake needed a serving of my green beans to make his delicious meat-pot make proper sense, and I needed some of his rice to round out my saucy vegetable dish. But we’ll definitely be going back. (5041 Rainier Ave S, DAVID SCHMADER