Get ready, Portland. You may soon have access to drive-through dumplings and crab rangoon.
That’s the plan, anyway, at the new Sun Bakery Restaurant on Forest Avenue, where I was told the drive-through – a remnant of Thurston’s Wicked Good Burgers – is ready to go, but they don’t have enough employees to run it yet. (The restaurant is just over two weeks old.)
For now, you’ll have to park your car in the small lot and go inside to order. And you should because this place deserves a fighting chance. It’s not Empire or Bao Bao Dumpling House or Sichuan Kitchen, but that’s OK. It’s not meant to be. It is, however, better than the usual fast-food-style Asian restaurant. The ingredients appear fresh, the service is fast, and the prices are really reasonable. An order of four pork egg rolls is just $4, as is a banh mi, if you’d prefer a sandwich. Eight dumplings, steamed or fried, are $5.50, and bowls of pho are $9 for beef and $8.50 for chicken. The most expensive items on the menu are anything containing shrimp. Whether it’s shrimp lo mein or shrimp fried rice, it all costs $12.
The odd thing about this place is that it is also a bakery. Not an Asian bakery, offering different varieties of fruity buns and cake rolls, but a standard bakery that makes doughnuts, giant apple fritters and other American-style pastries. It’s a weird juxtaposition, seeing two cases filled with muffins and cinnamon buns and croissants, and then right above it a brightly lit menu filled with photos of pad Thai and spring rolls. Breakfast sandwiches ($3.80) are also available on bagels and English muffins.
The restaurant has a coffee bar and a soda fountain, or you can order a Vietnamese coffee or Thai tea for $3.
I stopped in for dinner and wanted to try so many things I ended up getting two dinners and a lunch out of my order. (Yay, leftovers.) The pork egg rolls were crispy but not too greasy, and the dumplings were long, thin, and a little chewy – not the round, fat dumplings often served at similar restaurants. And that crab rangoon? It had the same shape and chewiness as the dumplings, but I confess I liked the filling. I’m not sure what they put into them besides the usual bland combination of imitation crab meat and cream cheese, but these were not bland.
For an entree, I tried the chicken lemongrass with rice ($8.50), which came with well-cooked (not clumpy) white rice, chunks of white meat chicken and a ton of vegetables, including broccoli, carrots, celery, onion, green beans, and both green and red peppers. The vegetables were perfect — cooked through, but they still had a little bite to them. The lemongrass flavor was very subtle, and at times I found myself wanting more, something to elevate it above a simple stir-fry.
I also tried the spring rolls with shrimp, which were incredibly fresh, if not exactly bursting with shrimp. This was the only shrimp item that didn’t cost $12, so maybe that’s why. The order consisted of two rolls cut in half, and each of the four pieces contained one whole, medium-sized shrimp.
I wanted to sample the pho, but my order was already so large I’m saving that for another day. On the night I visited, though, the only other customer in the place downed a huge, steaming bowl of the beef pho and I heard him tell guy at the counter on the way out that it was “excellent.”
There’s plenty of seating at Sun Bakery, partly because people have not discovered it yet, but also because a lot of customers appear to be ordering take-out. I have a feeling that, when it opens, the drive-through will be plenty busy.
Check this place out, and give it a chance. I will be going back for after-work or weekend take-out — but probably not for the pastries.
WHERE: 699 Forest Ave., Portland; 613-9036
HOURS: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; closed Monday
WAIT: Very fast, no more than 5 minutes
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes