Review: Bunk Sandwiches

Bunk Sandwiches Portland

Bunk Sandwiches
Photos: David Lathan Reamer Photography

<Completely updated 6/12 – hours, photos, notes, locations, etc.>

What I like most about Bunk is, though it has only been open for a short time, it’s already a dive – in a good way. Sit in the back next to the stacks of bread, and you’ll know what I mean. It’s like being transported to the East Coast, where sandwich shops are a dime a dozen. The only difference is, this one is clean and the sandwiches are damn good.

Bunk was opened in November 2008 when chef Tommy Habetz who had worked at Ripe and Meriwether’s restaurants in Portland and Mario Batali’s Lupa in NYC, joined forces with Nick Wood who was his sous chef at Meriwether’s. When I asked Tommy how he came up with the name “Bunk”, his answer was far-ranging: “Bunk is one of my favorite words. Personally, I think restaurant names are incredibly silly to begin with. Part of our thinking was, well, if we call the place bunk sandwiches, then we’re setting the bar really low. People will come in without many expectations, and hopefully be pleasantly surprised. I mean, if you say ‘Best Sandwiches Ever’, you’re pretty much setting yourself up for a fall. Also, I am a big fan of The Wire, and the character of Bunk Moreland. I’m also a fan of Gang of Four, whose song ‘History is Bunk’ was a big influence on me – based on a quote from Henry Ford.” How can you argue with logic like that?

Since the 2008 opening, they have expanded to a second location in the SW downtown core, and a bar/music venue on Water Ave. All are open for lunch. The menu changes regularly, so don’t get too attached to any one sandwich, though a few greatest hits are always available. Be aware that items also get crossed off as they start running out of things at the end of the day.

Bunk Sandwiches Portland

Here is a recent list:

  • Egg & Cheese $4
  • Bacon, Egg & Cheese $6
  • Meatball Parmigiano Hero $8
  • Roast Beef with caramelized onions, horseradish, Dijon and sharp cheddar $9
  • Grilled Tillamook Cheddar $5. Add tomato soup $2
  • Italian Cured Meats w/ Bunk marinated hot peppers, provolone picante $10
  • Oregon Albacore Tuna Melt w/ olive oil, balsamic, Dijon, pickles, cheddar $9
  • Pork Belly Cubano with ham, Swiss, pickles and mustard $9
  • Roasted Asparagus with ricotta and green garlic aioli $8
  • Roast Chicken Salad with bacon and avocado $9
  • Pulled Pork with apple cabbage slaw, pickles and mustard $8
  • Sides – Red Beans & Rice $4, Potato Salad with Bacon & Egg, NY 1/2 Sour Pickles $2.50, Apple Cabbage Slaw $4.
  • A few small desserts like Whoopie pies, piehole, cupcakes and carrot cake

Bunk now has beer and a selection of sodas, iced tea, etc. Bunk Bar on Water Avenue has a full liquor license.

Breakfast sandwiches are simple: all variations on simple, buttery, flaky biscuits with egg or meat, always with cheese. There is a natural inclination to compare them to Pine State Biscuits, but you really can’t; they are two completely different breakfasts. I still go to both.

Sandwiches come with chips, and a small choice of sides is available. If you are really hungry, get at side of red beans and rice. Trust me on this. The bread is mostly from Greg Mistel’s Fleur di Lis Bakery.

Throwing myself on the grenade (how I suffer for you), I have tried four different sandwiches.

Bunk Sandwiches Chicken

Chicken Sandwich

The meatball Parmesan hero is quite simply the best version of this sandwich I’ve ever had. When I took my first bite, any doubts about another run-of-the-mill version were quickly abated. The meatballs were moist and full of flavor, yet they held together until the moment I bit down. At that point they simply melted away.  The bread is slightly toasted to stand up against the sauce, so it all holds together.  The sauce is flavorful  and herbaceous, without overpowering the meat. I couldn’t say anything to my dining partners; instead I just sat there with a big grin, wondering where the napkins were.

Salt cod, chorizo and olives, shows strong Spanish influences, the chorizo providing a spicy counterpoint to the fish. It may sound a bit strange, but this is one of the best, and unusual (for Portland,) sandwiches I’ve had this year.

An eggplant sandwich was perfect: roasted eggplant, red pepper, fresh mozzarella and basil, drizzled with fragrant olive oil and a bit of salt; substantive enough without being too heavy. This sandwich is a classic and beautifully done – the soft roasted vegetables melting into the fresh clean taste of the cheese and the olive oil, with whole basil leaves creating a wonderful aroma. It featured an East Coast style hoagie bun of the kind rarely found in these parts, soft but with enough heft and chew on the outside to keep the sandwich from falling apart.

I loved the porchetta, stuffed full of seasoned, moist pork belly and pork tenderloin, imbued with a nice smoky flavor and a hint of fennel. The addition of sautéed onions, brought this sandwich into perfect balance with the bread, neither one overwhelming the other, the ciabatta roll holding up well against the moisture of the filling.

Bunk Sandwiches

Roast Chicken Salad

Finally I’ve tried the roast beef, which comes on a Kaiser roll with sweet onions, cheddar, and tons of great, yet not overpowering horseradish. The beef was perfectly sliced an portioned. This is a sandwich that shows how much thought and care is being put into the ingredients, from the way the beef is sliced, to the heat of the horseradish.

Overall, I love Bunk. The sandwiches are large and far above average quality. A half sandwich is enough for a light appetite; the other half is great for a late afternoon snack. It is hard to imagine anyone who wouldn’t be happy with something on the menu here.

My only caveat is to go during off hours, since it gets very busy and the wait can be a bit long at the lunchtime peak. Tommy Habetz has a sure winner on his hands.

  • 621 Southeast Morrison Street  Portland, OR 97214  Map  (503) 477-9515
  • 211 SW 6th Ave, Portland OR. 97219  Map  (503) 972-8100
  • Bunk Bar – 1028 Southeast Water Avenue #130  Portland, OR 97214  Map (503) 894-9708. Note that Bunk Bar is a bar/live music venue, but has similar food.

Bunk Sandwiches on Urbanspoon

Your thoughts are welcome

  1. Pearl District says

    Bunk was closed on Saturday for building maintenance issues. I hope won’t be a regular thing. I love the place.

  2. says

    Yay, another meaty dive with veggie options! This will get my foodie friend up from Wilsonville for an adventure. The last one we had (Two Brothers) wasn’t as satisfying as we’d hoped.

  3. emily says

    Bunk is absolutely delicious! I’ve had both the Pork Cubano sandwich and the Roast Beef with Horseradish. They were both above and beyond any sandwich I’ve had elsewhere in Portland. Thank goodness Tommy Habetz has found his own place to shine again!

  4. DBChang says

    Although the sandwiches themselves were quite tasty if not a bit small (I left hungry after eating the porchetta), there is something missing from Bunk. I love my dives just as much as I love greasy grindy sandwiches, but there was an element of care, and dare I say love missing in their preparations. I sat at the counter and watched as mine and others were constructed in a sloppy and haphazard manner. The mise en place was cluttered and ingredients and condiments were spilling over into other containers. As a former chef I expect more refinement and technique, and wouldn’t be surprised if they get dinged a few points on their health inspection.

  5. Rodney says

    “The mise en place was cluttered and ingredients and condiments were spilling over into other containers. As a former chef I expect more refinement and technique”

    This is what I look for when I’m out for a sandwich also. I can’t stand it when the mise en place is f’d up when I’m watching my sandwich get made. That’s why I go to subway. Perfect mise and the best mother sauces to get squirted on at the end of the line.


    • Food Dude says

      I’ve got a better camera, but not one I can sneak shots with, without anyone noticing. That part isn’t easy.

  6. says

    I very much enjoyed my roasted eggplant, pepper and mozzarella sandwich. Food Dude is right about the Hoagie type bun – I’ve really missed those from the East Coast. Ah, the curse of being a chef. I have chef friends that can never sit at counters watching the kitchen action, it just drives them crazy seeing line cooks, etc. screw things up. Me? I don’t care as long as my food tastes good and I don’t see too many cockroaches.

  7. says

    The cockroach thing is a toughie. I guess I’m with Nancy. Also, I guess I’ve worked in enough restaurants of all kinds to know that vermin and bugs are simply part of the equation at some point (but hopefully not the food). That’s why health inspection reports, cleanliness (and keeping food safely stored) is so crucial. The stories I could tell…

  8. pdx_yogi says

    4 years ago at King’s Chinese Bakery on Canyon Rd I saw 3 roaches on the wall. Never returned, not even to their new SE 82nd location.

  9. says

    Tried to eat at Bunk (for the first time) yesterday; line out the door and we had to no time. Went to Meat Cheese Bread instead; very nice flank steak sandwich; will try breakfast burrito (with hash browns enfolded!) next.

  10. foodrebel says

    I went to Meat Cheese Bread last saturday as Bunk was closed. I had that flank steak sandwich and it was not that good. I mean it was good, but big lack of salt and only 2 small pieces of blue cheese and the bread was so-so. No comparison to Bunk…

    • mary says

      Meat Cheese Bread is great! They have the best egg sandwich and a sweet little area to grab a table. I went to Bunk last week, the line was so long and I ended up waiting 20 minutes for a to go sandwich. The sandwich was good but not worth the wait.

  11. stuart says

    I think Meat Cheese Bread is okay. Bunk is amazing, though it’s true that the wait can be excessive…but totally worth it.

  12. Eves says

    “That’s why health inspection reports, cleanliness (and keeping food safely stored) is so crucial.”

    I don’t think that place got a building permit which means it is unlikely they got a sign off from the Heath Department – exposed bulbs over the kitchen and the extreme condensation (due to lack of mechanical ventilation) on the front windows are a dead giveaway. On a recent visit I noticed an exposed plumbing trap from the apartment above dripping onto the work area counter.

    I have been there several times despite the lack of Building Department and Health department sign off. I am put off by the fact that they did not receive these sign offs though – it leaves a bad taste even when the sandwiches are so good.

    • Food Dude says

      Actually, a quick check on the internet shows they did get inspected, and passed everything. Health department score was a 91.

  13. quo vadis says

    Thank you Food Dude, for correcting some very irresponsible talk of a venue’s health score.
    Really people, do you not know how much damage you can do?
    It is easy to check the health scores online. If you haven’t bothered to check what you are saying can only be construed as having ill intent.

    Stuff spilling into other stuff?
    If it is served up top (where people can see this)we can surmise we are speaking of veggies meant to be served ready to eat spilling into other veggies ready to eat. Or meats which to get an A rating they would have had to have ready to serve meats only with other ready to serve meats.

  14. Truth2 says

    Another quick check on the internet also shows that they did not receive a Commercial Building Permit… although the new bar next to them apparently did. They actually don’t even meet the simple requirements of the ADA code.
    Now this doesn’t affect the taste or quality of their food…but it puts establishments that actually operate within the law at a disadvantage, as there are additional up-front costs.

    I’m glad to hear they passed their health inspections…but I also saw the exposed drain pipes dripping into the kitchen last week…and precariously close to the open tub of pork belly on the counter.

  15. quo vadis says

    “Permit… although the new bar next to them apparently did. They actually don’t even meet the simple requirements of the ADA code.”

    1)those requirements have no share in the realm of “simple” – I promise on my life the day you open a venue you will eat your words
    2)(not knowing what this place was before) if this place was a pre-existing service operation they could be grandfathered. I wonder if you have any inkling of just how CRAZY expensive Portland makes it to be ADA code here.
    3)disclosure-I am the owner of an establishment that is grandfathered due to historic site status
    4) MY GOD PEOPLE how hard do you really want it to be to make it possible to own a business that PROVIDES JOBS and PAYS LOTS LOTS LOTS of taxes? (taxes that can be used to provide services to disabled persons)

    I like this site, but I think that ingnorant speculation by people with no insight as to ways, means, fees and operation are doing MANY people a GROSS injustice.

    Many businesses could never afford (especially now that loans are unavailable) to become ADA even if they wanted to.
    If these places were told to become ADA or shut down they would shut down.
    1) loss of jobs, causing more joblessness since there are not enough new jobs to be had
    2) where the F***& would the money to support the disabled come from now that all these businesses are gone and tax paying employees out of work???

    They got a 91 people, they were inspected. Could we for the love of anything STOP trying to make them look bad for existing in a matter BENEFICIAL to the public good?

  16. Pearl District says

    Yeah, why are you guys doing this? Tommy is an amazing, honest, and hardworking guy who went through all the right hoops to get this going. He truly is the salt of the earth.

  17. truth says

    First of all I know a lot about what it takes to make a restaurant ADA compliant, as designing restaurants is something I do on a pretty regular basis. But thanks to quo vadis for the assumptions. I also know that the space Bunk is located in was a sandwich shop previously, but not anything like it is now. There are man things that make a space ADA compliant, and access into the building is only one. In that regards they are compliant. But the fact that the ordering counter and seating isn’t compliant is a problem. The codes exist to make everything equal for the handicap…the fact that Tommy is a great guy and that his sandwiches kick ass doesn’t make it ok for his establishment to not meet these codes. Had he gotten a building permit and been inspected properly by a building official, this would have come to light. I am not trying to imply he did this with malicious intent. It’s just a point of contention that some people have.

    To quo vadis… “I like this site, but I think that ingnorant speculation by people with no insight as to ways, means, fees and operation are doing MANY people a GROSS injustice.” Some of us actually do have a very good understanding of what we are commenting on…perhaps you are the “ignorant” one. Your arguments for why businesses shouldn’t be required to meet the LAWS set forth by the building department are outdated, and misinformed.

  18. Pearl District says

    Truth: wouldn’t it be better to approach a restaurateur in a more private manner than broadcasting your opinions (however informed they indeed may be) on a such a public forum?

  19. Truth2 says

    pearl…couldn’t the same be said for all of the subjective food comments on this site. Wouldn’t it be best, if we didn’t like a certain establishments food or service, to simply tell the owner, and not publish it on a blog?

  20. Eves says

    Whoa. I didn’t mean to start such a controversy. I was responding to earlier comments about messy mise en place and thought it would be prudent to note that the establishment did not get a building permit and heath department pre-approval to build the space – this is different than the health department score which does not assess the safety of the space but rather the food preparation – which obviously is very good at 91.

    I do think it is fair to note that Tommy may be “the salt of the earth” and contributing greatly to culinary quality in this City, but just because you are doing a good thing doesn’t mean you can skirt the laws and codes governing the build-out of spaces. I too have a lot of experience in this area and know that often the strict building codes and excessive SDC fees can prevent businesses from opening at all. However, these are the rules and they are there for people’s safety and to help prevent business owners from incurring lawsuits from disabled people who cannot access the space like everyone else (the ADA requirements are not local building codes, but national law). Even ‘grandfathered” in spaces must still meet current safety, egress and ADA codes as feasible. There are plenty of great chefs out there that have great spaces that are in compliance with the building codes. If all new restaurants were to contribute to the permit and SDC fees, they may not be so high and then maybe more great places & job opportunities would be able to open.

    I like the sandwiches there and will without a doubt be going back for more. I think the popularity of Bunk will not be determined by comments on this blog, but rather the quality of the product – which so far is amazing.

  21. says

    Hi Everyone! This is Truth here, the one who has been commenting on this site (and for years. ExtraMSG told me I was causing quite a storm over on PF&D and I told him I had no idea what he was talking about…. so I came over here and noticed that someone other than me is using the name “Truth” over here. Just wanted to let Food Dude, Quo, and whoever has been riled up over here know that it wasn’t me posting. Cheers and happy new year.

  22. Food Dude says

    I went here today and had a great pork belly Cubano. It’s still as popular as ever, and as they are settling in, I think the sandwiches are even better. You still leave smelling like the grill, though.

  23. PestoGal says

    Is there a place to sit inside the restaurant? I know things are nuts during lunchtime, but what time do things calm down a bit? (Obviously this is ballpark–I want to know if the wait will be more than 20 minutes or so if I go around 2.)

  24. Live To Eat says

    “Sit in the back next to the stacks of bread, and you’ll know what I mean” haha! been there! Now that Bunk Bar is open for lunch it makes it much easier to get a seat. I had one of the best Bahn Mi’s, ever, at Bunk Bar. The roasted chicken salad is amazing!!

  25. lina says

    Saw this on DDD, so we had to go…I would say ok…wasn’t really impressed. Very little meat on sandwiches, bread way to crispy for my taste. Disappointed..

  26. foodrebel says

    Quality ingredients are expensive. I’ll gladly pay more money when I know the food is well sourced. It cost more money as well to produce better food. Bunk produces quality stuff and I can taste it. And the couple times I was there, I had no problems with portion size. Maybe next time you can ask to “Supersize” it…
    I’m sure they’ll do great.

  27. Somnus says

    Bunk is amazing, and no comments about the ADA, or the health BS will deter me from going here 2-3 times a week. Everyone that has that big of an issue with all the rhetoric I’ve been reading here, can mosey over to that place with the big gold arches (I’m sure they’ve had all the proper inspections, and I’m sure you can get your wheelchair in there) and allow me to move up in line…I think I’ll have a pork belly Reuben today.

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