Sushi Takahashi is one of my favorite Sushi restaurants in the Portland, Oregon area. It is located on the edge between downtown and Old Town just off of Burnside across from Burger King and one block down from the North Park Blocks, at 24 NW Broadway. The restaurant is open M-F 11a-2p for lunch and 5p-9p for dinner, and Saturday Noon-3p for lunch and 5p-9p for dinner. The phone number is (503) 224-3417. Prices run $1-$3 for each plate of sushi, except on Wednesday night and all day Saturday, when almost everything goes for the special price of $1.25/plate (sorry, no cheap unagi or hamachi.)
Sushi Takahashi is a fast food sushi restaurant, in the same vein as those with plates of sushi going around the bar on a conveyor belt or in boats (for an example of the former, visit Marinepolis Sushi Land in the suburb of Beaverton). Sushi Takahashi, however, is unusual: the plates sit on a model train that makes its way around the bar, from which customers snatch whatever their fishy little hearts may desire. Sure, there is table seating as well, but the novelty of the train at the bar is definitely worth a wait if only table space is available; the wait at peak times can be as long as about 20-30 minutes, but is usually under 15. When you sit, a waiter will bring you water and offer you other drinks (e.g. green tea, sapporo beer), miso soup, or one of a small collection of unremarkable yakisoba dishes. You can then help yourself to nigiri and norimaki, as well as assorted side dishes, directly from the train. If you don't see something you want coming on the train, you can order it directly from the assorted friendly sushi chefs behind the bar. Wasabi and gari At the end of the meal, a waiter counts your plates of sushi, marked for price by color, and tallies up your bill. Cash and credit cards are accepted.
Beyond the sheer fun of picking your sushi off of a train, which would by itself warrant a visit to the restaurant, the quality and value of the food is remarkable. While the sushi does not match up to the more expensive sushi restaurants in the area (such as the impeccable Ichidai on SE Powell Blvd.), the quality is very good and is comparable to places that cost twice as much. One can get a good meal of sushi for $5-7 (excluding drinks) during a special price time (see top), but I usually take advantage of the low prices to stuff myself for about $8-10, and walk out with a belly about to explode and the happiest tongue in the world.
I highly recommend starting your meal with a bowl of the miso soup. The salmon nigiri is always excellent: melty and flavorful. The glorious and amusingly named tako salad has no crunchy corn shell; rather, it consists of a vinegared cucumber salad topped with flavorful and marginally rubbery red chunks of octopus tentacle (tako). It looks funny but is tasty—try it at least once. Classic california rolls are abundantly available and typically enjoyable. The tamago is sweet, salty, eggy, and beautiful. Not particularly Japanese oddities such as fruit salad and pork or red bean hum bao are available and worth a try. Cucumber rolls, shinko (pickled radish rolls), veggie rolls, and several other completely meatless items make this restaurant a viable option for vegetarians.
The cheap rates on Wednesday evening and all day Saturday provide a good reason to go at those times, both for you and for the crowds of other people who love the restaurant. Avoid the lunch rush by arriving at 1 or 1:30, or just sit around and wait; it shouldn't take too long. If you are around for closing time, you may even be lucky enough to listen to some Wesley Willis as the wait staff cleans up as you sit on your stool, munching on toro and admiring the kitchy cartoon drawings of fish on the walls.