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May 22, 2000 10:08 AM

Visiting Portland & driving to Joseph

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In June we're spending a Saturday night in Portland and then driving six hours east to Joseph, OR, driving back and spending a Friday night in Portland before flying out on Saturday.
Any suggestions for some fun places with good food in Portland? We're open to about anything. Dinner, Lunch and the best coffee shops to hang out in.
We'd like to pack a lunch and snacks for the trip east. Can you recommend a gourmet grocery store where we could get some yummy stuff to take along?
Also, any suggestions for places to stop for food along the way would be great.
Last of all, if you have any suggestions for what we must do or see in Portland, that would be great.
I know I am asking a lot, especially since it doesn't look like there are many Oregonians on this site!! Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

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  1. Valerie,

    Here are some ideas for you trip....the area code for all of these is personal favorite is Genoa.

    Portland’s restaurants used to be a great bargain compared to other cities (even Seattle and SF), but we’ve seen some menu price creep in the last few years. The dollar signs are a general guide for comparison...$ means you can probably eat a nice meal (appetizer or salad, entree, dessert, glass of wine) for about $25-35 per head...more $$$ means just that.

    There’s not much in the way of civilization once you get past the Columbia River Gorge towns of Hood River and The Dalles (60-90 minutes out of Ptld). I recommend taking enough food from town for the drive (and maybe bring something good for your family...while it’s been a few years since I’ve been there, Joseph is probably still a meat-and-potatoes spot).

    Pendleton probably has some good local cafes, but I don’t have any first-hand tips for where to eat. Remember that most of Oregon is very rural, and especially once you get away from Portland and the Willamette Valley, you won’t find anything too exotic. You might find some great, all-American food, but you’d have a spend some time talking to the locals.


    Greg Higgins combines a commitment to sustainable agriculture with a classic approach at his namesake restaurant (Higgins, 1239 SW Broadway, 222-9070). The salmon will be line-caught, the salad greens organically grown, and it will all taste wonderful (Higgins especially loves charcuterie, so check for any terrines, forcemeats, or pates). $$

    For the best and largest seafood selection in town, hit the original Jake’s Famous Crawfish (401 SW 12th, 226-1419; don’t confuse it with Jake’s Grill in the Governor Hotel, an inferior and smoke-filled poor relation). Check out the daily fresh sheet for specials, but take a hard look at the regular menu, too. The Stark Street sturgeon is a signature dish, and if you haven’t had fresh Columbia River sturgeon before, don’t pass it up. $$


    Cory Schrieber, prodigal son of famous Oyster Bar family, opened Wildwood (1221 NW 21st, 248-9663) a couple of years back...very good, lots of local products, lots of flavor. $$

    Basta’s (410 NW 21st, 274-1572) reflects the Tuscan upbringing of owner Marco Fraterelli. Don’t pass up the sweetbreads appetizer or calamari in any form (Marco says Oregon’s squid are the best he’s ever tasted). $

    Tapeo (2764 NW Thurman, 226-0409) is Ricardo Segura homage to his hometown of Barcelona. Tapas only, great Spanish wines, really, really good. $$

    Across the river

    When Marcella Hazan ate at Genoa (2832 SE Belmont, 238-1464) a couple of years back, she declared her dinner “one of the 5 best” meals she’d eaten in North America. For 25 years Genoa has ranked as one of the very best restaurants in Portland, and the 7-course prix fixe meal is served at an unhurried pace that lets you enjoy every morsel. Call right now for a reservation. $$$

    Caprial Pence seems to be everywhere these days, but the best place to see her is at Caprial’s Bistro (7015 SE Milwaukie, 236-7015) where she and husband John serve their own brand of downhome northwest fusion. $$

    You’ll have to go back to Dallas to find anything even close to Esparza’s Tex Mex Cafe (2725 Southeast Ankeny, corner 28th, 234-7909), where Joe and Martha serve the Texas Ranger (pork loin stuffed with ostriche, buffalo, and nopalitos) and other derivatives of Joe’s mom’s cooking. Go early, because the line forms at 6, but it’s worth the wait. $$

    In the same neighborhood, chef Eugen Bingham’s Il Piato (2348 SE Ankeny, 236-4997) offers Italian classics cooked to order. Be sure to finish with an unusual polenta tiramisu. $$

    La Catalana (2821 SE Stark, 232-0948) is Portland’s original purveyor of the food of Spain. Musclos gratinats may be one of the best things you’ll ever eat. The plump shellfish are broiled on the half-shell, between a spinach mousse and a dollop of garlicky smooth aoili (spelled allioli in Espanol). The aoili acquires a nice brown glaze, the mussels are firm but not overcooked, and the mild spinach provides a balancing counterpoint. $$

    Road Food

    The best:
    At Ken’s Home Plate (1852 SE Hawthorne, 236-9520) the chicken pot pie looks just like those frozen ones, but the crust is buttery and slightly sweet, and fresh mushrooms and leeks replace the peas and carrots. Beef, veal, and porcini mushrooms constitute the Tuscan meatloaf, flavored with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and garlic and a great picnic item, especially paired with crispy baked garlic-potato cakes. A lasagna layers fresh pasta with spinach, caramelized onions, roasted peppers, and mozzarella, ricotta, and pecorino cheeses.

    Other good sources for the road..., Elephant’s Delicatessan, City Market, Pastaworks (check the phone book for address & telephone)


    2 Replies
    1. re: Jim Dixon

      I tried three of the places suggested and they were all good!

      La Catalana was our first stop. Everyone must try the mussels - delicious. Another outstanding entree was a game hen dish that was out of this world. We found the squid appetizer was cooked to perfection - tender, but very garlicly (and I like garlic). Just be aware. The desserts were good, not memorable. To top it all off, this place was quite inexpensive.

      Higgins was more expensive, but a very cool place with fantastic food and service. I had a lovely cold asparagus and spinach soup. The striped bass (or rockfish) special was great and the dessert was out of this world. I had an amazing strawberry/rhubarb (being from PA I would call it a half-moon pie, but whatever) with rosepetal ice cream. My husband went for the salad and salmon - simple and delectable.

      Caprial's Bistro has a different telephone number than mentioned in Jim's review. It was about the same price range as Higgins so I can't help but do a little comparing and it just didn't quite hit the mark with me like Higgins did. The decor is nice and the food is quite good, but it didn't wow me. They seem to try a little too hard with the food somehow and I do like fusion (whatever the definition of that is).

      Thanks for the great suggestions!

      1. re: Valerie

        Caprial's remodeled since I wrote the review, and I should've double-checked the number...if you're headed to Portland and want to sample the food of our very own TV celebrity, call (503) 236-6457 for a reservation.

        I'd have to agree with Valerie...Higgins is better (one of the best places in town).