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What Portland does better than SF...

Hi. I'll be heading up to Portland from SF this weekend, and I've been perusing the board and the tip sheet. I had already figured that regional, local cuisine, seafood, and beer/wine would be good bets, but it seems that it's also a brunch and doughnut town.

For my nice dinner, I'm considering Paley's Place, Park Kitchen, or Le Pigeon. I'm also going to try to hit the farmer's market on Saturday. For brunch, Simpatica, Le Pigeon, Roux, or___.

My question, is what else can I eat/drink that will make me think, "Yep, this is what Portland does way better than SF." Should I skip certain ethnic foods in lieu of what i get in SF? Also, favorite brewery or food related tours/factories are also of interest to me. I also like all things spicy. I'm staying at the Jupiter Hotel, thanks for any advice.

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  1. If you're at the Jupiter, then Le Pigeon would seem to be a must (more or less across the street). I've lived both in PDX and SFO, and, with the exception of microbreweries, I can't think of anything we do better than you. All the "hip" eateries are just SF wannabes, IMHO. Not most ethnic, and certainly not Mexican or Chinese. That said, there is a Korean restaurant that you would not be disappointed by, called Bewon, not far from Paley's Place. Search it here. I don't recall good Korean in SF, and if there was, it was still nothing like this place. Also good up here are comfort food places of a sort that SF is too hip to have. Most notable in that regard (off the top of my head) would be Ken's Place in S.E. and the Original Pancake House on S.W. Barbur. And Apizza Scholls on S.E. Hawthorne has better pies than anywhere in the Bay Area (with the possible exception of upstairs at the Cheese Penis, but even then, different kind o' pie).

    1. The problem you're going to have is that Portland isn't that different from SF. If you're coming from NY or Chicago or Atlanta, it'd be an easier question to answer.

      I agree with Purefog's suggestions, especially Apizza Scholls. And Bewon if you get the fixed price dinner. There are some other similar places (eg, Pambiche, Andina) that perhaps you don't have something that quite compares. I don't know.

      But you can get stuff from places that is as good as SF in many cuisines now, including Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican, and even Indian, but your options are going to be much more limited and the dishes are going to be much more limited. We don't have the breadth of SF. And you won't find the truly high end dining options here that you'll find in the bay area.

      Expect places more like Zuni or Cafe Chez Panisse. That's the sort of place that Le Pigeon is, but even smaller and more casual and intimate with the chef visible at all times. There are several other places like this doing moderately interesting food with local ingredients and old school techniques. Although they seem to borrow from each other a lot. (Who DOESN'T have a bacon dessert on their menu right now in town?)

      What do we do really well? A little of everything. The Portland Farmers Market and other markets. Plus, pretty darn good food at a better value. Our most expensive places average probably $27 for an entree and $9 for an app. Places like Le Pigeon, Park Kitchen, clarklewis, and Alberta St Oyster Bar are comparable in food quality and interest, but more casual and generally closer to $19 for an entree. (But the portions are usually smaller, too.)

      4 Replies
      1. re: extramsg

        OK, I'm feeling particularly anal retentive today, but those prices didn't seem quite accurate to me. I did some research on the web to get average entree prices, and the ones I found were:

        Le Pigeon: $18
        Alberta St: $20
        Park Kitchen: $23
        clarklewis: $29

        I didn't include burgers or tasting menus. clarklewis hits that high end mostly because of they offer a beef rib eye at $39. I also didn't factor in the five pasta offerings there each at $17, or the smaller sizes available for the entrees. If you were watching your budget it would actually be possible to get the smaller serving sizes at clarklewis, but you'd have to have some self-control to do that.

        1. re: Nettie

          If you factor in that you can get "large" portions of all the starters for an average of about $12, then their "average", if we're going to be anal, even goes lower. But with clarklewis having those "small" entrees at about $19 or $20 each, I think what I said is true. I haven't had any of the entrees since the ripe debacle, only a bunch of things off the rest of the menu, but in my past experience, the "small" size entrees were similar to the portions of places like Alberta St, Park Kitchen, and Le Pigeon. They're not exactly the same, but they're closer in both price and portion than places like Paley's, Wildwood, and Bluehour.

          I really don't think you save much money going to these seemingly less expensive places. You just get to taste more dishes for an equal belly filling or are helped in controlling your appetite. But then, I think they're doing comparable work and in some ways better work than the seemingly more expensive places.

          1. re: extramsg

            I don't think I communicated this well in my last posting, but what was interesting about the clarklewis menu is how many options you have. If you want to spend a lot, you can get a foie gras starter and the rib eye for a total of $56, or you can get a salad and a small pasta for a total of $19, and still have plenty to eat. This makes it pretty difficult to do an apples-to-apples comparison with the other places you mentioned.

            1. re: Nettie

              I see what you're saying. One thing to note: Park Kitchen does their dishes in two sizes as well. Though I'm not sure they do so with entrees, possibly only with their small plates.

      2. I'd do Simpatica for brunch and Le Pigeon for dinner. You could reverse that and be just as happy but that would be my preference.
        Definitely Apizza Sholls.
        I'd skip restaurants like Ken's Place. It's mostly for locals who are too tired to cook the same thing at home. I'd be pretty disappointed to travel from another state and eat there.

        1. Paley's for sure.
          Apizza Scholls, or Ken's Artisan pizza would also be a good choice.
          Don't miss the Farmers' Mkt downtown Saturday. There are many entries here that list specific vendors, so just scroll down for other threads.

          SF has Recchiuti, but don't miss Alma or Sahagun chocolates. Both have shops. Each owner has her own unique vision. The latter makes the best hot chocolate I've ever had.

          Here's my list of goodies from another site (PFM=Pdx Farmer's Mkt):
          Chocolate Crostatta, Southpark
          Green papaya salad, Pok2
          Cobbler, & Pita (freshbaked!) Sandwiches , Tastebud Farms (the brick oven at PFM)
          Charentais melon, Gathering Together Farms(PFM)
          Ginger truffle, Alma Chocolate
          Sour cherry & filbert bark, Sahagun
          Margherita pizza, Ken's Artisan
          Seasonal shake, Burgerville
          Tarts, Monica's (PFM)
          Ice Cream Sandwich, Ruby Jewel Treats (PFM/some stores)
          Filberts & Liberty Apples, La Mancha Orchards (PFM)
          Pain au chocolat, St Honore Boulangerie


          1. i moved here from the bay area (oakland) last year, and here's what i like about Portland that I didn't find in the bay area:

            Breakfast. Genies, at SE 11th and Division, gets busy on weekends so get there early. Excellent roasted potatoes, and most of the meats are locally cured. Try the Tasso Benedict.

            High-quality, low-key creative cuisines.
            --My favorite restaurant in all Portland is Navarre (E 28th, just above Burnside) for a wonderful and intrepid array of dishes focusing on local bounty.
            --Valentine's, on SW Ankeny between 2nd and 3rd, is a sort of panini boutique. Excellent little sandwiches, using local and natural meat and produce.
            --Burgerville. Our local version of In n' Out, with excellent real-ice-cream shakes, and naturally raised beef in the burgers! Try the Rogue blue cheese burger (talk them into it if it's not on the menu). I know, it's weird to have a fast food recommendation, I wouldn't go out of your way, but if you are needing a quick bite and you find a B-ville, give it a try.
            --Le Pigeon is an example of this style, though they're on the pricey end of it. As someone mentioned, you ought to try it since you're half a block away.

            Donuts. You're right about your hunch on this. PDX does donuts in ways that I never even dreamed of, and that I don't think you can find in SF. Staccato Gelato makes excellent donuts on the weekend. On E 28th, a few blocks north of Burnside. Try the Fairy Princess and the Triple Ginger, oh, and the Applesauce. Get there early and they're warm from the oven. There's also Voodoo donuts, which are pretty good but more about the novelty than the donut imho. But if you are at Valentine's, Voodoo is right around the corner on 3rd.

            Probably the biggest thing I have noticed about Portland is the sweets. I never even ate dessert until we moved here. No one mentioned Pix yet (did they?) but it's worth a visit (SE 34th and DIvision), and get the St Honore, a sort of candied cream puff, served only on weekends. Or try the beer float with Rogue chocolate stout and vanilla ice cream.

            I haven't found any ethnic that stands up to the bay area, though I also haven't really looked too hard.... The medium-priced bistros and smaller places, with interesting cuisines made with local bounty, have become our treasured regular haunts.

            Oh yeah, and I second, or third, Apizza Scholls.

            4 Replies
            1. re: patrick

              Pix is a fun rec, but I prefer the N. Portland location at Failing and Williams. Bigger and less crowded with more options.

              1. re: patrick

                Regarding the early morning donuts at Staccato: Sorry, of course I meant warm from the DEEP FRYER, not the oven. Oh yes.

                I didn't know the Pix up north had more options, I will have to check it out. The problem is, the Division Pix is about six minutes walk from my house, and that's after a nice homemade supper . . . if you follow me.

                1. re: patrick

                  It could just be the appearance of more options, but they have bigger cases and there seems to be more desserts and chocolates. One thing that does annoy me about Pix, though, is that on occasion I get a dessert that seems to have been sitting around for a while. The macaroons can go stale quickly and they're something I tend to never get anywhere unless I know they're fresh. But other items can be a little stale as well. eg, I had an opera cake the other night where the layers that should be crisp were just stiff and bendy, while the mousse layers were too dense. However, the Amelie that we also had was terrific. A couple of the chocolates' ganaches weren't creamy, a little dry and crumbly. Things like that. But when the stuff is on it's great. And the desserts aren't cheap, but cheaper than restaurant desserts.

                  Ultimately, though, I just put this in the "typical Portland" column. Consistency is not one of our strong suits. And for the most part, the Pix's desserts are tasty and interesting.

                  1. re: extramsg

                    So true about freshness problems at Pix. I had something that had a rancid nut in it.

              2. Can't get decent pinot in CA, so also check out pinot noir/blanc/gris if you love wine. Go through wine country in Yamhill or Washington County. Best sake made in the US is from Sake One (Momokawa).

                1 Reply
                1. re: Leonardo

                  By all means, spread the word.... tourists avoid Santa Ynez, Edna Valley, the Russian River, and Anderson Valley, there's nothing worth drinking there. ;>P

                  1. re: Candice

                    Hey Candice, it's probably too late (unless you have a laptop wiht you) but you have gotten many good suggestions. I hope you made it to Simpatica, Apizza Scholls, and Sahagun. These are places that I think would even stand out in your city. I saw that someone suggetsted Ken's Place and Orig Pancake House, but I really don't understand why people are so enamored with these restaurants. I would think that most chowhounders are fairly decent cooks, and these places really don't serve any more than what anyone with an OK cookbook and a little patience could do on their own. Maybe these people don't find it odd to be paying $18 or whatever the hell they charge for fried chicken at Ken's. Anyway, please let us know how the trip turned out.

                    1. re: joe s.

                      "these places really don't serve any more than what anyone with an OK cookbook and a little patience could do on their own."

                      This is a statement that's rarely NOT true about any restaurant and usually says more about the tastes of the person saying it than about the food being cooked.

                  2. Check out Alexis for terrific Greek food. It has been there forever and it's still great.

                    215 West Burnside Street

                    1. Interested in ethnic food? Pho Van has extremely good Vietnamese; the SE 82nd location is (was?) cheaper than the Pearl District. And I tend to fetishize Mucho Gusto's tacos de cabeza.

                      As another writer correctly notes, Burgerville has great food -- especially the sweet-potato fries, which should be in season soon if not already.

                      1. Burgerville: I think sweet potato fries are more of a fall thing.

                        Current shake is blackberry, but that could change anyday to huckleberry!

                        1. I don't know the scene for middle eastern foods in the bay area, but I lived in Michigan and ate lots of Lebanese. Still I was unprepared for Karam (downtown on Stark, just off Burnside) when I moved west. This place puts the food on entirely new level. The breads alone are fantastic, but wait til you eat your way through the rest of the menu. It is basically comfort food, but also memorable. I don't remember the names of the dishes, but the main course with a layer of eggplant at the bottom and lamb and other goodies on top is superb. I also like the hot mashed garbanzo appetizer. But you can't go wrong picking at random either.

                          1. Maybe this list will help. It's a comparison between San Franciso and Portland that I wrote a while ago.

                            Gordon Biersch Brewery = Bridgeport Brewery
                            San Francisco Brewing Company = Widmer Brothers Gasthaus
                            Mad Dog in the Fog = Horse Brass
                            Pelican Inn = Walking Man Brewing Company
                            North Beach Pizza = Hot Lips Pizza
                            Giorgio’s Pizza = Accuardi's Old Town Pizza Co
                            Golden Boy Pizza = Vincente's Gourmet Pizza
                            Tomatina = Pizzacato
                            Pizzetta 211 = Apizza Scholls
                            El Toro/Pancho Villa = Cha Cha Cha
                            Udupi Palace Sunnyvale = Udupi Palace Seattle
                            Bay Bread = Pearl Bakery
                            The Pasta Shop = Pastaworks
                            Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market = PSU Saturday Farmer’s Market
                            Michael Rechutti = Sahagun
                            Point Reyes Blue Cheese= Rogue Creamery Blue Cheese
                            Sharfenberger = Dagoba
                            California Cabernet = Oregon Pinot Noir

                            1. I know this thread is not "What Portland does not do better than SF", but does any place in Portland do burritos that are equivalent in style and quality to Mission style burritos? The kind that would rate at least 7.5 mustaches:


                              1 Reply
                              1. re: jeff_pdx

                                I'm afraid not! The closest I've found is Tres Hermanos truck on N. Killingsworth at Denver (across from DiPrima Dolci).

                                Taco del Mar advertises Mission Style, but I think they taste a little like dog food (sorry)!

                              2. "Maybe this list will help. It's a comparison between San Franciso and Portland that I wrote a while ago"

                                Must say that's a damn fine comparison list netphemera.......mmmmmmm pancho villa

                                kim @ apizza

                                1. Yeah, that fabulous taco truck reminds me that placesa like that might not be very plentiful in SF. You could do worse than hitting that truck for some killer tacos.

                                  Also, you ain't gonna find a Voodoo Donut in SF either. Definitely check it out. I recommend the Blazer Blunt.

                                  Oh, and one more comparison, Netphemera:

                                  Graffeo's = Stumptown

                                  A cuppa stumptown inside Voodoo with a coupla choice 'nuts and you are nowhere else but the City of Roses.

                                  1. Hit up Le Pigeon over Paley's Place. It is literally a stones throw from your hotel; that is if you can throw one block. The chef is hip, young, passionate and puts a nice twist on everything he touches. Not to knock Paileys Place but you will be happy. Two words. Beef Cheeks. Oh my god. Yumm. Sit at the counter if you want to learn a little about the ballet of a kitchen.
                                    Stump town coffee. Best in the west.
                                    Enjoy our fair city. Mind the bikers and the pedestrians. They DO have the right of way.