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Sep 25, 2006 04:35 PM

In PDX, "Pacific Northwest" food?

We have a friend visiting from out of town, and we have taken her to several of our favorite chowhound places over the last few days. Tonight, she says: "I want Pacific Northwest Food!" Now, we have already been to Jake's, which is more an institution than "PNW" food. And honestly, I don't really know what PNW food is or means. I thought Wildwood, but I think that is just because I read something that said they use local ingredients, not the same as PNW food, or is it? So, any thoughts on what this means, and any places where to get it. We are somewhat price sensitive and would prefer not too expensive, but if it has to be pricier to get it, we'll do it. Thanks Chowhounds!

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  1. There is no PNW food in the sense that there is Chicago food (eg, deep dish, hot dog, Italian beef), or NY food (eg, pizza, deli, etc). Some of have joked that the closest thing would be the ubiquitous salad with blue cheese, hazelnuts, and dried fruit. Or maybe cedar-planked salmon, although I think it gets mentioned more than it gets cooked.

    It's really about New American style food with PNW ingredients: wild mushrooms, salmon, lamb, berries, hazelnuts, squash, mussels, apples, and so on. There are a couple threads on the subject, this one being one of the more extensive:

    I think the best three doing this in Portland are Wildwood, Park Kitchen, and clarklewis. However, no restaurant is more local than Higgins. I just don't like the food as much. Most decent restaurants use a fair amount of local and seasonal ingredients, though, so look also to places like Paley's and Castagna for higher than average uses.

    Portland Dining Guide and Tipsheet

    1 Reply
    1. re: extramsg

      Hey, some of us do like Higgins. I think they stood out as very local when they first started and not so many restaurants were doing a lot of local food, but now there are more places offering very local food.

      I would add Fife to your list--they definitely don't do NW regional cuisine, but with the exception of citrus and spices, the ingredients are all local. Navarre uses pretty local stuff as well.

    2. You know, I've often wondered about this...what is a quintessentially 'Portland', or 'Northwest' dish? You could do worse than asking your guests what food they think is emblematically Northwest. But failing that, the Pacific Northwest is pretty well known for coffee, and for microbrewed beer. So I suppose you could make a case for a really good brewpub.

      I don't know that there's a PDX style of food, so much as a PDX style of restaurant. The small, casual, unpretentiously artisanal, ownwer/chef run, slightly quirky sort of place you find on every third block in Puddletown is something of a rarity in other cities. Sure, they exist other places, but like brewpubs, they are not nearly so profuse nor quite so wi(l)dly divergent. For a truly 'Portland' experience, I'd say, take 'em too Bridgeport, and buy 'em a pizza nad pint(s) of Blue Heron on tap. Unforgettable.

      1 Reply
      1. re: PDXpat

        A good point, though Bridgeport? I'd suggest places like Le Pigeon, Apizza Scholls, Pambiche, and a certain place I can't name.

      2. It's tangential to the original question, but the one local food variant that seems to be an Oregon creation along the lines of Chicago vs NY pizza/hotdog/etc (although I'm sure others will dispute it) is the "farmer's burger": a cheeseburger with bacon, ham, and a fried egg on it.

        3 Replies
        1. re: jeff_pdx

          i agree about the "farmer's burger." i had never heard of such a thing until i moved here. (and this is coming from chicago, great city of meat...)

          1. re: jeff_pdx

            I'm not sure about the ham, bacon, and fried egg, but a burger with fried egg and bacon is pretty widespread.

            1. re: extramsg

              Though it wasn't known as a Farmer's Burger, I was eating burgers with bacon, ham, and egg as early as 1991 in San Diego. At the Naval Training Center bowling alley, this item was known as a "Pelican Burger." It cost 4.25 with fries and drink.

          2. Pambiche?

            Cuban cuisine as Pacific Northwest Cuisine?

            Great desserts. But entrees are not so great. Never been a fan of Cuban cuisine, though.