LA Hound's First Visit to Portland
Hi all. Visiting Portland for the first time next month.
Any great places I should eat to get the best of Portland (on a budget)? I love wine, beer and pacific northwest food (in theory). My wife likes Thai, Vietnamese, and Mexican food.
Also, any wineries worth checking out?
What kind of budget? Where will you be?
PNW cuisine is really a fine dining cuisine like California cuisine, so it's difficult to find anything truly cheap that's uniquely PNW. However, you'll see things like local salmon and mussels on a lot of menus. There are a lot of pubs in town and several of them have very good food, including things like salmon.
A lot of the best ethnic restaurants aren't very near the center of town. The best Asian food is along the far east side of town. The best Mexican food is in the suburbs. There are midscale restaurants more centrally located, though. But entrees will be as much as $20 at these places.
A notable exception is Pok Pok which isn't too far east of the river and should be able to impress even someone from LA.
If I was on a tight budget, but wanted exceptional food, I would make sure I hit Apizza Scholls and Pok Pok. I'd also look at Fire on the Mountain. And since I love Mexican, I'd travel for Ochoa and/or Tortilleria y Tienda de Leon. And for Vietnamese I'd get to the outskirts and try either Bun Bo Hue, Banh Cuon Tan Dinh, or Pho Oregon.
Check out the tip sheet:
Personally, I like Wildwood a lot. It's my favorite upscale dining in Portland, partially because I think they do the most interesting job with local ingredients and partially because they execute well and it's a nice place. I know that some people here and elsewhere have had worse experiences. I've been there more than any other fine dining restaurant in Portland, though, and I haven't found them to be any less consistent than any other place. But we still are a town of *** restaurants and consistent execution is a problem. I went there a couple weeks ago, eg, with a friend and he got the burger. He ordered it rare or medium rare, but it was nearly raw in the middle. However, every other dish was darn near perfect and a couple of the simplest dishes from the appetizer menu were fantastic.
I've always been disappointed with Higgins, OTOH. For a while there I loved their pastries and that kept me coming back and just ordering light for dinner. But now it's been 8 months or more since I've been there. I have put it at the top of my list to return to, though. I like their bar menu and while items can be spendy for bar food, it's generally pretty good. I love their housemade pickles and most of their charcuterie. Dinners generally sound better than they come out, imo. They often either just don't work. The flavors just don't come together right. Plenty of people disagree, but I just don't see it at the same level as places like Wildwood, Paley's, Hurley's, Fenouil, Olea, Carlyle, Castagna, etc, yet the prices are the same. But no one has a stronger commitment to local and sustainable, so if that's important to you, you may want to give it a try.
btw, to give you a sense of prices. These fine dining restaurants I just mentioned will generally cost you $45-$50 pp for app, entree, and dessert. Apps are around $10, desserts probably just under $10, and entrees $25-$30 with some options going over. There's a class of restaurants just under these in price that aren't necessarily any worse in quality of food that generally are closer to $20 for entrees, usually under -- my favorites being Park Kitchen, Le Pigeon, and clarklewis. There are some places that work out to be even a little cheaper than these, but perhaps aren't quite as interesting, such as Cafe Castagna, Tabla, Noble Rot, and the restaurant that shall not be named. I may be making too many distinctions in price, but that's how I perceive it.
I'd second Le Pigeon and also add Navarre as interesting and uniquely Portlandian places to eat. They're confident, a little odd (or very odd, depending on your perspective), and lots of fun. And they both work with local resources in their own way.
Apizza Scholls is probably worth a visit too.
And Ken's Place on Tuesday night to eat barbecue.
I really hate to be negative, but considering you're from LA, here's one piece of advice: Tell your wife to curb her Latin cravings until you're back in California (you'll thank me later).
Now, one piece of advice: Drive south on Broadway, crossing I-405 and follow the signs for Barbur Blvd. Continue on Barbur until you get to SW 24th Avenue and park the car. Here you will find the original Original Pancake House (best to avoid weekends).
Ditto on forgetting about Mexican.
I don't think Orig. Pancake Hs. is worth it. Expensive, surly service, long wait, cash only. Cutting edge cuisine for 1959. Riding on their reputation for many years.
Ken's Artisan Pizza, SE 28th & Pine. Definately a must-go.
For Thai: Typhoon downtown on Broadway.
Don't miss hot chocolate at Sahagun, 10 NW 16th, just five blks west of Powell Books. Open 10-6, Wed-Sat. Best I've ever had!
If you love pinot, there are many great wineries west & southwest of Portland, about 45 mins drive.
Would recommend Wildwood & Higgins, have eaten there many times.