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Ultimate Restaurants: Portland

The Annual Chowhound Survey of Restaurants is expanding to Portland.

And Portland does needs to do a poll like this. We have a rich community of chef. How it Works: rate your top five, and only five restaurants in the Portland area that you would recommend to a friend visiting Portland, looking for a memorable dining experience. The scoring will go 5 points for a first place vote, 4 for a second place vote, 3 for a third place vote, 2 for a fourth place vote and one for a fifth place vote. The deadline for voting to be Dec. 20th. After that we will publish the results. If you’re confused, here is a link to the L.A. board’s version http://www.chowhound.com/topics/350619.

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  1. the one and only one restaraut in portland that is a MUST is Jakes in downtown Portland. They have been in business for over 100 years in the same location and they specialize in seafood. It was over the top and rates 5 stars or more!! don't miss it!


    8 Replies
    1. re: leahvh

      Jake's is an overrated tourist trap, IMHO.

      1. re: Leonardo

        I'd say Jake's is overrated, but it isn't vastly overrated. I suspect that if it were in Salem, it would be by rights the top three all by itself.

        1. re: Brrrb

          I can't see a huge difference between Jakes and McCormick & Schmicks.

          1. re: MonkeyKing

            Maybe because Jake's is owned by McCormick & Schmicks

              1. re: MonkeyKing

                When I refer to one, I mean them all: Jakes, M & C, whatever.
                And Portland isn't Salem, thank goodness.
                I leave them to the tourists, out of town biz folks, and college students who have their visiting parents pay. Isn't that what those places are for?
                I can't believe this chain (started in Portland ) is such a big deal in Chicago etc.

                1. re: Leonardo

                  Jakes is owned by McCormick & Schmicks? Wow, I didn't know that. Now it makes sense. (No sarcasm implied, just bewilderment).

                  Leahvh must be a corporate PR flack for them.

          2. re: leahvh

            In addition to being an overrated tourist trap, the last time I was there our group was charged for three items we did not order or receive. The waiter refused to come to the table when we pointed this out and an assistant manager had to take our check. You have too many good restaurants in your city to waste your time at a dump like this.

          3. 1) Fenouil
            2) Alba Osteria
            3) Murata
            4) Le Pigeon
            5) Park Kitchen

            1. 1-Genoa
              2-Syun Izakaya
              3-Pho Van / Silk (Pearl)
              4-Wong's King (Division & 92nd - not to be confused with other "Wong's Kings" around town)

              p.s.: your link to the LA board doesn't work because you put a period at the end of the link.

              1. 1. Carlyle
                2. Murata
                3. Alba Osteria
                4. Pambiche
                5. Tabla

                1. Just a reminder that this is a fun activity driven by one of our members and is not an officially sanctioned Chowhound survey. Nobody is expected or obligated to participate.

                  1. 1. Apizza Scholls
                    2. Carlyle
                    3. Murata
                    4. Paley's
                    5. Park Kitchen

                    1. "...that you would recommend to a friend visiting Portland, looking for a memorable dining experience." That alters it a bit for me. "Dining experience" makes me want to avoid the cheaper, divish places that have great food, but not necessarily an overall wonderful experience. It also makes me lean towards locally unique. So here are mine. Ask me tomorrow and they'll be different.

                      1. Wildwood
                      2. Le Pigeon
                      3. Park Kitchen
                      4. Carlyle
                      5. Alberta Street Oyster Bar

                      I'd love to split it into two: fine dining and other. My other would be something like:

                      1. Apizza Scholls
                      2. Pok Pok
                      3. Pambiche
                      4. Tortilleria y Tienda de Leon
                      5. Banh Cuon Tan Dinh

                      1. The task to list "five restaurants in the Portland area that you would recommend to a friend visiting Portland, looking for a memorable dining experience" depends so totally on what that friend is looking for that I'm unable to answer it in those terms. I mean, how can you measure Apizza Scholls and Murata against each other? Both are great experiences in totally different ways. Also, I find that I really don't have a "favorite" restaurant anymore--it changes day to day.

                        Maybe if we split this into 15-20 categories I'd be able to answer.

                        1 Reply
                        1. 1. Le Pigeon
                          2. Carlyle
                          3. Apizza Scholls
                          4. Pok Pok
                          5. Pambiche

                          1. ok, here's mine... i still feel like i am missing something...but want to submit this in time.

                            1. Navarre
                            2. Le Pigeon
                            3. Valentine's
                            4. Apizza Scholls
                            5. Vindalho

                            Don't be sad!

                            1. Since I haven't voted myself, I'll weigh in.

                              1. Park Kitchen
                              2. Noble Rot
                              3. Nostrana
                              4. Le Pigeon
                              5. Paley's Place

                              The voting is now closed. I'll tabulate a little later.

                              1. The winners are:

                                1. Le Pigeon
                                2. Apizza Scholls
                                3. Murata
                                4. Carlyle's
                                5. Park Kitchen

                                The people have spoken.

                                It's a good mix although I have to say that Carlyle's is completely out of its league here. It simply doesn't measure up. Next in line is Alba Osteria and I have to say I think that establishment has the goombas to compete on this list. I find it curious that there were very few white table establishments in the nominations. Where is Hurleys? What about Higgins? How come Nuestra Cocina was overlooked? I'll chalk it up to Chowhound's lack of penetration in the Portland Foodie market. I expected there to be plenty more opinions on here. Let's try in again in the spring. Cheers! J.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: jerryketel

                                  So, Jerry, do you have a new restaurant account you're pitching? Guerilla market research, at its best...

                                  Also, hate to nit-pick, but the restaurant is named Carlyle, not Carlyle's.

                                  Cheers! E.

                                2. 1. Alba Osteria
                                  2. Nostrana
                                  3. Buster's Barbecue
                                  4. Taco Cart at Denver and Killingsworth
                                  5. New Taste of India cart near PSU

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: MichaelG

                                    Buster's, Michael? Say it isn't so.

                                    1. re: extramsg

                                      My favorite barbecue is dry rub ribs in Memphis, and the baby backs at Buster's, while not Memphis style, provide me with the closest thing in terms of quality points. As for the brisket, I simply believe Buster's in the best in town. I also love the way you get everything dry, allowing you to add sauce according to taste. It's also fun to mix the sauces: 75% hot, 25% sweet one day, and 50-50 the next. If you want service, eat in the bar. I like the chicken too. I've not gotten to the links, ham, turkey or pork loin, because I pretty much go there for brisket or ribs.

                                      For me, Buster's is not about the overall variety and comprehensiveness of the menu, but my go-to place for two of my favorite foods: baby backs and brisket. Similarly, the taco cart on Denver and Killingsworth is where I go for tacos. Can't vouch for burritos or chimichangas.

                                      This little game was not very prescriptive, and I'm totally fine with that. As you said, ask me tomorrow and you'll get a different list. Tomorrow I might add Pho Van on 82nd, Navarre, Pok Pok, Tacqueria Nueve, Pad Thai kitchen on Belmont....

                                      1. re: MichaelG

                                        Podnah's or LOW for brisket -- none others can compete for me. Buster's has always been too lean and dry. Also, neither LOW or Podnah's put sauce on for you.

                                        Yeah, I can't think of anyone who does Memphis style ribs in town. I agree, the best ribs I've ever had were at Central BBQ in Memphis. Not as smokey as Texas or KC ribs, but the nice rubs give a good bark and a lot of flavor without overdoing it like sauce.

                                        I can't remember Buster's ribs as well as their brisket, but I don't remember them being succulent enough.

                                  2. But the converse is also true. Just because a place is fancy, has white tablecloths, and is touted in the national press doesn't mean that it is a pretentious place that doesn't merit any mention. That doesn't mean, for example, that I think Higgins or Hurley's or Paley's are all that great.

                                    Personally, I'd love to have a restaurant like the French Laundry here in town. Expensive? Yes. Formal? Yes. But a worthwhile splurge once in a while.

                                    1. 1: olea
                                      2: carlyle
                                      3: acadia
                                      4: alba osteria
                                      5: paleys

                                      1. I just got deleted myself...let's try again....

                                        1. Nostrana
                                        2. Carlyle
                                        3. Morton's
                                        4. Wildwood
                                        5. Heathman

                                        1. Pok Pok is interesting too....

                                          1. Just a reminder, folks, local boards like Pacific Northwest are for the discussion of chow. Discussion of the discussion of chow, including our moderation policies and the quality of discussion and thought are off topic for any regional board and posts on those tangents will be removed.

                                            1. Just tried Kens Artisan Pizza last night for the first time. Their roasted vegetable plate is perhaps one of the yummiest things I have eaten in Portland! And the warm toasty bistro on a cold winters night, well, it was lovely. I would have put it on my list for sure if we'd tried it in time. SO here's my revised top 5 for those who are interested

                                              1. Navarre
                                              2. Le Pigeon
                                              3. Valentine's
                                              4. Ken's Artisan Pizza
                                              5. Masu East

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: patrick

                                                What do you like about Valentines? And why Navarre #1?

                                                1. re: jerryketel

                                                  navarre is #1 on my list because i am consistently surprised by their seasonal dishes, and I always enjoy our visits there. The atmosphere fits me perfectly-- no pretension, but lots of attention to detail in the dishes. Also, they are very seasonal and very local, which becomes more and more important to me, and informs more of our eating at home, so it's great to have a place to visit that keeps as seasonal a table as we do.

                                                  also...this is a little esoteric.. but on our first visit to Navarre, it reminded me so much of an inn from an Asterix book. Not a specific one, just the country-inn feeling. If you're an Asterix fan you'll probably know what I mean. Then the wine we got (a Zweigelt) was from Carnuntum, the forest of the Carnutes! It was just too much.

                                                  I am enjoying all their lunch dishes too.

                                                  Navarre is the perfect combination of casual and fancy, their approach suits me (and my partner) very well, and the prices are good for our budget too. When friends visit, it's the first place on our list to take them, since we know the food will be tasty and adventurous, we won't go broke, and we'll all have a relaxed, fun time.

                                                  At Valentines I like the dependable sandwiches, especially the Reuben, although there are other ones that are almost as good-- the egg salad and the salumi among them. It's a great place to have a relaxed lunch while running around downtown. They don't do much, but what they do, they do very well, and I value that highly.

                                              2. A relative newbie- only living here 1.5 years, but:
                                                4-Sivalaya Thai
                                                5-Alberta St Oyster House

                                                1. Not familiar with Sivalaya Thai - anyone have any more info, rec's, opinions?

                                                  1. I haven't been to all of the places others have listed, but my husband has. Our choices:

                                                    1--Genoa... have not been there lately, but I've heard nothing to indicate that they've slipped whatsoever.

                                                    My vote for most over-rated is clarklewis. Most missed: Cafe Azul. Previous foodie experience: lived in Berkeley. Feature others might most notice that I don't notice: how extensive the wine list is. Might be great, might not, don't go by me. Generally, though, the servers at our favorite places help us choose a bottle that suits their food, which is what interests us.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Brrrb

                                                      OY VEY!!! I don't mean Navarre! I meant NOSTRANA!

                                                    2. Navarre knows what hospitality is. They do what they do exquisitely well with no air of "look, we do what we do SO exquisitely well. Don't you feel fortunate to be here?" When you are there, you get a wonderful time with whomever you are with....and I think this would be true even if you were there all by yourself.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Brrrb

                                                        I could agree with or understand many of the other comments -- I've had good dishes and meals there -- but "knows what hospitality is"? The best service I've had from Navarre was only good for how overwhelmed they were. In other words, any other time it would have been mediocre service except that there was only one person serving the entire room on a holiday. I've had to walk out of Navarre before because they totally forgot I was there.

                                                      2. I've never been there on a holiday. We almost always go out on weeknights. If we do go out on weekends, it's usually early. It sounds as if they don't staff well enough for busy times, then? That is worth knowing.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: Brrrb

                                                          No, what I'm saying is that my best service was when they were understaffed. I've been there on weeknights, weekends, and lunch and found the service some of the worst in town for that type of place. And this isn't exactly a town known for great service. The day they forgot I was there, there were only a couple other tables with anyone in them. It was lunch. I understand why people like the food. It can be very rustic, inexpensive, and different from what you get elsewhere in town. But I've never gotten good service there.

                                                          1. re: extramsg

                                                            Wow. I certainly haven't been there as often as you have. I guess I got lucky. Sometimes, it only takes one good server to give a great experience.

                                                            By great service, what do you mean, other than fast? I didn't notice that they were slow, but I have never been in a great hurry to get anywhere when I've been there.

                                                            1. re: extramsg

                                                              See Above....I don't mean Navarre. Navarre is fine, but definitely not on my top-ten list. I meant NOSTRANA! (Sorry for the mix-up)

                                                          2. Can't believe Higgins isn't on the list...

                                                            1. Nice, solid, reliable, and sustainably-oriented, but dare I say it, in the end, somewhat forgettable...

                                                              1. I needed to post this on Nostrana. I had a GREAT time the times I've been there, but apparently it is a restaurant with an evil twin that sometimes takes its place in the service department:

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Brrrb

                                                                  My experience is that if you sit at the bar, go early, or go for lunch, the service is fine to good.