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Mar 21, 2007 10:50 AM

Portland - Birthday

Visting Portland from Boston mid April as part of a important birthday celebration. Will be in Portland on "the" day. Would appreciate recommendations for a celebration dinner. Quality of food is the key factor, although would probably shy away from Asian, Mexican and very casual. Price is not a driver. Read that the chef at Park Kitchen for a Beard award but the reviews I've seen on the board (old) seemed mixed. Where would you go?

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  1. How many people are going to attend? Some of the places that are most interesting (IMHO) are very small and can't accomodate large groups.

    5 Replies
      1. re: Fort Point

        OK--I'll give you what I'd consider as a "special" place with high-quality food. I think places like Park Kitchen and Le Pigeon have interesting, quality food, but they have a more casual atmosphere that to me makes dinner there feel less like a special event (not that I'm complaining--I really like the atmosphere, but I don't feel like it's a special occasion when I eat there).

        Our default choice used to always be Genoa for the seven-course Italian dinner, but that was back when Cathy Whims was cooking there. There's been a fair amount of turnover in the kitchen since then, but the last time I went a couple years ago I liked the food, and I still think I've had better service there than anywhere else in town.

        Other places that I like for a special occasion are Carlyle, Paley's Place, and possible Alba or Giorgio's (I guess my preference is generally for Italian or at least Mediterranean). These would all be good food, and a more formal atmosphere (as formal as Portland gets, anyway), and I wouldn't go there just because I didn't feel like cooking (possibly because they're all somewhat expensive). I hope this helps and that you have a wonderful dinner!

        1. re: Nettie

          I like Nettie's suggestions, but I'd be worried about places like Le Pigeon. I think they only take reservations for parties of 4 or more (please correct me if I'm wrong on this). I agree the food is good at Park Kitchen, but I'd want less cramped quarters for a special dinner out. If you want to go a little cheaper, I might choose Alberta Street Oyster Bar instead.

          My personal choices would be Carlyle, Paley's, Wildwood, Hurley's, or Fenouil.


          1. re: extramsg

            No, I totally agree on Park Kitchen and Le Pigeon (I think their reservations are only for six or more)--while they're great for an ordinary night out, if you're lookng for a romantic birthday dinner for two, they're not "special" enough.

            1. re: extramsg

              I should note that some of my best nice meals in the last year or so were at Olea, but they recently changed chefs.

      2. My birthday is this Friday and I was torn between Fenouil ( French-ish, beautiful, love it) Wildwood ( good food, good service, nice atmosphere) Paleys Place ( quiet, more sedate and excellent food) so my husband took the choice away-too much dithering on my part - he is surprising me. Any of these are good is Carlyle also.
        Happy Birthday !

        7 Replies
        1. re: pdxgirl

          Fill us in after your dinner. Made note of your list.

          1. re: Fort Point

            Hearing your specs on the night, I would suggest Papa Hydn on 23rd. Not extremely fancy, yet high-end, good service, great food, and to cap the night award winning desserts. Esp. great place to small parties. Let us know where you end up!

            1. re: rookcook1

              Personally, I avoid Papa Haydn.( at least the one on 23rd, maybe the one on the Eastside is better)
              Their desserts look good but lack taste and are usually chokingly dry.
              Their sandwiches and salads are inferior.
              I would rather go to the place next door ( same owners I think) Jo least you can get fresh tasty food.
              Moonstruck Chocolates has better sweets :)

              1. re: pdxgirl

                Not looking for a place that sell sandwiches. Looking for a much more formal meal. Thanks in advance.

                1. re: Fort Point

                  OBA! is also a great place to check out. I think that would be a great atmosphere to celebrate a birthday, yet it is still classy. You want a slacks and tie formal, or kahki polo formal?

                  1. re: rookcook1

                    In between a tie and a polo. Long shirt, perhaps a sport coat.

                    1. re: Fort Point

                      You wouldn't look out of place at all @ OBA, I def. suggest! If not for this occasion but maybe another time.

        2. I had one of the better meals that I have had in a long time at the Park Kitchen. Drinks, food and service were all superb. Fenouil is also quite good for the same reasons......

          2 Replies
          1. re: bgojdics

            Park kitchen is definitely a good suggestion, the food is very interesting and delicious.

            I also like Andina (peruvian) for a celebratory dinner. They have fantastic cocktails too.

            1. re: atomic

              Today is my birthday and my husband surprised me with dinner at Oba. ( I was sure it was going to be Fenouil)
              Everything was great...the noise level was a bit high, but it is festive and happy and the service was fabulous.
              The drinks are nice, the food was perfect and the servers were great.
              Mine surprised me ( someone told them it was my birthday!) with a molten chocolate cake and a candle..which was so nice, 39 candles on a tiny cake would have been a fire hazard...he did not want to sing to me though, hmmm.
              So I do recommend Oba for a birthday celebration..Ask for a booth!!

          2. Thanks for all the suggestions. Looked at the menus online and Fenouil and Carlyle looked very interesting. On line reviews are generally positive for both. What is the atmosphere like at each and what are the prices like/ Also do they take reservations/ Thanks in advance.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Fort Point

              They both take reservations. Fenouil has their menu posted on their website: Prices for entrees are generally in the high 20's. Carlyle's menu is here:, and prices seem a little higher than at Fenouil (one entree is $32). I think I've been once to each, and that seems consistent with my memory of the prices.

              My memory is also that Fenouil is a much bigger, less intimate place than Carlyle, but it's still very pleasant. The pictures on the websites are what I remember of both places: Fenouil seems more open, airy, and light than Carlyle. The food seemed a little more variable to me at Fenouil--I remember one thing that was great, but others that were a bit underwhelming, while at Carlyle the food was more uniformly good. Because of this, my personal choice would be Carlyle.

              1. re: Nettie

                Yes, Fenouil is lighter and larger, there is a sweeping staircase to the left of the entrance where you can go to the upstairs dining room, which looks out and down on the restaurant and the park outside.
                ( Intimate feel to some tables with fireplaces and park/view outside huge windows..)
                Carlyle does have a beautiful space and very good food, but I have not had a bad experience at Fenouil either. ( Darker moodier room with sophisticated feel )

                It is a difficult choice ..

            2. Had dinner with friends who had been to Portland recently. They are very much into food and dining out and they absolutely raved about Paley's Place. The comments I've read on this board have been basically positive but not over the top (did not read all of them). Just how good is Paley's Place?

              2 Replies
              1. re: Fort Point

                I think that "basically positive but not over the top" describes how I feel about Paley's Place! It's in a converted Victorian house in Northwest Portland, so it has a cosier feeling than Carlyle and doesn't seem so new as Fenouil--maybe I would say that it's "homey" in a sort of sophisticated way (for example, there is a selection of nice perfumes in the ladies' restroom). It is certainly appropriate as a special occasion kind of place, but when I was stuck at a table in the back room I felt kind of isolated from the front dining room. The food is pretty good and consistent; I've had good servers there and I've had servers who are not really up to par.

                1. re: Nettie

                  An apt description. I've generally had more consistently solid service here than elsewhere in Portland, including places in a similar price range. I've had dishes that were ho-hum or blah, but not really anything bad that I can think of. I've never been wowed, either, but food has generally been consistently good. I've never minded the back room, but I can understand the complaint.