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Can't miss places in Portland, Oregon

My wife and I are heading up to Portland from San Francisco next weekend. We will be in Portland for 3 nights and I am looking for any suggestions. Mainly, would love to hit any places that are distinctively Portland, standouts not to be missed. We generally are up for any type of cuisine. Would like a mix of perhaps one fancy spot and the rest can be mid to casual. Any help would be most appreciated. Thanks! (oh, and all meal-types - dinner, brunch, great lunch spots as well)

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  1. You and your wife will enjoy Voodoo donut.

    For more advice, scroll the boards. Your question has been asked five times in the last month or so...

    1 Reply
    1. re: MichaelG

      I'm checking in for Portland Oregon today too and sadly for me VooDoo is closed today. happy for them sad for me.

    2. Paley's Place is the best kitchen in Portland. Wildwood is just across the street and also good. I would say avoid Clark-Lewis as you can get mediocre food with attitude in SF, Voodoo Donuts has all the mystique of Krispy Kreme with names that are comical but still just F*in donuts. Park Kitchen is getting alot of attention lately and while I haven't eaten there, a good friend bartends there and swears by the CHef!!!For breakfast/brunch; Veritable Quandary, Bijoux, or Cadillac Grill. I can't stress enough how truly great Paley's Place is!!!

      6 Replies
      1. re: Big Cicada

        I don't know Big Cicada, I've had lousy service and mediocre food at Paley's but Carlyle never, ever lets me down. But I wholeheartedly agree with ya on Voodoo donuts.

        So my recs would be Carlyle (fancy dinner), Simpatica (esp. Sunday brunch, and yes, get there when they open at 9am), Le Pigeon, Toro Bravo, Pok Pok, Biwa and get to the Farmers' Market on Sat. morning by PSU.

        1. re: JillO

          No Portland restaurants is perfect. I've had mediocre dishes and poorly executed dishes at Carlyle as well, though I prefer its food to Paley's in general.


          1. re: JillO

            How's the Farmers Market that's on Wednesday (downtown I think) compared to the Saturday one? Is it worth going to if someone can't make the Saturday one?

            1. re: EmmaToo

              A lot smaller. But yes, I would go to another local farmers market or two or three if you can't make the PFM on Saturday:



              1. re: EmmaToo

                Both Wednesday and Saturday Farmers market are on the Portland State Univ ersity Campus. The Saturday one, larger, in the middle of Campus--right close to where I work--the Wednesday one at the edge of campus bordering SW Salmon.
                Oh I just saw the link from extramsg and you should get all details from there.

                1. re: claire de lune

                  Thanks to you both! I won't be arriving in town until very late on a Saturday so I was really disappointed that I'd miss the big one, but at the same time very grateful there are others.

          2. Apizza Scholls is Portland..but get there right when they open (at 5:00) or you won't get in. Great pizza..very busy place. I love Simpatica. I've had brunch there and really loved it. Another busy place. Get there when it opens. Park Kitchen..I second that one.

            1 Reply
            1. re: melly

              I happen to be in Portland for a few days, and based on this, whimsy, and the fact that it was a perfect length walk from my hotel, I had lunch at Park Kitchen today.

              It was truly excellent.

              The cherry and faro soup was one of those dishses where the first taste just says wow. It's somewhat misamed, as its based on a lamb stock with some lamb in it, but the lamb, the tart cherries and the body given by the faro just all works really really well together.

              The mixed green salad was nothing extraordinary for those of us spoiled by super fresh produce well presented.

              The house-made hot dog was simply the best hot dog I've ever had. I apologize for not taking the time to deconstruct it, but I just wolfed it down. It's served on a buttered briochey bun, with house made ketchup and chips, of the sort one can recognize that they were once really potatoes.

              I had the lemon marscapone poundcake, which was good but felt ordinary after the high standards set by the rest of the meal.

              Thanks for triggering my whimsy.

              1. Just finished a trip to Portland from San Diego. Ate at Pok Pok which was really fabulous. The chicken wings in fish sauce (not sure what fancy name they have) were out of this world. Fun atmosphere too. Also ate at Paley's Place which was great as well. Had the duck with cherry sauce, not a dish to miss. Finally, ate at Wildwood which was not half as great as I remembered it being last year. The Halibut was very raw to the point of being inedible.

                1. In the same position (visiting Portland from SF), I looked here and tried to take the advice found, but over all found it rather contradictory. In any case, over a Friday night to Sunday morning we had EXCELLENT food and EXEMPLARY service.

                  Dinner Friday: South Park. Went to the wine bar entrance before our res was due and were seated at an opening up four-top (even though we were only two) but an extremely friendly and natural waiter. We ordered cocktails (can strongly recommend the Salmon Street Soda or whatever it was called; Arianciata, pomegranate, vodka) and some excellent calamari and a surprising fried chickpea dish.

                  The waiter had said he would tell the maitre' that we were in the bar and as 8 rolled around I got to worrying whether he had actually done so but sat still anyway (I have had bad experiences with this sort of thing elsewhere, certainly). But after a little bit a hostess from the restaurant came through the heavy velvet curtains and approached us and said our table was ready. I confess I was gobsmacked by the efficiency AND politeness of the whole operation.

                  We were led to our very nice table for two where we ordered a carafe of Nebbiolo and mains of sturgeon and the thyme chicken with a starter of bouillabaisse. (Because we had the concierge at the hotel make the reservation we were also treated to a free starter of very tasty crab cakes, too.) The sturgeon was perfect, on a bed of well prepared squash and topped with frisee. The chicken was a bit dry (the best I have had was actually at Magnolia in SF, Masonic @ Haight), but otherwise I could not have asked for better and the service, again, was really excellent. Dessert consisted of a vanilla creme brulee and a chocolate ganache-filled crostini with amaretto gelato. Superb, really.

                  The next day we went to Powells and ended up having a late-ish lunch at a nearby noodle joint, Noodles and Co. Quite servicable, though the sort of noodles they were using really need to be served immediately to avoid becoming gummy. Still, the service was, again, impeccable for the sort of establishment it was.

                  Dinner that night involved walking into the bar entrance of Higgins without a res. The place was mostly full up but the very polite and friendly waiter suggested we wait a few minutes for seats at the bar. Indeed, within five minutes or so a couple got up and we sat down. They serve the whole restaurant menue there at the bar and we chose burgers (a ritual wherever we go, to try the burgers in a new city to see what is what, and these were recommended on several online boards, though not without competition or controversy.)

                  Anyway, the burgers were excellent; house-ground (with exemplary texture and fat content) on a tasty bun with very good texture, accompanied by a good-sized salad including plump hazelnuts and a suitable vinaigrette, and a bit of house pickle. We had beers to accompany though I also ordered a glass of grappa as a digestive together with a soda chaser. AGAIN, the food was very good, but the SERVICE and servers were without compare.

                  Finally, on Sunday morning we went to Heathman's Hotel for breakfast. This place is clearly a classic location for locals and their guests as well as tourists. Wonderful menu, old school service. We had some "breads" including currant scone, a sticky bun, and a croissant, all of which were extraordinarily light, followed by a plate of eggs benedict with salmon instead of ham/bacon and a dish of smoked salmon hash topped with poached eggs. My lord; as perfect as breakfast gets.

                  BUT AGAIN, the service was something special.

                  And apart from the very good food we had I think the thing that really impressed us was how VERY TERRIBLE THE SERVICE IS IN SAN FRANCISCO based on the simple baseline service we got at every single venue we visited here. The folks in Portland get what I was trained to provide, and therefore expect, as SERVICE. Polite, without obsequiousness or attention-calling; friendly as in AUTHENTIC, utterly without pretence; and bloody-well near universal.

                  We crave this in "The City" but it is almost unknown, except perhaps in one's "own" neighborhood restuarant where you are known and a regular. Perhaps it is because our restaurants (good, bad, and indifferent) are incredibly crowded of a weekend night even though we have something like 2500 restaurants here and a higher ratio of them than most cities in this country. Perhaps it is because the levels of pretension in SF are completely disproportionate to the quality of the food and service.

                  In any case, Portland gets our votes as one of the best places to eat in this country.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Boythefoodtalksto

                    That's a really nice write-up. Thank you for taking the time. Although some of your selections wouldn't have been mine, it was refreshing to hear about some places that aren't often mentioned on this board. Most interesting however were your (many) comments regarding service. Ironically, the most consistent complaint from pdx locals is service-related. : )

                  2. Breakfast at Jam. Local favorite and the best smoked salmon I've ever eaten.

                    Dinner at Paley's Place, Pok Pok, and Andina (truly creative and delicious modern Peruvian food. If I only had one dinner in Portland, this is where I would go.