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Best food of the best in Portland

we're two foodies (36, 40) from san francisco and would love some final guidance from 'those who [also] live to eat' in pdx. we value chowhound insight and want to nail down most (naturally, some we'll play by ear) of our choice meal 'destinations' so we can relax and enjoy our week without my husband going low-bloodsugar due to my typical on-the-spot indecisions about which is 'the' place ...

i had fun reading through all 418 pdx-portland posts from the last 6 months. i noticed that a lot of the recommendations tend to be relative to a venue, like a hotel. our meals in pdx, however, will be our destinations -- as of yet, we have no 'sightseeing' plans for our 4 night/5day stay other than to indulgently explore pdx's sophisticated food scene and just hang out and relax -- so please base any welcomed suggestions you might have on good pdx food rather than location.

btw, we're looking forward to experiencing public transport -- we're travelers that want to pick up on the local vibe -- and will bus/walk/drive anywhere (we're avid walkers). we're heading up on amtrak and staying at mcmenamins for a taste of a 'real pdx neighborhood' (not for the food). good food usually turns out to be one of our prime 'destinations.'

here goes.

in some of the other posts you thoughtfully ask for more details from the op, so here's what we like:
-- in general we seek out restaurants that cater to locals and have consistently good food, consistently good service, are unpretentious, innovative/inspiring, intimate, have an untouristy feel with personality, and use seasonal/fresh ingredients. we love great atmosphere but the order for us is definitely 1) food 2) service (it can make up for so much!) and 3) atmosphere.
-- we share a 'no reservations' attitude about food and will literally eat anything (bugs, tongue, brains, stomach, whatever).
-- we prefer savory or spicy dishes to sweet.
-- we're more interested in good wine than other bevs but will want to try some local brew and possibly a gin martini here or there.
-- since it's the only vacation we've been able to take this year (!), we can splurge as much as we feel like, but we've found constant splurging gets boring after a while and we really appreciate value. we loved the look of anthony bourdain's favorite malaysian restaurant serving decadent twice-steamed fish heads -- next to the radiator and brakes shop.

we've only got time for four dinners, four lunches, and five breakfasts starting with dinner on mon 12/10 through thurs 12/13, leaving friday after brunch.

-- we think we've ruled these out:
hiroshi (sushi, japanese, mexican in general)
biwa (read mixed reviews, we have noodle shops a-plenty)
higgins (read mixed reviews)
clarklewis (too many mixed reviews)
bluehour (read mixed reviews)
country cat (read mixed reviews)
andina (read mixed reviews)
podnah's (probably won't be craving bbq)
23 hoyt (read mixed reviews)
pambiche (?)

the following are our picks, but i could still use your guidance (now that you know us a little) since some of the recs were relative, based on proximity, etc.:

-- dinner
1. ethnic: pok pok
2. midrange: le pigeon
3. one local favorite splurge: paley's place, carlyle, fenouil, park kitchen, wildwood, clyde common, sel gris
4. toro bravo, navarre, or ten-01 (hosting soon at james beard house in nyc?)

-- lunch (we're not afraid of ordering off the wine list before noon, btw)
1. silk/pho van
2. veritable quandry
3. ken's artisan pizza
4. karam? (sounds healthy)

-- breakfast
1. simpatica (weekdays?)
2. genie's
3. daily cafe
4. cafe lili
... or milo's, wild abandon, zells cafe, cricket cafe, besaws, tin shed, mother's, bijou cafe, j&m cafe

-- coffee: stumptown
-- donuts: voodoo
-- brewery: mcmenamins
--oysters: alberta st oyster bar (closed?), carlyle, pacific seafood, dan & louie's, southpark
-- cheese:
-- for a glass: noble rot
-- worth a trip: adobe inn at yachats? painted lady?

... we also like the sound of filbert's cafe, cafe mingo, hurley's, southpark, lovely hula hands, rocket, tabla, fife, alba, lucy's table, roux, wednesday farmer's market (open in dec?), heathman (too stuffy? is it really an institution?), olea, carafe, sagittarius, aquariva, grolla, doug fir (for the music?)

we look forward to your chowhound guidance!

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  1. With so many folks posting and asking for reqs, it's a pleasure to read a post by someone who has done their homework. Thank you!

    For dinners, I wouldn't miss Pok Pok, Sel Gris and Toro Bravo. Le Pigeon, Carlyle, and Apizza Scholls, and Alba are also way up there on my list. Ken's Artisan Pizza is not open for lunch, and though you could move it to the dinner category, I think Apizza Scholls is better. Also, not sure why you crossed Pambiche off your list, it's a great, never fail choice. Also, I think biwa is also a very tasty, very interesting place, and I urge you to rethink that for dinner. Also, the Alberta Street Oyster Bar and Grill has re-opened with the same chef and staff (diff. owners) and might be a good choice.

    ten-01 has a great happy hour menu and drinks deal, and their fabulous oysters are only $1ea. during HH. Might want to check that out. For a bit of historic Portland, and for cheap HH oysters, Dan and Louis Oyster Bar downtown might fit the bill (they do lunch too).

    Karam is a good lunch choice, as is Silk. VQ? meh, I think you could do better. Certainly Kenny & Zuke's, they opened less than a month ago. They make their own pastrami, corned beef, pickles, bread, bagels, bialys, rolls and baked goods. Seriously good food. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    Simpatica is not open weekdays for brunch, Sat. and Sun. only. Genie's has gone waaay downhill by many reports. Haven't been to Zell's in ages but it used to be very good. J&M Cafe is good, not great, ditto Cricket Cafe. Mother's can be good, but I wouldn't go out of my way for it.

    Stumptown is great coffee as is Courier, but you have to find a place that serves Courier. One such place is Little Red Bike Cafe, which supposedly does a great lunch and very good breakfast. I'd check it out, I think it might be the kind of place you are looking for: http://littleredbikecafe.com/

    Albina Press and Northwest Coffee House are two of the best places for coffee in the city. The barristas at Albina Press always do well in competitions.

    I think Voodoo Donuts are overrated. It's a fun concept, but the actual donuts aren't very good, IMO.

    You can do waaay better than McMenamins for a brewery. The folks at the Beer Advocate have a guide for you: http://beeradvocate.com/beerfly/city/16

    For a glass of wine, if you can't get to wine country, Oregon Wines on Broadway has the biggest selection for tastes/glasses/bottles. It's a fun place to try lots of local wines: http://www.oregonwinesonbroadway.com/

    If you can and want to get to wine country, yes, the Painted Lady is worth a dinner...but only if you are out there. It is about 40-60 minutes from downtown Portland. Lots of wineries to try, look for other posts for recs.

    Yachats is quite a drive from Portland, and not especially worth going to. If you want to go to the coast (and have a car to do so), make a quick trip to Cannon Beach (1.5-2 hour drive) and have some seafood at Ecola Seafood before you return, or stay and go to the Nehalem River Inn (another 30 min away) for dinner...the only dinner place worth eating at around there, IMO. Pacific Seafood is a bit out of the way in Bay City, south of Cannon Beach by about 30 minutes.

    The Wed. Farmers' Market is done for the season, sorry. :o(

    Great cheese places include: Curds and Whey, Steve's Cheese (in Square Deal Wines), and Foster and Dobbs

    Great chocolate can be found at: Cacao, Sahagun, Alma's, and at The Meadow (who also has a fabulous selection of finishing salts).

    Keep asking if you have more questions.

    2 Replies
      1. re: JillO

        oh I think I'll pick your brain too. my daughter used to eat at a place, like 7ish years ago, that she remembers as being on west 23rd street or close to that. they put out the best red pepper soup she'd ever eaten. doesn't live there any longer but is requesting 'that' soup as a treat from me. can't remember the name of the restie so I can't help out with that. said it was 'like' panera bread cafe is now. can you help?

      2. Lots of places on your list; one big miss: Biwa (japense country style--no suchi). so good. honest. it's the sleeper choice when the weather is crap0--which it sure is now. grilled stuff, great soups.

        for your fancy dinner; park kitchen for sure.

        pigeon's grate--so long as you don't mind eating with a bunch of new "friends." food is A+, but communal tables suck.

        2 Replies
        1. re: swami rabbitima

          Next time time your trip to be here for the Farmers' Mkt on Sat. Rated by whomever rates such things as top 5 such mkts in the US.

          Another vote for dinners at Ken's Artisan Pizza & Biwa! After nine Biwa has noodles only $5.

          Yachats a long drive, not worth it esp this time of year (washed out roads!). Go to Cannon Beach area instead.

          Consider a wine trip in Yamhill County. Plenty of threads on that here and under Wine.

          Happy Hour drinks at best bar in town, imho: Teardrop Lounge.
          Wine bar: Pour. Happy hour 4:30-6:30, great deals, light food too.

          You can not only get great chocolates at Sahagun, but they use Stumptown coffee in their mocha. You'll never darken Starbuck's door again.

          Agree with most of the above.

          My compliments on doing your homework and saying what you like. Please do the trifecta and report afterward! Nothing but eat/drink? Not even a stroll through the Japanese Garden (puts SF's to shame)?? http://www.japanesegarden.com/

          1. re: Leonardo

            we were secretly hoping someone might mention a good place to go, and we appreciate your rec of the japanese garden. it's one of one on our 'sightseeing' list!

        2. In general, you're totally on the right track. Great research and overall job finding out about all the great food in our town! Some notes:

          I would take another look at clarklewis. It's really extraordinary and I think particularly along the lines you're interested in: local, organic, seasonal simple, etc.

          I'd also speak very strongly for Navarre. It's tapas done in an incredibly unpretentious, straightforward, and delicious manner. Depending on the night of the week, it'll just be chef John (who also built most of the furniture and decorations himself -- he's a great metal worker) in the open kitchen, and one server. The server will take your order, John will get up from the bar, go into the kitchen, cook your meal, and go back to rejoin his glass of wine at the bar. This is my absolute favorite non-fancy restuarant in town.

          Another great one not on your list is The Farm (7th-ish and Burnside on the eastside). Specializing in local, fresh, seasonal organic NW cuisine, they have great cocktails, and a nice cozy space (though it's starting to get crowded for how popular they've gotten so for better service I'd try a less busy night/time of the week). This is a restaurant that would be twice or three times as expensive in any other city.

          I'd also strongly second the reccomendation of Apizza Scholl's made below. They have the best authentic New Haven-style pizza I've ever had anywhere outside of New Haven itself (an opinion seconded and thirded by each of my Yalie housemates). The wait there can be kinda crazy but the servers are very nice.

          Weekend brunch is the official meal of Portland. One of the best places in town for it is not on your list: The Screen Door is a terrific southern-inflected restaurant that does an amazing weekend brunch (note: d'oh! just re-read your reqs. and noticed you won't be here for the weekend. SD might still be good for dinner. I've never been there for that, but their menu looks interesting and the quality of the brunch is so great, I'd trust them for anything). Of the ones on your list, I'd put my vote in for Zell's (empasis on local organic fruit- and veggie-filled pancakes &c), Bijou (similar but less seasonal and adventuruous), and Besaws (this one is a little different, more French, a little higher brow, but still excellent), Tin Shed is great and serves equally well for lunch if your breakfast slots fill up. There's also Meriwether's, which is by the same folks who do Higgins. I've never been there, but have heard great things.

          Another major category you're missing is dessert. There are a few standout places: Pix Patisserie is a terrific traditional French dessert shop with great atmosphere (their place on division is cozier, the one on Williams is sleeker and has a full bar) and Rimsky-Korsacoffee is a super eccentric (their printed book-length history gives their slogan as "home of the casually threatening atmosphere") dessert/coffee spot on SE 12th and Morrisson. They have great atmosphere with weird decorations, moving tables, classical guitar and piano, cooky servers, and great desserts and drinks (Don't miss the Chocolate Raspberry Fool!). It's the kind of place that only locals know.

          A great off-the-beaten-path lunch suggestion would be Tita's Pista, a Phillipino cart on Mississippi in N. Portland (right next to Lovely Hula Hands, actuall). Food carts are a major part of Portland food culture and Tita's is a great new one. All of their dishes are surprisingly flavorful, but the highlight is the fried fruit dessert, just amazing. Maybe do Lovely Hula Hands, skip the dessert and head here for that!

          For coffee, you should try the Stumptown in the Ace Hotel. They do a cool thing with brewing individual cups (not espresso) of tons of different international brews on demand. It's a neat space and the coffee's great.

          Enjoy your time in Portland!

          4 Replies
          1. re: atduskgreg

            I agree with a lot of your post atduskgreg, but I have had several mediocre meals at Farm and a couple at Navarre. And the service at both has a lot to be desired, IMO. I wish it wasn't so, especially since Farm is the best place to take vegetarians and vegans in the city and it really is a nice space with a good bar, but my experiences there haven't been so great.

            The Pix Patisserie rec, however, was a great idea. It's a winner of a stop, especially if you go to the one on SE Division after Pok Pok/Whiskey Soda Lounge. It's only a little over a block away.

            Another interesting place to check out is Clear Creek Distillery. Their 'tasting room' (which is also their office ;o) is generous and they have some stellar product ranging from awesome liqueurs to well-crafted brandy to an unusual Doug Fir eau-de-vie all made from local fruit and trees: http://clearcreekdistillery.com/index...
            It's really worth a trip over there.

            1. re: JillO

              One word of caution when dismissing places like the Farm and Navarre over indiividual mediocre experiences: any place that specializes in local, organic, and season ingredients is unlike to suit your individual taste equally well with each meal. Maybe you significantly prefer the way they handle sweet summer ingredients to savory winter ones or vice versa, etc.

              Likewise with the service at small places like this: it makes a really big difference to go to them on a less busy night when their staff is less over-taxed (or four years ago before Portland became the super food mecca that it is now and these places were some of our best kept secrets).

              Both of these are places I've been to very regularly for years and years. While I've had better meals and better service at each at times each has maintained very high standards of both for an extremely long time by restaurant standards.

              It's ironic that you mention Pix as a paragon of consistency in this regard since I worked at the Division store for two years back when it first opened (I was it's first non-management employee) and I can tell you that our quality of service varied wildly. As we grew in popularity the staff and kitchen struggled mightily to keep up friendliness and consistency of product (without always being successful) and then again when the other two shops opened there was a long period when things were shaky and the atmosphere became far less friendly.

              Anyway, my point here isn't to knock Pix (which I recommended and think is great), but to demonstrate how variable restaurants can be and how, as a casual visitor, it's not completely fair to dismiss, or recommend against, a place that you overall like (or think is a good match for the person to whom you're recommending) based one or two experiences. When you work in restaurants you quickly realize that just like you never step in the same river, you never eat the same meal twice.

              1. re: atduskgreg

                My Pix experience has varied wildly, and I've had their desserts close to 50 times, so it speaks for itself that I generally like the product a lot. But on at least five occasions I had something that contained a nut (i.e. filbert) that was rancid! It was pretty gross tasting, and I can't imagine that nut was the only bad one out of the batch. So yes, they do indeed have a problem with quality control, especially as they have grown.
                As for service, I don't recall anyone thanking me for my business. Ever.

                1. re: atduskgreg

                  Well, I didn't dismiss Farm and Navarre, just offered up my opinion vis-a-vis my experiences to a visitor that values good service. I have been to Farm at various times of the year and I have had lackluster fish here and there (though it is sometimes good) and usually a very good marsala cutlet. The service I have experienced there overall, however, has not been good...and I usually dine early (before 6pm) and often on a weekday. I really am glad that hasn't been your experience there, but it has been mine...and I have been there way more than once or twice.

                  On one of my visits to Navarre, I tried to order wine and after choosing one, I was told they didn't have it...that happened three times in succession. Didn't keep me from going there again, but overall my opinion is that some plates there are great, but many fall short. It's just not a place I enjoy, and there are so many other places I'd rather dine. I've also always had better food and service at Noble Rot a block away. We are lucky to have many decent choices in this town, no?!

                  BTW, I never said Pix was "a paragon of consistency" (don't know where you got that from), I just said it was a great place for dessert...and this was after you suggested it first...so I am confused... I thought I was just backing up your rec for Pix, and pointing out how close it was to Pok Pok.

                  A visitor stated, in particular: "in general we seek out restaurants that. ...have consistently good food, consistently good service....the order for us is definitely 1) food 2) service (it can make up for so much!) I was taking them at their word, and consistently good service and food has not been my experience at Farm or Navarre.

                  atduskgreg, we don't have to agree but we have all had our own experiences and have our own opinions. There's room for everyone's on this board. Happy chowing! ;o)

            2. Wow, that's a lot to digest!

              --ruled out: mostly I agree with these, but I'd consider adding these back in:
              biwa: the only negative review I've seen of biwa was in Willamette Week, and I think they must have been on crack. I can understand if you have plenty of noodle houses, but you really can't beat their udon on a cold drizzly night. We stopped in on Saturday night, and found out a couple of great things: if you sit at the counter, it's happy hour all night, and the pork belly skewers are on the happy hour menu.
              higgins: I know I'll get arguments for recommending it, but I like it. Greg Higgins was really one of the pioneers of local seasonal food, and if you don't like the white tablecloth dining room, the bar is great, too (and has a great beer selection).
              andina: I ate recently at Limon in San Francisco, and I gotta say that Andina is better.
              country cat, podnah's, pambiche: all worth while

              navarre: I would say that the service is quite casual here, but I wouldn't call it bad--they do know their food and wine (they also have a lot available by the glass here). Since they get a lot of their ingredients from the 47th avenue CSA within the city limits of Portland, they are one of the best for using local and seasonal ingredients.

              coffee: In addition to Albina Press, also consider Ristretto on NE 42nd and Fremont and Extracto at NE 30th and Killingsworth. If you're staying at Kennedy School, Extracto is walking distance, and is much better for lounging around than Ristretto. Ristretto does roast their own beans, though.

              Alberta St Oyster Bar: There were stories about this reopening, but I'm not sure when exactly that was going to happen. I have the impression that it is open now.

              Cheese: foster and dobbs, curds and whey, steve's cheese, pastaworks

              In the also category:
              worthwhile: lovely hula hands, tabla, fife (Fife is particularly good about local seasonal ingredients)
              OK, but I'm not sure that it merit's attention from out-of-towners: mingo, southpark, heathman (too stuffy)

              1 Reply
              1. re: Nettie

                btw i just called alberta street oyster bar and the message said they're 'accepting reservations starting november 7, wednesday through sunday.' assuming they're not referring to november '06 (!), i take it they're open.

              2. Talk about doing your homework! My only comments/adjustments (and trying to keep it simple) would be:

                1. All your rule-outs seem right to me, except Pambiche, unless you feel you don't want Cuban. For music in the area of Pambiche, Navarre, etc., you might look into Laurelthirst Public House for hippified folk rock most nights and cool hangout factor.

                2. I think Southpark is very underrated. I'd sooner go there than Higgins. Best local raw oysters in town bar none!

                3. You should try Le Pigeon for uniqueness.

                4. For splurge, I'd go with Paley's Place.

                5. VQ is a good call for lunch, particularly with wine.

                6. Of your "like the sound of": I'd skip Rocket, Hurley's, Roux, and Fife. I'd consider Alba (a little out of the way, though), Mingo, and Carafe (for french bistro food, but kind of in no-mans land part of town).

                7. For music, Doug Fir is a good call, but check out listings in Willamette Week and Mercury.

                8. Mcmenamins is great for beer IMHO, but also look at Laurelwood.

                1. Reading through all the places you mentioned made me really hungry, with that in mind, just a couple of thoughts:

                  1) I definitely would not write off Andina. I have yet to have a bad meal there and have tried most of the menu. A friend from Brazil who's way more knowledgable about South American cuisine than I, declared it the best meal she'd ever had. If you're not sure you could always go the small plates way at the nice, spacy bar.

                  2) I may be a lone voice of dissent on the pizza choice, but I come down firmy on the side of Ken's. Better crust, better menu, nicer restaurant ... absurd waits, but oh well.

                  3) You mentioned you were looking for unpretentious, and again, I hate to go against the crowd, but the two dinners I've had at Le Pigeon were synonymous with prentension. I am also pretty sure I was the only local there both times as I can recall at least three conversations about "how cute" Portland was. Ugh.

                  4) A couple of your splurge places aren't that pricey. Park Kitchen (delish) is closer to midrange as is Clyde Common (a little overhyped right now). Hurley's is another good splurge option from your list.

                  5) Most importantly: go to Toro Bravo. Yeah, its crazy hyped now but its that good and embodies all that is good about the PDX food scene.

                  Have fun!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: psuguy

                    I too vastly prefer Ken's to Apizza Scholls.
                    There are bazillions of great brewpubs, i e Roots Organic. Skip McMen's. Ugh.

                  2. Ken's Pizza is terrific but I want to point out that unless something has changed recently, it is not open for lunch. I would hate for you to show up and be disappointed.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: mcarms

                      Several previous replies, including my own, pointed out the Ken's is dinner only.

                      1. re: Leonardo

                        Well you know I was in a hurry and just wanted to mention it. I apologize if I caused anyone any problem with my posting.

                    2. As others have noted, you've really done your homework. Congratulations, I think you'll be happy with any of the restaurants you've got on your list.

                      However, McMennamin's would not be my choice for beer (or food, but you seem to grasp that already). Even though they have a number of enthusiastic --and often dreadlocked and tie-dyed-- fans, I suggest you reconsider. Portland has a great many microbreweries and brewpubs, any of which would be a better choice for a knowledgeable and appreciative beer drinker. Although McM's taverns tend to be cheerful, happy, fun places to go, and I always enjoy myself at them, the beers are wildly inconsistent, and no better than mediocre even at their best. They're typically cloudy and unfinished. McM's make a virtue of this by saying they serve their beer while it's "still alive" which means, in many cases, still fermenting and still full of active yeast. Plus on occasion, other microorganisms; I've had many mildly infected beers at McM's pubs over the years.

                      Maybe try the Horse Brass pub instead; they have, last time I counted, 102 beers on tap from around the world, including a well-chosen selection of local and regional micros, and a rotating selection of cask-conditioned ales on hand pumps. Those guys know beer. Easy public transit access as well, with a bus stop right at the door.

                      One other thought: I kind of think Pambiche fits all your selection criteria very well, and is a long-time PDX favorite. It's really a good example of a characteristically "Portland" type of restaurant, in addition to being quite good, and is well worth considering if you have a suitable opportunity. I've found Mother's to be definitively ho-hum; Wild Abandon is not what it once was: it's a nice neighborhood spot, but not a destination. Zell's is my favorite spot for brekky, but is also a favorite of many others. There can be quite a wait on weekends, but weekdays should be OK.

                      1. priceless info - thank you! portland's food cart culture intrigues us. it looks like we might have to extend our trip a day -- or a month.

                        though i now feel totally comfortable with our breakfast-lunch-coffee-dessert-wine-beer-cheese-oyster options (go hounds), it's quite a challenge eliminating so many tantalizing dinner options. most agree with le pigeon, pok pok and toro bravo (now on our list). that's three. but the fourth is the hardest to choose because it shuts down the rest, and the variety is so great. our fourth could be anywhere from paley's place to tita's pista food cart!

                        it sounds like we can't go wrong with what we know so far, and maybe we play it by ear after doing a little scouting around, making a decision closer to the fourth night. but if we need reservations, it might not work. i'm sure even anthony bourdain needs to make reservations now and again. okay, maybe not.

                        your opinions are welcome in helping us choose our fourth 'destination'. we're still tossing around biwa, park kitchen, paley's, pambiche, sel gris, alba, carlyle, apizza, ken's, apizza, lovely hula hands, fife, navarre, tita's pista. we know how to grin-and-bear the possibility of inconsistent service if we're warned beforehand to look past it for the food.

                        your vote counts!

                        we'll definitely be sampling the oysters so we'll get to squeeze in a few more establishments via happy hours -- probably southpark, ten-01, dan and louis, alberta street. or if we just feel like wine, maybe noble rot or pour.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: mabaland

                          Well, since you seem to be up in the air about what to do for your fourth dinner, I'll make a rec from off the menu, so to speak. This is definitely a splurge, and one that doesn't seem to draw much discussion on Chowhound for some reason.

                          Genoa occupies a place in the Portland fine dining universe somewhat like that Chez Panisse occupies in Berkeley's: Not only is she the Doyenne of local high-end restaurants, with a glorious and decades-long history, but she is also the Mother of many local chefs, celebrity and otherwise.

                          Genoa is like CP also in cost, in being Prix Fixe, and in offering only a pre-set menu. You do have some choices: you can select the 4- or 7-course meal, if memory serves, and you can choose between two entree's on offer. Expect to spend a long, leisurely evening at Genoa. This meal is intended to be the focus of your evening, not a prelude to something else. Well, maybe *something* else...

                          Genoa has an impact and influence on the Portland dining scene that belies her modest external appearance. If you only get to do Portland once, and time and budget permit, this is not to be missed.

                        2. For splurge, just go with Paley's. If you're considering food carts, the taco truck at Killingsworth and Interstate has the best tacos - home made tortillas. Mmmm.

                          1. Country Cat definitely stay away from. Have tried it three times and they were all very bad.

                            I'd give Biwa a chance if I were you though... the few negative reviews I've read were by people who didn't understand that Japanese food is more than sushi.

                            PokPok... yep, good choice.

                            For the splurge I'd go for Paley's. Selgris looks like kinda like Queer Eye for The Straight Guy out takes from the inside.

                            Not crazy about LePigeon. Food is fine service the two times I've been there is beyond terrible.

                            For an excellent beer selection try Le Bodega- it is just down the street from Toro Bravo which is another must.

                            Curds & Whey is good for cheese but not so much their wine selection.

                            Park kitchen has some great drinks but I've been very disappointed by the food the last 3 times I've been there

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: lebelage

                              Wow, harsh words for Country Cat. I have been 4 or 5 times, and the worst thing I can say is inconsistent quality (the lamb was excellent one night, tough another) and recipes that just didn't work for me (the oyster stew was merely a collection of ingredients). Everything else I've tried has been very good, especially the weekend brunch items.

                              Another vote for Pok Pok. Ask the server what they put in the carafe of water (some kind of spice or seed?). I can't remember what they told me, but the flavor instantly took me back to Bangkok.

                              Also agree on the earlier comment about Voodoo Donuts. It's an experience to stand in line in a funky little establishment for a donut topped with Cap'n Crunch or Tang, but that's about it.

                              1. re: chipqmunk

                                Yeah, I know it is harsh to say about CC. But let me briefly describe my experiences. And with the food issues- on all occassions it was the chef/owner who prepared my food (open kitchen and he was working alone) on all occasions the restaurant had no more than 4 tables and a few pepps at the bar so no busyness excuses.

                                On one occassion I got the dumplings, cabbage, cider reduction dish. The "pan seared dumplings were burnt. Burnt as in black. BLACK. The chef himself sent me out inedibly burnt food.

                                On another occassion the hamburger... old... very old. So old that my med rare burger was at the correct temp but grey inside. And tasted oddly like sausage. Like he thought if he dumped enough salt on no one would notice.

                                On another occasion all bread items, table and on menu items were beyond stale and tasted as though they'd been in open bags in the refrigerator for several days... and a dessert so old there was no moisture left in it.

                                And I really, really wanted to like CC hence my giving it 3 chances. I was really excited to have a nice restaurant close by since my neighborhood lacked that for so long. Maybe the brunch is nice.. maybe I just need to go on the chef's night off.

                                At PokPok the water is flavoured with pandan:
                                Here's a link if you're curious

                                1. re: lebelage

                                  Thank you for the pandan info!

                                  I'm sorry your experiences at CC were so bad! Agreed -- no excuse for that. I'd be leery of going back if that happened to me.

                                  Mabaland, the November issue of Portland Monthly states that Alberta St. Oyster Bar & Grill is closed.

                                  1. re: chipqmunk

                                    It re-opened near the beg. of November. Same chef, different owner.

                            2. I just ate at Toro Bravo last night and almost everything I had was fantastic, including the wine. We had to eat at the bar, but that was fine. Great place.

                              1. So? What'd you think? Where'd you go?

                                I'm late to the party, but I also love Pok Pok. Voodoo Donuts is fun for the atmosphere, but if you go just to split a donut, you can get something great (or something weird just because...), and I'd recommend the Tangfastic. You can also get married there or take Swahili lessons. I've had amazing meals at both Lovely Hula Hands and Farm, and both are quite reasonable yet the food itself often feels like a splurge.

                                I've only been to Noble Rot once, though I enjoyed the small plates as much as the wine, but I've heard Rocket isn't worth the trip.

                                I like McMenamins beer, but I think Laurelwood is better.

                                The Doug Fir is probably the best music venue in town in terms of quality of shows and a cool yet comfortable place to see a show. They've gotta have the best sound guys in town.

                                1. Some of the places mentioned...

                                  Kennedy School Hotel
                                  5736 NE 33rd Ave, Portland, OR 97211

                                  Pok Pok
                                  3226 SE Division St, Portland, OR

                                  4915 NE Fremont St, Portland, OR 97213

                                  Voodoo Doughnut
                                  22 SW 3rd Ave, Portland, OR

                                  Cricket Cafe
                                  3159 SE Belmont St, Portland, OR 97214

                                  Sel Gris
                                  1852 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR

                                  Vincente's Gourmet Pizza
                                  1935 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR

                                  215 SE 9th Ave Ste 102, Portland, OR 97214

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: balabanian

                                    I don't think Vincente's was mentioned, nor should it be mentioned in any best of best list. It's been a while since I was last there, but it was not good.

                                  2. Another vote for Sel Gris, one of my top dining experiences of 2007.

                                    Be sure to order dessert, probably the best pastry chef in Portland.

                                    1. hi folks. us again. just realized reading some of these responses that some of you didn't see we did report back, but as a new posting entitled 'Reporting Back: Best food of the best in Portland.' here's the link ...


                                      happy eating.

                                      1. If you are mobile, there are a few great restaurants not on your list. The best Thai food in town is at Chabba Thai on Sandy Boulevard. For breakfast, Detour Cafe on Division is great. Nuestra Cucina on Division is very good for dinner as is Chameleon at 40th and NE Sandy which few people ever talk about but the chicken wraps and lamb chops are the best in town.


                                        11 Replies
                                        1. re: primary palate

                                          Cha Ba Thai is great--no argument there, but one really can't compare it with Pok Pok, which is in a whole different realm. However, if you're looking for the best versions of "typical" Thai food known to Americans, i.e. "colored" curries, pad thai, etc., Cha Ba is the place to go. If you simply want the best Thai food you're likely to get outside of Thailand, Pok Pok is it.

                                          1. re: antrobin

                                            Are all of Pok Pok's entrees small? and what dishes do you reccomend getting there?

                                            1. re: lovesfood11

                                              I wouldn't call Pok Pok's entrees "small," but if you're used to oversized portions, they might seem so, especially for the price, which isn't exorbitant, but might seem a bit more than you're used to paying at a run of the mill Thai restaurant.

                                              That said, it's really pretty hard to go wrong. A few favorites of mine follow:

                                              Kai Yang--roasted bird

                                              Kao Soi Kai--northern-style curry noodle-soup. This may be my favorite.

                                              Kao Man Som Tam--the signature pok pok papaya salad served with shredded sweet pork and cocount rice. the portion on this one does tend to be a little small, but the flavors are so intense, it doesn't take much.

                                              Skip the Muu (pork) Sate--it's not bad at all, but also not very remarkable.

                                              Vietnamese fish sauce wings are outstanding as is Yam Khai Dao, a very interesting and delicious egg "salad."

                                              The lamb skewers and lamb noodle soup are also favorites.

                                              Oh, and the Yam Samun Phrai, a "special Northern Thai herbal salad" which is an explosion of unusual and intense flavors, but remains light.

                                              Anyway, tons more -- I didn't even get into the dinner menu. The bottom line is that with most dishes you can't miss, and the few that aren't the greatest are still pretty good.

                                              Oh, and the cocktails are outstanding.

                                              1. re: antrobin

                                                Thanks for the recs. I'm not used to over sized portions but i thought for around 10 dollars a dish the food would be very small but i guess I was wrong. Are there any other asian restaurants you reccomend in Oregon more than Pok Pok?

                                                1. re: lovesfood11

                                                  Can you make same day reservations for Pok Pok or do you have to make them way in advance?

                                                  1. re: lovesfood11

                                                    You can walk in at Pok Pok most nights--I have no idea if they even take reservations, but on a Thursday in November, I showed up about 9 and immediately got a table in the Whiskey Soda Lounge. The outdoor (but covered and heated) Pok Pok tables were nearly empty.

                                                    1. re: lpfaf

                                                      reservations taken for parties of 5+

                                            2. re: antrobin

                                              One year later:
                                              Chaba Thai changed ownership and is now a mediocre place more notable for high noise level than good food. Stay away. There are more unusual Thai places in town, one of which is LEMONGRASS, in a small house in SE PDX. Very small, run by a Thai woman and her american husband (greeter, waiter, busser). Expensive--like, 18 bucks for some dishes. HOT. TWO STARS is spicy hot. They go up to 18 stars, if you can imagine. Pok Pok is a wonderful restaurant in an uninspiring location. The food is different than other Thai meals I've had, a bit yuppier.

                                              1. re: Frank Rodo

                                                The main difference between Pok Pok and all other PDX Thai is that it is northern Thai street food, serving dishes that no one else does. And they do so magnificently. I've no inkling as to what "yuppier" means.

                                                Agree that Chaba Thai is not good. The Tom Yum was horribly sweet.

                                                1. re: Leonardo

                                                  Yuppier, I would think, refers to the fact that Pok Pok's diners are mostly white. Doesn't make Pok Pok any less delicious though.

                                                  1. re: dagrassroots

                                                    Yuppie = Young Urban Professional. Where's the "white"?
                                                    And no, I've never noticed how their clientele is "whiter" than your average PDX Thai place.

                                          2. not a pdx local but if you can, i would pick up some Sub Rosa saffron (or tarragon) vodka which is local to Portland and not readily available outside Oregon yet (if i'm not mistaken)

                                            1. Love love daily cafe for breakfast and lunch and the sungari pearl for chinese. Lived there for a year , had to leave because of the rain rain rain. These two places were such a comfort for me while I was there.

                                              1. CLAY'S SMOKEHOUSE on DIVISION ST in Southeast, Portland. It is super easy to grab the Division bus there.

                                                This is simply the best BBQ on earth. It tastes super gourmet. Plus, the slaw has a sesame effect that none can match. I moved away from Portland 4 years ago and still miss this place. The brisket. Oh, the brisket.

                                                Pineapple Upside Down Cake is made fresh by the owner's Mom.

                                                1. Seems like a good thread to report some PDX highlights of a recent trip. In general I found service to be less attentive than I'm used to, but that doesn't bother me.

                                                  Pix - has been mentioned above. Very good looking and tasting desserts. You will be hard pressed to find better desserts at that price. As a concept, it's unique, at least would be here in TX. Beer, wine, desserts, coffee and a little "real" food. This pretty much sums up my culinary needs. Finish your night with dessert and drinks here, not where you ate dinner.

                                                  Laurelhurst and Rogue - Wonderful beer... the food on the other hand...

                                                  Tin Shed - Breakfast. Really liked the Sweet Potato French Toast. Everything else was pretty tasty and worth eating again, but not a special trip. Dinner - This is food that a smart college student would put together when they were really hungry and had a limited pantry. It's not bad, but it's sort of mash-ups or various ingredients. Good, but maybe a bit too far?

                                                  Wild Abandon - I was very pleased with a breakfast here (served till 2). Check out Restaurant.com for a coupon which makes this a fabulous deal for the quality.

                                                  Por Que No - A more considerate taqueria. Busy and crowded, but a great place for a light meal without making a fuss of going out.

                                                  Voodoo - don't be ashamed to go, it's fun, and better than average.

                                                  Cacao - not a restaurant, but one of my favorite things to stumble upon. For lovers of fine chocolate, this is nearly heaven. Great selection (even the 1kg Amadei Chuao block), and reasonable prices, though if you want to get some Pralus, go to Pix, it's cheaper there. They'll sample whatever you want. Pick a time around when they open (11:00, at least on weekdays) and it'll be less busy and the staff can be very helpful. The worker when I was there opened up a box of just arrived Malagasy for me to sample, just cause he was so excited about it.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: kindofabigdeal

                                                    Thanks for the report! I assume that you mean Laurelwood brewery and not Laurelhurst. If so, I agree about the food.

                                                  2. It kinda took me by surprise as to how good it was, but I gotta plug Albert St. Oyster Bar & Grill. I think it definitely belongs in the conversation, along with Sel Gris and Le Pigeon, in terms of fine-dining.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: SauceSupreme

                                                      are the dishes at pok pok generally spicy? I want to go with my parents but my father can't take a lot of heat. A certain amount is fine, but if everything is southern thai levels of spice we'll have to go somewhere else.

                                                      1. re: themook

                                                        I took my folks there and a) one of them can't tolerate spice and b) both were generally predisposed to not like Thai food. Despite the apparent insanity of taking them there...they both enjoyed the meal.

                                                        If you are big eaters and want to order a lot...then the intolerance to spicy foods doesn't work in your favor.

                                                        If you're a lighter eater then you'll do fine. We ordered the mussel crepe, the roasted chicken, a vegetable special and something else... The waiter was quite helpful, too despite the absurdity of my request for non-spicy food. We did not ask them to lower the spice in any of the dishes we ordered.

                                                          1. re: themook

                                                            I can't handle spicy heat, but the bird, fish sauce wings (order them mild, they are great), mussel crepe, pork skewers, and coconut rice are all not spicy and very delicious. Just ask your server and they can steer you away from the hot and spicy stuff.

                                                    2. did you find a place anywhere around 23rd west street that was sort of like panera bread before that was trendy, where they may have served a red pepper soup?

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: iL Divo

                                                        Do you mean NW 23rd?

                                                        And I really wouldn't consider Panera Bread trendy at all, just sort of a dressed up fast food joint like Baja Fresh. If it's a quality bakery you're looking for, head down to Ken's Artisan Bakery on NW 21st and Flanders.

                                                        1. re: SauceSupreme

                                                          Thanks to you SauceSupreme, it's not the place my daughter was hoping to duplicate the soup of. Just called them and they don't serve the kind of soup she is hoping for. Meantime and meanwhile, I feel a need to apologize for using the term trendy, I didn't know what else to call this new fangled 'hot spot' that being Panera Bread. And since I live in another state, sorry too, about misstating the name or number of the street. Gosh, I must have totally confused all in this forum, so sorry for any goof on my part. Thanks...

                                                          1. re: MyNextMeal

                                                            I called Elephants and is it only for take out? They didn't answer the phone saying that you can order online or over the phone via voice mail. If that's the case, then it sounds like it isn't an eat in place, or I'm all wrong. Thanks though.

                                                        2. Also tryng my best to do "due diligence" and not be a pest, but can anyone point me to an updated versipon of this whole string?

                                                          Many thanks!

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: Fine

                                                            Just scroll down this board, back a few months. There are many such threads with extensive comment that are more recent, from the past half-year.

                                                            1. re: Fine

                                                              Take a look at this Top 100 list. There are a few notable exceptions, but by and large a good place to start.


                                                              1. re: SauceSupreme

                                                                I'm a Washingtonian who went down to Portland last weekend for the first time in a few years and were taking my elderly folks out for a nice dinner. After consulting this thread, we decided to go to Paley's (note: steep steps to walk up for elderly and we didn't see any ramp). Unfortunately, we had a waitress who was wearing too much perfume and sitting by a customer who had on too much after shave. Why oh why do people wear fragrance when they are going someplace where people will be eating food or drinking wine? It SO much ruins the experience. And any restaurant owner who doesn't stop his/her servers from wearing fragrance in my opinion doesn't get it. But I digress.... Anyway, when we sat down we were informed there was no seafood that night because the chef decided it wasn't up to his standard. I certainly appreciate a chef who won't serve something he doesn't believe is quality. But unfortunately, we found that without seafood, there wasn't alot on the menu that sounded very good to any of us. There was a basic steak, which none of us wanted since we'd had that the night before, and a few other dishes that were kind of out there. Three of us ended up with quail, which was very good and my husband ended up with a dish made out of grains that was kind of like a risotto. I tasted it and it was also very good, but definitely not very much for a grown man so ate half of mine. Also, in the dining room they were playing some rock & roll music which seemed out of place and too loud. So, bottom line - we enjoyed the food, the service was good (other than the perfume), but we probably wouldn't recommend or return.