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Three days in Portland

In April I'll be tagging along on my husband's business trip to Portland, which I've never been to before. We're from the San Francisco area, so I don't imagine food there would be as exotic to me as it was in, say, Door County, Wisconsin. But I am hoping to get as uniquely Portlandish an experience as possible in only three days.

We'll be staying downtown and won't have a car, and expect to do a lot of walking. I'm looking for places to go for lunch that I'll be comfortable doing on my own during the day (or maybe picnic supplies?), as well as places to go with my husband, and maybe his co-workers, at night.

I'm not looking to approach a French-Laundry level of expense and hysteria, but both splurges and holes-in-the-wall are interesting to me as long as they're Chowish.

Help will be very much appreciated.

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  1. One of my favorite "prepared foods for an effortless picnic" stops is Elephants Deli/Flying Elephants Deli. The 'flying' version is the one that's downtown, 812 SW Park (right on the Max light rail line), but if you happen to find yourself in the hoity-toity boutique shopping district near downtown (23rd/Nob Hill) there's another one at 115 NW 22nd, just a block or so north of Burnside. And as a bonus, if you stop in within an hour or two of closing (after about 5:30 or 6, getting supplies for a hotel-picnic dinner...) a bunch of their prepared foods, both cold and hot, are half off. The cheeses, deli meats (oh, the salami selection!), and desserts are also lovely.

    1. Some solo lunch ideas for you include Kenny & Zukes Deli, which has drawn favorable comparisons to Katz in NY and Langers in LA; and also Ten-01, which has a lunch prix-fixe menu. I just had lunch today at Wildwood, which isn't in downtown, but is easily accessible via streetcar. (And actually, taking the streetcar to NW 21st/23rd allows you to check out the aforementioned Nob Hill area, which has a totally different vibe than the office buildings of downtown or the warehouses of the Pearl.)

      And while I wouldn't call these unique to Portland, other restaurants in the Pearl you might like are Andina (Peruvian), D.F. (Mexican), and Park Kitchen.

      One thing you might enjoy downtown are the food stands, centered around SW 10th and Alder. Many downtown office workers and culinary institute students can be seen there around noon, enjoying various offerings from Thai to Czech to hot dogs and all spots in between.

      Of course, I have to recommend Clyde Common; their menu changes frequently so I can't tell you what'll be on there in April, but the level of food has always been great. Right next door to them is Stumptown Coffee and I would make time for that.

      For the really uniquely Portland stuff, you've gotta be willing to cross the river into the Eastside. There, you open up the possibility for places like Pok Pok, Castagna, Toro Bravo, Apizza Scholls, Le Pigeon, Sel Gris...

      1. Thanks-- Sauce Supreme, one of my problems is narrowing things down since I've got just three nights, so any help with prioritizing the best ideas is a big help.

        Also, I want to clarify that absolutely no snarkishness was intended about Door County. When I was there I went completely crazy for fresh whitefish and real fresh cherry pie: both things I'd never had a chance to eat before. Fish Boil was a new concept too. At any rate, if Portland has something really different from San Francisco like that, i wouldn't want to miss it.

        1. I forgot to ask about smoking policies in Portland (I'm a non-smoker.)

          1 Reply
          1. re: wearybashful

            No smoking in restaurants in Portland, smoking in some bars (until 1/09, anyway, when they will all be non-smoking) though there are many non-smoking bars (and some great restaurant bars which are, by default, non-smoking).

          2. Don't miss Screen Door for brunch - it is my favorite! Fried oyster and bacon Benedict served with cheesy grits? Oy!

            1 Reply
            1. re: burritobelle

              Benedict? You mean they put hollandaise sauce on top of the fried oysters, bacon and cheese? Oy indeed!

            2. Jam on Hawthorne is my favorite for breakfast. It is easy from downtown. Take the 14 bus (catch it on SW 2nd and Alder) across the river. Jam is on se Hawthorne and 23rd. Avoid Mexican food here. It is so much better in California. Crowsenberg's Half and Half on SW Oak somewhere near Powell's is really good for lunch. They have sandwiches and great pie. Reading Frenzy is next door. It has a really good selection of independent comics, zines, and art. La Buca on NE 28th and Couch is a good place for Italian and is really fairly priced. The Doug Fir has a good happy hour everyday from 3-6. All food on the bar menu is $2.50. This is a good place to check out. It is modern log cabin style, and it is very fun to sit by the fire and sip cocktails. Another place on Hawthorne at 34th-ish (also on 14 busline) is Fujin. It is Chinese. Try the crispy eggplant. The green beans are really good, too. Let them order for you, and you can't go wrong. If you're here on a Sunday, Moody's donuts is worth a special trip. It's on Belmont at 26th. Look for the small sign with the barn on it. It is in a stand behind another place. The donuts are made to order and delicious. It closes at two and is only open Sundays.

              7 Replies
              1. re: toenail_jones

                Thanks, toenail. I haven't eaten a donut in ages, but Sunday we're going to drive and hike in the Gorge, and stopping for donuts before hiking sounds perfect.

                1. re: wearybashful

                  Word is that Moody's is closed. The place in front has been sold to new owners and it appears that they will not let Moody's continue operation.

                  This post and the one after it contain the bad news: http://portlandfood.org/index.php?s=&...

                  1. re: JillO

                    Just wanted to let everyone know that Moody's is still open. It shut down for two weeks during the change of ownership of the coffee shop, but is operating Sundays 9-2pm.

                    1. re: MoodysDonuts

                      Oh no, it was only closed while I was in Portland. I will come back! Don't close any more!

                      1. re: MoodysDonuts

                        Thanks! I've been wanting to try this out.

                    2. re: wearybashful

                      If Moody's is closed, and you want donuts, you should go to Voodoo, downtown. I like grape ape and blazers blunts. They also serve Stumptown coffee.

                      1. re: MichaelG

                        I don't think I'll look for Voodoo. I'm not normally a fan of donuts, but the idea of Moody's sounded like it would overcome my normal donut aversion. It looked like he'll move the cart, but maybe not in time for this Sunday. If you do hear that it will be happening somewhere this Sunday, please post.

                        Bad timing! I always get in the wrong line at the supermarket too.

                  2. If you are looking for something different try the thai restaurant, Typhoon, located in hotel Lucia in downtown; a great boutique hotel by the way. As I remembered their "drunken noodle" & "duck curry" were both excellent. Service, don't expect too much but you are on a food hunt right. I was told that all the cooks are form Thailand and I believe itl. Dinner, I suggest Fenouil, a little on the spendy side but, hey, there is no sales tax in Portland.

                    1. I work downtown so I can tell you, there are a LOT of places to eat. One of my favorites if you like just plain old comfort food is Blue Plate on Washington between 3rd and 4th (luckily for me, they're in the building I work at). You can get grilled cheese and tomato soup every day, but they also have daily specials that are to die for. Best mashed potatoes ever. They also have hand made sundaes, shakes, floats and sodas. But they're only open for lunch. Morningstar Cafe on 3rd between Washington and Alder is good for sandwhiches, yummy fresh made sandwhiches. As for dinner, Hubers is great, Portland City Grill has great food, but is expensive and swanky. Higgens makes the best steaks, ever. City Grill & Sports bar on 4th and Washington makes great burgers... As SauceSupreme mentioned, there are the carts.. My coworkers LOVE the carts, but they're not my favorite. If you want a good pizza go to Flying Pie on 70th and Stark.. It's pretty much the best ever :)

                      1. Joleine, I missed your post, I'd left already. I'll have to go back for all the stuff I missed.

                        The first thing we did on arrival was to head for Sel Gris. I was afraid that business obligations or logistics would keep us from getting to more chowish choices. That turned out to be true, so I was so glad to have that Sel Gris dinner under my (straining) belt.

                        I must say that the service at Sel Gris was great. We sat at the counter, and our server was just extremely talented. She provided just the right amount of friendly warmth, attention and expertise in both the wine and food. We ordered the Anam Cara Pinot Noir, and she brought us a little to taste first, then she brought us each tasting portions of a Reisling to go with our appetisers, saying she thought it would go better.
                        My husband had venison appetizer and "pork and beans" which he loved. I had the amazing concoction of sweetbreads with the egg inside the apelskiver (sp?) and bacon, then the hamachi with foie gras. Actually that was too rich. I think it would make a better appetizer. It was delicious, though I wish I'd gotten the venison.
                        The desserts were great too-- then they brought us an extra pair of little tart/ truffles, which we ate anyway. Sigh.

                        The next night friends wanted to meet at Nostrana. The space had a chain kind of look to it, though I guess it isn't. I wasn't interested in pizza; I had a root vegetable soup with nettle puree and Jerusalem artichoke sformato with bagna cauda, which was unusual and really yummy.

                        I found Du's Grill on Sandy serendipitously. I was headed for a Scandinavian folk dance at the Masonic lodge on Sandy Blvd. I got off the bus and saw nothing but a Jack-in-the-Box. Just as i was feeling doomed, a plume of beautiful barbecue smoke wafted by, and I followed it to Du's. I got teriyaki chicken on top of salad, and it was fast, good, cheap, and exactly what I needed right then.

                        I had pizza and a good local beer at It's a Beautiful Pizza, because I was interested in the Balkan music played there on Tuesdays. I have to confess that I'm old enough to appreciate the decor there. As I was eyeing the ready-made pizza-by-the-slice selections dubiously, the guy offered to make me a slice to order. I asked for spinach, feta and anchovies, and it wasn't oily, the spinach was good and it worked for me. The music was wonderful, by the way-- beautiful Balkan singing too.

                        I didn't get to explore too much for breakfast or lunch. I liked the atmosphere at Powell's Bookstore coffee shop, I had really good Portland Roasting Company coffee and a pastry at The Flying Elephant Deli, and I thankfully had a chance to experience the Schnitzelwich from Tabor food cart, which I ate while walking along the river. So I feel I had some truly Portlandish experiences, and hope to get back and try more.

                        Thank you all for your help.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: wearybashful

                          Thanks Wearybashful, for posting about Du's Grill. I've never even heard of it and it's right between work and home, right about the spot where we start asking "what are we going to pick up to eat on the way home?". If you'd been another 10 blocks or so up Sandy there are a ton of restaurant choices. Pho Oregon is a regular stop of mine. I'll have to check out Du's sometime.

                        2. Stumptown coffee. Beware: they take themselves VERY seriously

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: jamesbra

                            I don't think they've been the same they pulled the Clovers out (I go to the Ace location). My favorite bean of theirs was an Ethiopian one called tega & tula, which had a really great flavor profile coaxed out by the Clover. The french press is nice, but really isn't the same.