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Another Portland "one night" request, but slightly different...

Two San Francisco foodies are coming to Portland for three days...we've got most meals figured out except for Saturday dinner…I need a local's insight!

After scouring posts on this board, I have it narrowed down to:
-- Sel Gris
-- Carlyle
-- Paley's Place
-- Le Pigeon
-- Higgins
-- ten-01

What we're looking for:
+ A "true" Portland experience, with a menu of local ingredients and a lot of creativity with dishes that are more messy and sensual than composed and intellectual
+ High quality service that isn't stuffy
+ Cozy/charming dining room — no overly-designed, loud, or deadly hip rooms with a chaotic bar scene please
…good wine by the glass/half bottles and beers on tap is a big plus (which gives Higgins an edge)

So which do you think fits the bill the best? Any insight is appreciated.

I can't express how excited I am to come up and learn why Portland is rapidly overtaking SF as the West Coast Foodie Nirvana!

P.S. Is Apizza Scholl's really worth the effort? We are both NY-style pizza lovers…could Ken's suffice?

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  1. Ken's will more than "suffice". It will exceed your expectations. Get the margherita pizza & roast vegie plate. Neither it nor Apizza is NY-style.

    Not sure if you can get all your criteria perfectly in one place. I'd call Paley's & Higgins higher on the cozy scale, yet not so messy on the dishes...you can't go wrong with any of those choices, really.

    Are you going to the Portland Farmers' Mkt?

    Thanks for doing research first and then posting. From now on I'll only respond to posts such as yours!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Leonardo

      Actually, as a New Yorker, I have to correct you. Ken's is NOT NY Style, but Apizza Scholls most definitely is --- in the best sense. There is a lot of pizza in New York, and Apizza Scholls is reminiscant of, and even superior to (IMHO), Lombardi's Pizza in Little Italy. If you like NY style, run, don't walk to Apizza Scholls (although you may have to wait for a table once you get there).

    2. This isn't on your list, but for a "true" Portland experience I suggest that you look at Simpatica for dinner. http://www.simpaticacatering.com/

      1. It's a great list, but ironocally, I don't think anything on the list meets all of your criteria. Carlyle, Sel Gris, and Ten-01 all lean towards a more "composed" food style. Paley's and Higgins are perhaps more local-centric as far as ingredients go. Although Le Pigeon doesn't have a bar, it can still feel a bit chaotic. With that said however, it may be the most unique on your list. Of the six, it is definately the most casual in terms of style and service. Although I like the food at Ten-01, I would not describe the environment as either cozy or charming. Carlyle and Sel Gris are both intimate, with what I would describe as an "urban sophistication". Paley's is in an old house, so it may fit the cozy bill. Higgins, (with the exception of its bar) has a quiet, corporate feel...fairly traditional. Le Pigeon, style-wise, is pretty funky, but it works well with the over-all vibe and Gabe's approach to cooking. I would say all on your list represent some of the best service in town, but if I were to pick something that best reflects a Portland experience, I would go with Le Pigeon. Have a great dinner!

        1. I still feel like Le Pigeon is distinctly Portland. Urban sophistication, as Kim D puts it, is also a good way to describe ten-01, while Le Pigeon still possesses a patina of neighborhood bistro to it. It probably fits your criteria the best.

          That being said, I'm a big fan of the ten-01 menu, and aside from the gorgeous yet cavernous dining room, it would highly recommend it for its food. But if it's your Portland you're looking for, note that ten-01 is much more "Pearl District" than it is "rest of Portland", if that makes any sense.

          Another one you might like (disclaimer: I have not yet visited) is Alba Osteria. I'm a big fan of regionalized and focused cuisine, and Alba is no exception. It isn't just Italian, it's Piedmontese. Alba and Simpatica are high on my local to-do list.

          Why haven't I been yet? I've been spending too much time at Tanuki. They're in the middle of their soft open, and so they only have booze on the weekends, but it's a Japanese izakaya that's been given a sophisticated twist. The menu changes daily, but it's been quite exciting just to see what's new on every trip.

          1. Higgins is a splendid representative of the local food culture there. He's an amazing guy and I think you'd be happy with it.

            Are you going to hit the farmer's market? I really think that's the premier PDX foodie experience. Even if you're in a hotel. Snag some local cheese and wine and Ken's bread...heaven. If you see the Monteillet Fromagerie there, don't miss it.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Vetter

              We were very surprised to be able to get a last minute table at Higgins last January (on a symphony night, of which we had no clue). If you like charcuterie....my oh my, go there and have their charcuterie plate....it was lovely...

            2. Thank you all for such thoughtful replies. There's something about Le Pigeon that really resonates with me, and after reading the posts about it, I think we'll go for that. Maybe try to do Higgins at lunch another day. The market is a must for sure, even if just to check out the beautiful bounty.

              I look forward to the trip, and I promise to write a report back.

              6 Replies
              1. re: Absonot

                Ok, we're back! WHAT a wonderful town. It was a bit too hot for me this past weekend, but the food and the beer did not disappoint. The highlights:

                Went here for lunch on Friday. I had a "pressed" salad full of a bounty of blanched diced vegetables in an herb vinaigrette. It was a HUGE portion and definitely one of the best, most colorful salads I've ever had. Beets, onions, carrots, sugar snap peas, English peas, heirloom tomatoes and croutons. Our waitress said it was brand new to the menu...go there and order it!

                My fiancé got the gazpacho, which was a puree with smoky undertones, very elegant. He called his pastrami sandwich "sublime", a word he does not toss around lightly. It truly lived up to its reputation. My entree of house-made pasta with kale and fennel sausage was lovely, but the portion was too big!! And I'm guessing the sausage was cooked in the sauce instead of browned and then added - it didn't have any crispy bits that I love so much. But the flavor was phenomenal. This place was GREAT. Definitely coming back next time.

                **The farmer's market
                Holy smoke! I was prepared for great produce, but not the charming, shady and comfortable location! Berries, berries everywhere and I've never been struck dumb by the beauty of onions before. My head was spinning, so I had to sit down with a Pine State biscuit with butter and honey and listen to the bluegrass band warming up. My fiancé had a chicken tamale that was the best either of us have ever had.

                We also snagged a couple amazing Alma chocolates (salted caramel lavender and habanero) and two delightful blueberry and lemon tartlets from the Two Tarts stand. Also, we loved the chile jams at one stand, but forgot to circle back to pick some up before we left! Does anyone know that name of that place, if they sell online?

                **Horse Brass Pub
                It took a while to walk/bus to this place from the farmer's market but boy, it was worth it! The best beer spot of the entire trip, bar none (I'm looking at you, Deschutes). I had an amazing black cherry stout from Walking Man brewery then a really good Caldera dry hopped red. I also ate my first Scotch Egg - it was delicious, but I doubt I'll be making it a habit.

                **Le Pigeon
                I really loved this place, although I will say that the tables are better for groups of 4 or more, while couples would probably be happier at the bar. My fiancé and I were smack dab in the middle of two parties of 5 at one communal table, and could barely hear each other talk. It blew my boyfriend's plans to propose at dinner, I'll tell you that (it was a blessing in disguise, as the walk home along the Willamette was much more romantic anyway).

                I had the foie gras appetizer and the pork entrée, my fiancé had the sweetbreads and beef cheeks. The foie gras was all about textures - the different crunches of the nuts, waffle and darkly seared foie contrasting with the luscious liver and the more sodden parts of the waffle…add the piquancy of the rhubarb compote (and a swig of Tokaji) and I was simply in heaven. Trouble was, the dish was so rich I could barely get halfway through my pork shoulder entrée, which was also a textural delight.

                The meat had been braised and then seared in a honey mustard glaze - complete with bursting mustard seeds. The result was sweet/salty/sour crusty bits of pork fat (and meat of course)! Yum. I made a huge mistake getting two such rich dishes, so had to forgo the amazing-sounding desserts (foie gras profiteroles? Dear lord).

                The beef cheeks were a bit too one-note for me, especially in terms of texture. But I suppose if that is what you want…he loved his sweetbreads more than the beef cheeks. I wasn't a huge fan of how the curry worked with the dish, but I admired the bold step.

                This place is really wonderful and I’m very glad we ate here. It was much different than anything I've ever experienced and I will definitely make it a "must" for anyone I know who's headed up there.

                Stumptown -- Great coffee, definitely a huge bargain for a press pot.

                I was disappointed by our breakfast at Bijou Café…it wasn't that bad, but I think I had unreasonable expectations. And we got a falafel at a stand at the craft fair and it was awful! Breakfast at Everett Street Café was fine, unremarkable. Oh well. Overall, we ate well and too much. A good vacation, right?!? Thanks for all your help.

                1. re: Absonot

                  Thanks for the report! It will encourage us to help others.
                  Sorry about the 10-15 degrees above average heat.
                  Pretty sad that you chose to eat at the Portland Saturday Mkt (craft fair). Had you asked I would've told you to forget it.
                  Pine State Biscuit now has their own shop in addition to being at the PFM, by the way.

                  1. re: Absonot

                    Thanks for reporting back! I just hate reading all of the recommendations with no feedback.
                    The chile jam you probably had from the Farmer's Market was most likely Rose City Pepperheads. They do sell online: http://www.rosecitypepperheads.com/
                    And congrats on your engagement - it sounds like you had a great trip to Portland.

                    1. re: Sushiqueen36

                      Yes, that's it! Thank you!!
                      The trip WAS wonderful...

                      1. re: Absonot

                        And of course, congratulations are in order to you and your fiancé.

                        The bar at Le Pigeon is one of my top spots in all of Portland, watching Chef Gabe Rucker work his magic (same, too, with Sel Gris).

                    2. re: Absonot

                      Thank you for the post, and for the report back. We are headed to Portland tomorrow from NYC and want much the same food experience you had. I appreciate the tips and the reviews!