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Portland cheap and delicious, plus a splurge or two (and a wine bar)

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Portland chowhounds, I need your advice.

Mr. Tastebud and I are taking the train to Portland next week to help boost the Portland economy. (No used-bookstore employee will get laid off if *we* have anything to say about it!) We'll be there for 4-1/2 days, and will be staying downtown at the Heathman (I know - what a splurge, but they had a great discount and I do love the place).

I've read lots of PDX threads, but still need your help. This is a long post - I have a billion questions - so please bear with me.

We're looking for cheap and delicious lunches, ethnic or otherwise, and one or two "affordably awesome" dinners (I *love* this phrase from the recent thread http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/573454 ).

I'd especially like tips on casual places for wine-and-nibbles mid-afternoon/early evening, especially near a used bookstore (Powell's or otherwise).

We don't want expensive or swanky places - we'll be in hiking boots and parkas, and might have several grocery bags full of books. (For example, we've had good meals at the Heathman and Southpark, but they're more fancy and pricy than we want for this trip.)

However, we'll probably go for one or two "splurge" dinners - in the neighborhood of $75 for two, perhaps with a glass of wine. It could be just a bit swanky - we'll ditch the books first.

Oh, and please pull out your crystal balls to predict whether it will be warm-and-dry enough for a food-cart lunch. We're native Minnesotans, so anything over 39 degrees is PICNIC TIME for us. After memorizing foodcartsportland.com, I'm completely jazzed about trying Portland's food carts, especially India Chaat House, Savor Soup, Ziba's Pita's, and Heritage Street Food. (But I'm devastated that Sugar Cube is closed until April.)

Finally, we won't have a car (arriving on Amtrak), so we're focusing on places that are relatively central and Tri-Met accessible. We like walking, so 6-7 blocks from a Tri-Met stop is fine.

So far, here's what sounds good to me:
- Pok Pok (my number-one "must try" spot)
- Biwa
- Toro Bravo (or should we go elsewhere for Spanish and/or fusion tapas?)
- Pambiche
- Pearl Bakery or Ken's Artisan Bakery for pastries
- Der Doner Kebab (I'm addicted to doner since a trip to Stuttgart)
- Silk/Pho Van (we loved our meal there 4-5 years ago - is it still good?)
- Cacao or Sahagun or Alma for truffles & hot chocolate (NOT Moonstruck - been there, was bored)
- Ten-01 for happy hour (otherwise, it looks too pricy and/or swanky)
- Pine State Biscuits (if I can convince Mr. Tastebud to skip his morning oatmeal)
- the food carts mentioned above (and more...)

Oh, and two places I found on Google Maps that I haven't seen mentioned on this board:
- Steamers Asian Street Bistro (PacWest Center) - looks fast-foody, but are the dumplings any good? It's close to our hotel, and I could fancy some dumplings for a quick late breakfast or early lunch ...
- Chef Naoko Bento Cafe (on SW 12th & Jefferson). Anyone tried this place? Worth a visit? The salmon bento looks nice.

What else? Or what instead? Or what in addition (we could always eat non-stop...)

Many, many thanks,
Anne

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  1. I think Kenny and Zuke's Deli sounds right up your alley! http://www.kennyandzukes.com/

    We love Bar Avignon, but it's in SE Portland and not as convenient to your location. Then again, it is not far from Pok Pok if you make it there.

    BTW, we know 10 different friends from the Tacoma/Seattle area heading to Portland this weekend. I'm imagining crowds!

    1. Ken's Bakery by far over Pearl Bakery. By a country mile. Seriously. not even in the same league. Apples and oranges.

      Ten-01 for sure, even if it is not so hiking boot/parka in nature, it is a great spot. But you might want to lose the book bags prior. You may want to have this be your "splurge" and go for HH.

      Have a great trip!

      1. OK:
        - Pok Pok - sure go for it, even though it will be a bit of a trek, maybe take a cab back
        - Biwa - yep, great stuff
        - Toro Bravo - definitely, although a bit far from the hotel, definitely worth the effort
        - Pambiche - good and close to Alma chocolates
        - Pearl Bakery or Ken's Artisan Bakery for pastries - Ken's which is close to Tanuki, which you should also try
        - Silk/Pho Van is good, and though there are better pho joints, none are close to the Heathman
        - Cacao or Sahagun or Alma for truffles & hot chocolate - Shahgun for hot chocolate, cacao for the selection of bars and individual pieces, Alma for the caramels and toffee.
        - Ten-01 for happy hour - one of the best in town (and popular), right in back of Powell's - had a great dinner there last Sat. and it was around $125 for 2 for 3-courses and 2 glasses of wine.
        - Pine State Biscuits - kinda out of the way and probably not worth the trek, go to Kenny & Zuke's (walking distance from the hotel) instead.
        - the food carts mentioned above - for soup dumplings try Asian Station a cart on 10th and Alder next to Savor

        - Steamers Asian Street Bistro (PacWest Center) - NO, go to Asian Station cart (see above)
        - Chef Naoko Bento Cafe (on SW 12th & Jefferson). - yes, it's worth a visit from what I hear (I have not made it there yet)

        What else? Or what instead? Or what in addition (we could always eat non-stop...):

        Tanuki - http://www.tanukipdx.com/
        Taste of Jakarta - http://www.tasteofjakarta.com/
        OR Wines on Broadway (for local wine tasting without a trek into wine country) - http://oregonwinesonbroadway.com/
        Splurgy linch at Wildwood: http://www.wildwoodrestaurant.com/

        1. I greatly appreciate your efforts to research this. Good for you!

          Bar Avignon is a great idea for wine bar happy hour, as is Pour Wine Bar. Both are eastside and easily accessible by bus.

          Definately Sahagun or Alma. Both for fine handmade truffles, Sahagun for the best hot chocolate you'll ever have! It's a 5-minute walk from Powell's.

          Chef Naoko is a great idea. http://www.oregonlive.com/dining/inde...

          An unqualified YES to: Pok, Biwa, TB, Pine State (on a good bus line), India Chaat House, Ten01. Another cart to consider is Give Pizza A Chance.

          Also heavily consider Ken's Artisan Pizza, easy ride on the 19 or 20 bus.

          1. Thanks for the info and the great new suggestions! My list has expanded. I'm especially interested in Kenny & Zuke's, Taste of Jakarta, and Bar Avignon (don't care if it's a schlep - I'm making a special trip to try their nibbles & wine).

            And I can't believe that I missed the food-cart soup dumplings at the Asian Station! I might have to eat those every day.

            Now all I need is a great grocery/deli near the Amtrak station for supplies for the trip home (we don't get a dining car until morning/Spokane). Should I try the Little Green Grocer on Northrup? And would Cork have wine splits and tiny bottles of booze? (Are those "airplane-sized" bottles even legal in Portland?)

            Thanks,
            Anne

            3 Replies
            1. re: AnneInMpls

              Unhappy Oregon fact: you can't buy hard liquor just anywhere. You must go to a specially licensed "Liquor Store", NOT a wine shop, and there aren't all that many of them. Plan ahead, as by law they are closed on Sunday (so much for separation of church & state) and have restricted hours. They have airplane-size. Closest to Union Station is 9th & NW Lovejoy, on route of 77. There's also one on 33 & NE Killingsworth, an 8-minute walk from Cork.

              Deli/grocery "near" Union Station? Not really. Your best bets are NW City Market http://pastaworks.com/about/ on NW 21st or Food Front on NW Thurman http://www.foodfront.coop/
              Respectively, use the 77 or 17 buses.

              Don't worry about how you're dressed. This is PDX.
              And our blocks are small, so remember that in estimating walking distances. 20 = 1 mile.

              1. re: Leonardo

                JUST FYI

                In 2002 House Bill 4028 passed which allowed liquor stores to operate on Sunday.

                State Run Liquor stores are not forced by law to be closed on Sunday. Many of them do not operate on Sundays because they have very poor sales on those days and it is not viable for them to do it.

              2. re: AnneInMpls

                Regarding grocery stores near Union Station:
                Safeway at 13th and Lovejoy
                Whole Foods at 12th and Couch

                Great? Well, they're just typical but good to know that they are there.

              3. Just a preliminary note to say THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for all the tips. We've had a marvelous four days of feasting in Portland. Not a bad meal in the bunch! Here's a quick list of what we've tried and loved (more notes in a few days, when we return):

                Toro Bravo
                Chef Naoko Bento
                Ken's Artisan Bakery for lunch
                Pok Pok (and Matchbox Cafe, of course)
                Biwa
                Ten 01 (what an incredible happy hour!)
                Pambiche
                Silk
                Ziba's Pita's food cart
                Snow White Crepes food cart
                Oregon Wines for flights and cheese
                Cacao, Alma, and Sahagun (my favorite hot chocolate of the three)
                And last, but not least, the Heathman's room-service oatmeal (a, pampered luxury!)

                Best of all, we still have time for lunch before our train leaves! Ah, what to choose for our last meal.... Too many wonderful places still untried - we'll just HAVE to come back soon.

                Thanks,
                Anne

                1 Reply
                1. re: AnneInMpls

                  Glad you had a great time, thanks for letting us know! We eagerly await your full report...

                2. My best advice having visited a college son in Portland . .

                  http://www.extramsg.com/

                  1. Here's my report on our (almost) non-stop eating fest in Portland last week.

                    Warning: This is really long, as I'm happily reliving all my eating experiences in your fine town. Thanks to your help, every meal was marvelous. My only regret is that we couldn't stay longer and eat more. (And buy more books.)

                    ---

                    Day 1 (Thursday)

                    Upon arrival at Union Station, we learn that Amtrak has lost (or misdirected) our suitcase. So we need to drown our sorrows in a big way. Luckily, chocolate is mere steps away from our hotel lobby. After checking in at the Heathman, we rush to:

                    Cacao at the Heathman.
                    http://www.cacaodrinkchocolate.com/in...
                    We buy two emergency truffles (Theo's burnt caramel & mint - both lovely). We eat them on the way to lunch and stow a chocolate bar for later. *

                    Chef Naoko Bento Cafe (lunch).
                    http://www.chefnaoko.com/home
                    I order the umi ginger bento, and Mr. Tastebud has the umi mushroom bento. Both feature lovely pieces of salmon - mine with a lightly gingery marinade and topping, his with a creamy mushrooms sauce. We each like our own best (ain't that grand?), but I would order either again. Mine was a bit on the salty side, but in a good way (I'm on a low-sodium diet, and I crave salt). The rice was marvelous - a mix of white and brown rice that was perfect with the salmon and sides. I especially liked the tiny cube of tofu with sauce - it's the most amazing tofu I've ever eaten. I wish Chef Naoko would move to Minneapolis!

                    Snow White Crepe House food cart.
                    http://foodcartsportland.com/?p=56
                    We share a strawberry-whipped cream crepe for dessert - not because we're still hungry (Naoko's bentos are large), but because I need another lost-luggage anguish-eraser. It was delicious - a made-to-order crepe, jam-packed with fresh straberries and good whipped cream. Amazing how a ton of whipped cream can calm even the most frantic fretting about the lack of clean jeans. And the nice lady told us the cart was open until late at night, in case of future trauma.

                    The afternoon is filled with emergency clothes shopping, followed by a nice soothing browse through Powell's City of Books. So, since we were right there, we went to:

                    Silk/Pho Van (dinner).
                    http://www.silkbyphovan.com
                    My kumquat-kaffir gimlet was good, but too sweet and not exotic enough for me (I couldn't taste the kaffir lime). The food, though, was great: I got the caramelized prawns (Tôm Kho), which I loved - especially the smoky-tasting roasted red peppers - and Mr. Tastebud got the grilled salmon with a spicy pineapple dipping sauce (Cá Hà Noi). His dish was FABULOUS - he has a talent for ordering the best thing on the menu - and I shall dream of this dish as much as I dream of Pho Van's duck-and-papaya salad from years ago. We also shared a nice side of caramelized Asian eggplant. We left too full for dessert, and very happy with our meal.

                    * By the way, the chocolate bar we bought at Cacao, Rogue Chocolatier's Rio Caribe, is fabulous! The maker is from our home town (actually St. Paul, but close enough), but I've never seen this one at home. RUN, don't walk, for your own bar. (We bought 2 more before we left.)
                    http://www.roguechocolatier.com/produ...

                    ---

                    Day 2 (Friday)

                    Breakfast was room service at the Heathman, because I didn't want to put on my four-day-old dirty jeans. We had fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and oatmeal with hazelnuts and dried fruit. And my wonderful husband ran down to Cacao for take-out drinking chocolate: I had the dark chocolate, and he had the cinnamon. Wow. A cup is a bit too large for one person, but we each finished ours. And the Heathman's oatmeal is the best version I've had outside of my house. It's made for people who really want oatmeal, not dessert - it's not loaded up with cream or chocolate chips, brulee topping, or other over-the-top additions. We loved it so much we ordered it again on our last day.

                    Our luggage arrives mid-morning and there is much celebration. (Note to self: Don't check in late for the train next time.) Given that it was such a gorgeous warm and sunny day, we decide to have a festive picnic. So we walk over to the 10th & Alder food carts, and finally decide on:

                    Ziba's Pita's (lunch).
                    http://foodcartsportland.com/?p=57
                    We share two meals: a meat burek plate with ajvar, and one half-and-half plate with zeljanica (spinach-cheese pita) & cufte (meatballs) on rice & tomato sauce. And two huge helpings of cucumber salad (tasty stuff). Everything was delicious, especially the cufte (meatballs) - the taste instantly transported me back to my study-abroad days in Jugoslavija (in the pre-war Tito days).

                    We urgently require exercise to walk off all that food, so we stroll up and down the river. How lovely! We also browse-and-buy at Cameron's Books - what a nice shop (and much cheaper than Powell's... :-) When we need to rest, we find ourselves at:

                    Oregon Wines on Broadway.
                    http://oregonwinesonbroadway.com
                    We try a white flight and a premier pinot noir flight. I liked the Dusky Goose pinot noir, and LOVED the Westry Pinot Gris (I bought two bottles). Thanks for this tip about Oregon Wines! I've been here before to buy wine, but completely missed the fact that you can stop in for a glass of wine anytime. (I thought they only did tastings on certain days - and their web site doesn't correct this impression).

                    While at OWOB, we eavesdrop on the next table talking about a hot new place downtown (Ping), but we decide to hop a bus for a trip to the east side:

                    Pok Pok Thai Restaurant (dinner).
                    http://www.pokpokpdx.com/index.php
                    There's a wait, of course, so they send us to Matchbox Cafe for a drink.
                    http://www.matchboxlounge.com
                    What a nice, cozy, friendly place! I'd love to go back and spend more time here. And I really want to try the Fizzy Lifting Drink (loganberry liqueur and Gruet sparkling wine). And their red lentil dip.

                    Pok Pok was great - everything we hoped for and more. We had red peanuts with chili and keffir lime, Hoi Thawt: broken crepe with mussels (wow!), Tam Kai Yaang: chicken salad with beans, tomatoes, peanuts, and much more (very good), and Muu Paa Kham Waan: grilled boar collar with iced mustard greens (yum!). Our server warned us that the boar collar was the spiciest thing on the menu, and it had quite a zip, but those raw greens were just the thing to calm the flames. I LOVED this dish! But my favorite was the broken crepe with mussels - I wish we'd ordered two. Again, we were two full for dessert - even that loganberry kir across the street.

                    ---

                    OK, I'm going to break for a snack (this is making me hungry!) and post the rest of my notes later.

                    Anne

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: AnneInMpls

                      thank you for the report so far! cant wait for the rest.....

                      re: Ping/PokPok choice: I have been to Pok2 atleast a dozen times and Ping now twice. I can say that since Ping just opened, and you were probably only going to get one shot at it, you picked wisely! Ping seems to be misfiring a bit, not with flavor/taste so much but with pricing/portion sizes/service issues and things of that nature. We are all hoping they get it straightened out and hit their stride like PokPok did. Btw, That Boar Collar is my single favorite item on the menu! followed by the Crepe. good ordering.......

                      1. re: AnneInMpls

                        The Fizzy Lifting Drink was quite nice BTW- I had it a year or so ago and still think about the berries bobbing up and down in the drink, not to mention Clear Creek's excellent Loganberry liqueur.

                        1. re: jules1026

                          Miracle of miracles, I found a bottle of Clear Creek's Loganberry liqueur at my local liquor store yesterday. So I bought it, of course.

                          I have some Gruet sparkling wine at home, so now I can make my own version of a Fizzy Lifting Drink. Thanks for the info on the berries in the glass - I can't get any loganberries, alas, but perhaps a frozen blackberry or raspberry could do in a pinch...

                          Anne

                      2. Here's the second half of my report.

                        ---

                        Day 3 (Saturday)

                        We slept late, then walked (the weather's still great!) to NW 21st Ave, via Glisan, for brunch at:

                        Ken's Artisan Bakery.
                        http://www.kensartisan.com
                        Oh, I'm in love - what fabulous food! I had planned to have only a croissant and tea, then move on, but the Tomato-Blue Cheese Bisque looked too good to pass up. (And it was - very rich and amazingly flavorful.) Mr. Tastebud ordered a salad with apples, walnuts, and blue cheese. And we each ordered dessert: the Oregon croissant with dried berries (which we ate before the other food arrived), and a delicious grapefruit tart (so pretty we took pictures). I was most impressed with the bread that comes with the soup - it's really world-class. The plan was to return for train food in two days, but we ran out of time. I'm still pining!

                        Next, we stroll down 21st, stopping in at City Market (which, I'm pleased to learn, is also the recommended Pasta Works). We buy a gift for our catsitter: a jar of delicious Purple Raspberry jam. (I bought a jar for myself, too, which is why I know it's good.) We also stop in at Cork for some Alma truffles (Mexican cinnamon and a mystery square gilded number), to tide us over until we get to:

                        Sahagun
                        http://www.sahagunchocolates.com
                        We sensibly share one cup of drinking chocolate, a hazelnut caramel (very good but not really sharable), and an orange square (OMG - the earth moved!). The drinking chocolate is so incredible - insanely rich, yet light and frothy - that I want to order another cup, but Mr. Tastebud talks me out of it. I'm sure he was right, but I still regret not having that second cup. We compromise by buying six truffles for the train.

                        Much more walking is in order, plus a long stop at Powell's Technical Bookstore. Then, even though we're not starving, we decide we could manage a happy-hour drink and nibble at:

                        Ten 01
                        http://www.ten-01.com/index3.html
                        We arrive with a half-hour left for the Happy Hour prices, so we loose our heads. I order 6 oysters for myself (Mr. Tastebud doesn't like 'em), and get 3 tiny ones and 3 big ones - I forget the kinds. The big ones are fab with the cucumber-yuzu mignonette; but I like the little ones plain. Mr. Tastebud gets the chorizo fried-egg burger, which was AMAZING! I'm lucky he likes me, because he shared half with me. And we split the cheese plate with three fabulous cheeses, a few drops of honey, a spoonful of fig jam, and some really tasty long crackers. We also had the happy-hour white wine (something Portuguese) and the sparkling wine (a Spanish cava). We lingered after 6 to try tastes of other things - I love that they offer 1-oz pours! I had the Buddha's Hand citrus vodka (nice) and the Farigoule thyme liqueur (which tastes like scented soap, but in a good way). I love this place!

                        In a happy food haze, we start dreaming about buying a condo in the Pearl district and visiting Ten-01 for happy hour every day. It seems like the best deal in town. Too bad we didn't save time to get here again before we left - I would have tried the truffle fries, the clams and mussels, and the short-rib mac and cheese.

                        We stagger back to the hotel to rest. Amazingly, we eventually decide that we're hungry for dinner. So we hop a bus and head across the river to:

                        Biwa
                        http://www.biwarestaurant.com
                        Great place - the cozy, warm, wood-lined ambience was perfect for a chilly winter evening. And nibbling on small skewers was just the thing after a day filled with so much rich food. I had a vodka-sake cocktail with basil, then switched to a sake flight (forget which one). For food, we shared the Japanese pickles and cold napa cabbage with black sesame sauce (delicious - perhaps my favorite dish of the night). And we ordered five grilled skewers: lamb, ground chicken (tsukune), pork belly (yummy but too rich for me), garlic (loved it), and shitake mushrooms (my favorite). It was an excellent meal!

                        ---

                        Day 4 (Sunday)

                        Another lazy start to the day. Luckily, we discover the #19 bus, which stops right in front of:

                        Pambiche (brunch).
                        http://www.pambiche.com
                        The place was packed - even the sidewalk tables on this gray, windy, chilly day. There was one open table (outside) - but it turns out its overhead heater wasn't working. Heck, we're Minnesotans, so we took it - after assuring the concerned server that we'd be OK (and I popped into the loo to put on my silk long underwear, which I just happened to bring along - thanks to my mom's good advice). Per our usual, we ordered too much food. First, the entremés - a basket of mini muffins, tiny empanadas, and sweet breads (all great) and some fresh pineapple juice. Then I had Picadillo Cua-Cua (Cuban hash with tomatoes, peppers, olives, and raisins, topped with an egg). This huge plate of food came with half an avocado and a small dish of fruit salad (papaya, guava, mango, and pineapple). I really liked it - savory and tangy (thanks to the pepper sauce on the table), and rich from the egg and avocado. True comfort food. Mr. Tastebud had the Croqueta Preparada - a Miami-style Cuban sandwich with roast pork, ham, breaded ham croquettes, cheese, and sliced pickles. Crunchy, savory, salty, and delicious! We licked our plates and drained every drop of the juice. (At least we burned a few more calories - maybe 10 or 15 - than if we'd been sitting inside...)

                        I REALLY wanted to return here before we left, but Mr. Tastebud nixed the idea because of time and distance. (Why, oh, why did I marry a realist?)

                        After some strolling and window-shopping, we found ourselves at:

                        Alma
                        http://www.almachocolate.com
                        We ordered one cup of drinking chocolate and one hot chocolate (cocoa). Perhaps it was because we were still kinda full from brunch, but I didn't love the drinking chocolate - the chocolate wasn't the best quality, yet it was really too rich to enjoy. And I hated the hot chocolate - it was basically hot milk with a slight beige color but no discernable chocolate taste. We ended up combining the two beverages, which was better but still not great. Likewise, the truffles are OK (though we didn't eat them until the next day); they have pretty good flavor, but they aren't top-quality chocolate. (I thought they were more about looking beautiful than tasting great.) But they're not bad - I wouldn't say no to an Alma's truffle if one was in front of me right now. :-)

                        We walked through down neighborhood streets and through the lovely Laurelhurst Park to Hawthorne Ave for the bookstores (Powell's and Murder By The Book). We passed right by Pine State Biscuits on Belmont, but there was NO WAY we could stuff in any more food...

                        Finally, though, after shopping and walking and resting, we decide to venture out again. The #4 bus (love the "frequent service" on Sundays!) takes us to:

                        Toro Bravo
                        http://www.torobravopdx.com
                        Wow! This place is great. I was worried about reports of hour-long waits, but Sunday night is the time to go. (There was only a 10-15 minute wait for seats at the "cooking bar", and the place was almost half-empty by 8:30 or so.) It was so hard to decide what to get - everything looked delicious. We ordered WAY too much food, of course, but ate most of it anyway. Here's what we had, with my favorites first:
                        - Potatoes bravas - the best version of this dish I've ever had.
                        - Roasted leeks with salbitxada (almond romesco sauce) - oddly, this was listed under "pinchos" (skewers), but it's a soupy dish of "meltingly sauteed" chopped leeks with lots of nutty sauce. Not what I expected. Loved it anyway.
                        - Monkfish and clams with white beans & rosemary - fabulous. I adore monkfish and clams, but I could have eaten the delicious beans alone. (I should have ordered some to go...)
                        - Spinach with raisins and pine nuts - loved it!
                        - Chorizo & manchego (slices of hard sausage and cheese) - very nice, but the chorizo was just sliced thin and served cold. I had been hoping for chunks of warm sausage. But it was very tasty stuff.
                        - Bacon-wrapped dates with honey - this was the only item I wouldn't order again - it's quite tasty, but just not as good as the rest (or maybe I was just too full?)
                        With all this food, we drank a lovely bottle of Lamilla 2005 Jumilla that the waiter recommended. It was great with the seafood, the chorizo, the potatoes, the leeks, and even the dates.

                        We rode home on a very lively bus (aka the TriMax Late Night Theater). Young Portlandites are very entertaining!

                        ---

                        Day 5 (Monday - our last day!)

                        More Heathman room-service oatmeal and Cacao's hot chocolate as we pack for the trip home. We go out to buy wine and other essentials for the trip home, then head for:

                        Der Döner Kebab German Food (lunch).
                        (No web site of their own) *
                        Delicious! We each had a turkey doner sandwich (a bit like gyros or shawirma, but different). The meat is topped with lettuce, cabbage, tomato, and a creamy sauce. (Get the spicy sauce, not the mild - the zippy flavor is what makes it perfect! Mr. Tastebud had the mild sauce, but still liked his sandwich.) I also had a bottle of German beer; I forget what it was, but they have a great selection. Although inexpensive and almost fast food, the doner sandwich is totally addictive. If I lived in PDX, I'd be here at least once a week. (And I'd try the other dishes, like the meatloaf and the schnitzel.)

                        * For info on Doner Kebab, see Willamette Week: http://wweek.com/editorial/3503/11888 and Portland Mercury: http://www.portlandmercury.com/portla...

                        Then we rush around buying train treats for the trip home:

                        Pearl Bakery
                        http://www.pearlbakery.com/pages/inde...
                        Y'all are right - Ken's Artisanal Bakery blows Pearl out of the water. But Pearl isn't half bad when one is rushing to the train. The banana bread was dry and not very banana-y, but the lemon-chocolate pound cake (with an Italian name) was very good, and the cranberry-apple tartlet and sicilian fig cookie were both quite tasty. (Hey, the train ride lasts 34 hours, so we needed lots of treats!)

                        Our train dinner was from Whole Foods (yeah, I know, but it was convenient - and we were short on time). The cold roasted(?) salmon was quite good, as was the brocolli salad with raisins & cashews. But the Thai grilled chicken skewer was yukky - we stopped after one bite. Instead, we ate Amtrak's cold beef rolls and lemon mayo from the prepacked dinner - it was surprisingly tasty. (We tossed the Amtrak sides, though, other than the fresh fruit.) With a half bottle of Lange Pinot Noir, followed by Pearl Bakery's treats, we had a great train dinner - even better thanks to the gorgeous scenery: Columbia Gorge at sunset!

                        In summary, each restaurant was a winner. I can't pick a best meal, or even a best dish, because everything was wonderful. I think Mr. Tastebud liked Toro Bravo best; my top five were Ten-01, Ken's, Pok Pok, Biwa, and Chef Naoko Bento. And, of course, Sahagun. But I would go back, in heartbeat, to every place we tried (except maybe Alma). I'd love to eat all the same dishes again, as well as try the other tempting things I passed up.

                        And alas! We never got to try Bar Avignon, Kenny & Zuke's, Tanuki, Taste of Jakarta, India Chaat House, or the Asian Station food cart (temporarily closed due to injury). Next time for sure - after revisiting every place we loved on this trip.

                        Finally, our favorite hot chocolate: I thought Sahagun was the best - rich and creamy, yet ethereal. Mr. Tastebud's vote is for Cacao's cinnamon milk-chocolate. You lucky ducks get to have this wonderful stuff whenever you want (if you have time and can afford it!).

                        Thanks again for the help!

                        Anne

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: AnneInMpls

                          Oh, how could I forget the Asian Pear salad at Biwa! We ordered it last, and it was a perfect way to end the meal. I loved loved loved that salad!

                          Anne

                          1. re: AnneInMpls

                            seriously, I dont know how you did it!? That whirlwind would have kicked my butt! I guess you had a long train ride home to let that food wear off! Next time you come out this way, you should give a shout to all of us local food geeks, and Im sure we can give you some more pointers/ meet up with you!

                            www.pdxplate.com

                            1. re: nkeane

                              Yeah, even with all our walking, it was too much food for five days. But it was all so hard to resist! (Unlike the food on the train.) There are so many wondeful things to eat in Portland! But it'll be a long while before I can eat like that again.

                              If anyone needs any tips for food in Minneapolis/St. Paul, please pop over to the Midwest board and post your questions. I'll try to list the places that are in the same league as these wonderful PDX restaurants.

                              Anne

                            2. re: AnneInMpls

                              Wow...you should have a food blog!
                              Thanks for reporting. It encourages us to be responsive to visitor requests, especially to those such as yourself who did so much homework before even first posting. If more visitors rewarded us as you have with such a vivid fun well-written write-up, this board would be more lively. You are a welcome antidote to the "In Portland one night: where do I go?" inquirers who never report back.
                              Seeing as you loved Ken's so much, you must return and get the pizza! And it's right by Laurelhurst Park.
                              Sorry you missed Pine State Biscuit. Other great biscuits can be had at Podnah's BBQ, by the way.
                              Glad to know you enjoyed yourselves. Stay warm!