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Feb 9, 2009 09:12 PM

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

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 ).

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, 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,

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  1. I think Kenny and Zuke's Deli sounds right up your alley!

    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 -
        Taste of Jakarta -
        OR Wines on Broadway (for local wine tasting without a trek into wine country) -
        Splurgy linch at Wildwood:

        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.

          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?)


            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 on NW 21st or Food Front on NW Thurman
              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.