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Apr 2, 2009 08:12 PM

Three days in Portland - Four in Seattle

We will be in your fantastic land starting the Saturday before Easter; leaving the following Saturday. We will be in Portlan for the first 3 days and then renting an apartment in Burien the next 4 days.

I've read most of the posts for that last few months but would like some followup.

In Portland we will probably eat out every meal while in Seattle I may cook a few nights (it's what I do) It will be hard for me to pass up the plethora of products available to make myself, especially after being away from a stove/grill/xcooktop for 3-4 days. We will be traveling with out 13 year old daughter who has traveled to Europe 8 times in the past 6 years and will eat everything except frest tomatoes out of season. Also, I sell wine for a living and have a friend at work who owned restaurants in Seattle as well as being friends with a lot of the "hip" places there.

We will be staying in downtown Portland and are open for almost anything. Easter Sunday will hopefully include a plane ride around Mt. St Helens and then whale watching (all this for a good 6-pack of beer - recommendation wellcome - PLEASE). We love the Parisian-style Bistro scene which seems to be prevalent in Portland but are open for suggestions - We like to "graze" for a lot of interesting food, flavors and textures rather than sit down to 3 starters and 3 entrees.

In Seattle I will have the "cooking Jones" going on but will definitely be in the city for at least one great dinner (maybe sky's the limit?) as well as a few lunches while on the go. Other wise I'll be grilling halibut cheeks (or whatever is in season) and morels back at the house in Burien.

Thanks in advance for your help.

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  1. Good call on the halibut cheeks--halibut season just opened Mar 21!

    1. O.k., we live in Portland. We are very selective in our dining choices. Here are choices from all five of Portland's quadrants: one from North Portland, one from Northeast Portland, two from Northwest Portland, one from Southeast Portland, and three from Southwest Portland -- plus one from Hillsboro, west of Portland.

      Our personal choice for the best restaurant in Portland is Castagna, on SE Hawthorne near SE 17th Avenue. You will need a car or taxi to get there; parking on neighborhood streets is possible. The one reservation we have about Castagna is that the wine list is excellent, but the mark-up is exhorbitant. If you can enjoy dinner with minimal wine, the food at Castagna is a bargain for the price. If you want a half-bottle of wine per diner, you had better have a deep wallet. Castagna also has a café next door (Café Castagna) with a more informal menu and atmosphere.

      In the Hillsdale neighborhood of southwest Portland, off SW Capitol Highway, is Alba Osteria, a superb Piemontese (Northern Italian) restaurant. Excellent food in a fine ambiance. Again, you need either a car (on-street parking easy) or a taxi.

      For Japanese food, which we favor, there are two excellent choices. Zilla, on NE Alberta near NE 18th Avenue (in a neighborhood of off-beat art galleries which are worth going early to visit; especially try Onda), , is nominally a saké bar, but it has an in-house sushi chef who is really good, and she is creative, too. You will pay less for sushi than you would at a sushi restaurant; you will not leave hungry; and you will have a good time. Again, you need a car, and on-street parking is easy. Happy hour starts at 5:00 p.m.

      Another Japanese restaurant is Syun Izakaya, on Lincoln Street near the Washington County Courthouse in Hillsboro. Now, downtown Hillsboro is a long way from downtown Portland, but it is a straight shot from downtown on the MAX light rail train, which drops you off (Hillsboro stop) about three blocks from Syun, and you will not need a designated driver to get back to your hotel. The menu at Syun is informal ("izakaya" translates, roughly, to "tavern"), and changes daily according to what fresh ingredients are available.

      For non-dinner meals, here are three recommendations: Gravy, on N. Mississippi Avenue a couple of blocks north of N. Fremont, , is accessible from downtown only by car, but is worth making the trek . Good food, huge portions, excellent atmosphere. Byways, on NW Glisan between NW 12th and 13th, , is within (long) walking distance from downtown, and within (short) walking distance from Powell's City of Books. Excellent, conventional but well-executed, breakfasts and lunches. The ORIGINAL Original Pancake House is on SW Barbur Blvd (its backside faces Interstate 5) just south of town. The owner branched out to franchises nationwide, but the original is still the best. On Sunday mornings, two-hour waits, starting at 7:00 a.m., are not unheard-of. Waits are shorter on non-Sundays. Order the Apple Pancake.

      For that beer, Portland has an excellent chain of brew pubs owned by the McMenamins; the original of those is the Hillsdale Pub, on SW Sunset near Capitol Highway, and not far from Alba Osteria, mentioned above. All the beer at the Hillsdale Pub is brewed on-premises and is very fresh; the French fries are not made until ordered, and are made from fresh, sliced potatoes, as done in Bruxelles. Another beer option is the Bridgeport Brew Pub at NW 13th Ave and NW Marshall Street.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Politeness

        I normally let such broad and open ended requests from visitors to PDX go without my input. It gets tiresome when people ask other posters to do their leg work for them.

        That being said, I would agree with all of your rec's, save two. those two are Syun and McMenamins.
        first Syun is way, way waaaay out in Hillsboro, and not worth the drive. Both Tanuki on NW 21st(between glisan and Hoyt) and Biwa on SE 9th and Ash(two blocks south of Burnside) are far better Izakaya's!!! I cant stress how much this is the case!
        second, McM's have truly dreadful pubgrub(I use the term pubgrub in the most derogatory manner I can muster), and lackluster, uninspired beer. For Brewpubs you would do much better going to Hopworks, Lucky Lab, Rogue or even Alameda! Better yet is Baileys Taproom or VictoryBar for a well curated list of beers.

        1. re: nkeane

          nkeane, thank you for the recommendation of Biwa; we have not been there, and look forward to trying it. As for Tanuki, I would characterize it as more Japanese-American, or perhaps more accurately as more Tokyo International, than traditional izakaya, which Syun is. Perhaps it is the neighborhood: as you know, Portlanders are casual, laid-back, and mostly polite. For those New Yorkers who feel nostalgic, however, there is a pocket of churlish rude selfishness right here in Portland -- it is the parking lot of the Trader Joe's on NW Glisan between 21st and 22nd -- a block from Tanuki; in that parking lot, you are much more likely to hear the F-bomb than to hear a "please" or "thank you," and if you watch for a few minutes you will see a wheelchair run over by an SUV that was sure the wheelchair was going to grab his parking space. Maybe some of that unPortlandishness leaks down to Tanuki, I don't know.

          Anyway, as I originally acknowledged, Syun in Hillsboro IS a long distance from the center of Portland, and my suggestion was not to DRIVE there, especially during the evening commute hours; but for those who are visiting without a car, it is in some ways more convenient, given its accessibility via MAX, than, say, Lucca on NE 24th and Fremont, or Biwa, which you recommend.

          1. re: Politeness

            I don't want to pile on here, but I work in Hillsboro, and I still don't feel that Syun is worth the drive. By MAX it's close to an hour from downtown Portland, and if it were me I wouldn't want to spend that much time getting there and back when I'm on vacation. Biwa and Tanuki are both fun, although neither has as much sushi as Syun. If that's what you're going for, I would head for Bamboo or Murata in Portland proper (I haven't been to Zilla--it sounds interesting).

            I think McMenamin's brings up a dilemma on these boards--it's a totally Portland thing in the offbeat decor and use of interesting old buildings--in fact, in everything except the quality of the food, which is extremely forgettable. I would advise going to one of the many outposts for a drink and then to a better restaurant for a meal. For example, you could go to Kennedy School to drink and look around, and then repair to nearby Autentica, Beast, or DOC for a real meal.

            1. re: Nettie

              Bamboo makes an important social statement. I support the social statement that Bamboo makes.

              But -- strictly as a restaurant recommendation -- it is hard to justify paying Bamboo's high prices (and settling for Bamboo's limited selection) when you can get equally delicious sushi at Zilla for much less. As for Syun, we never have ordered sushi there. We have never thought of Syun as a place to go for sushi, though I understand that they do serve sushi there. We love it for its intrinsic qualities: setting, food, and service, not for its sushi. And we know of no Portland restaurant that combines all of the qualities of ambiance and food that Syun does: there are equals, but no similar place.

              1. re: Politeness

                "And we know of no Portland restaurant that combines all of the qualities of ambiance and food that Syun does:"

                thats probably a good thing........

          2. re: nkeane

            Although Mcmenamin's is fun for what they do to their properties, the food is nothing special and beer is also so-so. Nkeane does suggest some nice alternatives. However, I recognize that BDM1 is only looking to buy a sixpack for the Whale Watching barter. So I say, swing by Bridgeport pick up a sixpack of IPA to go, stroll the Pearl, and take the streetcar back downtown.

            I'd say skip The Orginal Pancake House, it's all about huge portions and waddling obese people eating far too much for their own good.

            Castagna is a good suggestion. I'll let you sort out the Izakaya's, although Tanuki is great and in a delightful neighborhood. Speaking of which, you should try and get by Ken's Artisan Bakery which is nearly kiddy corner from Tanuki, and a truly great bakery, go for morning crossiants, etc. if you do.

            For your consideration BDM1

            Piazza Italia
            Clyde Common

            Those are just to name a few, look them up. They mostly fit into the "We like to "graze" for a lot of interesting food, flavors and textures rather than sit down to 3 starters and 3 entrees." concept and most of them offer a happy hour menu that is ideal for such dining.

            Oh and how could I forget ,Toro Bravo... a must for you and your family.

            Enjoy Portland.

        2. For your Seattle journey do not miss Harvest Vine for dinner. Salumi for lunch (Tuesday through Friday only) and Matt's at the Market. Also, I strongly suggest the Szechuan crab at Seven Stars in the International District. In Burien, the Tin Room offers very good pub food. North of Burien is White Center where "White Center Pho" offers exceptional Vietnamese Pho served for breakfast at 9:00 a.m. or for lunch. Cheap and wonderful. (White Center has crime issues after dark.)

          1 Reply
          1. re: Leper

            Wow - for a minute here I thought I was on EGullet! Great to hear the passion in everyone's responses! Thanks for the input. We will have a car so many of these places are possible. My daughter and I made a bet that we can eat more than 7 courses of clams in 7 days - we'll see.

            We left the NYC metro area years 14 years ago - still miss the "vibe" and the pizza but don't miss the people who run over wheel chairs. In Charlotte they say "bless your heart" which is code for something that typically rolls off a New Yawkers tongue pretty easily (mine too - old habits are hard in dying)

            Regarding the pancakes - We'll probably pass. I have family who sends Maine wild berries and I make them a home. Plus - we typically don't quite make breakfast. Also, we're syrup snobs and can't travel with the real deal.

            Hopefully others will answer. Looking forward to this trip. We'll let you know. Glad to hear the Halibut is in season - Plenty of room for carryon. Harvested 5 pounds or morrels today so this could be good. . .. .