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Jun 13, 2009 04:17 PM

Please help decide: Special occasion dinner (Portland)

I've been reading through old threads, so have a general idea of what some of the most beloved Portland chow spots are, but was hoping you all could help by giving me some more tailored advice. We are going to be in Portland for two nights in July (staying near SW Washington & SW 5th ave.). We're looking for one "special occasion" spot (an anniversary), and one "anything" spot (you name it) for our dinners.

Also open to any particularly great places for lunch. We love Bijou Cafe for breakfast (possibly some of the best breakfasts I've had anywhere--love the freshness, quality of ingredients, vibe, etc.), so we're most likely to eat there, unless someone can recommend a place that they feel is head-and-shoulder above it.

For dinner, we're not looking for any particular type of food per se, but would really like a few places that truly exemplify Portland (sorry, I know this is what EVERYONE says they want, but your city just has so much awesome character), with a lot of flavor and personality. Some great "local" seafood dishes are a plus, as well as other fresh, high quality ingredients...just something that's really unique to your area. It'd be great if it were walkable from where we are staying, but we will have a car, so will travel if it's worth it.

Ideas so far:
special occasion-
Sel Gris
Higgins (is this still any good? it seems like talk of this place has dipped way down)

2nd night-
Beast (looks like a fun, different place, but not sure if the communal table is the best option)
Le Pigeon (is this also communal?? Better than Beast?)
Any of the above (paley's, sel gris; Carlyle? Clyde Common?)

will continue to research and add to the list. Any help appreciated.

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  1. Hi. Thanks for doing some research and making known your preferences.

    Beast is great but they have a lot of rules: no substitutions, specific seatings and don't be late! etc. So if that fits your style, by all means go.

    Paley's is still my go-to for special occasion. For many others that title has shifted to Sel Gris. Former is an easy ride on the 17 bus, latter on the 14.

    As for "anything" spot the 2nd night, I'd consider Pambiche (Cuban!), Ken's Artisan Pizza, Pok Pok, Podnah's, or Navarre. Navarre was surprisingly yet deservedly named The Oregonian's Restaurant of the Year.

    While I like Bijou, if you're here Saturday AM why not consider Portland Farmers' Market? There are several vendors from which you could put together a breakfast including Pine State Biscuits, several coffee places, Tastebud Farms (mobile wood fired oven), etc. Buy some berries and wash them off in a drinking fountain. Easy free bus ride up 5th Ave on 8 or 9 bus to Montgomery.

    Have a great time. Please report back.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Leonardo

      Thanks for the info, I'll read up on your suggestions. Unfortunately, we will not be there on a Saturday.

      I'm having a tough time guaging if people think Paley's has the "wow" factor (pardon the lame terminology) that, say, Sel Gris seems to have. Does it, or is it basically solid/dependable food? Obviously nothing wrong with the latter, but I'm hoping to find something that'll really make an impression food-wise. If so, I'm thinking of possibly just doing Sel Gris one night, Paley's the other (maybe for the anniversary). It's tough, though, to give up options which sound so great (especially Le Pigeon and Beast). If only more time...

      Another thing I was curious about: do the other restaurants I mentioned (Sel Gris, Le Pigeon, Beast) place the same emphasis on using fresh oregon-based ingredients as Paley's?

      EDIT: just noticed Beast is closed Monday and Tuesday which I'm pretty sure are the nights we will be there. Scratch it off the list.

      1. re: crsin

        Unless it's some chain (steakhouses, PF Chang etc) pretty much every place is on the localvore bandwagon!

        Also seriously consider Toro Bravo.

        And for your second breakfast Kenny & Zuke's, only a six minute walk from your hotel.

      2. Thanks, will try to check out K&Z. Is Broder worth a visit for breakfast?
        Toro Bravo sounds great but, while I'm willing to wait in long lines for good food, family is not-so-much, so this sort of wipes out Toro Bravo and PokPok...I'm hoping to get places where reservations can be made (or wait is usually short) for dinner.

        I think for both dinners (unless someone has more recs, which are more than welcome), I've reduced it down to Sel Gris, Paley's, and Le Pigeon. Which two would you choose??

        Paley's sounds like it would have the most identifiably "Portland-esque" food, Sel Gris more imaginative/exciting food (although chef's counter seems like the most fun, but probably not best for an anniversary, huh?), and Le Pigeon interesting/creative food in a much more laid-back venue. All of which have something really appealing, so I'm hoping someone can tell me I'm wrong here.

        Still welcoming any/all recommendations. This includes lunch, though we're most likely to try to find lunch depending on where we happen to be at the time (maybe at least a rec near Powells?).

        3 Replies
        1. re: crsin

          Laurelhurst Market is new, but from all reports, killing on all fronts!

          also, for the WOW factor(agreed, lame term.;-p) Paley's is much more stoic and stayed. Sel Gris is more the cool, urban, modern place with great food. If youre looking to be impressed and impress a diverse group, Sel Gris would be my choice.

          all that being said, TB is soooo worth it if you can figure out a way to swing the wait. Which by the way isnt that that bad if you get there early-ish, like 530.

          1. re: crsin

            K & Z is a block from Powell's so that's a lunch option. While in that area, if you love chocolate you must go to Sahagun and have their new iced cocoa or iced chocolate, or the new housemade single-origin chocolate sherbet.

            Everyone has their own idea of "romantic", you know? So it's a hard call. For me, chef's counter would be perfect for an anniversary.

            Le Pigeon is great for a taste of Portland that's creative and has that PacNW grit, grunge, and plethora of tattoos.

            Yes, Broder is worth the trip.

            Don't be scared by the crowd stories of TB. Go early on a weeknight. Same for Pok Pok.

            1. re: Leonardo

              Good to know...the scene at Le Pigeon that you describe is primarily what's attractive to me. Seems like a nice contrast to a more polished place like Sel Gris. The anniversary is actually not mine. I'm the 3rd wheel, so I'd say romance is already shot. I'm just trying to find the best possible place for them, and was a little concerned about eating the bar with 3 people (more difficult to talk), but it does sound like the best seat in the house.

              I'm definitely planning on hitting Sahagun

          2. I personally would dump Paley's, over the hill and sliding.

            K&Z is good for breakfast or lunch, just get pastrami for one or both. Close to Powell's.

            Sel Gris is at the top right now. Le Pigeon is fun, expecially if you can sit at the bar, otherwise you will be at a shared table. I personally like Carlyle, great food, quieter than most places, you can actually carry on a conversation.

            1. Le Pigeon is by far the best dinner I've had lately. It is communal eating, but I loved the vibe. My husband and I went for our anniversary-- I wouldn't call it romantic neccissarily, but the food was so wonderful that our experience was really great. I like Le Pigeon a lot more than Paley's Place and Higgins. I haven't been to Sel Gris yet.

              1. Thanks for all the recs so far. It's sounding like Paley's might not be the best option if looking for something that stands out. Le Pigeon being french, and Sel Gris being at least french-influenced, I thought this would be too monotonous, but they're obviously different enough that it wouldn't matter.

                Toro Bravo seems to be a favorite, so there must be something to it. Honestly, though, is there anything about it that can't be found at any other really good spanish tapas place around the country??

                Keep the suggestions coming...