I'm a NYC hounder and am excited about my big road trip through the Pacific Northwest in August. I'm staying with a friend in Lake Oswego for a weekend before heading up to Seattle and then on to Vancouver and further east in Canada.
I'm looking for great food adventures in Portland I eat absolutely everything and am excited to try anything that is unique to Portland. I definitely want suggestions for food carts, breakfasts, seafood, Asian/ethnic foods, and I'm a huge ice cream connosieur.
I think we're going to try to do Mt. Hood/Columbia Gorge one day and I definitely want to check out some breweries and vineyards. Ideas? Also, we may take the long route on the way to Seattle to drive through Astoria and see the coast. Any suggestions on the way up there would be most appreciated too. And I promise I will give a detailed report upon my return.
These are my thoughts so far: Toro Bravo, Bijou Cafe, Pok Pok, Otto's Sausages, Sahagun, Cool Moon Ice Cream, and Voodoo Donuts.
Oh, I also see the Bite of Oregon will be happening. This seems like it has the potential to be a waste of time and money. Is it worth it?
Thanks in advance for all your help.
I have returned from my trip across the Pacific Northwest and the first word that comes to mind is "Wow!" Everything was so beautiful and everybody was so genuinely nice and helpful. I fell in love with that part of the world and more specifically, with Portland.
And now as promised here is my update on all the food adventures I found in and around Portland. Thanks to everybody who gave advice and I'm sorry I couldn't make it to all the places you suggested, but I will be back...
DESCHUTES BREWERY was our first meal in Portland. I don't want to focus on the beer too much, but it was really really good. I got the sampler which is usually good for me because I'm indecisive and want to try everything, but their list was huge and I could only pick six. My favorites were the LaFleur (which was a special brew and very floral and gingery) and a black IPA which was so strange and delicious - all the flavors of IPA with a dark color. As for food, we ordered the Elk Burger which sounded intriguing, but was slightly dry, and the Black Butte chicken salad which was disappointingly mild and didn't exhibit any beer flavor. The highlight (besides the beer) was the grilled pear and goat cheese pizza which was bursting with flavors. The service and atmosphere was also very good so although the food wasn't the greatest, the beer makes it worth it!
BIJOU CAFE was our brunch choice on Saturday and it was a bit crowded. I'm used to NY crowds so was pleased that the wait wasn't much longer than 20 minutes or so. This was one of the best breakfasts I've ever had. The oyster hash was definitely a gutbomb but those oysters were perfectly cooked and meaty and the potatoes were perfectly seasoned and crisp. The omlette special with local corn, spinach, tomatoes, and white cheddar was incredibly fluffy and fresh. Included with the omlette was a blackberry muffin that seriously was the best muffin I've ever had. Words can't begin to describe it.
COOL MOON ICE CREAM was pretty good. The texture was nice and creamy and the flavors were interesting enough. The coffee wasn't as strong flavor-wise as I had hoped, but the kulfi was unique and pretty good. For a more detailed account, check out my ice cream blog at: www.heaven.blogspot.com
CLEAR CREEK DISTILLERY didn't have any food (except some crackers to soak up all the alcohol) but we had a great experience. We felt bad about arriving 30 minutes before closing, but the staff didn't seem to mind and even gave us a spontaneous personal mini-tour of the distillery itself. We tried most of their products and although I don't go crazy for brandy and grappa, there was some great stuff here - namely a unique single malt whiskey (as good as any made in Scotland) and the Douglas Fir Eau de Vie. This was a great place to visit and sample some unique liquors.
SAHAGUN CHOCOLATES was getting ready to close temporary for vacation, but I'm glad we made it. Again, the owner was incredibly friendly and sincere (what is it with you nice Portlanders?) This is a very small little shop that almost feels like a tiny chocolate factory. We ordered the iced chocolate which was nice and refreshing and I was pleased to see that it didn't spoil my appetite for dinner. It almost wasn't even that sweet. I would have been disappointed if I was looking for a dessert drink. We also had some sort of chocolate bark with popcorn and spices. It was different and tasty, but slightly overpriced for what it was. I wish we were able to taste some of the interesting truffles, but we came late in the day and most had been sold out.
POK POK was one of the two "must-try's" on my list. We had to wait about 45 minutes, but were finally brought to a table inside. This definitely seemed like a place the foodies go to in Portland. For some reason, we were drawn to all the meat dishes and in retrospect. I think we ordered wrong. We didn't get any noodles or soup dishes but stuck with lots of protein. We had to try the famous chicken wings, which may have been built up a bit much. They were slightly sweet and sticky with tender delicious meat. They were really good, but not overwhelmingly so. The grilled prawns were a little disappointed. They were big and well-cooked, but a bit bland. The spicy dipping sauce helped a bit. The small baby back ribs sounded so good on the menu, but not much of the promised flavor emerged on the plate. But the flank steak salad was my favorite - the meat was so tender and the flavors were spicy and tangy and just delicious. I would definitely come back to try some of the other more unusual dishes.
PAPA HAYDN's posed the most difficult decision: what dessert to order? It was just my luck that they had sold out of the dessert sampler. It was late and we had a full day of eating so we decided to share one dessert and finally picked the boccone dolce for it's uniqueness. It was a huge dessert with lots of meringues covered with whipped cream, chocolate drizzles, and fresh berries. It was a beautiful presentation and the first few bites were incredibly delicious. I just wish there had been a few more substantial textures. There is only so much meringue I can eat in one sitting.
TORO BRAVO was the finale in another long day of eating, but I am so glad we made it to my other "must-try" spot. The vibe was very hip and it was crowded even on a Sunday night. It reminded me of many spots in NYC. The complimentary fried chickpeas were the perfect starting point. We ordered lite, but all our choices were just about spot on. The bacon wrapped dates were good, but I was hoping for something a little smokier and slightly larger. They were almost too small to get the full effect. The tomato rubbed garlic bread was unique and delicious. The vegetable tortilla came with two flavorful sauces. The salted cod fritters were just spectacular. The only disappointment was the parsley and manchego sausage. I didn't get any of the promised flavors and it was sort of small and plain. if I was hungrier, I would have definitely kept ordering. And I was amazed at how cheap the bill came out to be!
STUMPTOWN COFFEE had quite a line in the middle of the day. I'm not a huge coffee drinker but figured I'd try an iced soy latte. It was very good. It was not too sweet or milky and the coffee flavors really came out.
VOODOO DOUGHNUTS was our final stop in Portland and it sucked us in. We had to get on the road, but ended up waiting in line for close to 45 minutes. Who needs doughnuts at noon on a Monday? I was amazed at how chill the hipster type guy running the show was. I realized there was only one cashier and that's why this line took as long as it did. I don't know if it was truly worth it but it was an experience if nothing else. The bacon maple bar was pretty incredible and although it sounds slightly strange and maybe even gross, it was the best of the ones we tried. The flavors were matched perfectly. The grape ape was definitely a novelty with grape flavored powder. It reminded me of a jolly rancher and I kept eating it just because I was fascinated to try that flavor in a doughnut. And the Portland Creme was basically a Boston Creme and the dough and cream were both very well made and tasty.
HOOD RIVER AREA:
FULL SAIL BREWERY was surprisingly crowded at 4pm. But we didn't wait too long for a bar table. The Asian chicken skewers were juicy but flavorless. The Crater Lake burger however was quite good. Loaded with sauteed onions, local blue cheese, and spicy mayo, it turned out to be pretty good pub food. The beer was adequate but pretty standard. Their award-winning Amber Ale was quite tasty.
APPLE VALLEY COUNTRY STORE were mopping up as we came in for the final milkshake of the day. I got the huckleberry shake which was good, but the berries seemed rather small and possibly dried. I figure this time of year, they should be making it with fresh hubkleberries. My friend ordered the peach shake, which didn't seem to have too strong of a peach flavor. I wanted full fruit flavor in my shakes! But the store was cute and their jams looked quite good.
LAKE OSWEGO AND WOODSTOCK:
ST. HONORE BOULANGERIE is a fancy but casual brasserie type place that offers a beautiful selection of pastries and breakfast foods. I'm not sure what their dinner options are, but we got two huge and perfectly prepared French breakfast dishes - quiche lorraine and a croissant fritatta with chicken sausage and goat cheese. Both were incredibly rich and big, but as good as any French pastries I've had. There were a lot of families running around and it is in a ritzy outdoor shopping mall area.
OTTO'S SAUSAGE KITCHEN is a very quaint and cute meat, cheese, and wine shop. I wish I lived in town so I could stock up on groceries here. Outside, an employee was grilling up three different types of weiners. We ordered one chicken sausage and a smoked pork sausage. I didn't think either were that great, but they were good. They had an amazing snap - almost a little too intense as mine squirted all over the place. The pork sausage was underseasoned and only tasted of pork. The chicken sausage was a bit more complex, but still nothing spectacular.
I was very impressed with all the food options and quality in Portland. There is so much I missed (including the food trucks which were pretty much all closed on the weekend) and can't wait to return.
Wow! back at ya! Thanks for the report.
I'm one of the few on here to plug Bijou, so am glad you found it rewarding.
Not being a big meat eater, I can't relate to your Pok Pok choices. Sorry they fell short for you. Normally I order the smoky sauteed river vegetable, sticky rice, green papaya salad called Papaya Pok Pok, and Khao Soi Kai (a soup).
Yes, normally you need to be here weekday lunch to enjoy the carts. But there is a wonderful late-night grouping on the eastside. Seek it out next time.
Yes the Sahagun iced chocolate is not at all sweet. They meant it that way and the menu is pretty clear that there's no added sugar. The reaction was really positive, with nearly no one requesting more sugar. The chocolateyness speaks for itself, I think! Sorry you missed out on the truffles, fabled caramels, and other treats that were gone by closing day. Can't wait for them to reopen in ten days!
Next time check out some micro-roasters that make Stumptown look huge by comparison: Ristretto, Spella, etc.
Papa Haydn was Portland's best 20 years ago. Next time try Pix for dessert.
It sounds like you'll have a car, so I have two, far-flung Asian rec's for you.
Lucky Strike - Way out in SE P-town (SE Powell Blvd @ 122nd St). Amazing Szechuan food! Cold Sesame Noodles, Kung Pao Chicken, Beans on Beans, Guinness Braised Short Ribs - I think it's safe to say everything is delicious.
Yuzu - Beaverton (SW Canyon Road @ 117th St in strip mall). Japanese izakaya. Phenomenal. Simply phenomenal small plates. Anything you order is going to be wonderful. I think it blows Kasadella (in E Vill) out of the water. Try the shrimp paste-stuffed lotus root. Try everything. This is the kind of food you find mom 'n pop places in Japan.
Both of these places are tiny and in somewhat unassuming locales, but the food is spectacular and the service is very personable.
Indeed, Lucky Strike is one of the better Chinese places in Portland, well-meaning folks run it. However, better in Portland does not necessarily mean "chowhound" worthy when relating Lucky Strike to the truly amazing places available to a true NYC 'hound....like Manhattan's Grand Sichuan International and Szechuan Gourmet, or, out in Flushing, Little Pepper, Spicy and Tasty, or some of the stalls like Chengdu Heaven in the legendary Flushing food courts. While Lucky Strike is decent overall, if someone is going to be in PDX for 2 days, why would they "waste" a meal at a place that on a good day, can't really touch these truly exemplary places????? I've found many of the Sichuan classics to be slightly misinterpreted at LS, and not in a good way...that said, the Flower Tofu (I don't know what they call it...tofu custard?) is pretty good, the Chongqing Chicken (which they call Chile Chicken Bath or some such thing) is ok, though not enough chiles, but the cumin beef is laced with chinese celery which doesn't belong and the Water Boiled Beef (i don't know what name they use for this one) is likewise celery infested, a vegetable that imparts too much of its own personality on this otherwise complex dish. All the NY places get these and dozens more fantastic, sometimes searing and numbing, dishes spot on. Lucky Strike is good in a pinch, but I'd never send a time-limited NY 'hound there! Sorry. Oh, but those Guinness Braised Short Ribs at LS are awful and their Dan Dan noodles miss the mark in my opinion...but, yeah, they are the best commercially available in Portland I guess. If the OP wants to sample Asian in the PNW, he should wait till he gets to BC and check out the great, much harder to find, Hunan chow at Alvin Garden (!!!!) in Burnaby where the food is really, really good and can burn you not one, but several new ones if you ask for it HOT.... your mileage may vary, as they say.
Well, to each their own. I've eaten at several Szechuan establishments in NY and felt Lucky Strike's food brought a fresh take on many standard/"classic" dishes. I don't, however, consider myself to be an expert. Just an enthusiastic lover of all cuisines with roots in both Portland and New York.
agree, The Bite is worthless.
If you are in Lake O, go to Dang's Thai Kitchen. Solid Thai food, Pok Pok is Northern Thai and completely different than typical American Thai. Of course, its awesome and you should go, but its not what you will be expecting(they dont even have Pad Thai on the menu!)
Not much in the way of Wineries in the Gorge/Mt. Hood area, but plenty of Breweries. In Hood River go to Double Mt. Brewery and if for some reason you find your self in Estacada on your way to Mt. Hood, Fearless Brewing makes some tasty, tasty beers! make sure to try their Scottish Red.
as far as your "in portland" food choices goes, TB, PP, Tanuki, Laurelhurst Market!
Hi from PDX.
TB, PP, Bijou great ideas. Other not-misses can be found at the Portland Farmers' Market such as Pine State Biscuit. Also place high on your list Tanuki, seeing as you are adventurous. Japanese dishes you've not heard of. Also Clyde Common and Biwa.
Seeking Asian? Do a Bahn Mi tour!
Sahagun has some amazing summer treats such as single origin chocolate sorbet, plus iced cocoa & chocolate. You must not pass up this opportunity.
Carts: Asian Station, plenty of others SW Alder 9th-10th. http://foodcartsportland.com/
I don't see why you'd enjoy The Bite. The best food and wine is not to be found there.
Most of the best wineries are in pinot country which is mostly Washington/Yamhill counties, W/SW of PDX on way to beach. Many threads on wine country here and under WINE.
Gorge/Mt Hood loop is worthwhile. Yesterday I picked cherries in Parkdale, delicious and scenic at the same time. Don't know what would be ripe in August. Peaches perhaps. http://www.hoodriverfruitloop.com/ind...
We drove from San Francisco on Thursday; Friday was OBF (Oregon Beer Festival) and Sahagun. The new Sun Drops at Sahagun are a wonder to pop in your mouth for an explosion of goodness with sunflower seed butter and blackberry honey... I still absolutely love the standby Mendiants and the chocolate sherbet.
we are heading out now for the Saturday Farmers Market!
this is the Quick Notes/Portland version of our road trip -
for Dave's Killer Bread:
Saturday Farmers Market at PSU
for really good doughnuts:
Best Doughnuts In Town
5842 Burnside Street
for breakfast of biscuits and gravy, country fried steak:
The Gateway Breakfast House
11411 NE Halsey Street
for the whole hog and really good burgers and fried chicken:
The Country Cat
7937 SE Stark
Portland, OR 97215
We had another great dinner at Clyde Common
1014 SW Stark St
Portland, OR 97205
We arrived in Portland on July 23 and we're back at home in San Francisco today, 3200 miles later - with Vancouver, B.C. and a family reunion in Spokane, WA sandwiched in between.
Just browsing for Portland recs as well since i'll be heading there in about 2 weeks and i'm all up for trying adventurous food!
With regard to Tanuki, is it just me or do the plates there seem to be predominantly Korean, not Japanese... but I'm just basing this on their current sample menu up on their website... is the chef there Korean?
I'm looking forward to checking out the Sunday Market and the food carts! I wish our food cart selections were as diverse as the ones in Portland. Is the Sunday Market worth checking out? I guess Saturday would've been better but I'm not in Portland until Sunday. I'll be staying downtown at the Hotel Vintage Plaza so hopefully I can find some good eats around that area.
I don't know what you mean by "Sunday Market". I hope you are not making the common visitor mistake of confusing Portland Farmers' Market with Portland Saturday Market. Opposite ends of the universe, totally different mission. Food at the latter is not good unless you love elephant ears. http://www.portlandsaturdaymarket.com/ is a craft fair, not that there's anything wrong with that. http://www.portlandfarmersmarket.org/ is just that.
The chef/owner of Tanuki is neither Japanese nor Korean. Janis lived a couple years with a Japanese family in Ohio. That is where she learned to cook. It's just you. Menu changes daily.
Vintage Plaza is very close to great carts on Alder, also Give Pizza a Chance on Stark between 4-5th. http://foodcartsportland.com/
"With regard to Tanuki, is it just me or do the plates there seem to be predominantly Korean, not Japanese... but I'm just basing this on their current sample menu up on their website... is the chef there Korean?"
The menu changes daily. Tanuki does Okinawan, Korean & Japanese drinking foods. The emphasis is on the beverage selection w/the menu created to match it and to utilize the freshest things at the markets.
In anticipation of upgrading the liquor license to be able to serve sochu there is currently a bit more Korean going on.
Thanks Leonardo and quovadis!
Oops, yes, I did actually mean the Portland Farmer's Market, but the one on Sunday in the King neighbourhood since I'll only be there on a Sunday. Are most of the vendors around in that one?
This is the list of places I'd like to check out:
- Kenny & Zuke's for a reuben
- Pine State Biscuits for a small treat/coffee break
- Pok Pok to try the khao soi kai
- Tanuki because it got so many great recs and also because they have soondae! (btw, I'm sorry if my earlier post sounded like a criticism of the place, I mean it just as a question and observation of their posted menu of dubu, kimchi, soondae, dak, ojingeo, banchan, japchae..which is all I had to go on) I'm thinking omakase is the way to go here
- Cool Moon Ice Cream
- Ha VL (although I'm thinking I can pass on Ha VL because LA county has a really good viet scene)
I have no idea how I'm going to fit this all in 24hrs, but I may have to visit some of these on my drive back up from LA... no complaints!
I've gone to the King Sunday Market, and for me it's worth going because I'm there to buy food. If you're going for the scene it might be a little disappointing because it's much smaller than the saturday farmer's market--there aren't nearly as many vendors.
You should try to stop by one of the great coffee places while you're here. My current favorite is Coffeehouse Northwest because they're so dang nice, but there's also Barista, Ristretto, Extracto, Spella, Albina Press, and the ubiquitous Stumptown.
for $25 you can buy your own Yama vacuum pot (4-cup version) and make your own!!!! Forever! Or at least until you break it....took me only 6 months till i broke my first. $38 gets you the 8-cup version. Barista is interesting. Nice coffee usually. But if they are charging $9 for vacuum pot, it will probably be at least two cups worth, maybe more....this is an assumption....it's hard to make only one cup in a pot. not impossible, but for $9, they'd better be serving at least 2 cups....or 3. It produces a cleaner cup of coffee, no residue at all as in a french press....but it's not worth 9 bucks for a single cup....
yes, you get 12oz of coffee from a vacpot at Barista. Also, its labor intensive and they are using beans that otherwise arent on their regular menu(read: $$$$$). also, what something is "worth" is a completely subjective and personal issue as to have almost no worth(sorry, couldnt resist) in any quantitative way. Is a Ferrari worth its cost? is a BigMac worth its price? personally, I fall in the yes for the Ferrari and no for the BigMac camp.
I peeked at Barista's online menu. Poking around a bit more, based on the coffees they've indicated they were using for the vacuum pot on the day they posted that menu--and not knowing their wholesale cost for these coffees, this number is a bit high—they are maybe using about 72 cents worth of coffee (based on 7.25 grams of coffee per 5 oz which is standard), or maybe 15 cents more than for a double shot of espresso. I know exactly how labor intensive making coffee in a vacuum pot is, I've done it for a few years, and I have to say, I don't see those labor costs justifying a 9 buck pricetag on 12 oz of coffee (excepting the various animal poop-processed beans, or silly things like Jamaican or Kona). But worth is a personal thing, as you say. Maybe some have that kind of money to toss for coffee that isn't necessarily "better" than french press or melitta (when done correctly), different, yes, fun, yes, better? That depends on your taste. I personally think it's a bit on the "thin" side, but I enjoy it...that's why I'm on my third v-pot. Do I think a Ferrari is worth the money? For some, sure....for most, no. Yeah, I understand the quality, but it's silly money to me. But I have a $6000 turntable/cartridge setup....is it worth the money? For me, yes, for most, no.... Yeah, I even think the $150,000 for the Australian Continuum Audio Labs turntable rig is worth the money....for some...I can sure hear the difference, but I'd never buy one because it is outside my budget. I personally don't think a free iPod (or even a 200 buck CD player) is worth the money...for me. The sound is awful.
I've had coffee from the Clover, it's fine, probably about as labor intensive as vacuum pot, but it's not 9 bucks a cup...last I had was maybe $3.50-4 for 10 oz or so. I've had $3, poured-to-order drip too, very nice, and maybe 50% of the labor involved in vacuum. If you feel 9 bucks for a cup of coffee is worth the price, go for it. I'd rather pass on three of those cups and buy another pot. I roast my own beans, so coffee price is minimal, at least not in the 15-20 per pound (retail) stuff Barista is using. The other thing is, coffee is on a steady decline after about 24 hours or so, after it's degassed. Barista is offering coffee that is at least 5 days old, probably a week, at a minumum. So, if we're gonna get Ferrari-picky, if they roasted coffee on-site, then threw it away after 4 days, then maybe they'd be justified in that premium price, but they are not, and I doubt the Ecco or Intelligentsia stuff they used is teleported over right from the roaster.
Now, all this said, I think they are doing a nice thing...good coffee, nice to vary the selection. Nice gear. Sumashi should check it out. But, if he's the NYC hound, he ought to go to Abraço on E. 7th for an equally good cup of coffee and great conversation with the folks there, without the premium pricing.
Well, I far prefer espresso drinks to brewed coffee, so I'm not the best advisor as to whether it's worth it. I do think that the barista at Barista are truly stellar so while their prices for all their drinks are high, for me it's worth it. The vacuum pots are fun but just not really my trip. They usually have the choice of coffee from two rotating roasters.
If you're close to Barista, you're probably not too far from Coffeehouse Northwest on 19th and Burnside. These guys are really artists with the Synesso so I'd recommend that as well.
Quovadis is the chef of Tanuki.
Yes definitely have the khao soi kai. Also the papaya pok pok. And they have the best sticky rice I've had in years.
K & Z and Pine State are great ideas.
Unhappily, many carts are closed on Sunday.
The PFM in King I haven't been to yet, but have heard it's pretty small, a tiny fraction of the Saturday AM one at PSU. My favorite Saturday PFM larger vendors (i.e. Baird Orchards for peaches, Gathering Together Farms for Charentais melons) I know can be found at the Hillsdale FM Sunday morning. http://www.hillsdalefarmersmarket.com/ Try something from Tastebud Farm's mobile wood-burning oven. It is a good market even though it is not part of PFM, and recommend highly if you're here only on Sunday.
Saturday plans of ocean fishing fell through so I'll be heading over to Portland a day early! Planning to go visit the Mt.St. Helen's area on the way down and will probably be in Portland by dinnertime. I'm hoping to catch Tanuki for dinner since I realized after my last post that Tanuki's not even open on Sunday and I wouldn't have been able to even go there! Do you think I need to make reservations for a Saturday night?
Also, this isn't food-related, but I was just wondering about parking around downtown. I read that parking meters are in effect Mon-Sat from 8am to 7pm, so does that mean after 7pm, the meters are free until 8am the following day? I couldn't find a definite answer on the Portland Parking Guide. Is it right to assume that all restaurants downtown don't provide parking?
Nearly no restaurants downtown provide FREE parking, although some provide valet for a fee. You're probably better off parking on-street. Yes, between 7pm - 8am it's free. On Sunday you pay 1pm - 7pm. You might find yourself walking or taking the streetcar/train at times. Remember that PDX blocks are tiny, so it's a very walkable place.
Tanuki doesn't take reservations. And it's really small.
"I'm hoping to catch Tanuki for dinner since I realized after my last post that Tanuki's not even open on Sunday and I wouldn't have been able to even go there! Do you think I need to make reservations for a Saturday night? "
Hi, thanks for your interest, I own Tanuki
Tanuki does not take reservations.
Saturday is generally not busy at Tanuki, especially earlier.
Thanks to all of you for your enthusiastic responses. I'm excited for my first Portland trip. I actually have all the restaurants picked out for Portland and none for my other destinations yet (LA, San Diego and Vegas).
I'll report back when I get home and hopefully I'll have hit most of the places on my list!