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Foodies dining with picky eaters in PDX

This post is probably going to cause me to catch a lot of flak, but I'm stumped and I've decided to turn my query over to the experts.

My husband and I are foodies. We are traveling to Portland, a city we visit a couple of times per year, with another couple who are the most picky eaters EVER. Finding lunch is easy, but it's dinner that has me lost. Dining ethnic is basically out the window, which is a shame . Italian and Mexican are probably as crazy as our friends will go. They probably consider French "ethnic," and I don't even want to raise the subject of Lebanese, as much as I'd like to. And wait... it gets better. We'll have 4 kids with us--aged 3 to 11.

The last time we traveled with this family, we only ate dinner at pizza places, an "Irish" pub, and a steakhouse. I don't want to repeat those mistakes. I can only think of one place that my family likes that would be acceptable to our dining companions: Piazza Italia in the Pearl. Laurelwood off NW 23rd is okay, too, but I'm a little bored by the thought. We liked the Davis Street Cafe the last time we were down there, but it's not a good place for little kids.

We are looking for suggestions of good dinner places that can satisfy us as well as our companions. We'll be staying where Old Town and Downtown intersect, so places within walking distance (or the reaches of the MAX and the streetcar) are preferable. Please, no chains.

Thanks for any help you can offer.

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Piazza Italia
1129 NW Johnson St, Portland, OR 97209

Laurelwood Restaurant
5115 NE Sandy Blvd, Portland, OR 97213

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  1. Downtown, there's the Heathman, Veritable Quandary, Ten01 and Davis Street Tavern.

    If you're willing to drive, Laurelhurst Market would be perfect.

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    Laurelhurst Market
    3155 East Burnside Street, Portland, OR 97232

    Veritable Quandary
    1220 SW 1st Ave, Portland, OR 97204

    Davis Street Tavern
    500 NW Davis Street, Portland, OR 97209

    3 Replies
    1. re: SauceSupreme

      Thanks, Sauce Supreme. I will check out your suggestions. I've eaten at the bar at the Heathman and enjoy it, but of course the kids can't eat there. I'll look at the dining room, however. Laurelhurst Market, Veritable Quandary and Ten01 sound promising. I've eaten at Davis Street Tavern (which I mistakenly renamed "Davis Street Cafe" in my original post) and like it, but thought it was a little inappropriate for kids--maybe I was wrong. Thanks again.

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      Laurelhurst Market
      3155 East Burnside Street, Portland, OR 97232

      Veritable Quandary
      1220 SW 1st Ave, Portland, OR 97204

      Davis Street Tavern
      500 NW Davis Street, Portland, OR 97209

      1. re: luckywonton

        hate to be a downer, but all those places are fairly inappropriate for kids! Laurelhurst is going to be cramped, loud and way over stimulating. The VQ and Ten01 are fairly upscale places that(unless they are the rare, super well behaved kind)kids are going to be disruptive to the other patrons.
        I know you said all you have ever had with this couple was pizza, etc....but Apizza Scholls is truly one of the greatest pizzas in the country and very accomodating for the children. You wouldnt be bypassing your foodie aspirations by going there.
        Some other places that sound like a good fit for your group would be, Fire on The Mountain, Mothers, and possibly Nostrana.

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        Nostrana
        1401 SE Morrison St, Portland, OR 97214

        Apizza Scholls
        4741 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97215

        1. re: nkeane

          Yeah, nkeane, I noticed the same thing after I checked out the VQ and Ten01's websites. Laurelhurst looks like it could fit the bill, but now I'm not so sure based on your comment. The older kids would probably be fine but the younger children are in no way exceptional as far as restaurant behavior. I don't want to be "those people" who bring their whiny, restless kids to an adult eating establishment.

          Apizza Scholls looks good and will probably be a hit with our group. Nostrana's menu looks fantastic.

          Thanks.

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          Nostrana
          1401 SE Morrison St, Portland, OR 97214

          Apizza Scholls
          4741 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97215

          Apizza
          281 N 3rd Ave, Stayton, OR 97383

    2. With such a large number of children along, it makes it a little more difficult but Country Cat would work (and they take reservations for large groups) and possibly Lauro Kitchen - although I have not been to Lauro with my toddler, I do remember seeing several groups with children there the last time I ate there. Lauro is my favorite of the two recommendations but I'd want someone else to comment on how kid friendly they think it would be.

      I just reread your post and realized that I didn't fit your walking distance criteria - Ah! Kids make it so hard!

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      Country Cat Dinner House & Bar
      7937 SE Stark St, Portland, OR 97215

      Lauro Kitchen
      3377 SE Division St Ste 106, Portland, OR 97202

      1. Problem is downtown is mostly for grown ups. Mother's Bistro would be a good choice, you're friends will love it and kids are fine. Her Italian restaurant next door, which I haven't been except to check it out, gets pretty good reviews. Easy walk from where you are staying.

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        Mother's Bistro & Bar
        212 SW Stark St, Portland, OR 97204

        2 Replies
        1. re: ejohn

          Don't be put off by the automatic link provided by Chowhound that says "French." Look at the menu. Pot roast, chicken and dumplings ... and the place is often listed among Portland's best in local papers. The Italian place next door is Mamma Mia.

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          Mamma Mia's
          420 W Francis Ave, Spokane, WA 99205

          1. re: ejohn

            I agree with ejohn: Mother's is a great idea - good food that's not scary for the unadventurous. They also serve breakfast lunch and dinner, which is a plus.I have eaten at Mama Mia a couple of times and liked it quite a bit. It's got an old-school Italian menu and vibe (dark and lots of red), but done in an updated and mindful fashion. I;ve eaten there with kids at one of the meals and they fared just fine.

        2. I've brought families to Laurelhurst Market and had an amazing time (and found it quite charming when a server said to a child in a high chair that they would be charged corkage for their sippy cup).

          I say go to LM, tell them you have kids with you, and all will be fine.

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          Laurelhurst Market
          3155 East Burnside Street, Portland, OR 97232

          1. Nostrana is a good place with kids and they also do decent pizza, but there are more adventurous choices on their menu. It would be my first choice, but it is not downtown/Old Town, or near a MAX stop or Streetcar.

            Laurelhurst Market would be second, especially early in the evening, but it isn't located where you want either.

            Basta's is a little closer, still a good choice, a little walk from the streetcar, but not too bad...

            Strictly downtown, I'd try Kenny and Zuke's and Mamma Mia's (I've had better dinners there than at Mother's).

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            Nostrana
            1401 SE Morrison St, Portland, OR 97214

            Laurelhurst Market
            3155 East Burnside Street, Portland, OR 97232

            Mamma Mia's
            420 W Francis Ave, Spokane, WA 99205

            3 Replies
            1. re: JillO

              I don't know when you were last at Basta's but wow, has it gone downhill. I don't understand the suggestion for Laurelhurst - lot of places in town are great restaurants, but I understood they were taking small children, probably walking in the rain. Laurelhurst is not walkable although you could catch a bus. Country Cat is way out. While Mother's may not be the best place (I'm not a fan of Lisa) it sure meets their criteria for close to walk to, great for picky eaters and kids and decent food for foodies stuck with Mr. & Mrs. Broken Arrow Oklahoma. I'd second Kenny & Zuke's, also not too far to walk. Ate at Sungari Pearl this weekend, lots of kids there, but I'm not as big a fan of their food as many others. I assume your friends eat Chinese. Nel Centro Italian is considered better than Mama Mia's and walkable, but on the other side of central downtown and kids would be fine. Another fun place, not the greatest food but certainly decent (and even made Willamette Week's Best 100), is Greek at Alexis on Burnside.

              1. re: ejohn

                Thanks everyone for your suggestions and input. I have been to Mother's for breakfast. It was just okay; not sure I would return even for breakfast, let alone dinner, unless its dinners far outshine its breakfasts.

                Kenny & Zuke's looks like a good fit for lunch. It also gets bonus points for being so close to Powell's.

                I am bummed that Laurelhurst and Nostrana are out of the way. We'll have to try them the next time we're in town with our car.

                As for Sungari Pearl, our friends do like Chinese. Being Chinese, though, I am particular when it comes to Chinese food From the Yelp reviews, SP sounds kind of like a cross between PF Chang's and Seattle's Wild Ginger.

                Thanks, again, all! If you have more resto suggestions, I'll keep checking back.

                1. re: ejohn

                  I was last at Basta's for happy hour a couple of weeks ago (after not having been there for over 2 years) and the food was as good as it always was, for the happy hour menu, anyway. Haven't been back for dinner.

                  I haven't been to Nel Centro but I have been to Mama Mia's Trattoria several times and it is good (not great, but good). Have you been to either?

                  I've had decent breakfasts and OK lunches at Mother's but I think dinner is their worst meal...just one woman's opinion.

                  And really, Laurelhurst Market is one bus away...what difference does it make if you are waiting for the bus or the MAX? They are obviously going to be close to Burnside...

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                  Laurelhurst Market
                  3155 East Burnside Street, Portland, OR 97232