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Nov 22, 2009 04:30 PM

Portland for 2.5 days - help needed with Willamette Valley winery tour and Portland itinerary!

Hey all!

Chicago chowhound here, and in need of help! First of all, I apologize if my post is a little all over the place... I hope it doesn't seem like too much rambling. Here goes...

I'm going to Portland for Thanksgiving, and am staying for Thursday, Friday, and half of Saturday. I've never been, but can tell that it's my kind of city: I love wine, microbreweries, charming shops, local/seasonal food, B&B's, the outdoors/staying active, etc... a more European lifestyle, and also clean and friendly. I've been reading up where to go and what to do, and am a little overwhelmed with the amount of time I have to do it all! Since I'm having Thanksgiving in Portland, I don't want to travel too far, but would still like to explore the scenery, the wine country, and Portland.

Now the food/wine questions: given the amount of time I have, where are some key restaurants and wineries I should visit that will let me explore (and that I will be able to intertwine with my visit) but won't have me going all around Oregon? I've never been, but OR is obviously an emerging culinary force, and I want to make sure I take advantage of that, and of course the wine/beer. Now, some background about my likes in terms of food... I don't eat meat, but love seafood. I generally don't enjoy heavy food such as pastas, risottos, or extremely rich creamy sauces. French/Italian food then is limited along the lines of crudo, seafood, etc... also not a fan of Chinese, and not a big breakfast person (pancakes, french toast, etc don't really do it for me). And I LOVE veggies of any kind. Japanese/sushi is probably one of my favorites, as well as Cal/Am Contemporary, Middle Eastern, Spanish, South American (mmm ceviche!) Thai, Vietnamese, some Mexican (contemporary, ceviches, etc)... I think you get the idea... but I am willing to explore more unusual or unique fare. I like good, clean food, whether elaborate or simple. Creativity is always a plus--eating something you can't just get anywhere. On the other hand, I can't deny a meal that is less creative, but that is done so well that you can't miss it. I don't really have a budget either, which I know makes it harder to narrow down. I just want to experience in OR what I've been hearing so much about!

I told you I tend to ramble, sorry! So taking all of that in context, what restaurants and wineries would you recommend I visit (we will have a car to travel the Valley), in Portland and in Wine Country? Keep in mind, we really only have 2 full days, but will probably have half a day and time for lunch on Saturday. If there are other suggestions that are doable in this amount of time that are beyond these regions, I'm open to that as well. We don't have any accommodations booked yet, either.

Any advice would be much appreciate, and thank you in advance!!

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  1. Oh! And along with that question... What are some products that I should bring back to Chicago with me? Gourmet stores or otherwise?

    1 Reply
    1. re: ShikaSfrn

      For such a short stay, Lincoln City is pretty far afoot from Portland, not to mention being one of the ugliest towns on the coast. There are closer points on the coast. Just had a lovely dinner in Manzanita at Bread & Ocean, for example.

      There have been many threads both on here and under Wine regarding Willamette wineries and wine country dining for visitors. Do a ten second search and you'll get a wealth of info. You didn't give any preferred price range so not sure what to say. My faves would be Willakenzie, Beran, Patton Valley, Erath, Elk Cove, Montinore. Hint: pick a concentrated focused area. Don't go all over the place.

      Here are some previous PDX visitor threads, result of a quick search:

      A great one-stop must-do for Portland food scene is the Portland Farmers' Mkt Saturday AM. Artisan cheesemakers, "gourmet" gift items (honey jam pickles hazelnuts etc), the works.
      Don't confuse Portland Farmers' Mkt with Portland Saturday Mkt which is a hippie craft fair (not that there's anything wrong with that!


      Have fun. Please report back, as that will encourage future responses to others!

    2. Try Bay House Restaurant in Lincoln City. Terrific view and wonderful food (although it's somewhat pricey). On your way to Lincoln City stop in the Torii Mor tasting room. Excellent pinot noirs - especially the Olsen and Temprance Hill vineyards. As a matter of fact, I have a Torri Mor Eola-Amity Hills Select Pinot ($40 at Costco) chilling for Thanksgiving!

      2 Replies
      1. re: firecracker

        Thanks everyone! Those topics are helpful... I will do more research when I get the time (and not sneaking off for 5 minutes during work... whoops!). I wanted to also ask specifically about visiting the wineries on the Friday after Thanksgiving. As I understand it, all the wineries are having an open house on that day. I contacted Owen Roe because I really enjoy their wines, and they confirmed this and mentioned that they would be at The Horse Radish in downtown Carlton. Have any of you been to this event? Is it just as special as visiting the winery? Will all wineries be there, what's the deal? I'm not sure about the size of the event, the distance from where I am... if it's worth it, essentially!

        In terms of price range to narrow things down... with restaurants, I obviously don't want to be spending $100pp every night, but I can definitely splurge if I wanted to. I don't have anything against inexpensive hole in the wall restaurants, or a fine dining experience (as long as it's not rude or stuffy).

        Also, in terms of microbreweries in Portland--what are some recommendations for great quality craft beers and good food, keeping in mind that I am not a burger and fries type of girl?

        I've also heard of Tanuki--worth going to? As I said, I love Japanese and sushi (though no meat), and it seems intruiging.

        Thanks in advance!


        1. re: ShikaSfrn

          Tanuki well worth it. Just took family there, people who've been to Japan as well as living in SF & NY, they were impressed. Remember it's a bar (no under-21), very small, and no sushi. Plenty of non-meat (but lots of fish) dishes. Other adventurous eating of things you've likely not eaten would be Pok Pok, Le Pigeon.

          Ditto food carts. You can't "get" PDX without them. Both Hawthorne & Mississippi. Sugar Cube is top level sweets. Speaking of top level, don't miss Sahagun Chocolate, a hole-in-the wall shop five minute walk from Powell's Books. The hot chocolate and hand-made single-origin truffles will change your life. More greats for the sweet tooth since I'm on a roll: Random Order Pie & Two Tarts Bakery.

          We don't have much that's stuffy. We've much (too much?) that is scruffy!

          Haven't been to that wine event. Horse Radish can't fit "all" 100 wineries that are within 30 mile radius. It's a small cafe & wine shop. Carlton is pretty much the center of Pinot country. I prefer the winery experience usually.

          Most microbrewery food is not so great. But the actual beer is available at most non-microbrewery places.

      2. Be sure to check out the cart scene
        there is nothing like it anywhere that I have been
        12th & Hawthorne late nite...Belgium fies, Wiffies fried pies..the pumpkin creme is mind boggling...Yarp for pasta, Bubba Bernies for cajun, Crepes, mexican, pizza(only if you enjoy a whole wheat crust
        )the new Mississippi carts, Sugar Cube and the Big Egg are what I have enjoyed.
        Portland is also all about the Happy hour...cocktails and delicious snack foods
        Bamboo Sushi is the only sustainable sushi restaurant in the country, they will only serve fish that is not endangered...delicious, too.
        Tanuki , would be 4 times the price in Chicago
        In fact, the cost of a good meal will please you greatly.
        Ponzi winery is close to the city, friendly and good wines.

        I second the please report back...
        Enjoy your visit

        1. One addition to the previous recommendations: try Andina for Peruvian food--the cebiches can be really good.

          Plus a note on the wine country: this will eat up a good part of one of your days--it will take you an hour to get there from downtown Portland.

          13 Replies
          1. re: Nettie

            Thank you all!

            After doing some homework (mostly on Portland), I have focused my questions:

            Friday we will be going to the Wine Country-- supposedly all the wineries are open the day after Thanksgiving (again, if anyone knows or has insight into this, it would be much appreciated), but other than that, I'm not really sure what is going on. Thursday night we are sleeping over in Portland at the Painted Lady. I assume we'll eat breakfast there, and then head to wine country for morning/lunch. Perhaps we'll try to fit in the Japanese Gardens before we leave for the wine country. Admittedly, I've focused most of my research on Portland, so I'm not sure which restaurants are most worth going to for Lunch and Dinner, especially considering I don't eat meat (I've noticed that Portland LOVES their meat, especially pork) and very rarely eat pasta (ditto - lots of pasta). Elk Cove seems like a common consensus in terms of wineries to visit, so perhaps someone can help me plan my wine tour around that winery? I also love Penner-Ash wines, but am not sure of the proximity of these two together and how convenient this is.

            Depending on where you all think the food is better, we can either have dinner on Friday night in Portland, or stay in the wine country. But, I do want to have the whole day in Portland Saturday (market in the morning!), so we'll have to drive back, anyway.

            I'm deciding between some choices in Portland:
            Tanuki (yum!), Andina (looks great to me), Biwa, Tabla, Park Kitchen, Pok Pok (seems very cool but seems very meat based), Karam (maybe for lunch--my dad is a big Med. food eater, as he is Israeli...), Toto Bravo, Ten-01 (for the oysters at happy hour, but not for dinner... mmm LOVE oysters), Alberta St Oyster Bar (speaking of oysters), clarklewis... quite a list as you can see, I'm pretty indecisive, but I know that I do love good, clean, seafood and veggies. Tanuki just seems cool, and Andina seems like it has the type of seafood I'm looking for...

            Which out of this list (or any other recommendations based on this) would you all recommend for Lunch and Dinner? I need enough restaurants for:
            Lunch in wine country
            Dinner either in Portland or wine country
            Lunch sat in Portland
            Dinner sat in Portland
            Lunch sun in Portland

            And of course, I am always willing to try food carts.. are there any vegetarian or seafood type of carts? Or anything unusual and unique I would love to see...

            I am also very into great cocktails, and I know Portland has quite the reputation. I'm having a difficult time deciding which place has great cocktails and/or happy hour, but also has snacks other than meat. Still, the primary focus would be the cocktails... Any recs?

            Sorry this was a lot to digest, any info would be MUCH appreciated! Thanks everyone!

            1. re: ShikaSfrn

              Dinner in the wine country (Yamhill Valley) vs Portland: definitely Portland, especially as that day will be very crazy in any nice restaurant in the valley with the wineries being open (not ALL the wineries are open, but a lot of the wineries that aren't open the rest of the year do tastings on the days after Thanksgiving). Also, it is a bit of a drive back to Portland, and I'd rather not drive back after a big dinner (and possibly drinks).

              One idea for a dinner would be to go to Andina early for cebiche in the bar, then go to Tanuki later. I think it's possible to eat fairly lightly at both of these, so if you have a good appetite you could do this.

              There are a fair number of vegetarian options at the carts, but maybe not so much seafood. I know that the carts at SE 12th and Hawthorne have vegan options, for example.

              Cocktails: try Beaker and Flask--menu here:

              1. re: Nettie

                Those cocktails look delicious! Thank you! Also, if I wanted to do Ten-01 for oysters, is this in proximity to Beaker and Flask?

                So far I've got:
                Friday: Open Lunch in wine country
                Friday dinner: Ten-01 oysters for happy hour, Toro Bravo for dinner
                Saturday Lunch: Thinking Karam, followed by Beaker and Flask OR Park Kitchen for cocktails (have to find somewhere to fit it in!)
                Saturday Dinner: Andina, followed by Tanuki
                Sunday Lunch: Pok Pok for lunch and drinks OR find random food cart
                Possible late night entertainment on Fri or Sat night :Doug Fir Lounge

                Also on the agenda: Cheese/Wine shops (still must research this)
                The famous chocolate shop
                Japanese gardens

                How does this itenerary sound to you all? Suggestions/recommendations/tips?

                1. re: ShikaSfrn

                  Sahagun is the "famous chocolate shop" which I mentioned earlier. Five minutes north are: Steve's Cheese is great (but remember that Farmers' Mkt has excellent local cheese), and is in a wine shop. It's very close to Clear Creek, both being ten minutes at most from downtown, just off the 405.
                  The carts on Hawthorne & Mississippi are good late-night eats.
                  Pok Pok is not open for lunch on weekends. Dinner only.
                  J-garden is a must-do.

                  1. re: Leonardo

                    Total bummer about Pok Pok... I would move things around, but I really like the set up I have with Andina and then Tanuki, especially because I think Tanuki has Saturday movies at night, which could be fun.

                    I've been browsing the Cart options for Sunday lunch, and as I understand it, many are closed on Sundays. The Ruby Dragon has amazing reviews, and is open on Sunday for lunch, so I'm going to try that. This works out well, because being that Sunday is a short day, we can squeeze in some things we might not get to.

                    So, the list is:

                    Friday: Open Lunch in wine country
                    Friday dinner: Ten-01 oysters for happy hour, Toro Bravo for dinner
                    Saturday Lunch: Thinking Karam... followed by cocktails? Park Kitchen, Beaker, or Tear Drop as options.
                    Saturday Dinner: Andina, followed by Tanuki
                    Sunday Lunch: The Ruby Dragon for lunch (veggie/vegan cart)
                    Possible late night entertainment on Fri: Doug Fir Lounge

                    Now my questions are: do you think I will have time (or the capacity... I love food, but as a skinny girl can only have so much!) on Saturday to do all of these things? In terms of proximity, do these make sense? I plan on going to the J-gardens Friday morning, but still want to see Powell books and am not sure where to insert it. Also not sure where to insert one of those amazing cocktail places... as it is, it seems as though Saturday is too jam packed to fit it in between lunch and dinner, especially if I'm doing Andina and Tanuki for dinner. Sunday I guess I will try to visit the cheese shop and distillery, and/or Powell books before I go to the cart, which is on Mississippi at Skidmore. The other option is to skip Doug Fir on Friday night and go for one of these lounges after dinner at Toro Bravo. What do you all suggest, and what is best in terms of convenience?

                    I'm getting excited to nail these down! Which of these need reservations, by the way?

                  2. re: ShikaSfrn

                    Beaker and Flask (east side) isn't very convenient to Ten01 (west side). I was thinking B&F thinking that you'd be eating there, but if food and cocktails at the same place isn't critical then it opens up your options. Clyde Common is pretty close to Ten01 (but while I love their food I think it's more meat-heavy than it sounds like you want). I think Teardrop is pretty convenient to Ten01, too. But if you're going to Toro Bravo, during your inevitable hour-long wait for a table at TB you could go upstairs to Secret Society for old school cocktails, or maybe absinthe.

                    1. re: Nettie

                      I think I'll skip ten 01, not enough time if I want this trip not to be too stressful. In that case, what is the better option for dinner and drinks: beaker and flask for both, or drinks upstairs a toro and then dinner?

                      1. re: ShikaSfrn

                        I have to say that I don't drink so I can't tell you if Beaker and Flask or Secret Society (upstairs from Toro Bravo) would be better for cocktails. I would definitely choose Toro Bravo for food, and Secret Society is extremely convenient if you're going there. I thought the food at B&F was really good, and from the menu I found online it looks like there are several non-meat options. But I think you'll have a lot more to choose from, food-wise, at TB.

                        I'd agree with your choice to drop Ten01, BTW--there's been some turnover there recently, so I think it's been a little uneven, and while it's a nice destination for Portlanders, there's nothing about it that makes me think it would be special if you're from out of town.

                        I hope that you have a great time and that you're able to eat all the food you want while you're here!

                        1. re: Nettie

                          Agree with Nettie. Ten01's new chef left a week ago, so not a good time. Your better bet for food is TB over B & F. My fave for cocktails is Tear Drop so give that a try if you're in the area.

                          1. re: Leonardo

                            Funny, the whole "Ten01 has a new chef" is the reason a lot of people shy'ed away from the new chef, and now he's gone, too.

                            Frankly, I'd skip Karam, opting for Ping or Pok Pok instead. Sure, it's nice enough, and I love Lebanese food, but I don't think it's noteworthy enough to add into a rotation that includes all-stars like Toro Bravo and Tanuki.

                            The only seafood cart that I know of is Rick's Wild Seafood near Voodoo Donut in Old Town.

                            I think Beaker and Flask has the best seafood menu in town. Everyone else is stuck in a mussels-salmon-halibut frame of mind, while the chef at Beaker (awarded the 2009 Restaurant of the Year by Willamette Week) has featured such items as skate, sturgeon, octopus, mackerel, etc. To find a better variety, you'd end up having to go to a Japanese restaurant.

                2. re: ShikaSfrn

                  Top cocktails are Tear Drop Lounge, Clyde Common, and Beaker.

                  I don't find Pok Pok to be overly meat-heavy (nor do I find Portland to be generally). And several dishes can be had vegan on request.

                  New vegan place that has gotten great reports is Portobello. I haven't been yet, and am very tempted. A good hint as to their earnestness is the home page that focuses on animal rights activism.

                  Close to Elk Cove that are worthwhile are Sake One, Patton Valley, and Montinore. This is good to focus more on Washington County wineries, as Yamhill will be madly crowded.

                  I don't know of any seafood carts.

                  Promise to report back?

                  1. re: Leonardo

                    Yum! Portobello sounds great... as do the cocktail recs... now I have to re-evaluate where to do cocktails!

                    Do you prefer Elk Cove to Penner-Ash? I think I'll go ahead with that rec, but it's hard for me to give up Penner-Ash... there's always next time!

                    And of course, I always report back. I get joy from it too, don't consider it a burden at all...

                    I just hope I can fit it all in...

                    1. re: ShikaSfrn

                      Oh! Another question... Where is Clear Creek Distillery? Is it doable?