Who else is ridiculous stoked about metro PDX board? plus viewpoint from a PDX newbie.
- mmerino Jan 30, 2010 11:00 AM
I have lived in Portland, from Oakland, since Oct. and haven't really contributed to the PN board. Too broad and too much Seattle.
Ok I have some feedback. Eaten/drank here:
Saltys on the columbia
South Park Grill(?)
Davis street tavern
Lotsa food carts-work @ sw9th & stark
Eat Oyster bar
Dan & Louis OB
Old Town Pizza
Pine State B.
Kenny & Zukes
Hot Pot City
Drive thru baguette
A Chinese noodle soup place near Ping
the Pho place attached to Fubonn
and a bunch more I cant remember.
Out of town
Farm to Table
My take after all this eating. Meh. Sorry. Meh.
Favorites were Pok Pok (too$$ compared to THE or Chai Thai in sfBay), Clark Lewis, navarre, Masu, bamboo, Alexis, pine state, Broeder, farm to table, Double Mountain, Pals, Eat oyster Bar & Beast. Other things that have been great are the cheap ass places along 82nd or at the carts. deep fried muenster sandwich, you can has cheeseburger? wrong? Nope. Good food. Good souls.
I find that there seems to be a sad default to adding sugar to things-Red onion & le pigeon in particular. Not to mention the Thai carts at 9th & Alder. Wow, super sugar in PDX.
Worst meals? Beaker & Flask, red onion, Apizza sholls, wildwood, Tabla, hot pot city, fenouil & Sinju. Soul-less, bland, not fresh, over dressed, just bad. B&F had a ton of egg product(mayo-ness or other dressing) on everything, red onion was awful watery-fusiony Thai, Wildwood overdressed the salads & served broken-shelled tasteless mussels, Apizza was just annoying. Poorly organized service, lay out and bland/boring pizza, Tabla couldn't cook a bean to done. Hot Pot city had zero flavor in either broth, Sinju's aji was a frozen runny expensive mess.
There is no fine dining here. Thats ok. I like casual but it would be nice to have a Masa, chez P or French Laundry mecca here. I bet that happens in the next 5 years.
I remain cheerful and ready to try whatever. Heading to Beaverton & Uwajimaya now. I love it here. I have just given up on being bowled over by the food. Is it just me? Transplants, speak...
Oh wait I liked the Indonesian & Bento on that funny block/corner of like jefferson & the 405 too. By Thai Chili Jam.
Finally, someone else who shares my overall perspective. Moved here from Austin two years ago. Austin has had its own city board here for more than three years. And it's very active. But Austin doesn't pat itself on the back about being a sent-from-heaven food city. But it has far better, more diverse food than Portland which is still quite backwater. Lots of young, enthusiastic "chefs" who don't really know food very well, and don't have much world view outside the PNW. Far too enamored of certain trends without the "chops" to pull off their goals properly. And the average diner here is not well educated either, so they just fall in line with what is hip, cool and new. Pretty funny, pretty sad. I go to places people rave about and can't figure out why these places get some much praise: Bunk, Apizza Scholls, Toro Bravo, Tabla, Pambiche, and one hundred more. And the truly good places remain half full even on Saturday night. I see it all the time.
Overall, Asian food here is a joke, and I include Pok Pok in that, the new, hip Ping is far worse, a terrific joke, really. Other Thai places are just mediocre for the most part. Vietnamese places here serve a largely ignorant non-Asian market, meaning they don't go much beyond pho which, then, is all the local know anything about. One place I love, Bun Bo Hue on SE 82nd, has amazingly bright, wonderful flavors...I've never seen another non-Asian in there who wasn't with an Asian companion. Yet crappy places around town stay full of folks eating mediocrity. Chinese? Lucky Strike has become very hip, but they miss the mark with most of their dishes, but no one in PDX knows the difference....I laud the young owners, just wish they would make a few minor adjustments and then they would deserve all the hipster accolades. The places I've found to have the best Chinese are almost always devoid of non-Asians...Shenzhen, Good Taste, Wing Wa BBQ King all have great stuff if you order correctly, and mediocre if you don't.
I've been to most of the top-rated food carts. Nada. Potato Champion has great fries, but so what. Tabor's highly praised sandwiches are terrible, the now closed Asia Station that was drooled over on another food board served nasty XLB, Garden State, the S. Italian cart in Sellwood is a joke, and all the others likewise. One exception: Spella's coffee is fantastic. But people here are just gaga about these purveyors of food that is not really fast a lot of the time, not really cheap, and almost uniformly average or below. Lack of knowledge about good food. But the funniest part is that Portlanders think that this is the only city with food carts, that the concept just must have been invented in the oh-so-weird city. Along with beer, coffee, sandwiches, farmers' markets, locally grown produce, pork belly, pulled pork and god knows what else. Folks, I hate to break it to you, but Portland did not give rise to any of these. Someone on that other food Dot ORG site, commenting on an NBC news report on food carts in Portland and in NYC said, "I didn't know it was a trend in other places too." !!!!!!!!!!!!! Other places? How about everywhere else in the world? NYC has been famous for theirs for decades, Austin has had taco trucks, etc for decades as has the SF Bay area, etc etc etc. Ever been to Italy, Morocco, Mexico, Brasil, etc etc etc????? "A trend in other places too!!!!""" that still cracks me up.
Portland is a beautiful city, you can find some pretty good stuff here, but if it's food, you need to cook it yourself to be guaranteed of real deliciousness. Oh, and don't ever think it will be easy to find any restaurants open much after 9pm, folks here like to roll up the sidewalks early, even bars close early here....I love Bridgeport IPA, but their Alehouse on Hawthorne closes at 10 every night!!!!!! It's a bar, for god's sake! Want an espresso after 9? Forget it. Stumptown's closed (though the one downtown might be open later, not sure). Most of the other decent places also shutter early. It's a sleepy little town, beautiful, but not really as progressive and sophisticated as the NY Times would have you believe.
Well, speaking as someone who spent their formative years in Portland (and now divide my time between Seattle and Vancouver), Portland's come quite a long ways in terms of food selection. All these restaurants like Sel Gris or Wildwood or Fenouil...there was a time when the Ringside and Poor Richards and Edelweiss passed off as the finest dining in the city. The explosive population growth due to out-of-staters (boy, was there a big backlash against Californication for the longest longest time) made these restaurants possible and a little place like Portland stand out _comparatively_ for a city its size. That's the key here - Portland is still comparatively backwaters on the world stage, with the same size and population as, say, Tampa. But I think you'd find a much more diverse selection food - diversity anyway, perhaps not executed to a top notch of quality that you'd expect for those types of foods that they're trying to do - than a city like Tampa, as an example.
I'm old enough to remember Portland thanking its goddesses of luck that it even had places like Fong Chong and House of Louie's in Chinatown (bleh...), and the Chinese community there (which was quite small at the time) did not think twice when considering driving 3 hours to Seattle and 7 hours to Vancouver sole for food pilgrimages several times a year. The Chinese food scene has improved drastically since due to much increased competition (up from only fewer than 10 restaurants in the entire city in my recent memory). Though it's definitely still horrid compared to even Seattle, which is not THAT decent to begin with. And don't get me started on the Indian food - I thought Seattle had few good selections...
But back to my original point - I think you have to be fair here. Portland simply doesn't have the population to sustain momentum for those "special" restaurant operations. It reminds me a bit of Bellingham, WA - a college town that tries too hard to engage the whole ethnic food angle from a variety of fronts, but doesn't execute any of them particularly well. Better to concentrate and specialize more on homegrown creations with fresh local ingredients, rather than try to usurp foreign cuisine via half-hearted fusion and watering-down and calling it "PNW cuisine".
I agree with Hung...not as a native, but as someone who moved her with a former native. Portland is aspiring and inspiring. There is nothing here like Blue Hill at Stone Barnes ( altho I think a chef is coming here to Clyde Commons and I am excited about that) or Di Fara's. This is a small city ( I moved here from NY last, also lived in SF, and LA). In a recession economy, a plethora of fancy places would be impossible to sustain and thrive. The people that are cooking here are working with the local ingredients...and the farmers markets in the summer are gorgeous, and delicious. Have you had the hood berries? The people are friendly and lovely and genuine. There is a lot of growth and new fun places opening. I don't love fancy, so Bunk and MCB, Zells, Tabor, Caraquena rock my world. I love Dalo's Kitchen. I think if you move here wanting a taste of elsewhere, you lose.
Okay, WTF? I just went to another thread where someone was asking about lunch/brunch and latenight restaurant options. You recomended Broder and Pine State Biscuits specifically by name and describe them as "fun and interesting". Up above you have described them both as "My take after all this eating. Meh. Sorry. Meh". Which is it? You are losing credibility fast.
You misunderstood the list. I have eaten at all those places and after reflecting, I haven't felt like there is much amazing-ness here.
Razor clams are a total novelty to me. We don't see them much in the Bay Area. I liked them at Navarre and had a nice meal there-not phenomenal.
Broder is totally unique. So is Pine state to me. I liked them both. Both good food.
Does that fix the other 100 meals I have had that were poorly executed and underwhelming?
I live in two places. One, Los Angeles. When I want exceptional Italian, I go to Osteria Mozza, Church and State is 20 min. from my house
My other place is maybe 8 minutes from "Chez P", 25 minutes from every imaginable kind of amazingfood available.
What do i jones for?? Portland. Yum.
Le Pigeon, PokPok, Front porch, (or is it Back Porch, Screen Door, I don't remember but it was amazing).
Every couple of months I turn to my husband and say..."time for a trip to Portland."
I have my Berkeley favorites, but often I wish there was a food scene as fresh and innovative as PDX's.
Each to his own, they say.
Ha! I live in two places too! Oakland and PDX. Commute to Palo Alto when in OAK. Its hard. food makes up for it pretty well though.
Loves me some Batali "Melrose Place," pizzas & salads...saw the mayor there one time. My family are all socal so I get down there a bunch. LA, now thats an Eaters town. mmm-mmm. I love eating in LA.
Portland you think has innovation that tastes super? Can you point me to what you like beyond Le Pigeon or pok pok?
In my estimation, Thai House Express(SF) & Chai Thai(OAK) take the win over Pok Pok. they lack the cuteness and personality as far as the dining room goes but make up for it in flavor. Don't get me started on Ruen Pair in LA. there is some amazing Thai in LA.
Any recos welcome!
I don't understand what you are saying about the Asian food scene in Portland. Yes, the best places asian food places have a lot of asians there! Of course those are the best places! Basically most people don't like to go too far out of their comfort zone for food, but that is what is required to get to the good stuff as far as Asian food goes. I don't think this is just a Portland phenomenon.
New York transplant here:
It's funny, comparing the food in Portland today to what I ate in New York in the 80s and early 90's, and I'd say Portland wins. The emphasis on fresh local foods, innovation, and the combination of available fungi, pacific seafood, and berries.. (OK, I'm thinking about the farmers markets more than the restaurants...) A lot of food in New York was just stale by comparisson.
But when a city like New York or SF catches on, it's able to do things really well. It's just not fair to compare the best of Portland to the best of a city with a population 10x and dining dollars 100x greater.
I have had some wonderful meals in Portland. I'm not comparing them to Babbo, but they were still wonderful. I love Navarre, and Pok Pok IS good. Biwa and Bamboo Sushi are also fun and good.
There's a lot to complain about in Portland, true. I will not eat any Indian food here, and Chinese is sorely deficient compared to other west coast cities. So are a lot of other things about Portland's relationship to it's ethnic groups. And of course, as a New Yorker, I often complain about the pizza. (As a recent discovery, I think Portland's pizza evolution has simply derived from Italy and skipped over NY and Chicago. You can get a good Italian-style pie at places like Al Forno Ferruzza, you just can't get a good slice.)
Don't get me started on bagels.
But then, I go to New York and I'm like "No, seriously, where are the good beers?" And on a recent visit I found that some of the very best coffee houses were delighted to be offering... Stumptown Coffee! I was actually a little upset that Stumptown has decided to sell coffee outside Portland. But take a walk through mid-town Manhattan and try to find a decent espresso.
In truth, we haven't been very good to our ethnic populations in this town (Chinatown officially banished to 82nd), and so there aren't full spectrums of authenticity, adventurousness, and traditional in a lot of the international cuisines. But there is a lot of excitement and attempts to get things started here that may already exist in New York and SF and LA, but only in those places. I've been here ten years now and there are still many opportunities to delight in a good meal.
And, finally, a good restaurant here can cost 1/3 of what it does in NYC. (Although, ironically, cheap food in NYC can be a lot cheaper. Still not sure why on that one....)
(Also, it is MUCH MUCH easier to cook a great meal in Portland. Have you ever stood in line at a Whole Foods in NYC...?)
Stark-Thank-you for weighing in.
Were basically in agreement. I do feel like the dining in PDX is going to be PHENOMENAL soon. Very soon. Good meals are certainly to be had here. No question. Comparing PDX to other west coast "metropoli" isnt a stretch or unusual in my mind. Its a nice small city with great ingredients and maybe a cooking-maturity problem ??? The PDX Population, I would add, isn't demanding a higher level of flavor. Folks who will say they adore spicing & soulfulness will also direct you to a really mediocre place that is well reviewed. I am confused by this.
I am so with you on the kick ass beer and the $$.
Speaking of shopping-Try TJ's in Brooklyn! Ack! hahah.
What food are you loving right now in PDX?
Check out The Observatory on 81st and Stark. It's a good example of something Portland is doing well. The owners used to work at Sapphire Hotel, and this place is a little less arch, a little more open and friendly. Their cocktails are great - actually my favorite right now. (It's weird how another bar just down the street seems to use almost the same format for drinks but gets everything just a little bit wrong.) And their food is not going to wow you, but I haven't had a single bad thing there and their kitchen is producing way higher fare than their prices suggest.
Also, I am always pleasantly surprised by decent pizza, and the wooden-exterior cart at the 12th and Hawthorn late-night scene is great. They built a real pizza oven in their truck and I wish I could remember their name. In fact, I wish that whole little court had a name, too.
Oh, I don't think I saw Laurelhurst Market on your list. (Owned by the Sympatica Supper Club guys). Go there. I think you won't have any complaint, so long as you aren't comparing it to French Laundry....
The biggest problem here is the lack of great Asian food in the center of town (inside of 82nd and the West Hills, that is), and the complete absence of strong Indian food, which always frustrates me. The reality is that Portlanders are NOT adventurous diners - note the ridiculous number of brunch places, for example, compared to the absence of good Indian, Malaysian, Indonesian, etc. (Bombay Cricket Club should be torn down.) Hey, it's a very white city.
BUT, the carts are creating a galaxy of interesting food experiences. I prefer the hawker markets and street food of Singapore and Bangkok over the fancy bistros of Paris, so I'm very happy about the carts and not so concerned about the Beasts and Pigeons of the Portland scene.
Just ate at the tapas cart at Alberta and NE 23rd - the albacore tuna bocadillo was fantastic!
Tanuki, Yen-Ha, Lucky Strike(soon, when they open on Hawthorne), Biwa(good, maybe not great. stick to grilled things), Miho Izakaya, Murata, Red Onion Thai, Taste of Jakarta(never been, but hear tremendous things) An Xuyen, etc......there are probably some I am blanking on but you get the point. There *are* some great places, you just have to look for them, then GO!!
Furthermore the golden rule of "ethnic"(I use quotes because I hate that term, find it mildly racist and after all......arent all cusines "ethnic"?) food is, the good stuff is found where those populations live. Since most immigrants are poor, they don't live in inner SE or the Pearl. I say, go to their hood, eat what they eat, and stop whining about not being able to get absolutely every type of food within a 10 block radius of you!?:-)
413 NW 21st Ave, Portland, OR 97209
Wong King is excellent dim sum, and very good seafood. There's a good pho place on Powell - Pho Hung - which caters purely to the VIetnamese crowd and is reliable and authentic. Agree we haven't found good Indian.
I too have lived in California (LA and SF) and find Portland positively fine. The super-high-end places are lacking but even as a foodie, I don't eat at those places. I'm looking for fun and good value and I can get that in Portland. Not interested in spending a day's or week's salary on weird food that I don't recognize.
Nicholas Middle Eastern is the best mid-eastern I've had anywhere. Much better than Jordan or Israel.
dim sum - Wong King as good as anyplace I've been.
Pho Van - good beef 7 ways
Pho Hung - reliable pho and bun
e-san Thai - good enough for me
laughing planet - burritos!
love the beer, the wine, the salmon, the hazelnuts, and don't get me started on the berries.
lighten up everyone! Portland does not have to be New York or LA or SF or even Vancouver to be a wonderful food city. Nor should it try to be.
1919 SE 82nd Ave, Portland, OR 97216
4717 SE Powell Blvd, Portland, OR 97206
Thanks! I will drop your reccos on the list. Have heard of a few. I agree e-san, totally fine. Their special sausage fried rice is what to get if you haven't already!
I like a variety of things to eat, from street to fine dining and I have gotten over the lack of deliciousness UP & DOWN this spectrum. As I have said, I will happily continue to seek out the great food & be honest about what I find.
Cool-Thanks! I will drop the places I haven't been to on my list.
Tanuki-love the concept. Their edamame are foul greasy-lemony-pods-of-sad. Having said that, I like Soju Bang food and am happy there is a Soju Bang style place I can walk to. I remember liking a few dishes there too(pork belly) but nothing that knocked my socks off. You go there for the people and vibe-in a good way.
Biwa-I had fun there and remember liking quite a few items. I had many sake's that night so I cant give it a real read.
Murata-had a late lunch and maybe it did not shine as it should. I thought it was traditional & serviceable but not wow.
Red Onion Thai-Hated it. Watery, bland, not in my mind Thai at all more of a weird fusion of I don't know what. The night I tried it it was so tasteless it defied description. The service was abominable to. I have been to Thailand & love Thai, Lao, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Malaysian, etc, food. I was really sad. I have no idea why it even got into Willamette Weekly best of 09 I think?
Taste of Jakarta-I like it, its pure street food. Good and cheap fun. Nice pople too. Cute job on space considering they serve on paper plates. Not a problem for me but I bet people bitch about it here. That Bento place next door is pretty tasty too. Chef Naoko (?)
I had a really pretty well prepared bento there for lunch. Recommended.
Went to Bombay Cricket Club last night on the recommendation of family (they've never been either - just because they see tons of diners going in and out of the place). That must have been some of the most Anglo-modified Indian fare I've had. Every last hint of spice was removed from the food, and the flavoring was bland.
And not to mention the haughty it-is-your-privilege-to-eat-here attitude.
Bombay Cricket Club Restaurant
1925 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214