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Convention Center bound--need subversive dining strategy

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A bunch of colleagues from around the country are heading to a conference at the Convention Center. And inevitably at these kinds of things, we settle on food choices that have as their great asset that they don't offend anyone. So, help! What is great and novel and favors regional NW cooking that is close enough to the Convention Center to be convenient (although we have a car), won't be scary to our meat and potatoes friends from the middle of the country, but will also feature some dishes worthy enough to write home about? A bit of context here is that my last great find served a whole cow's head as a special--but oddly enough, I couldn't get many folks to go back there for another meal. Ethnic is welcome, price is not really an issue except in the extreme.

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  1. Toro Bravo is about 1 mile away and one of the top restaurants in town. So many things on the menu(including, since it is portland after all, a really great burger) that to not be able to find something to eat would absolutely amaze me.

    Ned Ludd is also about the same distance away and very hearty, rustic fare. Everything that is cooked there comes from their woodfired oven, including braises, smoked items, baked goods, etc. The only issue with Ned Ludd is its size. You did not say the size of the group you would be traveling with, but I would suggest not attempting a party of more than 6-8 for here.

    lastly if you do have a car and don't mind a 5min drive or so, Laurelhurst Market would be my ringer for the crowd you are talking about. Modern steakhouse, done Portland style! extremely affordable given the cuisine, and can easily accommodate a large-ish party(16-20 with a couple days notice I imagine).

    Now, the only warning I have is that most of the nicer restaurants in PDX do not accept reservations and the wait can stretch to an hour or so at prime dining time(6:30-8pm) at the more popular ones(for which Toro Bravo is the poster child!). Hope this helps and you can get a chance to taste what Portland has to offer without your flyover friends dragging you to Claim Jumpers!;-)

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    Laurelhurst Market
    3155 East Burnside Street, Portland, OR 97232

    Toro Bravo
    120 NE Russell St Ste A, Portland, OR 97212

    Claim Jumper Restaurant
    18000 SW Lower Boones Ferry Rd, Portland, OR 97224

    1. Be prepared for up to an hour wait for Toro Bravo.

      Don't forget that the light rail Max line is right by the Convention Center. If you take it one stop beyond Pioneer Courthouse Square, you are very close to Gruner and Clyde Common, and Kenny and Zuke's, all of which I would heartily recommend.

      Ned Ludd is great, and worth considering as it is close to the Convention Center.

      If you can get a reservation at Le Pigeon, just do it.

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      Le Pigeon
      738 E Burnside St, Portland, OR 97214

      Toro Bravo
      120 NE Russell St Ste A, Portland, OR 97212

      Clyde Common
      , Portland, OR 97201

      3 Replies
      1. re: MichaelG

        Ditched the group, Went to Le Pigeon with a like-minded foodie, sat at the bar and had a magnificent meal. Just exactly the kind of food and dining experience I love best--edgy, experimental, delicious. We ate the foie gras, the pheasant appetizer and split the pork shoulder and the cornbread/maple ice cream/bacon dessert. Although Le Pigeon seems similar in intent to Los Angeles' Animal (bacon infused desserts, for instance), it is less tame and less formal. I also liken it to my favorite eating experience of the last couple month, New Orleans' Green Goddess.
        Two more nights in Portland--tonight with a foodie not old enough to drink, and then later in the week with my traveling dining partner. Any other suggestions? (I am inclined to go back to Le Pigeon.)

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        Le Pigeon
        738 E Burnside St, Portland, OR 97214

        1. re: coffeebrownies

          Go to Toro Bravo tonight. If you don't mind early dining, getting there before/when they open is always good, or you will wait. It's worth the wait, but you can avoid it by going early.

          Clyde Common is another good choice.

          Maybe Laurelhurst Market tomorrow?

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          Laurelhurst Market
          3155 East Burnside Street, Portland, OR 97232

          Toro Bravo
          120 NE Russell St Ste A, Portland, OR 97212

          Clyde Common
          , Portland, OR 97201

          1. re: JillO

            Gruner, Laurelhurst Market, June, Metrovino, Fin, Toro Bravo, Beaker & Flask.

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            Laurelhurst Market
            3155 East Burnside Street, Portland, OR 97232

            Toro Bravo
            120 NE Russell St Ste A, Portland, OR 97212