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Jul 31, 2011 10:50 AM

Week in Portland - itinerary help

We will be spending a week in Portland starting next Saturday (with probably a couple days on the Oregon Coast) and would welcome some help whittling down our dining itinerary and some logistics help as well. We've been to Portland a couple times previously, but the last time was about five years ago. Prior visits included ClarkLewis (when it first opened and Morgon Brownlow was chef), Gotham Building Tavern (long since closed), Wildwood, Heathman, Paley's.

We're interested in what's new since we were last in town, and generally look for creative cooking with a sense of place (not necessarily both at the same time). This will be our first visit with the kids along (13 and 11), which only limits us a bit. They're pretty wide-ranging eaters, but long tasting menus, ultra-short limited choice or fixed menus, and unpredictably long waits for tables are difficult. That takes Castagna and Beast out of the running, which would otherwise be on my list.

Here's my list so far, roughly ordered based on my level of interest, with some questions along the way ->

- Pok Pok - Everyone I know who has been says this is a must. Is there always a wait (if so how long typically?), are there better times to go than others?
- Le Pigeon - the only reservation we've made so far.
- Tasty n Sons - haven't heard much about it but it looks great. Thoughts? Brunch v dinner?
- Gruner
- Cafe Castagna - I know it's not as creative or ambitious as Castagna; is it worth a visit? Seems there are several places doing a French bistro style of menu (this, Little Bird) - is there a "best of breed"?
- Little Bird - see Cafe Castagna question above. Is it sufficiently different from Le Pigeon that it would make sense to do both?
- Clyde Common
- Ned Ludd - Another place I've not heard much about that looks good. Thoughts?
- ClarkLewis - looks to have changed hands several times since I was there; how is it these days?
- Biwa - the kids always eat well at izakayas.
- Cabezon - another place I've not heard much about.
- Voodoo Doughnuts - we'll definitely take the kids.

For the no reservations places (I asked specifically about Pok Pok above, but also Clyde Common, Cafe Castagna, Tasty n Sons) is there a perennial wait or if you don't show up at prime time can you usually get in?

I could also use some advice identifying highlights among the Portland food trucks, I'm sure there must be threads on this already, just haven't gone digging yet.

I'd welcome thoughts and advice on any and all of the above as well as additional suggestions.

Clyde Common
1014 SW Stark St, Portland, OR 97205

Pok Pok
3226 SE Division St, Portland, OR

Voodoo Doughnut
22 SW 3rd Ave, Portland, OR

215 SE 9th Ave Ste 102, Portland, OR 97214

Le Pigeon
738 E Burnside St, Portland, OR 97214

The Heathman Restaurant
1001 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97205

1752 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214

Cafe Castagna
1758 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214

Tasty n Sons
3808 N Williams Ave, Portland, OR 97227

Ned Ludd
3925 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Portland, OR 97212

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  1. Kudos for doing your homework before posting!

    New French bistro, highly recommended: St Jack.

    No there is not always a wait for Pok Pok, only peak times.

    Gruner: good but they gouge on their wine and drinks.

    ClarkLewis is still good, but can get too loud for my taste.

    Biwa: sounds perfect for the family!

    You want actually good donuts or interesting? Coco for the former (get the "Coco"), Voodoo for the latter.

    There are very few food "trucks", but many "carts". My faves would be Tabor, Give Pizza a Chance, Pyro Pizza, Sugar Cube, Wiffie's Fried Pies, Flavor Spot Waffles, Dump Truck Dumplings, Mai Pho.

    Have fun, please report back!

    Pok Pok
    3226 SE Division St, Portland, OR

    215 SE 9th Ave Ste 102, Portland, OR 97214

    Pyro Pizza
    SE Hawthorne Blvd SE 12th Ave, Portland, OR 97214

    5 Replies
    1. re: Leonardo

      Hope it's okay to tag onto this post since I'm researching a similar trip.

      Last year I went to Pok Pok, Tanuki, Cacao, Pambiche, and Kenny and Zuke's and would return to every one of them. (All kid friendly except Tanuki, which no longer exists in the same incarnation.) Also don't miss the Saturday farmer's market at PSU.

      St Jack is the one reservation i've made. I keep looking at Le Pigeon's menu and am not excited about it, despite the great reviews. Unfortunately Beast is closed that week.

      Otherwise we're hoping to hit Toro Bravo (Sunday dinner), Alder Pastry, Tabor, Nong's, and as many happy hours as we can squeeze in.

      Worth noting that nearly every restaurant in Portland has happy hour food specials--it's only partly about the drinks. This can be a great deal with kids.

      BTW Is Clyde Common as good since the Beagle opened in NYC?

      If you're in McMinnville on the way to the coast, don't miss Thistle. Or further south, the Crazy Norwegian's Fish & Chips in Port Orford is worth the drive.

      Clyde Common
      1014 SW Stark St, Portland, OR 97205

      Pok Pok
      3226 SE Division St, Portland, OR

      Le Pigeon
      738 E Burnside St, Portland, OR 97214

      413 NW 21st Ave, Portland, OR 97209

      2811 NE Glisan St, Portland, OR 97232

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

      1. re: Windy

        Most happy hours are in BARS, therefore adults only. Notable exceptions: Kenny & Zuke's has an excellent 4-6pm weekday HH in their restaurant, all ages, and Pambiche.

        Nong's is one of our top carts. Nong used to cook at Pok Pok.

        Alder Pastry is a new place, and I love it!

        Agreed Portland Farmer's Mkt at PSU Saturday AM is a must, and you can hit many restaurants/bakers/chocolatiers that got their start there and now have brick & mortar places such as Tastebud Farm, Pine State biscuit, Alma Chocolate.

        Pok Pok
        3226 SE Division St, Portland, OR

        2811 NE Glisan St, Portland, OR 97232

        Alma Chocolate
        140 NE 28th Ave, Portland, OR 97232

        1. re: Leonardo

          We spent some time in Portland last year & really enjoyed Blueplate Lunch Counter & Soda Fountain.

          Pine State Biscuits was also a fun stop albeit a little out of the way.

          Portland is a fun city with lots to see,do & eat.Enjoy!

          Pine State Biscuits
          3640 SE Belmont St, Portland, OR 97214

          1. re: Leonardo

            Thank you both. Who has the best Xocolatl de David assortment? And anywhere to try foietella or shouldn't I bother?

            I did find many happy hour menus at restaurants that were essentially discount priced meals. Not just bars. For ex St Jacks, Biwa, and Andina.

            Andina Restaurant
            1314 NW Glisan, Portland, OR 97209

          2. re: Windy

            i tried kenny and zukes and was really disappointed. i was hoping for something like langers in la or katz in ny but it wasn't even close.

            pok pok and their wings were ridiculous though. unbelievably good.

        2. I would love to help you out, but it seems all the places I would mention are already mentioned!

          3 Replies
          1. re: pZagorski

            Additional insights on any of the places listed would be welcomed, since I'm not likely to be able to get to all of them.

            For instance, it seems Cafe Castagna, Little Pigeon, St. Jack are all doing a sort of French bistro kind of thing. Does one really stand out from another?

            Would also welcome more suggestions on food trucks/carts, particularly those that congregate around Alder and 9th/10th, Stark and 3rd/5th.

            1. re: Frodnesor

              St. Jack and LP are very different. I am tired of the LP menu (and prefer Gabe's heavier style in the winter) and am currently a fan of St. Jack. I also think St. Jack would be better with the kids.
              The two carts I adore on/near Alder are Nong's (on Alder near the crepe cart) and Ate-Oh-Ate on SW 9th (2 blocks from Nong's) for Hawaiian.
              Another place I love for lunch that the kids would also like is Little Big Burger on NW 10th. It is right on the streetcar line and 1 block from Powell's Books, so it could be a good snack if you are at Powell's.
              Little Bird is different than LP and personally I prefer it, especially in the nice weather.
              REALLY like Ned Ludd and for me it is very "Portland."
              Sounds like you are going to have a great trip!

              Ned Ludd
              3925 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Portland, OR 97212

              1. re: Frodnesor

                Dump Truck dumplings, Alder between 10-11th.
                Mai Pho, I like the tofu with lemon grass on brown rice, Alder between 9-10th.
                Give Pizza a Chance and Tabor Schnitzelwich, Stark between 4-5th.

            2. We were in Portland about a week ago. You have to go to Bijou Cafe for breakfast. Near Voodoo Donuts.

              We liked the Deschutes Brewery for lunch.

              Andina is very good. They have drink with habanero vodka called something like "saschyhuman" a must have for the adults. Park Kitchen was very good for dinner, also.

              We are from a suburb of NYC and we travel widely. Portland has an unlimited amount of great restaurants!

              Park Kitchen
              422 NW 8th Ave, Portland, OR 97209

              Andina Restaurant
              1314 NW Glisan, Portland, OR 97209

              1. Quick report, more details hopefully to follow.

                Our final hit list included Cafe Castagna, Voodoo Doughnuts, Le Pigeon, Pok Pok, Tasty n Sons (for breakfast), Gruner, and Ned Ludd. Not a dud in the bunch of them. Highlights included the quail with tripe stew and the foie gras profiteroles at Le Pigeon, the choucroute garnie at Gruner, and really almost everything at Ned Ludd.

                Dining on the coast (Cannon Beach, where we spent a couple days) was a bit of a different story; we didn't have high expectations and got about what we expected. I would love to understand exactly what folks up that way are talking about when they refer to a "razor clam," though. I've had plenty of what the Spanish call "navajas" with shells that look like straight razors and long, skinny tubular meat. But these were pounded flat, breaded, and looked for all the world like a schnitzel. They were tasty, but I'm suspecting it's something more like a geoduck?

                I've got some pictures up here ->
                Le Pigeon -
                Cafe Castagna -
                Pok Pok -
                Tasty n Sons -
                Gruner -
                Ned Ludd -

                Thanks for the help, we had a great visit.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Frodnesor

                  Can I ask where you ate in Cannon Beach? Any spots worth mentioning? We'll be there on a Sunday for lunch only, but was trying to narrow down where to go for some fresh seafood.

                  1. re: ms. mika

                    In Cannon Beach we went to ->
                    Wayfarer - best of the bunch, far from spectacular food but nothing wrong with it. Enjoyed the razor clams.
                    Lumberyard - perfectly serviceable lunch.
                    Driftwood - not very good.

                    Ecola Seafoods looked good - very downscale, basically a seafood market serving up mostly fried seafoods - but the family didn't want fried and so we passed.

                    1. re: Frodnesor

                      great thanks- I had looked at the Wayfarer or Ecola and was trying to decide. That helps.

                      1. re: ms. mika

                        For what it's worth, Bistro and Irish Table were the other places we were considering, but Bistro had no availabilitiy when we were there and we just didn't get over to Irish Table.

                2. It looks like everything is covered!

                  I would like to second the lunch truck thing that has been mentioned. It's great with kids because everyone can take their $5 and get whatever they want.
                  I would also hit the PSU Farmers market if you are looking for something to do/eat
                  And bring cash for voodo doughnuts. :) They don't take card.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: chickennosenshi

                    We just couldn't get our timing right to hit the food carts, which I regret because I would have liked to compare to Miami's food trucks. But most were closed on Sunday when we were in town, and we had day trips out of the city other days.

                    We did catch the Monday farmers market at Pioneer Square. As for actual produce, it was heavy on berries (which were fantastic) and short on much else (only one tent that I saw actually selling any vegetables), but I did have a truly great Montreal style bagel from Tastebud Bakery, which also had a beautiful porchetta. Seems the PSU market on Sunday is a more elaborate affair.

                    1. re: Frodnesor

                      Portland Farmers Mkt at PSU is Saturday not Sunday, about 20 times that size, high quality vendors with a dizzying variety of offerings, and was rated by Eating Well Mag as in the top five nationally. Pio Square is the weakest venue by far. It caters mostly to tourists, hence heavy on ready to eat or gifts, and not much else.