short trip report from San Francisco
I was in portland last week for the first time up from the bay area. When I flopped on my bed in the hotel after the long drive, there was No Reservations talking about portland, so you guys are certainly part of the national scene.
After synthesizing a number of the board posts, my own interests, and that of my co-workers, we went to Merriweather's the first night. We were all fairly blown away by the concept, the outdoor garden, the wine list. The "board" (like a veggie-oriented charcuterie) at the top was interesting and we chose well (except for the chicken fried sweetbreads, which were overcooked). Because of the larger-plate style, we didn't share around as much, and I think my co-workers did better at ordering than I did. I would go again simply because it was a knock-out setting. I do remember the desert was great: some kind of strawberry crisp in cast iron with a delightfully blackened crust. Complicated dishes, like the tangine meatballs, simply didn't seem to have much taste. Just because you're being fresh and ingrediant driven doesn't mean you can't build great reductions and knock-out taste. Total: 3 people, $240.
We had lunch at J Cafe near the convention center, and I honestly suggest anyone near the convention center to head over instead of eating whatever they're serving in the convention center. Although the paninis could have used a little more grill, the tastes were fresh and the menu solid.
The next night we ate at Tasty and Son's. This is the kind of place I was expecting. The bacon wrapped dates were excellent, although it's hard to screw up bacon wrapped dates - it was as good as the place across from the office in mountain view. After a short delay the kitchen started firing the dishes out, and the small plate format just works better for a close knit group of 2 or 3. The pork-that-tasted-like-lamb was great, as was the hush puppies, and the double-blanched radiccio salad, and whatever else we had. Desert was 3 chocolate chip cookies "made to order" (they didn't ask whether we wanted the rare, medium, or well), which sealed the deal. Total for the same three people: $120 (slightly less alcohol, 1.3 drinks per person instead of 1.66).
Folks near our booth in the convention center - who live 3 blocks from me in CA - had a dozen of the Voodoo Doughnuts, and we were all not impressed. If you like those, go check out Dyanamo next time you're in SF.
All in all, I left wishing I had a few more days. You seems to have a great eating town.
22 SW 3rd Ave, Portland, OR
Oh, one funny thing happened at Merriweather's. I got a dish with peas and fava beans and artichokes. There were no favas to be seen. When the waitress came back around with the "how is everything", I pointed out very nicely the lack of favas. She said "oh sometimes they change the menu" - fair enough, but I did order the dish because of the favas. She came back a little abashed with a mess of favas for me to mix in. I think that's the only time I've ever caught a kitchen in a blind "oops" like that. Recently, I was at a michelin 1-star in the bay area and they served me shisito peppers instead of padrons. That was just wrong - but no point in calling it to their attention.
I was very happy with the service at Merriweather's, that they brought out those favas and an apology. Class.