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Looking for suggestions during my vacation to Portland.

greenidentity Sep 13, 2011 02:45 PM

Ahoy from Minnesota! I am going to be visiting Portland in November, and being that I have never been there before, I am asking around for suggestions. I will be visiting a few friends, but half of my trip will be solo. So I get to do whateeeever I want.

A few things:

-I am staying for 5 days, 4 nights.

-I don't have a ton of money. Looking for $-$$$ (tops) places to eat. Areas of interest: steak and sushi. But other suggestions are good.

-I think I will be staying at The Monticello Hotel at 4801 North Interstate Ave, which I hear is close to transit. Since I will be relying on transit, location is important. I considered the Days Inn or Best Western, but from what I hear the Monticello has the best location, plus clean rooms.

-Besides restaurants, I am looking for suggestions on things to do. I am probably more attracted to things a bit off the beaten path, although I fully intend to see the Art Museum. Does Portland have an aquarium? Things I am interested in: gardens, wine, art, (cheap) shopping. Mostly things in the cultural/dining/entertainment department.

-Suggested transport from the airport? I am trying to avoid taking a lot of cabs, and plan on getting a 7 day Trimet pass.

Any suggestions/opinions/information would be very helpful! Thanks!

  1. greenidentity Dec 4, 2011 08:22 PM

    Greetings! I've been back a month now, and have finally gotten together my report on Portland. Enjoy!

    Firstly, my hotel was fine. It isn't in the greatest area, and there are a lot of cheap motels around there. I found The Monticello to be clean and spacious, with little to no extras (no lobby area, coffee, breakfast, internet e.t.c.) It is however, within 3 blocks of the MAX station, which was beneficial.

    My 2nd day in Portland, I headed downtown to wander, and eventually go to the Chinese Gardens. I stopped in for lunch at the Morning Star Cafe, and ordered a vanilla latte (my first in Portland, and it was gorgeous) and the Felipe sandwich (turkey, cheddar, stone-­ground mustard, cilantro, onion and tomato $8.00) which was tasty. It was not at all dry, and the hint of cilantro with the mustard was a lovely assertive pairing. I fueled up for my trek through old Chinatown, and for the Chinese Gardens!

    Meeting up with a friend of mine later on, we chose 50 Plates. It was on my list as a good happy hour spot, so we went around 10 pm to take advantage. 50 Plates is quite trendy and modern. We sat at the bar, and got our own glass bottle of water, adorned with the 50 Plates logo. Very nice. For the happy hour, I ordered a modified version of the Dark and Stormy (dark rum, ginger beer and lime. $5) and opted for vodka instead. My company opted for the regular Dark and Stormy. Both cocktails were excellent, and served in a solid short glass, with rocks of ice. I was drinking in style. Our bartender was very friendly, humorous and knowledgable. Off the happy hour menu, we ordered Hush Puppies ($2) and the Cheeseboard ($5). The Hush Puppies were soft, savory and very comforting, and the Cheeseboard was refined and share-able. After that, we ordered an Old Guardian Barley Wine (him) and a dirty martini (me.) We left there a whopping $28 lighter. Afterwards, we stopped into the Rogue Distillery and Public House, and then onto the upstairs bar at Touche, for some drinking.

    The next day, I had crepes on the brain. Chez Machin was on my list, so I headed downtown, and then got a Radio Cab to the SE quadrant. One problem with my list of places is that many of them were in that area, and that ended up being a bit far from my hotel. I found the surrounding area to Chez Machin to be quaint and nice, with a ton of little cafes and such. Inside Chez Machin, I ordered the french onion soup ($4, cup) and the La Percheronne (Black forest ham, brie, avocado, mushrooms & crème fraîche $10.) The french onion soup was excellent, very savory and cheesy! I did not care for the crepe, unfortunately. I found the mushrooms and brie to be overpowering, and the creme fraiche on top added nothing. The crepe itself was a little bland, and not as soft as I thought it could be.

    Afterwards, I decided to head back downtown for some happy hour at Clyde Common. I'm the type of person who wants a happy hour that offers something I normally would not be able to afford to drink, and Clyde Common meets that criteria. After a 20 minute search by foot (the only time I got a little turned around in Portland, a miracle for me), I found they were closed, due to what seemed like a wedding party. No one was inside, but there were people outside in wedding attire, having pictures and video taken. I wasn't too crushed, as Clyde's looked very upscale, which isn't my thing anyways.

    In need of something close, a drink, and to sit down, I ended up around the corner at Mothers Bistro. I found Mothers to be very organic feeling, earthy and refined. I ordered a Moscow Mule, and then a Vesper (Aviation dry gin, Crater Lake vodka & Lillet Blanc, served up with a twist.) The bartender suggested a drink in between, which I received and did not care for. She happily offered to make something else. very classy, and friendly.

    For my farewell lunch, my friend and I went to Mio Sushi. Mio is a cute little sushi place, and it felt very inviting. We ordered a coffee (that comes in your own little french press), the Shumai/Gyoza appetizer ($4.50), a spicy salmon and unagi nigiri (2 for each of us), and a Super Eel roll (Crab, cucumber, avocado inside, eel, sesame seeds, unagi sauce outside -$8.95). I was overall not impressed, and thought the sushi tasted too fishy. The shumai and gyoza were fried, which caught me off guard, and were a little bland without the dipping sauce.

    After we ate, we stopped at a place for some coffee that I cannot remember the name of! It's a little coffee place across/down the road from Miho Izakaya on Interstate. I bought some Be Bop biscotti to take home, and my friend and I sipped and reminisced. Does anyone know the place I'm talking about?

    I didn't get to do even a fraction of the things i wanted to. Unfortunately, many of the restaurant in my list were in the SE area, which was a bit far from my hotel, requiring cabs, or many MAX and bus transfers. My biggest misses were Le Montage Bistro, Gold Dust Meridian, Pok Pok, The Art Museum, Ground Kontrol (the arcade), Tasty N Sons (which I was going to go to, but they were closed due to a shooting of Good Eats...), and I never did get to eat any Mac and Cheese! I did get to spend a few hours strolling through the entire Saturday Market, which was a highlight of my trip! I loved the festive and funky environment. I walked past a street performer who was singing my very favorite Sublime song. I bought a few little things, and got to see the food truck scene booming in front of me. I didn't get to eat any food truck fare, but the variety and choices are dizzying! Reindeer sausage! Porketta! Pho! Oh my!

    I did walk past Powells and Voodoo Doughnut. Voodoo Doughnut seems to be just..a bakery. Which would mean more to me if my sweet tooth were a little stronger, I suppose! I walked by Pause and Saucebox, but never got to go in.

    Overall, Portland exceeded even my highest expectations for it. I felt comfortable, happy, and was able to get around with little to no problems, which surprised me because I am very directionally challenged! I liked the weather (remember where I am from), the funkiness, the cleanliness (first dual flush toilet I've ever seen!), and of course the plethora of places to eat and drink! Most of all, I really liked the people. The people were friendly, genuine, and open. Being a Minnesotan, I am used to niceness. But it is more a passive and non-confrontational niceness that sometimes doesn't seem genuine. Portland didn't seem like that to me, and no one was bothered about the fact that I was just visiting. I personally felt I experienced a lot of happy coincidences. I intend to make this a yearly (at most) vacation spot, and will consider the possibility of moving there someday.

    I still miss Portland, even a month later.

    Thank you for all your suggestions!

    -----
    Clyde Common
    1014 SW Stark St, Portland, OR 97205

    Voodoo Doughnut
    22 SW 3rd Ave, Portland, OR

    50 Plates
    333 NW 13th Ave, Portland, OR 97209

    Touche Pasta Pizza Pool
    1425 NW Glisan St, Portland, OR 97209

    Chez MacHin
    3553 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214

    Mother's Bistro & Bar
    212 SW Stark St, Portland, OR 97204

    Chinese Gardens
    410 SE 162nd Ave, Portland, OR 97233

    Mio Sushi
    1255 NW 185th Ave, Beaverton, OR 97006

    Gold Dust Meridian
    , Portland, OR 97201

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

     
     
     
     
     
     
    4 Replies
    1. re: greenidentity
      c
      chalmers Dec 4, 2011 10:25 PM

      Believe me, you missed absolutely nothing at Montage

      1. re: chalmers
        f
        Fydeaux Dec 5, 2011 06:08 AM

        Objection! I like Montage, and based on other comments made, I think Green would have also. It's not for everybody, but it's also not for nobody.

        1. re: Fydeaux
          c
          chalmers Dec 5, 2011 01:22 PM

          I don't know anyone who's worked there that would eat a thing out of that kitchen. The stories I've heard...

          1. re: chalmers
            greenidentity Dec 5, 2011 06:30 PM

            Aye. Anyone I talk to either likes it, or hates it. My only interest was for the mac and cheese, personally.

    2. porky pine Oct 23, 2011 09:11 PM

      You're hotel is only a few blocks from Miho which is a pretty good izakaya restaurant on interstate. You can also go to the alibi tiki lounge and sing karaoke right by your room. Im pretty sure they have a free salad bar. Other than that you're going to have to take the max. You could also walk to saraveza which has top notch beer and pause kitchen which has all around good food and a really good burger
      .

      2 Replies
      1. re: porky pine
        greenidentity Oct 23, 2011 10:45 PM

        Very helpful porky pine, and those are definitely going on my list in case I have a "lazy day."

        1. re: greenidentity
          greenidentity Oct 26, 2011 11:54 AM

          I think I pretty much have everything in order now. There is no way I will be able to do all this stuff, but at least I will never run out of things to do or places to eat/drink! So far on the list:

          Miho
          Food carts, either at SE Belmont, or near the hotel at Killingsworth and Greely
          Le Bistro Montage
          Chez Machin
          Gold Dust Meridian (happy hour)
          50 plates (happy hour)
          Clyde Commons (happy hour)
          Oregon Wines
          Tasty N Sons
          Por Que No (I anticipate a taco craving while I'm there.)
          Voodoo Donut (I may as well stop in and at least look at it.)

          Sort of an ambitious list, but those are some of the ones that stand out so far. Also on the list is Produce Row, Mother's Bistro, Pok Pok, and Tabla. I can't afford anything much over $$, so these all seem appropriate. Any more suggestions on happy hours would be nice too, as I am looking to be as thrifty as possible.

          The trick will be to see if I can find some of these places in close proximity to one another, so I can do a bunch of stuff in one big swoop...

          Thanks for all the suggestions thus far, guys!

          -----
          Clyde Common
          1014 SW Stark St, Portland, OR 97205

          Pok Pok
          3226 SE Division St, Portland, OR

          Le Bistro Montage
          301 SE Morrison St, Portland, OR 97214

          Por Que No
          3524 N Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR 97227

          Produce Row Cafe
          204 SE Oak St, Portland, OR 97214

          Gold Dust Meridian
          , Portland, OR 97201

      2. d
        dinwiddie Oct 17, 2011 08:34 PM

        One thing great about Portland is eating during happy hours. Food is always available for cheap. Upscale places offer cheap meals if you buy a drink. I've fed two of us for under $25, including drinks many times during the week I was there.

        7 Replies
        1. re: dinwiddie
          greenidentity Oct 22, 2011 12:28 PM

          Oh, thank you pleen! I had planned a food cart afternoon for myself, and WAS planning to go to the 10th and Alder area. Going off the beaten path is much more my style. Also, if there are long waits for Pok Pok, doesn't it have an adjoining restaurant? Are they separate?

          dinwiddie - any happy hour suggestions?

          -----
          Pok Pok
          3226 SE Division St, Portland, OR

          1. re: greenidentity
            Windy Oct 22, 2011 02:54 PM

            Pok Pok may have long waits at dinner, but we walked right in for weekday lunch. I believe they stay open all afternoon.

            On a Saturday night, we also had their justifiably famous Ike's wings with exceptional cocktails across the street at the Whiskey Lounge.

            The cart pods in the neighborhoods have a distinctly different feel from the ones downtown, which tend to be on the outside of parking lots. The neighborhood ones are inside the lots and typically have picnic tables and sometimes interesting foliage.

            -----
            Pok Pok
            3226 SE Division St, Portland, OR

            1. re: Windy
              greenidentity Oct 22, 2011 06:06 PM

              Very helpful, thank you! Also - any opinions on Le Bistro Montage? I spy looots of mac and cheese there...!!

              Also, there are SO MANY thai places! Any other suggestions besides Pok Pok?

              -----
              Le Bistro Montage
              301 SE Morrison St, Portland, OR 97214

              1. re: greenidentity
                Windy Oct 22, 2011 07:59 PM

                I'm not from Portland, so Pok Pok is the only Thai I've had there, besides Nong's cart for chicken rice, which is a must. See my trip report from September (96 hours in Portland) for where we went.

                -----
                Pok Pok
                3226 SE Division St, Portland, OR

                1. re: greenidentity
                  l
                  Leonardo Oct 22, 2011 08:36 PM

                  Other worthwhile Thai: Siam Society & Chiang Mai.

                  I wouldn't bother with Montage. Was hip and cutting edge 20 years ago. Now, not so much!

                  -----
                  Siam Society
                  2703 NE Alberta St, Portland, OR 97211

                  1. re: Leonardo
                    b
                    BroAdam Oct 23, 2011 08:44 PM

                    A definite agree on Chiang Mai. Get the Kao Tod Nam (which I remember being Nam Kao Tod at my favorite Thai place in Vegas, but maybe the word order isn't important, or something?).

                    Siam Society, though ... they've been a long, slow decline. The last time I went there pretty much everything was awful (food, service, drinks; everything). I don't suppose they've picked up in quality again recently?

                    -----
                    Siam Society
                    2703 NE Alberta St, Portland, OR 97211

                  2. re: greenidentity
                    f
                    Fydeaux Oct 26, 2011 12:03 PM

                    There are some Portland board regulars who dont have a lot of love for Montage, but I loved the place the one time I was there. My daughter (who does live in Portland) eats there regularly and had one of her Bachlorette Party events there.

                    It can be quite loud though. This is not a place for quiet or intimate conversation. But I thought the food was great.

                    -----
                    Le Bistro Montage
                    301 SE Morrison St, Portland, OR 97214

            2. c
              cheeseisheaven Sep 18, 2011 11:28 AM

              Portland does great brunch. Tasty and Sons has wowed my out of town guests. Screen Door is a favorite for chicken and waffles, but you need to be willing to wait in line.
              I find the service at Bamboo Sushi to be pretentious...Hiroshi has moved to his E. Burnside rest. Mirakutei, and I thought the sushi was great...my fave is Kurata, but that's in Lake Oswego, and not really easy by public transit.
              The Chinese garden in old town has a lovely tea room where you can relax amidst beauty....it is really lovely.
              The food carts are great...downtown on 9th & Alder you have a whole block of carts...open for lunch, lots of fun!

              -----
              Kurata
              450 5th St, Lake Oswego, OR 97034

              5 Replies
              1. re: cheeseisheaven
                greenidentity Oct 5, 2011 09:15 PM

                Thanks you guys! Things that stand out to me so far are Tasty N Sons, Chez Machin (I LOVE crepes, and they have a fine looking dinner menu also), Toro Bravo and Pok Pok. Voodoo Doughnut is an obvious choice, but not one I am so sure I want to make? Thanks again for your suggestions!

                -----
                Pok Pok
                3226 SE Division St, Portland, OR

                Voodoo Doughnut
                22 SW 3rd Ave, Portland, OR

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

                1. re: greenidentity
                  pleen Oct 10, 2011 04:47 PM

                  Toro Bravo and Tasty N Sons are owned by the same restaurateurs - they are different restaurant concepts, but you may want to go to one, not both, so that you can experience other great eats in town. I've taken every out-of-town visitor to Tasty N Sons and everyone loved it. Both Tasty N Sons and Pok Pok can have long waits...if you don't like to wait in the rain, I suggest going there early.

                  I second Mirakutei for sushi and ramen. I like Bamboo Sushi, but think the Mirakutei is a little better. I was not impressed with Masu.

                  Food carts are a must - but not all food carts are created equally. The largest cluster of food carts is downtown (10th and Alder)...but there aren't many places to sit and enjoy the delicious offerings. My favorite food cart pods are in the SE...Cartopia (Whiffies Fried Pies, the creperie, Pyro Pizza AND Potato Champions - all super-delish) and Good Food Here (Eurotrash, Namu, Sugar Cube and I hear Clack-a-Lack Chicken just moved there as well!)

                  Enjoy!

                  -----
                  Pok Pok
                  3226 SE Division St, Portland, OR

                  Potato Champion
                  SE 12th and Hawthorne, Portland, OR

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

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

                  1. re: pleen
                    pleen Oct 10, 2011 04:53 PM

                    PS - IMHO opinion, Voodoo doughnut is overrated. It's fun to visit, but I don't allow my out-of-town visitors to buy anything there. Instead, note that we have over half a dozen amazing bakeries. Try Nuvrei (ham & gruyere croissant & monkey bread), Lovejoy Bakers (The Lovejoy Deluxe & their Butterhorn), Pearl Bakery (cinnamon crown), Ken's Artisan Bakery, Bakery Bar, Baker & Spice, Little T Bakery....oh my! I love breakfast pastries in Portland!

                    -----
                    Ken's Artisan Bakery
                    338 NW 21st Ave, Portland, OR 97209

                    Pearl Bakery
                    102 NW 9th Ave, Portland, OR 97209

                  2. re: greenidentity
                    b
                    BroAdam Oct 10, 2011 08:51 PM

                    I agree with Pleen ... skip Voodoo if you can find a way to talk yourself out of it. I have to say, I'm a bit mystified by their popularity: you wait in a really long line for really surly employees to serve you bad doughnuts. What's the win? But every day people line up for it ...

                    Hit up one of Pleen's suggested bakeries, or if you really just need a doughnut, you can pretty much try any other place in town. (Recommendations: Tonalli's on Alberta, Helen Bernhard over on Broadway, ... again, pretty much anywhere but Heavenly Donuts)

                    1. re: greenidentity
                      p
                      PNWeater Oct 24, 2011 08:39 PM

                      I am going to go against the flow and say that Voodoo Doughnuts is worth a quick visit. We stopped by this morning. No line, grabbed a couple of things for my daughter and her hubby who had special requests. It isn't a foodies paradise but they do make seriously good doughnuts and to say you went once is fun!
                      For great coffee we spent a quiet morning at Public Domain on the same block as the Westin on Alder.
                      Mother's Bistro for brunch was worth the wait on Sunday morning (only 45 min). The salmon hash had my tastebuds dancing!
                      The Pomme Fritte at Brasserie Montmartre was a nice late night treat! We liked the Duck Fat & Rosemary better than the Foie Gras but we already plan on checking out the Truffle next time.
                      I am so excited to have discovered Portland as a great getaway that is full of culinary wonders!

                      -----
                      Voodoo Doughnut
                      22 SW 3rd Ave, Portland, OR

                  3. m
                    MyNextMeal Sep 14, 2011 09:18 AM

                    I second the Laurelhurst Market recommendation. I would add Toro Bravo as well - they have a coppa steak on the menu that is wonderful. Maybe a great place to go with your friends.

                    For more general convenience to attractions, transportation, and (most importantly) FOOD - I might recommend looking at the Northwest Portland Guesthouse or Bluebird Guesthouse (give it a google). I cannot vouch for them personally but you'll be closer to some very food-centric areas of town and in close proximity to good bus routes.

                    A lot of great wine stores in town have good tastings for $5-10. The town is divided into four quadrants (mostly) NW, SW, NE, and SE. Each quadrant has great options for food and wine. Downtown, I'd hit up Oregon Wines on Broadway.

                    -----
                    Laurelhurst Market
                    3155 East Burnside Street, Portland, OR 97232

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

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: MyNextMeal
                      Windy Sep 17, 2011 11:42 AM

                      I was at Oregon Wines on Broadway last week, at the end of my visit. Great place to taste flights of pinots during the day. Inexpensive, friendly, comfortable. And of course most restaurants have a selection of Oregon wine by the glass.

                      Full trip report on my 96 hours in Portland thread.

                    2. b
                      BroAdam Sep 14, 2011 12:07 AM

                      The Monticello is fairly close to transit; you're 4-5 blocks walk up or down Interstate from the Yellow line, which will get you downtown (and, from there, everywhere). Just be prepared to do some transferring, given your location and some of the things I'm going to mention. :) Trimet.org will be your friend. If you have an iPhone, grab the PDXBus app. It's free, and you will thank me.

                      First, you're going to be in Portland in November: prepare to get wet. It'll probably seem delightful compared to the bitter cold and snow from Minnesota, but hey, fair warning.

                      To start with your wish list:

                      Steak: Go to Laurelhurst Market. It's the best place in town. It's a steak place, so don't expect cheap, but I will say I consistently come out of there pleasantly surprised at the bill.

                      Sushi: I'm probably the wrong person to ask, because everyone else on this board seems to love Murata (downtown), while I find it (please don't hurt me, fellow Portlanders) rather boring. Bamboo Sushi is probably my current favorite, although the service and nigiri construction can be a bit hit or miss. Don't go to Masu; it's just like Bamboo, except worse in every possible way. I used to love Hiroshi up in the Pearl District, but the last few times I went there I was very disappointed. Unfortunately, my girlfriend is not a sushi person, so I don't troll through our local places quite as fast as I used to. Perhaps other folks here can give you more up-to-date info.

                      Other things Portland does well: Vietnamese, beer, food carts, Thai, my-food-is-so-local-my-chickens-tend-bar, coffee.

                      Do check out the food carts. It'll be November, and thus wet with some of them closed, but it's sort of a Portland Thing now. Plus, there's some darn good food. Check out http://foodcartsportland.com for some information about cuisines and locations, but then come back here for pointers and reviews (the site mentioned has pretty useless reviews).

                      I'm just beginning to discover Vietnamese, so I'd do a search on the boards for recommendations there. Or hopefully someone else will chime in.

                      For food and shopping events, you're not too far from the Mississippi district. Por Que No over there is supposed to have fantastic tacos ... though I'll admit I've started to go there several times, been frustrated by the wait, and ended up elsewhere. A much further walk is the Alberta Arts District, where everyone Is Very Much Cooler Than You Thank You. Grab a croissant or other wonderful thing from Petite Provence while you wander and potentially choose a dinner place.

                      Alternatively, take the yellow line downtown and then the 14 out to the Hawthorne district, and find out where all the hippies from the midwest ended up. Again, many shops and dining options. Pick up a crepe from Chez Machin to keep your energy up, and stroll through PastaWorks for some astonishing (and astonishingly priced) vittles. Bonus: At this point you're a 15-20 minute walk from the Whiskey Soda Lounge and Pok Pok, where you can have fantastic Thai. GET THE WINGS. THEY ARE THAT GOOD. Also, the beef jerky was second only to what I used to get at Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas (this is high praise).

                      You say you're from Minnesota, so ... if you get down to Chicago with any regularity, you might want to skip over any Mexican here that's not out of a truck. Even then, I might find a different truck. If you don't get down to Chicago much, then pretend I didn't say anything and consider doing some searches for "best taco portland" (Tito's Burritos is at the top of my list at the moment, but I'll admit my survey of the local trucks is much less complete than many others here).

                      -----
                      Por Que No
                      3524 N Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR 97227

                      Laurelhurst Market
                      3155 East Burnside Street, Portland, OR 97232

                      Por Que No
                      4635 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97215

                      1. Vetter Sep 13, 2011 08:58 PM

                        I used to live in PDX and what I miss is the good Vietnamese. Something to check out, perhaps. Lots of good holes in the wall. Also, The Meadow is pretty unusual. Amazing selection of chocolates, bitters, salts... http://www.atthemeadow.com/shop/ And maybe have fun geeking around a New Seasons market - I so miss them! http://www.newseasonsmarket.com/

                        1. The Chowhound Team Sep 13, 2011 08:45 PM

                          Folks-

                          Just a friendly reminder, the mission of Chowhound is finding great food and drink, replies that focus on lodging, local attractions or transportation would be out of scope for this forum.

                          Thanks.

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