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Sep 13, 2011 02:45 PM

Looking for suggestions during my vacation to Portland.

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!

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  1. 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.


    1. 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... And maybe have fun geeking around a New Seasons market - I so miss them!

      1. 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. :) 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 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. 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

            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. 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 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 is really lovely.
            The food carts are great...downtown on 9th & Alder you have a whole block of for lunch, lots of fun!

            450 5th St, Lake Oswego, OR 97034

            5 Replies
            1. re: cheeseisheaven

              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

                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!)


                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

                  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

                  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

                    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