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Short list of MUSTs in Portland

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  • Big C Oct 25, 2011 02:39 AM
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Portland Chowhounders,

I'm going to be in town next week and am looking for a few MUST stops in your beautiful city. I currently have Le Pigeon, Olympic Provisions, Voodoo Donuts, Tasty & Son, Pok Pok Thai on my 100% lists. On the fence about Beast, Castagna, Bent Brick for dinner. I plan on hitting at least 5-7 spots a day, and am a eating machine. I will eat anything and money is not a major issue. Food carts...don't even know where to start. I will be traveling alone and will have a car. Would love some local advice!

Also looking for coffee suggestions - Stumptown, Barista are definitely on the list.

Thank You!

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Pok Pok
3226 SE Division St, Portland, OR

Le Pigeon
738 E Burnside St, Portland, OR 97214

Castagna
1752 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214

Olympic Provisions
107 SE Washington St, Portland, OR 97214

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  1. Stumptown, meh. For coffee go to Heart, Coava, Oblique, Water Avenue, Ristretto - all on the east side.

    -----
    Stumptown
    4525 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97206

    6 Replies
    1. re: JillO

      Hey Jill -

      Nice list! Which of those is your favorite? I just recently moved to the east side and haven't settled on a regular yet... hitting my local Stumptown most of the time now as they do make a *decent* macchiato I spose. ;)

      -----
      Stumptown
      4525 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97206

      1. re: jonoropeza

        I like them all for different reasons.

        I like to hang out at Oblique - it's my fave for the convergence of awesome coffee (french press vac pot made in small batches!) AND espresso and a great mellow space with work tables and amazing owners. They roast great beans to take home too. And if you get an espresso, you can have a cup of the french press free if you are staying there to drink it - ditto if you buy a bag of their beans.

        I love Coava's espresso and I adore their beans, but it is not a comfy place to spend time. I toss back my espresso, grab my bag of beans and leave. ;o)

        Espresso is amazing too at Heart, although their regular coffee from the vac pot (I just do regular coffee or espresso, don't do fancy coffee drinks) is not as good as at many of the others. Not the homiest of environs to hang out in, but not the worst, either.

        I didn't put Cellar Door on the list, but I like their beans a lot, as well as their pour-overs. Haven't had their espresso or their drip/vac pot stuff.

        Water Ave. I have had at events and restaurants and I really like the pour-overs and cold-brewed stuff I have had made from their beans. Never been to the mothership, though.

        I have gotten to be a serious coffee geek in the last few months or so. I never thought I'd be able to make great stuff at home, but I have found that it is easy starting with fresh great beans and making pour-overs (even using a cheap, plastic Melitta drip thingie!).

        Branch out from Stumptown and you will be well-rewarded jonopreza!

        -----
        Stumptown
        4525 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97206

        1. re: JillO

          Cool. Think I'll start my exploration with Oblique, since they're pretty close to my place.

          Me too on the coffee geek thing. I lived in San Diego for 10 years prior to moving to Portland. Great city, good food, very weak coffee scene though. 2 years here in Portland and now I'm a complete coffee snob, LOL.

          Working my way through a bag of Water Ave's Sumatra Aceh's beans right now. Big cigar flavors. I usually french press because I like it dirty and strong, will have to try the pour over technique one of these days though -

          1. re: jonoropeza

            See, I switched to get rid of the sludge. Like it strong, but not textured. ;o) Lots of other good places not on my list such as Extracto and Vita (both in NE), Coffeehouse NW and Barista (both in NW) and Public Domain downtown. It's an embarrassment of coffee riches around here!

            1. re: JillO

              Ok Jill, I went to Oblique on Friday, Coava yesterday.

              Oblique: Solid cup of coffee. Big dark chocolate flavors. Not a lot of nuance but very good indeed.

              Coava: Two different roasts. Both knocked my socks off in different ways... one was light and almost fruity, the other rich with caramel notes and an aftertaste that stuck with me for a good half hour. Two of the best cups of coffee I've had anywhere. WOW!

              Funny enough, for me I found the atmosphere at Oblique a tad dull... am just not a fan of that style of coffee shop. Whereas the Coava space is everything I like in a coffee shop... wide open, vibrant, lots of plugs for the technology. Different strokes. :)

              Heart and Cellar Door are next on my list. Thanks again for the ideas! Don't forget Spella downtown for their hand-pulled shots... definitely an embarrassment of coffee riches in this town.

              1. re: jonoropeza

                I think you'll like the atmosphere at Heart, too, then. I never have trouble finding an outlet at Oblique, though...and if you need to spread out with paper in addition to laptop, their tables are great....but I get what you mean, different strokes, indeed.

                Glad you are branching out from Stumptown...too much stuff that is better in this town to get stuck in a Stumptown rut!

    2. food cart musts:
      Tabor, Viking Soul Food, Potato Champion& Whiffies Fried Pie , Sugar Cube
      www.foodcartsportland.org
      my new favorite is the pupusas cart @ ALA carts 102nd and Stark...but that is a bit out of the way for visiting, and coming from LA, you have plenty of pupusas....
      the Alder & 10th st pod on the west side is a wow...1 city block of food carts....what to choose!!!!
      D st Noshery is across from Pok Pok, so you could have a snack while waiting

      not a food cart, Taste Unique for lunch is wonderful...Italian direct from Italy.. charming and delicious

      if you have time, the pod @ NGreely and Killingsworth is fun, and also Mississippi Marketplace...
      Enjoy and let us know what you liked

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

      Potato Champion
      SE 12th and Hawthorne, Portland, OR

      Taste Unique
      2134 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202

      1. Apizza Scholls, St. Jack, Toro Bravo, Metrovino, Nostrana...

        Other ideas are Wafu, Sunshine Tavern, Tabla, Clyde Common, Ping.

        -----
        Nostrana
        1401 SE Morrison St, Portland, OR 97214

        Clyde Common
        1014 SW Stark St, Portland, OR 97205

        Apizza Scholls
        4741 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97215

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

        1. Your list and everyone else's additions look great.

          For sure don't miss Apizza, Wafu, Bent Brick or St. Jack.

          oh and, Voodoo Donuts.....*sigh*.....go if the marketing has beaten you and all, but don't say no one warned you!;-)

          1. I went alone a few weeks ago. Hit Clyde Common, Kenny and Zuke's, Ken's Artisan Pizza, Pok Pok, Voodoo Donuts, Screen Door. Did a few carts. My opinion:

            clyde common for cocktails. Kenny and Zuke's for Pastrami. Pok Pok - killer green papaya salad.

            carts: nong's khao man gai and viking soul food.

            if you're going during the weekend, visit the farmers markets at Portland State Univ.

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

            Pok Pok
            3226 SE Division St, Portland, OR

            Ken's Artisan Pizza
            304 SE 28th Ave, Portland, OR 97214

            1. Thank you everyone for your suggestions! I think I more or less can fill up 3 full days worth of eating. I'm actually traveling from the Bay Area where I live now, and am really looking forward to seeing and experiencing the cart scene. Any more suggestions would be great...but gathering that there really aren't that many AMAZING carts, but plenty of good value/decent ones. I'll definitely post some updates and feedback. Thanks again!

              2 Replies
              1. re: Big C

                You may want to consider Little Bird, a sister restaurant to Le Pigeon. For dining, Paley's Place is very good. We have recently enjoyed two wonderful meals at Meriwether's, also. Andina, Park KItchen and Saucebox are a few others to consider. Have fun! :)

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                Le Pigeon
                738 E Burnside St, Portland, OR 97214

                Andina Restaurant
                1314 NW Glisan, Portland, OR 97209

                Meriwether's
                2601 NW Vaughn Street, Portland, OR 97210

                Saucebox
                214 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97205

                Paley's Place
                1204 NW 21st Ave, Portland, OR 97209

                1. re: Big C

                  Hey Big C -

                  I lived at 13th and Burnside for a year... here is a late afternoon / early evening crawl that I have done and just recently took some out of town friends on, they were fairly well blown away:

                  Espresso at Barista (best coffee shop I have ever been to anywhere), takoyaki from Samauri Bento in the 10th & Alder pod, either a beer at Bailey's Taproom (they open at 4) or a glass of pinot from Oregon Wines on Broadway, happy hour sushi at Masu (sit at the bar, tell the chef you are from out of town and want something unique... uni if you like it is reliably amazing here), cocktails at Clyde, dinner at either Little Bird or Gruner.

                  Plenty of taxis in the area, though I recommend walking (waddling?) back to the hotel after an excursion like that... :)

                  Amazing Carts: People's Pig in that same cart pod... I'm a softie for well done pig but I think what they produce is pretty amazing... a lot of the amazingness though is the people... the friendly guys at 808 Grinds, the gal at the sandwich cart who is making sandwiches exactly how you get them in Paris, Nary at Mai Pho, sweetest lady, if you go there and get soup and then come back in a year, she will remember how spicy you like your soup...

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                  Bailey's Taproom
                  213 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97205

                2. One of my highlights on a recent visit to Portland was the ice cream from Salt & Straw on Alberta street. There's always room for ice cream in a good day's eating itinerary :-)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: kinnickinnik

                    That ice cream is some seriously good stuff... And ice cream doesn't take up any stomach real estate, it just melts in between the other stuff already in your stomach! ;o)

                    NE Alberta is a nice place to take a stroll too, lots of neat shops and galleries up there.

                  2. Day 1 in the books...unless I can find somewhere that opens til 12 or later...

                    Started with Biscuits & Gravy @ Pine State Biscuits -> Bulgogi taco @ Koi Fusion -> Chocolate potato donut + pork cutlet @ Tasty N Sons -> Macaroons @ Pix Patisserie -> Espresso @ Ristretto Roasters -> Espresso @ Water Ave -> Portland Cream @ Voodoo Donuts -> Espresso @ Stumptown (ACE Hotel) -> Wing, Game Hen & Papaya Salad @ Pok Pok -> Poutine @ Potato Champion -> Caramel Apple Fried Pie @ Wiffies Fried Pies

                    Solid first day...highlights: Pine State Biscuits, Tasty N Sons, Ristretto, Water Ave, Stumptown, Potato Champion, Wiffies

                    Not much else to do in this town except eat I'm discovering...but getting places and parking is SO easy. Blah on the rain....

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

                    Stumptown
                    4525 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97206

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

                    Potato Champion
                    SE 12th and Hawthorne, Portland, OR

                    Pix Patisserie
                    3402 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202

                    Ristretto Roasters
                    3520 NE 42nd Ave, Portland, OR 97213

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: Big C

                      I was just in Portland for the weekend with a similar agenda and made it to quite a few places you have mentioned.

                      First of all, everyone was raving about Pok Pok and I just didn't love it. I didn't even like it that much actually. We had cocktails and wings at Whiskey Soda Lounge across the street which were all amazing, and I guess I felt let down by the food we had at Pok Pok. Maybe we chose the wrong things, who knows, but it wasn't our favourite. Has anyone else ever criticized this place or am I alone?

                      The next night we hit up Gruner for a cocktail and appy which was great. We tried the squash dumplings and the charcuterie platter, both were a hit. Interesting cocktail list, very herbal in nature. Following Gruner was Clyde Common which I really enjoyed. Amazing cocktail list except they were out of something that I wanted to try, and the snacks we had were good. Great vibe.

                      If you are in town on a Saturday the farmers market was amazing, we had breakfast there (tried things from 3 different carts) and it was a great way to spend the morning.

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

                      Pok Pok
                      3226 SE Division St, Portland, OR

                      Whiskey Soda Lounge
                      3131 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202

                      1. re: vancityfoody

                        I totally agree with you about Pok Pok. It definitely was not mindblowing, but it wasn't bad. My game hen was very dry, and I let them know and they definitely made it right. I got the wings instead, and they were definitely good and slightly different - although I definitely enjoyed them, they weren't mindblowing. Service was not particularly warm, but very attentive and guest oriented; overall, just a good experience.

                        I've got quite a list for Day 2; as that was all in just Day 1. Especially looking forward to Olympic Provisions, Le Pigeon, and Castagna...I've be leaving on Sat afternoon, so I will for sure be making the Saturday Market my last Portland stop before heading back to the Bay.

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

                        Le Pigeon
                        738 E Burnside St, Portland, OR 97214

                        Olympic Provisions
                        107 SE Washington St, Portland, OR 97214

                        1. re: Big C

                          i thought pok pok's salad was pretty darn good. but, i agree with you on the other items i had.

                          let me know what you think about the market. im from the bay area too and were spoiled with great markets like the ferry plaza or alemany. i was surprised by the size - bigger than i thought. and i also thought that it had more non produce variety than the ferry plaza market.

                          at the market, make sure to try out dave's killer bread - per recommendations from the bay area board, i got a couple of loaves. very good bread. at the very least, just try out their samples - they are generous with those.

                          1. re: Big C

                            I have to say that you if you only got the game hen, wings, and papaya salad, then you definitely ordered the least mind-blowing dishes at Pok Pok. The real gems on the menu are things like Hoi Thawt, Khao Soi, Kaeng Hung Leh, and Muu Paa Kham Waan. I also find that the wings pop a bit more if you order them heavy on the fish sauce -- the preparation has seemed to weigh more towards the sweet than it was when the place first opened.

                            In other words, try it again on your next visit and order more from the right side of the menu. :)

                            1. re: jeff_pdx

                              I hear you on Pok Pok...let the bartender know I was from out of town, and this was my first time there, 'What should I order.' I let him do the ordering...papaya salad was solid, well balanced; game hen was dry, and they took it back and I said I'd try the wings. I had a feeling I was ordering wrong...but figured, how bad could it be especially with them ordering for me. I can see how there could be potential, but from my lone experience...it was definitely lackluster.

                              Will potentially try again, the next time I'm in town.

                              1. re: Big C

                                I had taken a look at Pok Pok's online menu when I replied above, and noticed that the salad/hen/wings make up the "Specialties of the House" section. While they are indeed the dishes that launched the empire (well, the wings came when the first sit-down space opened), I wonder if they are still listed that way because they are the least likely to get sent back for being too challenging on the palate for the casual tourist who saw them mentioned in Sunset Magazine... compared to, for example, Da Chom's Laap Meuang which includes lots of little bits of offal and is served with very unfamiliar herbs on the side.

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

                                1. re: jeff_pdx

                                  I gave the server the 'I eat anything,' and he gave me, game hen & papaya salad. That says alot about the place from a service perspective, but they did definitely made it right when I said the game hen was dry. I don't want to make it sound like the place was all PR, but my experience was was just nothing remarkable. With that said, I definitely agree that I ordered wrong, but figured the server's suggestion would have at least provided a great pedestrian dish; unfortunately they did not deliver on that.

                            2. re: Big C

                              For me, what's special about Pok Pok is that it's a Modern American take on Thai cooking, yet many of their dishes also remind me very much of food I've eaten in Thailand. Much more so than the typical Thai restaurant in the Northwest. So I always get this sense that I'm eating in a cutting edge restaurant in Bangkok, even though there's nothing like Pok Pok in Bangkok (or not that I've found), if that makes sense.

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

                        2. Day 2 in the books...took it alot easier than I did yesterday...feel like I'm kind of running out of spots...

                          Started with Espresso @ Public Domain -> Charcuterie Plate @ Olympic Provisions -> Espresso @ Oblique -> Ice Cream Waffle Sandwich @ Waffle Window -> Mini baquette @ Little T -> Espresso @ Barista -> Pastrami Reuben @ Kenny & Zukes -> 6 course tasting @ Le Piegon

                          Day 2 Highlights: Olympic Provisions, Barista, Le Pigeon...All three were outstanding. My Pigeon experience and the perfect shot at Barista were worth the trip to PDX.

                          Tomorrow will include Bent Brick, Bunk, Coava, Heart, Castagna, Nong's Khao Mon Gai....maybe squeeze in a trip to the Japanese Garden (please stop me if it is not worth it).

                          -----
                          Waffle Window
                          36th and Hawthorne, Portland, OR

                          Castagna
                          1752 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214

                          Olympic Provisions
                          107 SE Washington St, Portland, OR 97214

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Big C

                            What's this you say about a 6-course tasting menu at Le Pigeon? I've never heard that they do such a thing...

                            1. re: jeff_pdx

                              Kind of a mellow day 3...Nong's Khao Mon Gai for lunch; excellent for $6 - we've got an excellent version @ Hawkerfare in Oakland, so I didn't swoon for it. Espresso twice at Barista, once at Coava. Barista is hands down my favorite shot of espresso, 2nd tied between Stumptown & Water Avenue, followed by Ristretto.

                              Stopped by the NW Olympic Provisions, and did a tasting of all of the dried salumi (they did it special for me, because I was buying multiple salumis togo). Service was very nice, as most places I've experienced in PDX even when asking for something off-menu.

                              Happy hour at The Bent Brick; cool spot...worth a pop-in if you haven't. Heard they are new...

                              Did stop by the Japanese and Rose Gardens...both were beautiful. PDXers are lucky to have these scenic gardens. SF's Japanese garden, doesn't compare.

                              Last dinner was at Castagna...never tried Lightner's food, but the new Chef Justin is making some great food. Very well conceived dishes, some thought provoking...did not see anything else like this in PDX. He's definitely using some modern techniques...and overall I'd say the food was 1-star Michelin quality by Bay Area standards. It was pricey compared to alot of other places in town, but definitely worth it, as its still cheaper than any other 1-star Michelin anywhere.

                              As for the 6-course tasting...I imagine its basically available upon request, and alot easier when you are a solo, out-of-town diner. If he was cooking multiple tastings, it would kill the efficiency of the restaurant, because the kitchen is SOOO tiny. I'd say, call in advance and ask, and they can probably work something out. My menu was basically slightly scaled down versions of menu items, nothing off-menu. I had a similar experience at Castagna, where I was able to add one an extra savory course (supplemental charge) to their 4-course pre-fix - again, the benefits of being a solo diner, on nights that weren't super crazy busy.

                              -----
                              Stumptown
                              4525 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97206

                              Castagna
                              1752 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214

                              Olympic Provisions
                              107 SE Washington St, Portland, OR 97214

                          2. A day late and a dollar short on this, but next time you're here you must put Ned Ludd (NE MLK & Failing) high on your list. Everything I've ever had there has ranged from great to a-f***ing-mazing. Be sure to get the pickled veg plate, the house-made charcuterie (the rillettes are sublime) and then just go with whatever strikes your fancy. If you're going on a weekend, get reservations--it's small. Ye shan't regret it.

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