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Dec 6, 2011 05:22 PM

Heading to Portland this weekend for the first time

Hey all,

I'm heading up to Portland this weekend for the first time and was hoping you all could provide me with some recommendations. So far I've got the following places on my radar:
Kenny & Zuke's Deli
The Woodsman Tavern
Le Bistro Montage
Voodoo Donuts
Apizza Scholls
Veritable Quandry
Nosh on Seventh
Pok Pok
Pine State Biscuits

Definitely looking forward to grabbing the burger at Gruner. It seems amazing from what I've read on A Hamburger Today blog. Any other must have burgers that you all recommend?

For the most part I'm looking for New American type restaurants that serve organic, locally sourced food, but also looking for anything that's super unique and maybe only found in Portland.


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  1. For the most part, an impressive list.
    Montage. Was hip and cutting edge 20 years ago. Now it's just bad food with an attitude.
    Voodoo. You want "interesting" donuts to confirm visitors' expectations that Portland be "weird" or do you want high quality? For the latter go to Coco. Get the "coco".
    Nosh. Why is this on your list?

    If you go to Portland Farmers Market at PSU Saturday AM you can do Pine State, Pearl Bakery, Two Tarts Bakery, many others.

    Other picks: Chiang Mai, Noble Rot, Tabla, Navarre.

    Have fun. Please report back!

    1. You should probably note that Gruner only serves its burger at the bar, and the bar seats maybe 6-8 people. If you are literally just here for a weekend, prepare to wait, as Gruner isn't open for lunch on Saturday and isn't open at all on Sunday. Personally? I'd rather sit in the restaurant and explore the rest of their menu. Every restaurant has a bistro burger. Few are doing the kind of food they are. Unless I was an absolute burger fanatic, I wouldn't waste a meal on a burger if I only had the weekend.

      If you ARE a total burger fanatic, this is a pretty good run-down of Portland's best:

      I agree with Leonardo's comments, except I probably wouldn't bother with doughnuts at all, unless you have a particular jonesin' or, as stated, you dig the novelty value of Voodoo (nothing wrong with that, I take friends from out of town there all the time and they love it). In my opinion, no doughnut in Portland is that great it's worth wasting stomach space on for a short trip.

      For other "New American type restaurants that serve organic, locally sourced food" I would check out: Ned Ludd, Clyde Common, Beaker and Flask, June and Park Kitchen.

      Somewhat unique (not that anything is ever truly that unique): Olympic Provisions SE (for amazing charcuterie), Natural Selection (vegetarian supper club), Beast (set menu snout to trotter thing), Evoe (sit at the kitchen bench while chefs make our dishes in front of you - total food porn), Castagna (easily the most innovative/inventive kitchen in PDX), Tasty n Sons (brunch for dinner).

      1. Grain and Gristle - they have a great burger. And a nice brunch (without the lines of Tasty & Sons).

        1 Reply
        1. re: MyNextMeal

          Wildwood makes a really awesome burger! We had a fantastic meal at Gruner a few months ago. Little Bird and Le Pigeon (owned by the same people) are two other favorites of ours in the area. We also love Meriwether's, they do a really nice Osso Buco there and have delicious desserts. :)

        2. Thank you all for all your amazing recommendations. I had a pretty amazing long weekend of eating in Portland. Here's a quick run down of the spots I was able to hit.

          Upon arriving my friend took me to the Sweet Hereafter, one of her fav bars. They also happen to serve vegan fare. I ended up ordering their house made pretzels with some beer mustard and nut based mayo. The pretzels were like little discs, and pretty tasty for vegan.

          For my first real meal I made my way to Gruner for their bar burger. I had been told that restaurants sometimes have really long waits so I made sure to get there as close to 11:30am for the start of their lunch shift. I managed to be the first customer of the day. Happily ordered a whiskey cocktail and the house burger. I also noticed they had house baked pretzel sticks instead of bread and butter and ordered one of those as well. The pretzel was doughy and warm. Really nice.

          The burger came out and the plate was uber hot. So hot that it kept me from picking up my burger to eat for wayyy too long. When I finally did take my first bite juices came gushing out. It was tasty indeed. Came with a side of pickled red onions and bread & butter pickles which both worked great with the cheddar and bacon. There was also a side of smashed taters. All in all it was a magnificent first meal. The burger was ever-so-slightly over cooked -- closer to medium than a true medium rare -- but I was enjoying myself so much I didn't send it back.

          Next up I rambled over to Voodoo Donuts. VD definitely has a polarizing effect upon people. Some love. Some hate. Maybe it's a bit cliche and touristy. Whatever. I'm a tourist visiting Portland, so I figured I'd give it a shot. Anyway, I love bacon. And a bacon maple donut sounded sublime. It wasn't the greatest donut I've ever eaten, but I sure as heck enjoyed it. There was a substantial piece of bacon on it, and the maple complimented it quite nicely.

          I was seriously full by this point, but had no plans other than to wander and possibly try some more eats. I made my way back across the bridge to Olympic Provisions. I didn't realize it was a restaurant and ended up not going in. Luckily later in the weekend I found upon some of their chacuterie for sale in a market and I picked up a few items to sample back home.

          That night I caught the Dandy Warhols downtown at the Star Theater. Afterwards I found myself stumbling around downtown in need of a late night meal. I had skipped dinner in lieu of a liquid linner. I suddenly found myself at the Gilt Club. I honestly didn't realize at the time that it was on the top burger list that someone posted here. I just liked that they were still serving food at nearly 1am. I ordered some foie gras fries and their burger. Full disclosure: I was pretty tipsy at this point, so most any sort of greasy food would have sufficed. Nonetheless, I really dug the chow. The burger was not the best I had all weekend, but it was still pretty good. The fries were my fav of the meal. I realized later on that I likely had only needed them, and not the burger too.

          The following morning I got up and rambled over to Pine State Biscuits. I had heard about this legendary spot from a few people. There was a short line out front. I wasn't hungry in the least bit, but I knew I needed to try it so I waited. Once inside I asked the cashier what I should get. He recommended the Reggie Deluxe, a biscuit with fried chicken, bacon, cheese, gravy & a fried egg. Wow. It was huge. Epicly rich. My arteries hardened the moment I gazed at it. I somehow managed to kill the entire thing, for which I later paid the piper. No regrets. If I lived in Portland I think I would eat there often, but I would likely not opt for the Reggie or Reggie Deluxe. I kinda wish I had tried just the biscuit with fried chicken and pickles. Maybe next time.

          More drinking enused that night. I was so full. I had likely ingested 3 days worth of calories in the past 24 hours. I was sluggish. Finally around 1am I was ready to eat again. We made our way to Bunk Bar. I ordered the pork belly cubano. Again, I was drunk, so it tasted great, but it didn't look as good as some of the pics I had seen from Bunk Sandwiches. There was not enough pork belly really. But still, it was very delicious, especially for such a late hour.

          On Sunday morning my friend took me to Broder. She said it had blown her mind upon a recent visit, so I couldn't really argue with that. I'm not a huge breakfast/brunch fan for the most part, but I can dig it when it's original. Broder has a Scandinavian slant. I settled for the the smoked trout hash. We were lucky enough to get a seat at the bar where we could watch the two cooks whipping up everything. They use these cute little square shaped cast irons for their eggs. My hash has two sunny side eggs atop it. The hash itself was nice, but it really could have used a lot more crisp. Didn't seem like they had left it on the grill for long enough. Maybe I should have asked for it well done. Either way, it was another delicious meal, so no complaints.

          That night I caught the 3rd of three Dandy Warhols holiday shows at Doug Fir. It was a matinee show and over by 9:30. Afterwards I jumped in a cab and made my way to Toro Bravo. Their burger had been listed as one of the best in PDX as well, plus I love Spanish food, so I had a good feeling about it. They managed to cram me in at the only open spot at the bar. I quickly ordered a Casa-rita cocktail containing tequila, and of course, the burger.

          This burger was not quite as big as Gruners, but it surely packed a lot of flavor. Being a Spanish steez restaurant it had Manchengo cheese in addition to bacon. There were also some very nice bread and butter pickles.

          After finishing the bartender assumed I was doneskies. How could I possibly eat any more? I asked for the menu back. My eyes and belly quickly settled on the Coppa steak. I had never had anything like it before. It came out and it looked sorta like a mini prime rib. It was tender and delicious, and almost pastrami like in flavor. LOVE.

          Monday morning came and I needed to catch my flight, but not before sneaking in one last meal. This despite the fact that I didn't feel like I'd need to eat again for a thousand years.

          Having had such a delightful meal at Toro Bravo the night before I decided to try one of their other spots, Tasty N Sons. I ordered their house made Reuben for my final meal in PDX. It was nicely grilled with tons of butter, a good mount of sauerkraut and cheese, but only a few measly slices of pastrami. And yet it was still very very good. No real complaint. I certainly didn't need anything more at that point.

          All in all I was really impressed with the food offerings of Portland. They take good eats seriously. Seems like a lot of the food is on the heavier side, which makes sense as it's needed to help combat the cold. Hopefully I'll make it back soon so I can try some of the many other amazing offerings around town that I didn't have a chance to snack upon this time.

          1 Reply
          1. re: brian j

            Thanks for the report!

            I don't find our food on the "heavier side" at all. It speaks more to your taste and choices.

          2. Here are my pix from my report.