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Vancouver Hound's first trip to Portland -- help a hungry elf out?

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Dear Portland Hounds:
I’ve been feverishly researching the embarrassment of riches that is the Portland dining scene in preparation for our first trip together to your fair city from Feb 29 to Mar 4 (Wed night to Sun afternoon).
My list of options is at 17 pages (!) and counting. Since we only have 4 lunches, 4 dinners and assorted snacks, I am asking for your help to narrow things down. Many thanks for any suggestions you may have.

We’re staying in the Pearl District and will have a car, but are happy to walk and take your lovely free transit. Also keen to try your vaunted street food offerings, and generally interested in big flavours and good value over décor and such. Not sure if dinners at the street carts are doable/recommended – I note some are only open for lunch, and on weekdays.

We have a dearth of good Thai and Mexican here in Vancouver so those are two things on our radar. Particularly love classic tacos (tiny double tortillas, meat, onion, cilantro, lime, great salsas). We also suffer from strict rules making it very difficult to serve burgers to order so contemplating trying one out. We have lots of Vietnamese at home but are always on the hunt for harder-to-come by bo luc lac (shaking beef) and/or thit kho to (porc au caramel).

Prolly not looking for Chinese or Japanese this time around.

It will mostly just be the two of us though we will be joining two friends one evening so a “nicer” place with gluten-free options would be grand. We don’t have a ceiling for $$ but maybe something around $50 or $60 per person before drinks and tip.

Generally not fans of lineups and will be looking for reservations for dinners.

Saturday we may hit the farmers market and check out Pine State biscuits.

SO is big on third wave coffee and it would be a shame to miss out as you have so many great options. How are Barista, Ristretto, Extracto, Coffeehouse Northwest, Sterling and Spella holding up? Any others I've missed?

Here are the places that are standing out for me, but I’m open to other considerations, and to excising bad options.

Lunches:
Tabor (weekdays only) – hello schnitzelwich!
Pok Pok – avoid the crazy lines by going at lunch?
¿Por Que No? – must tries here? The crispy snapper tacos sound worthy…
Bora Bora – la llorona! tacos ahogados!
Helser’s – the SO’s been and enjoyed; avoiding Sunday here re lines
Lardo – porchetta!
Taqueria Antojitos Yucatecos – panuchos! salbutes!
Sandwich Island – kalua pork!

Dinner (with friends):
South Park
Metrovino
Wildwood
Andina
Petisco
Dinner (just us):
Kesone Thai Lao Bistro - nam kao!! spinach leaf appetizers with red onion and spices! tried Lao food in Oakland last November, still dreaming about it…
Cha Ba Thai (Same owner as Red Onion)
Chiang Mai
Mee Sen
A really good burger, not sure which of the many options to choose, maybe Violetta
Po’Shines Cafe de la Soul
Puerto Marquez – ceviche ! seafood ! not really in Gresham!
Pambiche Cuban

Breakfast/brunch on Sunday:
Autentica: Chilaquiles!
Broder – aebleskivers!
Beast

Snacks:
Ken’s Artisan Bakery – croissants for the SO!
Pix Patisserie

beverages/happy hours:
Teardrop Cocktail Lounge
Matchbox Lounge - the $5 burg!

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  1. You have an amazing list! Andina was one of my favorite dining experiences, great food and great service...
    To add to your list, since you are in the Pearl, don't miss Nuvrei...the pastries, croissants and pretzels are superb. Cool Moon Ice Cream is also outstanding
    There are always lines at Pok Pok..don't be deterred...and Chiang Mai is delightful..
    Autentica is delish, don't miss Tasty and Sons for Brunch...best times are during the week.
    The fried muenster @ Tabor is heaven...
    you may want to check portlandfood.org for best burger...extramsg did a burger extravaganza, and tried all the burgers around town.
    when you go to Lardo..Rockabillies nearby has fried cheese curds....a little out of the way, but... Cocina de Chepe has amazing papusas...check them out @ foodcartsportland.com

    Enjoy!!!

    8 Replies
    1. re: cheeseisheaven

      Thanks for the tip on Nuvrei, totally missed that. I have Cool Moon on the "big" list but was thinking maybe not in Feb ;-).

      I did grab that best burger list, so many awesome choices...

      "Fried cheese curds" -- say what, will have to try that out.

      1. re: grayelf

        Excellent list.
        If you want Pine State Biscuits you'll have to go to their two eastside shops. They are not at the winter Portland Farmers Market. Actually the PFM will be closed altogether for the first two Saturdays of March, between the first-ever winter markets and the main season spring-December. Boo on your timing. Sorry.
        Bars: Beaker & Flask, Teardrop, and Thatch Tiki Bar on the eastside.
        Kesone is a perfect non-touristy choice.
        Other snacks: Coco Donuts (get the "coco"), Little T Bakery, BakeShop (owner got a James Beard award for her book).

        Have fun. Please report!

        1. re: Leonardo

          Thanks so much for the additional suggestions and especially the market clarification! I was getting the farmers market mixed up with http://www.portlandsaturdaymarket.com...

          Sad that I can't do the real thing. Is the crafty one worth bothering with either for food and/or browsing? I do enjoy a good craft fair... but it's really about the snacks ;-).

          Love the classic look of Coco -- any thoughts on the apple fritters there? The SO would be so thrilled to find a good one.

          Appreciate the confirmation on Kesone as well. I would probably go no matter what in my nam-khao withdrawn state but it would be a shame to waste a night on a bad meal.

          I am struggling a bit with our "nice" dinner out. Kinda had my heart set on Andina (another thing we have virtually none of here is Peruvian food, and I'm always up for so-called ethnic eats) but didn't realize it was so fusiony. South Park's seafood slant and locavore action looks good though the website is kinda corporate and off putting. Metrovino is maybe too cool for us (we are nerdy and in our mid/late 40s). I can't get the Wildwood sample dinner menu to work but lunch looks interesting if a bit light on the gluten-free options for our friend. I know the Petisco menu changes frequently but I'm not really feeling the sample one posted. Damn gluten! Maybe we'll just go to Chiang Mai or Mee Sen. It seems to be easier at Thai restos to avoid the gluten than at other Asian, at least here at home, and excepting Japanese which we aren't in need of.

          Might there be a good Mexican spot we could try that is still "authentic" (sorry to use the A-word) but would work for a more leisurely sitdown, specialish meal?

          1. re: grayelf

            The food @ Andina was great..and it is a great fancy dinner. South Park and Metrovino are fancy..I wouldn't call Metrovino "too,cool", and the service there is fantastic...You could also look at the menu's of Aviary and Castagna for your fancy dinner...they have some great platings. Castagna was my 2nd favorite all time dinner after Blue Hill @ Stone Barns.

            1. re: cheeseisheaven

              Thanks for the steer to Aviary, cih, hadn't run across it yet. The chefs seem to have quite the pedigree.

              I guess my problem is I don't really want fancy! I am such a plebe, I never seem to appreciate the finer dining options I try as much as others do. I'm more into neighbourhoody restaurants where people go once a month for a special but not occasion meal if that makes any sense. Those are the places I like at home and in SF, the two places I eat most meals out! Examples would be La Buca in Vancouver and Canteen in SF if you are interested.

              I am back to leaning toward Andina because we have almost no Peruvian and it does get great feedback, including on service which is a nice bonus, but I am also reconsidering Metrovino. Maybe I got the wrong end of the stick on the ambiance there! I emailed South Park late last night to check on the gf options and got a very positive response at 9 am today. So getting somewhere slowly. I want to lock down a reso soon as we are looking at a Friday for this dinner.

              1. re: grayelf

                Yes Southpark is pretty corporate.
                Castagna is a great idea, also Wildwood. Also consider Higgins or Paley's. These are the revered grandaddies of PDX locovore fine dining.
                More snacks: Sugar Cube at the cart pod 43rd & SE Belmont. Really special.
                Welcome on the distinction between PFM and Portland Saturday Mkt. Won't comment on the craft thing 'cuz this is a food board, but the food bites the big one.
                Richmond Night Mkt it ain't.
                You used my two least-loved food terms in one posting: authentic and ethnic. Well at least a thanks for the apology...hahaha...

                1. re: grayelf

                  Aviary is not fancy, just delicious...but Andina is solid...it can be a bit loud, as in festive and is usually packed...so reso is important!

                  Let us know what you liked!

                  1. re: cheeseisheaven

                    South Park is prolly out as I just found out one of our friends is not big on seafood (!). So now I'm thinking either Metrovino or Aviary, if I can get reservations at one of them. It would be nice to have a more mellow atmosphere so we can really chat, so thanks for the note on Andina ambiance.

                    Higgins' dinner menu had me at "Whole Pig Plate" so that's deffo in the mix as well, thanks. And I realize that these restaurants are ethnic in their own way. I just haven't figured out a good epithet to distinguish them from the type of dining I generally prefer (Asian, Mexican, Greek, Italian etc. etc).

                    Would love to try Toro Bravo but I'm way too lineup averse, especially for dinner. I just get too grumpy and then I don't appreciate the food.

      2. Andina and Toro Bravo are some of favs to dine at with friends since you can order small (or large) plates and share!!

        Paley's Place is another excellent choice!!

        2 Replies
        1. re: ORtastytravels

          I had my first trip to Toro Bravo over the holidays. Boy, was it good! Yes, there was a 45 minute wait....BUT we walked down a few doors to an oyster place and had a beer and oysters on the half shell. Toro Bravo called us when our table was ready.

          1. re: Jane917

            There's a few bars in the area so it's nice. And yes, they'll take down your cell# and call you when your table is ready! I love that!!

        2. Ack, just realized I neglected in that uberlong first post to inquire about beer/breweries/tastings. The SO will not be best pleased if we miss out. So far only Cascades (for the sour beers, which are my thing) on the radar. He prefers less hoppy brews. TIA.

          6 Replies
          1. re: grayelf

            there a so many fairly good brewers...Migration, Coalition, Burnside...and there are some good places to try other beers...I end up close to home(SE) and also Captured by Porches in the cart pod across from PokPok...there will also be local beers on tap almost anywhere you go!

            1. re: cheeseisheaven

              True. You will find local beer everywhere. My favorite beer place: Sareveza. They also have great pasties!

              1. re: Leonardo

                Thanks for the brew feedback. I am homing in on our dinner choices and will post a tighter itin in a bit for your kind thoughts. Really appreciating the help from all!

                1. re: grayelf

                  Less hoppy is not the easiest thing here in the land of hops...sigh. If you like sours, you will loooove Cascade, do not miss it. I'd go someplace where you can get both local and nonlocal stuff on tap like Apex, Roscoe's, Bailey's...and Green Dragon, which happens to be walking distance from Cascade!

                  Fancy dinner I'd go to Metrovino, Laurelhurst Market, Genoa, Nostrana. Nostrana and Laurelhurst Market are less fancy, but all are great choices.

                  Personally, I'd start at Roscoe's and have some beers (two nitro taps for some great creamy stouts - love that), then walk down to Tanuki for the omakase and some sake - no sushi, no kids - but like nothing you have ever had and nowhere you've ever been. Kick ass evening, just factor in a cab ride. ;o)

                  Love Chiang Mai, defintiely over Chaba...even, sometimes over PokPok...depends what I am in the mood for. And Pok Pok has a line at lunch even on the weekend, but it will surely be less crowded than at dinner.

                  Another place not mentioned but worthy of a list is Wafu, and if you ened comfort food, next door is Sunshine Tavern which is great for what they do.

                  Lots of info on food beer and other stuff at: www.portlandfood.org

                  1. re: JillO

                    More on my beer list:

                    Horsbrass Pub -- lotsa micro brews on tap

                    Belmont Station -- unique taps

                    Bazi Bierbrasserie -- selection of Belgium ales, across from Chiang Mai in case there's a line, though the SO's not such a Belgian fan :-)

                    I've noted all the suggestions for beer emergencies, and the Green Dragon one is especially useful as it may get me my sours from Cascadia!

                    Also just had a quick look at portlandfood.org -- I think my list is going to top 50 pages easily once I get into it more. Thanks JillO

            2. re: grayelf

              Hair of the Dog is a good brewer to check out. Really unique beers. Decent food at the tasting room.

              If you're downtown, Bailey's Taproom. One of the best beer bars I've been to on the West Coast, maybe *the* best considering how affordable they make it to try a lot of really good beers. Cheers -

            3. Check out this site for their Portland reports:
              http://www.bunrab.com/dailyfeed/2012J...

              1 Reply
              1. re: Sarah

                HOTD and Bailey's added! Thanks for reminder re bunrab who I've referenced for SF.

              2. I just want to throw this in. Pok Pok is well worth the wait. But to not go for the dinner menu is a serious shame. What I think I do is out smart the very smart Portlandites is I go at 430 and sit and have drinks until 5 when dinner is served. This way I have a good seat and Am ready to order as soon as they officially make it Dinner time. If you ask they will seat you with both menus. Just sit and watch the crowd and enjoy some of there very good drinking Vinegars.

                2 Replies
                1. re: KevinULI

                  Thanks, Kevin, will keep that in mind. I had read that the daytime menu is not the same as the evening one. Just not sure we'll have the opportunity (or belly space!) to arrange such an early meal this trip. I'm certainly intrigued by the drinking vinegars, recalling the raspberry vinegar mum used to make when we were kids and wondering how they will compare to the various Taiwanese ones I have in my fridge. Am I right that much of the Pok Pok seating is outside? I wonder if we will be too cold given that we will be there at the beginning of March (yes, we are cold wimps despite being from northern climes).

                  1. re: grayelf

                    They have seating inside but the outside seating is covered and heating lamps are on. It shouldn't be an issue. Although the lunch menu isn't as extensive as lunch, some of my favs are also on the lunch menu (Ike's wings, Yam tuna, boar collar, khao soi). If time and belly space allow, I would highly recommend it!

                2. Thought I'd post my current itinerary in case any bloopers had sneaked in, still waffling about Thursday and Saturday dinners:

                  Wednesday dinner: Violetta is super close to hotel and the burger sounds great or Noho’s Hawaiian Café – I’ve never eaten Hawaiian food or Po’Shines Cafe de la Soul – soul food seems to be a bit of a thing in Pdx, we really have none in Vancouver and this is for a good cause

                  Thursday breakfast: one of these coffee places Barista, Coffeehouse NW, Ristretto, Heart, Crema, Extracto, Coava, Spella, Cloud Seven, Sterling, Fresh Pot, Albina Press, Random Order, Legend

                  Thursday lunch: Tabor schnitzelwich or Lardo porchetta and Rockabillies for fried cheese curds 4

                  afternoon snacks (1 each day I hope from among the following, depending where we are): Eastmoreland Market and Kitchen for arancine, which I am obsessed with Nuvrei...the pastries, croissants and pretzels are superb (Pearl) Bunk to share a pork belly cubano Cool Moon Ice Cream Alder Pastry and Dessert Pix Pâtisserie

                  Thursday dinner: ????

                  Friday breakfast: Ken's Artisan Bakery for cannele, the breakfast of champions, or maybe a breakfast sando from Lovejoy near the hotel plus one of the coffee places listed above

                  Friday lunch: La Bonita for enchiladas (SO) and tacos (me), lengua and carnitas or La Calaca Comelona for conchinita pibil or enchiladas morelianas or La Catrina for gigantic exquisita torta or Los Gorditos for carne asada tacos or maybe a burrito just because I haven’t had one since 2007 or ¿Por Qué No? for sloppy but good Mexican or Puerto Marquez for almost-Gresham seafood or Taqueria El Rodeo for fish tacos or Tito's Burritos for tacos or Lonchera Brother Express for buche tacos and chalupas

                  Friday dinner: (with friends, need gluten free options) Higgins or Metrovino or Chiang Mai

                  Saturday breakfast: one of the coffee places above Saturday lunch: Sandwich Island for Hawaiian style pulled pork sandos

                  Saturday dinner: Kesone Thai Lao Bistro for nam kao

                  Sunday brunch/lunch: one of the coffee places followed by Tasty and Sons, Bakery Bar, Helser’s, Fuller’s, Hash or J&M

                  Sunday dinner on the road: somewhere near Seattle

                  DRINKS/HAPPY HOURS/BEER: Tear Drop Cocktail Lounge Beaker and Flask Thatch Tiki Bar Matchbox Lounge. Melt Hair of the Dog -- beer tasting room has decent food Bailey's -- lots of beers reasonably priced Cascade Brewing for sour ales (glueh kriek!)

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: grayelf

                    Alder Street Pastry has closed, and that seriously sucks for us all.

                    1. re: JillO

                      Augh, thanks for letting me know that and I'm sorry for the locals. I wanted to try the kouign amann there particularly (and hit Crema for coffee at the same time). Anyone know if another pastry purveyor in town makes them?

                      I will have to supplement my snacks list as well -- just noticed I missed a few mentioned here by you kind Pdx hounds!

                      1. re: grayelf

                        Those kouign amann were seriously amazing. Never saw them before, don't think anyone else makes them here. And I am trying not to cry as I type. ;o)

                        Little T's is a great bakery - bread (pretzel bread!) and sweets (anything in the case) there are delicious, as are their sandwiches. Coffee is decent there too, butis better at a new place, Spielman's down SE Division (they also make bagels and pastries at Spielman's, but I haven't had them).

                        If you love chocolate, don't miss Cacao. Alma's is also great. Alma's makes their own, Cacao has stuff from locals as well as amazing imports. Cacao will also sample many of the things they sell, if you ask. Cacao sells local DePaula Confections and Sahagun stuff which are both awesome.

                        1. re: JillO

                          I've only had kouign amann from Starter Bakery in San Francisco and they came pretty close to pastry perfection for me. So wish I could have tried Alder's to compare...

                          Little T was one of the places I was going to add to the snacks list per leonardo's post above, so thanks for the confirmation. Will add Spielman's to the coffee list.

                          I am not a huge choc fan but had started a sublist on my master as it seemed there were a bunch of good options in Pdx, including some but not all the ones you mentioned. Always an appropriate prezzy to bring back to the chocolate heads at home too. Starting to think it's a good thing we're driving and not flying :-).

                          1. re: grayelf

                            Little T also makes kouign amann... not every day I don't think, you may want to call ahead. They had some this morning when I was there.

                            1. re: jonoropeza

                              Duly noted, thanks jono -- I'll call the week we leave and see what their baking sked is :-).

                              Got another couple of ideas for our brunch, maybe going a bit more upscale than my original picks. Otto looks promising (love the Cancon in the taxidermied head from Quebec, LOL) as does Irving Street Cafe (lobster scramble?!)

                              Added bonus: they both appear to take reservations which makes my lineup averse self beaucoup happy.

                              One is run by Michigan transplants who seem to have taken to Portland, and the other has strong ties to San Francisco, our twice-yearly chowing getaway. How to decide?

                          2. re: JillO

                            Hi Jill -

                            Thanks for the heads up on another great coffee shop in our neighborhood! I stopped at Spielman this morning on my way downtown. Good croissants. Their espresso seemed like a lighter roast... really nice fruitiness to it. I really like that it was a decent pull. I've been to a few places in town that have their machines set so ristretto that a single espresso turns out to be a trickle of syrup in the bottom of a cup. Spielman's single is a good 3 sips... 'goldilocks pull' in my book...

                            Thanks again!

                            1. re: jonoropeza

                              Glad you tried them! I've been using their beans in pour-overs at home with great results. Has got to be the least trendy coffee place in town...which I kinda like. ;o)

                      2. re: grayelf

                        "Thursday breakfast: one of these coffee places Barista, Coffeehouse NW, Ristretto, Heart, Crema, Extracto, Coava, Spella, Cloud Seven, Sterling, Fresh Pot, Albina Press, Random Order, Legend"

                        I would narrow that down to Barista, Coffeehouse NW, Ristretto, Heart and Coava.

                        Crema is not great for coffee; Spella has no seating; Cloud Seven is better than average but not as good as nearby Barista; Sterling is the same people as Coffeehouse NW, but is just a kiosk with no seating; Fresh Pot and Albina Press are fine, but they just serve Stumptown, so you may as well go there; Random Order is great for pie but not so much for coffee; I have never heard of Legend.

                        If you're staying downtown, you can narrow the list even further down to Barista, Coffeehouse NW and Coava, though I would add in Courier, Public Domain, Water Avenue and Stumptown. If you're actually looking to eat (you say "breakfast"), Stumptown, Coffeehouse NW, Water Ave and Courier are probably the best for something more than a cookie and are comfortable places to sit. If you're just looking for a distinctly Portland coffee experience, I would choose Stumptown Ace (that location is brilliant Portland people watching and the couches are good), Courier, Barista (the Alberta location) or Coava.

                      3. Only 17 pp? I think we can easily make it an even 20.
                        Add this to your 2012 calendar: July 26-29 for the Oregon Brewers Festival
                        http://www.oregonbrewfest.com/

                        for burgers:
                        http://portlandhamburgers.blogspot.com/

                        for breakfast:
                        btw, I also had biscuits and gravy... then, we drove to VAN after a quick stop at the border
                        photos attached: chicken fried steak/corned beef hash/poached eggs
                        Gateway Breakfast House
                        11411 NE Halsey St
                        Portland, OR 97220

                        our other tasty breakfast:
                        The Country Cat Dinnerhouse and Bar
                        7937 SE Stark
                        Portland, OR 97215
                        (503) 408-1414
                        www.thecountrycat.net/

                        La Estacion
                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/634374

                         
                         
                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Cynsa

                          Thanks for the coffee help, chalmers, much appreciated, especially pointing out which ones are Stumptown -- I've done all my restaurant research but I'm still working on triangulating coffee, beverages and snacks!

                          Appreciate the additional tips and links, Cynsa.
                          Scarily, my master to try list for Portland is now 41 pages long, six of it burger reviews. We are clearly coming back.

                          The Sunday breakfast choice is a stumper, so many great options in town, and of course would like to avoid waiting in a huge line. In Vancouver if you go for Sunday brunch before 10 you can mostly dodge the wait by beating the late risers. Any such rule of thumb in Portland, lovely local Hounds?

                        2. Yet another site to check out -- hope it helps!
                          http://pdx.eater.com/

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: Sarah

                            Thanks for reminding me that Eater does Portland too -- I use it for San Francisco already!

                            1. re: grayelf

                              Me again with a Mexi-quandary: are any of these places good for a sit-down meal on a Saturday night? Doesn't have to be fancy just indoor tables (and good food obviously!). The ability to make reservations would be gravy. Other ideas gratefully considered. TIA

                              La Bonita in the Pearl
                              La Calaca Comelona in Sunnyside
                              La Catrina in Goose Hollow/Downtown
                              Los Gorditos in Southeast Portland
                              Puerto Marquez in almost-Gresham (stick to seafood)

                              In case anyone's keeping track (ha!) I bailed on Auntentica because a) they only have chilaquiles rojos 2) the dinner prices are too rich for my blood for this meal and nothing really appeals.

                              1. re: grayelf

                                Go to Mi Mero Mole. I know the owner, but I am recommending it because the food is so good and you have probably not had the guisados he makes. Handmade, fresh tortillas and good drinks too:

                                https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mi-Mer...

                                1. re: JillO

                                  Thanks, I've read something about MMM, will check it out more fully. I like their fb page, though the pic makes it look like a street cart.

                                  1. re: grayelf

                                    Thinking hard about Mi Mero. I have had guisados in DF yonks and I tend to prefer the drier preps for tacos, but it's v. tempting.

                                    So far none of the Mexican places that aren't stands or trucks are really calling to me. If anyone else has any thoughts, I'd appreciate them.

                                    I just read a thread from another Canuck coming to Pdx and I may revise my Saturday night plans. JillO, you are on a roll! Your description of Tanuki has made me reconsider and add it to my list for next time (I think it would be best to go on a weeknight with no resos and my line aversion, no?).

                                    Also you mention that Podnah's Pit is more about the meat than the sauce. Would it be okay for a Saturday night sitdown but not fancy dinner? I was thinking about Po'Shines but if Podnah's is better (less sauce reliant)... but would the wait/line be really long?

                                    1. re: grayelf

                                      Thanks...I don't often have the time at work to do stuff like that, and we get so many requests on this board for recs, rather than the chat being among locals, that it gets a bit monotonous...so good on ya for looking at the other threads!

                                      If you really want to see what the locals are chatting about restaurant-wise, I am one of the moderators here: http://portlandfood.org/

                                      Tanuki is small. I have never had to wait, but I go early...I too hate the lines. I find that if I can get my butt to most places by 5:45-6pm I can usually get a seat. It's always harder on the weekends. Tanuki is a trip and the food is amazing, as is the sake list. Worth it, even if you sit at the bar instead of a table. If you like beer, Roscoe's which is right near there has a killer tap list with some local, some not, to check out.

                                      Po' Shines is on my list to try, but I have never been there. I am not sure what the wait is like at Podnah's on a Sat. night - but like I said, the earlier you are willing to eat, usually the less chance of a wait. Podnah's is really a Texas style BBQ joint with some good sides (and on the weekends, you can get the prime rib, which is freakin' awesome) - Po' Shines is more of an overall soul food cafe. Check out the menus - if you want BBQ brisket, pork ribs, prime rib, etc. definitely Podnah's - but if you want po boys or shrimp creole it's Po' Shines. Location might make a difference, so maybe mapping them will be the decider...

                                      1. re: JillO

                                        Thanks to you both (indeed, all the respondents!) for persevering with this gastrotourist's questions. I have read back a fair way on portlandfood.org and it has been very helpful, not to mention reading back a year and a half at least on this board.

                                        Roscoe's and Tanuki are both solidly on the radar. My quest for reservations has been largely foiled as it seems very few places (or at least, places I am interested in) take them in Portland. I may have to rethink when we are eating -- maybe a bit later would be better, as early is not what we're used to. I don't think I've ever had Texas bbq so that would be interesting.

                                        I had already read the article that you linked to, but thanks extramsg. I mentioned somewhere in this thread that I'm not a fan of fusion, notwithstanding the good points made by various chefs in the article. For example, the enchiladas covered with mounds of cheese and jalapeno I read about at LCC really put me off it for that reason. I do get that better ingredients equal higher prices, it's just that I'm looking for dishes more similar to what I was used to while traveling in Mexico. So I guess I'll either have to change my expectations or stick to the more casual places, or wait for Fruitvale in April :-).

                                        Planning on lunch at Kesone just for the nam khao (I want to sample another Lao version) and Chiang Mai for a weekday dinner to get their take on it plus some more Thai options.

                                        1. re: grayelf

                                          I'm not sure what enchiladas you're talking about, but if you're talking about the alambres, stir-fries of various sorts with tons of melted cheese, those are entirely authentic, a very popular item in central Mexico, especially Mexico City, at taco stands, taquerias, fondas, and even casual restaurants.

                                          Fruitvale is fine, but they don't have better Mexican than Portland, just more of it. And I'd say the diversity here is better than Fruitvale (and especially The Mission, though you didn't mention it) for whatever reason. Though there is a very good suadero truck open nights along International, if you're willing to eat with hookers and drug dealers (which I am). The advantage to Fruitvale is the density, but that can be found in Hillsboro, Gresham, or Woodburn here.

                                          But you're certainly welcome to waste any meals you like at Kesone or elsewhere. :-P

                                          1. re: extramsg

                                            Thanks for clarifying that it might have been alambres being discussed in the article I read, though the mention was of enchiladas morelianas specifically.

                                            It's been a few years since we did a day of delicious and amazingly valued chowing in Fruitvale, and I still remember it with fondness. If Portland is doing better than that, I'm going to be very happy. My favourite torta outside of Mexico is from Torta Gorda in the Mission but that is for another board.

                                            Now I want to know more about Hillsboro, Gresham and Woodburn.

                                      2. re: grayelf

                                        I won't comment on Mi Mero Mole, since I'm the owner, but I will try to help improve your Mexican choices. For starters, check out this list I did for the Oregonian: http://www.oregonlive.com/dining/inde.... Most are not in Portland-proper, though. Autentica, La Calaca Comelona, Mextiza, and Nuestra Cocina are all very worthwhile with different emphases. They're midscale and primarily dinner places, though Mextiza has very good prices at lunch and Autentica has one of my favorite weekend brunches in town. Autentica and Mextiza are owned by the same person. The quality of the ingredients and carefulness of preparation at these places earns the prices they charge, imo. As you know, Vancouver has pretty awful Mexican food, so hopefully you get some.

                                        I wouldn't make much effort looking for a good fish taco, unless you get the pescado zarandeado at Puerto Marquez and make your own. But even with that, I'd save it for a trip to LA. Better off with ceviche or shrimp preparations at Don Camaron.

                                        btw, there is no real second choice after Podnah's for BBQ. That said, their sauces are quite good, though if it was about sauce, I'd choose Buster's, a local chain, that is much less consistent than Podnah's, but can still be very good, especially with pork ribs, and has an excellent sauce. Having had BBQ in Vancouer a couple times, you definitely should consider it. Personally, I like Wednesdays at Podnah's because they have awesome fried chicken. They also have a great brunch on weekends.

                                        I wouldn't bother with Kesone. They're not the only place that does nam kao tod. The best is at Chiang Mai, their kao tod nam kook with the sour sausage upgrade. And as others have said, they do a good job across the menu.

                            2. You can get reservations at Pok Pok if your group is five or more! Go to the website for the phone number. They're very helpful.

                              My family and I did this recently and had a great time. Make sure someone order Ike's wings and khao soi.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: melissa511

                                Alas, just two of us this time but thanks for the tip. My SO actually went to Pok Pok and had the wings on a work trip earlier this year. He's been holding out on me :-).

                                1. re: grayelf

                                  I just went to Pok Pok for lunch on a Saturday a few weeks ago- no line, no wait at all.

                                  The line for Pine State Biscuit however-was out the door and down the street. Forget it. We walked to Circa 33 right up the street (Belmont) for "brunch". Had a great meal and wonderful hand crafted "old school" brunchy cocktails. Their Ramos Gin Fizz (circa 1882) with egg whites was fabulous....it worked out well! Sometimes unplanned things are a blessing :)

                              2. Hey Grayelf,

                                We're headed down to PDX sometime mid-March (during spring break), so I'll be cribbing your research and follow-ups here :-D

                                Haven't been for 10 yrs or so, therefore I'm completely starting from scratch with foodie destinations. But I know Pok Pok and Pine State Biscuits will be definite targets, as are the food trucks.

                                1. Sorry to bug y'all again but we're thinking of going in a different direction for Saturday dinner. If you had to choose between Gruner and Tabla (for the three-course prix fixe, loving that it's three savoury courses!) and were going to Metrovino the night before, which would you choose? I know all three are relatively upscale but which two would complement each other best back-to-back?

                                  17 Replies
                                  1. re: grayelf

                                    Well greyelf, how did you find our city? Tasty I hope?

                                    1. re: jonoropeza

                                      It was a great trip, so much fun we were already planning our next foray halfway through! We definitely want to check out the summer farmers' market(s) among many other things. You will be sorry you asked when I post my looooong report.

                                      1. re: grayelf

                                        grayelf,

                                        Did you ever publish your report? I'm researching Portland for an upcoming trip this weekend and would be curious to hear your impressions.

                                        We're trying to figure out where we can go without reservations for Valentine's Day... looking at Luc Lac (a little scared that we might be disappointed because there's top notch VN food in Los Angeles).

                                        Thanks grayelf

                                        Mr Taster

                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                          If you search grayelf, you sill see he/she is one of the most prolific posters on the PDX board. It was probably posted separately from the original post. There are many trip reports from grayelf to choose from.

                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                            I did indeed! Here are the links to my six trip reports for ease of reference in case you have time on your hands and want to look at them all.

                                            I'd pass on Luc Lac unless you're in for mediocre VN, a long wait to be seated and a longer wait to be served. They do have nice cocktails but you can find better. See the third report for Oct 2012 trip for more on our visit there.

                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/838708 first trip report Feb/Mar 2012
                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/852925 second trip report May 2012
                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8761... third trip Oct 2012
                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8986... fourth trip Mar 2013
                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9085... fifth trip June 2013
                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9227... sixth trip Oct 2013

                                            1. re: grayelf

                                              Wow, magnificent. Thanks grayelf.

                                              I'm shifting now to Little Bird for V-Day, as there seems to be universal praise for this place, and they do hold a limited number of tables without reservations. (We're way beyond the timeframe to make a legit reservation, so we plan on arriving right at 5pm to minimize whatever wait there may be). Then we'll walk around downtown a bit, and make our way over to Salt & Straw for dessert sometime later in the evening. What do you think?

                                              I've got a lot more reading up to do for the rest of our trip, and your reports will be of great benefit. Thanks again.

                                              Mr Taster

                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                Sounds like a great plan! S & S has special Feb. chocolate flavors made in partnership with local chocolate makers.

                                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                                  I agree. Great plan. If you are willing to sit at the bar, you may be able to walk right in at 5 pm without any wait at all. The full menu is available and you will not be rushed. It is also not the kind of bar area where people will be crammed up against you clamoring for drinks while waiting for their table to open up. On the far side of the bar is even some table-height seating (but only two of those exist). An after-dinner stroll to Salt & Straw is within reach, but be prepared for rain.

                                                  1. re: cobpdx

                                                    Also, now that CH moved our little side discussion of VD plans to the LA Board, I best respond here (but I am tempted to respond to you about PDX on the LA Board just to cause a ruckus).

                                                    I really enjoyed your LA "Chinese" VD suggestions. Sounds like a blast.

                                                    As for PDX, alternatives to your LB plan are below. As far as I know, none of them is doing a special VD event (which is a good thing in my book):

                                                    OX, where no one can make a reservation. If you got there right at 5, your wait would probably not exceed an hour, but if you wanted to be guaranteed the first seating, a 4:30 arrival time to put your name in would work. Either way, you go next door to their bar and have a drink while you wait for them to come get you for your table. Their food is excellent.

                                                    Another no reservations restaurant is Clyde Common, although they are in the midst of a chef-change, so I don't know how that will affect things. Great cocktails.

                                                    Also in the same vicinity is Tasty & Alder, which does not take reservations. Lively place with solid food, meant to be shared plates so you can try more dishes. We have always enjoyed our meals here.

                                                    A very different idea would be to try Multnomah Whiskey Library. They are also a "no reservations" place unless you are a member and they serve food, which actually looked pretty good when we were there but we did not order any. As the name suggests, it is a Whiskey place primarily, but they do serve other drinks (cocktails, beer, wine). They open at 4 and can have long waits. If interested, I would get there at 4 and put your name in. They will give you a time estimate and call/text when your table is available. If you check their website you can see what it looks like on the inside.

                                                    Good luck and let us know where you end up!

                                                    1. re: cobpdx

                                                      Ox says that they are taking reservations for Valentine's day. I think I would check the other popular places that don't usually take reservations before just showing.

                                                      1. re: cobpdx

                                                        Thanks for these recs, cobpdx.

                                                        An ex-Portlander friend at work said she might have some sway to get us in to DOC. She also really likes Grain & Gristle. I don't recall reading about these restaurants on Chowhound. Your thoughts?

                                                        Mr Taster

                                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                                          DOC would be great if you can get in.

                                                          Unfortunately, I do not know about Grain & Gristle. Maybe others on the board can comment.

                                                          Sorry for not checking on OX. The only thing more annoying than a place that doesn't take reservations is one that decides to only on a night where those who procrastinate might be counting on it as an option. ;-)

                                                          I see no sign that the other recommendations are doing anything differently on Friday night.

                                                          Good luck with DOC. Nearby is a bar called Expatriate that is also supposed to be very good and has some food options as well. I have heard good things. Naomi Pomeroy Of Beast does the Food there.

                                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                                            Grain and Gristle is a fun place for a comfort food dinner with great beer and top value. We went there in June (see fifth trip report) with our little niece if you want details.

                                                            1. re: grayelf

                                                              Wonderful. Thanks for the gentle pointer, grayelf. Tonight is the night I do my in-depth research, notepad in hand, and carefully go through the posts.

                                                              Old Salt was recommended to me as an alternative to Grain & Gristle (same owners). I didn't see it mentioned in your trip reports. Any input?

                                                              Mr Taster

                                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                I think it opened in June (?) and I recall reading some uneven reports; haven't been.

                                                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                  I like Old Salt and Grain & Gristle, but I don't love them, even at their best...because yes, they are uneven in their execution IMO.

                                                        2. re: Mr Taster

                                                          Another reason to avoid Luc Lac: I just read that Feb 14 is their projected reopening date after a two-month closure.

                                                          We loved Little Bird when we went for dinner in October, though I understand the menu (and burger) has changed since we were there.