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Feb 11, 2012 09:25 PM

YYC Hound comming for a visit, where should I try?

Hey there guys, so I'll be visiting Portland for the first time in April, and I'm looking for some good food and good coffee. I'll probably be staying for 3 or 4 days; what are your recommendations for stops?

I'm looking for anything that Portland specifically does well, both locally inspired and ethnic. Price range is pretty flexible, if the more costly options are worth the price I'm fine with doing so.
I'm not sure how the sushi is, but I'd like to include a sushi stop if it's decent by costal standards . (I love sushi, but being from a land-locked province means I don't usually have access the the best quality fish.)

Also, Calgary has a pretty good selection of Vietnamese food so probably not looking for that this time around.

Otherwise I'm wide open to suggestions, what do you feel Portland does best?

Also, I love coffee what cafes should I check out?

I already know Coava and Stumptown.

On my list so far:
-Pok Pok
-Paley's Place

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  1. Adding coffee shops to my list:
    -Public Domain
    -Water Avenue

    Who's coffee does Barista use? Their website is a little cryptic...

    Also, any I've left out?

    7 Replies
    1. re: OrigamiDuck

      Coffeehouse NW
      Cellar Door

      Just to name a few more... ;o) We could be at this all day...

      Stuff we do well, hmm...

      I'd try Chiang Mai in addition to Pok Pok because we definitely do Thai well here. Also, Ping (Andy Ricker's other than Pok Pok restaurant), though not Thai is another good choice. Wafu has amazing food, including delicious handmade noodles and other yummy stuff (very reasonably priced too).

      Though I am friends with the owner I heartily recommend Mi Mero Mole for Mexican guisados - not your typical Mexican joint, homemade handmade tortillas made fresh, wonderful stews. I pay to eat there, just like everyone else, and gladly do so...often more than once a week.

      Closer than Texas (and better than most there according to aficionados) is Podnah's Pit BBQ - it's about the meat, not the sauce. Great ribs and brisket and lots of other stuff:

      Alas, you'll get much better sushi elsewhere (like Seattle and Vancouver BC)... If you have to, Murata and Mirukatei are your best choices, probably followed by Bamboo and Masu (which used to be owned by the same folks, but not anymore
      )(Murata and Mirukatei are owned by old-school, older Japanese men who obviously don't give a hoot about websites - they have none ;o)

      Indescribable and not found anywhere else is Tanuki. It is neither Japanese nor Korean but often both, sometimes neither. It is a bar with awesome drinking food (salty, hot) and no sushi for the over 21 crowd...and yet that doesn't even describe it. Some of the most interesting and delicious food you will eat, a fabulous sake and drink menu. Worth a cab ride, for sure. Sit down (and be hungry) and tell them you want a $15 omakase...and the food will just keep on coming. Cult Japanese and Korean movies play soundlessly, but are sometimes pornographic...just a warning. ;o

      ANother place to get your ramen on is Boke Bowl. I have not been, but I hear it is great from many folks - both their regular fare and their new Korean Chicken night>

      Fabulous cocktails and interesting and tasty food downtown would be CLyde Common. Food is always better than their menu descriptions, for sure.

      If you like the molecular gastronomy thing, Castagna is the place to go for that here:

      Wonderful pizza, Laughing Stock farms pork dishes, awesome whole fish preps and pastas, salads, great wine list and cocktails - this is a can't miss spot for a great meal, one of the best chefs in town - make a res:

      Another great place is Laurelhurst Market. It's a "modern steakhouse" but so much more. All the food is great - veggies, seafood/fish, as are the cocktails and winelist. Make a res:

      A huge fave with locals and visitors is Le Pigeon. (make a res. here too). Communal seating or at the kitchen bar, wine no cocktails:

      Genoa is great for a multicourse Italian-ish high end meal, or it's sister cafe Accanto next door for more casual eats:

      We have some great local ice cream places. Cool Moon has many flavors and the best hot fudge ever. Salt & Straw makes some very interesting flavors with a high butterfat content (around 17%!) and local ingredients.

      Also some great chocolate places. Cacao sells some fabulous stuff from locals and imported stuff too. They will often sample you something if you ask nicely, and make some of the most amazing drinking chocolate you have ever had. Alma makes and sells her own stuff, and her chocolates as well as her chocolate cakes and baked goods are delicious and beautiful.

      Alpine/German/?? food has two really fine representatives in town and both also offer great cocktails. Gruner also features the best burger in town (either at the bar, or for lunch, only). Spints has an impressive beer list and some nice desserts as well as a killer charcuterie board and the rotating special "dirty pretzel" - though, their website sucks.

      Pizza? Apizza Schools is great thin crust stuff in the Connecticut/NY style, but often crowded on the weekend, so go on a weeknight, if you can. Dove Vivi has a thicker cornmeal crust and great toppings - very different but seriously delicious. Nostrana has a sister restaurant that specializes in pizza, called Oven & Shaker that also has killer cocktails. And Via Tribunali, which started elsewhere in the US, opened a place here recently to great reviews, though I haven't been there yet.

      Great tapas with local ingredients - seriously delicious food, always crowded - Toro Bravo:

      Best charcuterie board and wines byt the taste and glass is metrovino:

      Odd, Portland-y wood fired oven fare is Ned Ludd:

      Awesome French food with great wine and cocktails is St. Jack:

      Seriously, this list can go on and on...any way you'd like to zero in on things you're looking for would get you more responses...I am waiting for folks to get back to me with info at work and have time I do not usually have...

      Also, many of these places are on the east side of town, but all are worth the effort...

      1. re: JillO

        Whoa! Thanks for the extensive reply!

        From that list the ones that interest me most are:

        -Chaing Mai (Although my time may be limited, so perhaps just PokPok this time around?)

        -Mi Mero Mole (We have a lack of Authenic Mexican food in my city, we have a little bit but I've never heard of 2/3 of Mi Mero's menu)

        -Wafu and Boke bowl both look good (Is one better than the other?)

        -Le Pigeon (Love that sort of menu)

        -Nostrana looks good, but I'd probably only do one 'italian' stop this time. The websites for the two you mentioned are dead so I'm not really sure where I'd like out of there. (Love italian food though).

        -Salt and Straw looks like they have some crazy awesome flavor, and it's kinda cool that they farm source the cream.

        -Both Chocolate Places

        -Haven't had much experience with Alpine/German but would love to try, both look good to me but I'm leaning toward Grunger, how does the food compare between the two?

        -Dove Vivi (I love trying new things, and I've never had a corn-meal pizza before)

        -Laurelhusrt (Love the menu, although Alberta is beef country, so I'm not sure... Given everything else available is it worth it?)

        -Toro Bravo (All the food looks good, plus $30 for a tasting menu sounds good.)

        The Rest:
        BBQ Sounds good, but I have limited time and I like the other choices better.
        Clyde Common, again looks good but the menus elsewhere look more appealing.
        Tanuki looks AMAZING but alas I am not drinking age in the US. Same for Metrovino.
        Molecular Gastronomy interests me, but I'm hoping to visit Europe within a year or two so perhaps I'll save it for a restaurant over there.
        The rest of the pizza looks good, but I tend to prefer Neapolitan style, which I can get in Calgary.
        Ned Ludd looks a little too simple. Don't get me wrong, I love simple well-executed food but given everything else there is to try I think I'll hold off this time.
        St.Jack, I love me some french food, but I can also get pretty amazing french in Calgary. (I'd try it if there was more time.)

        1. re: OrigamiDuck

          Wafu is only open for dinner, Boke Bowl only for lunch, except for Boke Bird (Korean Chicken on Thurs. nights). That might be the decider for ya. Wafu has a much more varied menu and usually some great specials (last time I had an amazing $5 hand roll special - crab or raw salmon, don't remember). It is also next door to a weird kava bar, that might be an interesting beverage stop. (Kava makes my mouth tingle and tastes like dirt, but some love the pseudo-high you get from it.)

          Gruner is more expensive and upscale than Spints. I personally prefer Spints food, but I have many friends whose food opinions I value that prefer Gruner. Gruner really does have one of the best burgers in town though, if you have a hankering. Spints does a good happy hour where the charcuterie board, dirty pretzel and other things are discounted, if that makes a difference.

          Well, Laurelhurst Market is more than a steak place, and I, personally, would rather go there (or Nostrana or Toro Bravo or many other places) than Paley's, but I am not the biggest Paley's fan. Lots of folks love Paley's, though. It is higher end for Portland and more expensive than any of those I have mentioned...if that makes a difference.

          In addition to timing (breakfast/lunch/happy hour/dinner), location might also make a difference for you. I suggest you map out the places you are most interested in and see where you can get to in one trip. Like hitting Alma for chocolates before they close, a happy hour bite at Spints, and then a pizza for dinner at Dove Vivi - they are all blocks from each other either on or off of NE 28th/Glisan, easy to do all in one outing (esp. because you can buy chocolates, etc. to go from Alma's chocolate shop).

          1. re: OrigamiDuck

            I would go for Pok Pok over Chiang Mai. CM is great, but Pok Pok is one of the best Thai restaurants in the country and a local institution.

            I would go for Wafu over Boke Bowl. The ramen is, in my opinion, better, there is more going on on the menu and the bar is great.

            Definitely Gruner over Spints.

            Don't overlook Ned Ludd -- I truly think it's the most "Portland" restaurant in the city.

            I'd also suggest looking at Natural Selection. It's a vegetarian supper club, but you seriously won't miss the meat -- they do beautiful things with vegetables.

          2. re: JillO

            JillO, do you have these on a save string? if not, you should! Or the Portland board should. I'm a Portland newbie but I've noticed the constant and repetitive inquiries about places to go here ... and I'm a big fan of Chiang Mai as well. In fact, I probably went there on your recommendation, and their khao soi is my dream dish.

          3. re: OrigamiDuck

            Barista almost always have Stumptown and Intelligentsia and usually at least one rotating guest coffee. Unlike the others on your list, they don't roast their own, but they're still definitely worth a visit for top notch baristas and coffee nerdery. I like their Albera location a lot more than their Pearl one.

            Your list is a good one - I would specifically say go to the Stumptown Annex for a cupping (they're free and public and I think happen twice a day).

            1. re: chalmers

              Thanks for the reply,

              That sounds good, I've had Stumptown in Seattle before and quite liked it. As for Intelli, all of the cafes in my city that use it tend to have pretty inconsistent baristas so it would be nice to try their coffee from a solid team. Thanks for the tip on the cupping as well, will definitely check that out.

          4. Jill-O's list is awesome. Agree that you should skip the sushi here in Portland. We have some really good vegan restaurants here - Portobello, Blossoming Lotus and Natural Selection. On the opposite side of the spectrum...for charcuterie...Olympic Provisions.

            1 Reply
            1. re: MyNextMeal

              Aww, thanks MyNextMeal!

              I'm not at all a fan of Blossoming Lotus, but I am a big fan of Prasad...

            2. Hey Everyone! Thank You for the suggestions!

              Here is my trip report:

              Day 1:

              Lunch at Nostrana:
              Had Cappellini with kale pesto and mussels. Simple, delicious and well prepared. Also, I normally don't comment on bread at restaurants, even if it's good, but the bread at Nostrana was so good I can't help but mention it!

              Dinner at Le Pigeon:
              Very, very nice. Tried pigeon for the first time in the form of a pigeon tartar (just slightly sous-vide to set the protein). Served in a pecorino broth this dish was a delicious introduction to pigeon for me.
              For a main I went with the Rabbit, it was cooked sous-vide in a truffle cream, stuffed with lardon, and served with trumpet mushrooms, as well as a nettle and crepe 'lasagne'. Everything was cooked nicely, amazing amounts of umami flavor, but the dish still managed to show of the flavor of the rabbit itself as well.

              Overall, quite impressed.

              Day 2:

              Lunch at Boke Bowl:
              Had the seafood miso ramen, added an egg and a side of kimchi. The noodles were very nice, as were the shrimp and veg (could have used a little more veg IMO though). The broth on the other hand was lackluster, fairly bland, definitely had better elsewhere. The kimchi was nice though.

              Overall, a decent lunch but would have been way better if the broth had been more flavorful.

              Salt and Straw:
              Very impressed, delicious and creative flavors. I especially liked the olive oil, but ended up going for the mint chocolate chip with lemon confetti (I'm a sucker for mint).


              I originally went to Dove Vivi, where I ordered the kale salad and a slice (upon recommendation by my server) the corn pizza. The kale salad was alright, I've had better but it wasn't bad. Then came the pizza...

              I'm pretty sure that slice of pizza could have competed for the greasiest food I have ever consumed in my life. The flavors of the toppings were bland and slightly sweet, and there is no tomato sauce on this one, so really all the toppings did was add the appearance of more richness to an already greasy pizza. I took no more than two bites before I felt sick so I got up, paid and left.

              After walking off the nausea I still felt fairly hungry (as all I had eaten was a salad). So I headed down to Mi Mero Mole in hopes of having some better luck. I ended up ordering the 'plate' with pork mole and an asparagus-garbanzo stew. Overall pretty nice, the service was great, and very fast, veggie stew and tortillas were good. The mole on the otherhand was much less impressive, the pork was fine, but the sauce lacked complexity and the dish was served cold (parts were warm, which makes me think maybe the dish hadn't finished warming up in the kitchen yet?)

              Overall it was decent, and I'd give it another try but I'm in no rush to return.

              Day 3:

              Lunch at Pok Pok:
              Had the "Pok Pok Special", which was half a roasted game hen, served with sticky rice and Pok Pok (Papaya Salad). Quite nice, everything was nicely cooked and I especially liked the flavor of the papaya salad (though I was expecting it to have more heat, based on some reviews I had read).
              I also tried the Lychee drinking vinegar, which was pretty good (reminded me a lot of kombucha), and was a good choice for taming the heat of the meal. Also, the pandan in the water was a nice touch.

              Overall though, I don't think it lived up to the hype.
              Don't get me wrong, it was a tasty meal and I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I suppose I was just expecting more given its reputation.

              Cool Moon:
              Stopped by Cool Moon Creamery for some ice cream. Tasty flavors, I ended up going with the lemon curd and poppy seed, which is a much loved flavor combination of mine, but never one I've seen done in icecream for before. Good Ice Cream, though overall I think I'm more partial to the flavors and mouth-feel at Salt and Straw.

              Dinner at Ned Ludd:
              I was originally going to forgo Ned Ludd for somewhere else but on Chalmer's advice I opted to check it out.

              THANK YOU!

              Seriously, this was probably the best meal I had in Portland. Started with an Arugula Salad, with some olives and oranges, as well as some radish and Parmesan cheese. This was definitely one of the best salads I have eaten, ever. Perfectly dressed, perfect ratio of toppings to greens, perfect balance of flavor, and some of the nicest tasting olives I've had in some time.

              The main was a Braised Lamb Shoulder, it was served pulled in its braising liquid (some kind of Mediterranean spiced broth), with charred veg of some sort (can't recall the name, they resembled rapini), yogurt, harrisa, beans, and some flatbread.
              The flatbread and beans were alright, but could have been better. Beans were a little tough, as was the flatbread, nice flavor on both though. Otherwise immaculate dish. Lamb was perfectly cooked, fall-apart tender and very flavorful, as was the braising liquid. The veg was also perfectly cooked with a nice smokey flavor without tasting like carbon as charred things sometimes do.

              Desert was an Olive-Oil cake with whipped cream and a crumble of orange candy and almonds. Pretty tasty but a little too sweet for my taste (would have been much better if the cake itself hadn't been so sweet). This was the weakest point of the meal, but one I'm more than willing to overlook given how good everything else was.

              Thank You again everyone for the suggestions, I had a great time in Portland and I hope I'll be back again sometime. Also, if any of you ever need suggestions for Calgary just let me know!

              5 Replies
              1. re: OrigamiDuck

                So glad you had a good time! Thanks for reporting back.

                1. re: JillO

                  jillo, i will be visiting my daughter at UP this weekend, and plan to use your great post as a guide. thanks for taking the time to write it!

                  1. re: chez cherie

                    You are very welcome chez cherie! And we all appreciate that you took the time to read posts on this board without posting a new request. ;o)

                    1. re: chez cherie

                      Back from PDX with a full belly! Had a great meal at Aviary (in the Alberta area). Oxtail croquettes and a smoked artichoke for starters. I had hoisin-glazed shortribs for my main--super tender and deep flavor! darling daughter enjoyed her steak with marrow and onion rings. too full for dessert. we visited ken's artisan bakery twice, it was so great! 1st time had an "oregon croissant" with huckleberries, hazelnut creme and pearl sugar--so crunchy and flavorful! then lunch--great white bean soup, lovely garden salad with cornichons, and a super grilled cheese with aged gouda on walnut bread. oh--and we had to try the croque monsiuer! and a hazelnut caramel tart! and a fab fresh grapefruit macaron. yeah, we liked ken's a LOT!
                      my fav meal was probably ned ludd. i went alone, very early reservation (5 pm), as DD was performing in a poetry slam that evening. sat facing the woodfired oven so i could watch the action--everything is cooked in that oven, with pear, apple or cherrywood smoke perfuming all the food. i had flatbread--which is the opposite of flat, as it's puffed full of woodsmoked good! pork terrine was terrific, especially with the pickle plate--really brightened up the rich pork. (jalapenos, red onion, mushrooms, apple, celery and my fav--fennel.) so pretty and bright. my final dish was just great--roasted cauliflower with nearly blackened tips, atop creamy, rich cauliflower puree. over the top of this was a green olive tapenade, which again, provided a bright, briny contrast to the rich and smoky puree. staff was terrific--they guys tending the oven saw my interest, and invited me back behind the pass for a closer look on the way out. (bought them a beer for their trouble!)
                      i alos really enjoyed a visit to cheese bar. enjoyed a lovely syrah rose (on a gloriously sunny day in pdx) and a cheese plate which included a spanish raw sheep cheese, a goat gouda and schlossberger (raw cow). the cheeses were accompanied by a apricot mostarda that was pretty and tasty. nice and knowledgable folks here.
                      had bfast one day at country cat. biscuit was ethereal, and i'm not real biscuit-y. pear butter was super. the bacon is housemade, and such a salty-smoky-chewy-porky treat! the homefries were amazing--crunchy and salty exterior that crackled under my tetth, with a flaky, steamy, mealy (in the best possible way!) interior. i hardly tasted my eggs--the sides were so great!
                      can't wait to come back--in fact, i'm seriously considering setting a food-based novel in the hawthorne distirct (or maybe in the alphabet area---so i can visit ken's more!)
                      thanks, jillo and other pdx chowers for some good suggestions!

                      1. re: chez cherie

                        Sounds like a tasty weekend! Don't worry too much about which neighborhood to base your story in, I think that your characters can travel around the city (so you can too! ;o).

                        Thanks for reporting back!

                2. Also, reporting back on coffee:

                  There is A LOT of good coffee in Portland, I'm envious.

                  I tried the following cafes: Stumptown Annex, Heart, Coava, Water Avenue, and both Barista locations.

                  Stumptown: Great, friendly and knowledgeable service, and pretty yummy aeropress (I had the El Injurto (Sp?))

                  Heart: Good service, though not quite as good at Stumptown. Fantastic coffee, both Aeropress and Espresso. Tried their Colombian Aeropress and I can't recall the single origin espresso I had, I want to say it was a Colombian as well though.

                  Water Avenue: Great Service, Nice Espresso, meh on the pour-over. Pour-over was El Salvador , can't recall the origin of the espresso but it was a unique processing method where it is allowed to ferment while still on the tree. (Sort of like 'Natural' processing taken one step further I suppose).

                  Coava: Sorry to say, for all the love this place gets I just wasn't feeling it. Espresso was ok, a Colombian I think. The pourovers tasted kind of flat to me, some decent chocolate notes on the end but not much going on. (I went back for a second try, which WAS better, at least better than Water Avenue, nut not as good as any of the others.)

                  Service was pleasant, though not as knowledgeable on the subject of coffee as some of the other cafes.

                  Barista: Both locations were fantastic. Great service at both, great espresso at both, easily my favorite cafe. I liked the space on Alberta better, but the Pearl Location was much more conveniently located and had its own charm.

                  Between the two I think the Alberta location did a SLIGHTLY better job with the drinks, but Pearl was still better than all the other competition. The espressos I tried were Owl's Howl from Sight Glass, an Ethiopian from Stumptown, and an Ecuador from Counter Culture.

                  So overall, everywhere was pretty great but best service goes to Stumptown Annex, and best Espresso goes to Barista.
                  Id probably give best brew coffee to Heart, but the brew methods were different between cafes and Barista doesn't offer by-the-cup brew so YMMV.