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Mar 3, 2012 12:33 PM

Vibrant, buzzy, happening restaurant in Portland with excellent food?

Hi everyone. I need to make a decision on where to eat on our one night in Portland, and also a night that will finish our trip to the Pacific NW on a high note. I've spent a few hours reading through various posts so I'm familiar with places such as Andina, Little Bird, Castagna, Le Pigeon, Beast, Departure etc. The problem I have is choosing! I am looking for a place that of course has great food, but also something with a buzz, a restaurant that feels vibrant and happening. Also a restaurant that, if possible, feels very Portland - we're from London in the UK and have eaten in cities such as NYC, LA, Chicago, New Orleans and always felt each place  we had (carefully) chosen had a vibe unique to that city. Food wise we eat fish, though not meat, but don't mind a restaurant with limited choice as long as that choice is good. We'll be staying near Laurelhurst Theatre but don't mind about the location, happy to travel anywhere. Can you help?? Thank you!

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  1. If you're feeling Asian (specifically Thai) try Pok Pok. I believe it's in the SE neighborhood, located in a residential area in a large, renovated house. The concept fits in perfectly with Portland's libertarian, DIY vibe. They have a few veggie/fish options, though if you're willing to break the rules for one night their chicken wings are amazing. I would recommend calling ahead for reservations.

    Edit: I dug up an old F&W article on the place if you wanted more research.

    Pok Pok
    3226 SE Division St, Portland, OR

    1. There are outstanding places right there in the hood including Ken's Artisan Pizza, Navarre, and Tabla. I agree that Pok Pok is also a viable option. These are all what I would call Portlandesque at its best. Other top contenders must include Genoa and Castagna.

      1. Thanks both, great suggestions! Ideally it would be a restaurant that takes reservations (which I know Pok Pok doesn't) although this isn't an absolute must. Also, I have to mention, having recently been to Bangkok where I gorged myself on cheap and delicious street food, eating Thai anywhere else has lost its appeal somewhat. (-:
        What kind of restaurant is Castagna? I can't get a good 'grip' on it. What would you say makes it stand our from somewhere like Little Bird or Park Kitchen, which I've perhaps been leaning towards so far?

        6 Replies
        1. re: belma79

          Castagna is fancy cuisine with a molecular, very modern, but the plates look like the forest, and the ocean and they evoke the NW. The ingredients are locally sourced and sometimes foraged for...can't get much more PNW than that!
          there are some good pics here, so you can get a feel for it

          1. re: cheeseisheaven

            This is very helpful, thank you! What would you say the atmosphere is like on either Fri or Sat? As mentioned we like the idea of a more energetic place as opposed to somewhere that feels a bit stodgy. It doesn't look like Castagna would be the latter, but would be good to get your take on it!

            1. re: belma79

              Castagna, stodgy? Get outta here! Besides, that's hard to find anywhere in Portland.

              Glad to hear you got to try Chiang Mai cuisine in Bangkok.

              Have a great time. Please report back!

              1. re: belma79

                Maybe not was calm when I was there...but not stodgy...if you want the most happening new place, Go to woodsman taven for drinks, and then head over to Castagna for food....

            2. re: belma79

              Love Castagna.

              I doubt you had Pok Pok northern Thai food in Bangkok.

              1. re: Leonardo

                Thanks for the reply Leonardo.
                North, or more commonly northeastern food from Isaan, is precisely what I was eating in Bangkok! It's very ubiquitous. Funnily enough I actually ate at the place shown in the photo on Pok Pok's homepage - although this is actually Jek Pui, a popular stall in Chinatown selling Chinese style Thai curries. See here:  It was exceptionally good. 


            3. Buzzy? "Very Portland"?....

              You are looking for Woodsman Tavern on Division

              1. Thanks everyone! I'll definitely check out Woodsman Tavern, good tip.
                What's the general opinion on Park Kitchen and the The Bent Brick? They seem quite happening!