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Vancouver BC Hound returning for more Portland chow

Greetings, all. We are heading back to your lovely ville in just over two weeks and I've got a rough plan to run by you for your feedback if it please you. We had such a wonderful time in March (see uberlong report here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/838708), really looking forward to returning and trying out some new places.

Friday:

Kesone for nam khao and then a 40-block run up Sandy for salt-and-pepper squid at Thien Hong

Le Pigeon -- dinner booked already, nearly messed this one up!

Saturday:

Farmers' Market (the real one) where we may brave the Pine State line.

Wildwood for their burger

Aviary for dinner

Sunday:

Ned Ludd for brunch

Woodsman for dinner

Monday:

Country Cat or Helser's for brunch

Tasty'n'Sons for happy hour burg

????? for dinner

Tuesday:

Gruner for a burg at lunch, then back home

In between we are going to try and fit in Eastmoreland Market for the arancini, lots of coffee (Red E's???), Cascade for sours and Green Dragon, maybe Henry's to check out the taps, maybe the Spints happy hour, People's Pig to share a porchetta, Salt and Straw or Cool Moon for ice cream, and more :-).

If anyone has a happy hour that really stands out, I'm all ears.

grayelf

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  1. If you're in line at PFM for Pine State by 8:10, you'll be served first at the 8:30 opening bell!

    13 Replies
    1. re: Leonardo

      LOL, I have a feeling that ain't gonna happen. Just me, yes. SO who likes to sleep in on his vacay, not so much. But thanks for the warning. I'm fairly lineup averse so we may not try for PIne State at all, especially if there is a Wildwood burger in the offing.

      1. re: grayelf

        Grayelf, having followed your posts regarding Vancouver Chinese places, I think I owe you one: Pine State is dreadful and not worth waiting for, not even a minute. Likewise Country Cat...this Texas found their fabled fried chicken some of the worst on the planet. For coffee, check out Barista, Spella (the best) and Courier in the downtown area, Coava and Water Avenue in the near-SE, Ristretto in NE for starters. Green Dragon doesn't impress me, but seems to make many happy. Breakside Brewery has a short beer list, but above average chow for a brew pub...it's far north. Horse Brass Tavern has a pretty amazing tap list, one of the most interesting in town, the chow is ok pub grub...decent burger, fish and chips...go for the suds. Since it appears you will have a car, Kesone is ok, but Rama Thai in Beverton has the best nam khao tod around and their khao man gai is better than the over-lauded downtown food cart's (but don't tell anyone...the hipsters haven't ruined this place yet). Have fun!!!

        1. re: sambamaster

          Thanks, samba, duly noted. Our Southern/Texan options are terrible or non-existent so I admit I am drawn to biscuits and such but not to where I'll stand around forever. We've got Courier and Spella on the list plus Water Ave, hit up the others in March and hope to return to some. Was thrilled to discover a local cafe is getting fresh Coava beans in so we can at least get a fix at home from time to time :-). Horse Brass is also on the (long) list of beer spots to hit. You are right that we will have a car which actually limits the number of suds we can try in one foray. I'm hoping some places have samplers like Deschutes. We may make it out Beaverton way so will look into Rama Thai which is new to my research. There is nowhere in Van that I've found that makes nam khao and I crave it!

          1. re: sambamaster

            I like Pine States biscuits alright but I don't think they are good enough to wait in the long line at the market for. Tasty'N'Sons cheddar biscuit is really good though, I would get one if you go there.

            1. re: porky pine

              Will target the cheddar biscuit at Tasty's for sure, thanks.

              I think I've come up with an idea for our Monday dinner: Nostrana. Feels wrong to go to Portland twice without trying some pizza. And the rest of the menu looks really appealing too especially the shrimp and nettle pasta.

              Looks like we'll be in town for Thursday dinner also, not sure what time so likely won't make a reso -- I've got a long short list going:

              Nob Hill Bar and Grill for the burger (near hotel, has dinner salads for SO)
              Gilt Club for the burger and maybe a cocktail
              Slow Bar for the Slow Burger
              Branch Whiskey Bar for the bacon cheese burger
              Foster Burger for the Kiwi burger (SO likes lamb)
              Violetta for the Violetta burger (in case it is going away)
              Toro Bravo for the burger or the $25 tasting menu (but wary of lineups)
              Noho's because I've never had Hawaiian food
              Apizza Scholls (but wary of lineups)
              Podnah's (but wary of lineups)

              Anything here you'd avoid like the plague? I'm aware the burgers listed aren't all gourmet BTW.

              Also thinking of turning Friday into a "lupper" snack graze out along Sandy by adding in Killer to split a burger (only $4.50 during happy hour!) and Bora Bora for something Sinaloense.

              And maybe Sunday too but with SE sandwiches (Bunk, Evoe, Olympic Provisions) to share. Would love to fit in People's Pig somewhere on Fri or Mon too... so many great sounding options... maybe next trip!

              1. re: grayelf

                Nob Hill and Slow Bar are dive bars with decent burgers, not really worth it unless you are looking for that type of thing. I'm not warning you that they aren't gourmet, just that even for their type, they aren't anything all that great. Your other burger options listed are all better, anyway, IMO. Violetta and Foster Burger also have good salad choices (I often get a burger and a wedge salad at Foster Burger.)

                Also, I go to Helser's all the time for lunch because it is close to where I work...I'm not all that impressed, go to Country Cat (which I like a lot).

                Another option could be Sunshine Tavern. They have a good burger and a great $15 steak and fries plate (they make their own worcestershire!), great pizza and really good fried oysters. Nice cocktails too.

                Noho's is mediocre Hawaiian, if you want better, go to Ate-oh-Ate.

                I don't know that you'll encounter a line at Podnah's on Thursday...but you surely will at Toro Bravo. I love TB but I have never had their burger...their other stuff is too good. ;o)

                Wildwood is a great choice for a Sat. lunch. Love their crabcakes (yes, they are worth the price tag, I promise) and they do have a good burger. Clams are also a great choice there.

                There are a lot of good happy hours in town. Cassidy's, Spints, Davis Street Tavern, Basta's, Brasserie Montmartre, Clyde Common ($6 burger and $5 awesome cocktails) - just off the top of my head...

                Do you like oysters, po' boys and frog legs? If so, EAT: an Oyster Bar is just up from Tasty & Sons...technically in the same building, I think. Ristretto is there too, if you need a cup of coffee in between...good roaster and brewer. Why move the car between HH and dinner? ;o)

                If you get to Eastmoreland, get a muffaletta there too - best in town, which is saying something in a town with great sandwiches.

                I'm not a huge Woodsman fan (though I love the chef there, can't explain why I don't care for the food) and I think it is a lousy value. If it were me, I'd go somewhere else for dinner.

                1. re: JillO

                  Happy hour suggestions noted! I was looking for some more info on happy hours and came across this site: http://www.urbandrinks.com/happyhour/... which seems to have a reasonable database for Portland.

                  Will look into Ate O Ate! Nob Hill and Slow Bar deep sixed! Sunshine Tavern noted! Most of the reccs I've been using are from extramsg's 2010 listing including Slow Bar, not sure where Nob Hill came from. Been wondering about Killer Burgers too...

                  Thanks for the reminder about the salads at Violetta, I'd like to try it before/in case it moves. I thought the Director's Park store looked kinda cute. Will also keep Foster in mind, should be a good fit.

                  Helser's is kind of an SO thing. He's been before and liked it and wants me to check it out. Plus I dig Scotch eggs :-). Will let him know about crabcakes at WW, none for me alas. Same with oysters but he loves 'em so EAT could be in the mix. Ristretto was the first place we went on our way into town in March.

                  The only time I've ever had a muffaletta is when I made a giant one for a family boating trip, LOL, so will check that out along with my beloved arancini at Eastmoreland.

                  Woodsman came into the mix based on a recc from a local Pdx storekeep who used to be in the biz. He was raving about the ham. Given that we've got Foster/Violetta, Le Pigeon, Aviary and Nostrana for our other dinners, I'm not sure what to sub for Woodsman if we bail. Other ideas that I tossed included Tabla (read it was noisy and maybe two Italians in a row too much), Otto (menu doesn't excite me), Olympic Provisions (resos for small parties only at SE location), Screen Door (?no resos), Higgins (like the look of the whole pig plate but may be a bit pretentious), Beast (don't feel like prix fixe), Castagna (only experience with molecular gastronomy at Commis in Oakland left me cold),

                  I just looked at Cassidy's dinner menu and it appeals a bunch (petrale sole!) so wondering it that would be a good choice? I think someone mentioned their burger is good :-). Also quite attracted to Gilt Club's menu (sweetbreads!) and it looks like they have a sense of humour too. And Park Kitchen menu looks great too (fava beans! cardoons! nettles!

                  )

                  Appreciate yours and others thoughts on whether any of these are better choices than Woodsman.

                  1. re: grayelf

                    Evoe is a lovely idea.
                    Tabla is more generally Mediterannean than strictly Italian, and is one of my favorites.
                    Can't imagine how you came up with Nob Hill.
                    I don't get your Helser's thing at all...
                    Service at Nostrana is so bad. Go to Ken's Artisan Pizza.

                  2. re: JillO

                    grayelf: in response to JillO's list: I stand by my Country Cat assessment: the worst fried chicken I've ever had...anywhere...and the plate was about $18!!! My friends in Texas really had a laugh about that! Podnah's meat is ok, but the sides are not worthy of the meat. Toro Bravo is a lot of hype and a lot of money for a lot of not much...I've had only mixed results there and see no reason to return...also, it's very LOUD! We finally tried Clyde Common last Fall...some of the lousiest food I've had in a very long time...they served me a raw, not rare, raw, pork chop and my SO was served the gummiest, thickest WORST "house-made" pasta you could imagine...until she got her plate, I could not have imagined such a travesty being presented, especially at the price; half an hour after they served her, they finally brought out my properly cooked pork chop (which they'd described as a "roasted rack"!!! It was not very good in any case...then the comped dessert was an absolutely terrible pineapple upside down cake...worse than anything made in the '50s from a can and a box... EAT has decent oysters, but the rest of the food is not very good (I grew up in NOLA), but the happy hour oyster thing is fine....speaking of NOLA, Eastmoreland may have the best muffaletta in Portland, but you can't even get a good one in New Orleans anymore because no one makes the bread correctly any more...but don't tell the tourists down there! Nostrana is ok for pizza...better experience and better pizza than Scholls which I also find to be another local hype-athon, not worth the effort. Violetta has apparently been granted a reprieve, for what it's worth. Re: sandwiches...Bunk is aptly named in my opinion, and sailing, once again, on trendy hype. Emperor's New Clothes kind of thing. EVOE would be a better choice, but think they may not be open on Sunday??? I'm not convinced Olympic Provisions has yet learned their craft, but I've spent way too much time in Italy and am a bit jaded by young stud-boy white kids pretending to be Italian meat wizards without having gone through the real apprenticeship known in the Old World...reading a few books on curing is not the way to become expert.
                    Just my opinions....and I'm only sharing because I've learned a lot from your Vancouver posts and feel you actually know something about food!!!!

                    1. re: sambamaster

                      Okay sambamaster, tell me what you really think ;-). I appreciate your opinions and will take them under advisement as they say. The only thing I know about food is that I like it! I find it's difficult to assess what places are like after only one visit, though I'm fairly rigid in not giving second chances when there are so many options out there. Not really fair but that's how I roll. I'm also prolly easier to please than you would be about certain dishes as I've never had "the real thing" -- if it's tasty, I'm happy.

                      Your Clyde Common experience sounds dreadful and is the polar opposite of ours in March. Whereas we had pretty awful food at Tabor, tossing most of it, and that is very much outside the norm according to reports all over the web. Luck of the draw, maybe.

                      Leonardo, thanks for the feedback on Tabla. I do like the idea of it but am worried about the noise factor which I've seen mentioned several times. I was also unaware of service issues at Nostrana, will think on about subbing Tabla for that reso.

                      Cassidy's, Gilt Club and Park Kitchen all moving up the ladder!

                      1. re: grayelf

                        Not alone in my Nostrana service experience. I've read many reports of others who had the same.

                        1. re: grayelf

                          Re Nostrana/Tabla....I've never had issues with Nostrana's service...but luck of the draw? I'd rate their food leagues above Tabla's. I had quite dreadful food at Tabla and a friend of mine, who ran one of the best Italian restaurants in the US and who made some of the most amazing pasta ever outside Italy, relates to me that he went to Tabla and the chef told him NOT to order the pasta! That it wouldn't meet his expectations...so, go figure...just sayin'! Stick with Nostrana...

                          1. re: sambamaster

                            Jeez, sambamaster, why are ALL of your opinons negative ones? I'm all for folks voicing opinons, even if they don't agree with my own, but wow, all disses and few, if any, recommendations. There's a respite from the rain, go on out there and enjoy yourself and have a positive experience! ;o)

          2. Updating my list based on further research:

            Thursday:

            arrival time uncertain so coffee at one of the Red E's then dinner at: Violetta, Foster Burger, Gilt Club or Podnah's on drop in basis is the plan (first three for burgs/salad, last for bbq of course)

            Friday:

            coffee at Spielman's and a stop at Little T for a kouign amann

            or Nancy's Kitchen for corned beef hash (it's in our hotel's hood)

            progressive SE snacks for lunch: Kesone for nam khao, split a burg at Killer, chicken at Bora Bora, salt-and-pepper squid at Thien Hong

            dinner: Le Pigeon, stop in at Cascade after

            Saturday:

            Farmers' Market (the real one), Nuvrei for a sweet after, then coffee at new Heart on Stark or Public Domain or Water Avenue or Courier or Stumptown Ace or one of the Spellas

            lunch at Wildwood for their burger

            ice cream at Lovely's 50/50, Cool Moon, 50 Licks, Salt and Straw or Ruby Jewel

            Aviary for dinner

            Sunday:

            Ned Ludd for brunch

            SE Sandwich crawl at Bunk (split a cubano), Evoe and/or Olympic Provisions

            Woodsman for dinner currently but rethinking after reading more reviews re loudness and possible lack of value (seems rather controversial, really); considering Cassidy's, Sunshine Tavern, Gilt Club or Park Kitchen

            Monday:

            Country Cat, Helser's, Detour Cafe or Sunshine Tavern for brunch -- game day decision prolly

            One of these: People's Pig to split a porchetta

            Eastmoreland Mkt for arancini, muffuletta

            then Tasty'n'Sons for happy hour burg a bit later

            Nostrana for dinner currently, may sub out for Cassidy's, Sunshine Tavern, Gilt Club or Park Kitchen instead based on such contradictory reports, still thinking about Tabla

            Tuesday:

            Gruner for a burg at lunch, then back home

            6 Replies
            1. re: grayelf

              If you find yourself downtown, great coffee and pastries can be had at Public Domain on SW Broadway.

              1. re: grayelf

                Looks good G. I always have good service at Nostrana - early on it was hit or miss, but for the past couple of years it has been good (for us and all our friends who eat there also).

                Not to add to your list, but I was just at the Driftwood Room (in the Hotel deLux) for drinks and had a few offerings from their Happy Hour menu and was pleasantly surprised.

                But my favorite place for drinks right now is Oven & Shaker in the Pearl, which is a sister restaurant to Nostrana. They are also open very late (well, by Portland standards!).

                1. re: grayelf

                  If at Farmers Mkt you're in the mood for sweets you'll have ample choices with Pearl Bakery, Alma Chocolates, and Two Tarts.
                  Another must for baked goodies is Bakeshop. Or get their stuff at Ristretto.

                  1. re: Leonardo

                    Public Domain on the list!

                    Nostrana still in for Monday but waffling re Tabla. Woodsman exchanged for Cassidy's on Sunday, looks more our style and the lure of petrale sole is great.

                    Driftwood and Oven & Shaker added to drinks list.

                    Sweets at FM noted (I believe you told me about these in my March post, and I have now added them, though Nuvrei's cinnamon swirly thing still beckons!) Bakeshop back on the radar also.

                  2. re: grayelf

                    FYI, Sunshine Tavern is only open for brunch on the weekend.

                    I haven't had bad service at Nostrana, and I go there a few times a year. I have heard tales of others, but not recently. They definitely had to work out some major kinks when they opened, but that as a long time ago. A reservation there is definitely suggested, but I also like sitting at their bar. I love Tabla too. I think they both have some fo the best pasta in the city. Nostrana is more traditional preps, Tabla is more modern. IMO, you can't go wrong with either.

                    I'd do Country Cat for brunch or maybe even Broder (great food, interesting choices - though the service can be ghastly there). I don't care for the fried chicken at CC, but it's not something I'd typically order for brunch anyway. I've also had some pleasant breakfasts at Zell's, though some might say that their best days are past. J & M Cafe is another decent breakfast choice on the east side.

                    I like Detour just fine - a million frittata choices, but I don't know that I'd go out of my way to go there.

                    1. re: JillO

                      Thanks for the further clarifications, esp the reminder about Sunshine Tavern brunch w'ends only. We do have a reso at Nostrana and am leaning toward keeping it.

                      We may bail on brunch on Monday as we will have done Ned Ludd the morning before and there are still so many bakeries to try. The SO can't handle three big meals a day, such a piker :-), so we might do the pastry and coffee thing . Though I do kinda like the idea of lots of fritattas, I take your point about Detour. And we loved J&M last trip, would be happy to go back if there weren't so dang many options, not that I'm complaining!

                      Now that the food itin is somewhat clearer, I'm off to figure out what to see between meals/snacks. Gotta work up an appetite somehow, right?

                      Thanks again for your patience and interest, Pdx Hounds. Everyone's input has been helpful, and if not used this time has been captured for next trip. My Portland restaurant list is a very sedate 22 pages at the moment.

                  3. Hey there greyelf. From one YVR hound who loves to visit Portland to another.

                    Have you considered Skin and Bones? That was the standout meal for us on our trip over Easter weekend. Small place, small menu, laid back, lots of care and heart in the cooking. SO's house made pasta was positively ethereal. I had a beautifully seasoned and juicy porchetta. I don't think they're open Mon-Wed but not sure.

                    I'd visit Bailey's tap room for brews, nowhere near the number of taps of Henry's but all local/regional and very helpful crew to help you choose. Very convivial atmosphere. No food but they have an arrangement with the Mexican place across the lane.

                    I was rather underwhelmed by my experiences at Clyde Common (like the buzzy energy but very meh food), and Country Cat (though that was a couple of years ago so things may have changed).

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: kinnickinnik

                      Howdy, kinnick, thanks for the info, especially on Skin and Bones which I hadn't come across as yet. They are only open Friday and Saturday so may not make it this time. The brunch on Sunday looks awesome too so deffo on the list.

                      We loved Bailey's in March, super chill place with just the right touch o' beer geek for us. Also had one of the best entrees I've ever had at Clyde Common on a fairly random walk in.

                    2. Nice plan! Enjoyed reading your report from your last trip.

                      re: Toro Bravo

                      To me, it's pretty solid. Much more so if you go in thinking Spanish-influenced PNW food rather than 'I want authentic Spanish'.

                      My experience has been that the best stuff tends to be at the beginning of their menu. Their pintxos, tapas, the 'french kisses' prunes stuffes with foie gras. Moving down the menu I've found a few more disappointments.

                      14 Replies
                      1. re: jonoropeza

                        Good intel, jono, and thanks for the kind words. I often make a full meal of appetizers if I know a place excels at them so that sounds just right. I read a post where someone got a table after only 5 mins at 9 pm so perhaps there is hope!

                        1. re: grayelf

                          I like to do the same thing. St. Jack in the SE - as if you need *another* name - is a favorite happy hour spot of mine. They have a fried tripe dish that I can't get enough of, a salad, cheese plate, moules, and a burger. We'll get all five and that's dinner for the two of us. Good bartenders, good drinks.

                          Navarre is yet another spot. Much more like places in Spain than TB is. Owner knows a good deal about Spanish wine. Have had two very nice meals there, just sitting at the bar eating tapas and enjoying a bottle that he's picked out.

                          I was in San Francisco last weekend. Ate well, don't get me wrong. But this town - especially now with SF booming due to the social media IPO buzz - the value we get at some of these happy hours here in PDX, compared to what you get in SF... it's really, really nice.

                          1. re: jonoropeza

                            Agree with the St. Jack rec. Love that place. Love the Pied au Cochon when they have it, frogs legs are AWESOME, great cocktails, super wines (some of them by the carafe - can have a couple with several courses at great prices) - another can't miss place for dinner.

                            We are so freakin' lucky!

                            1. re: JillO

                              Jill: Speaking of that neighborhood, what are your thoughts on Bar Avignon and Savoy? Have had both on the to-try list but just haven't gotten around to trying them yet.

                              Grayelf: Another one for your wine-and-apps list is Kir. They have a fantastically nichie rose-heavy wine list and the dishes go well with the type of wine. Close to Le Pigeon. A night starting at Kir and finishing at Le Pig is a GOOD night. :)

                              1. re: jonoropeza

                                I so want to like Savoy, but every time I go there, I am disappointed. They do have a re-vamped menu I see, so maybe things are better. Their HH menu looks good too...might go and thry that first. ;o) Guy that owns it also owns Broder, whose food I like, but whose service is often dreadful.

                                But for the money, I'd rather go to Sunshine Tavern these days. I've had some great meals there, and the $15 steak frites are fantastic (and last night they subbed asparagus for the fried for me - so nice)/

                                I've never eaten at bar Avignon, just have gone there for drinks.

                                1. re: JillO

                                  Hey all, can anyone tell me more about Woodblock Chocolates? Their facebook page says the website is down, and there isn't an address on fb. Most I've found is references that they sell at Olympic Provisions -- do they have any other retail outlets??

                                  1. re: grayelf

                                    I've seen their stuff at the Woodsman Market (next to the Woodsman Tavern on SE Division) and at The Meadow up on N. Mississippi. I'm not a fan of the texture and bitterness, though I heartily salute what they are trying to achieve.

                                    For chocolates Cacao, Alma, and The Meadow are your best bets. Alma just sells what they, themselves, make (and it is great); the other two sell local and imported stuff (and the local stuff is often not found in many other places - like Sahagun and DePaula Confections).

                                    1. re: JillO

                                      Thanks, that is most helpful. Though I'm hoping to hit Olympic Provisions, it's good to have options. The SO is quite keen on dark choc and his current fave is Choklat from Calgary. Thought Woodblock might be similar. Is it that the texture is too grainy?

                                      Deffo going to try to nab some Alma and Sahagun. Adding Cacao, DePaula and The Meadow to the list.

                                      I'll be heading back to NW Sweets for some more of their peanut caramels. I normally dislike nuts in candy but those rock.

                                      1. re: grayelf

                                        Get the caramel by Sahagun at Cacao.

                                        1. re: grayelf

                                          In case I forget to mention it in my (overdue) report post, I loved the Woodblock Chocolate. But I am not a fan of dark choc generally so YMMV. I enjoyed the strong citrus notes and the smooth texture.

                                          Also super sad to report that Steve Gazda's Northwest Sweets is no more after 2.5 years of operations. The shop is still there but it's new owners and the wonderful caramels are gone. I understand Steve made them all himself so that's no surprise as he is now the pastry chef at a local resto (didn't catch the name). If anyone knows where he's making desserts, would you pass on the intel? I'd love to check out what he's doing now.

                                          1. re: grayelf

                                            Replying to my own post to let y'all know that I found out Steve Gazda is now at a restaurant in Dundee, Oregon called Paulee's which was mentioned on a couple of recent threads on the Willamette Valley. He's the pastry chef and it sounds like the other exec chefs and chef de cuisine, Daniel Mondok and Sean Temple, will be familiar to locals: http://www.pauleerestaurant.com/ May have to check it out on our next trip as it seems it's less than an hour from the city.

                                            1. re: grayelf

                                              Daniel Mondok is one of the best chefs around here. Many have been awaiting this opening eagerly!

                                              1. re: JillO

                                                It does look very promising, will keep my eye out for reports.

                                  2. re: jonoropeza

                                    All noted, especially Kir which I hadn't run across. Interesting your point about the happy hours in SF vs Pdx. That was my sense too based on extremely limited exposure. But then again the idea of happy hour at all just about makes me want to dance so I'm pretty excited to see them anywhere :-). Will see what we can fit in to an already jampacked itin. And of course, there is always next visit. And there will be a next visit, count on it.