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May 10, 2012 12:18 AM

Return Trip: Help me narrow down my dinners

Hey all,

Heading back to Portland from NY in a few months for three nights, and looking to narrow down some choices. One night will have to be Le Pigeon (I go here every time I'm in town, can't get enough). That leaves two night, and so far I was thinking about...

Nostrana - Eat a fair amount of Italian in NY. Still worth it?

Clyde Common - This menu really interests me. I'm into cocktails, but the rest of my party is not, so that should not really be a factor. Without the drinks, is it worth coming for just the food? If I do go, on a Thursday or weekend night (~6-8PM, 4 people) what kind of wait would I be looking at?

Toro Bravo - Have been wanting to try it for the last few years, but the inability to make reservations along with long waits scare me off. Others in my party are really not fans of long waits. Four people, peak dinner times, Thurs/Fri/Sat nights, how long of a wait should I expect? Is the neighborhood interesting (ie, if we went early knowing we would have to wait, is there stuff to browse in the area for an hour or two)?

Ned Ludd - Looks and sounds very Portland, which is great.

Aviary - A little concerned about the limited menu

Laurelhurst Market - Usually avoid steakhouses but this one looks interesting

Castagna - Also thought about eating here last year while Lightner was still at the helm. Now he's in NY, generating an insane amount of buzz, and charging $150 for meals in his tiny, likely very-hard-to-reserve space. Kicking myself as he's now cooking a bit out of my normal price range. But it sounds like the food is still great here?

Of course, I'm open to all suggestions...just didn't want to make another "tell me where to eat" thread. Staying downtown, but have a car so can go anywhere. Any type of food works, but would probably avoid any asian (although will be hitting Pok Pok for lunch). Prefer bigger, interesting flavors, lots of fresh/local produce, meat, etc.


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  1. All those places will have their advocates and detractors for variety of reasons. While it doesn't get lots of run and is probably seen as a passe recommendation but if you're looking for bigger, interesting flavors with local produce and meat I would have a hard time not pushing you to consider Wildwood. Dustin Clark can really freaking cook. The food there over the past couple/three years is totally top notch if what you are looking for is full on "NW cuisine." They have a good wine program and while they may not be as flat our cocktail-y as Clyde Common, Beaker, etc. they do have good bartenders that make good drinks. The clientele is certainly older than most of the places you describe so it won't be a raging time but the food and booze will be straight up what you are saying you are looking for. They also do lunch so maybe you could work it in there if you want more of an atmosphere laden environ for dinner.

    I haven't been to Toro Bravo in quite some time but I think an hour minimum is what you should bank on as far as a wait unless you want to eat at 5. There are a couple of bars nearby to pass the time. If you are going to be downtown and it's a "few months" from now the new Paley's might be open. From what I've heard the realistic opening point is probably around September. That might be something to keep your ear to the ground about.

    1. All great choices, including the WIldwood rec below.

      Yes, Clyde Common's food is a good reason to go there, even if you aren't into cocktails. Their menu is one of those "shopping list" types which drive me crazy, but the outcome always proves that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

      I love Nostrana and I am from NYC. It's a hard call. Cathy Whims is a great chef (nominated for waht seems like a bazillion years in a row for a James Beard Award - being dubbed the "Susan Lucci of the JBAs" these days. ;o) and the food is awesome...but I hear you. Then again that 2 kilo porterhouse, which is sublime and $60, would cost you over $100 in NYC, as would some of the $40 bottles of fabulous wine...and it's not likely you are going to be able to get Laughingstock Farms Pork in NYC. So yeah, I can make the argument, and mean it, either way...sorry! ;o)

      DItto for Laurelhurst is great - and you can have an amazing meal here even if you don't order steak. We have amazing farmers around here and the quality of the meat and the veggies is outrageous - LM, like Nostrana, has chefs that tend to err on the simple side of preps, letting the womderful ingredients take center stage.

      How about thisplan - if you feel that you really just want a simpler meal, instead of an entree with 20 ingredients (and it is truly possible that you might get palate fatigue) choose Nostrana or LM. A great steak, fabulous roast chicken, wonderful mussels/clams/oysters, delicious salads...these can be quite a restorative for a foodie on a mission with limited days in a land that is an embarrassment of riches. Sometimes I just want to share a big steak, a big salad and a bottle of wine, ya know?

      I love Aviary, everything I have had has been excellent...but yes, small menu. It's never been a problem for me, but I do understand.

      You could do a small plates crawl, if you can limit yourself at each stop and do both Aviary and Ned Ludd in the same night.

      1. Thanks for the replies! Wildwood has been on my radar the past few years, but have always gone with something else, thinking that it seemed a bit more staid than I was looking for. The current menu looks really good though, so I'll definitely add it to the list.

        This is too tough, everything looks great.

        Is Beast still good? Doesn't seem to get much note on CH anymore...

        3 Replies
        1. re: crsin

          Wildwood is a rare fine dining beast - it is open for lunch, even on Saturday...might be a way to try it without sacrificing a dinner spot. I love their crab cakes, and they make a great burger. I've been there for lunch and for dinner, many times, and I have never had a bad meal there.

          I haven't been to Beast. I love Naomi Pomeroy's food but I am not a huge fan of communal table dining, especially at that price point. On vacation, however, that might not be a bad thing - you can get to know some locals and ask some questions about places you want to go. Also, now that it is starting to get warm out, there are usually two 2-tops outside in addition to the communal tables inside. It's on my list, but price-wise it is a special occasion spot, and special does not jive with communal for me. She is going to be moving the restaurant downtown soon, though, so maybe that will change...

          If you want to try something that is unlike anything you have ever had, go to Tanuki. SIgn says "No sushi, no kids" and she means it. Say you want the omakase for $20 or $25 each and pick a bottle of sake out from a great list and prepare to be amazed. If you have more than 2 people, know that there is only one 4-top there and you will wait for it. And if crazy Japanese zombie strippers or animated x-rated hamsters aren't your thing...well, I guess Tanuki shouldn't be on your list. ;o)

          Yeah, there are a lot of great places to eat and drink around here. We're lucky and we know it. ;o)

          1. re: JillO

            Had a good streak going of Saturday lunches at Wildwood earlier in the year. While the menu isn't as extensive or intricate at lunch the food is terrific nonetheless and if you're a sitting in the bar and eating kind of person it's great. They also have a small patio if the weather is good.

            1. re: JillO

              Word on the Beast move is sometime after Labor Day; I was *promised* by Ms. Pomeroy on our most recent visit (March 2012) that it wouldn't interfere with an early September planned trip. And, it's very easy to ignore other diners at the same table, probably easier to ignore them than to draw them in. So I wouldn't let that stop me (we are also very much NOT communal table people).

          2. Not to muddy the waters for ya, but if you haven't been, St. Jack is awesome. Great food, fabulous cocktails, super wines (some of which are sold by the carafe, which I like). Frog legs are amazing, delicious charcuterie, specials like pied au cochon should not be missed...another spot where you can't go wrong. Reservations are definitely needed.

            1. By all means check out Little Bird. It's perfect for a light meal or something substantial. Highly recommend reservations. The bar has great cocktails. Wonderful vibe there. Second the recommendation of St. Jack. Roost for breakfast on the weekend. June for dinner. Biwa for ramen and izakaya noshing. Noisette for something a bit more substantial. And there's always Le Pigeon, too. Get there right before 5p and nab a seat at the bar to catch all the action the chefs have going on. Thursday's, Fridays and Saturdays are best. If you'll be here on the weekend, check out the PSU farmers market that opens at 8:30a. Great goodies to bring home and many choices for breakfast. Lastly, Frank's Noodle House for handmade/cut noodles. The dumplings are to die for.