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Help a solo woman in Portland reconfigure her list, because it's not working (researched)

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I'm in Portland for the week working on a project, and I had a whole food plan, but it isn't working out, because I'm realizing I have different needs than I thought, not being with my DH on this trip. For instance, last trip here we ate twice at Clyde Common. Great fun, great drinks, went back yesterday and the vibe doesn't work for me AT ALL now that I'm by myself. Too crowded at the bar; not a place where I can sit and read and people-watch and maybe strike up a conversation but only if I feel like it.

I also went to Cartopia yesterday at lunch for Pyro, but the little field trip wasn't fun either without my DH. Lest you think I am just going to be sad here, I have a new plan to find a few Chow-worthy dinners where I'd feel comfortable solita. I like to eat dinner at the bar, rather than feeling isolated at a table; but I don't want a glam scene or a place to hook up. Just seriously good (not heavy) food, friendly staff, and a more laid-back vibe, not a super crowded "scene." I realize I may have to sacrifice some eating quality for the right atmosphere but that is (SNIFF!) okay with me.

For dinners: I ate at Saucebox on Night #1 with some friends from Seattle. I thought of going back there because that seems like the right bar atmosphere (with people, but not packed; large bar where you can order dim sum) and the steam buns with crab were amazing. But I want to try new places!

Original dinner plan: Gruner. Walked in last night and the bar was too small; it was strictly for a few people waiting to eat dinner. Switch to lunch at Gruner? Other dinner ideas are St Jack and Little Bird. Would one of those work?

Original cocktail plan: Do some of my work in the bar at the Heathman. Result: Even at 8:30 p.m. the bar (lounge with chairs, and also the bar proper) was deserted. Original plan: Fun cocktail at the Driftwood Room (I don't mind a theme-y atmosphere, it sounded sweet). Result: Too dark to see my hand in front of my face; deserted. Original plan: one of the cocktails at Picnic House. Result: Deserted at 8 p.m. Where is a friendly, bustling but not packed place that I can sit and have an excellent Willamette Valley red, or a super delicious cocktail, or even a local brew, not feel like I am with children? I need ideas for grown-up drink places that are good at 8-9 p.m., not 11 or midnight, because I am not out that late this time.

For lunches, I haunt the farmers markets; there's nothing that makes me happier than talking to farmers and eating their cheese, sausage, fruit. And I'm trying Khao Mon Gai on 11th/Alder, and Mai Pho (if they can serve me Pho without cilantro!). What do you think of Lovejoy Bakery for a change? and there's that park nearby to sit outside. Am I missing a great solo lunch spot? I had counted on my elaborately researched food cart tour. But as I said, it was just too sad to trek around to the carts by myself (the ones out of downtown) and eat alone among the darling hipsters and gangs of friends at the picnic tables. Another thing is when I'm alone, I eat lighter, and so the PBJ fries and the basil-coconut milk shakes are lost on me. Food cart culture is for friends! although I am definitely going to Salt & Straw.

For breakfast I've been going to Prasad after my yoga class. That place is lovely.

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  1. I just want to say that I know Salt & Straw is not a food cart! I meant to say that I'm going off my "eating lightly" plan to try ice cream there several times.

    1 Reply
    1. re: BrooklynDiaspora

      Salt & Straw does have a cart on Division by Pok Pok.

      Great downtown park for lunch very near Alder pod: Director Park, SW Park & Yamhill.

      Other ice cream worth trying: Ruby Jewell new shop on SW 12th.
      Bar idea: Teardrop.
      At Mai Pho, Nary is a sweet lady who will accommodate your special requests.

    2. Wow I would never recommend Saucebox because I would definitely categorize it as crowded and meat-markety...

      I've had a lovely dinner at the bar at St. Jack. Highly recommended.

      I'd also recomend Hokusei for sushi. SItting at the bar at a shushi joint is always a good idea anyway.

      Another place I've sat at the bar and had a great meal is Ox. It's fairly new and has just been written up, so it is gonna be crowded...but it's worth the trouble.

      Maybe Toro Bravo? Great tapas with NW ingredients.

      Try Cool Moon in the Pearl for ice cream. I like Salt & Straw, but I love Cool Moon (best. hot. fudge. ever.)

      And, btw, Gruner has a realted sister bar around the corner called Kask.

      Also try Teardrop for cocktails.

      1 Reply
      1. re: JillO

        Metrovino.
        Still good food, good drinks, good wine. Usually good for some conversation as well if desired.

      2. Bar at Paley's Place is fun but small so it can fill up quickly but if you get a seat you will invariably meet nice folks and the food is great. Beaker and Flask also has a good combo of fun, lively bar and very good food. Higgins' bar is great but maybe less oriented toward interaction with other bar sitters.

        1. I've eaten solo at:

          Blossoming Lotus
          Toro Bravo / Tasty and Sons / Interurban
          Biwa

          Places I haven't been, but would be on my list...
          Riffle NW
          Wildwood
          Evoe
          Nostrana

          1 Reply
          1. re: MyNextMeal

            Second the Evoe suggestion. I'd go back as a solo for sure. Snacking and chatting at the bar was one of the best experiences we've had yet in Portland. It's only open Wednesday to Sunday 12-7 though: http://pastaworks.com/pages/about-pas...

          2. Maybe this site will offer suggestions:
            http://www.bunrab.com/dailyfeed/2012A...

            1. Thank you, everyone. I feel much less lonely and confused now. I'll report on my solo dinners in a new thread, but as an aside wanted to say I had an excellent, traditional congee this morning in the hotel (Paramount) restaurant — I'm not a breakfast person, and not a hotel restaurant person, but wow, this was GOOD congee, brothy and hot, with tofu, bok choy, and tiny crispy bits of fried garlic among the scallions floating on top. Perfect for a cool morning, and the wait staff was great. I doubt if Tastings East gets much love on this board, so I wanted to say something!