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Honeymooning foodies from LA--->PDX: Help us narrow down our choices!

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esculent Sep 7, 2012 10:33 AM

Traveling to Portland next week (Thurs-Sunday) with my new husband and we're feeling overwhelmed with all the great dining choices. Please review our itinerary and let us know what we should pare down to. We don't have anything planned other than eating and wandering around, so activity suggestions also appreciated. Due to unforeseen circumstances, this weekend trip has now become our actual mini-honeymoon, so we can splurge on meals as needed.

Location: We'll be staying at The Nines and can rent a car, if needed.

What we eat: Everything (except broccoli)

What we love: Well-crafted market-driven cocktails, great happy hours, great coffee, locally grown and expertly-prepared foods. We like just about all ethnic cuisines from carts to fine dining, so bring it on!

What we're looking for: 3 Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Happy-Hour, and late-night drinking spots (we're planning to go to the PDX farmer's market on Saturday, so any stall recs there are also appreciated). We'd also particularly appreciate any recommendations for great oysters, which we love dearly.

When we started doing our research, we quickly found a lot of really yummy looking restaurants. Help us narrow down and let us know which places are better for lunch or dinner. We're not huge fans of lines unless absolutely necessary, so we'd prefer that the majority of places take reservations.

Hit List

Lunch/Dinner (Do any of these have a great Happy Hour?)
Pok Pok (heard lunch might be least-crazy time to go)
Gruner
Beast
Toro Bravo
Little Bird (is this better than Le Pigeon?)
Nostrana
Ox
Castagna
Bunk Sandwiches (for lunch)
EaT: An Oyster Bar (how similar is Parish for Oysters?)
Lincoln
DOC
Woodsman Tavern
Sunshine Tavern (for drinks/HH?)

Breakfast/Brunch
Tasty n Sons
Pine St Biscuits (?)
Saturday Farmer's Market
Coco Donuts (snack)

Drinks
Teardrop Lounge
Clyde Common
Rum Club
Riffle

As you can see...we've amassed way too many choices and would greatly appreciate your feedback to help us have a yummy trip to Portland! Thanks all!

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  1. grayelf RE: esculent Sep 7, 2012 12:19 PM

    Congratulations!

    I'm in the thick of planning our third trip in the past year so I feel your (good) pain on deciding. There are A LOT of places in Portland that don't take reservations that I want to go to. I also hate lining up, so my strategy has been to go at weird or less popular times (not always possible of course) and fill in with places that do take resos. That is what we are doing with Tasty 'n' Sons since we will be in town on an early week day this trip.

    FWIW of the places you mentioned we liked Gruner (and loved the spatzle), had an off night at Le Pigeon, thought Nostrana was solid, loved the ham breakfast sando at the downtown Bunk but didn't like the very greasy Cubano at Bunk Bar, and thought the cocktails at both Teardrop (the Artistaint especially) and Clyde Common were worthy (great game hen dish at the latter also, walked in for a late-ish dinner with no wait on a Thursday).

    You can do Pine State Biscuits at the PSU Farmers Market on Saturday morning. Just go EARLY -- the lineup when I went by on our last trip was deep already at 8:45 am. I believe they have huge lineups at the bricks and mortar as well. The market is really worthwhile, I think, and in such a beautiful setting. Keep an eye peeled for other outposts of famous places.

    I know you don't need any more things to add to your list but... Nuvrei has some mighty fine pretzel croissants, and their cinnamon orange glazed danish haunts my dreams (I've had it three times now as they also seem to stock it at Coava coffee, another worthy stop if you are looking for java in a coffee happy town). Also the cannele at Courier Coffee really impressed me (as did their semolina muffin), preferred them to the ones from Ken's.

    Speaking of coffee, I'm excited to try the new Sterling as the old kiosk was one of my top picks previously.

    And last but most, I can't wait to get back to Evoe. Only open Wed-Sun, perfect for a late lunch/snack, a bit eccentric in a good way, the chef quietly cares about everything that's going on your plate. Also in a great area for wandering, looking at cookbooks (Powell's specialty shop) and window shopping. Pastaworks next door (where you pay) is also great for food related browsing.

    Have a wonderful trip!

    1. team_cake RE: esculent Sep 7, 2012 12:48 PM

      I'm a Portlander and I'm confused by what you mean when you say the "PDX farmer's market on Saturday," since we have many neighborhood farmer's markets open on Saturdays. The PSU, Shemanski Park and Beaverton locations come to mind for Saturdays, although I'm sure there are others.

      Do you mean the Saturday Market (http://www.portlandsaturdaymarket.com/)? That isn't really a "farmer's" market, but an extensive craft market with food. If you're looking for fresh produce and the like, that would not be the place to find it, although it is excellent people watching and a place to peruse crafty things. There are lots of food vendors, so eating prepared food there is not a problem and you'll have a variety of choices. The Saturday Market has a food cart row and vendors throughout selling food items like preserves and baked goods, as well as what I'd call "fair foods" like kettle corn and ice cream. But, as I said, don't go there expecting to find individual ingredients for a meal you plan to prepare yourselves.

      This isn't a "food" recommendation exactly, but I always enjoy the coffee and iced tea from Cloud Cap Coffee Works at the Saturday Market. I was less thrilled with the food from Hawaiian Style, one of the food carts. I'm not a Hawaiian food connoisseur, but my boyfriend has spent a fair amount of time there and is a fan of the food, and we both agreed this cart's offering were okay: our food tasted freshly made, but our plates could have used more of the non-rice elements, like vegetables and protein.

      We haven't eaten at Angelina's Greek Cuisine food cart, but the gyros from there that customers walk around the market with look amazing and people seem very happy with their choice. Anyway, if you are going to the Saturday Market, you'll be able to observe people walking around with food and make up your own minds, too. Have fun!

      5 Replies
      1. re: team_cake
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        esculent RE: team_cake Sep 7, 2012 12:50 PM

        Thanks! That's probably because I'm not sure which one to go to. Everyone I know says go to the Portland Farmer's Market on Saturdays...is that the PSU one? or another one? I'll admit, I've been totally confused.

        1. re: esculent
          team_cake RE: esculent Sep 7, 2012 01:30 PM

          Perhaps your friends mean the PSU market in my neck of the woods, SW PDX; it's certainly one of the most well-known: http://www.portlandfarmersmarket.org/... or http://pdxpipeline.com/2012/03/13/por....

          There may be a Pine State Biscuit booth there, so you can kill two birds with one stone off your list, but you'll have to check around for a current list of vendors. Don't get too hung up on ticking off places on your list -- I'm sure you'll find lots of other spur-of-the moment options that appeal to you. We are in a food heaven here!

          ETA: I see grayelf recommended the PSU market specifically, too. :)

          1. re: team_cake
            r
            ronin223 RE: team_cake Sep 7, 2012 03:53 PM

            There IS a pine state Biscuit at the PSU farmer's market. There is always a long line though.

            While Pine street biscuit is good. It is not great and can be missed.

            Pok pok is good and they have a whiskey bar across the street where you can go to while you wait to get in. But again, while good can be missed. LA has far better Thai resturants and Pok pok is not in the same league as Jitlada.

            Tasty n sons and Toro Bravo are the same owners and if you are pressed for time Toro Bravo is better than tasty n sons.IMHO

            Coffee here is very very good, Stumptown would be the easiest to find but here are a lot of small carts which serve coffee made beans from local roasters. But since you are visiting. Stumptown would be best.

            I highly recommend the PSU farmer's market, really has a portland feel, and is better than the LA ones. Make sure you get hazel nuts which are local.

            Make sure you try salmon dishes it is better than salmon I've had in LA

            I do not see any breweries or brewpubs. the beers here are exceptional. I prefer widmer brewpub because of the beer and food, but others like Deschutz. Lucky Labadour gets the most praise though.

            Also, good pizza is difficult to impossible in LA. Try Apizza schools (ony their apizza amore) which is exceptional better than Pizza Mozza in LA, or Di Fara in brooklyn

            local spirit scene is taking off so try your cocktails which local spirits. Aviation gin has a real christmas like pine flavour to it. There are local gins which follow the original gin reciepes but forgot the names.

            Also try potato vodkas from idaho. Most are not available in LA.

            Foods to avoid in portland, mexican, korean, Japanese, hell most ethnic foods which are alot better in Los Angeles.

            Burgers here also suck. None are as good as In n out or shake shack or burger joint at the meridian.

            avoid voodoo donuts, just a tourist trap.

            Dishes to get

            Toro Brovo -squid ink pasta

            Pine state biscuit- the reggie

            1. re: ronin223
              e
              esculent RE: ronin223 Sep 8, 2012 11:53 PM

              This is really helpful! Thanks for the advice re: pok pok. we love the thai restaurants in LA, so good to know that it might not be a "must do." Will definitely check out the PSU farmer's market, (especially for hazelnuts which we can't get at the farmer's markets in LA). What mushrooms are coming into season up there?

              We're not huge beer drinkers, but we'd definitely try a place or two, especially if they are exceptional. I'll add yours to our hit list.

              I'm a big fan of pizzeria mozza, so will definitely add Apizza schools on there.

              Any recs for great oysters in Portland?...this is what my husband is most yearning for.

              Any breakfast suggestions for friday &sunday mornings since we might be at Toro Bravo instead of Tasty n Sons and Pine State biscuits is at the market on saturday?

              Thanks for reminding me about Aviation gin! I'm a big gin drinker and totally forgot that it was from that region.

            2. re: team_cake
              grayelf RE: team_cake Sep 7, 2012 04:16 PM

              I did indeed -- the PSU FM is possibly the most beautifully situated farmers market I've ever been to and a much better destination for a foodie than the Saturday (which confusingly is also open Sunday) one near the bridge -- it's not really worth it for the food, agreed, but we did enjoy the craft side of things there. No need to go early for that one though -- save it for Sunday, even :-). But don't miss the PSU Farmers Market!

        2. e
          ekc RE: esculent Sep 10, 2012 11:19 AM

          Honestly, one of the best places for oysters (half-shell or Roc) is Jake's Famous Crawfish. They have a good selection and go through such volume that they are incredibly fresh. Sit in the bar and have some great oysters and old-school cocktails. I have not enjoyed either of my visits to Parish and would not go there for oysters.

          I was just at Paley's Place last night and had some great oysters with a lovely melon mignonette. I had brunch at Imperial yesterday and it was really good - and they will be fully open by the time you arrive. Kenny & Zuks is popular for breakfast also (although I am not really into that heavy of a breakfast). I prefer a Lovejoy Deluxe sandwich from Lovejoy Bakery on NW Lovejoy and 10th.

          To avoid dealing with the line at Pok Pok, I would suggest eating at Ping, which is within walking distance of your hotel. Love Nostrana and would pick Little Bird over Le Pigeon 8 times out of 10. Don't get me wrong, LP is good but just too heavy for my taste most of the time.

          And yes, the Portland Farmer's Market at PSU will be a great stop for you. I love the Tastebud cart, for anything out of their woodfired oven.

          Instead of standing in line at Apizza, I go to Nostrana or Oven & Shaker for my pizza fix. Oven & Shaker is in the Pearl, within walking distance of your hotel and has excellent cocktails also and is open late.

          1. e
            esculent RE: esculent Sep 12, 2012 02:12 PM

            Thank you, everyone for your great suggestions! We can't wait to eat our way through Portland & will report back

            1 Reply
            1. re: esculent
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              oneopus RE: esculent Sep 15, 2012 10:00 AM

              You are staying at the Nines and don't have Urban Farmer on your list? Or is this a given since they are located in the hotel?

              If Pok Pok is full try Pok Pok Noi in NE. it is a good way to sample the favorites without the wait.

              good luck eating your way through Portland.

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