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Sep 25, 2012 11:26 PM

Trip report: a great weekend at Screen Door, Mother's Bistro, etc

This weekend I visited Portland for the first time, and it was a fun few days - a lot of eating, a little drinking, and a little exploring. Thanks to this board for so many delicious ideas. I'm looking forward to my next visit!

Here was our itinerary, mostly planned but with some things improvised:
Perriera Creperie - improvised snack while exploring downtown
Hair of the Dog
Cascade Brewing Barrel House
Salt & Straw - pre-dinner ice cream while we waited for our dinner reservation, why not?
Natural Selection
Voodoo Donut
Mother's Bistro
Screen Door
Nong's Khao Man Gai food cart
Eat This! food cart - improvised while exploring the pod at SW Alder and 9th/10th Ave
Cacao Drink Chocolate

I don't need to repeat a lot of what's been said about these various places, but I'll call out a few things. The highlights of the trip were Screen Door and Mother's Bistro. I'm not sure why there aren't many great Southern restaurants in California, if at all, and Screen Door certainly has them beat. I wasn't planning to go here, but I'm glad I did. Great shrimp and grits, salads, banana/toffee pie, and especially, fried chicken - amazingly juicy and so well seasoned you didn't need gravy or hot sauce. Jambalaya was tasty but slightly dry, and it was a shame that the corn bread was also dry and bland. Nonetheless, great food and fun atmosphere for extremely reasonable prices.

Mother's Bistro is a great place to have brunch in a quaint setting - benches, pillows, small chandeliers, and servers that talk about out of body experiences. More important, the food is great. Every breakfast/brunch dish I tried at my table was hearty, fresh and delicious. I was especially impressed with the different scrambles.

I enjoyed Natural Selection overall and got to try one of everything. Although a couple dishes didn't work so well, the meal improved with each course, and after dessert, I was quite happy. I was struck by how quiet and focused the chefs were in their small open kitchen, and it was refreshing to have a quiet meal in such a popular restaurant. If this was LA or SF, it would not only cost $15-20 more, but it would also be uncontrollably loud.

After sharing some tasty chicken & rice from Khao Man Gai, I continued to explore the food carts there and decided to try a flatbread sandwich from Eat This! food cart. The friendly chef put together a brisket, onion ring (fried to order), roasted pepper and BBQ sauce sandwich for me. The flatbread was also cooked to order and had a nice chewy texture that held up well. Solid sandwich/roll, and even though he has a few preset combinations, he's happy to use whatever combination of ingredients you want.

Finally, a word on Voodoo ... I know, this board has repeatedly warned people to avoid them and for very good reason, but I just couldn't help myself! Naturally, I had to wait in a line, and the donuts were disappointing. I appreciate some of the combinations of toppings they have, but I still prefer a simple glazed donut, and they're not worth the trouble for that sort of thing.

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  1. Thank you for the report...yes, voodoo is a tourist trap, that we try to keep CH'ers away from...but does anyone listen??LOL!!! Glad you had great meals, and enjoyed your trip! I love the attention that you get at the food carts, they are a real treat!

    5 Replies
    1. re: cheeseisheaven

      No...sigh...they never listen.

      Voodoo's marketing is some of the best I have ever seen...and at least they do some really good things in the community with the money they make...but their donuts define "meh"

      I like Screen Door for dinner better than for breakfast, and love their constantly changing seasonal/local veggies/salads menu, but that line keeps me away all the time. Haven't been in years because of it, but I do like their food.

      Thank you for trying to help us warn folks away from Voodoo as a good donut choice, but I doubt you will be any more effective. ;o)

      Glad you had a good trip!

      1. re: JillO

        Thanks! Definitely enjoyed the friendliness towards customers at all the food carts I looked at even though I only ate at 2. I hope to visit some other pods next time.

        Agree about the Screen Door seasonal/local veggie sides - the salad I had was great, and the other sides at my table were tasty as well. A nice local twist to the menu. We had heard that the wait can be over an hour, so we went a little later for dinner on Sunday and only had to wait about 10 minutes luckily!

        Yeah, Voodoo poses quite a dilemma - although I was disappointed, a couple friends really enjoyed the kooky toppings. I wish that with all the business they do there, the donuts would at least be fresher/warmer, really would have helped.

        1. re: mikeop34

          When you are open 24/7, there cannot always be fresh donuts on the trays, ya know? But yeah, any out of the fryer donut is better than one that has been sitting there for a few hours.

          Glad you had some of those veggie things at Screen Door. They get short shrift by many, and it is a shame. Not that I'd kick that mac and cheese out of bed...some of the best I've had. I love doing the "Screen Door Plate" deal - I usually get fried catfish and mac and cheese and one of the salads...great food and a great value - still under $15, I think.

          1. re: JillO

            "When you are open 24/7, there cannot always be fresh donuts on the trays, ya know?"

            That is why voodoo sucks. If they had any sense they would take those stale donuts off the shelves and give them to the poor or trash them.

            They really are no better than the donuts you get at a grocery store.

            1. re: ronin223

              Well, to be fair, they also suck because they don't use great ingredients.


              The jelly they fill their eponymous donut with is awful, for example.