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Nov 5, 2012 10:04 AM

Dining solo in downtown Portland, not too far from train station. Love wine and seafood (and coffee)


I am looking for an informal place where I can eat very well but also comfortably as a solo diner (I don't mind eating at the bar) for a couple of nights in December. I will be picking my hotel based on proximity to good Portland eating, but it can't be too far from airport transportation and the Amtrak train station. I won't have a car, so it needs to be in an area safe for walking between restaurant and hotel.

Should I go with a Paley's kitchen (Paley's place or Imperial)?

Sorry I don't know the downtown area at all. I've looked at other threads but am unclear if they are mainly for couples who are dining or also have frequent solo diners. Le Pigeon looks too meaty for me. Ditto Ox. I am mainly looking for fabulous salmon and a good local wine list. (Paley's have that?) It would be nice if there was great coffee in the same neighborhood.

I'm not expecting a hotel recommendation. Just the names of the some promising restaurants and coffee vendors that a traveler using airport and train would find convenient but very tasty. I am willing to pay for excellent fresh ingredients and skilled preparation and appealing wine list.

Thanks for any guidance you can give.

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  1. Courier might be worth a look downtown. The moustachio'd barista has the touch. Right near Powell's if you need a book fix. Also great pastries.

    1 Reply
    1. re: grayelf

      Are you referring to the Courier Coffee Roasters on SW Oak? I doubt I'll be that far south.

      Also, maybe I should have specified that what I like is espresso. Unfortunately, I can't edit my subject line anymore.

    2. Thoughts about Jake's for oysters and simple grilled salmon in December? What is the ambience?

      Maybe I also should have said in my first post I am not interested in any place doing sous-vide.

      1 Reply
      1. re: barberinibee

        Recent experiences of Metrovino for food, service, ambience? (Their wine list is so appealing).

        Interested in thoughts about Accanto as well.

      2. B - absolutely go to Paley's Place (let Imperial settle down a bit). Get a seat at the bar or in the "bistro" (which is the simply the tables in the bar) - totally comfortable eating there solo and wearing whatever. The salmon, when they have it (which is alot of the time) is fantastic, as is a large majority of the menu. They have a good wine list, mostly local, with selections by the glass and the bottle. It is right on the streetcar line, so easy to get to from Downtown. And, frankly, within walking distance of downtown if you don't mind stretching your legs - the blocks aren't as long as they look on a map! If you give me a heads-up a couple of days ahead of time, I can text Patrick and find out if they are going to have salmon - they only have it if they can get it direct - super fresh.

        Another place for a fantastic selection of local wines in Oregon Wines on Broadway. They don't have food, only nibbles (think cheese, nuts, like aperitivo in Italy) but have a very large selection of wines by the glass - exclusively from Oregon. It would be a great place to start your evening.

        If you like fresh oysters, Jakes Famous Crawfish has a great selection (very fresh due to the volume they go through) and I would be comfortable eating in the restaurant or the bar - I prefer the bar, but that's just me. I can't comment on the wine list (I would imagine it is fairly pedestrian but might have some Oregon finds) because I am usually having cocktails in the bar but you can always pick up a bottle at Oregon Wines on Broadway and bring it with you. It is the oldest restaurant in Portland, so it has an old funky vibe.

        Have you picked your hotel yet? That might help narrow down my recs.

        I usually go to Stumptown by Powells for my espresso fix, if I am out of my Sant' Eustacchio beans! :-)

        15 Replies
        1. re: ekc

          One other excellent that I totally forgot about until hubby reminded me tonight that is downtown is Higgins. They have an excellent way with salmon (and nearly everything else) and have a good wine list. I would be a very happy girl going to either Higgins or Paley's.

          1. re: ekc

            Thanks very much! I am going to pick a hotel based on its proximity to either Paley's or Higgins. That's my normal M.O. when traveling. I like to be able to walk back to a hotel after dinner. So I'll check out the menus at those places and make a choice.

            I believe I am going to be taking a train out of Portland, so I hope to pick up some wine and to-go food to eat on the train. Once I've picked a hotel, I may be back looking for advice about some place to do that near the hotel

            Thanks for the kind offer of contacting a restaurant in advance about salmon, but I won't have a US phone until I reach Portland, and can't text from Europe due to my phone plan.

            Thanks again!

            [EDITED TO ADD: I am thinking of staying at the inn at Northrup Station so I can eat dinner at Paley's, but first I would walk over to Metrovino for wine flights and nibbles. Sound like a plan?

            1. re: barberinibee

              That sounds like a great plan B - and I was going to suggest that hotel. If it is totally pouring, you can also take the streetcar to Metrovino (it stops about 3 blocks away). You can also take the streetcar from Inn at Northrup to downtown - and it stops 3 blocks from Oregon Wines on Broadway, 3 blocks from Higgins and 3 blocks from Jake's, so you have lots of options. From your hotel, you can also walk down NW 21st to Ken's Artisan Bakery for fantastic baked goods (I love their canele) and good espresso (I can't remember which brand of beans they use). There might be a better place for espresso on NW 21st/23rd, but I am not usually in that neighborhood for a cafe (even though I only live 11 blocks away)!

              So many choices, so little time!

              1. re: ekc

                Thanks for all your assistance! Does Ken's bakery have sandwiches available in the mornings as well as pastries in case I want to buy a lunch-to-go to eat on the train?

                What are canele?

                1. re: barberinibee

                  I can't recall what time Ken's starts serving sandwiches - I can run by this weekend and check (a good excuse to pick up a canele). What time does your train leave? Another very good option is Lovejoy Bakery, which is very near the train station (3-4 blocks away) and is my morning stop. They don't start serving sandwiches until 11, but if you need to leave earlier they have some savory pastry options, also great rolls (I love the walnut) that you could take-away to have with some cheese you saved from your cheese course at Paley's the night before! :-)

                  Oh, canele are fantastic to eat but hard to explain. They are from France (maybe Burgundy, specifically) and are baked (traditionally) in a hot cast iron mold, so the outside gets crispy (almost looks burnt sometimes) but the inside is still moist on the inside. Almost looks like a tiny tall bunt cake - but totally different texture. Mmmm ....

                  1. re: ekc

                    Please don't go out of your way. I am extremely unlikely to get on a train before noon, so stopping by Lovejoy sounds easy, plus I do make a point of eating great cheese when I am in the Northwest US -- and you are right: one of the things that sold on me on Paley's was their cheeses. I forgot the USA has "doggie bags"! But I probably should order a double cheese course to make sure I have some leftovers for lunch. ;-)

                    Thanks too for the description of canele. Sometimes bakeries don't identify the stuff on display, but now I'll know how to recognize it. I was wondering if it was some kind of canal-shaped pasty, a la cannoli, or if it was some form of cinnamon bun, but now I will look for a mini-bundt.

                    Grazie mille!

                    1. re: barberinibee

                      Ah yes, the Paley's cheese course ... it has been my downfall on many occasions! And one of the frequent leftovers in my fridge! One of the things I really like about it is that it is very well sourced and all of the servers but especially the "cheesemonger" are really knowledgeable about the cheese they are serving that night. I don't know who will be working when you are there, but just tell your server (or Lisa the bartender if you are sitting at the bar) that you would like to talk to someone about the cheese selection and they will find the right person.

                      I sometimes miss the doggie-bag option in Italy!

                      1. re: ekc

                        Oh, and to catch the streetcar from your hotel to Lovejoy Bakery and the train station, just walk down 21st to the corner of Lovejoy and the stop will be on your right at the gas station. For Lovejoy Bakery, get off at the first stop after the streetcar turns onto 11th (you will pass a Starbucks on the corner). Walk back to Lovejoy and the bakery is on the corner of Lovejoy and NW 10th. If you need directions on how to walk to the train station LMK - I live across the street from Lovejoy Bakery so I know the 'hood!

                        Oh, I hope you get to try the canale - we had a friend from France say they (and the croissant at Kens) were the best he had since he had been home to France. But they are very small (and skinny) - you might need 2 or three!

                        If you need any more info, feel free to email me at ekc at brownrask dot com

                        1. re: ekc

                          thank you again for all this TLC about guiding me in Portland! I am more likely to blow my calorie budget on cheese and wine than sweet desserts, and since I am not much of a pastry eater, so I think I can restrict myself to 1 canele. The all-goat-cheese options are Paley's were really appealing.

                          In the past, planned trips to Portand have been cancelled at the last minute, or diverted to other parts of Oregon, but if this one holds, I feel quite ahead of the game when it comes to good food and wine. Thanks again for taking the time to help. I do appreciate it.

                          1. re: barberinibee

                            Sounds like some great plans so far. Puzzled why you are dismissing Courier on SW Oak as too far "south". It is a few steps from Burnside. Outstanding coffee and baked goods.

                            Have fun. Please report!

                            1. re: Leonardo

                              Looking at a map, Courier looks like a long walk from the Inn at Northrup Station and the train station. Wrong? I won't be in Portland for long, and it will be in December, so I'm thinking I'd better find places that don't involve a lot of walking.

                              1. re: barberinibee

                                Courier is around the corner from Powell Books, so is about 0.6 mile from the station, mostly flat. But yes it is a distance from the Inn. I suggest you get all-day tickets for the streetcar to get around, quite cheap actually.
                                Jake's is a tourist trap.

                                1. re: Leonardo

                                  The Inn at Northrup Station used to give guests a free ticket for the streetcar, so if you end up staying there, make sure you ask about it!

                            2. re: barberinibee

                              Thanks many times again to all Portland 'hounds but -- in what is something of a pattern -- venue was changed away from Portland, and thus I never got any of these delicious-sounding eats!

                              Portland is highly likely as a future possibility, so none of this information is going to waste, and I hope it helps others who might search this board and find these tips.

                              Supporters of all things Portland might be pleased to know that despite my not actually going to Portland, I ordered a New Year's gift for a friend from Powell's Books, which mailed it out today, so I am becoming a big fan of the nice people of Portland.

                              ciao a tutti e auguri...

                              1. re: barberinibee

                                Thanks and you're welcome. When people follow up with a report, it encourages future help to others. And vice versa. Hope you can make it soon!