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Jersey chowhounds coming to Portland looking for Recs

We will be in Portland the first week of August, and are staying at the Mark Spencer Hotel. We have a few places we want to check out, which I will list below. We plan to have 2 dinners that will be on the pricier side, and hope to have 2 that are inexpensive/more reasonable, but not at a total dive. We like small plates, and often make a night of doing a bar/ food crawl so we can sample from different places. We would appreciate any recommendations relatively near the hotel or easily accessible by public transportation. Also looking for suggestions of breweries, distilleries, and of course happy hour!

From reading past posts, we are interested in Toro Bravo, Roe, and Ned ludd... But they seem to be far from where we are staying. We are hoping to go to one of those spots, but will need closer options as well.

Luc lac intrigues us, as it seems inexpensive and fun. We are open to all types of ethnic cuisines - Asian, sushi, Spanish, Peruvian, or any type of seafood. Not really looking for any traditional Italian or anything too heavy. Any suggestions and recommendations would be much appreciated.

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  1. Portland is such a fun place to be a gastrotourist, as I know well -- we are planning our sixth trip for October, all within 20 months!

    No idea what Vietnamese is like in NJ as alas I've never visited but Luc Lac was pretty lame with a couple of failed dishes. I didn't find it cheap either. Really long wait for food even after waiting to be seated, and this was not at a peak time. Drinks were good but not stellar -- you can do much better in Portland for cocktails.

    Love Ned Ludd after one brunch and one dinner. Toro Bravo didn't thrill me for afternoon snacks. Haven't done Roe yet but seems a solid choice.

    Not to diss downtown but I feel like a lot of the best options are a bit further out if you can bear it. Cabs are pretty cheap here I think (we drive up from Vancouver BC so have a car with us). This is the case with breweries and distilleries for the most part as well. There is a taproom downtown that you might like to check out: Bailey's Taphouse. It's pretty barebones but they have some cool stuff on offer and the value is outstanding. Also loved Horse Brass in June but that is alas not downtown. I'd pass on Deschutes though it is close, and we haven't been impressed by anything we've tried from Rogue either.

    I'll do my standard "Don't miss Evoe" for a lunch or late afternoon snack, even though it is on Hawthorne.

    1. Don't shy away from walking and taking bus/streetcar/train. Things are not as far away as they seem. Don't be the typical tourist, sticking to downtown.

      Agree that you can skip Deschutes/Rogue in favor of eastside places such as Coalition, Amnesia etc.
      Distillery Row such as New Deal is not to be missed.
      Not much in Peruvian but Andina and they are pretty fusionish, but I like it.
      Fully endorse your top three picks.

      1. Definitely do Roe if you can. Only open Thursday, Friday, Saturday. You can take a bus from downtown to very close to the restaurant or cab it.

        For most everything else, if you are reasonably mobile, you can do a combination of walking and public transportation and do just fine.

        For a bar/food crawl, try Imperial, Tasty & Alder, and Kask. Kask has fewer food options, so I would either start or end there. Great cocktails at all three locations; the only one that is truly a bar is Kask, the other two are restaurants with well-made cocktails where you could also eat. You could add in Little Bird if you wanted to or save that for one of your less expensive dinners - it is a great restaurant in it's own right.

        By the way, if you could define what is expensive vs. reasonable, that would be helpful.

        WAY out, but definitely inexpensive and fun, would be Tanuki. Cab ride might be a little pricey, but you would make up for it with lower food costs. You can get your fill with just a $15 or $20 omakase.

        Speaking of omakase, a lot closer in is Biwa, which does a great omakase for $35. Optional sake pairing with that as well for an additional $25, I think???

        2 Replies
        1. re: cobpdx

          Thanks so much to all of you for your help. We booked a table at Roe for that Friday night, which will be our celebratory anniversary dinner. I'm not sure what their prices are like, but from the little menu info I found, that will probably be our more expensive night if we each do a tasting menu and have a bottle of wine. Otherwise we would like to try to stay under $80 if possible for our other dinners. We typically don't get 2 entrees, which is why we favor small plates/ sitting at a bar and ordering appetizers or sharing an entree. it's good to know that the other parts of town are accessible, we are very active and don't mind walking and exploring the city.

          1. re: RedMP202

            For the full tasting menu it was $100 while we were there, but that gave us 10 courses. At $10 per course, I felt it was worth it!

        2. A few choices within walking distance of your hotel:

          Tasty & Alder
          Grassa (see my previous post about my recent meal there)
          Lardo
          Oven & Shaker
          Imperial and Penny Diner (not my fav but people love it)
          Jake's Crawfish for raw oysters and a good old-school cocktail
          Ping

          2 Replies
          1. re: ekc

            Jake's is a tourist trap.
            Ping is closed.

            1. re: ekc

              We are also staying at the Mark Spencer this week and These have been very helpful. Last night we had pasta and the beautifully fried frito misto at Grassa. I just came back from Tasty & Alder. I hate dining outside and I have trouble eating if I am overheated. But we ended up at an outside table and it was worth every bite. The grilled octopus was tender, and the lemon zest paired perfectly with it. We had the pork skirt steak and were blown away. Hard to decide which of those two dishes we liked the best. We could easily go back and eat that same meal again tomorrow night.

            2. I'm visiting Portland for the first time next week and I'm also staying at the Mark Spencer (for 2 nights. 3 other nights at the Ace Hotel). Based on recommendations from other posts on this forum, I plan to visit the following spots, which look to be within walking distance from the MS:

              Meals:
              Evoe
              Tasty & Alder
              Ken's Artisan Bakery
              Andina (maybe)
              Olympic Provisions (maybe)
              Stumptown Coffee (at the base of the Ace so just around the corner from MS though I hear there are many locations. And yes, people will say there is better coffee in Portland but I want to try this amongst others)
              And somewhere to be determined with amazing seafood.

              Treats:
              Salt & Straw (ice cream)
              Blue Star Donuts
              Cacao

              Misc Food:
              Portland Saturday Market (also open on Sundays)
              Pioneer Courthouse Market (Mondays only)

              Outside of this area, I have reservations at Le Pigeon and hope to visit the following:
              Pok Pok
              Tin Shed (maybe...seems quite far away)
              Viking Soul Food (food cart)

              Like I said, I haven't been to Portland so I can't review any of these places until I get back. Locals can feel free to nix or support my list. Just wanted to give you a list of options that had been previously recommended here and are close to the Mark Spencer. :)

              15 Replies
              1. re: cellophane_star

                Evoe is not really walking distance from the Mark Spencer (unless you're a pretty serious walker -- it's 3.4 miles, which google maps says will take 1 hour 5 mins). Do go though!!

                1. re: grayelf

                  I'm going to try to get there!

                  The one that's close to my hotel is Pastaworks NW. It appears that Pastaworks Hawthorne is the Hawthorne location is considered the "real" Evoe? Would I miss out if I only went to the NW location? I can't tell what the difference is.

                  1. re: cellophane_star

                    While there are 2 Pastaworks, only the one on Hawthorne has Evoe (a small restaurant sort of inside the store).

                      1. re: cellophane_star

                        So glad you're going to try to make it to Evoe. It's my favourite restaurant so far in Portland after five trips in the last year and a bit. I've never had a dish I haven't loved there (even his foie gras was tasty, and I normally dislike all things livery). Do beware of the shortened hours. Evoe is only open Wed to Sun, so you'd have to go Sat or Sun I guess.

                        I like the Pastaworks store on Hawthorne -- you can get many of the items that Chef Gibson is using to make his dishes right there. We've taken home a lovely mustard and an elderflower syrup having tasted them in Evoe offerings.

                        1. re: grayelf

                          Thanks for the heads up. It may be a problem... I'm only in town Saturday afternoon to Thursday morning, with a BrewCycle tour scheduled for Sunday late afternoon & Le Pigeon reservations on Tuesday night. Looks like the only possible time would be Wednesday evening. Hmmm... it is our last night there. Could take some effort!

                          1. re: cellophane_star

                            Maybe a late lunch on Wednesday? Hope you can fit it in!

                2. re: cellophane_star

                  Tin Shed? Do Spints instead.

                  Portland Saturday Market has horrible food. Instead, go to Portland Farmers Market at Portland State Univ.

                  1. re: Leonardo

                    Not a local but big +1 on Spints -- outstanding brunch food with a slight German twist and ridiculously good value. Tin Shed was kinda meh.

                    Totally agree re avoiding the food at the Saturday/Sunday market. It's not terrible for crafts but don't eat anything. Go to PSU on Saturday instead. Really. Get Lauretta Jean's biscuits. REALLLY.

                    For other coffee, Maglia Rosa is near your hotel and the owner is an award-winning barista so fingers crossed she is pulling when you go. Courier is also worthy and nearby with great baked goods.

                    Cacao is great -- try the drinking chocolate. And it is right by Blue Star, where I cannot resist the hard apple cider fritter nohow.

                    1. re: grayelf

                      We fly into Portland at 1:30 on Saturday so I'll miss the market on that day :(

                      Thanks for the coffee recs!

                      Hadn't heard of Spints - will research. Thanks to you (& Leonardo above)

                      1. re: cellophane_star

                        Oh sad! But if you love biscuits, all is not lost. Lauretta Jean's has a teeny tiny takeout spot near Bunk downtown at Cafe Velo (no sandos or seating) 600 SW Pine Snr 6th just off Burnside (503) 224-9236 -- call first as they sell out of stuff. And a much bigger one on SE Division http://laurettajean.com/?page_id=91 Their hand pies are pretty awesome too.

                        1. re: cellophane_star

                          Also consider Portland Farmers Market's two other downtown locations Mon/Wed, plus Sunday morning in King neighborhood. But sadly, Lauretta Jean's is not there.

                          1. re: Leonardo

                            Where are the other two locations? King and Shemanski Park? Those are the only one I found online (at http://www.portlandfarmersmarket.org/) besides Pioneer Square (Monday).