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Portland, round 6: help me wax victorious in the food ring!

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We are going to have seven whole dinners this time, yup, coming out for a week at the beginning of October from Vancouver, BC. Thought I'd best get with it as that is less than a month away.

Here are the links to my old reports in case you are really bored/an insomniac/interested: Feb/Mar 2012: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/838708
May 2012: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/852925
Oct 2012: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/876146
Apr 2013: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/898683
Jun 2013: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/908508

So far thinking about Bar Mingo, Din Din, Uptown Billiards Club, Bent Brick, Old Salt Supperhouse, Little Bird and Natural Selection. Possibly Ataula. May have to head back to Ned Ludd...

Anticipated lunches include Evoe (of course, possibly more than once!), Panaderia y Tienda Santa Cruz, the new incarnation of Taqueria Nueve, Sok Sab Bai, Tarad Thai Market, Meat Cheese Bread,

Happy hours might see us at Tanuki, Belmont Station, Savoy Tavern (hello, deep fried cheese curds), White Owl Social Club,
cilantro kumquat gimlet at Silk, beer at Beer (duh), Base Camp, the Commons and Hope and Vine, Three Doors Down (arancini!), Tapalaya, Oven and Shaker (I'm a sucker for zucchini fries

)

Targeted snacks: shrimp fritters with garlic sauce from PDX671, porchetta sandwich from People's Pig, Stockholm hotdog from Broder, al pastor off the proper spit at Robo Taco, salted peanut butter cup ice cream and a bicerin from Alma Chocolates, Oregon Kiss from Sahagun, doughnuts from Acme and Coco

We timed our trip to include the Fresh Hops Festival in Sellwood, so that is a must. Contemplating trying out the burger at Jade Teahouse that day.

Also interested in the Painted Hills patty at the Red Fox another day, as I am still searching for a replacement for my late lamented favourite from the now-defunct Matchbox Lounge.

Roseline coffee must be had this trip. Researching where to get it (Coffeehouse Five?) so all tips gratefully accepted. May have to check out Fresh Pot in honour of their centenary. Maybe Grindhouse too.

Bar Dobre or Roost for a brunch.

A few places I've read about elsewhere that interest me are Fat City Café (biscuits and gravy, pancakes), homemade biscuits at the Farmer's Feast (but I think this is only at the winter farmers market at Shemanski Park, so I may have to wait), Brooklyn House restaurant (where the Berlin Inn was forever), Prehispanica, brunch at the Alberta Street Pub (though it is not listed on their website),

Also intrigued by dinner and a movie at the Living Room Theatre but not sure it is worth an evening meal -- should we do lunch and a movie instead?

Whew, that's quite a list. If you're still with me, thanks for reading, and I look forward to any thoughts you might have. No budget restrictions, no dietary restrictions, will have a car...

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  1. Sahagun hasn't had its own shop in three years but her stuff can be found at various places including Meadow & Cacao. Don't recall Oregon Kiss still being produced. Get the Luscious Caramel.
    Fat City? Nothing special, really.
    I don't recall anything called Farmer's Feast at winter market at Shemanski square. But that is Jan-Feb only.
    Is the cheese festival happening when you visit?

    3 Replies
    1. re: Leonardo

      Leonardo, could you tell me which cheese fest you are referring to??

      1. re: grayelf

        https://www.facebook.com/events/40293...

        1. re: Leonardo

          I shoulda figured that out myself, duh, we went to The Wedge last year. And it is indeed the weekend we're there but it coincides with the fresh hops fest. I think the SO's beer is gonna win out this trip but thanks much for the steer.

    2. Upttown Billiards makes good drinks and has a cool atmosphere. I have never had their 5 course meal but their pizzas and salads aren't of any sort of quality that would inspire one to think the dinner food would be awesome. If the pizza crusts aren't frozen pre-formed things then they seem that they would come from a Pillsbury can.

      2 Replies
      1. re: oregonjim

        UTB - They have surprisingly an incredible 5 course. Interesting combos, generous courses, always a surprise and delight. Highly underrated and I would take any foodie there.

        Burger is also quite good and staff is attractive...and smart.

        1. re: DanielLP

          Thanks for the tips, Leo, Jim and Dan : -).

          FYI, from Sept 3 item on Portland Monthly website: [UPDATE: As of 8/30, Alberta Street Pub has suspended brunch service indefinitely]

          Also just noticed that Levant is now taking reservations for smaller parties so it is in the mix for dinner!

      2. Finally went to Roost for dinner and was favorably impressed. I'd have tried brunch by now if they were open earlier for it...we are usually early birds on the weekend, and they don't open until 10am.

        Accanto does a nice brunch on the weekends too, also starting at 10am.

        I love Bar Dobre's blood sausage and their coffee cake is also delicious. Not a very large menu though, and also open at 10am.

        We hit Lauretta Jean's on SE Division a lot for their egg/cheese/bacon/jam biscuit sandwich...it's awesome. Best biscuits in town, IMO.

        I think Podnah's does a great brunch (their biscuits are no slouch, just not as good at LJ's) and their grits are very tasty. You might spot Carrie Brownstein there if she's in town on the weekend, she's a regular. ;o) It's clear across town for us, though, so we don't get there that often, sad to say.

        Unless you have a reason to be in Multnomah Village, I'd skip Fat City - never been too impressed with that place.

        I think that Cafe Castagna (not the expensive multi-course MG place next door, their more casual cafe with the entrance on the corner) still makes one of the best burgers in town with great fries. More upscale setting, but if you are spending $13 on a burger anyway...you get your money's worth and then some here. Also great Caesar salads, good pizzas, nice seared scallops, delicious mac and cheese...and they often have a good 3-course for $29...had a huge and perfect pork chop on a large bed of seasonally inspired succotash with a butter lettuce salad and great raspberry/lavendar sorbet and cookies all for $29 - a steal.

        Tried Old Salt a couple of weeks ago. It was good, but not perfect. The GF loved the 75-day aged porterhouse, I liked my duck, we both loved the watermelon/feta/cucumber/mint salad...and both of us really liked the ice creams we tried (but not the other parts of the dessert we ordered). Worth a try, more good than bad and a decent value, just don't expect perfection...something is just a bit off in their kitchen, IMO...

        11 Replies
        1. re: JillO

          Thanks, JillO, for the helpful comments, especially the notes on later brunch starts -- I guess I should be looking for breakfast places, really!

          The biscuit at Lauretta Jean's is my favourite so far too -- had it once on Divis as part of an eggs benny riff and once from their stand at the PSU market -- heavenly.

          We also tried the burger from Café Castagna during happy hour and found it not wanting. The three-course meal there sounds outstanding.

          I read your writeup elsewhere on Old Salt, thanks for that. Let's hope it's still opening wrinkles... Even knocking it off my short list, I still have 8 contenders for 7 slots : -).

          Contemplating whether I have the intestinal fortitude to attempt the reservationless and huge-lineup-y Ox. I read somewhere that it was the previous chefs from Metrovino that started it -- anyone know if is that so?

          1. re: grayelf

            Yes, Greg and Gabi were the chefs at Metrovino and Ox is their place (in partnership with Chefstable, who also is behind St. Jack, Lardo, Racion, and others in town). They are awesome people and great chefs. If you are snacking all day, you can certainly show up by 5pm and get your name on the list and have a drink while you wait and be in a seat in 70-90 minutes. If you get there at 4:30, you can probably make first seating... I love Ox - everything is good there, not just the meat/steak - veggies, fish/seafood, cocktails, wines - everything.

            1. re: JillO

              Finally got it together to make my first reso, for Accanto brunch on Sunday, when a later start will be in order. They had me at duck hash :-). Hope to finish up my itin on the weekend and will post it for a final review from y'all.

              1. re: JillO

                Finally went to Ox on Sunday night around 8ish. While they said it would be a 30 minute wait we were seated in about 10 minutes. Its definitely worth trying. We ordered way too much food but so much looked appealing. Started with the Octopus & Tripe, and the the smoked tongue. We also got to taste the lamb heart. Then had the Uruguayan rib eye, the Kale & radicchio salad (actually one of the favorite things we ate), the heirloom hominy, the morcilla sausage (and I rarely like blood sausage - this one was sweet rather than salty), and the maitake mushrooms. Definitely a well prepared and delicious meal and one I hope to repeat on a future trip to Portland.
                Portlandfoodanddrink.com has just published a reader's choice listing of the best restaurants for 2013 if you want to see how your itinerary compares.

                1. re: FoodDee

                  Feeling we are going to have to attempt Ox!

                  If anyone is wanting to try the five courses at Uptown Billiards and likes bacon, get in there before Sept 28: http://www.uptownbilliards.com/2011pi...

                  I'm hoping they'll have an equally awesome theme for October. We didn't go last time because the theme was cherries and the SO is not a fan...

                  1. re: grayelf

                    Finally getting the dining ducks in a row (mmm, now I want a confit leg!).

                    Friday was giving me gyp until I remembered Levant is taking resos now. Done and done.

                    Saturday is still open as I haven't heard back from din din about whether they have room. Lincoln, Imperial or Uptown Billiards in the wings.

                    Ned Ludd strikes me as a good place for a Sunday dinner.

                    Little Bird for another go at a Gabe Rucker establishment on Monday. Le Pigeon did not wow us but maybe l'oisillon will.

                    Tuesday may be when we tackle the line at Ox or one of the other places we'd like to try that don't take reservations: Ataula, Oven and Shaker, Broder (though I have a note they do take resos at dinner, I couldn't find evidence on the website). Theory is lines might be less egregious on a Tuesday...plus we'll have hit up either Whiskey Bar or Red Fox for a happy hour burger so our line-up patience will be at its max :-).

                    Wednesday will be either La Bamba for some regional specialties I don't see too often, or Sok Sab Bai.

                    Thursday I'm thinking Roost. I enjoy neighbourhood haunts and it sounds like this might be one of those.

                    Anything there I should ditch, oh wise Hounds of Rosetown?

                    1. re: grayelf

                      While I am not as enamored of the Portland food 'scene' as are you, and will refrain from commenting on other choices, I must say that a trip to La Bamba will be a waste of time and money. "Regional specialties"? I've been to Mexico MANY times, lived in Texas most of my life, so access was easy, and my one trip to La Bamba was enough to let me know it was not worth further investigation. If you want regional Mexican, try Angel Food and Fun (don't ask about the name, just trust me), get the relleno negro, some panuchos, cochinita pibil, etc, or the truck at Stark and 102nd that specializes in Yucatecan stuff. Or for the upscale route, Nuestra Cocina is the real deal, well prepared comida with nice ingredients, nice ambiance. But please, do yourself a favor and cross La Bamba off your list forever. BTW: I went to Ataula the other day and found it decent enough, but not spectacular, but based only on 4-5 tapas...I would go back, but it is not anywhere as good (authentic?) as Bar Lata in Oakland, for example...but more appealing to me than that enormous Portland fraud, Toro Bravo. Just my opinion. Oh, I searched down the Roseline coffee at Maglia Rosa and found it very mehhhhhh. I had 4 espressi on a recent crawl (Nossa Familia, Barista, Maglia Rosa, Spella) and, not surprisingly, Spella was the best, most balanced espresso of the four, and the only one that was not bitter on the finish, even with added sugar (I've spent too much time in Italy and Brasil NOT to add sugar, it's they way god intended espresso to be consumed!)

                      1. re: sambamaster

                        Thanks, sambamaster, for your thoughts on La Bamba. I eat a fair bit of Yucatecan antojitos on our trips to SF/Bay Area, so was looking for central Mexican especialidades, particularly from Puebla. The recco was from the owner of Xico, FWIW, another place that interests me.

                        I am always torn about the Mexican food experience. We have little at home (apart from cheese heavy glop or the dishes I make at home) so I'm grateful to be somewhere that has so many options. But then my food memories of travelling extensively to Mexico (the first time I went was as a baby in a cardboard box in the back of my parents' VW Beetle) get the better of me and I become super picky.

                        I do have Angel on my (55-page) list with a recco from Willamette Weekly for their cochinita pibil.

                        Have eyed the menu at Nuestra Cocina repeatedly and something about it doesn't resonate for me. Maybe it's the upscaleness (is that even a word?).

                        Ataula took a backseat when I realized they don't take reservations (I've also heard it's pretty loud) but I appreciate the feedback. Really good Spanish tapas are scarce it would seem. We went to Patanegra in the same space a couple of trips ago and it was solid but not spectacular, with a pretty egregious glass of wine. We did not find anything to love at Toro Bravo last trip when we went for a DIY happy hour there.

                        It may tickle you to know that the SO's top cappuccino in Portland is currently Spella, where we went largely on your recommendation last trip. Since we try a number of coffee places each visit and don't eschew the third-wave style as you do, I'd like to taste Roseline. Good to know they may have it at Maglia Rosa as that is convenient for us too.

                        You're a better man than I to down four espressos in one day -- unless maybe 4 caffe corretto ;-)

                        1. re: grayelf

                          Ataula: I arrived at 6pm on Saturday, it was nearly empty...but did fill up...I was there for six hours (!) and, yeah, it gets a bit loud I suppose. But, give it a shot, arrive early, or after 8:30-9:00, prime Spanish time for eating anyway....or 10:30!

                          Nuestra Cocina: Don't let the upscale scare ya away. It's not so bad. And the food is very well prepared...get some antojitos (I love the sopes) and split and entree like the lamb, cochinita or chicken. Enhale a couple margaritas, then finish with the cinnamon ice cream. Angel's flavors are just as good, but a lot cheaper...though almost exclusively Yucatecan. The interesting Mexican stuff is way east in grocery store taqueirias, but it's been a while since I've been out there. Another Yucatecan option, though a bit mysterious, is La Estación on Killingsworth I think...but they used to only have cochinita on the weekends...but it is probably the best in town. Get Panuchos in any case! And relleno negro also, if it is available...it is a burnt chile stew with lots of turkey meat! Yummy.

                          1. re: sambamaster

                            La Estacion was my other thought, if we decided to go Yucatecan. SF Hound cynsa gave it her seal of approval : -). We'll probably try out a couple of places for lunch as well. I'm intrigued by the return of Taqueria Nueve, por ejemplo.

                            1. re: grayelf

                              La Estación and Angel Food and Fun are a few blocks apart. Go to LE first, have some nibbles (panuchos), then head to AF+F and have the relleno negro, et al. La Estación *can* be spot on and delicious, but not always. It used to be a bit sketchy, but I think they closed the massage parlor/strip club next door, so maybe the drug deals have slowed down. I had lunch there once and three of the very large pane glass windows had been shot out and were patched up with sheets of plywood. Freezing inside, but the food was good!

                              Were you to go to Nuestra Cocina, I think you would enjoy an after meal visit across the street at Bar Avignon, classy place, but very informal. Nice folks. Emphasis on nice wines, especially French, duh! Surely they have something that would serve as a nightcap!

                              Now, one place I love which I can't recall you mentioning previously is Cocotte on Killingsworth. I've been 10-15 times and, with one exception, have always had great food and service. They are really dedicated to local and sustainable, but with a French stamp. Really, really nice people. Since you seem to like happy hours, they have that too, but the food choices are not very wide. But the space is wonderful. They have a nice wine list, and a decent bar. In fact, I need to get back there, it's been way too long. Hmmm. Saturday!

          2. Greyelf, you've given me so much guidance the last few years on the Vancouver board. Who would have thought I'd be following your lead again after just 2 weeks as a Portland resident?!

            3 Replies
            1. re: ladypea

              Happy to be of service, lady! We are eating a swath through Pdx with the help of a friend who joined us for the first few days. We've only had one meh meal so far (Jade Teahouse in Sellwood) and many highlights. And I've found a replacement for the beloved Matchbox Burger, complete with whiskey sour: thanks, Savoy Tavern. More later on all that goodness...

              1. re: grayelf

                Grayelf - this should interest you since you love EVOE

                http://pdx.eater.com/archives/2013/10...

                1. re: FoodDee

                  Ha, I just posted on that news in a separate thread, my bad! Sure hope that doesn't mean Evoe is finished but I can't wait for the new place. That is, I can wait till our next trip in the spring, alas. Thanks for the pointer to the article.