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Sep 11, 2013 01:05 PM

One night in Portland, need dining rec

My husband and I will be staying in Portland for one night in October before we head out to Willamette Valley for a few days. We are staying at one of the SPG properties (Either the Nines or Westin). We did this same trip last year and dined at Veritable Quandry Friday and then hit the PSU Farmers Market on Saturday and then headed out to wine country right after.

This time around, we will definitely be hitting the farmers market again (and getting the Pine Street Biscuit there again) but are looking for some suggestions for dinner on Friday. We also may stick around a little longer in Portland on Saturday so possibly having lunch as well before heading out. I am thinking a stop as Salt and Straw is a must as well.

By the time we get to our hotel we are probably looking at 9pm or so, so I know some place may be extremely busy and many do not accept reservations. We are good wtih casual or upscale.

Next trip I hope we are able to spend more time in Portland as the last time I was there for more than 1 night was in 2004 and so much has changed. For now though, we have to fit in what we can in 24 hours. I look forward to your recommendations.

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  1. Within walking distance of either are Imperial and Higgins. Both open later, don't require or need rezzos, have great food and service that is local, interesting and cuts a broad swath. Easily my two choices for what you are describing.

    1. Right at The Nines is Departure Lounge, beautiful views and innovative food. We have dined here several times. Little Bird, right around the corner from The Nines is another option that offers very innovative, delicious food.

      We dined at the sister restaurant to Little Bird, Le Pigeon last night. It's one of our favorites in Portland. :)

      10 Replies
      1. re: syrahgirl

        Thank you both. I will check out all of these places. I have heard good things about Little Bird. Is there a hotel out of the two (Westin or Nines) that you think is better for dining/drinks around it? They dont seem like they are too far from each other.

        1. re: Dee74

          Those two hotels are only 5 blocks apart in the center of downtown. Doesn't matter in terms of getting to things. Little Bird is terrific as well but can be tougher to get into.

          1. re: oregonjim

            Thanks Oregon Jim. Out of the 3, which would you rate the best? Imperial, Higgins, Or Little Bird? And between Imperial and Higgins which do you think is best? Ned Ludd looks very interesting as well but not sure if we will want to drive or cab to another area as we will be tired after a long flight and I want to make sure we are up early enough to have time at the market in the morning and still get out to Willamette in time to hit a winery or two.

            1. re: Dee74

              If I had to choose between Little Bird, Higgins and Imperial, I'd choose the Bird. Not hard to get into if you call a day or two ahead. You have time! This ain't NYC. Between Higgins and Imperial? Higgins. They've been doing their thing a long time, and know what they are doing. I wasn't impressed with Imperial, but YMMV. One note: we've not had great luck with fish at LB, but that may be us. Their oysters and mussels are great, however.

              1. re: sambamaster

                Not sure what night of the week the OP will be here. Little Bird was fully booked two weeks out for the Friday night we'll be in town, so we ended up booking for the Monday instead.

                1. re: grayelf

                  We will be there on a Friday night. I did check and it appears there are reservations available for that Friday night. We are about 2 1/2 weeks away which is why I am trying to narrow it down and make a decision. Basically there are about 50 restaurants I want to try in Portland so trying to narrow that downt to 1 is hard!

                  1. re: Dee74

                    Had an awesome lunch at LB yesterday.

                    1. re: Leonardo

                      More deets, please, Leo. Waddya have?

                      1. re: grayelf

                        Croissant Tartine, chevre, cucumber, olive, tomato, tuna confit.
                        Dark Chocolate creme brulee topped with honey meringue

                        1. re: Leonardo

                          Thanks Leo, for the details and the kind words. I don't consider myself any kind of an expert, but I really enjoy the combination of interesting/innovative food, good value and welcoming service that I've found in our dining adventures in Portland. Since the other place we frequent for gastrotourism is SF, I quite enjoyed this article favourably comparing Portland to San Francisco: but I think they are so different that comparing is actually a bit of a mug's game. We're lucky to be able to enjoy both.

      2. Tasty N Alder looks like it could be good as well, or would you only go for brunch?

        9 Replies
        1. re: Dee74

          TnA over Little Bird? Not in this lifetime! Really! Is that the question?

          1. re: sambamaster

            sambamaster, I take it you are not a fan of TnA. Yes, coming from someone that does not live in Portland, that is a question.
            We love the sound of LB menu and so far are leaning there, however are considering other options since we do have a few "go to" French restaurants where we live in Chicago that we dine at often.

            1. re: Dee74

              Actually, were you to sample sambamaster's posts, you'd find sambamaster not to be much of a fan of Portland food, and will tend to steer you to other cities.

              And were you to sample grayelf's posts, you'll know what "verbose" means! Also the best example of a visitor report. :)

          2. re: Dee74

            We haven't been to Tasty'n'Alder but we did try brunch at Tasty'n'Sons (the original, I guess) and were underwhelmed.

            Though I haven't dined at any of the three places you asked about, we are as I mentioned booked at Little Bird for our upcoming trip. I wasn't a fan of the meal we had at Le Pigeon a couple of trips ago and (probably unfairly) lumped LB in with LP.

            I'm more enthused now that I've seen syrahgirl's comment above about LB being innovative. I thought the menu read pretty straight up French whenever I've perused it for previous research and mainly grabbed the reso this time because one of my DCs is a French food fan.

            Higgins and Imperial haven't made the cut yet, after five trips, though they are both on my 55-page list of places I'm interested in. As you note later in this thread, there are so many intriguing places to choose from. Good problem to have!

            1. re: grayelf

              Grayelf, 55 page list! Wow!

              It sounds like you may be there before I am, so let me know how you find Little Bird. I too thought the menu sounded pretty straight forward French (well maybe except the Chicken Fried Trout) but it does sounds like a great menu carrying some of my favorite French dishes.

              1. re: Dee74

                I'll try to post a few thoughts on it on the fly -- we're not back from our trip till the 11th and I'm notoriously slow and verbose on my reports :-). I just realized you are looking for 9 pm or later, so you'll prolly be fine. We were booking for the much-in-demand 7:30 time slot but there were definitely later options available.

                1. re: grayelf

                  We will be arriving as you are leaving! Unfortunately our flight doesnt get in until 7:30 which is why we are doing the later dinner, but it does give us a little more flexibility. I did go ahead and book LB for Friday and will probably pick 1 or 2 back up places as well. And I definitely want to fit Salt and Straw in either after dinner or Saturday after the Farmers Market.

              2. re: grayelf

                I feel like I am sometimes in the minority, but I tend to enjoy Little Bird much more than Le Pigeon. I would have no hesitation sending a visitor (or local) to LB. I do not think you will be disappointed, grayelf.

              3. re: Dee74

                Tasty N Alder is also worth the trip. It is a great choice for brunch and that allows you to try something different for dinner.

              4. I appreciate everyones input. With your help and the many posts on here (and especially your detailed reports Grayelf,) we have narrowed it down!

                At the top of our list is
                Little Bird- although need to decide if we want French because Saturday we will be staying in Carlton and Cuvee is really our only dining option.
                Clyde Common- this was on my list last year and didn't make it, is the food worth it? I know it is great for cocktails. This may be busy, so we will have a back up reservation if we choose this.
                Gruner: my husband is half German and was interested in the menu although I feel this could be too heavy for what we are looking for
                Deschutes: thinking it may be nice to have some craft beer before we head out to Wine Country. I realize this would probably be bar food which I am ok with, is it decent bar food?
                Olympic Provisions: Is this good for dinner? We are actually thinking of doing brunch there on Saturday. How bad does the wait get?
                Salt and Straw: Dessert Friday Night
                Portland Farmers Market: Saturday morning for some wine country provisions and a little snacking.

                I think we might be doing a PNW tour for my 40th in April and if so I am finally going to be able to spend more than 1 night in Portland! :)

                7 Replies
                1. re: Dee74

                  Samples of one visit all:

                  I had one of the better poultry dishes I've ever had at Clyde Common when we went for second dinner after Deschutes one night. I have read of inconsistency between dishes though.

                  Deschutes we thought was just okay as you may know if you read that report of mine. The main reason we went is that they offer gluten free burgers and beers and our DCs that evening were GF. Not a destination for either beer or food, IMO.

                  We've been to Gruner for dinner and lunch. Their spaetzle is ridiculously good. Everything else is good to okay, that we've had. It feels like they are missing just a wee bit on their dishes, at least to me. Nice room.

                  Olympic Provisions didn't wow us either, except for one dish. In fact, the hot dog was verging on inedible, again IMO.

                  Well, that wasn't very positive, was it? : -(

                    1. re: grayelf

                      Thanks for the feedback! We will probably do Little Bird or Higgins depending on what we are in the mood for when we get there and then keeping Veritable Quandary as a back up if the weather is great and we want to be outside since they have a great patio.

                      We will report back after our trip! :)

                      Is Blue Star donuts worth saving some room for after the farmers market?

                        1. re: Leonardo

                          Little Bird was a big hit. It may be the best French bistro food I've ever had (to be fair, we don't go out for French much so YMMV). Lovely cauliflower soup, wondrous rabbit salad, gnocchi so light my DC hogged all but one (and that is SO not like her), superb quail with delectable mashed potatoes... the only misstep was an oversalted gruyere souffle, which we still ate. Very pretty room (be sure to look way up) and impeccable, unobtrusive white table cloth service. Funky rock soundtrack actually worked and there was less of a noise issue than I feared despite the resounding voice of the woman at the next table. Good value too -- we stuck to apps etc and paid $100 for enough food for three. I'd go again in a flash, and would also consider lunch.

                          1. re: grayelf

                            Great, thanks for the report grayelf! Glad you enjoyed it!

                            1. re: Dee74

                              No worries. Just as a point of reference, we went to Raven and Rose the next night and our bill came to the exact same amount but for only two people, so far less food.

                  1. Trip Report:

                    After all of that debate on where to have dinner, I ended up with an awful migraine on the flight and we didnt even make it to dinner! :( I did make up for it the next morning though. We started at Blue Star right when they opened. We got the Old Fashioned Buttermilk, the Hard Apple Fritter, and a Blueberry Bourbon something. I am not that big of a donut person, but that old fashioned was fantastic! I also loved the Fritter (which we didnt even get to until the next day and it was still great) but could have done without the blueberry.
                    Then we moved on to the Farmers Market where we indulged quite a bit and stocked up for our weekend in Wine country. We had
                    Pine State Biscuits- this was a repeat performance for us. We shared the Reggie and were still just as pleased as last year.
                    Loretta Jeans- Oh my. Now i know what the rave is about. We didnt even eat this biscuit until later and still fell in love so I cannot image how good this is fresh. We also got a carmelized onion and kale hand pie which was fantastic as well. We will definitely be hitting this next trip.
                    Chop Butchery- My husband who wont eat pate fell in love with their venison pate. We also bought some salumis there for the weekend.
                    Olympic Provisions- We bought a salumi
                    We bought some breads from the German bakery (I think is was Fressens) and some cheeses from a few of the stands as well. The chef from Toro Bravo was there as well signing cookbooks and had some of his Chorizo out to was great! I tried to convince him to sell me one, but had to settle for a few samples instead!

                    We were disppointed we didnt get to have dinner out, but have already decided that next trip we will shorten Willamette by a day and stay an extra day (maybe two) in Portland. For Willamette, we ate at Cuvee in Carlton, The Jory, and Recipe.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: Dee74

                      So sad about your migraine! Nice survey of the market though. If you make it back to Fressen's, try their Bavarian croissant. And maybe you can go to the Lauretta Jean bricks and mortar next time to try even more!

                      1. re: grayelf

                        I cant believe i forgot to me tio Salt and Straw, we did end up getting an ice cream flight there as well! Also wonderful!

                        1. re: Dee74

                          Thanks for the report! Sounds as if you did a great job of making lemonade out of quite the lemon.

                          New fritter at Blue Star! Caramel pear, pine nut, pear brandy caramel glaze. Food Network did a piece on them two weeks ago. One of the many things wonderful about their fritters is that they travel well. Took it and a donut to the beach, fritter fared far better.

                          By the way: you can edit posts if they are only a few minutes old...

                          1. re: Leonardo

                            Good to know on the posts.
                            I did see the Caramel pear fritter and was very tempted but since I was only getting a few I didn't want to get 2 fritters and I just had to try the original. Thinking back, I would definitely have done the pear instead of the blueberry donut. it looked and sounded fantastic!

                            I am already looking at dates for my next trip!

                            1. re: Leonardo

                              Good to know about the new fritter. I think those are going to be my go-to at Blue Star. The day I popped in, there were no fritters at all, even though it was reasonably early, so maybe they don't have them every day?

                              1. re: grayelf

                                They had both the hard apply cider & pear fritters on Sunday 8:20am and they open at 8 on weekends. Constantly revolving menu, within the day or week. At any given time they have only a small portion of the total items available in any week. The pear launched only a week ago. Being a seasonal item it'll be gone in a few weeks. The perks of having my office a block away, LOL. Tell that to my waistline. I'm trying to hold it to once weekly, at most.