My head is going to explode
I will be in Portland for five days/nights staying with a dear friend who, I'm sorry to say, does not have his finger on the pulse, shall we say. I hate to leave a meal to chance (or maybe even to his suggestion). I've been reading and reading and my head is spinning with all the options. I would be happy eating at only food carts, but I think some sit down options are needed.
I'm interested in places that are unique or quirky -- that have character. I prefer down home to upscale (it's not about the money, it's more of the atmosphere).
I haven't seen a seafood place that has me yet (Fishwife is the only one so far on my radar). I'm not a big meat eater, but I'm not a vegetarian either (my friend is a carnivore).
Of course local ingredients, farm to table is good. HIggins was suggested to me.
For food carts, Viking Soulfood and Chez Dodo stand out.
I live in Philadelphia, so I have access to some great eats including many ethnic options.
Ma'ono looks fun, as does Pok Pok and Apizza Scholls.
What to do!?
Will probably be at the Japanese Garden one day, anything good nearby? I also hope to combine some funky thrift shopping with nearby eats.
First, not many things in Portland have an upscale atmosphere, so even the "nicer" restaurants are still pretty comfortable.
5 potential dinner spots that might give you a good sampling of what Portland has to offer):
Roe (this is your seafood spot) - only Thurs-Saturday, though
OX (has a number of good non-meat options)
#5: Little Bird, Le Pigeon, Beast, Ned Ludd, Raven & Rose, Nostrana,St. Jack, Ava Gene's (depends what else you do and what you are looking for)
Nothing really right neat Japanese Garden. Not far: Lardo, Grassa, Tasty N Alder.
Do you know where you are staying?
I visited Portland in August. Here was my report: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/912912
There is nothing to eat near the Japanese Gardens until you get outside Washington Park. We did the Zoo, then the Japanese Gardens and the Rose Gardens... and it was suddenly 2:00 and we had seen nowhere to grab food! So either bring a snack or wait until you're outside the park. You'll be close to the Alphabet District (NW... I believe that's the name of the area) where there's lots of places to eat.
When I was looking for suggestions, Roe came up often as a great seafood spot. We didn't make it there though.
Loved Pok Pok & Viking Soul Food
I feel your pain, hungry, but it is good pain! We are up to visit six to Rosetown, and my food list is now 55 pages long. Best problem ever...
Like Vancouver and San Francisco (the two other places I eat in regularly), it's strangely hard to pinpoint a great seafood/fish place. We've had good luck ordering fish and shellfish dishes in "regular" restaurants so that may be the way to go for you. Block and Tackle looks cool (we had some fine fish in its previous incarnation), and of course there is Roe in the same establishment, which I aspire to.
Check out Evoe on Hawthorne, also a cool shopping area. Apizza Scholls now takes some reservations if you want to avoid a wait but they seem to get snapped up early.