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Seeking fine-tuning advice for first Portland trip

HI all,

I’ve been looking forward to a Portland trip for ages, and Mr. SF and I have finally found a long weekend we can take off together, Dec. 5-8th. I’ve been putting together a food itinerary using my fellow Van-hound greyelf’s very useful trip reports, as well as the original recommendation threads, but I could definitely use some feedback, so thanks in advance for anything you have to add!

We’ll be staying downtown, and no car, but we’re happy to take transit and/or cabs within reason. We love fine dining, great burgers, donuts, local food, brunch. As always, there just isn’t enough time! We often plan our dinners more comprehensively and then play it by ear earlier in the day, hence the flood of breakfast/brunch/lunch/happy hour possibilities.

Dinners:
Little Bird (table reseved)
Firehouse (this seems difficult to get to from downtown core without a car? Worth it? Could be replaced by Roost)
Café Castagna (burger! Also, am I correct in my guess that Hawthorne is a funky, hipster area with lots of interesting boutiques for browsing around in, earlier afternoon?)

Is there any really great fine dining spot that would be a good replacement for any of these? Or a second restaurant not a million miles away from Café Castagna that we could visit later that night?

I was really excited to try the 5-course tasting menu at Uptown Billiards, but opentable isn’t showing any reservations there for the entire month of December, so I suspect they are taking a hiatus :(

Lunches/early afternoon:
Gruner (burger!! Also conveniently close to hotel)
Savoy Tavern (is this location at all easy to get to by transit?)
Evoe – is this place still a going concern, or has chef Kevin Gibson already decamped?

Breakfast/early:
Bunk (bacon roll!)
Blue Star (fritters!)
Lauretta Jean’s (biscuits!)

Brunch:
Ned Ludd? I’m not sure how we’d get there…
Veritable Quandry (overrated?)

Thanks again,
Starryfork

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  1. Both Ned Ludd & Firehouse are easily accessible by the #6 bus. Worth the trip.
    Near Castagna is the food cart pod SE 12th/Hawthorne. Pyro Pizza, Wiffie's Fried Pies etc.
    You can try Lauretta Jean either at their shops or at Portland Farmer's Mkt.
    Great list!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Leonardo

      Thanks for the info! I'm especially excited that we'll be close by to the late night food cart pod, which I didn't think we'd make it out to.

      All the fried pies will be mine!

    2. Ned Ludd - french toast! It is the best I've had at a restaurant by far.

      Veritable Quandary has great atmosphere but I didn't feel their brunch food is anything special. Tasty n' Alder might be a good replacement.

      3 Replies
      1. re: metalocity

        Appreciate the feedback, that was my feeling when I was researching Veritable Quandary too, however it's so close to where we are staying, I figured it was worth a shot.

        Tasty n' Alder, I don't know if we can brave the line-up since we can't make a reservation.

        Ned Ludd sounds great, I think we will try to hit them up for brunch!

        1. re: StarryFork

          If you get to Tasty n Alder when it opens, you won't have to face a line up. It opens at 9:00 am and the place is fairly large (lots of tables).

          1. re: StarryFork

            I haven't been to Tasty n' Alder, but if they run things like Tasty n' Sons, they take your phone number and call you. Then you can at least walk around a little. Beats having to hang out by the door. Or just show up at 9 like cellophane_star recommends.

        2. If you are staying downtown and are limited in transportation to mass transit or a cab there are a lot of options in the downtown/inner southeast area that you could access on foot, by street car or with a very inexpensive cab ride. Firehouse is very nice but seems an odd choice when there are scores of restaurants you could get to more easily and/or for less money and time.

          4 Replies
          1. re: oregonjim

            That's what I was thinking, too - I appreciate your confirmation.

            I am pretty sure we will replace Firehouse with Roost for dinner, their menu looks droolworthy and it looks to be much closer, potentially even walkable, depending on the weather!

            1. re: StarryFork

              I like Roost - their green bean caesar is awesome if it is still on their menu. Not much in the way of cocktails or a deep wine list, though there are serviceable options. And the atmsophere is very sparse and cold, IMO...but I do like their food and it is in my rotation.

              ...and I also love Nostrana and Ava Gene's (which take reservations (as does Roost), and both have great cocktails and wine lists). The price point at both of these is higher than Roost/Firehouse, though.

              Also, I have recently had the burger at Sunshine Tavern (I'm a fan, love their comfort food), and loved it. Also they have fries covered with cheese and italian sausage gravy that are awesome. Other menu items include good pizza and a great $16 steak frite (with housemade worcestershire).

              1. re: JillO

                I was looking at Ava Gene's while doing some more research last night, it looks like a really fun spot - we don't mind the higher price point at all, and a good wine list is indeed a draw for my husband :) Another good contender! Thanks for the advice - I really appreciated your valuable comments on grayelf's various travel threads too.

                I've got to admit, I'm obsessed with this listing on the Roost menu, which is pretty much the reason I want to go to there: Worcestershire Soaked Beef Burger with Blue Cheese, Aioli, Sautéed Arugula and Hand Cut Fries

                Can you tell I love burgers?

                Sunshine Tavern menu looks amazing, but I suspect we won't get out that way...

                1. re: StarryFork

                  Too bad you won't be getting to Sunshine. Near them is Salt & Straw and SE Wine Collective.

          2. Not much of a breakfast/brunch/egg person but Imperial does a very good, somewhat different menu type brunch. No waiting.

            1. Burgers:

              I live on the West side (downtown) and we have been doing a burger tasting over the last several months. I have not had Castagna Cafe's burger yet, BUT, I have had the burger at Gruner and Lardo and I would steer you (get it?) toward the burger at Lardo for sure for your lunch. Also, and this might just be me, Portland has a lot of great food to try, so maybe try a different burger everyday for lunch then try some awesome dinner food. Do not be tempted to try the burger at Little Bird. WAAAYYY too much bun to burger and not as well seasoned as I would have liked. One day I will write up our burger tasting opinions...If you want more details about other burgers you are thinking about, let me know.

              Brunches:
              I would second Tasty & Alder and Imperial over VQ. (Also, Imperial has a great burger, but not as good as Lardo's)

              For Fine Dining:
              Noisette or Castagna (right next to Castagna Café) are both very good options.

              4 Replies
              1. re: cobpdx

                Castagna Café's burger is as good as it ever was. Their $29 3-course menu is usually a nice meal and a good deal too. Good cocktails, and I love their housemade ginger soda.

                1. re: cobpdx

                  I can easily see this turning into a burger-eatin' trip - would you say there is any difference in quality between the two Lardo locations?

                  I think it's likely that we'll try to hit Lardo up for lunch one of the days, especially with your recommendation. Other burgers I'll be aiming to try: Cafe Castagna, Savoy Tavern (happy hour), Gruner (happy hour), Imperial (lunch or happy hour). It sounds like Gruner is maybe the one to skip, but it's conveniently close to our hotel, so we'll see if laziness or tastiness wins out....

                  Are there any other burgers you'd particularly recommend?

                  1. re: StarryFork

                    Lardo East and West seem to be equally delish.
                    Imperial - I would completely pass after having such random/poor consistency. And never thought the burger was ever stellar.
                    Gruner - one of my favs
                    Biwa - used to be tied with Gruner, but then they completely changed and we sent the last two back.
                    Little B/Pigeon - horrible burgers

                    1. re: StarryFork

                      Gruner is awesome for burgers as is Cafe Castagna. I have recently tried the burger at Sunshine Tavern and am totally hooked now (the beef one, their pork burger is good too, though...and go all out, get the gravy/cheese fries with it ;o)