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Feb 17, 2014 01:22 AM

Van Hound Marching on Portland next month

Greetings, lovely Portland Chowhounds! I am so lucky to be planning another salvo at your plethora of food offerings, our seventh trip in the last couple of years. We'll be with a small for the first few days (Thurs night to Sat night), then meals for two thereafter til Tues.

I've sent out emails to a couple of places to check that they allow (and don't mind) kids. She's 5.5 years old but used to "adult" restaurants and we'd take her out of the room in the unlikely event of a meltdown, of course.

Thinking Farm Café, Tara Thai (for Lao food), Savoy Tavern (bistro area allows minors), Bent Brick (they actually have a short kids' menu), Taqueria Nueve and/or La Calaca Camelona for dinners. Any of these stand out as either a) not chow worthy or b) rabidly unkidfriendly? Weve made the mistake of targeting specifically kiddy oriented rooms previously and are trying to avoid that, but don't want to horrify other patrons when we arrive either. Because of Ox's awkwardness, was contemplating trying that at 4:30 pm with the girl -- utter madness? mad genius? Is Davenport early suitable for her? What are we thinking about Bar Mingo these days?

Lunches I'm less worried about. We're thinking Burrasca's or Picnic if the weather cooperates, Devil's Dill, Maurice, Tarad Thai for the northern Thai dishes, Taqueria Santa Cruz plus doughtnuts! Is the Imperial burger still worthy? We have NO good burgers at home so all candidates welcome, that are cooked to order and not too fancy. Matchbox Lounge was a fave, now it's Savoy Tavern's, so that's an idea of what I like.

Breaky/brunch ideas: Radar (since I'm cheesed off at Broder's lines), Sen Yai for Thai congee,

Happy hour/snack targets include Noble Rot for the burger and view, Robo Taco for al pastor tacos only, Tanuki (NO KIDS),

Beverages (without the small one!) might cover off Bee Thinking's mead market, Reverend Nat's and Saint Honore for cider, Silk for the cilantro kumquat gimlet, Base Camp, Belmont Station

New-to-us coffee sightings: Cathedral, Christopher David, Grindhouse, Portland Roasting, new Coava if it's open, new Heart downtown. Maybe Either/Or in Sellwood. Anything else newish and good? For reference, Spella is the SO's current fave in the area.

Open to critiques, better ideas, disses and general input. Many thanks!

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  1. Hey Greyelf - On the Amtrak to Portland as we speak.Will let you know if I find something up your alley.

    1. For burgers, we never had the version at Matchbox, so I can't directly compare, but our favorites are at Lardo, Imperial, and Serrato. Many people like Little Big Burger but we haven't been and Dick's Kitchen is all about burgers with many different kinds. We went once about a year and a half ago and I just can't remember any details, but I have it on my radar to soon go back for their 100% grass fed Carman Ranch beef version (which looks to me to be some of the most sustainably raised/humanely harvested beef in Oregon). Have not had Noble Rot's burger, but I would say the best way to take in the view there is to sit outside so if the weather isn't cooperating you might not be able to take advantage of it.

      As for OX, I can't remember from your previous posts if you have been, but I'll assume you haven't since you are asking about it. I can't say I've seen many kids there and you will want to check the menu of course for food that the 5 yr old might eat. I will additionally assume that if it is a night with the child there will also be more adults present, which means you can try more food than if it is only the two of you. So I would say go for it (at 4:30 as you said)!

      Haven't been to Davenport. Bar Mingo we like, but last time we were there we had the cacio e pepe, and it was strangely not a very good version. We have always liked their other offerings so maybe that is just not a great dish there (or was an off night).

      Have fun!

      1. I'll happily recommend Trifectca, Ken Forkishes new place. Part bakery part "Tavern". Opens at 4:00.
        Great and varied menu, nice comfy banquets and kid friendly. Saw a few of varying ages and it was just fine.

        On a lighter note Chef Naoka was a nice break from heavy meats and IPA madness. Organic, local and well prepared Japanese home style-cooking in a small room.
        Open nights now as well.

        4 Replies
        1. re: eatrustic

          Chef Naoko (not Naoka). Tasty & authentic Japanese cooking. Have taken Japanese friends there who know the real deal (food editors/educators) who loved it too.

          1. re: Leonardo

            Wow, spelled both places wrong! Trifecta not Trifectca and my Japanese girlfriend is wagging her finger at me as we speak on Chef Naoko. (We got a Bento to take on the train back to Vancouver as well although they are hesitant on the Food Safe aspects.)

            By the way stopped at Heart's new location and definitely well placed beside Gruner and Kask. Although good, not my favorite coffee of the trip.

            1. re: eatrustic

              At the farmers market this morning, Chef N & I exchanged "ohaiyo" bows.

              1. re: eatrustic

                So what WAS your favourite coffee, eatrustic? Inquiring minds..

          2. Reverend Nat's has some good ciders. St. Honore has 9 ciders on tap and their pastries are really good too if you do bring the little one. Also I'm not sure if you've been to Ecliptic Brewery yet but their beers are some of the best in town.

            20 Replies
            1. re: porky pine

              Thanks for the cider notes, p pine! Ecliptic now on the radar too.

              Trifecta could be in the mix, eatrustic, cheers.

              Did Chef Naoko's bentos on the way out of town two trips ago and agree it was tasty and a good "break" though the size of the boxes was formidable.

              Heart's not my fave either, but we stuck our noses in during the buildout and I liked the look of the room. Plus it's good to have another of the better coffee options downtown, and in a sitdown situation.

              1. re: grayelf

                Okay, wrassling the dinner question into submission:

                Dinners with the small one will be Davenport, Savoy Tavern (bistro side) and Farm Café (takes resos, yay!). Backups will be Nuestra Cocina ("laid back but bustling"), Tara Thai and Lao (nam khao!) and Bent Brick (kid's menu but still looks worthy).

                Diners a deux will be Tabla and a return to Little Bird, unless Kachka is open by then and available on Sun or Mon. I booked the new St Jack and then really looked at the menu. Not as interesting as LB's in my book. Finding places that I fancy that are open Sun and Mon was a bit challenging. Decided against trying Ox with small in tow and it's not open Monday, alas.

                Thinking about a Sunday brunch option with one small and four large humans. Has anyone tried Redwood? I quite like the look of their brunch offerings. Roost also in the running.

                1. re: grayelf

                  Redwood was good not great. Went there because we weren't feeling the wait at Country Cat. If at all possible, try the latter. The earlier the better.

                  1. re: Leonardo

                    Good to know, Leonardo. We did try Country Cat on a previous trip, and since it's rather a schlep, mebbe we'll go for something a bit closer in.

                  2. re: grayelf

                    I like Roost (get the french press pot of coffee it is a much better deal if you want more than one cup with breakfast). I really like Accanto too, for brunch. Had dinner at Redwood once, will not go back for another meal, no matter what time of day. Everything sucked, including the service.

                    I love St. Jack, but I will readily admit that we don't have a lot of great French food here. His specials are usually great (pied au cochon, stuffed duck neck), the frogs legs and tripe on the menu are delicious. Always have great drinks there - both cocktails and wines (which they do by the carafe and glass as well as bottle, which I like) too.

                    Yeah, Ox isn't really a place for a kid, IMO. And be sure to check out Farm Cafe's happy hour menu - it has usually been a good one over the years.

                    Had a couple of very good experiences at a new place called American Local on SE Division and 30th.

                    1. re: JillO

                      We did Accanto for brunch last trip (duck hash, mmm) and it was indeed lovely, with the sun streaming in. Roost is winning at the moment, since they open at 10. Redwood is summarily stricken from the list :-).

                      I'm not exactly an expert on French food but I do seem to prefer a brasserie/bistro approach to a more formal one. The menu at LB just appeals more, so may do a repeat, nothing wrong with that!

                      I ran across a couple of reccs for Mucca on another thread, in case we decide to go Italian instead. Any thoughts on it? For some reason, I'm just not intrigued by Ava Gene's, go figure.

                      American Local does look intriguing, have added it to the list.

                      1. re: grayelf

                        The food that comes to you after ordering at Ava gene's is always better than the descriptions on the menu, IMO. I love the place both the food and service. We get there 1-2x/month and we also really love their cocktails and wine list.

                        I like Little Bird, but I somehow prefer the vibe at St. Jack (or I did when it was in SE anyway, haven't been to the new location). And no, nothing wrong at all with going back to a place you know you will enjoy! Always good to support a place you love when everyone always goes for the shiny new toy.

                        I hear great things about Mucca Osteria, but I have never been. If I wanted Italian and didn't go to Ava Gene's I would probably do Nostrana or Three Doors Down...but I live in SE. Also great are Serratto and Mingo on NW 21st. Lots of folks love Luce too, though I am not a huge fan. A place I want to try but haven't gotten to yet is DOC, up near NE 30th and Killingsworth...tiny but everyone says it is amazing.

                        Also Bollywood Theatre opened a new location right across from American Local - it might be a good spot with the little one. Not a huge fan of Indian food (I hate coriander and cumin...makes it hard) but my GF LOVES it and really likes Bollywood Theater.

                        You guys need an apartment here, aren't you tired of paying room tax (considering it's likely one of the only taxes you pay here in OR ;o)?!

                        1. re: JillO

                          Serratto is on the radar for a burg per cobpdx's recco. DOC is a very high priority but alas not open Sun or Mon when we have our date nights this trip. I'm sorta holding out on Bar Mingo in hopes they will reinstate their Wed risotto. And I don't love Indian food either, for similar reasons.

                          Re Ava Gene's I think I have developed a slight Duane Sorenson aversion. I know, kinda lame, but so be it. Another thing I have an aversion to is going to restos when they first open so maybe best to hear more about the "new" St Jack's...

                          I was dead set on going to Tanuki this trip for one of our date nights but just found out they are open even more limited hours than previously so that will have to wait for next trip.

                          A pied a terre in Portland sounds wonderful. If I was twenty five years younger, I'd be moving to Pdx PDQ.

                          1. re: grayelf

                            I think that I mentally block out that Sorenson owns Ava Gene's because I find Woodsman is so disappointing. ;o)

                            How about Cibo with the kid? Happy hour runs 5-6:30 and there is a good $5 margherita pizza and other tasty inexpensive bites on the menu there. Their regular menu is very reasonable too. I adore their octopus salad (one of my fave dishes in PDX right now - a whole tentacle, grilled and cut up and mixed with cripy fried potato bits and lightly dressed arugula a steal at $9) and they make a good spaghetti and meatballs plate, great mussels, good arancini, and a decent steak with fries plate. Very reasonable prices, decent wines and cocktails (love the Capone's Manhattan), kid friendly. If Peter is there ask to sit in his section, he's the best.

                            Yeah, I think Janis is down to Thurs/Fri/Sat nights at Tanuki only.

                            1. re: JillO

                              Cibo looks great, thanks! The SO is an octopus fiend and I love arancini. Cecina also looks interesting. And that pic of their new burger on facebook looks pretty righteous. I think this might sub in for Savoy one night with the small. I don't see the $5 pizza on the HH menu but doesn't really matter as it's on the reg menu.

                              1. re: grayelf

                                Not a fan of the cecina or the polenta lasagna, but YMMV. Hmmm, they may have changed their HH menu, that does not look like the one I am familiar with...but I don't know if that is the old or new one. Still, I think it is worth a shot, your dollar goes far there. His first restaurant is Basta's on NW 21st, which I like too.

                                Around the block from Cibo is the SE Wine Collective which has some nice wines (I am a fan of Helioterra and some of the others that pour there)...and you can even order a Cibo pizza there in a nice showing of neighborly collaboration.

                                Also, Townshend's Tea is down the block from Cibo, which has a nice selection of really good teas. (I like both coffee and tea, personally.) Their Creme de la Earl Grey is a current fave.

                              2. re: JillO

                                They removed the $5 pizza from the HH menu.

                                1. re: Leonardo

                                  I just had a dekko at the Bastas menu which looks rather inviting as well, though no octopus, alas.Appears to be some overlap with Cibo too. I may call and see how they feel about smalls. It's v. close to the hotel which could be a boon on the last night... I wonder if chef Marco spends all his time at Cibo now.

                                  On a related note, the rosemary sour at Cibo is calling to me.

                                  1. re: grayelf

                                    I've seen Marco at Cibo, but I think hespends more time at Basta's. Another plus to Basta's is that they actually have a small parking lot. I think that the ocopus salad is on the small plates menu there. Looks like they are making their menus more similar to each other (Basta's/Cibo). I can also recommed the tagliata steak and fries - a great deal for $12. And, Basta's (and Cibo) make one of the best Caesar salads in town, IMO.

                                    Thanks Leonardo, I was there a week or so ago, but I didn't look at the HH menu!

                                    1. re: JillO

                                      Hey, me again. I'm working on finding child-worthy activities to fill in the gaps between eating (damn those gaps!). Are there any tasty snacks/beverages within walking distance of the aerial tram? I was thinking we could do the tram, which is neat but a quick ride IIRC, grab something nearby and head to Marquam Nature Park which looks lovely and close.

                                      Would also appreciate similar walkable suggestions for any of the following laundry list of sights/things to do if y'all have the patience:

                                      Oregon Zoo and Railway/Portland Children's Museum -- I don't think there are worthy eats in Washington Park but I'd love to stand corrected. If the weather behaves, could do a picnic of course
                                      Pittock Mansion -- picnic again, right?
                                      Kidd's Toy Museum
                                      Oregon Maritime Center and Museum
                                      Portland Japanese Garden
                                      The Hat Museum
                                      The Perfume House
                                      Saturday farmers market
                                      Mills End Park/sidewalk mottoes on SW Yamhill btwn 4th and 5th just for fun
                                      Beverly Cleary sculpture garden
                                      Forest Park
                                      Oak Island Nature Loop, Sauvie Island
                                      Tanner Springs Park
                                      Portland Police Historical Museum
                                      Audubon Society of Portland

                        2. re: JillO

                          A dozen oysters at Block + Tackle followed by the chicken wings at Whiskey Soda and then finishing off at American Local is our favorite Division St. Food Crawl... I really like finishing at American Local, their food has that '3 drinks in' feel to it to me, especially the brussels sprouts and those bacon beignets...

                          1. re: jonoropeza

                            Try the rice noodle wrapped in prosciutto skewers at American Local - crispy, chewy, porky, starchy...delicious. But I haven't really had anything at American Local that was bad...

                    2. re: porky pine

                      Hey p pine, have you sampled the food menu at Ecliptic at all? I'm eyeing the burger, as I loves me a good potato bun.

                      1. re: grayelf

                        Their food is better than the food at most brewpubs here in town. I haven't had their burger but I've heard it's good. We go there for the beer and food whereas most breweries we go just for the beer.

                        Have you been to Saraveza yet? It's one of my favorite beer bars in town and they have a small menu of good food. Their tap list always changes and always has unique selections.

                        1. re: porky pine

                          Good to know, in case we're there around happy hour and I'm feeling peckish :-). I still miss Matchbox Lounge for that combo -- solid cocktails, nice beers and tasty food, especially the burger, sob.

                          We've been to Saraveza a few times, as it's highway adjacent as we head into town, invariably around happy hour. The first time we had a pasty special that was outstanding. The other times, good but not stellar. Beer is reliable though :-).

                    3. Hi there grayelf! I know you are a fan of Savoy, and here's some news about their impending changes:

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: JillO

                        How kind of you to think of me, JillO! I was a bit trepidatious opening the link, fearing they might be moving away from the awesome burger but huzzah, there will be more of that style. We almost went to the bistro side with my niece in March but ended up at Davenport instead. We will be looking in on our next trip in May for sure. And I am working on the March report, of course.

                        1. re: grayelf

                          No problem, I thought you'd be happy about their change-up. ;o)

                          Looking forward to hearing about your experience at Davenport!

                          1. re: JillO

                            And I'm looking forward to sharing it :-). In the meantime, a couple of quick notes about my OP -- Picnic is closed for the season, and Devil's Dill is late night only (luckily found out both bits of info before showing up but in case anyone else is playing along).