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Apr 20, 2014 08:20 PM

May I please have a few pointers for upcoming trip to Portland??

Dear Portland Hounds,

My SO and I are heading down from Vancouver to Portland this upcoming weekend. It's our fourth or so trip in the past six years, and there are spots we definitely love and will revisit, but I'm hoping for some new ideas as well. We'll be staying near Overlook Park and will have a full kitchen. Here are my questions:

Burgers and Beer
My husband loves IPAs, and we usually go to Deschutes near the Pearl District for a dinner. We like it fine, but I'm wondering if there is something closer to us that is better, both food and beer wise. Excellent burgers and great craft beer or ales is something we don't want to miss.
We usually have a burger at Little Big Burger on Mississippi because we bring their ketchup back home with us, and their burger is pretty good as well, but I'm itching for something wicked in a burger. Any suggestions?

Blue Star Donuts looks to be right up our alley, but we're not really morning folks, and I think they might be sold out by the time we got there. SO likes a donut as a nighttime snack. Any recommendations for fresh donuts that can be bought later in the day. We checked out Voodoo during our last visit, and while it was fascinating, we weren't interested in trying the wares.

We will, of course, go to Pok Pok, which we love. But we'd also like to try a more traditional sit down family place. Something with a nice room and great food. Doesn't have to be top drawer; we have our favorite Thai hole-in-the-wall here at home, but would like to find a room with some visual appeal as well.

You probably know there isn't any really authentic Mexican food in Vancouver. Some reasonable facsimiles, but they leave the palate wanting. We like Nuestra Cocina a lot for a full meal, but are wondering about a taqueria as well. We're tried twice to get into Porque No on Mississippi, but the first time it was slammed, and the second it was closed. Is it worth making an effort to get into Porque No, or would you recommend another taqueria?

I like The Meadow for their chocolate bar selection - particularly their wide selection of premium dark bars with salt. But I'm unfamiliar with other chocolate sellers in Portland. What is worth checking out?

Since we'll be cooking some meals I did some checking on grocery stores. We'd like to shop somewhere with excellent local produce and I was wondering if you'd recommend either or both of New Seasons Market and Foster and Dobbs.

We're really looking forward to being back in Portland and secretly hoping we spot some of the cast of Grimm at some local eatery. We'll be in town from April 26 to May 3. All recommendations gratefully and gladly received.

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  1. You Canadians are so polite...;-)

    Burgers and Beer:
    I can't directly answer all of your questions, because I don't tend to seek out breweries per se. I do prefer IPAs as my beer of choice though and you can get those at most eateries. So I will give you my list of some of the best burgers I have tried in Portland. The list is very West-sided because that is where I live...Lardo, Imperial, Serrato, Gruner.

    Don't give up on Blue Star. Sign up for their Facebook or Twitter Feed and you will know when they are in jeopardy of running out so you won't make a special trip for nothing. They won't be open after 5, but you can still pick up donuts early-mid afternoon to eat later.

    Thai: We have been to PaaDee twice in the past and like it.

    Tacos & Chocolate:
    I don't do enough to comment.

    I think you will be happy with New Seasons. Have not been to Foster & Dobbs.

    We spotted "Monroe" at Little Bird once. Good luck.

    8 Replies
    1. re: cobpdx

      Blue Star looks kinda interesting, but we have a wealth of gourmet donut upstarts doing modern twists where I'm from. Getting a bit bored of that.

      Are there any donut places in Portland that do great old school cake style donuts??

      I wonder.

      1. re: magic

        I loves me a good cake doughnut too. We're going to try this place next week (excerpt from Willamette Weekly roundup this month):

        Annie’s Donut Shop
        3449 NE 72nd Ave., 284-2752.

        Annie’s never changes, even when its owners change. I don’t know how that is. But the doughnuts remain cheerily old-school and never oversweet, with little hints of tang in the applesauce, buttermilk bars and raspberry fritters. The shack of a shop still looks like a refugee from a movie about the 1960s-era unemployed, but like much of Roseway, it is comfort that has gently aged into itself. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

        Shopping list: Applesauce cake doughnut, buttermilk bar, plain ol’ glazed or a mixed dozen.

        1. re: grayelf

          Thanks so much grayelf, the applesauce cake donut sounds right in my wheelhouse. I think I ran across Annie's in my research, and I leaned towards Delicious Donuts instead after comparing pics (Delicious Donuts seeming a little less crunchy of a fry, which is my preference).

          Maybe it's time to put Annie's on the list as well.

          But yes, this is the type of place that interests me, so thanks again!

          1. re: grayelf

            I used to stop here on my walk to school at Gregory Heights way back in the 90's. This post totally brought me back. Glad to know it's still around. It was definitely from another era even back then.

            1. re: cbcpapa

              I'm still working on my May trip report but thought I'd bob in to mention that the buttermilk bar from Annie's was outstanding, perhaps the best doughnut I've ever had (and I was already full when I et it). It was definitely crunchy but the interior crumb was moist and soft, not too dense. It's just as well this place is a bit out of the way...

              1. re: grayelf

                That's good to hear.

                I was extremely disappointed with Delicious Donuts. Went at 9:45am (on a weekday - not even a weekend!) and they were almost entirely sold out!!! 9:45!!! Not 11. Not noon. Not 2. A weekday. I was shocked. I've eaten in donuts shops all over the US and in Canada. I've never seen that. They said they sold 3,000 donuts by 9am. Wha??! Staff was very sweet but none of this made any sense. The few (literally) they did have left were already aging poorly with an icing that was far too sweet and just glopped on. Uggh.

                And Rocking Frog Cafe, while their donuts tasted amazing, they were fried very poorly and were essentially crunchy dark rings of absorbed grease.

                Insofar as donuts at least, I was let down on my recent trip. And this is me being kind.

                1. re: magic

                  Bummer! But thanks for the warnings. I think I'll stick with Annie's, though we did have some wonderful mini-doughnuts at Pip's Original, so I'd prolly head back there too.

                  1. re: grayelf

                    If I get back to Portland (and I hope to) I'll try Annie's, for sure. :)

      2. Burgers - Ate-oh-Ate, Sunshine Tavern, Cafe Castagna, - yes, I know none of those are brewpubs. Sadly, here in PDX you can get awesome beer and awesome food...but rarely in the same place. Sunshine Tavern has the best/largest tap list of the those listed (and, in addition to their regular burger, also has a great pork burger). Another option is Higgins bar (they have a high-end restaurant side too, but only serve their burger in the bar - as does Gruner, also a great burger) which has one of the best and largest beer lists of any nicer restaurant in town. Their charcuterie plate is good too.

        Some folks like the food at Green Dragon (a brewpub worth visiting, you should also hit up Cascade nearby if you love sour beers, they make some of the best), but I do not agree...their taplist might be worth checking out, though.

        Not a donut fan, sorry. But I hear Blue Star is worth seeking out.

        Thai - I love Chiang Mai on SE Hawthorne, Not fancy, but their food is so good. They use high quality ingredients and it makes a difference. Their Khao Tod Naem Kook is like crack - crispy rice salad with sour pork. Also great is their Khao Soi (curry chicken noodle soup), Gang Hung Lay (slow cooked pork and pork belly with pineapple and peanuts), Ock Pla (whole trout), and Ho Mok Talay (seafood curry in a young coconut). These are all on their specials list on the menu. Personally, other than the wings, I like Chiang Mai better than Pok Pok.

        Tacos - I highly recommend the guisados (stews) they make tacos with (and other things like memelas, burritos, etc.) at Mi Mero Mole. We have a lot of great taco trucks and traditional meat tacos (go to Uno Mas for those on NE Glisan) here in PDX, But The guisados at Mi Mero Mole are special, and not something you will find a lot of outside of Mexico City. Usually there are 12 -15 choices (various meats, some veggie, some vegan) of guisados, a farmers' market special quesadilla full of local veggies, and a few other things. You can get the guisados as tacos (with handmade to order corn tortillas made in front), in a burrito, as part of a plate with rice and beans, as a bowl, as a memela (great thicker corn tortilla base, layer of pureed black beans, guisado of choice and a sprinkle of queso fresco - so good...and again, not something you will find just anywhere). Also a huge selection of tequila and mescal - great margaritas and flights (as well as a nice selection of Mexican sodas and homemade horchata and jamaica)

        Go to Cacao and Alma for chocolate. Cacao carries stuff from all over the world and local chocolatiers. Large selection of bars (larger than The Meadow, btw), small selection of individual handmade pieces, and fabulous drinking chocolate. Definitely try the drinking chocolate...and ask for tastes of things you are interested in - they are very happy to give tastes and to introduce you to their products...but you have to ask. Go to their West End store, not the smaller one in the Heathman Hotel (

        Alma just sells her own stuff - great individual chocolates, barks and other tasty bars, awesome toffee, and beautiful molded (and sometimes gilded) larger pieces (some religious icons! ;o) that are also delicious.

        New Seasons is a great all around market with a lot of local items and produce. I do the majority of my shopping there. Not quite Whole Foods prices...but close. You get what you pay for. Foster and Dobbs is more of a cheese shop with a whole bunch of other products to buy. I like F&D but if I am going to a specialty shop for cheese, I like Cheese Bar better:
        (note: next door to Foster & Dobbs is the 15th Ave Hophouse - nice beer selection (and often a cider or two) and their food isn't bad at might try their burger and see if this place fits the bill for a burger and beer


        Haven't seen any of the Grimm folks, but have seen Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen (Portlandia) around town at Grain & Gristle and at Podnah's (not together) on occasion.

        1. Without doing a Google search I believe you are not too far from Widmer if you are in the Overlook Park area. It is a decent newly remodeled pub. You can only get Widmer beers but they have decent stuff and a decent burger. Depends on if you are looking for a high convenience factor. If so this might fit the bill. Sunshine Tavern will have more taps and likely better food. It will also have hundreds of kids. YMMV with that scene. Higgins does have a great burger and a huge tap and bottle selection.

          1. Hey bonlee, fellow Van hound here who loves me some Portland!

            You need to check out Cacao per JillO's recco. Much prefer it to The Meadow for chocolate of all types. And it's just around the corner from Blue Star :-). We've gone there later and had some luck, though I now hold out for the apple fritter.

            My favourite still-extant burger in Portland so far is at the Savoy Tavern. It sure is fun working my way through all the options. Lardo's disappointed in March.

            There's a new place, NWIPA, that specializes in IPAs but doesn't have a lot of taps and is in the Foster-Powell district, so a bit far out without a vehicle. We haven't tried it yet but thought I'd mention it...

            Loved the khao tod naem kook at Chiang Mai that JillO mentioned, but found all of the other dishes we ordered very sweet, which is also a problem at most of the Thai restos at home. Curious what your HITW is here.

            We haven't had great luck with Mexican in Portland, though it is overall FAR better than at home, as you surmise. Still haven't made it to MMM. Our top spot so far is probably the food truck Guero. Burrasca's Florentine food cart is also in that pod at SE 28th and Ankeny, as well as the worthy Captured by Porches beer bus.

            As a fellow Grimm fan, I wish you luck in your quest. We've been to Little Bird twice and loved it both times, though alas no Monroe sightings. Much better than any of our French bistros at home.

            4 Replies
            1. re: grayelf

              Thanks grayelf,

              Our Thai HITW is in Burnaby near Hastings and Gilmore.

              For Mexican, we often try La Gloria in Bellingham on our way back to Vancouver. It's in a strip mall with a Mexican grocery attached.

              Florentine food cart! Does that mean they serve biftecca y fagioli?

              1. re: bonlee

                Ah, still haven't made it to Thai Café, though I had their skewers once at an event. I prefer Tadeo's in B'ham FWIW.

                The menu at Burrasca changes quite frequently but they did have a fagioli dish the day we went, just can't remember what it was. Anyway, the three dishes we had were outstanding and great value at $8 a piece. He makes his own fresh pasta and bread as well. Maybe check if he tweets??

                1. re: bonlee

                  If you're gonna be in Bellingham for a bite on the way up or down, try Super Marios. It's a Salvadorian Taco Truck and restaurant in Bellingham. I actually never knew they had a sit down restaurant but the taco truck is quite good. I lived in Bellingham 4 of the past 6 years and ate a lot of Super Marios. Also in Bellingham I recommend you try Old World Deli, its downtown and they make incredible sandwiches, better than most I've had in Seattle. Their imported meats and cheeses are amazing.

                  Tadeos is also good in Bellingham, used to do take out from there a lot, super nice family that runs it.

                  Back to Portland...
                  I know it's not on your list but at least look into Roe. It is the best meal I've had in either Portland, Seattle, or Vancouver. If you do it, reserve the chefs counter, and get the full tasting menu, you will not regret it. Best seafood I've had...ever. I figure if you're gonna make the trek down at least look into Roe.

              2. Thanks so much everyone for taking the time to provide all this fabulous info. I've been copying and pasting it into a word file and reorganizing it to create a Google map to figure out locations. Really looking forward to trying out some new places on this visit and letting you all know about them after we get back to Vancouver.

                Sorry for not replying sooner. Thanks to the heartbleed bug, I've been using LastPass to generate new passwords, and so far it has confounded me, necessitating three new Chowhound passwords.