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MSP Hound visiting end of June - Rec's needed

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  • Seige May 9, 2014 09:11 PM
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Hi PDX Chowhounders!

Man, this MSP girl's head is swimming with all your awesome dining options! The hubster and I will be making our first trip to Portland at the end of June (Thursday night - Sunday morning) and then will be heading up to Seattle and the San Juan Islands. We have 3 breakfasts/brunches, 2 lunches, and 3 dinners to plan. I've been reading the boards, but the options are pretty overwhelming and I'm still trying to wade through things. In the meantime, I'm hoping maybe you all will have some additional good suggestions for us. We'll be staying at the Paramount Hotel and we will have a car. Here's what we are and aren't looking for:

Looking for:
1) At least one splurge dinner - although a place that accommodates allergy issues is important (i.e. probably not Beast). I think we'll be doing Canlis in Seattle, so something probably different from that would be good.
2) Some light eats - we can't eat heavy at every meal, so some light options will be good.
3) Best food carts/trucks - we know you have a good scene - what are the best options?
4) Good seafood - we live in MN and while we have fresh lake fish, we lack a lot of fresh seafood. Particularly interested in the crab if it's in season.
5) Food and preparations that are decidedly Portland - it's always nice to have something you can't get at home.
6) Portland Farmer's Market - I've already got my eye on Pine State Biscuits and Lauretta Jean's, but are there other Farmer's Market vendors we should check out?
7) Any interesting bakeries, coffee shops, ice cream shops and the like. Places that are good for snacks or those light eats I mentioned earlier.
8) Really good breakfasts and a great Sunday brunch before we head to Seattle.

What we're NOT looking for
1) Dress codes. We like good food, but we like staying casual, so no restaurants that require suits, ties, etc.
2) Uber fancy - we love fine dining and aren't opposed to it in any way, but we love hole-in-the-wall places too. As long as the food is good and the area is safe, we're good.
3) Asian or Mexican food - We have the largest Hmong population outside of Thailand in MSP, so we have our pick of awesome Asian food. If there's a stand out/don't miss place, we're not opposed, but would prefer to steer clear of that if at all possible.

Thanks much! Once I get the list somewhat finalized, I'll run it past you for critique. :)

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  1. Might be nice if we knew the allergy constraints...

    Specifically addressing your points:

    **Looking for:

    ** 1) At least one splurge dinner -

    Roe (this hits #1 and #4). Call ASAP if it appeals to you and try to get a table at the chef's counter. Only open Thurs-Sat, so Thurs might be your best bet. Alternative would be OX, but Roe has some of the best food in town and it is all seafood-based.

    ** 2) Some light eats -

    Consider Racion, Tasty & Alder, Pok Pok, Biwa (can get small plates at these places and share). If you do Roe for #1, then you could share small plates at OX and eat lighter (i.e., skip a main course - the smaller plates are more interesting IMO anyway).

    ** 3) Best food carts/trucks -

    Nong's Khao Man Gai, Koi Fusion. I don't eat at many food carts, but these are good and others think so as well. Perhaps others can chime in with alternative options.

    ** 4) Good seafood -

    Roe, hands down. Many other restaurants do seafood dishes well here. Also consider Higgins, Paleys (although they are not seafood places). My opinion is is to skip places like Jake's. Your quest for crab is a bit problematic as Dungenous crab is typically in season during months that have the letter "r" in them.

    ** 5) Food and preparations that are decidedly Portland

    So no pasties and poutine? ;-) OX, Roe, Tasty & Alder, Pok Pok (there are only 2 - PDX and NYC). Sensing a theme here? :-)

    ** 6) Portland Farmer's Market -

    Pine State and Lauretta Jeans are two of the highlights. There is also a woman who makes her own mushroom broth-based soups at the corner of the Market and these are very good, as well.

    ** 7) Any interesting bakeries, coffee shops, ice cream shops and the like.

    A recent poster started a thread on this recently. Check it out. He/she did not mention ice cream, though, so check out Salt & Straw for that.

    ** 8) Really good breakfasts and a great Sunday brunch

    Breakfasts at Imperial, Tasty & Alder. Sunday Brunch at Beast.

    **What we're NOT looking for:

    No need to worry about any of these here.

    4 Replies
    1. re: cobpdx

      Thanks for such a thoughtful reply. I really appreciate it!

      The allergy constraints are that I'm deathly allergic to sheep's milk and goat's milk. Weird and tragic, I know. Unfortunately the tiniest bit begins throat closure, so I try to steer clear of Spanish and Greek restaurants (no manchego or feta for me, sadly) and any place that won't sub cow's milk cheeses and yogurts, etc.

      With regard to Roe, we're flying into Seattle on Thursday and driving down to Portland right away to start our trip, so there's no way we'd get there Thursday night in time for the 6:15 seating at the chef's counter. Is it a chef's counter or bust kind of thing or would "slumming" with the regulars in the restaurant be just as good? I recognize that the chef's counter probably won't happen on Friday or Saturday either.

      Thanks for the tip on the mushroom soups at the Farmer's Market. Sounds right up our alley too!

      Is Beast really as hardcore about substitutions as it seems on their website? I thought about doing the Sunday brunch there, but I don't want to pay $$$ if I can't eat something because of the cheese issue.

      1. re: Seige

        1) If Canlis is in your price wheelhouse for a splurge I might stick with that. There is not anything really like it in Portland in terms of view, wine list, old school service and atmosphere. In the last couple of years they have updated the food and it think it is excellent. It will cost you though no doubt.

        2) good mentions. I would add in Sen Yai for noodles. Davenport also is smaller plates and lighter touch on the richness. Tanuki for Japanese food and craziness.

        3) Carts: Don't really eat at them but Khao Man Gai is a must if you are patrolling them.

        4) Other then Roe and the fish and chips-y joint it is located in there aren't really "seafood" restaurants in Portland unless you include Jake's (don't) and the Ringside Fishhouse (not my thing but better than Jake's in all likelihood) but nearly all good restaurants have some measure of fish dishes. Paley's has great preperations for instance. Higgins as well. Pigeon does too. There are few fine dining places in Town that don't have some well prepared seafood item(s) on the menu or as specials.

        5) Atalua is also pretty unique. Bar Avignon does incredibly seasonal stuff. Departures doesn't get enough credit for their food because of its location and scene but they have really interesting small bites.

        6) Fred Carlo sausage sandwiches are awesome and there are not lines 30 people deep there.

        7) There are a million threads on coffee and honestly unless you insist on going to a big chain you sort of can't lose in Portland. Maurice in downtown is nifty.

        8) Every breakfast place (especially weekends and double on Sundays) comes with a heaping helping of waiting. I find it bizarre that people will stand on the sidewalk for an hour for breakfast. No wait at Imperial even though the food is terrific. James John Cafe way not in NoPo is awesome and uniquely eclectic but they can make coffee, drinks and offbeat food with the best of them.

        1. re: oregonjim

          Tanuki is a bar that doesn't cater to any dietary needs at all. It's a small (maybe 4 tables and some counter seating) place with a set menu of drinking food (it is now ONLY omakase, there's no other menu for food). You may encounter nuts, seafood, gluten, soy, etc...it is not the place for anyone with allergies or sensitivities to food or anyone that adheres to a special diet. No substitutions, no sushi, no kids...and expect to be carded at the door...and those are only some of the rules. ;o) I love the place, and I am a regular and friends with the owner, but it is just not the place for everyone.

        2. re: Seige

          For Roe, I wasn't aware they only had seatings at certain times. You might call it see if they could accommodate you later at the counter ( or on the Friday or Saturday... you never know). Otherwise, yes, still do Roe at the regular tables. The dishes are often the same I believe, you just pick and choose what you want off the menu and the portions are a bit larger. Seriously, this is the place to go for your seafood fix. Note that it has an Asian influence and many dishes are raw.

          In terms of Beast, the menu is set. They cook in a fairly small kitchen and everyone is at communal tables. Everyone is served the same thing, so the only way you would be assured to be OK is to make a reservation then review the menu online (comes out on Wednesday for the week) and then CALL to confirm no goat/sheep milk. You can always cancel if there is something in there you can't eat. They also do a cheese course at dinner which is small but you would have to just skip it probably if it was a throat closer. You could have the same plan for brunch, I would think.

          In addition, Urban Farmer does a good brunch and you can also reserve there. The non-reservable places CAN have very long waits.

      2. Dress code? Hahahahaha!

        1. Fellow MSP traveler here. I went to PDX last October. Two places we went that I do not believe have MSP equivalents are Roe and Whiskey Soda Lounge/Pok Pok.

          Roe was the highlight of our trip. The restaurant is quite small so the atmosphere doesn't suffer from not sitting at the chef's counter. DH and I each did a 5 course tasting menu; you could select what you wanted for each course from about three to four different options.

          Also went to SE Wine Collective for wine twice during our trip. It gave us the opportunity to try many different wines made by members of the collective that we would never be able to get in MN. Decent small plates/snacks/cheese - fairly standard pairings for wine, nothing too exciting but perfectly adequate. I believe you can also get a pizza from a nearby place too.

          1 Reply
          1. re: eajohnso2000

            FYI, at SE Wine Collective you can also order some very good pizza from Cibo (next door/around the block) if you need some more substantial nibbles.

            I am especially fond of the Helioterra and Seven Bridges winemakers offerings. The SE Collective folks are also members of the larger PDX Urban Wineries (ENSO & Hip Chicks have theirown tasting rooms in town, but I would not necesarily seek them out ;o) - they are basically garagistes who banded together to share bottling/marketing/tasting room costs: http://pdxurbanwineries.com/wineries

          2. Another suggestion of Urban Farmer for brunch. Fantastic dishes using locally-sourced products (surprising for a hotel restaurant).

            If you like wine, a stop at Oregon Wines on Broadway is highly recommended - great selection of Oregon wines by the glass.

            If you like Hawaiian, the 808 food truck is great. But if I had to choose one, I would go with Nongs, hands down.

            1. All posts are pretty much spot on. But my favorite Portland style food experience is Country Cat hands down. its a hole in the wall owned by a James Beard nominee. I take all of my MN friends there directly from the airport. Then they want to move here.

              Hit them up for Brunch you will love it. I promise.

              And BTW, Canlis is outstanding. Nothing compares in Mpls/St Paul

              From a past Minnesotan.

              1. I bookmarked this thread, as OP's interest matches mine. I just got back from my first trip to PDX. You already got good info. The only points that I can add on:

                1) Roe is great. They now serve chef's tasting menu for the entire dining room at 6:15pm seating, contrary to what their web site says (as of today). As a bonus, food is light (seafood with Asian influence).
                2) Coffee is almost uniformly good. For my taste: I enjoy ed most: cappuccino at Barista, and single-origin pour at Coava.

                1. These were hard choices and I still don't have everything nailed down completely, since sometimes you have to wing it a little bit, but here's what I'm thinking so far. Thoughts?

                  Thursday night - not sure when we'll get in since we're flying into SEA and driving down to PDX. Thus, no set reservation, but I'm thinking maybe Tasty & Alder that first night

                  Friday - Urban Farmer for breakfast; light lunch unknown or potential afternoon grazing; Ox for dinner

                  Saturday - Farmer's Market for breakfast/lunch; dinner at Roe

                  Sunday morning - breakfast at Country Cat before driving back up to Seattle. Hubby saw CC on DDD, so I'm not sure this one is negotiable.

                  Thanks again for all your suggestions! They'll definitely help with the "winging" aspect too. :)

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Seige

                    I would call Tasty before heading over. Waits can reach 2 hours with no rezzos. There are a treasure trove of restaurants in that downtown area many to most of which will not have the traffic issues and most better or more interesting food. IMO.

                    1. re: Seige

                      I think your itinerary looks pretty good. If Tasty n Alder is too long of a wait there are several other options nearby, as oregonjim points out, and are also within walking distance of your hotel:

                      Urban Farmer or Departure
                      Grassa (pasta)
                      Gruner
                      Lardo (sandwiches)

                      Have a good trip!

                      1. re: Seige

                        One idea is to drive by Ox on the day of arrival. It is a no reservation place, I went with a friend on Friday evening around 8:30 and it was packed, so we decided to dine elsewhere. The receptionist told us on weekdays, it would usually involve only a short wait if you arrive after 8 If you arrive late, you may be lucky to get seated quickly.

                        1. re: Seige

                          Nice plan. A couple of thoughts for Thursday, Woodsman Tavern uses Open Table and I would guess you could book a table that day on your way to PDX. We just had an outstanding dinner their last night.

                          Another relaxed option is Apizza Scholls.

                          If Tasty and Alder is too busy, try Ristorante Roma just down the street. A super quaint family owned pasta joint straight from Rome.

                          Friday light lunch, consider Meat, Cheese, and Bread or Shut up and Eat

                          Have fun!

                        2. Hey, I just moved from MSP to the Willamette Valley in April. You should make your way down to the Newberg/Dundee/McMinnville stretch for some winery visits. Most tastings are extremely reasonable, unpretentious, and fun. There's some great eating to be had as well. Nice day trip, no more than an hour south of PDX.