Recs skewing to the casual for small, sights-oriented group
In the next 2-3 weeks, we're planning to overnight on Portland, probably arriving in time for lunch and leaving maybe, but maybe not, in time a dinner on the way out day two.
I've tried to give some specificity to this thread title, because I've done some due diligence and have observed that most generic "Portland Recs?" thread generate what are probably more stylish locations, discussion of chefs' table, etc., that sort of dining which is kind of like wine tastings, where discussion is largely about food. That's a kind of dining I relish, but this is not for our group.
I've just heard about Portland food for year, and my own top priority would be to try Pok Pok on the basis of all the amazement people express in national media. I also would welcome pizza place recs. I noticed there was a Cooking Channel show called Pizza Cuz, and I was struck that these guys didn't seem to know how to make a show in which at least one place wasn't in Portland.
To add to the juggling: I'm traveling myself as a pretty advanced foodie with my 14-year-old son who is similarly adventurous (were live in Indiana, but travel). We go out of our way and plan. But then we'll be with 3-6 of my Washington relatives, all of whom are a more or less conventional--kind of "time to refill the gas tank" types--and at least one of them is very gluten intolerant. (I know, sounds like the makings of the world's lamest reality show!)
Thoughts? Maybe a food truck cluster would facilitate something for everyone? Thanks in advance.
Food trucks are not overly common here (especially ones that move). Food carts reign supreme and when they are grouped together we call them pods. A large pod could have something for everyone. However, I know many non-Portlanders that are scared to eat at food carts for illogical safety concerns. Pods on the Eastside tend to have seating. The time of day/week you are here will affect which foods carts are open.
Most places accommodate gluten-free in some form these days. There are resturants that don't serve any gluten at all, but tend to be more "exotic" kind of food or atmosphere.
We've had good luck at the SE 28th and Ankeny pod that contains Burrasca, Güero and Captured by Porches in catering to various palates. Burrasca has wonderful Italian dishes for the more "gourmet" among you (but still comfort foody and crazy inexpensive http://burrascapdx.com/ I would kill to try their gnudi and sformato), Güero can handle the gluten free options handily and is a bit of a different spin on Mexican, and CBP is a beermonger with a covered seating area where you can all chow down together, regardless of whether you are imbibing or not. And if all else fails there is a grilled cheese cart! We've only been for lunch (twice) so not sure how late they stay open.
As visitors we've had no hesitation in trying a number of the food carts, and had no bad experiences (except not liking some offerings but that's the breaks!).
Ken's Artisan Pizza
Oven & Shaker
For a sit-down, "time to refill the gas tank" type meal as a group you could consider Deschutes Brewery, which will appeal to the Washingtonian contingent and will be OK for the foodies. Most restaurants around here have something for the gluten intolerant.
There is also Urban Farmer, which is a steakhouse but with a farm-to-table foodie spin. The sides are more inventive than classic steakhouses and they have a burger (which may only be on the bar menu, though, you might have to check if that is important).
I'd do Sunshine Tavern - great cocktails, good beer list, very good pizza and burgers and fried oysters and salads, a delicious $17 steak/fries plate. Right now there is a great carnitas nachos on the menu. It's comfort food so it's not gonna scare anyone, but it is very well done with good ingredients so no one is going to feel like it's fast food, either.
I also love Ate-oh-Ate. Casual Hawaiian (and an amazing burger on that menu), including wings, katsu, noodles, house made taro chips. Great mai tais on the short drinks list. Not big on atmosphere, to be sure, but the food is very good and the prices are very reasonable.
Another place with very good pizza but a bigger menu than that is Cibo. They even have a type of chickpea crust (cecina) that is naturally gluten free (and still traditionally Italian) so a gluten intolerant person can have something that is a like a pizza there too. Their spaghetti and meatballs is great. And their octopus salad (lightly dressed arugula, small bits of fried potato, and a whole octopus tentacle grilled over fire and cut up) is one of my favorite things in town. Good steak plate, good garlicky Caesar, nice wines and good cocktails (a great happy hour menu too) make this a regular spot for us.
Going to a strict pizza place, might be a bit difficult for a very gluten intolerant person, while most other places can probably handle that better.