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College Visits and 3 Days in Portland

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My 17 year old daughter and I are traveling to Portland (with another mother and daughter) in September to check out Reed, and Lewis & Clark colleges. We are staying at the Benson and have 3 lunches, 3 dinners and 3 breakfasts, though with early-ish appointments at the schools, breakfast may be of the grab-and-go variety, except on Saturday. We live in LA, eat out a lot, like pretty much everything (except for offal) and definitely want to experience the cultural cuisine of Portland -- the coffee, pastries, local food, seafood, ice cream. I've been trolling the boards a bit and while Roe looks very intriguing, I have to consider that my daughter and her friend are going to want to be checking out the upscale hipster places, as well as the more popular college haunts, and may not be all that interested in a 15 seat chef's table experience. How do Higgins and Paley's Place fit in to this scheme? How is Vie on the waterfront? Other thoughts on places near the water that will give us a feel for Portland? We all love sushi, so Boxer looked good. What would be the best place for a good Saturday breakfast / brunch before we leave town? Also, the girls may want to go out on their own -- good, fun places for high school seniors who will want to be mistaken for college girls? Thanks in advance!

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  1. Near the Benson (five minutes walk) are so many great places. Bunk Sandwiches, Lauretta Jean, Courier Coffee (amazing cookies too), Kenny & Zuke's, Little Bird. Not many good places on the water, sadly. Streets such as NE/SE 28th, SE Division, or NE Alberta would serve pretty much any/all of your listed needs other than waterways, and give you that Portland feel. I love Paley's. Pioneers of our food scene, and they still have it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Leonardo

      Don't miss the muffins, the cannele and the housemade vanilla syrup at Courier either! Little Bird and Lauretta Jean's also faves, though the latter doesn't have any seating at the location.

    2. Hi we are from LA and are in Portland a lot. We are foodies but don't do too many really expensive restaurants. We LOVE the Benson you will a be treated very well, so your high schoolers should love that and they should blend in with the young people. Have them wander around Powells books and definitely a trip to Voodoo donuts (the boxes make greats souveniers) ... Even our college student loved the voodoo donut box. Re dining, we are more brew pub types but they tend to be filled with lots of young people. Not sure about college haunts in Southwest Portland but Lucky Larador Brewery in Multonomah Village has the best pizza I have ever had: the Northwest with pesto and fruit. One tip: to my great surprise Portlanders, especially the young ones, seem to go to dinner quite late so I would find a cute spot like Clinton and 26th, eat At the Savoy late, and let the young ones be part of the street scene. Have fun. We LOVE Portland.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Jodie

        Voodoo donuts are awful. Even Safeway makes better. Question is, do you want quality or do you want "interesting" i.e. things shaped like genitalia etc. If you want the former go to Blue Star. Finest ingredients, dough made fresh by hand daily, clean shop, friendly service. And just plain delicious, among the best donuts nationwide. Get the Valrhona Chocolate Crunch, Pear Fritter or the Key Lime/Meyer Lemon.

      2. Replying not so much about specific eating spots but more general thoughts - Lewis and Clark is in a suburban part of town. Beautiful setting, but not within walking distance of shops, restaurants, etc. Poor bus service. If your daughter will have a car and is okay with her college experience including driving to off-campus food, night spots, etc, that's great, but it sounds like something she might want to consider.

        Not sure what "upscale hipster" means, but it sounds like an oxymoron to me. (Higgins would be a place for you and your friend to go to while the girls are out on the east side, walking around, dipping in and out of food carts.)

        Voodoo Donuts - please, no. If your daughter and friend want to show off their credibility when they get home, it should be because they didn't go there.

        For breakfast? Bijou Café? Stepping Stone in northwest PDX?

        Sorry I can't help with the college bound specifics - mine is eastward bound!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Chatsworth

          "Upscale hipster" probably is an oxymoron, but generally means anything that might be considered cool and/or desirable to someone under the age of 25-- this can range from an underground club where you need to be on the list, to a trendy, overpriced mediocre sushi place like Katsu-ya in LA. Instagram-worthy a plus.

        2. For great dinner, you can't go wrong with Le Pigeon, Park Kitchen, Screen Door, Ox, Ned Ludd, Smallwares, The Aviary... there are a million great answers. For brunch try Tasty 'n Sons if you can handle a wait, it's well worth it (also great for dinner). For food a college student might be able to afford, try Bollywood Theater, Salt and Straw, Porque No?, Lardo, Bunk, or Laurelhurst Market, for a start. If you want some real college credibility at Reed, give Dot's a shot, but it's not haute cuisine. As another poster pointed out, there's not much near Lewis and Clark.

          1. Thanks to everyone for great suggestions! As usual, schedules and time constraints made for more of an ad-hoc dining experience, but we thoroughly enjoyed Blue Star donuts (and brought several home) for "breakfast," Deschutes for lunch and Blue Hour restaurant (downtown) and Pizza Maria (Division) for dinner. We also waited the obligatory hour plus to eat at Pok Pok, which was underwhelming (I think certain aspects like long waits, Michelin stars and super high prices create a level of expectation in diners than can be hard to meet). We also enjoyed the food at Lewis & Clark and Reed. I think Pizza Maria was the biggest unexpected surprise, and recommend it to Portlanders. Massive, neopolitan style oven, thin crust, friendly service and outrageous crostini with creamy ricotta, olive oil and lemon. Very good wine selection. They are new to the neighborhood. By contrast, we found the ribs at Pok Pok dry, the papaya salad and boar collar overwhelmingly spicy, but the fish wings and stir fried spinach (on choy) and Cornish hen were quite good. Just not the wait.
            We also took in Voodoo Donuts just to say we did. Eh. but Blue Star rocks!

            1 Reply
            1. re: NAspy

              Thanks for the report! And for the hint on Pizza Maria. Division is so pizza-heavy it's hard to keep them all in mind. I just had Blue Star's newest fritter, the banana walnut.