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Portland recommendations ?

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A friend of mine asked me to post here. He's looking for Portland recommendations. Nothing toooooo expensive, but $20-ish entrees would be fine. Any suggestions ?

- S

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In Portland $20-ish entrees are considered expensive...

For a quintessentially Portland experience, I'd suggest Higgins*, Jake's Famous Crawfish, Paley's Place*, or Wildwood, all on the upscale side by our provincial standards. Another option would be to sample the small plates on 28th at Tabla, Navarre*, and Noble Rot*.

Other excellent choices include Cafe Azul (classic Oaxacan moles, incredibly good but a little pricey), Carafe*, Pascal Sauton's new Parisian Bistro, Bluehour*, the most styling spot in town but with really good food, too, Bastas*, an often overlooked but good and affordable Italian restaurant, or Cafe Lauro, David Machado's new pan-Mediterranean spot.

*one of my olive oil customers...salt grains optional

Jim


olive oil + salt

Real Good Food

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Here's a sampler in different cuisines. See what strikes your palate and pocketbook. All are excellent. btw, call first. Several of these do not accept reservations and are small and get very busy.

Wildwood: The best of the local/organic/Northwest restaurants, imo. Very consistent, very tasty. Split a pizza for an appetizer. They're almost always great. Entrees $20-30. Other good options in this category are Paley's, Heathman, Lucere, and Bluehour. People seem to like Higgins, which is also in this category, but I find it quite inconsistent and underwhelming.

Caprial's: One of the more interesting menus usually, often fusing Latin and Asian ingredients and techniques with very flavorful results. Chic interior (for Portland). Entrees $20-30.

Buckman Bistro: Smallish plates mostly under $10 but with a lot of flavor. Relatively casual place. Entrees $7-10.

Tuscany Grill: Probably the most interesting menu of the several Italian restaurants in NW portland (others are Cafe Mingo, Serrato, Basta's, and Il Fornaio, this last one an upper level California chain).

Cafe Azul: Truly authentic Mexican comfort foods like moles and tamales focusing on Oaxacan and Yucatan preparations. Uses high quality ingredients and executes the dishes impeccably. Entrees $18-$25.

Esparza's Tex Mex: Tex-Mex better and more interesting than you'll probably get in Texas. Smoked meats, huge portions, funky interior, and lots of tequila if that's your thing. Entrees $8-12.

Pambiche: Cuban comfort food with a huge dessert case. Entrees $8-12.

Pho Van: Quality Vietnamese in two locations. The preparations are always executed well. Entrees $8-12.

Sungari: Quality Szechuan in two locations. Like Pho Van, they use quality ingredients and cook meats and such properly. Entrees $10-15.

Lemongrass: Quality Thai food in a beautiful Victorian with a nice deck out back. Some say it's not authentic enough. Fine. It's still quite good. Entrees $8-14.

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Buckman Bistro always gets my vote on the small plates restaurants. I've never left there unhappy.

Casanis is a new French restaurant @NW Glisan and 17th. The menu is setup as 3 courses in the range of $20 for all 3. I've been there about 5 times and always a good experience.

rodney

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I had dinner tonight at Buckman Bistro and left both full and smitten. My main squeeze and I had four small plates, two scrumptious desserts, and coffee (we're both getting over colds so we weren't drinking, though their wine list was tempting...) for a bit under $40. Not bad considering the quality and distinct flavors. The atmosphere is very warm and Portland-ish...meshed well with the distinctly Oregon weather of today!

FYI: They start serving lunch on October 6th.

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I have just completed my year long world-wind tour of Portland restaurants.

My favorites from the past year are based on both food and service:

Fratelli's Ristorante

Lucy's Table

Pho Van

Three Doors Down

Loved the food but the service was lacking:

Higgins

Fife

Worst service ever: Veritable Quandary

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Fratelli's will always be a sentimental favourite for me because I had my first experience with gnocchi there and was blown away by how this was clearly the most delicious food ever and how could a pasta be that luscious and then I found out that that was actually because the dish also included my first truffle experience.

Great recipe - Yukon gold potato gnocchi with spinach and proscuitto and fontina. And white truffle oil. They wrote it out. I made it once -- took all day. But mmmm.

I really liked the duck-cabbage-wasabi spring rolls at VQ but it's not worth the attitude. Which is usually coming from the other customers, not the staff, in my experience.

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My favorites from the past year are based on both food and service:

Fratelli's Ristorante

Lucy's Table

Pho Van

Three Doors Down

Loved the food but the service was lacking:

Higgins

Fife

Interesting selection. I wouldn't put any of those in my top 10, probably, except maybe Pho Van in The Pearl only because I'd be giving it a nod for some cuisine diversity. I think I've been to them all in the last year except Fratelli's. I certainly don't think I got anything special as far as service goes at any of them. For a service/food combo, it'd be hard to beat places like Genoa, Wildwood, Paley's, and Caprial's. Of course, they're also some of the more expensive. Heathman often has a good service/flavor combo, but there are nights when the service just lacks, unfortunately. They're few, but it does happen. But Heathman also has better prices than these.

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Interesting selection.  I wouldn't put any of those in my top 10, probably, except maybe Pho Van in The Pearl only because I'd be giving it a nod for some cuisine diversity.  I think I've been to them all in the last year except Fratelli's.  I certainly don't think I got anything special as far as service goes at any of them.  For a service/food combo, it'd be hard to beat places like Genoa, Wildwood, Paley's, and Caprial's.  Of course, they're also some of the more expensive.  Heathman often has a good service/flavor combo, but there are nights when the service just lacks, unfortunately.  They're few, but it does happen.  But Heathman also has better prices than these.

I have also been to Wildwood, Paley's and Caprials. While I had good food there I didn't have great food. And service-wise each one of those made me feel I was entering a club I didn't belong to. Quite uncomfortable. In fact I went back to Paley's for drinks (before dining at Wildwood) and my husband and I were both put off by the bartender's snobby attitude.

The restaurants I mentioned as favorites had food that was unique, well orchestrated and left me wanting more. Maybe I was just lucky and ordered the right thing that night!

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I have also been to Wildwood, Paley's and Caprials. While I had good food there I didn't have great food. And service-wise each one of those made me feel I was entering a club I didn't belong to. Quite uncomfortable. In fact I went back to Paley's for drinks (before dining at Wildwood) and my husband and I were both put off by the bartender's snobby attitude.

That's unfortunate. I've never felt that way at any of them and I never wear more than a polo shirt. In the summer, I often dress even more casual. So I doubt they ever are fooled into thinking that I'm wealthy or anything. I don't drink, either, which can often lead to a snobbiness from waitstaff who are seeing their tips diminish.

I think all of the places you mention are missing something in the flavors primarily, though, that keeps them from being the level of food you'd find at those that I mentioned. I'd put a place like Buckman Bistro before those that you mentioned. We may just look for different things in our dishes, however.

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I would suggest Wildwood, because it's a quintessential Portland restaurant: local ingredients. The restaurant is pretty but not overbearing; the prices are the same.

Bruce

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Pho Van bistro (in NW Portland): Been there twice. First was very shortly after they opened, went for the pho, and I didn't think it was as good as their main pho restaurant on 82nd. I mentioned it, and received a neutral reply. I wasn't really into their bistro concept at the time - similar food at higher prices.

Next time was a romantic anniversary dinner a month or two later; food was very good, but not better than you can get for far less money at one of the local family-owned and run restaurants, but without the 'atmosphere' of the bistro. (Unfortunately, I don't have any names for those restaurants; it's been too long to remember. I don't eat out much; I find it better and cheaper to cook at home, but I'm semi-familiar with some Asian cooking styles, and, er, cheap). One amusing incident from that dinner: I ordered a Gewurtztraminer from the wine list, thinking it would go well with the food, and the waitress said something like, "Ge-what??"

All this was a year and a half ago or so, and it's likely that the bistro has worked out any minor quirks since then. I no longer have any need of anniversary dinners, and have curtailed my dining out. (Um, :sad:)

If you want the best pho in Portland, and don't care about atmosphere and high prices, skip Pho Van (and Pho Hung, the other main contender). Go to Pho Oregon on Sandy. I'm reluctant to sugest it, since they already have more business than they can handle from the Vietnamese community, but they blow the others away.

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If you want the best pho in Portland, and don't care about atmosphere and high prices, skip Pho Van (and Pho Hung, the other main contender). Go to Pho Oregon on Sandy. I'm reluctant to sugest it, since they already have more business than they can handle from the Vietnamese community, but they blow the others away.

Hey, no sending more people to my favorite pho shop, it's already crowded! I love that it's in an old Kentucky Fried Chicken building (those ones with the "hats" for roofs). If only we could have banh xeo before our bowls of pho...otherwise, perfect.

regards,

trillium

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In fact I went back to Paley's for drinks (before dining at Wildwood) and my husband and I were both put off by the bartender's snobby attitude.

We had the very same experience from a female bartender at Paleys. We walked in and sat at the bar. There was another couple sitting at the bar and 2 girls talking at the end of the bar. We sat there for about 5 solid minutes without a bartender in sight when one of the girls talking stepped behind the bar looked at us and said "I'll be right with you" and then started talking to her friend again.

I've never been so openly snubbed in my life.

rodney

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I just might have been part of that other "couple sitting at the bar"! It was a female bartender and she couldn't of cared less if we liked our drinks or wanted another.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Another good place to go is Portland City Grill especially for happy hour. You can eat well and cheaply and enjoy the great view of Portland. Dinner is also good there but a little on the pricey side. I had 4 large shrimp and some rice for $23. The lobster goes for $65. I'd stick with the happy hour!

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extramsg, do you want to help open a bakery in hawaii? I know how, I need $$$ (or should I try Bill Gates).

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Wildwood:  Caprial's: Buckman Bistro: Tuscany Grill:  Cafe Azul:  Esparza's Tex Mex:  Pambiche: Pho Van:  Sungari:  Lemongrass:

This list covers most of my favorites. Paley's has great food but on the two occasions I tried it, my companion and I were treated with extreme rudeness.

I went to Cafe Lauro this evening and it was excellent with a range from single pizza's to more elaborate meals.

Others not yet mentioned: Laslows, Cafe Mingo, and Winterborne. The Pho Van in Northwest is more upscale than the one on 82nd which is more of a casual, family restaurant. If you can eat dinner early, khun pic's is one of the best Thai restaurants in Portland. If you don't get in when it opens, the wait for a table and then for the food is unbearably long.


Edited by pitti (log)

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I like Laslow's menus and the sound of the dishes and the prices, but the times I've been there, always with several people, there were several dishes that weren't executed properly, an off flavor, bitter sauce, overcooked meat, or the like. Maybe I've just been on bad nights, but I just think their execution comes up short.

I wonder if Paley's attempt at more formal service comes across rude in Portland. I know the others who have described that bar tender's service clearly got poor service. The times I've been to Paley's, though, the service was very good. Maybe a little stiff, but very good. And like I've said, I dress rather casual and don't spend much on clothes, so I doubt I would have fooled anyone into thinking I'm wealthy. I tend to like service that gets the job done but otherwise leaves me alone. I have no real desire, eg, to have the waiter kneel at my table and pretend to be my friend. (Not implying anything about you pitti or anyone else, just my own feelings on the matter.)

Nick

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I also don't like staff hovering. What happened at Paley's was a different experience. One time a friend and I walked in toward the end of the dinner hour asking if we could just get dessert. The woman, I believe the owner, yelled at us across the room of people in an angry voice telling us that this was a dinner restaurant. Really embarrassing. After a while and repeatedly good reviews noting friendly staff I excused that because the restaurant before Paley's had been famous for dessert. A year later I met a friend there. We had early reservations for dinner. When I walked in my friend was the only one seated in the restaurant. She was upset and crying because the staff had yelled at her for asking for a different table.

Maybe this behavior works in NY but I'm used to better treatment at a restaurant. I laugh every time I see Paley's described in reviews as focused on customer service. They must know the reviewers and cater to them.

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pitti-

Tell me about Winterborne. I've heard great things, but always about one dish - the crab/pear one. Is the overall experience worth the price? (Which is, correct me if I'm wrong, about $50 a person, including three courses and a drink.)

How does it compare to my local favorites - Buckman Bistro, Fratelli, Ginos, BeWon, Cafe Mingo, Daily Cafe etc.?

Thanks!

Rachael

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