Portland Restaurant recommendations
May 19, 2005 6:58 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I are spending this weekend in Portland for our 12th wedding anniversary. We are staying at the Mark Spencer, and have tickets to a play Sunday evening. I'd like to book us a dinner someplace nice (but under $200 including wine/tip) for dinner either before or after the theater.

I've checked out some guidebooks, Google, and the Wilammette Week, but would love some personal recommendations. I'm intrigued by the prix fixe dinners at the Heathman - are they still happening? Is it too late to get reservations?
We eat almost anything (except cilantro, it tastes like soap to my hubby, so no Thai darn it!), and have a fondness for Italian or French food - or steaks for that matter.
posted by dbmcd to Travel & Transportation around Portland, OR (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm sure you'll get a lot of recommendations directly from folks here, but you might also want to check out the Chowhound discussion board for the Pacific Northwest, with its very active community of restaurant-goers in Portland.
posted by WestCoaster at 7:15 PM on May 19, 2005

We've only been in town for a year and a half, but these have done us very well:

farm (all local, mostly organic)

le bistro montage (uniquely portland)

and...for neighborhood trattoria...gino's

...more good reviews online at http://www.realgoodfood.com/
posted by diastematic at 8:00 PM on May 19, 2005

The Mark Spencer is over-rated, btw. I'd find something else.
posted by FlamingBore at 8:17 PM on May 19, 2005

I'll second the Farm -- not too fancy or expensive, but v. delicious and comfortable.

Lovely Hula Hands is also great, in a cool atmosphere, though slightly out of the way if you've got to be downtown quickly afterward.

If you want to stay downtown, Higgins is fancy and well-regarded, with good wine and dessert and vegetarian options. I've been there just twice, but I had great things both times. Carnivore dining partners enjoyed the meaty dishes.
posted by lisa g at 8:25 PM on May 19, 2005

One of my favorites is Porto Terra, which is the Hilton's restaurant, on Sixth just south of Yamhill. They specialize in rich Italian fare with deep flavors. One of our favorite things is the amazing stuffed artichoke appetizer. I can't remember the name, and the menu they have online looks a bit outdated. The only sadness is that their desserts are lackluster.

For a good dessert, I recommend walking down to Allesandro's on 3rd and Morrison. While their entrees are just adequate, their desserts are a wonder. While it's all good, I especially recommend the tartufo, or the ice cream with Amarena cherries.

Unless you are heavy drinkers, this should all come in at around $100.
posted by frykitty at 8:49 PM on May 19, 2005

If you are looking for a good Portland meal with that kind of budget, I'd avoid the Farm. Inconsistent service and meals that aren't always served warm aren't things I'd want to pay $200 to experience.
Higgins is an outstanding choice - local products, great service and excellent food. It's truly a definitive Portland restaurant, and just a skip away from where you are likely seeing your play.
If you're staying at the Mark Spencer, make sure to take the streetcar down to the Farmer's market Saturday morning (it's at the far end of the Park Blocks at PSU). There's some good snacking available there. Breakfast is a religion here in Portland, so make sure you ask about that as well. We take our Breakfast very, very seriously around here.
posted by TomSophieIvy at 8:52 PM on May 19, 2005

Another recommendation--2nd Story Bistro at 2nd and NW Couch. They are upstairs in a beautiful little nook that was decorated when The Hobbit was originally popular. Order from the menu or don't--the chef enjoys a challenge. There you'll get the whole package of amazing meals and desserts.
posted by frykitty at 8:55 PM on May 19, 2005 [1 favorite]

Everyone I've talked to says the Higgins is amazing but I haven't tried it yet. About the nicest meal I've had in PDX was the thai restaurant at the Hotel Lucia (very hip place to stay). It was probably $50 per person.
posted by mathowie at 9:03 PM on May 19, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks to all of you for your recommendations! I'll call the Higgins and see what's available - I was tempted by other reviews, but wanted to hear something from "real people".
TomSophieIvy - so tell me, just where should we have breakfast on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday? If Portlanders take it so seriously, talk to me! (w/in walking/tram distance of our hotel, please).
Re: the Mark Spencer being over-rated, we're only paying $79/night (with theater tickets one night), we've stayed there before, and although it's not fancy, it's perfectly adequate. I'd prefer a more basic hotel room, and use the money on a splurge meal or two (and books at Powells).
posted by dbmcd at 9:37 PM on May 19, 2005


South Park Seafood Grill


Blue Hour.

Not necessarily ITO.

I like the Hotel Lucia, as well.

Papa Haydn's on NW 23rd has a fantastic sunday brunch.
posted by docpops at 9:40 PM on May 19, 2005

OK, I moved out of downtown a few years ago, but a few spots worth noting: Second Story Bistro and Daily Cafe in the Pearl come highly recommended, Besaw's (!) is a legend, Ken's Artisan Bakery (if breakfast is as good as their lunch) has fantastic bread and goodies.
I'd also ask the staff at Higgins - there's a restaurant Mafia in Portland, so make sure you ask at least two or three people there.
Make sure you hit Powell's technical, of course. If you're up on 23rd, make sure you get some of that there yellow cake with Chocolate frosting Gelato up by the Nob Hill. Oh yeah.
I used to live a block away from the Spencer. While I miss the Henry's Brewery (and whistling the Laverne and Shirley theme song while walking under the bottling line) and the insane pace of construction in that area, it was nice to have a Whole Foods and a Sur La Table a minute away.
posted by TomSophieIvy at 10:26 PM on May 19, 2005

Second Southpark and Papa Hayden's. Both are great.
posted by MostHolyPorcine at 10:27 PM on May 19, 2005

frykitty writes "Another recommendation--2nd Story Bistro at 2nd and NW Couch. They are upstairs in a beautiful little nook that was decorated when The Hobbit was originally popular. Order from the menu or don't--the chef enjoys a challenge. There you'll get the whole package of amazing meals and desserts."

Is it still 2nd Story Bistro? When I was working for the Chinese Garden and Jazz De Opus became a strip club, I thought it changed too.
posted by karmaville at 10:32 PM on May 19, 2005

When I was working for the Chinese Garden and Jazz De Opus became a strip club, I thought it changed too.

The strip club is back to being a jazz club now. We actually went to 2nd Story when it was by the strip club, so I'm pretty sure it's still there.
posted by frykitty at 10:37 PM on May 19, 2005

Another vote for Higgins. It's really convenient if you're going to see a play at Portland Center Stage (Broadway).
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 10:46 PM on May 19, 2005

Crazy. And add my voice to Higgens. Sorry, meant to put that in the first post.
posted by karmaville at 10:47 PM on May 19, 2005

From someone that has eaten at the 2nd Story Bistro a handful of times... It's fine, a good place for a few drinks and a meal, but by no means is it the type of place I'd spend $200 or even $50. There are much much much better places in the area to spend that kind of dough.
posted by pwb503 at 11:12 PM on May 19, 2005

Based on the location of your hotel, I'd recommend Higgins or South Park. Both are excellent. Higgins is more fancy-schmancy and of higher quality. South Park is more laid back and fun. If you go to South Park, and if you like chocolate, you must have their chocolate crostata for dessert. Yum.

If I had to choose, I'd choose one of those two, depending on my mood. (Higgins for a quiet, romantic evening; South Park for stepping out.)
posted by jdroth at 5:29 AM on May 20, 2005

pwb503, I was recommending 2nd story for breakfast. Hell, for $200 you could get a lot of steak dinners at The Acropolis as well.
dbmcd, if you are feeling a bit adventuresome and want to try out the transit system... Equinox on Mississippi and The Tin Shed or Helser's on Alberta are a nice bus ride away.
posted by TomSophieIvy at 5:54 AM on May 20, 2005

the PDX chowhounds are all over Park Kitchen...
posted by rschroed at 6:23 AM on May 20, 2005

I love Il Piatto at 2348 SE Ankeny St (though it's been more than a year)
posted by stevil at 8:05 AM on May 20, 2005

Park Kitchen and clarklewis are two of my favorites right now. clarklewis' tasting menu is a fantastic value at $35 for 3 to 5 courses (depending on what they feel like sending out).

For a slightly more expensive experience (but still eminently do-able for $200), Paley's Place is also fantastic. There's a reason Vitaly Paley just won the Beard Award (the foodie equivalent of the Oscars) for Best Northwest Chef.

Higgins is always good, but maybe not as interesting as Park Kitchen, clarklewis or Paley's Place. Certainly a safe choice, though.

As far as your hotel is concerned, I've always preferred the Mallory to the Mark Spencer, if what you want is a funkier, older hotel with a little more personality in the under-$150/night range, and their bar, the "Driftwood Room" is one of Portland's real treasures.

If you want to spend a little more, the "Starlight Rooms" at the Hotel Vintage Plaza are pretty damn cool.
posted by dersins at 8:09 AM on May 20, 2005

For something both nice and off the beaten path, give Castagna a chance.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:01 PM on May 20, 2005

I second Castagna, though I've merely been to the cafe side. Very accessible, great food, not expensive.

For breakfast downtown, go to the Bijou Cafe on 3rd and (i believe) Pine, across from the Embassy Suites - next door to THE Portland coffee roasting co, Stumptown.
posted by immer geradeaus at 3:40 PM on May 20, 2005

For breakfast on the weekend (only!) trust me on this and go across the river to Wild Abandon on Belmont and 20th or so. It's a straight shot across the river on the Morrison bridge. Any taxi cab driver will know how to get you there, or you could hop on the bus that runs down Belmont. Really. Trust me.
posted by pwb503 at 3:46 PM on May 21, 2005

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