Looking for awesome Portland dining suggestions
March 16, 2012 11:51 AM   Subscribe

Portland, OR mefites: Looking for neat-o birthday dinner recommendations in your fine city for this weekend.

Five of us are heading down from Vancouver, BC tonight and spending the weekend in Portland.

I'd like to find a tasty, relatively cheap ($20 or less per entree) place for my other half's birthday dinner on Sunday night. He's a non-picky carnivore - a burger and beer type of guy. Open to cuisines of any ethnicity; only real caveats are no chain restaurants and somewhere with decent wheat-free options.

It's always hard to know if you're picking the best option in an unfamiliar city, especially one with so many of them! Thanks all!
posted by area.man to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Toro Bravo might be a good choice. It's super delicious, and with five of you I bet you could get a decent amount of food for about $20 a person--plus it's really fun and memorable for a group. We usually do the tasting menu when we go ($30 a person, if you wanted to spend a tiny bit more) and it is SO much food. And SO good. It is probably my favorite restaurant in town.

I've also heard really good things about Pok Pok, although we haven't been there ourselves and therefore can't personally vouch for it. Maybe someone else here can? Their online menu suggests it would fall in your price range.

There are also some good suggestions in this thread, although it's a bit dated.
posted by stellaluna at 12:18 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

For burgers specifically, ExtraMSG did a list of his top ten picks for Portland burgers. Some of these places have menus that are in your price range overall (Biwa, Foster Burger), while some are generally high-priced (LePigeon, Metrovino). Expect a wait at any of these places on a Saturday night.

Portland Food and Drink has a search tool that may help you narrow down options, and this recent thread asking for recommendations in SE Portland may help you.

MiMeroMole is excellent and cheap, and Sunshine Tavern is also in your price range and has pretty okay beer.

Burnside Brewing
is slightly overpriced on food I think, but they brew in-house and have interesting beer. Belmont Station and Bailey's Taproom have great beer selections, but you should go elsewhere for food. Hopworks also brews decent beer in-house, and the tavern has decent food at a reasonable cost.
posted by Kpele at 12:21 PM on March 16, 2012

I'd do one of our hidden gems: Nicholas's. Great Lebanese food and a ton of it.
posted by msamye at 12:23 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Toro Bravo, and the other restaurant by the same team, Tasty n' Sons are great choices too-- but the wait for 4 people on a Saturday night is going to be long, so be prepared for that. Neither has a big indoor waiting area, so make sure you have umbrellas.
posted by Kpele at 12:25 PM on March 16, 2012

Tanuki. Tanuki. Tanuki. Unless you have food allergies (maybe not a good choice for wheat free...), go omakase: you set the price, and they keep feeding you food until you have to roll yourself out. Spending 20 bucks per person is TOO MUCH here. You will not be able to finish. You will have to stop them. They will keep feeding you wonderful, tasty food until you explode.

If you like sake, they have an excellent selection. If you like beer, they have some good'ns.

(don't go to Pok Pok, at least on Belmont; yes the food is good, but the lines are uncredibly long for what you actually get...)
posted by furnace.heart at 1:21 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

How are you for wings? Fire on the Mountain should make a burger-and-fries guy pretty happy. I recommend the location on East Burnside. My favorite sauces are Sweet BBQ, Spicey Thai Peanut and Jamaican Jerk. They have a rotating tap list with usually some pretty great local beers. Also, don't miss the sweet potatoe fries! Check out their menu for other goodies.

I'll also second Foster Burger and their black-and-white fries.
posted by amanda at 1:48 PM on March 16, 2012

Pok Pok (actually on Division, not Belmont), is absolutely delicious, but I think that it might be a bit adventurous for your burger and beer guy. Nicholas is very good too, but the atmosphere leaves something to be desired and may not be the best for a birthday dinner.

I'll second Tasty n Sons (!), and you may have less of a wait there on a Sunday than other nights. Another good choice would be Pambiche, Cuban and Caribbean fare.

For an after-dinner beer take a look at The Horsebrass. They have a beer selection that will knock your socks off.
posted by Specklet at 2:35 PM on March 16, 2012

Any McMenamin's would do for burgers and more, plus they have good microbrews.
posted by tacodave at 2:54 PM on March 16, 2012

While Tanuki is hands down the best dining experience I've had in Portland, they're sadly closed on Sundays. If you get a chance to eat there (Tuesday-Saturday evenings), omakase will blow your mind. $20 will get you a great meal, $30 will get you once in a lifetime feast.

Toro Bravo is a great choice, and the $30 tasting menu would make an awesome birthday meal.

McMenamin's has middle of the road food, pretty good beer, and the worst service I've ever experienced. Apparently some locations are better than others (the Baghdad is the only place I've ever dine & dashed, after 45 minutes of trying to pay our check), but I absolutely wouldn't take an out of towner there unless it was the sort of lowest-common-denominator dining situation like a big group of business travelers.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 3:16 PM on March 16, 2012

Yeah, I've got to chime in again and say that McMenamin's is seriously mediocre. It's over-priced, totally middle-of-the-road, nothing special and sometimes downright disappointing food.
posted by Specklet at 3:21 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

All of these are in inner SE, and be warned that my expertise lies more in beer than burgers:

Cascade Brewing Barrel House? May be crowded, should have a decent wheat free option for your meal.

Green Dragon? Across the street from Cascade, has a monster tap list, burgers, and at least one wheat free option.

Hair of the Dog? With beer, it may be a little more than you want to spend or too gourmet-style food, but the beer is awesome. People used to line up to buy it from a loading dock. Awesome.

Bunk Bar? It's a block away from HotD, I've never seen it overcrowded, and it's fairly simple, delicious food. Also has a full bar, so you can drink wheat-free things.
posted by momus_window at 3:56 PM on March 16, 2012

Also, the Horsebrass has a full English pub menu, if that's something that sounds intriguing. It is greasy, meaty, and tasty.
posted by momus_window at 4:00 PM on March 16, 2012

If Tasty 'n Sons is too busy, Lincoln is just a few doors down and delicious as well.

Or, hit up the 5th Quadrant (kitty-corner from Lincoln) for delicious pub grub and beer, then stop in at Pix Patisserie next door for dessert.

I just made myself hungry.
posted by That's Numberwang! at 6:03 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Favorites (both mine and my friends):
Pacific Pie Co Aussie style pies, may not be wheat-free
Habibi Same family as Nicholas, twice the size and usually less busy. Nicholas usually has a very long time to wait on the weekends.
Bridgeport Brewpub on Marshall I like it, and this one is better than the Hawthorn location.
Mama Mia Decent Italian around $16 an entree. I like them especial because they do gluten-free pasta for free.
East India Co. Never been but my co-workers like it lots.
Old Wives Tales A very very Portland kind of place. They'll make almost anything gluten-free, with or without meat. Not my favorite place, but friends like it lots.
posted by fiercekitten at 9:02 PM on March 16, 2012

Oh yeah, I thought I mention that Portland has quite a few Ethiopian restaurants, like E'Njoni which use teff in cooking instead of wheat. Teff is on it's own gluten/wheat free but I'm not real clear on what else goes into injera (the brown, spongy flatbread). E'Njoni says their's in wheat free.
posted by fiercekitten at 9:07 PM on March 16, 2012

Portland has all kinds of great food. A bunch of the places listed above are awesome but aren't what I would pick first for a basic beer-and-burger type guy. If you want that in this town you go to a brewpub. Portland has a pile of them. It's been a while but I think I preferred a different one over Bridgeport. I think it was Deschutes. I liked the food better and I like darker beers (Bridgeport is more about IPAs). If he's really into beer, one thing that you can do at most of the brewpubs is get a beer sampler with a small glass of each of like six or so of the house's specialties. That can be a lot of fun. My other recommendation for a real carnivore would be Laurelhurst Market. Maybe a little pricier than you're after (depending on what you get), but lots of steaks and other good meaty options and the last time I was there I got the best fries I've ever had.
posted by madmethods at 9:46 PM on March 16, 2012

I really like Little Big Burger on N. Mississippi. Pretty simple menu: Burgers and veggie burgers, with or without any of four cheeses, truffle fries, fountain drinks, rootbeer floats, and a decent selections of beers. Within a block are also a good sushi restaurant with reasonably priced food, vegetarian and allergy-sensitive options, and beer, wine and saki; a healthy-ish burrito/wrap chain that also has good juices; Mississippi Pizza, which may have live music or other entertainment; Amnesia Brewing, a basic, friendly, big brewpub; and more.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:34 PM on March 16, 2012

Bete-Lukas is my favorite Ethiopian in the city and they take reservations. I'm pretty sure almost all injera is made from teff, not wheat, so you should be fine there.
posted by funkiwan at 1:15 AM on March 17, 2012

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