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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

What is the best restaurant in Portland?

A tax professor friend of ours from waaaaaay back east (southeast, to be more exact) will be in Portland soon for a conference. He and his spouse are looking for a great restaurant -- the closer to the Governor Hotel, the better, but they're adventuresome enough for a cab ride if it's worth it.

This couple is in their mid-50s and what I would call sophisticated, and so our usual kid-friendly stops are probably not what they have in mind. They are omnivorous. Got any ideas?

Comments (55)

Too bad the restaraunt in the Convention Center Hotel isn't open yet..:)

I would suggest Higgins, downtown. Local fare, but not yuppified. Absolutely delicious. A few months back I had razor clams there... they were to die for.

Siam Society on NE Alberta and 27th.

Neat building, great service, amazing drinks and even more amazing food.


Although I wouldn't characterize it as the "best" restaraunt in town, for showcasing the city to out of towners, I've always liked the Portland City Grill. Food is more than adequate, varied, and - of course - the view is spectacular.

If they are true "foodies", I'd recommend Le Pigeon on 7th and East Burnside:


Huber's. And ask for seating in the bar.

Siam Society

I deliver out of there every now and then and must second the recommendation. Nice atmosphere and some good looking food.

What about Perry's on Fremont?

Park Kitchen up the street. Like 5 blocks or so. Take a leisurely walk in North Park blocks at sunset.

Genoa or Il Piatto.

Country Cat, 80th & Stark

Caffe Mingo on NW 21st.. Hard to get in (except early). Good service, always good food, utterly unpretentious but with attention to detail..

Plus, of course, it's close to the streetcar, just like the Governor Hotel.

I would second either Park Kitchen or Higgins for sophisticated local fare without over-yuppification. South Park is excellent if somewhat trendier. Andina is spectacular and different.

My wife and I love The Ringside on Burnside.

Ringside has that old Portland thing going, and they serve a very good steak.

How about Lauro, over on Division?

Herman likes to take us to Happy Hula Hands.

My wife & I really enjoyed our dinner at Wilfs (at Union Station) several years ago.

I'd push for the Sandy Hut.

Springwater Grill, or Castagna, or Caprial's.

I also forgot the Original Corbett Street Fish House.

If they are from the Southeast then the Fried Catfish just might be their bill of fare.

Autentica, at about 28th and NE Killingsworth. Great highfalutin' Mexican food. Tacqueria Nueve, north of 28th and E Burnside. Paley's, 1204 NW 21st.

Jake's (can't get much closer to the Governor than that). The V.Q. Hubers. Higgins.

Sal's at N. Killingsworth and Greeley. It is Italian and very good.

Park Kitchen is very good but the menu is somewhat small. The Chef, Scott Dolich, basically themes his menus around what is available fresh at local food/farmers markets. Menus change twice a month.

Also small is the place itself. If they want to go to Park Kitchen call early & often for reservations otherwise they'll never get in.

That outdoor Thai place on Alberta...OMG..

Hey beardo e-mail me, wouldya?

Paley's Place at NW 21st and Northrup is my fave. Great food, great service, and it won't break the bank to eat there.

They can ride the streetcar there if they want; there's a stop right outside.

Hands down, the best food i've had in town is at Lovely Hula Hands. Paragon, on 13th & Hoyt is excellent as well.

Perhaps it's improved since the last time I was there (several months ago), but I was sorely disappointed by Siam Society.

Higgins is a sure bet.
Butch is right about Le Pigeon. It's excellent. (Reservations need four or more diners) You could join them.
Acadia at 13th and N.E. Fremont also consistently good.

Le Pigeon is better food, but for atmosphere, Fenouil.

Caprial's is really good

If you want your far SE US buds to combine a look at the city with adequate food, Chart House on Terwilliger.

Salty's on the Columbia has the best seafood around now that Winterthur is gone.

Esparza's is fun, but from your description, your buds don't seem the type for the place or the food.


Park Kitchen. Don't you read the New York Times?

For food, I'd go with the Heathman or Wilf's as a second choice (after Higgins), but last time I was at the Heathman I was disappointed by how close they put the tables to one another and the roar in the background. I can't hear a thing in places like that.

Paley's. We've never had a meal there -- or even a drink at the bar -- that wasn't memorable. They are sure to please the palate of the pickiest foodie. Plus, the place is intimate and cozy -- no drafty high ceilings or steel beams (or the god-awful clangor that goes with them).

Tad's Chick Dump on the Sandy River in Troutdale is a favorite. Not five stars, but so "Oregon" (as I know it) that it's worth a visit. Rent a car. Enlarge your carbon footprint.

Post-Tad's, drive to the Vista House on the old Scenic Columbia River Highway and watch the sun go down. It doesn't get any better than that.

I'm really surprised someone hasn't mentioned El Gaucho (at the Benson Hotel), by far my favorite. Unfortunately, I've only had the opportunity to try a couple of the restaurants people have mentioned here. I'll use this as a guide for places I should try next :)

Le Pigeon.

Really great. Cozy(small) but really just a wonderful experience. I've never had sweetbreads before ... yum.

Oh, dear god NO - do not send them to Chart House.

Food = overpriced, and totally mediocre (or worse.) Crowd = it's all prom kids and/or bluehairs these days. View = sure, it's great. But you can't eat the view. (I just burned a gift card there a few weeks ago; I wouldn't ever cough up my own dollars to go back any time soon...)

I'd echo Paley's, Park Kitchen, or Higgins.

Carlisle, on NW Thurman below the Fremont Bridge. Every dish my wife and I have ever ordered there has been very well done.

" very well done"

so you might want to skip the filet.

Gotta agree with my wife Anne...Paley's never disappoints.

Carafe for a French Bistro feel next to Civic Auditorium (I refuse to call it Keller Aud) with maybe a wade in the fountain after...depending on how many carafes get downed.

Castagna for the best burger --and especially fries-- in Portland, in my SE 'hood. (Hurley's is great too, $28 burger aside.) Vindahlo if they're feeling Indian-type cusine (also in my 'hood).

That's enough out of me...I'm getting hungry.

I do have to add...if they're staying at the Governor, they could do way worse than grabbing some oysters and salmon downstairs in their own McCormick & Schmick's restaurant.

Bill McCormick's politics may disappoint...but his absolutely fresh oysters and seafood never, ever do.

It would be wrong to visit Portland without having some of our NW oyster bounty, at the very least. And if they want to stroll, Jake's is a short walk away, too...and classic Portland.

Wildwood on 21st. BlueHour, El Gaucho, Siam Kitchen, Il Piatto, Castagna, Andina, Sinju. I would agree with all the other recommendations EXCEPT PALEY'S Place. We had our one and only most awful restaurant experience there on New Year's Eve of 2000. The end result of that mean was a near fist fight with Kimberly Paley out on the front porch and a vow to never go back. The story is long, but the short version is that they threw us out of the restaurant for exceeding our two hour reservation. Fair enough except that the reason we did so is that the service was DREADFUL. Our entrees did not arrive until 75 minutes into the 2 hour slot. They refused to take our dessert order and handed us our coats when we tried to order dessert. Needless to say, I provided a $0 tip and Kimberly Paley tried to ream me out for that as she was escorting us out. The piece de resistance was my 11 year old daughter, who was coming down with the flu, barfed on their front porch. We've never been back despite Kimberly Paley's tearful entreaties by phone several days later. If I were starving and Paley's Place was the only restaurant open, I'd starve. I know their food is excellent, but I won't go there, period. If I want rude service like that, I can go to Sam Woo's in San Francisco or just about anywhere in the Big Apple.

Huh. I had some of the best service of my life at Paley's last year and have been making plans to go back, since I also had some of the best food of my life. Way too much of it, but it was too good not to finish.
Also have to love Higgins, which has the advantage of being a very Portland/Pacific NW-specific restaurant.

We know our experience with Paley's is the exception. But you had to be there to appreciate how awful it really was. And I'm simply too stubborn to go back. And I'm considered a "foodie" too, but I'd sooner eat at McDonalds or Burgerville. Kimberley and Vitaly Paley don't need me, but more important I don't need them.

As no one else has mentioned it yet (although my first offering of Siam Society did receive some support) I can't believe Wildwood has been left off the list.

Admittedly I haven't been there for a few months but we had a great time the last time.

"As no one else has mentioned it yet (although my first offering of Siam Society did receive some support) I can't believe Wildwood has been left off the list."

Um, re-read my original comment. The very first restaurant I listed was Wildwood. Probably got lost in my screed against Paley's Place.


Bill (AKA John E.) let me know if Beardo gets in touch. Lost track of him after Diane lost her job. I'd like to talk to him as well.
Rick, KYXI alum.

The end result of that mean was a near fist fight with Kimberly Paley

C'mon, Mr. Fearless...didn't your momma teach you not to hit girls? (Or threaten to...)

I hardly think New Year's Eve is a "typical" evening by which to judge Paley's. But, whatever, there's a wine shop on lower Hawthorne that refused to let my wife use their bathroom...we've never been back. Life's too short...and there's too many places, and choices. I understand.

Just for clarity: As I rode the streetcar past the Govenor Hotel, I forget the restaurant there is called "Jake's Grill," versus "Jake's" (the original) a few blocks away, versus McCormick & Schmick's which is on 2nd. All part of the same chain, but the branding can be confusing. ALL have excellent oysters to die for (well, hopefully not really "die," but raw oyster food poisoning is not very pleasant, believe me. I still keep eating 'em though...who said life should be risk free?

By the way...I actually PAID to take the Streetcar out and back for a wine tasting at Liner & Elsen. I swear I was the only one...and people were laughing at me behind my back.

"C'mon, Mr. Fearless...didn't your momma teach you not to hit girls? (Or threaten to...)"

Well, Kimberly is a true New Yorker. She violated my personal space by getting way too in my face trying to defend the indefensible. As I was screaming back at her to get out of my face, I saw her bunch her fists. I figured she might go there first so I decided to bunch mine back and be prepared to deflect whatever she might dish out.

I agree that New Year's eve isn't the best time to judge a restaurant. That said, the entire episode could have been handled with quiet grace. It was the Paley's who chose to make an incident out of something that was clearly their fault. Life is too short; Portland has way too many good to excellent restaurants and I don't have to spend my hard earned money in a place that obviously isn't interested in providing a favorably memorable experience. And, just to punctuate the whole episode, the food wasn't very good either. They weren't doing prix fixe. They had their full menu and we were eating early in the evening before most of the real festivities got started and before the kitchen started running out of choices. To this day, I cannot figure out why the kitchen was so slow and why we were in the situation we were in. And I've never been given an explanation, although Kimberly Paley did call me a few days later to apologize tearfully about the incident. But she didn't offer to comp us dinner, which might have brought us back. The apology felt empty and it wasn't backed up with any sincerity. Their loss, not mine.

Mr. Fearless wrote,

"Um, re-read my original comment. The very first restaurant I listed was Wildwood. Probably got lost in my screed against Paley's Place."

Your comment above had not posted when I was drafting my post re: Wildwood.

J Hoffa notes incorrectly:

"Your comment above had not posted when I was drafting my post re: Wildwood."

Not true. Not to pick nits, but my comment was posted at 7:55 a.m. while yours was posted at 10:22 a.m.. Hard to imagine that you missed it. Typically posts on Jack's blog appear within minutes and I know it appeared quickly because the first comment on it appeared at 8:37. Not it is possible that you were "drafting" your post earlier in the day, but didn't get around to sending it until later. But the time stamps belie any attempt to claim that my recommendation didn't appear hours before yours. Harumph.

My fav place to eat around here is McCormick & Schmick's. Everything on their menu is insanely delicious...a little spendy though imho... However, i would NOT reccomend the one on 1st ave...that is a pretty scuzzy area...lots of homeless people/drug dealers/crack heads... I would recommend the one over on Montgomery...its by the waterfront too, so thats a bonus

Whomever stated that every dish his wife had at the "Carlisle" was very well done...does that mean it is overcooked, or cooked well, as in to your liking?

By the way, it deserves to be properly referenced...it is "Carlyle".

I've only been there for a few appetizers and martinis and was pleased, so I'm heading back now to give it the full court test.

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