MY ULTIMATE PORTLAND DINING GUIDE 2018

MY ULTIMATE PORTLAND DINING GUIDE

Portland, Oregon, where there is no shortage of tattoos, donuts, strip clubs, bike lanes, brunch lines, food carts, and breweries. This town is filled to the brim with everything a trip away needs: walkability, bike and car-share programs, reliable public transportation, high-class hotels, and a great assortment of home-sharing options. And, while you're here you should take advantage of our close proximity to the Oregon coast and mountains (Mt. Hood & St. Helens), our daily music offerings at various fun venues ( Mississippi Studios, Doug Fir, and the Landmark Saloon), and our fresh and local produce found at one of the many neighborhood farmers' markets. So, if you've suddenly found yourself planning a trip to one of the greatest foodie cities there is then, let it be known, there is no greater compliment than to give my input on where you should eat and drink and how to do it like a local around the streets of Portland. So here you have it, my most accurate list of places I frequent or recommend wholeheartedly! 

Just to note: Portland is divided into four quadrants, well, technically five, but for the sake of it all being easy to follow along I've broken it down into the general four: Northeast, Southeast, Northwest, Southwest. The city is bisected by the Willamette River and further divided by Burnside.  Enjoy!

NORTHEAST 

Northeast Portland, East of the Willamette River, North of Burnside and my favorite side of town. I have lived in the NE square for over six years and I have never loved another district quite like Mississippi Ave. where close range pub crawling, patio cocktail drinking, oddity shopping, and eating all exist. Here's my recommendations for when you find yourself on the Northeast side of Portland. 

Pizza: Lovely's Fifty Fifty, Life of Pie, Pizza Jerk 

Coffee: Hot Pot, Kopi Coffee

Sweets: Pip's Donuts, Eb and Bean Frozen Yogurt

Breakfast: Tasty n Sons, Interurban, The Bad Habit Room, Broder Nord

Lunch: Cedo's, Mee-Sen Thai, Gueros

Dinner: Pok Pok Noi, Ox, Toro Bravo

Happy Hour: Tasty n Sons

Cocktails: The Box Social, Victoria Bar, Interurban

Beer: Ex Novo, 

Late Night: La Taq

Instagram Hot Spots: 180 Xurros, Salt n Straw, Tea Bar


SOUTHEAST:

To the East of the Willamette and to the south of Burnside is a wonderful wonderful food mecca filled with some of the hippest neighborhoods on the global radar, including Hawthorne, Belmont, Division, and Mount Tabor. Aside form my neighborhood in NE this is my most frequented side of town. 

Pizza: Apizza Scholls, Ranch Pizza inside of Poisons Rainbow

Coffee: Tov Coffee, Crema

Sweets: Cheese and Crack

Breakfast: Trinket, Tannery Bar, HunnyMilk

Lunch: Cheese n Crack snack shop, Nongs Khao Man Gai, Meat Cheese and Bread

Food Carts: Kim Jong Grillin, Chicken n Guns, The Bivy

Happy Hour: Bar Casa Vale, Nostrana 

Cocktails: Sapphire Lounge, Tannery Bar, 

Beer: Base Camp Brewery, Wayfinder Beer, Loyal Legion

Dinner: Bar Casa Vale, Kachka, Trifecta Tavern

Instagram Hot Spots: Tusk, Doe Donuts, Cheese n Crack, 


NORTHWEST:

One of my favorite streets in Northwest is the lengthy, yet congested 23rd Avenue. The street is decked with numerous eateries, coffee shops of both local and national fame, clothing shops, and skincare lines. And, when you get tired of exploring the storefronts there are plenty of local parks to relax at while enjoying some coffee or take away. 

Pizza: Oven & Shaker

Coffee: Commissary, Nossa, 

Sweets: Papa Haydn

Breakfast: Olympia Provisions NW, Isabel, Irving Street Kitchen

Lunch: Boke Bowl, Tilt

Dinner: Olympia Provisions NW, Mediterranean Exploration Co, Andina

Happy Hour: Oven and Shaker, Serrato

Cocktails: Tear Drop Lounge, The Fireside, The Waiting Room

Beer: Breakside Pub & Brewery, 10 Barrel Brewing


SOUTHWEST

To the east of the Willamette River and to the South of Burnside, the Southwest area is my least explored area of Portland and quite possibly one of my most loathed parts due to parking. Nevertheless I do have some gems and favorite spots to recommend should you be staying or enjoying this side of town.

Pizza: Nel Centro

Coffee: Kiosko

Sweets: Blue Star Donuts, Departure

Breakfast: Imperial, Tasty n Alder

Lunch: Quick Fish Poke, Pine Street Market, Alder Street Food Carts

Dinner: Ringside Steak House, Fogo De Chao

Happy Hour: Imperial, Ringside Fishhouse, Nel Centro, Departure

Cocktails: Driftwood Room inside of Hotel Deluxe, JackKnife, Barlow

Beer: Bailey's Taproom 

Late Night: Luc Lac

Instagram Hot Spots: Blue Star Donuts, Tasty n Alder, Departure


And there you have it, a lengthy list of all of my favorite coffee shops, brunch spots, breweries and more throughout the four quadrants of Portland. If you've asked me for places to eat and drink at while in visiting Portland then you've possible heard of these places in my list of recommendations


BUEN PROVECHO!

MY STRATEGIES FOR CONQUERING PORTLAND DINING MONTH 2018

MY STRATEGIES FOR CONQUERING PORTLAND DINING MONTH 2018!

Portland Dining Month returns for it's 9th year with a few newbies on the lineup! Portland dining month presented by Travel Portland is already live and on day five with over 120 participating restaurants, including some local favorites and a few newbies to the group.  If you've not cruised the line-up this year then head over to www.travelportland.com to scroll through all of the amazing pre-fixe three-course options available all month long for $33 dollars. 

Since it's inception in 2009, Portland food lovers have enjoyed dining across the city during the month of March while enjoy three-course-meals at a discounted price. For me, and many others, this is the time of year when we get to pull out our Portland restaurant bucket lists and hit all of the places I've been wanting to indulge in, at a delicious deal.

New to 2018 Portland Dining Month's lineup is Feastly. Feastly is the highly sought-after dining pop-up experience featuring local and global chefs connecting curious dinners with a pop-up dining experience.  Feastly Portland and its community of chefs will throw Portland Dining Month pop-up meals in their dedicated space and through venues around town. For a full list of participating Feasty chefs, menus, and locations visit www.eatfeastly.com/pdxdiningmonth. The Feastly chefs participating in this years' dining month represent a diverse range of cuisines like Guamanian, Ethiopian, Turkish, Filipino, Puerto Rican, and Nigerian cuisines. Another fun reason to eat through Feastly is some chefs will be serving vegan and paleo dinners, which is perfect for those with dietary restrictions. 

Also new to the 2018 roster are participating restaurants like Bistro Agnes, Southfork, and Alto Bajo. And, of course, some of my standby dining month favorites like Aviary, Little Bird, and Departure.

The full list of participating restaurants is available at www.travelportland.com/dining-month/. And, one important reason why we dine is for the participation with Oregon Food Bank. For every reservation made through the OpenTable links on the Travel portland website a donation will be made to the Oregon Food Bank's hunger-relief efforts. Do not skip this detail and reserve your table using those links!

And, in case you didn't catch my post and recap of last year's Portland Dining Month dishes head back to that post to see what a fun treat you can be in for. continue reading to learn about my strategy to sift through all of the overwhelming options of Portland Dining Month. 

MY PORTLAND DINING MONTH STRATEGY

2018's Portland Dining Month will be my 4th year participating, and every year since, I have discovered new strategies and tips on how to navigate my way through the menus, the restaurants, and the values. Now, I want to share it with you. The following steps are the very ones I take to cut through the overwhelming list of participants and how I maximize my time and money. These are the things I look for:

Who has been on my "to try" list?:

  • Pull out that never-ending list of restaurants you've had on your phone and cross-reference the entire Portland Dining Month lineup and note which establishments on that list are participating. If ever there was a great time to go for it and dine out, March is the month!

  • Now, if a restaurant strikes your interest and isn't on your list, by all means, write it down. The next few steps will help us discover if this is the month to go try.

  • Some of those restaurants that are on my "to-try" food list are Olympia Oyster Bar, Jack Rabbit, Bistro Agnes, Laurelhurst Market, Jacqueline, Cabezon, Renata, and lucky me, they are all participating in this years' lineup.

Take note of menus with multiple options:

  • This has got to be my favorite part of dining month; multiple options per course. Some restaurants have fun with dining month and allow dinners to make between two and three choices for all three courses. This means one thing, you must bring all of your adventurous dining companions. Bar Casa Vale, one of my favorite restaurants, is offering up a menu featuring two choices between all three courses with items normally found on their menu. Since the items are familiar you can easily slice through a good chunk of their standard menu options with plates like papas bravas or salt cod fritters, citrus salad or kohlrabi, albondigas or fideos. Or, since we're talking multiple choices a place like Farm House Thai Kitchen, one I have not been to, is also offering multiple choices for the second and third courses, and an additional fourth course. This would be the absolute best time to try a little of everything and learn more about the food!

  • Always bring friends that are willing to share or even split the courses. This is the best part of having foodie friends and having course choices. More ways to try it all without the dreaded commitment to a lone dish.

  • Another perk about choices, the second option tends to be a vegetarian-friendly course. A few restaurants follow the veggie-friendly courses including Departure who always offers choices for herbivores and carnivores alike, as well as The Woodsman Tavern (offering two choices on the second entree), Taqueria Nueve, Serrato, Nel Centro, and Renata.

Check who is really producing a deal:

  • This is the heavy work, but it must be done. In order to fully maximize dining month you have got to see who is really putting out the best bargain. I like to do this by reading the menu offerings and comparing the price points to the listed menu prices. Now, this doesn't always work for every restaurant. Some places will be offering special dining month menus so the items offered will not be listed on their website menu. But, remember, $33 is still a little steep when you consider that it's the price-per-head and that's not including cocktails and tip, so make your dining month is worth it. And, if you get a menu with listed prices online and the math just barely makes $34, skip it You're better off going at a time outside of dining month and enjoying the entire menu's offerings.

  • $33 for three-courses sounds like a deal up front but, beware of those places that already offer deals throughout the week, some even better than dining month. I'm looking at you "Monday dinner/ cheap eats."

  • This year's amazing deals that have caught my eye are Fogo De Chao, Ecliptic brewing (where you leave with a $10 gift card, bringing your total to far below $33 once you cash that card back in), Jack Rabit (where the main course covers $30 on the menu), and Headwaters where the main entree's price point does not fall below $18 and the desserts are no less than $9.

Last, and certainly not least, Who is offering the best dessert?

  • Dessert is one of my favorite parts of dining out. whether it be classics like creme brûlée, a hot fudge sundae, or, even, a savory cheese board. Nothing excites me like a treat after finishing a meal. So, with that said, I do like a third course to be a treat course. Now there are a few exceptions like Yakuza, Olympia Oyster Bar, Buckman Public House, where instead of offering a sweet finish have turned course number three into an additional entree. This sounds like an even better deal for those who do not like sweets. Now if you want to know who has the keys to my dessert-loving heart then know that Laurelhurst Market is doing a great job of starting a relationship with their Dulce de Leche semifreddo with roasted banana, chocolate and hazelnuts -just take my wallet and cash savings account; Lechon is dishing out all of the smooth love vibes with a chocolate mousse tart with mango puree, raspberry and quinoa brittle -yep, just going to put my entire dinner in the fridge and go straight for dessert; and then there is Olympia Provisions massaging my heart with a Chocolate peanut butter parfait with creme fraiche and honey-roasted peanuts - Dairy Queen nostalgia with a grown ass attitude; and The Waiting Room is just tossing rose petals on my sheets with this Butterscotch cremeux with caramel, Jacobson sea salt, and Cashew streusel -I think it's safe to say I am in a full blown relationship with all of these desserts now.

  • I will not break or give a second thought to restaurants offering up pot de creme's -a dessert that requires roughly four ingredients, a blender, and refrigeration. I want the words brulee, brittle, streusel, chocolate shavings, coconut ash, passion fruit, and crust to fall somewhere on the dessert description. If you aren't playing, I ain't paying.

Now that we've narrowed down our list where will you be dining?

And, did you know I'm hosting a G I V E A W A Y ? Yep, Head to my Instagram Page @Maxenestrail and follow the requirements to enter and win dinner with me on behalf of Travel Portland!

Remember to book your tables using the the Open Table links on the Travel Portland page to help benefit our community. 


disclosure: I was have been invited to participate in Portland Dining Month 2018 on behalf of my friends at Travel Portland.  Part of my participation involves receiving dining vouchers for personal use and for hosting a giveaway! This post was at my own discretion and not in exchange for a positive review. All opinions shared are my own.

PORTLAND DINING MONTH 2017

Five more days, five, count them! That's five days left to take advantage of over 120 incredibly discounted dining opportunities available across Portland during Portland Dining Month 2017.

Portland Dining Month, now in its eighth year, is winding down to the last five days to get your eat on as we approach the end of March. If you still don't know what PDM is, allow me to break it down some more; basically, March is the best month for food lovers and curious dinners throughout the city to enjoy a three-course meal for $29. For the past eight years March has been the month to head out to a new -participating- portland area restaurant or swing by a trusty standby to enjoy a three-course prix fixe dinner offered for only $29 -an incredibly discounted deal.

Head to portlanddiningmonth.com to find a full list of participating restaurants and read the menu options available as the guesswork has been taken away from wondering who might have the type of meal you seek- since the PDM menu offerings are posted to salivate over! And, if just heading out to eat at a discount isn't enough to move you, here's two extra things to make PDM extra awesome: 

  1. These are not just some hole in the wall greasy dinners or chain restaurants that offer weekly coupons in the Sunday prints. Some participating restaurants are beyond local news reviews and have national recognition, with some restaurants even having highly sought after James Beard Award nominations, finalists, and winners.
  2. If going to dinner at your favorite restaurant isn't enough of a reason to participate in Portland Dining Month how about knowing that portland dining month has partnered up with the oregon food bank. for every reservation made online through portlanddiningmonth.com links a donation is made to the hunger-relief organization. the oregon food bank collects and distributes food among oregon and our neighbors in clark county, washington. not only does the ofb fight hunger but also works to uncover the root causes of hunger by offering nutrition education, strengthening local food systems and advocating for hunger relief at the local and federal level, visit www.oregonfoodbank.org to learn more!

  3. For the past three years I've been an active diner during Portland Dining Month, usually hitting a restaurant a week. Although PDM is the time to try new restaurants there are two that always land as top choices among my list of places; Aviary and Little Bird Bistro. My yearly strategy for sorting through all of the restaurant menu's is to look at restaurants that have been sitting in my 'places-to-try' queue and then comb through some of my standby favorite PDM participating restaurants. After writing up a little list of places that I am inspired to try for the month I then go through and re-read the menu's carefully. I like places that offer a choice for all courses, and, of course, those who offer the best looking desserts! Places that offer a choice with each course is huge, especially when dining with a friend or friends. More people means more plate options and the possibility of even sharing -the whole reason of having friends, right! And, as far as the dessert portion goes this is the most important decision to make with all of the PDM menu's, which place has the best sounding dessert. Any place can whip up a quick pot de creme or dish up a scoop of ice cream with a hot fudge drizzle, so when a restaurant goes the extra mile to make a special dessert land on their PDM menu I go bananas over it. Think about this, when was the last time you actually had room for dessert when dining out? I hardly, if ever, do. So when I go out for PDm I can justify ordering dessert as it's right there, part of my courses, and how am I going to dismiss my third course? Nope, won't do it!

After I square away those dining logistics I then set up reservations using the portlanddiningmonth.com website and start inviting friends to join me, let's just say I have yet to take issue with finding dining companions.

Below are my three dining month adventures:


stop #3 AVIARY

This isn't my first time dining at Aviary, I've dined here twice for PDM and again for dinner outside of dining month. In terms of 'bang for your buck', dining month is the best time to test Aviary's offerings as the plates run a bit steep and might not be as fulfilling as a barbeque meal, but the combination of flavors and textures are meant to dazzle your tastebuds.

Drinks are not included in the PDM menu but make a great addition to the experience.

The dining area is light filled and allows for fresh air when the weather is warm and the big windows are open.

First course:

  • Steamed Manila Clams with sherry, guanciale, sugar snap peas and coriander

*my dining companion and i both ordered the first course*

Second course options (above):

  • Lamb Two Ways with roasted leg and hoisin-glazed belly, taro tots, scallion and water chestnut gremolata
  • Pan Seared Tasmanian Sea Trout Yuzu with fennel, tamarind and savoy cabbage *my favorite dish from our entire meal*

Third course choices:

  • Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with espresso ice cream and passion fruit
  • Coconut Tapioca with mango sorbed and caramel cremeux *a close second*

Departure offered two choices for each of the three courses and each dish was delicious in it's own savory asian influenced and prepared way. 

above photos:

  • First course: Chicken Tom Kha Soup with coconut milk, mushroom, galangal, and makrut lime
  • Second course: Beef Noodles with shiitake, chili, and yu choi
  • Third course: Coconut Ash Chocolate Cake with marionberry and coconut caramel ice cream
  • First course: Roasted Cauliflower and Snow Peas with charred lemongrass, chilies, and puffed wild rice
  • Second course: Shrimp and Long Bean Prik Khing Curry with white rice
  • Third course: Frozen Passion Fruit Mouse with kumquat, calamansi, and almond crumble *my favorite dish of the six i tried!*

stop #1 La Moule

La Moule did not offer choices for the courses so the following dishes are what was offered on their dining month menu:

  • First course: Crispy Bay Shrimp Wedge with snap peas, radish, bacon, with a dill 'ranchovy' dressing. *my favorite of the three courses*
  • Second course: Manhattan Moules with Penn Cove Mussels, tomato, garlic, new potato, celery seed and oyster crackers
  • Third course: Chocolate Pot de Creme with hazelnut brittle, frangelicio chantilly cream and candied orange zest.

 

Although I have visited three participating restaurants I still have one more to go, my last stop, The Hairy Lobster! I'm looking forward to some fried chicken and sticky toffee pudding!


disclosure: I was invited to participate in Portland Dining Month on behalf of my friends at Travel Portland.  I received a complimentary meal at Aviary, a place of my choosing, for myself and a guest. I've eaten at Aviary numerous times on my own dime and will continue to look forward to their portland dining month menu every year!


BUEN PROVECHO!

FEAST PORTLAND 2016 RECAP PART 2. THE GRAND TASTING

Last year was my first year EVER year attending feast -I know super late bloomer here. After experiencing all of the magic of eating and drinking to my heart's fill I knew I couldn't do another year sans feast. 

One of the main events, the grand tasting, is held across two days, Friday and Saturday and located within the pioneer courthouse square -a brick amphitheater within the city center. The grand tasting is an event set up to sip and sample many new-to-the-market items and many wonderful food items prepared by local chefs. This year I was given an amazing opportunity to attend as a guest blogger -which allowed me entry to both grand tasting days. Since I had attended the grand tasting the year prior I had a great idea of what to expect and even planned a strategy on how to get the most of my time at the grand tasting. 

Below are a few highlights from my time at the Grand Tasting events that from both Friday and Saturday:

FEAST PORTLAND 2016 GRAND TASTING

USA PEARS

Just like the year prior I had a good guess that there would be a tasting station with a food and wine pairing somewhere within the grand tasting, so this year I made it my mission to find it straight away. After doing a quick run-through the grand tasting I found it immediately and got to enjoy some tasty bites before the massive crowds discovered it.

Local guest Chef Doug Adams, formerly of Imperial and currently working on his proposed restaurant Bullard (opening 2017), was behind the cutting board at the USA Pears tent serving up delicious bites featuring USA PEARS. An additional wine pairing featuring wines from Chateau Ste. Michelle was also present.


DECADENT CREATIONS BAKERY

beaverton

Being the big fan of sweets I made a mad dash to find Decadent Creations Bakery as this bakery has been on my list to try. The baking gods must have known I was coming because the gals were serving up a few of my favorite flavors; pumpkin, passion fruit, and salted chocolate. For starters anything pumpkin flavored will always get my personal taste test, as does salted chocolate, and passion fruit so slap me a little because I couldn't believe my eyes when I noticed three of the four items they were featuring were among my favorite taste profiles.

Decadent Creations' drunken pumpkin cake was by far my favorite bit of the entire grand tasting. The cake was super moist with a wonderful balance of pumpkin spice, a rum cinnamon ganache layer, and a thick creamy dollop of hazelnut meringue buttercream. This little bite was heaven. I may have had a few extra pieces, more than my share as it was so darn good!


DRY SPARKLING

I've been a big fan of DRY SPARKLING for years, the beverages are fizzy, and delightfully light in flavor. 


BON APPETIT TENT

For two days there were so many goodies featured under this tent, Olympia Provisions featured a beautiful array of their finest charcuterie, Bee Local Honey and Jacobsen Salt Co. shared bites highlighted by their flavor enhancing salt and honey, Yogi Tea served up hot tea, and Wolf Gourmet featured grilled chicken tacos and roasted plum and ricotta tartine with their high-performance countertop items.


OREGON FRUIT PRODUCTS

Oregon Fruit Products featured three wonderful items: crispy pork belly bites topped with black berry gastrique and whipped herb goat cheese on a bed of endive and frisee, and vanilla bean wanna cotta topped with dark sweet cherries  poached in oregon pinot noir and topped with salted pistachios, aside from the eats Oregon Fruit Products was also serving up refreshing strawberry lemonades with their pourable fruit.


OREGON CHEESE GULID

The Oregon Cheese Guild featured four local artisan cheeses, chubut wedge, chèvre with cajeta drizzle on a apple chip, fiesta cheesorio in a cup, and brindisi squares.


RANGER CHOCOLATE


WILLIAMS-SONOMA + JACOBSEN SALT CO.

I hope you all had a chance to get you hands on any of the dishes that came off this table. Both days at the Grand Tasting featured back to back chef demos from our very own local chef talent and chefs across the nation.

Guest Chef Gregory Gourdet of portland's Departure restaurant and finalist on Top Chef behind the cutting board prepping his dish for his upcoming demonstration time slot. 

Local Chef Peter Cho of Han Oak helping being the scenes at saturday's grand tasting


SALT & STRAW

Hello, a Salt & Straw cart and no line?! You bet I got in the non-existent line and ordered up three mini scoops of every flavor I was curious about, the tom douglas triple coconut cream pie, the white toast and apple butter, and the strawberry honey balsamic with black pepper!


NECTAR CREEK MEAD

I cannot wait to get my hands on some more of that Waggle Mead, a lightly carbonated and fermented honey adult beverage. 


NATURE'S PATH

Nature's path featured two yummy dishes, a vegan raspberry eton mess with coconut cream, crushed meringue, raspberry and chia granola, and crispy avocado tacos with panko bread, pumpkin flax, granola, avocado and tahini.


PORTLAND SANGRIA

Portland Sangria is a spritzy blend of rose and juice in a can


ADDITIONAL FEAST BITES


MY FEAST STRATEGY

My biggest tip for all Feast main events: find the biggest plate that you can and save, this will be your tray during the remainder of the event. I figured out this method last year when I recieved an alaska airlines tray, that tray was put to great use during my first feast weekend but since I didn't keep the tray from last year I scooped up this plate and used it during the entire event. Having this plate helped me gather more than one bite at a time which meant I was able to stay in lines longer while I stocked up on bites. It made taking the time to enjoy my food loot much more enjoyable as I was able to sit and enjoy it all at once.


full disclosure: i was kindly provided a Feast 2016 pass that included entry to the grand tasting and media events in exchange for media coverage. all opinions expressed are my own.