Restaurant recommendations (Portland OR)

(As this is a poll, I considered IMHO, but since it’s a poll about food, I elected for CS. Mod as appropriate.)

My family will be visiting the U.S. at the end of July, specifically Portland OR.

I’ve been there before, many times, but it’s been quite a few years, and in the wake of the pandemic, especially, the food scene has changed quite a bit. (RIP Pomeroy’s Beast.) I’m hoping locals can provide some guidance for a few good options we can try out while we’re there.

Our specific requirements:

Primary point is that it must be family-friendly. In addition to the three grandparents who will be going out with us, we have two daughters, 7 and 10. However, we’re not looking for Rainforest Cafe kid-indulgent bullshit. For their ages, they have relatively sophisticated palates, and know how to choose a meal even if the menu doesn’t have chicken nuggets or whatever. We want restaurants that are welcoming and tolerant of kids at the table, not ones that pander to juvenile taste buds.

For cuisine preferences, we’re pretty open. I like Asian, and my wife likes Mexican (as well as her native Persian), but don’t let that limit you, if you know about an excellent East African or Caribbean joint. And, of course, “Northwest style” is always welcome. Also, our kids would appreciate seeing an American spin on the familiar foods of western Europe; bonus points if the proprietors and/or staff are native French or German because the kids always enjoy showing off their multi-lingual proficiency.

Location wise, our lodging is in Oregon City, 20+ minutes outside of Portland (for proximity to family), so we would lean toward establishments favoring a shorter drive, south of the city proper or in its south/southeast neighborhoods. We’re not opposed to a bit of travel but we don’t want to be fighting across Portland’s notorious traffic just to make a reservation.

I think those are the key points. If anything else comes to mind, I’ll add a note.

Postscript: To the Northwest dopers reading this, your brutal heat wave has made the news here in Europe, so you have my sincere sympathies and good wishes.

I don’t spend too much time in Portland, but I can name three places (all in or near downtown) that I like.

Voodoo Doughnut in Chinatown is practically famous for their large lineup of donuts with unusual toppings, including the original maple bacon bar which is now widely imitated. There’s often a long line to get in, but it moves quickly, and if you’re not up to picking and choosing yourself you can just ask for a “voodoo dozen” and they’ll pick a random assortment out for you.

Michael’s Italian Beef & Sausage Co. is a hole-in-the-wall diner off Burnside near the Franz bakery. As the name implies, they specialize in Italian beef, a Chicago-style roast beef sandwich au jus topped with your choice of onions, sweet peppers, or spicy giardiniera. I’ve heard them favorably compared to some of the better diners in Chicago itself.

Lastly, there’s Burgerville. It’s a drive-thru chain that only exists in the Portland metro area, and their claim to fame is that all of their products are locally manufactured and they have a rotating menu based on seasonal availability. Definitely the best place around for a quick bite.

It’s been awhile since I visited so I can’t personally recommend anything, but I’m watching Top Chef and this season takes place in Portland. I found this site that has 16 restaurants to try after watching Top Chef Portland. Maybe some of these would interest you?

It’s a tough question - I live here, love good restaurants, and I even have trouble picking good ones because of all the pandemic changes. Many places are still outside-only or have severe restrictions on indoor dining. The governor is ending most of those at the end of June, so it should be a bit more open, but it’s up to the individual restaurants how they want to handle it.

That said, here are a few ideas:

  • Navarre: NW cuisine with Italian, French and Spanish roots and a focus on local ingredients. Adventurous kids will find plenty to enjoy. It is perennially one of the top restaurants.
  • Food carts: some of the carts have better food than most restaurants, and a big group can all get their cuisine of choice and meet at a table to chow down. I like the Hawthorne Asylum carts, but there are many other pods scattered through the city.
  • Hat Yai: Thai street food in a casual setting. Fantastic fried chicken and skewers.
  • Wild North: this is new food cart-to-restaurant transition, and I haven’t been to the restaurant version yet. But the food at the cart was great.
  • Xico: upscale Oaxacan cuisine. This isn’t the standard burritos and enchiladas style of Mexican, so check the menu first.

Regarding Voodoo Doughnuts: it’s funny to see the weird donuts they come up with, but the pleasure is really in the idea. The donuts themselves are not very good. The long line you see outside the shop is 90% tourists and 10% parents getting a box for a kid’s birthday party.

I’m happy to help if you come across any other restaurants that you have questions about.

Voodoo Doughnuts are always stale and flat tasting and I dread it when guests are all amped up over it cuz it means I’m gonna have to stand in that damned line AGAIN to not eat any of those ridiculously overpriced garbage messes. I’ll go hit the local Heavenly Donuts instead, open 24 hours with much better offerings and my goodness they have all the interesting fritters. Heavenly has a store on McLoughlin, right up the street from OC and they have the blueberry glaze, so good.

Definitely food carts. I live near Cartlandia so that’s my regular go-to spot, has the advantage of an air conditioned bar where you can bring in your cart food and eat while enjoying a beverage and their cider offerings are extensive, as are the beer taps.

I don’t even know what regular restaurants have survived the pandemic holocaust, I’ve just been getting carts and takeout when I get tired of cooking. My grandson works at Nostrana so I can definitely recommend THAT one. :wink:

And I’ve eaten at Nostrana, and I can definitely recommend it too. In fact, they are better set up for pandemic dining than Navarre.

Hey all, thanks for the suggestions. Lots to sift through and choose from, and I promise I’ll consider everything. Just didn’t want the thread and everyone’s contributions to go neglected and unacknowledged while I do the follow-up work.

And P.S., re Voodoo Doughnuts, I’m aware it’s become exclusively a tourist magnet, but my kids are insisting, so, well, (shrug).

First, Cervaise, thanks for the sympathy on the heat. It was 116º F yesterday in Portland; surrounding areas hit 118º F (That’s 47º-48º C). I spent a miserable, heat-strokey decade in Phoenix, and that was hard. But Portland is entirely unprepared for this kind of heat, and legitimately so: it’s wildly anomalous. My apartment has A/C, which is a little unusual, but even with the A/C fully cranked, my thermostat read 95º F indoors yesterday.

Happily, the heat broke last night and we’re down to the upper 80s and low 90s again. It’s often cooler than that even in the summer; Portland weather is a whole lot like the weather I experienced when I spent a year in Alençon, a little town in Normandy.

You’ve gotten some solid advice here…as a foodie with a 9-year-old and a 12-year-old, I may be able to add a few points:

Voodoo Doughnuts: Yep—wildly overrated. And the part of Chinatown they’re in has become especially sketchy since COVID-19 hit. Locals generally prefer Blue Star Doughnuts. I know your kids are insisting on Voodoo, but maybe it would be a fun experiment to try both and see which your kids prefer.

One of my favorite places in Portland is Andina, a Peruvian restaurant. I spent 12 years married to an archaeologist who works primarily in Peru, and I’ve spent several months (in aggregate) in both Lima and Arequipa. Andina is pretty great high-end Peruvian food. They’ve also got a more-casual option called Chicha, which I haven’t tried. I’m excited to give it a shot.

Ramen is a big deal here, and arguably the best ramen in town is found at Afuri. They also serve respectable sushi and—my kids’ favorite—yuzu limeade. Afuri claims they chose to open their first US location in Portland due to the unusually high-quality tap water here. I suspect they’re pandering to the locals a bit, but Portland’s tap water is the best I’ve ever tasted.

As others have suggested, Eater PDX is perhaps the most useful research tool. A friend did her Fulbright in Addis Ababa, and as her sons are both adopted from east Africa, culturally competent food (so to speak) is very important to her family. All of her favorites are on this list:

Paley’s Place routinely tops best-restaurants-in-town lists. It’s pricey (~$85 for a 3-course prix fixe meal without wine), but I’m eager to try it once I have the right occasion.

Another place on my to-try list is Screen Door, which specializes in food from the American South. Your posts are written in a “voice” that makes me think you’re either from the US or have lived here for a long time, so southern food may not be exotic to you. Still, I’ve heard very good things.

One of my favorite lunch or late-night-nosh joints is Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen. I usually get the lemongrass pork bahn mi, but I’ve never regretted ordering anything else there, either.

Sadly, you just missed Pok Pok, a legendary Thai restaurant. I’m just around the corner from their NW Portland location, and I was devastated when they closed for good in about April of 2020. Andy Ricker, the proprietor, moved back to Thailand, so there’s no hope of it coming back.

A note on kids and Portland restaurants: while Portland has a well-deserved reputation for passive aggression, I’ve never had anything but positive responses to taking my kids to good restaurants here. My elder son in particular has a sophisticated palate, and his enthusiasm for the food earns lots of indulgent smiles from servers. My younger son is a chicken-fingers-or-white-rice kinda kid, and they’re just as nice to him, even when we’re dining sans his adventurous older brother.

That’s what I’ve got for you. If you find time reply to this thread after your trip, I’d be grateful to know which places worked for you and which didn’t (regardless of whether the place was mentioned in this thread). I love Portland, but it can be a little provincial sometimes. I’d love to know your opinions, especially since you’re accustomed to eating in European restaurants.

Bon voyage!

I sobbed quietly to myself over the demise of Pok Pok, those damned wings were crack with crack sauce on a bed of crack. I really hope someone duplicates the recipe or gets the secret from Andy Ricker because the world in my immediate vicinity needs to be at a higher percentage of Pok Pok wings.

Por Que No for tacos is well loved by pretty much everyone–I always get sidetracked by one of my favorite taco trucks instead but trying to explain where those will be at any given time can be tricky. My grandson AND my son in law have both slaved away at Por Que No and they’re both picky about food and know what’s good so I defer to their expertise.

Have you tried the wings at Hat Yai? I think they’re as good as Pok Pok. And even if they don’t completely fill the void for you, they can probably help.

I have not but you betcha ass that’s going on The List, thanks!

I realize that you’re responding to SmartAleq, but I fully appreciate the recommendation. I was so dependent on Pok Pok that I never bothered to try Hat Yai. Looking at Hat Yai’s
menu now, I see that I’ve been missing out. Thanks for the input!

FWIW, they have a second location on the other side of the river that doesn’t get the long lines and is a less rushed experience.

They also have a truck or two, used to have one parked at Cartlandia but they moved it.

Well this adds a wrinkle

Yeah, that was shitty. More details: Voodoo Doughnut Employees Say the Company Is Firing Them for Participating in a Heat-Related Strike - Eater Portland

If you want donuts, I second @EdelweissPirate’s suggestion of Blue Star. The other local favorite is Pip’s Original - mini donuts with a limited choice in toppings, but so, so good. And five or six different chai tea flavors.

There’s a Bugatti’s in Oregon City, very nice Italian food and I think a lot more casual than their flagship in West Linn. Really if you want to stay very local, you will have a ton to choose from.

Oh, and pretty fun, family-friendly traditional Tex-Mex atmosphere at Tacho’s.