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Posts from the ‘Portland’ Category

Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda: San Francisco

Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda…

A Spring trip back to San Francisco was high on our list this year but the long flights out there and the thought of trekking up and down hills while 7 months pregnant didn’t seem as appealing when it came time to book the flights.  That being said, the food and drink research was done and reservations that were made had to be cancelled.  We will miss not having gone to San Fran (perhaps our favorite city to visit) but we’ve replaced it with a trip to Austin (details in an upcoming post) and are so excited to have a new member in our family very soon.

So, here’s what we coulda, shoulda, woulda done in San Francisco:

Coffee Shops:

Blue Bottle Cafe – we’ve gone here every time we’ve been to San Fran and will plan to go every time we are there. Though they serve their coffee in several areas around town we are partial to the cafe in Mint Plaza. We still find ourselves dreaming of their pristine coffee. Their toast+jam and steel cut oatmeal have ruined us for all other versions.

Contraband Coffee – newer coffee shop in Nob Hill that some are saying serves better coffee than Blue Bottle (we’d have to be the judge of that). A bonus is that they serve Dynamo Donuts – which we’ve also been dying to try.


The Sentinel – we’ve wanted to go here the last 2 times in San Fran but either they were closed that day or they weren’t open when we went by. We love artisan sandwiches and the small list of hot and cold sandwiches at this SOMA spot all sound amazing. They are known for their Reuben with Russian dressing, cabbage and Swiss cheese.

Pal’s Takeaway – takeout sandwich spot in the Mission District with creative and fun sandwiches.  A huge bonus – they use Acme buns and rolls!

Ike’s Place – huge list of sandwiches from this shop in Castro District – locals rave about them.

Spice Kit – Asian street food from French-trained chefs with their take on the Banh Mi and Ssam (Korean wrap).

Salumeria – opening some time this Spring – an Italian sandwich shop from the Flour + Water folks that seems highly anticipated. I’m sure it will have plenty of long lines.

Ice Cream/Baked Goods:

Bi-Rite Creamery – legendary ice cream shop in the Mission District that inspired a lot of the artisan ice cream makers now doing their thing in other cities. Famous for their Salted Caramel and Roasted Banana flavors.

Humphry Slocombe – artisan ice cream in the Mission District with a ton of creative flavors – the Secret Breakfast with bourbon and corn flakes and the Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee sound great.

Dynamo Donuts – ever since our trip last summer to Portland, OR we’ve been craving a perfect plain glazed donut and yet to find one that compares. We’re not sure that Dynamo would either but we’d be willing to try. We’d also like to try the Bacon Maple Apple flavor.

Tartine Bakery – we went there last time we were in San Fran but a trip back to this Mission District bakery would have been a must. (I’m sensing a trend with delicious Mission District food in this category) We’d want to try every single baked item on their menu but also know that we couldn’t avoid getting another one of their amazing Morning Buns.


Foreign Cinema – known for its outside patio which literally shows foreign movies on a wall outside during dining hours, this Mission restaurant also apparently has one of the best weekend brunches in town – would have loved to give their Foreign Cinema Fruit “Pop Tart” with strawberries a try. Everything on their menu sounds great.

NOPA – award winning dinner spot that we had planned to visit for its delicious sounding weekend brunch – serving Blue Bottle coffee. Deciding what to get would have been the hard part.

Ferry Building Farmers Market – Farmer’s market to beat all others – unbelievable list of fantastic vendors that have permanent housing in the Ferry Building as well as those that come in for the Tues-Thurs-Sat farmers market. The fresh and diverse quality of items makes us want to stay in a VRBO and cook our own dinners! – but then of course we’d miss out on all of the great restaurants in town. We’d especially want to check out Primavera Tamales while there.

Casual Lunch Spots:

Swan Oyster Depot – legendary oyster hole-in-the-wall only open til 5:30pm. We loved the oysters from Hog Island and would want to give these a try as well (however the pregnancy would have negated this option for now).

La Taqueria – Mexican dive in the Mission District with beloved carne asada and carnitas tacos.


Frances – small critically acclaimed restaurant in Castro district with a small daily-changing menu. The Applewood Smoked Bacon Beignets are a mainstay and a must from what we hear.

Flour + Water – one of the places we most wanted to try – the fresh handmade pastas, wood fired pizzas and whole animal cooking in this Mission favorite all sound delicious.

Canteen – retro hip diner from Chef Dennis Leary – also of The Sentinel – that serves creative 4 course prix-fixe on Tues-Sat w/ small a la carte menu on Wed-Thurs-Fri.

Mission Chinese Food – one of Best New Restaurants in America this past year according to GQ and Bon Appetit. Creative takes on traditional Chinese food – all with reasonable prices.

Wayfare Tavern – from Chef Tyler Florence, this Financial District spot serves up comfort foods, think fried chicken and mac-and-cheese.

Cotogna – rustic Italian cuisine from James Beard award winning chef – Michael Tusk. The $24 prix fixe menu seems to be one of the best deals in the city.

Drinks (not for the pregnant wife):

Heaven’s Dog – cocktail bar with pre-Prohibition era drinks and Chinese food from The Slanted Door team.

Bier Garten – outdoor beer garden in Hayes Valley. From the pics online it seems to consist of large beer glasses, long picnic tables and lots of happy people.

The Monk’s Kettle – tavern featuring plenty of beers on tap from Belgium and California.

City Beer Store – specialty beer bottle store and tasting bar with over 300 beers from all over the world to choose from .

the twentyfive:thirtyfive rules

We have loved being able to travel around the country, eating and drinking at many wonderful spots. We have noticed that no matter where we have gone that there are often a lot of overlapping similarities. We’ve also developed our own sense of what we’re drawn to and what tends to rub us the wrong way. So, with tongue in cheek, here are “the twentyfive:thirtyfive rules”:

Rule #43: “We’re suckers for menus written on chalkboards” (Bunk Sandwiches, Portland, OR)

1. Never waste a meal

2. Local ingredients are preferred, ditto for local beers

3. The longer it takes to get to a restaurant and the longer we have to wait to get a seat, the better the food should be

4. Chef-owned restaurants are almost always better

5. No cocktail should cost more than $12

6. It is far more important for a restaurant to make one dish the best than it is to make 20 average dishes

7. The sandwich we order at a restaurant should taste better than the ones we can make in our own kitchen

8. We would prefer to not smell like the restaurant we just ate at for the rest of the day

9. If a restaurant serves dinner and doesn’t take reservations it should have somewhere comfy for people to wait

10. A cool website can go a long way to making us want to check out a restaurant

11. If a restaurant has pictures on its website they should be done by a professional

12. Fantastic food can make up for bad decor but fantastic decor cannot make up for bad food

13. It is unlikely that we will know exactly what we want to drink the very moment we sit down without first looking at the menu

14. We understand that the food may need some work after opening day of a restaurant but service should be good from day one

15. If a restaurant has an open kitchen they should do their best to make it look like they are having a good time

16. If a restaurant is going to serve an “elevated” form of a cuisine it needs to be sure to elevate it to a level that warrants its elevated prices

17. High quality versions of ethnic cuisine tend to taste better than fusion versions of them

18. A chain restaurant is almost never the right answer to the question of where to go to eat

19. The price of a meal has virtually nothing to do with how good the food will be

20. Your taplist should not contain the words Bud, Coors or Miller

21. A great meal is a memory that can last a lifetime

22. More patios please

23. A meal on a patio on a beautiful day is ruined by the smell of cigarette smoke

24. Consider it a very bad sign when a restaurant has had more than 3 head chefs leave

25. Our expectations of a restaurant’s food are directly proportional to the food’s cost

Rule #22: “More patios please” (Perla’s, Austin, TX)

26. We are over the trend of trying to hunt down food trucks…either go brick-and-mortar or else get a bunch of trucks together and stay put at one spot

27. We expect that if you are working at a restaurant that you have actually tried the food you are serving there

28. With a few exceptions, one page for the food menu and one page for the drink menu will generally suffice

29. We find it hard to justify the cost and distinguish much difference between most steakhouses

30. Avoid restaurants where most of the patrons are tourists

31. Friendly, attentive, knowledgeable and consistent service can take a restaurant from good to great

32. It would have tasted just fine without the drizzle

33. Without question brunch is the best meal

34. Just because you were on “Top Chef” does not mean that your restaurant is any good

35. Men, when in doubt, go with an Old Fashioned

36. Women, when in doubt, go with a French 75

37. If a restaurant claims to have the best something in town it is rare that they actually do

38. Yelp and UrbanSpoon ratings are not to be trusted

39. Trip Advisor and CitySearch even less so

40. “House-made” is generally a good thing

41. We aren’t exactly sure why the breakfast taco isn’t more popular

42. We are dubious of oyster bars in landlocked states

43. We’re suckers for menus written on chalkboards

44. Why is it so hard to find good Texas Beef Brisket outside of Texas?

45. Frozen yogurt never tastes as good as ice cream

46. It takes somewhere between 3 – 5 years for food trends to get from NY, LA, and San Fran to reach the rest of us

47. A handful of local artisans can change an entire city

48. If a customer is justifiably upset about something the best thing a server can do is: 1. apologize, 2. say you will make it right, 3. make it right

49. Assume that tap will be our water of choice

50. Chips and salsa should always be free

Rule #44: “Why is it so hard to find good Texas Beef Brisket outside of Texas?” (Franklin Barbecue, Austin, TX)

If You Build It…

…They Will Come.

We know that it takes time for cities to grow and develop. We love Nashville and have been thrilled to see so many great changes in the last 5 years. Here are some examples that we have found in our travels that we feel could help make Nashville even better.

Type of Spot: High Quality Taqueria and Dive Bar

Example: Big Star, Chicago, IL

Why: This spot in Wicker Park in Chicago was created by one of the country’s top chefs, Paul Kahan, as a cash-only place to come and grab a beer/whiskey/cocktail and a few high quality tacos. It has great outdoor seating and updated garage-type feel to the inside. Old Country music plays on a record player and the vibe is laid-back and hip. The food, though, is fantastic and despite its simple menu you want more of their chips/guac, tacos al pastor and fish tacos. Truly one of the coolest places we’ve been to in our recent travels and affordable to everyone. We know of a perfect spot for it in 12South…hint hint…the corner of Kirkwood and 12th.

Who Could Do It: Teresa Mason, mas tacos por favor with Alexis Stoler, No. 308

Type of Spot: Killer Boutique Hotel

Example: Ace Hotel, Portland and Hotel San Jose, Austin

Why: When we asked ourselves the question, “Where would we want to stay if we didn’t live here and came to visit?” and we honestly couldn’t answer. Staying Downtown is where most folks go when they visit, but really, how much do locals really go down there on a nightly basis? Even so, where would you stay? It would be a chain hotel. Hutton Hotel seems cool but its location seems neither here nor there, not really close enough to be able to navigate on foot. Two places that would be primed for a boutique hotel would be the 12South neighborhood or 5 Points in East Nashville. Somewhere where you could come if you were just visiting or if you were a hip musician and wanted a unique stay with interesting decor to hang around a cool neighborhood to get a real taste of Nashville.  It could even have a great outside bar and pool like Hotel San Jose. There is nothing here like that and both of the places listed above are hot spots that are cool and add a lot of character to their cities. It would be perfect here, especially with the number of musicians that visit our city for extended periods of time to record.

Who Could Do It: Liz Lambert, Hotel San Jose, Austin

Type of Spot: A Great Place to Run By the Water

Example: Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Austin, Seattle, Portland, Tampa…basically most every other city

Why: A place where people can run/walk/bike by the water would be one of the things highest on this list. In our city you can run at Percy Warner or Edwin Warner Park (very nice but hilly), Centennial Park (pretty during the day but only a 1 mile loop), Vandy Loop (mostly traffic lights and cars), Shelby Bottoms Park (a bit isolated and honestly doesn’t feel the safest), or with East Nastys (fantastic but it involves running through East Nashville neighborhoods/streets). If you go to any of those cities listed above the water is a focal point for their cities and the water is where there is so much beauty and where locals run on their paths and trails. We have the Cumberland River, which nothing Downtown actually faces, and which is basically used for nothing. It could be used for a trail like this – somewhere where you could explore the city whether you lived here or were visiting. It would make a huge difference in our city.

Who Could Do It: The Mayor

Type of Spot: Great NY Style Pizza and Hot Spot

Example: Home Slice Pizza, Austin, TX

Why: Nashville has several restaurants with great pizzas – City House and Margot Cafe – but these are gourmet wood fired pizzas rather than thin crust NY style. We really do not have great NY style pizza here in our opinion. Mafiaoza’s is more of a 2 for 1 Tuesday bar scene. Pizza Perfect is fine but not spectacular. Five Points Pizza is closer to the right idea but the pizza is not quite there. In Austin, on South Congress, Home Slice Pizza sits with a fun, funky vibe, fantastic NY style pizza, local beer on tap and is a great hot spot for foodies, hipsters and families. The restaurant even closes briefly each year so the staff can go to NYC to sample the pizzas there.

Who Could Do It: Chef Tandy Wilson, City House and we hear rumors of the delicious Antico Pizza from Atlanta expanding to Nashville

Type of Spot: The Modern Diner

Example: 24 Diner, Austin, TX

Why: A growing dining trend in larger cities is the concept of the “Modern Diner”. These places are using local and sustainable ingredients in a farm-to-table approach and making chef inspired creative comfort food. We have legendary greasy spoons and Meat-and-Threes but these places can certainly be supplemented with something more updated and eclectic/unique. A place where you could get a roasted banana and brown sugar milkshake or a well prepared Sazerac or a Brooklyn Lager on tap.

Who Could Do It: Chef John Stephenson, Fido

Type of Spot: Upper Echelon Bakery

Example: Huckleberry Cafe, Santa Monica, CA and Tartine Bakery, San Francisco, CA

Why: These spots make amazing pastries and breads for local restaurants as well at their cafes. They also brew high quality local coffee and serve fantastic breakfasts and brunches. They have lines out of the door and national attention. We have nothing even close to this.

Who Could Do It: Chef Margot McCormack, Margot Cafe and Marche or Silke’s Old World Breads

Type of Spot: Casual Counter Restaurant featuring High Quality Local Ingredients

Example: Evoe, Portland, OR

Why: This counter cafe is located within a fantastic gourmet small grocery called Pastaworks. It features a wonderful chef, Kevin Gibson, using the freshest seasonal local ingredients. His menu is written on a large chalkboard wall and changes frequently. The key here is that he lets the quality ingredients shine and keeps his dishes simple. Pristine Deviled Eggs, salads and sandwiches that aren’t over or under done. A deft touch and great ingredients is all that he needs. We love the Silly Goose but we feel that a spot where “less is more” with a simpler approach to dishes would be fantastic.

Who Could Do It: Chef Margot McCormack, Margot Cafe and Marche or Chef John Stephenson, Fido

Type of Spot: Excellent New Tavern or Gastropub

Example: The Publican, Chicago or Brave Horse Tavern, Seattle

Why: In Nashville there aren’t that many places to go to get a really good beer on tap. 12South Taproom has a good selection of predominantly Southern microbrews but its vibe is definitely casual and more of a place to get a beer outside than a place to find high quality chef driven food. Flying Saucer is a chain and until recently was a smokestack. Yazoo Brewery is a fantastic spot for a Yazoo, but naturally, that is all that they have.  We have Whiskey Kitchen, which is more of a whiskey lounge with pub food and not the easiest place to get in and out of in the Gulch and Tavern which has a more creative menu but a very limited beer selection. The Publican is a European style pub with an amazing list of European beers – mostly Belgian – and a wonderful menu with mussels, frites and creative uses of pig. The Brave Horse Tavern in Seattle is a more laid back and casual spot and has a great list of local Northwest beers on tap, unreal pretzels and great quality pub food from one of the top chefs in Seattle, Tom Douglas. It also is a great spot to throw darts or play shuffleboard and has ample seating. A spot where folks who love a great selection of some of the world’s best beers and can also have even better quality food would do great here.

Who Could Do It: The Goldberg Brothers, The Patterson House and The Catbird Seat

Happy New Year! Best of 2011

We have been blessed this year to be able to have enjoyed many wonderful meals both here in Nashville and in our travels. We were able to visit Los Angeles, Austin, Chicago, Seattle, and Portland, OR this year and thought that it would be fun to put together our own year-end list of our favorites of 2011. Despite our travels we were pleasantly surprised to say that our two favorite meals came in Nashville this year (one from a Nashville restaurant and one from a visiting S.C. chef). There were many memorable moments, dishes and restaurants and here are a few of our favorites this year.  Happy New Year and best wishes for a wonderful 2012!!

Overall Best Meal 2011:

(TIE) Catbird Seat, Nashville, TN (10/17/11) – The expectations were high in Nashville for this concept restaurant from The Patterson House team of Ben/Max Goldberg and we can verify that they exceeded these expectations. A small U-shaped restaurant perched above the Patterson House that only seats 30 people and consists of two chefs preparing prix fixe meals right in front of you is not something that you would expect to find in Nashville. However, when we sat down and had our first bite of our appetizer – a trio plate consisting of dehydrated porcini mushrooms surrounding a parmesan cream in the appearance of an Oreo, a baby radish with uni butter and a chicken skin dusted with hot powder and Wonder Bread puree – we knew that this was going to be a special meal. Chefs Josh Habiger and Erik Anderson brought out dish after dish of brilliantly creative and wonderfully flavorful dishes using a variety of proteins (chicken, haddock, lamb, beef) and the drink pairings from Jane Lopes were equally tasty and creative (sake, Belgian beer, wine from Lebanon). Everything worked and we are looking forward to returning this Spring to see what they come up with next. Expect James Beard award nominations for this gem.

(TIE) Husk Restaurant at City House, Nashville,TN (9/6/11) – this Charleston, SC restaurant from Chef/Owner Sean Brock hit the road this year to support the Southern Foodways Alliance and we were fortunate to be able to attend when he was guest chef at City House in Nashville. Chef Brock brought some his best dishes from his restaurant which was named the Best New Restaurant in America. this year by Bon Appetit. What we got was about 12 courses of some of the best Southern cuisine we’ve ever had and left fuller than we’d been in years. Pig ears, beef rinds, chicken skins (see below), pork ribs, cornmeal dusted catfish, and peanut butter pie were some of the highlights in this non-stop procession of food. That, coupled with communal moonshine (in grape, mango, and strawberry flavors) and the wonderful vibrant mood of City House made this a meal to remember.

Best Restaurant Atmosphere 2011:

Big Star, Chicago, IL – this cash only Taqueria-meets-Whiskey bar in Wicker Park is by no means the fanciest spot we hit all year but it was the one that we loved the most….and the one we wish was right down the street from where we live! The simple design is spot-on with an outside patio filled with bright yellow chairs surrounding metallic tables and a converted garage inside where you perch up next to the bar and listen so some Honkey Tonk playing on the record player behind the bar. The menu consists of a small selection of fantastic tacos, a good selection of quality beer on tap and one of the better selections of whiskey outside of TN/KY. On a sunny day, with it’s doors open and outside patio filled it is the place we would want to be this year.

Honorable Mentions:

Gjelina, Venice, CA

Olympic Provisions, Portland, OR

Walrus and the Carpenter, Seattle, WA

Haddingtons, Austin, TX

Girl and the Goat, Chicago, IL

GT Fish and Oyster, Chicago, IL

Dish of the Year:

Aged Pekin Duck Breast with green garbanzos, tequila braised radish, watermelon and white sesame – Blackbird, Chicago, IL – We love duck and have tried it at many a restaurant….no duck we have ever had before even comes close to this one. We aren’t sure how they did it – maybe the aging of the breast? – but the duck was perfectly cooked, tender and meaty with a wonderful crisp skin. The seemingly disparate ingredients effortlessly complemented the duck and left us in awe. We can still imagine the taste of that duck and Blackbird may have ruined us – for we know that any other duck we will have won’t likely compare.

Honorable Mentions:

Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings – Pok Pok, Portland, OR

Brisket and Pork Ribs – Franklin Barbecue, Austin, TX

Fine Hand Cut Egg Pasta with ragu – Spinasse, Seattle, WA

Springer Mountain Half Chicken with Sweet Potato Soffritto, Dried Plums and Bread Crumbs – City House, Nashville, TN

Fried Deviled Eggs with Arugula and Caper Berries and Charred Cauliflower with Toasted Breadcrumbs – The Purple Pig, Chicago, IL

Bite of the Year:

Southern Fried Chicken Skins with Husk Hot Sauce and SC Honey – Husk Restaurant at City House, Nashville, TN – This sinful standout was our favorite from our co-meal of the year. It sounded scary at first…fried chicken skins??…but we couldn’t believe how good they tasted. The skins were perfectly crisp with just the right amount of sweetness and heat and we had a hard time wanting to pass the dish around to others at our table.

Honorable Mentions:

Brick Oven Pretzel with Sour Cream and Crispy Onion Dip – Brave Horse Tavern, Seattle, WA

Plain Glazed Doughnut – Voodoo Doughnut, Portland, OR

“Faux Reos” and Hot Chicken Skins with Wonder Bread Puree – Catbird Seat, Nashville, TN

Crispy Pig Ears – Husk Restaurant at City House, Nashville, TN

Sandwich of the Year:

Midnight Cuban Press – Paseo, Seattle, WA –  There are good sandwiches and there are great sandwiches and there are good sandwich shops and there are great sandwich shops. The Midnight Cuban Press is a truly great sandwich and Paseo is a truly great sandwich shop. As the shop opens in Fremont – and artsy hippie-ish part of Seattle – lines start to form, and they form fast. I suspect that several of their sandwiches could have topped our list this year but for the winner we picked this one – a huge sandwich filled with ridiculously juicy and tender roast Cuban pork, sweet banana peppers, caramelized onions, smoked ham and swiss cheese inside of a lightly pressed baguette. If we are ever in Seattle again a return trip here would be considered a must.

Honorable Mentions:

B.L.T. with Benton’s Bacon – Mitchell Delicatessen, Nashville, TN

Pork Belly Bahn Mi – Bunk Sandwiches, Portland, OR

The Bunk Sandwich – Evoe, Portland, OR

Salami Sandwich – Olympic Provisions, Portland, OR

Dessert of the Year:

Key Lime Pie – GT Fish and Oyster, Chicago, IL – This deconstructed and then reconstructed version of the traditional key lime pie. Arriving in a Mason jar it consists of a deliciously tart lemon-lime curd under a layer of gingersnap crumble and topped with a lightly torched meringue. Simple yet perfect.

Honorable Mentions:

Brioche Bread with PB & Nutella – Huckleberry Cafe, Los Angeles, CA

Lemon Curd Drop Biscuit – Little T American Baker, Portland, OR

Peanut Butter Pie with Antebellum Oats, Olive and Sinclair Chocolate + Cocoa Nibs smoked by Alan Benton – Husk Restaurant at City House, Nashville, TN

Drink of the Year:

La Folie – New Belgium Brewing – on tap at Brave Horse Tavern, Seattle, WA – We first had a sour beer (Monk’s Cafe) at our good friend’s apartment in Boston last year and we instantly became obsessed with this style of beer. Every restaurant and bar we went to became a potential chance to find a sour beer. When we first tasted this beer at Brave Horse Tavern in Seattle we knew we would have to find it when we got back to Nashville. Fortunately, we were able to find it bottled as well at specialty beer stores and Whole Foods. Unfortunately, they are all out now. Its red-brown color belies its refreshing and sharp sour apple tart taste but it also has a richness provided by the 1-3 years of French Oak Barrel aging. We’re looking forward to next year’s batch already.

Honorable Mentions:

Strawberry Sour Ale – Cascade Brewing Barrel House, Portland, OR

The Khing and I (Thai Mekhong Whiskey and ginger syrup and lime) – Whiskey Soda Lounge, Portland, OR

Breve and Cafe Americano – Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Portland, OR

Oak Barrel Aged Negroni – Clyde Common, Portland, OR
Mango Moonshine, Husk Restaurant at City House, Nashville, TN

Food/Drink Obsessions 2011:

Lemon Curd/Tarts

Sour Ales


Growing up, I was sincerely jealous that my parents got to live through the hippie-era. I used to have “Peace, Love & Happiness” written all over my stuff, and I searched for bell-bottom jeans long before any designer was calling them “fashionable” again! What defines a hippie these days might be different than it did 40 years ago, however if I wanted to take part in that culture at all, I would not have to travel back in time, but rather to Portland, Oregon.

We joke that our catch phrase is “Never waste a meal, ” but on this trip it could more accurately be, ” Never waste a bite, a snack, a meal, a time in between meals, after a meal, or really any time you have a little space left in your stomach!” We tried our best to sample as many places as possible, filling our bellies just shy of gluttony. 🙂 We also could not help ourselves and visited some places multiple times.

Coffee Shops-

Barista: highly skilled baristas prepare quality coffee drinks from from some of the world’s best roasters.  The shop itself is small and tucked away inside of a beautifully weathered old warehouse building in the Pearl District.

Stumptown Coffee Roasters : what makes a perfect Espresso? Or Breve? Or Americano?  We don’t know either but the folks at Stumptown Coffee Roasters know for sure.  Despite our best intentions to try out multiple coffee shops in Portland – after we had their first cup we agreed to scrap that plan and start every day with their coffee.  An additional bonus is that their pastries provided by little t american baker.  They have several shops around town and their coffee is served at many restaurants and they are now bottling their Cold Brewed coffee.

The Fresh Pot: cute small coffee shop in the Southeast Portland area with an obvious wink to the hippie culture of Portland.  Great location with it’s attachment to Powell’s on Hawthorne bookstore and down the block from Pastaworks/Evoe.


Tasty n Sons : new brunch spot in Northwest Portland from Toro Bravo’s John Gorham that is earning some praise as the best new restaurant in Portland.  Similar to Toro Bravo, the two hardest things to do here are to 1. patiently wait for your turn to get a table and 2. decide what to order, as everything on the menu looks and sounds delicious.  We opted for the Fried Green Tomato BLT, the Croque Madame, Toast and Jam and one of their famous Chocolate Potato Doughnuts and left full and happy.

little t american baker : amazing artisan bakery in the Southeast Portland area that also serves fantastic sandwiches and brews Stumptown Coffee.  Named by Bon Appetit as one of the Top 10 Best Boutique Coffee Shops.  They bake the bread for the top restaurants in town and make the ridiculously delicious Lemon Curd Biscuit found at Stumptown Coffee Roasters.

Voodoo Doughnut : this funky doughnut shop is perhaps Portland’s most famous food landmark and we can say that the press is well deserved.  Though they make everything from Maple and Bacon Doughnuts to doughnuts covered with Froot Loops to doughnuts shaped like voodoo dolls – it was their Plain Glazed Doughnut that was addictively delicious.  In fact we may have gone there more than once or twice on our trip and was our final stop before we departed town.

Casual Dining-

Pok Pok : how good are Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings at this Thai-street food restaurant from 2011 James Beard award winning chef/owner Andy Ricker? So good that when our meal was over we realized that the only words we said to each other was “Pass me a napkin”.  So good that we canceled our dinner reservations the next night so that we could come back for more.  So good that we are still dreaming about them and their heavenly sticky, salty, sweet and spicy sauce.  And by the way, everything else that they make is also fantastic – including the grilled corn, coconut curry noodle soup and their Pok Pok Affogato dessert – condensed milk ice cream drowned in a shot of Vietnamese coffee with a Chinese fried doughnut.

Ping:  multi-Asian cuisine in the Chinatown area from chef/owner Andy Ricker.  Mismatched old wood planks on the walls, hanging decorative Asian scrolls and a bar adorned with Asian beers and liquors give this quaint spot great character.  The pork bun and Ramen noodles are simple dishes that they elevate to something special. One of GQ’s Best New Restaurants in America in 2010.

Bunk Sandwiches : this Southeast Portland sandwich shop has achieved national acclaim for its simple yet phenomenal sandwiches.  It doesn’t hurt that the spot was named after a character in one of our all-time favorite television shows The Wire.  We grabbed a Pork Belly Bahn Mi and walked down to eat it by the water.  After we took one bite we immediately regretted not getting another sandwich or two.

Olympic Provisions : as we walked around the Industrial District in Southeast Portland trying to find this spot we initially thought we might be lost.  When we finally walked into Olympic Provisions we immediately fell in love with this fantastic charcuterie and European-style restaurant.  It’s flashing “MEAT” sign, long metal counter top with glass enclosed meats of the day and wall of wine set the mood perfectly for the fantastic food that was to follow –  marinated olives, pickled eggs, and one of the best salami sandwiches that we’ve tasted. It is also Oregon’s first USDA certified meat-curing facility.

The Waffle Window : literally a hole in the wall of the backside of a restaurant in Southeast Portland that serves decadently sweet and savory waffles.  Featured on Unique Eats – it seems hard to go wrong with whatever waffle you choose but we demolished the Blueberry Cheesecake Waffle – blueberry cinnamon compote, cream cheese pudding, whipped cream and graham cracker crumble.

Evoe @ Pastaworks : if we could take any place from Portland and magically transport it to Nashville it may be this small counter restaurant attached to the specialty grocery store Pastaworks in Southeast Portland.  Not much more than a chef behind a counter surrounded by fresh produce, cured meats, bread and cheese, there was just something about the freshness, simplicity, and authenticity of the approach and food that was so appealing.  Everything from the Deviled Eggs dressed with crisp elderflower to The Bunk sandwich – a pork and beef olive loaf with an over easy egg – was effortlessly perfectly prepared.

Little Big Burger : much like In-N-Out Burger this Portland burger shop/shake shack is rapidly becoming an obsession among locals.  It emphasizes organic and local ingredients made to order and a simplified menu consisting of 6 items – cheeseburger, hamburger, veggie burger, fries, floats and sodas.  Even though we were already full before we stopped in here we couldn’t stop eating their truffle fries.

Contemporary Dining-

Toro Bravo : small plates reign in this wildly popular Spanish inspired tapas restaurant from Chef/Owner John Gorham.  We were initially skeptical as tapas bars seem very hit or miss and potentially dated but were immediately impressed from our first bite on. We loved the Pimento de Padrons, the Zucchini Fritter and the Copa steak with it’s delicious salbitxada sauce (a garlic, pepper, almond and olive oil).

Clyde Common : this hip Downtown restaurant in the uber-chic Ace Hotel serves up some of the best drinks and food in Portland.  Nothing like the typical sterile solemn hotel restaurant this spot is vibrant, open and hopping.  Fantastic drinks including a house specialty of oak barrel aged Negroni and the BMOC (bourbon, ginger syrup and Angostura).  Their “Domestic & Foreign Cooking” was spot on and we loved their chicharones with praline pecans, tagliatelle with cherry tomatoes, roasted cauliflower and prosciutto wrapped trout.

Beast : prix-fixe restaurant in Northeast Portland from Top Chef Masters contestant and James Beard award nominee Naomi Pomeroy.  Menus are 6 courses and change weekly according to the freshest seasonal ingredients and the chef’s inspirations.  Intimate setting with 24 seats and communal tables and the experience is quite unique as the kitchen is in the dining room.  We loved the spinach veloute and the heirloom tomato & smoked herring salad.


Whiskey Soda Lounge: what a brilliant idea – a cocktail lounge across the street from and owned by Pok Pok chef/owner Andy Ricker which serves as a spot to grab a drink and appetizer while waiting for a table at his enormously popular Pok Pok.  This spot has great outdoor seating and the same excellent drink menu as well as some of the more popular dishes served at Pok Pok. The hardest part is waiting until you finally get a table at Pok Pok before devouring the world’s best chicken wings – Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings.  Their drinks are enhanced by the use of their flavored drinking vinegars called Pom Pom Som which can be added to cocktails to add a unique sweet-tart flavoring.  The Khing and I (Thai Mekhong Whiskey and ginger syrup and lime) and Southside (gin with mint lime syrup) were wonderful.

Bailey’s Taproom : this Downtown taproom boasts 20 rotating beers on tap – generally featuring the many top quality Oregon microbreweries.  Fantastic flat screen TV with their beer menu that actually shows how much beer is left in each keg.  Great selection of draft and bottled beers, fantastic prices, friendly and knowledgeable service, and all beers are $2 off if you take a bottle home.  Give a try to one of the local Portland beers from Upright Brewery, Hair of the Dog or Cascade Brewing.

Cascade Brewing Barrel House : if you love sour ales, this is the place to be.  If you haven’t tried a sour ale, this is the place you need to go to.  This Southeast Portland brewery has won Gold Medals in the Great American Beer Festival for their creative and wonderful sour ales.  Sour ales are more refreshing than a hoppier IPA and gives a more clean, tart and crisp taste than a Hefeweizen or Belgian White.  We loved the Strawberry Ale and the Sang Royal.

KASK : newly opened cozy Downtown cocktail bar from the folks who own neighboring Gruner restaurant.  Snack on some charcuterie from Olympic Provisions and try one of their creative cocktails.  They also have a routinely changing Krunk Punch for just $5.

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