Monday, December 16, 2013

My Recent Restaurant Favorites

If you've been following me on Instagram or reading my blog the past few months, then you'll know that Cameron and I have been hitting the Portland restaurant scene pretty hard since moving here this summer. This is such a foodie city with so many amazing restaurants and it's been really fun to experience that these past few months. Plus, there are new restaurants opening up all the time in Portland and I'm constantly hearing about great places via Portland Monthly Mag, Eater, and other PDX bloggers/instagrammers so my list of places I want to try keeps growing!

Speaking of which, if you live in Portland and are looking for a great gift for the foodies in your life this holiday season I'd highly recommend the book Portland's 100 Best Places To Stuff Your Faces, 2nd Edition by Jen Stevenson. I had the pleasure of meeting Jen at Feast this year, and she was kind enough to send me a copy of her lovely book. All her reviews are spot on and she highlights so many great places! You can buy the book online here and then they also sell it at a variety of places throughout Portland. And no, I am not being paid for this review, I just really loved the book! :)

More often than not, if we go out to eat somewhere and I happen to have my camera I'll try to snap a few pictures thinking I'll have time to post about it. However, time has really gotten away from me and I have a ton of photos from different restaurants we've tried that I've yet to share here on my blog!

Rather than try to do a bunch of separate posts for each place, I thought I'd just share a (massive) list of some of the restaurants that I've tried (and loved!) from the past couple of months. (I actually have photos from some places we tried in the summer/early fall saved on my computer as well but I figure I'll save those for a post sometime next year aka when I'm trying to stick to my new year's resolutions and hopefully eating a little healthier...ha!) I'm also finally working on this blog's 'Portland' page and should have the up and running later this week, which is another reason I wanted to get all these reviews up ASAP! So without further adieu (and in no particular order), here's my list...

Life of Pie
 Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a media event to try out this new pizza place in North Portland and I absolutely loved it! (And yes, my food was complimentary, but as you'll see below the pizza was fantastic and I would definitely spend my own money on it for sure!) Life of Pie is located on N. Williams in what seems to be a really growing part of Portland (the tasting I went to at Lompoc last month was right down the street). The restaurant has a modern yet cozy atmosphere, uses very high-quality ingredients, and yet the prices were reasonable - I'd definitely recommend it!

They serve wood-fired pizza and their amazing oven is definitely a focal point in the restaurant. You can read more about what makes it special here.

 The also make their mozzarella from scratch!
 The menu

 The arancini is delicious, it was so perfectly cooked

I loved the Kale & Arugula Salad as well

 Margherita Pizza with Mozzerella & Basil
 Bacon, Goat Cheese, and Leeks
Fennel Sausage & Mama Lil's Peppers
 Seasonal Mushroom, Pecorino Romano, and Truffle Oil - this was my favorite!
 Happy Hour goes from 11am-6pm everyday and house wine/draft beer is only $3!

Overall, I really enjoyed trying out Life of Pie and will definitely be back!

Life of Pie on Urbanspoon

Boke Bowl
Earlier this month, we had some really cold temps here in Portland (well not cold by Michigan standards, but unusually cold for here I guess!) and so I had the perfect excuse to finally give Boke Bowl a try. I had heard great things about this place from multiple people, so I was eager to check it out. They serve "Portland-style" ramen, which I take to mean that it's not super traditional but there is an emphasis on ingredient quality...including using Portland must-haves like pickled veggies and pork belly. The result is a sort of delicious Asian fusion that I think anyone would enjoy!
The decor in Boke Bowl is really bright and modern, I love it!
You order your food at the counter, then take a number to your table and they bring it to you

If you're not so good with chopsticks, they have some dinosaur ones to help you out :)

 We started our meal with an order of the pork belly steam buns...

These things were AWESOME.
But then again it's a giant piece of pork belly in delicious steam bun, what's not to like?

The ramen is served in large bowls and the portions are huge! 
Cameron ordered the pork ramen and really liked it a lot.

I ordered the duck confit ramen and it was excellent!
In addition to the duck, the ramen included seasonal veggies (roasted brussels sprouts and squash) and then I added a poached egg - a lot going on in one bowl, but it worked well together!
If you're in the mood for something warm and comforting, try Boke Bowl this winter!

Boke Bowl on Urbanspoon

Sweedeedee
I first heard about Sweedeedee in this year's issue of Portland Monthly Magazine where it was listed as one of the 10 best restaurants of 2013. Located in North Portland, they described it as 'Portlandia meets Martha Stewart in a homemade haven of pankcakes, pies, and oven-fresh sandwich breads.' and after visiting the restaurant last month, I can say that the description is very accurate. It's probably one of the most 'hipster' places I've been to in Portland so far (which you might guess from their tumblr) and it was full of Brooklyn 'ex-pats.' (And I'm not just saying that either - Cam and I were eating at the counter and literally 5 different people came in and were talking about how they just moved to Portland from Brooklyn!) Cam and I felt like we weren't really cool enough (read: did not have enough tattoos) to be eating there, but overall, their food was pretty tasty. It's a small restaurant where you go up to the counter and order, so it's a good alternative to some of the more well known brunch spots that often have insanely long waits. 
The interior is pretty sparse, but it's cute in a Brooklyn-y sort of way

They have a variety of baked goods that all looked amazing!
We tried the almond cake, which was really moist and flavorful
Coffee comes served in mismatched mugs - all part of the hipster charm :)
Cam ordered the corn cakes plate which came with eggs, bacon, and greens
I got a sandwich with toasted bread, egg, and avocado
We sat right by the record player
I enjoyed our breakfast and the baked goods were great. 
It definitely isn't my "scene" but overall, I can see why people enjoy it!

Sweedeedee on Urbanspoon

Multnomah Whisk{e}y Library
Although Portland constantly has new restaurants opening, this place in one in particular that stands out for having a ton of buzz and being very "exclusive." Word on the street was that wait times were consistently over three hours when it opened in October, and no, they don't take reservations unless you are a member...and memberships start at $500. MWL has done a great job of crafting this hype and, let's be honest, it made me all the much more excited to try this place. I went with a friend back in November and we had to wait about an hour and a half to get in on a Tuesday night. However, it's in an area of downtown Portland where there are quite a few other popular new restaurants, so you can easily go somewhere else for a drink while you wait. (Which yes, I realize that seems kind of ridiculous...ha.) They have it set up so it almost feels like a speakeasy, as you have to go through a non-descript door and up some stairs to actually get inside.

The interior of MWL is fairly small, dark, and absolutely gorgeous. It really feels like a plush library straight out of the Great Gatsby and I think the decor really adds to the experience. I didn't want to be a dork and whip out my big camera...so excuse the grainy Instagrams!
 MWL has a menu of luxe English pub food with an Oregon twist, served tapas style.
Everything I ordered was delicious, including these crispy brussels sprouts!
 So when I just looked on the MWL website, I didn't see this smoked ham mac & cheese on their menu anymore so I'm not sure if it's still available...but OMG IT WAS SO GOOD.
Beautiful presentation of their scotch egg

One of the main draws of MWL is their enormous collection of whiskey (or whisky, depending) and when you arrive they give you a giant book of all the different kinds. Ordering whiskey straight is really not my thing, however, I did really enjoy the whiskey cocktail I tried. However, they also have beer and wine as well so if you're not a whiskey drinker, don't let that scare you!

This is not the type of place that you're just going to run and have a quick drink, so when you go, you should allot a fair amount of time. You're probably going to have to wait, and so once you're in make sure you order food and enjoy it! One of the things that I thought was really nice about MWL is that although wait times are excessive, once you're inside you do not feel rushed at all. You feel like you can just sit, relax, and take you're time and there's no pressure to rush through your drinks so they can get you in and out. I thought the ambiance, food, and service were great, and overall, I really liked the experience of Multnomah Whiskey Library and think it's definitely worth trying!

Multnomah Whiskey Library on Urbanspoon

Old Salt Marketplace
We had dinner at this restaurant back in November when my friend Meaghan was visiting, and I absolutely loved it! It's owned by the same people as Grain & Gristle (another popular Portland spot that I've heard good things about but have not tried - yet!) and it's located in NE Portland. Being new to Portland I'm still kind of getting to know the different areas, and I'll admit, Old Salt Marketplace is not in the most charming spot (case in point - there is a tissue processing lab across the street from the restaurant). However, I think the location allows them to be able to serve really fantastic food at very reasonable prices, and I feel like this restaurant is a really great value for what you get.
I would describe the food (and decor) as "low-key rustic Portland-y" as they feature a smaller menu with featuring high-quality local and seasonal ingredients, without too many frills.
One thing that is really unique about OSM is that there is a deli/meat counter right inside the restaurant and everything is made in house - love that!
The menu when we went
The Buttermilk Biscuits? Totally worth it.
Salt Cod Fritters
Cam ordered the beef entree, and thought it was good but wasn't really wowed by it mainly because it was a more simple dish and more similar to something we'd make at home.
However, my entree - pork three ways, braised greens, gouda grits, brown butter apple sauce - was out of this world amazing! It was such a hearty, flavorful dish that is perfect for fall/winter!
Overall, I loved this restaurant and think that in term of a quality to price ratio, it's one of the best places I've been in Portland so far! 

Old Salt Marketplace on Urbanspoon

Xico
 This restaurant in SE Portland was on Portland Monthly Magazine's list of best restaurants for 2012 and it's been on my list to try since moving to Portland. Cameron and I both love Mexican food, so I was intrigued by their more upscale approach. Cameron and I actually ended up having a late dinner here at the beginning of November, and I loved everything about this place!

The decor is very much in line with the modern style that you find at a many Portland restaurants, but when we visited it was during "Dio de Los Muertos" and so the restaurant had some really pretty decorations for that which was cool to see!
It's a little hard to see in this picture, but all of the servers had their faces elaborately painted like skulls for Dia de Los Muertos, which was really interesting. I wished I would have taken photos of some of the waitresses because their face painting was beautiful!

You can sort of see the bartender's face paint here, I was trying not to be creepy with my photos :)
I am a big margarita person and I also love spicy drinks; I ordered the Classic Xico Margarita and had them make it 'Spicy Green' and it was AWESOME. Seriously, one of the best margaritas I've tried, and I would love to go back and test out some of the other variations on their menu!

To start, we ordered the chips & guacamole and added carnitas-style pork belly...like I said, people in Portland will put pork belly on anything!

My chicken soup was really flavorful

This is the Pork Chop in Mole de Xico - the flavors in the mole were really complex and I really liked this dish a lot! However, at $24 it's definitely a little pricier than your entree would be a typical Mexican restaurant, but it's very worth it in my opinion!

Finally, we ordered the Sopaipillas Dulces con Salsas for dessert and they were INCREDIBLE. These pillowy soft sweet breads dipped in cinnamon sugar were served warm, and came with chocolate-coconut and dulce de leche sauce for dipping. Definitely definitely order these if you come here!


Overall, I really liked the vibe and creative menu at Xico and can't wait to go back!

Xico on Urbanspoon

Well if you're still reading, I'm impressed! I realize this was a ton of information, but I genuinely enjoyed my experiences at all these restaurants and am glad I can finally share them! Bon appetit!

9 comments:

  1. We loved Old Salt Market Place too. We did the chefs tasting menu and were so impressed.

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  2. I read through the whole entire thing and just loved every bit of it! So jealous of your amazing restaurant experiences...we so need to visit! I've been to Portland a handful of times, but NEVER had the culinary experiences that you're having!!

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  3. This is making me want to move to Portland!! We mostly have chain restaurants with no charm around here and I would love to have more options!

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  4. Wow, I definitely missed ALL these spots when I visited Portland a few years back. I am definitely going to have to check out Boke. I love, love Ramen! Plus, those steam buns look amazing and are making me hungry!

    Thanks for sharing!

    - Lesley

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  5. I've been to Boke Bowl and Old Salt Marketplace - loved them both! You should try Grain & Gristle - we went over the summer & loved it - plus it was super affordable!!!

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  6. The Dia de los Muertos looks awesome, Xico is still on my to do list. All the places are awesome really, you and Cam have great taste! PDX is such a city of culinary riches.

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  7. you do a much better job than i do when it comes to eating out in Portland. I NEED TO GET ON YOUR LEVEL

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  8. Insanely thorough post, so appreciated Jane thank you! And I attended culinary school right next to Old Salt Marketplace, it was such a treat to have their gnocchi, mmm.

    Zoe | ToastyTalk.com

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Your sweet words make my day! :)

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