48 Hour Cheat Sheet: Portland, OR
The extensive menu at this upscale Peruvian spot presents some tough decisions. The small-plate selection is awfully tempting, with choices like grilled octopus kebabs with a caper-chimichurri sauce. But that might mean forgoing entrées like slow-cooked lamb shank in a sauce of black beer, cilantro, onions, and garlic. Regardless of what you choose, you won't be disappointed–whether you prefer a table in the loft-style dining room that faces the open kitchen, or a window table overlooking the parade of neighborhood scenesters outside.
Communal seating defines this airy, industrial "tavern." It has inspired small plates (popcorn with pimentón) and fantastic cocktails like the Ivy League (bourbon, cherry brandy and green walnut liqueur).
In the heart of the downtown theater and museum district, this venue houses both a white-linen-clad restaurant and a happily raucous, pressed-tin-ceiling bar (reservations are required in the latter, except on Saturdays). Chef Greg Higgins opened his own restaurant in 1994, after a decade of helming the kitchen at the posh nearby Heathman Hotel. Here, he creates elegant Pacific Northwest cuisine with locally sourced flavors and ingredients; try his halibut tagine with almonds and harissa, or a magret (seared breast) and confit of duck with cheddar polenta and Pinot Noir-poached pears.
Wunderkind Gabriel Rucker, an F&W Best New Chef 2007, challenges diners with daring nose-to-tail preparations like bone marrow sandwiches.
Homey, rustic, and decidedly untrendy, this 50-seat dining room (and even smaller bar) occupies a restored Victorian house in a quiet part of Nob Hill. Chef Vitaly Paley eschews faddish cookery and focuses on a short but sweet menu of traditional French dishes, made largely with local, organic ingredients. He and his wife, Kimberly, whisk about the place schmoozing while serving up spit-roasted rabbit salad with Armagnac-plumped prunes; or spring-nettle pasta with farmers' market vegetables, preserved lemon, and local Dungeness crab. Service can be a little pokey, but then, this is a restaurant for lingering in.
F&W Best New Chef Scott Dolich's fanatically ingredient-driven approach makes even the most basic dishes sublime, like wild-mushroom hush puppies with red-pepper ketchup.
When Andy Ricker opened Pok Pok in 2005, it was a Thai takeout shack outside of his house in a residential neighborhood in Portland. But it was too good to stay small. When the lines for Ricker's garlic-and-lemongrass-scented hens grew too long, he added seating in his living room and turned his basement into a bar and dining room he dubbed Whiskey Soda Lounge. The menu at Pok Pok has since expanded to include equally sensational dishes like baby back ribs glazed with honey and giant shrimp with a cilantro-citrus dipping sauce.
This smart and unpretentious tapas restaurant brightens an otherwise quiet street in Portland's East Side with its inviting ruby-red walls and polished dark wood tables. The kitchen uses local ingredients to create Spanish-inspired, sometimes revelatory dishes: marinated sheep's cheese with rose-petal harissa and mint, and venison terrine with dried cherries and hazelnuts. There's also a knockout paella tossed with chicken, chorizo, clams, shrimp, and mussels.