Portland is known as a food lover’s paradise and for good reason. The Rose City has something for every palate and budget from food trucks to fine dining. Every time we visit, and it’s pretty regularly, the big decision is always where to eat next.
If the weather is nice and the skies are clear, begin your evening at Departure Restaurant + Lounge www.departureportland.com on the rooftop at The Nines Hotel. There are splendid views—some of the best in Portland, by our reckoning– to accompany your beverage of choice.
There are appetizers to order and you can take a peek at their rooftop herb garden. The rooftop is hugely popular so go early or be prepared to stand. Seating is limited but no one seems to mind. Happy Hour takes place every day from 4-6 p.m.
If you’re looking for dinner, as well as drinks, inside Departure you’ll find an Asian- fusion restaurant with good food and attentive service. The menu features a fine assortment of sushi, salads, dim sum, kushiyaki dishes, wok fired items, and chef’s suggestions. They offer lots of small dishes good for sharing, which is what we did. There’s plenty of seafood to choose from, like the wildly popular poke, as well as meat and vegetarian selections.
The wings in a sweet chili glaze were tasty, as was the steamed short rib bun and the pork shumai. The chili prawns were a little salty and we thought could have used more heat, but flavorful, nonetheless. Crispy Striped Bass was a highlight, served with mango, cashews and a chili lime sauce.
Departure Restaurant + Lounge has an interesting wine list with plenty of wines that have been selected to pair perfectly with the food. They also offer a full compliment of cocktails, as well as spirits, beer, saki, teas and interesting sounding “no proof” libations. Knowledgeable staff are happy to help with decision making.
For views, atmosphere, beverages and a bite to eat, it’s hard to beat Departure.
If you’re in the mood for delicious Italian cuisine prepared with care and graciously served in a charming, intimate setting, try Mucca- www.muccaosteria.com.
The prosciutto and burrata is a great starter and easy to share, as is the insalata barbabietole (beet salad) with ricotta and hazelnuts. Try the excellent scallops with Parmesan fondue, if you’re looking for something richer.
The pastas are all terrific (we’ve tried just about every one here), especially the tortelli ai funghi—a beautiful dish of fresh pasta stuffed with mushrooms and ricotta, and topped with asparagus in a light and lovely cream sauce.
The papparadelle with boar ragu is a hearty dish, full of flavor and reminds us of Tuscany. For an interesting take on risotto, try Mucca’s preparation with elk sausage.
If you have a big appetite, opt for the pork shoulder, which is slow cooked, and falling off the bone. It’s served with creamy polenta. The daily fish special is always a winner, too.
With the exception of some French sparklers, the wine list is all Italian, from regions throughout the country from Piemonte to Sardinia. Knowledgeable servers are happy to help with your selections. In our experience, Mucca never disappoints.
If you have a taste for amazing Peruvian cuisine try Andina www.andinarestaurant.com. You’ll find South American cooking in both traditional and contemporary, or NovoAndean (as they call it here), style at this big, bustling eatery.
Empanadas are just one of Andina’s “don’t miss” tapas dishes. Several superb preparations of scallops, shrimp, and other seafood, vegetable dishes, soups and stews, plus cerviches make up the extensive list. There are so many great sounding options it can be overwhelming to choose.
The tapas are meant to share so be sure to bring friends. That also gives you the chance to try more of their tasty dishes. There have been times when we have selected so many tapas; we could barely eat our entrees, which we would also recommend sharing.
Among Andina’s entrees, we recommend the lamb shank, which is perfectly prepared and served with traditional accompaniments. It’s a very large portion. The fish dishes are also very good, especially the tuna, which is served with red lentils and a gooseberry sauce. There are numerous vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options here, too.
Though walk- ins are welcome to dine downstairs or in the busy bar area on a space available basis, if you want a guaranteed table, it’s essential to reserve. You’ll be glad you did.
Named one of Portland’s 2016 Best Restaurants by The Oregonian, Irving Street Kitchen is right down the street from Andina in the Pearl District. Irving Street is going for an “elegant casual” vibe and it seemed to be very of the moment on the Saturday night we dined there.
They have a terrific “wines on tap program” so you can sample a bunch of local wines you might not have heard of—we hadn’t– without breaking the bank. There were four whites, six reds and a rose on tap, all from Oregon and Washington, when we visited. In addition to the wines and beers on tap, there are craft cocktails and a nice wine list with lots of choices from the Pacific Northwest.
Irving Street has heartier starters like the charcuterie or cheese selections, Manila clams, and meatballs, for example, but we began with salads, which were fresh and crisp. We had the baby lettuces and the Bibb wedge—classics, updated with additions like wildflower Riesling dressing and candied bacon with pecan nibs, respectively.
The double pork chop was superb and enormous, as was the buttermilk fried chicken. Both were extremely satisfying and big enough to share. The carrot butter poached halibut sounded awfully tempting but we went for the salmon this time and weren’t disappointed.
Irving Street Kitchen is hip and happening so definitely book in. Get one of their curtained booths if you can, or stake out a seat at the buzzy bar. Irving Street Kitchen also serves brunch on weekends and has a Happy Hour. Check it out!
Another downtown favorite is Chef/Owner Vitaly Paley’s Imperial. This casual and always crowded restaurant has been one of our Portland “go tos” for years. http://www.imperialpdx.com.
Though former Top Chef finalist Doug Adams is no longer in the kitchen, his signature fried chicken is still on the menu, served with house-made hot sauce and honey. (Word has it that Doug is opening a new place in the fall–we’ll keep you posted).
Though we don’t love paying for bread and butter, the Parker House rolls with Jacobsen Sea Salt are always on our table at Imperial, along with a big basket of their terrific fries.
The sunflower seed brittle on the kale and vegetable salad makes that one special. The duck meatballs are a terrific starter, too.
Some of the other “don’t miss” dishes are the barrel planked pork secretto, roasted half chicken, any fish done la plancha-style, and the fried rabbit with bacon, though we haven’t seen that dish on the menu lately.
The wine list features plenty of French selections but Oregon, Washington, and California wines are also well represented. Italian wines, along with craft cocktails, reserve, draft, and bottled beers, and ciders are all on offer.
Though we missed seeing a few of the friendly faces that always made dining at Imperial a bit more special, we still had a wonderful dinner on our most recent visit. Imperial serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Try their Happy Hour, too– the food is terrific and the prices are a real deal.
These are a few of our downtown favorites in Portland. We’ll be back with more dining recommendations in another post. In the meantime, let us know about your Portland picks!