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Portland, Memorial Day Weekend 2011

Jupiter Hotel marquee, May 27 2011. Robyn Hanson photo. Portland Oregon food and drink
Jupiter Hotel, May 27 2011. Robyn Hanson photo

A guide to Portland Oregon food and drink

A couple of weekends ago, my girlfriend and I drove down to Portland, with a stop in Seattle. A good portion of the trip was spent sampling various bars and restaurants, including some new (to me) places. And, as always when I’m visiting the U.S., the search was on for the perfect Happy Hour.

Here’s a brief rundown of many of our favourite places.

Thursday, May 26, Seattle:

The Tin Table—Dead at Happy Hour, but the light is lovely. It’s in The Oddfellows Building, which is around the corner from Elliott Bay Books. A nice, quiet (depending on the time) place for a cocktail and happy hour apps.

The Tin Table, Seattle, May 26 2011. Robyn Hanson photo
The Tin Table, Seattle, May 26 2011. Robyn Hanson photo

Earth and Ocean in The W Hotel—I have never gotten over the place since seeing, years ago during the Seattle International Film Festival, Quentin Tarantino at the bar. The cocktails are good but expensive; the harissa chicken kebabs with almond yogurt sauce were delicious.

Sazerac in the Hotel Monaco – A deal when it comes to happy hour appetizers. We had a Simplicity pizza (tomato Reduction, Mozzarella, Baby Tomato, Basil), artisan lettuces, and 1/2 dozen oysters.

Oysters at the Sazerac in the Hotel Monaco, Seattle. Robyn Hanson photo
Oysters at the Sazerac in the Hotel Monaco, Seattle. Robyn Hanson photo

Queen City Grill – Had some great food and drink here during Bumbershoot on our last Seattle trip. Ordered the sauteed wild mushrooms with polenta and pecorino cheese, though there didn’t seem to be much polenta. We weren’t complaining because it was still so buttery-fantastic. Cocktails: one bourbon-based and another rum-based, from what I remember.

The Queen City Grill in Seattle. Robyn Hanson photo
The Queen City Grill in Seattle. Robyn Hanson photo

Friday, May 27, Portland:

Besaw’s – Arrived in the city at 1 p.m. and drove straight here for brunch. Excellent huevos rancheros, which I am continually on the look-out for in the “best” category.

The Doug Fir at the Jupiter Hotel – We stopped at our hotel’s bar to get our Happy Hour going. I had their version of a boiler-maker – Old Crow whiskey and a PBR. Measured pour. Thumbs down.

Jupiter Hotel boiler-maker. Robyn Hanson photo.
Jupiter Hotel boiler-maker. Robyn Hanson photo.

The Guild Public House – IPAs and grilled dates with blue cheese and almonds wrapped in proscuitto and drizzled with maple syrup. Yes.

Noble Rot Wine Bar – Excellent fun, sitting at a rounded banquette w/ oldsters. Crafty cocktails like the Spiced Heaven (bourbon and ginger). Happy Hour onion rings.

The onion rings at Noble Rot Wine Bar, Portland. Robyn Hanson photo
The onion rings at Noble Rot Wine Bar, Portland. Robyn Hanson photo

The Farm Cafe – Nice and dark, a good place to when you’ve had too much to drink and you don’t want anyone to see your pupils swimming in alcohol. Also it was next to our hotel. It’s also very Portland, i.e. there’s probably a skit about it on the satirical show Portlandia. The gnocchi was so good we had to go back on our last night and make sure we hadn’t just dreamt it. We also had the mascarpone cheesecake with pecans (hey, we were on vacation) and for an appetizer the artisanal lettuces.

Shawn Conner at Farm Cafe, Portland, May 27 2011
Drunk at Farm Cafe, Portland, May 27 2011. Robyn Hanson photo

Saturday, May 28:

Old Wives Tales – Don’t be fooled by its kid-friendly mien and the big, well-lit room that gives it a Denny’s-like atmosphere; the food at Old Wives Tales is seriously good, and with a tone of gluten-free options, which is good news if, like us, you’re health-obsessed in between poisoning your liver. I had Joe’s Tofu Scramble, with fresh spinach and asiago cheese.

Jake’s – With its old-school ambiance, Jake’s is the kind of cool, old-fashioned bar you imagine Elmore Leonard characters hanging out in. However it’s downtown and tourist-y, with a get-’em-in-get-’em-out feel. Still, not a bad place for a Happy Hour drink and appetizers; we had the “world-famous” crawfish.

Jake's, Portland, May 28 2011. Robyn Hanson photo

Clyde Common – Also downtown, and situated next to the uber-hip Ace Hotel, Clyde Common comes with some uber-hipness of its own. We just had beer because we didn’t feel like paying non-happy-hour prices for the cocktails which, admittedly, looked intriguing (sample names: the Andalusian Buck; the Nasturtium; the Tuning Fork). It definitely warrants a return visit, however.

Typhoon – After I complained to the bartender that at Jake’s couldn’t taste the booze in our drinks, she said she makes real drinks. Still couldn’t taste the rum, however. Food was excellent, or seemed so at the time – better than average Thai.

Sunday, May 29

Bread and Ink Cafe – Too big, too many people, so-so brunch food. Good scones though.

Deco Distillery – There’s a section in the industrial part of town near the Willamette River called Distillery Row. We stopped at Deco, because it was easy to find and opened onto the street. And because they have rum!

Deco rum
Deco rum. Robyn Hanson photo

Ginger-infused rum, coffee-infused rum, and just plain old silver rum. Augustina, who was very helpful in pointing us in the direction of other bars in the area (including the nearby Speakeasy, which oozed personality but smelled like an armpit) poured for us and several others in the mid-afternoon. We walked away with a bottle of the ginger stuff. I still wonder if maybe I shouldn’t have bought the coffee one as well.

Augustina at Deco Rum, Portland, May 29 2011. Robyn Hanson photo
Augustina at Deco Rum, Portland, May 29 2011. Robyn Hanson photo

Burnside Brewing Co. – More Portland craft brew, plus pastels and paper to draw on and old Talking Heads playing. Very cool place, and pretty much our last stop except for one return visit to Farm for more gnocchi in the dark.

Monday, May 30 2011

Mostly a travel day – no time for breakfast or even lunch, except for what we bought at a grocery store as well as hot dogs at the Sasquatch Music Festival. On the way home we stopped for a burger-and-brew at the Ram Restaurant and Brewery in North Seattle by the University District. It’s pretty collegiate but the grub is decent and just the kind of solid food needed after driving all day, and to get us home.

Still thinking about that gnocchi at Farm, though.

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