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Travel Portland: Where to Eat and Drink

Narrow down this city's endless food options.

One of the sweet things about eating in Portland is how darn affordable it is. In top rooms glasses of wine rarely go over $12 and there’s always something good at $8. The idea of charging someone $14 for a craft cocktail would be absurd. And the food is easily 25 percent less than in a comparably sized Canadian city. That they do all of the above so well may ruin you for eating out elsewhere.

Portland Travel Where to Eat Western Living 3

Na Zdorovie!
Five years ago, a Russian restaurant in PDX would be all tongue-in-cheek, plastered with oversized Stalin posters. But Kachka, just over the bridge from downtown, is far more nuanced and, as a result, something of a treasure. Dishes that include everything from crispy beef tongue to beet-cured black cod are faithful first, expertly prepared second and clever a distant third. A fine (and well-priced) vodka selection completes the picture—as does the 100 grams of hangover-curing pickle juice for $1. kachkapdx.com

Date Night
Ava Gene’s is a tough one. It has an impeccable pedigree (Duane Sorenson of Stumptown Coffee Roasters, a local demigod, is the co-founder), and chef Joshua McFadden crafts Roman-influenced pasta with as much skill as anyone in America. It just feels like a restaurant from another place—San Francisco or Brooklyn. The food is more expensive (you can eat well in Portland without ever seeing a entree over $30, whereas here most are above that) and the all-Italian wine list is like a treasure map in Aramaic. Still, the fusilli with nut ragu and ricotta salata was one of the best pasta dishes I’ve had all year. avagenes.com

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Meet the New Boss
When we last wrote about Portland in April of 2011, writer Ivy Manning introduced us to Tasty n Sons, an industrial spot in the city’s Northeast that was packing them in. Fast-forward four years and the original is still going strong, but it’s now been joined by a downtown location—Tasty n Alder—eminently more convenient for the weekend visitor, with nary a slip in quality. In a city lousy with great breakfast joints, chef/owner John Gorham continues to set the standard. The lineups are ever-present for dishes like the now-famous Korean fried chicken with eggs two ways and the Whole Toad—an amazing soft baked egg-bread pudding. After brunch the rooms quiet (a bit) and it becomes a great spot for a drink and a few small plates. tastynalder.com

Southern Fried Goodness
Just up Division Street from the famed Pok Pok and Ava Gene’s, Son of a Biscuit is a nondescript spot in a small strip mall that transforms into the floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange when the fried chicken is ready. The chicken is dynamite (especially the hot Nashville version) but it’s the biscuits, all strata of flakiness and flavour, that make this worth lining up for. sonofabiscuit.com

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Spain Relief
Portland’s take on Iberia, the Pearl District’s Ración is one part Basque tapas bar and one part Catalan molecular temple, and the result is a relaxed entry into the world of foams, smoke and the like. A perfectly cooked plate of Spanish octopus is confidence-inspiring, as is the fact that a truly exceptional sherry—Bodegas Hidalgo Wellington Palo Cortado 20-Year—is offered by the glass for a mere $13. The room is perpetually full and very buzzy, with more Prada than Pendleton on display. racionpdx.com

Barrel Fever
Michael Claypool was the sommelier at New York’s very-big-deal Blue Hill at Stone Farms restaurant before the dual call of Portland and pinot noir brought him out West. He sources grapes from some prime vineyards in the state, creates the wine in his own urban winery and then serves said wine at an unfussy, ingredient-driven restaurant that’s attached to it. So Cyril’s at Clay Pigeon Winery (pictured above) is sort of a dream come true for Claypool. Come to think of it, it’s sort of a dream come true for the visitor, too. The short wine list also features some smoking international deals in addition to their own wine. cyrilspdx.com 

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The Greatest Whisky Bar in All of Christendom

If I told you I thought about moving to Portland to be closer to the Multnomah Whisk{e}y Library you’d probably chuckle. But quiz me on the real estate values in the city’s various neighbourhoods, and you’ll soon realize I’m not joking. It’s not just the variety, though at a mind-boggling 1,500 bottles on offer, they clearly are among the best in this category; it’s the perfect deep leather sofas, all buttons and patina, and it’s the sliding secret door that your food arrives from. But above all, it’s the fact that, while they do offer a membership program that includes perks such as the ability to make reservations, they can’t bring themselves to be snooty—regular folks are welcome, though you just might have to wait a little longer for your dram of Yellow Spot. (Seriously, order this Irish gem if it’s in stock—instant street cred.) multnomahwhiskeylibrary.com

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