Fall Food Dining Fest

Stop one: Ping

Stop one: Ping

October has been a month full of delightful eating outings. Instead of attempting to keep up on all individual reviews, I thought I’d just explode them all into one epic blog post. Enjoy!

Ping
102 NW 4th Ave.
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 229-7464

If I ate at Pok Pok nearly as much as I drove by attempting to eat there, well, I’d eat there a lot more. My point is Pok Pok is amazing, you don’t need me to tell you that, and it’s equally as busy – even on weeknights. Then comes Ping, Andy Ricker’s second successful Southeast Asian restaurant.

Pork collar by Ping

Pork collar by Ping

In short, it’s delicious. It parallels Pok Pok’s menu nicely, without being redundant. One of my favorite dishes in this town is Pok Pok’s boar collar, which doesn’t exist at Ping, but a similar one there would be the pork collar. It’s not quite as mind-blowing as its $12 counter part, but the pork is layered wonderfully with savory pockets of herbaceous Asian flavor.

The drink menu is almost as fun as the food — sakes that would make your head spin, and creative cocktails featuring foreign fruity spirits.

The space is super sexy too; one of my favorites. The open kitchen adds a casual feel to the hip vintage decor. Either making Ping a weekend date destination, or weekday lunch spot just makes sense.

DOC
5519 NE 30th Ave.
Portland, OR
(503) 946-8592

Dear God, every morsel of food and drink out of DOC is perfect. This Italian-focused restaurant takes the idea of stellar-simple ingredients and creates them into mouth-watering puddle of magic. Read the menu; it almost sounds boring, with items such as, “risotto, chanterelle, squash” but once those hit your taste buds, you’ll melt like butter via grassfed local cows. I did the tasting menu for $50 as did my two dining companions, so we essentially got to try the entire menu, minus an appetizer (or antipasta). For your next special evening out when you’re wanting to feel like you’ve never tasted food before and you’re willing to pay a few extra pennies for it – go there.

James John Cafe

James John Cafe

James John Cafe
8527 N Lombard St.
Portland, OR 97203
(503) 285-4930

If what you’re after is a chill, wi-fied cafe in St. Johns with lovely pastries and Stumptown coffee – this is an excellent spot. The space is huge, the outlets are numerous, they accept cards and play nice music. Really, what more do you need?

They used to do dinners during the week, which got great reviews; however, those are currently on hiatus. They just started doing a small breakfast / lunch menu Tues-Fri, and do a larger brunch on Saturday and Sundays, of which I hope to try soon.

Latte and scone by Vivo

Latte and scone by Vivo

Vivo Espresso
932 SE Morrison
Portland OR 97214
(503) 477-6303

Too cute, too cute, Vivo Espresso is too cute. This definitely isn’t the newest coffee shop in town (by the time you blink, there will probably be a new one) but this one deserves a shout nonetheless. The owner is super sweet, and opened up back in April. She’s the only shop in town that serves Blue Star Coffee, a small-batch roaster up in Washington. I really liked it. The espresso and coffee was both really bright and clean, not too acidic and not too dark.

Wi-fi, yes, accepts cards, yes, good music, yes, and good seating, yes. The only bummers – she’s closed on weekends, the pastry selection could be a bit better and, as always, I wish it was open later.

Gretchen’s Kitchen
940 SE Morrison
Portland, OR 97214
(503) 234-4086

Breakfast by Gretchen

Breakfast by Gretchen

Think of your favorite restaurant, coffee shop, or even grocery store… now try and think how long it’s been open. I’d venture to guess it’s in the ball park of six years or less. Portland’s food scene has exploded, meaning that there are a lot of young businesses (yay, love them) but really, where and who are the old-school players? Hubers? Zells? Gretchen’s Kitchen? Yep.

Gretchen’s Kitchen has been kickin’ it on SE Morrison Street for e l e v e n years! It comes as no surprise that she has her hard-core regulars, many of which, walk in, don’t even look at the menu, and blindly order “the special.” Here’s the thing; Gretchen’s is the quintessential greasy spoon – nothing is fancy – it’s just a simple, comfort food, at wickedly good prices. She has the good breakfast, lunch standards: scrambles, pancakes, deli salads, sandwiches and homemade soups.

I had a mushroom, spinach (it was organic; I saw the bag), swiss, red onion scramble and scoop of fresh-cut fruit salad for seven dollars. Wow. The special that day looked incredible too – a quarter roast chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, homemade biscuit and green beans. “I’m gonna make you fat!” Gretchen said when one of her regulars gasped at the amount of food. “Too late for that,” he responded.

Gretchen is, a reason in itself to come here. She’s hilarious and so nice. When I tried to pay with my card, she didn’t blink twice and declared, “I don’t take cards; just come back next week.” I protested for a moment saying, I could go grab cash somewhere but she saw it as an opportunity to turn me into a repeat customer. “Honey, it happens all the time. Just come back next week, and I’ll get to charge you twice!” she said with a smile.

Hipness all Over

Hipness all Over

Urban Farmer
525 SW Morrison St.
Floor 8
Portland OR 97204

Oh, Urban Farmer; Oh, Departure; Oh The Nines. The three are very much related (i.e. in the same building) but I’m just going to focus on Urban Farmer’s weekend brunch for now. It’s good; it’s shiny; it’s very much trying so hard to be the snobbiest Portlander possible. That may sound like a total diss, but I still really enjoyed my time there. The menu incredibly diverse for being dubbed, “A Modern Steakhouse.” Every entree comes with some luxurious sauce, marmalade, or syrup, which I’m not complaining about.

I’m a big sucker for almond croissants and salads, so I tried their version. Croissant? Major let down. They make them in house, and are super chewy and gluey. The simple salad was delightful though – lots of local greens, with radishes. The extra-special treat that morning was definitely the fried chicken and waffles. If that’s on a brunch menu, lord help me refuse it. Urban Farmer’s version was pretty good. Small, cute, cornmeal waffles with moist, white-meat chicken and a honey-chili glaze. Would I go back? Sure. Would I go out of my way to go there? Nope.


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