Portland has a very laid back food scene which is refreshing in its own way, price point is great! Thanks for all the help with research on chowhound.
Cliff's notes: Best things I ate in Portland
1) Boat noodles at Pok Pok for lunch
2) Sea salt ice cream with salted caramel ribbons at Salt & Straw
3) Beef cheeks at Beast
Ha & VL (Thurs/Sat lunch): Tried the snail vermicelli and shredded chicken vermicelli. Found this spot and was excited because it sounded so similar to a concept at the “lunch lady” in Saigon, Vietnam – special soups each day of the week and they sell until they sell out. Overall it was promising but being Vietnamese, I would run here quickly if you're looking for great Vietnamese. The snail/shrimp balls were tasty. We also came back on Saturday morning for the Bun Bo Hue (spicy beef vermicelli) which I felt was much better than the Thursday offerings. They are a bit skimpy on the side greens (which was mostly iceburg lettuce which doesn't even exist in Vietnam). Also tried the meatball banh mi which I do recommend trying. Overall just okay.
Salt & Straw: Amazing! Such creative ice cream flavors, very gourmet. I was addicted to the sea salt + caramel, ADDICTED. A must try.
The Box Social (happy hour): Great neighborhood spot for drinks, filled up quickly by 5pm. HH from 4-6, good cocktails overall although one person got a cocktail very full of Sage which was off-putting. Parmesan popcorn for $2? Yes please.
Toro Bravo (Thurs dinner): Got there at 6:30pm and waited about 30 mins for a table for 6. Went upstairs to “the secret society” for cocktails and they had this lovely 1920's band playing which was really fun. Dinner was good, but can't say I was blown away. Mainly because everything was just over the top rich and salty. One or two dishes like this works well but a whole meal of 10 small plates like that just makes me feels icky afterwards. Highlights included: sauteed chanterelles, squid ink fideo with seafood, and a seasonal squash dish. So-so dishes: oxtail croquettes, cauliflower (greasy), pork rillette (bread so greasy!)
What's the Scoop: Nice addition to the neighborhood, standard flavors, tried the brittle ice cream and I got the bottom so was rewarded with a huge chunk of brittle on top – cone not as tasty as S&S.
Nuvrie Bakery (breakfast): Lovely storefront, ordered a croissant + bagel/cream cheese and it took 20 minutes! I caught the early lunch crowd, but I think the counter is very disorganized (maybe its a Portland thing?). Overall the pastries were just okay, wouldn't come back if I lived there – ugh.
Pok Pok (Friday lunch): Got there at 1pm on Friday and sat outside with no wait for 4. Totally loved this meal. Must try. I've had thai all over, even in most asian-centric cities and this place is the real deal. Highlights include: Boat Noodles which are only served for lunch so get them! Amazingly flavored, spicy YUM. Beef salad, papaya salad and of course the wings which are salty but so galicky and delish. Must try for sure.
Smallwares (Friday dinner): Came at 8:30pm waited 20 mins for a table for 6. Newish spot I believe and overall I felt the food was good but nothing I would rush back to. Southeast Asian inspired food. Tried a good sampling of food. Space I felt was awkward b/c the bar and the restaurant side were complete opposites but you could be seated on either side. Should try: kimchi trio was surprisingly very good, fried kale was crispy and salty, chicken lollipops are expected but tasty. Pass on the eggplant, mapo, hanger steak.
Aviary (Friday 2nd dinner): Oddly located in almost like a shopping center, space is open, small bar out back. Food here was actually very conceptual and interesting layers and flavors. Would recommend trying this spot out if you like trying something outside the box, asian flavors. Highlights: sweet potato with trout roe dish was so so conceptual and had so many components that when eaten together was really great. Crispy pig ear with coconut rice was SO out there but again all the many components came together really well. A should try (esp if you live in Portland).
Interurban (Sat lunch): Great drinking spot! Very rustic and homey. Service was awesome. Great if you're in the neighborhood and want to grab a drink with tasty upscaled bar eats. Highlights: the wings! Ask for the buffalo and ranch on the side. The huge corndog with 5 mustards. Grilled brocollini! Good if in neighborhood
Beast (Sat night): Made reservations 2 months out, so not sure how hard it was to get a reservation, but I figure it fills up quickly b/c they have 2 seatings per night, 6pm and 8:45. This was my “fine dining” experience in Portland which was great b/c it was a great homey space. Communal dining. Fixed price dinner, meat-centric (no vegetarian accomodations). Soup course was standard, charcuterie course was good but I had higher expectations – faves were foie and chicken liver mousse. 3rd meat course, beef cheeks was worth the whole dinner – AMAZING. Smoked trout with trout roe was oddly coursed b/c it was mostly cold but well done, all smoked in house I believe. Cheese course was tasty. Chocolate dessert was a great end, cinnamon ice cream was delectable. I would say a must try for the ambiance and the beef cheeks :) Wine pairing was worth it and well done overall.
Ristretto Roasters (coffee): Solid caffeine fix, toast + jam for 25 cents!
Tasty n' Sons (Sunday brunch): Got there at 9:30am and waited 1 hour for 6 people. Kind of regretted this because I did have dinner at Toro Bravo, but overall I felt it was pretty good. Solid brunch in an open space, but the wait, PHEW! Highlights: biscuits + venison gravy (very small portion), large biscuit + egg/ham, potatos bravas + egg (best thing I ate here)
Brass Tacks: Locally sourced and organic everything sandwich shop. Wish I had tried the vegan offerings but tried the turkey sandwich. Could tell the ingredients were top notch and great choice for lunch in the neighborhood
Little big burger (snack): Probably along the lines of 5 guys burger, highlight I felt was the truffle fries and the KETCHUP. The ketchup was amazingly memorable. Good snack spot.
Thanks chowhounders for all of the recommendations :)