Restaurants & Bars

A Year in Portland (long)

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A Year in Portland (long)

Dan S. | Aug 30, 2005 01:26 PM

Well it's happened. I've officially lived in Portland for 1 year. For what it's worth, I thought I'd jot down some of my chowhoundish feelings about this town.

Pros:

1) There are tons of restaurants in all price ranges (except for really cheap...see cons)

2) The "signal to noise" ratio is relatively high. I've eaten at and enjoyed meals at the following places: Fore Street, Street & Co., Back Bay Grill, 100 Congress, Blue Spoon, Mims, Scales, Flatbread Company, Ricetta's, Pepperclub, Walter's, Hi Bombay, Bangkok Thai, Thinh Thinh 2, Haggarty's, Becky's Diner, Nile, Sapporo, that other Japanese place (not Benkai), Ricetta's, Joe's Boathouse ...and others.

The only meals that linger in my mind as disappointments were at: Mesa Verde, Granny's Burritos and my first time at Demillo's (the second time was actually quite good). A few others, like that chowder joint on Commerical Street, were decidedly eh.

I have not yet been to: Hugo's, 555, Cinqua Terre, Natasha's, Ribolitta, Norm's East End Grill, Duckfat, Tandoor, Benkai, Bandol... and many more. So after a full year, (albeit on a relatively fixed income - Bandol isn't in my sights for any time soon), there's a lot more to try!

3) Portland's a good pizza by the pie type town. Flatbread is neat, and I almost like Ricetta's even better, though it's less trendy and lower on the atmo. Even the Portland Pie Company can turn out a decent pie.

4) Micucci's, on India Street, is as good as any of the Italian shops I used to frequent in Astoria, Queens. Great spot for cheese, anchovies, ravioli, and other wonderful imports.

5) The Portland Spice Company - I think that's what they're called - in the Portland Public Market sell an amazing range of fairly priced international products. Most of the stuff I thought I'd never find here is there, and they'll order stuff you can't find. Nice people too.

6) So many good options for fried clams, lobster, etc.

7) Decent Thai and Vietnamese places, though nothing that has blown me away. Bangkok Thai and Thinh Thinh 2 are faves. (Hmm, I think I'll pop up right now and drive out to Forest Ave. for one of those to-die-for Thinh-Thinh 2 shakes.)

8) Great, great, great open air seaside grilling opportunities abound (my fave is Two Lights State Park).

9) Lots of good coffee joints. Starbuck's, while here, is totally unecessary (and not overrepresented). I like Hilltop Coffee on Congress (my local), Zarra's by Monument Square, India Street's Coffee By Design, Arabica, Artemesia, and there are so many others. You're never far from a good brew.

10) Great summer farmer's markets on wednesdays at Monument Square and Saturdays in Deering Oaks park. The selection is somewhat limited, but the tomatoes, corn, blueberries, dill, basil, eggplants, garlic, etc. are lovely, and around this time of year, plentitude is in the air.

11) Lots of good bakeries (although not so much 100% wholegrain bread, which is my favorite). I like Standard Baking, Sophia's, One Five Ate, and that new place...Two Fat Cats?

12) Great breads at the Whole Grocer.

13) Portland Hannaford is a pretty nice supermarket.

And now, some cons:

1) No cheap ethnic food. What a shock it is, coming from NYC, that Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, and Mexican food is more expensive here than it was there! Some of these cuisines are well represented here, but they always feel expensive to me. In general, not a ton of cheap dinner options.

2) No good Mexican food. At least not in Portland proper. I thought Mesa Verde, based on one try, was overpriced and absolutely boring to death. Also, lots of weak burritos abound. NYC has a reputation for being a bad Mexican food town, but the burritos I got at Burritoville, a chain, absolutely clobber the loveless tedium served at Granny's Burritos. I just don't get that place. Herb's Gully is better, but they never seem to be open (swung by for a dinner burrito last night and they were closed at 7:45). And why is it so hard to find a fish taco or fish burrito in this of all towns??

3) No good Chinese food - at least I haven't found any. But Boston Chinatown is only 2 short hours away!

4) No great ice cream. There's plenty of decent ice cream, but I'm pretty consistantly underwhelmed by both the farmstand varieties and Beals. Totally serviceable, but totally unmemorable, and most of it seems exactly the same. Again, Boston's only 2 short hours away for the real cravings.

5) No good pizza by the slice. Just isn't any, is there?

6) It's an awful latenight town unless your 20 and drunk. Just try grabbing dinner out at 10pm on a Thursday.

7) No bubble tea, unless you count BubbleMainea (yikes!!!!). As I mentioned above, though, Thinh Thinh 2 has nice bubble shakes.

8) Not enough alternatives, especially in winter, for buying produce - especially since the Portland Greengrocer stopped carrying greens.

9) The Portland Public Market. Really should be a pro, but just doesn't live up to its potential. Many of the stores (especially the produce stands and the cheese stand) are WAY overpriced. Portland Spice Company is great, but "signal to noise" ratio feels, overall, too high in there. And the turnover rate is insane! Find a store you like? It'll most likely be gone on your next visit.

Well, there are some thoughts for now. all in all it's been a fun year. If anyone wants to cross some of these cons off the list - I'm all ears!

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