It’s in a lovely spot, directly across from the shady North Park Blocks where the locals toss balls in a game of bocce ball, but Park Kitchen (422 NW 8th Ave., 503/223-7275, www.parkkitchen.com, 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m. and 5–9 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 5–9 p.m. Sat., $20–24) has a lot more going for it than its location. Chef Scott Dolich, named one of the nation’s top chefs by Food & Wine magazine, relies on seasonal and regional ingredients to ensure the height of freshness and flavor, but he injects an eclectic touch of genius that makes even ordinary ingredients shimmer. The dining room and tiny bar seem simultaneously very urban yet as friendly as a well-loved neighborhood joint.
Bluehour (250 NW 13th Ave., 503/226-3394, www.bluehouronline.com, 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. and 5:30–10 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. and 5:30–10:30 p.m. Fri., 10 a.m.–2:30 p.m. and 5:30–10:30 p.m. Sat., 10 a.m.–2:30 p.m. and 5:30–10 p.m. Sun., $26–45) is Portland’s blue-chip restaurant, one of the city’s two or three dining rooms with a national reputation and the ne plus ultra of upscale fine dining. The dining room is soft-focus industrial chic, the high-ceilinged space divided by sheer curtain panels, with outdoor seating on the loading dock (this warehouse conversion is one of the Pearl District’s most successful). The cooking is nominally Italian, though chef Kenny Giambalvo is fluent in many cuisines, resulting in very sophisticated dishes that are flavor-focused, revelatory, and fun all at the same time. If you don’t feel like getting dressed up for the dining room, the bar has its own menu and a more relaxed vibe—many swear that Bluehour’s burger is the best in the city.
Wildwood (1221 NW 21st Ave., 503/248-9663, www.wildwoodrestaurant.com, 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. and 5:30–9 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. and 5:30–10 p.m. Fri.–Sat., 5–9 p.m. Sun., $22–32) was Portland’s first “celebrity chef” restaurant, created when local-boy-made-good Cory Schreiber returned from San Francisco to open his own restaurant. Wildwood has done as much as any other local restaurant to make Northwest cuisine a reality, with seasonal dishes focusing on local ingredients and simple, often old-fashioned preparations. Local lamb, rabbit, and salmon are usually excellent choices.
Stylish Ten 01 (1001 NW Couch St., 503/226-3463, www.ten-01.com, 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. and 5–10 p.m. Mon.–Sat., $21–30) has cool-to-the-touch good looks (the dramatic two-story dining room with a swank bar area could double as a West Elm catalog interior), but it delivers full-flavored cuisine that’s refined and hearty at the same time. The cooking at Ten 01 is dedicated to local and seasonal ingredients, but the restaurant ramps up expectations to provide a briskly flavored, richly seasoned version of Northwest Cuisine. At lunch, the three-course menu ($18) is a great way to sample the chef’s noteworthy creations.
There’s no better place to taste the particular terroir of Oregon than
Paley’s Place (1204 NW 21st Ave., 503/243-2403, www.paleysplace.net, 5:30–10 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 5:30–11 p.m. Fri.–Sat., 5–10 p.m. Sun., $17–32), an intimate bastion of fine dining: This is food of great distinction. Chef-owner Vitaly Paley has a very firm grasp of traditional French techniques, which he uses to create a localized cuisine that is grounded in the refinement of traditional European preparations but with an added earthy potency that comes from celebrating the rich honest flavors of carefully selected local ingredients. The menu features the names of three dozen Northwest farmers, cheese makers, fishers, and suppliers that provision the restaurant. The wine list features many hard-to-find Oregon pinot noirs.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel