Portland: 3 new places to dine and drink right now

Jenny Adams

Portland’s a hot topic when it comes to dining out. Take its Thai establishment Pok Pok and its sister operations, Whiskey Soda Lounge and Pok Pok Noi. That empire, headed up by Chef Andy Ricker, did so well that he opened two additional locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Once the New York Times got a bite, Pok Pok became the trendiest place to be seen gnawing Thai chicken wings in the Big Apple. That’s a pretty good indicator. When Portland introduces New York to the next best chicken wing, it’s a clear signal that these Pacific Northwest chefs know what’s up.

Pok Pok is a must-visit, but here are three other, new places that caught our eye for eats and drinks in Portland.

Raven & Rose
Only open a few weeks now, this massive two-level venture in downtown brings diners classic, farmhouse cuisine with an Irish-countryside-meets-the-Pacific-Northwest kind of slant. Executive Chef David Padberg mans the kitchen, turning out signatures like grilled sturgeon served with clams, shell beans and olives. You’ll find crumpets flanked by cured salmon, rabbit done two ways, and the open wood oven also equals savory-sweet Apple-quince pies. Everything gets considerably more warm and fuzzy when you move upstairs. Although they can certainly be quaffed downstairs, the second level is the best place to try the cocktails. The cocktails and cuisine are meant to play on one another, and Bar Director David Shenaut tinkers thoughtfully with warm rums, spicy ryes and the stunning simplicity of classic recipes.

Go with … a few friends in early evening for a game of pool upstairs.

Ava Gene’s
If you spend more than 45 seconds in Portland, someone will mention Stumptown Coffee Roasters. It’s to Portland what Pearl Jam is to Seattle. What the taco truck is to Los Angeles. What a slice and a park bench is to a hungry New Yorker.

Stumptown is not merely a coffee outfitter, but also a city symbol. So, when the guy behind Stumptown (his name is Duane Sorenson) decided to open a restaurant, people got stupid excited. And, with good reason. That place was The Woodsman, another must-eat like Pok Pok Noi in town.

His latest venture is Ava Gene’s, a Roman-centric Italian restaurant, led in the kitchen by Chef Joshua McFadden, formerly of Franny’s in New York. There’s rigatoni arrabbiata con tonno. A ravioli alla bosciola. And red Russian kale agrodolce. One brief glance and you realize that this menu doesn’t Americanize its firm Italian roots. But the waitstaff is perfectly prepared to walk you through the process. It’s good, people.

Just to make the point clear … or if you prefer to take the opinions of total strangers over this travel blog’s, here are a few things Yelpers said about Ava Gene’s:

“Happy. The food made me so happy.”
“Insanely delicious Burrata”
“Easily one of my top 5 meals in my life.”

Portland Penny Diner

Opened in December, this spot by Chef Vitaly Paley (who also runs Imperial) embraces a philosophy of a-little-hipster-never-hurt-anyone. Inside the classic, American diner setting, you can grab a bar stool at the counter for breakfast and start your day with some super off-the-wall options. For example, if their reuben croissant isn’t thoughtful enough, go big with the PDXWT – a sandwich with duck bologna, sauerkraut, fried egg and spicy coffee mayo. They also help you relive a bit of childhood via toaster tarts – which are basically Pop Tarts reinvented.

If you go at night … check out the bar program, which includes elements of a traditional soda fountain and Bar Manager Brandon Wise’s killer cocktails. The Coin Flip is a frothy mixture of brandy, rum, sherry, cream, a whole egg, sugar and nutmeg, and on a rainy, dark night, there’s nothing better.