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Searchfest 2014: Your Guide to Eating & Drinking in Portland

WebRanking’s Guide for Eating & Drinking in Portland

SEMpdx’s Searchfest is right around the corner and WebRanking is excited to play a role in what we consider to be the best one day digital marketing conference anywhere. Our founder Tony Svoboda is on the SEMpdx’s board of directors, while our CEO James Svoboda will be speaking at Searchfest for the first time.

So, you might ask, what is WebRanking’s most tenured non-Svoboda contributing this year to make Searchfest awesome?

Glad you asked.

Every year without fail I seem to be one of the go to guys people look towards when it comes to recommendations on where they should eat and drink in a town filled with beer, food carts, locally sourced foods and James Beard award winning chefs.


It could be my 7 straight years of being a PDX Yelp elite, but more likely has to do with my insatiable desire for great beer and food (yes, in that order). Don’t believe me? I have the belly to prove it.

So without further ado, I’m happy to present you with my list of places to seriously get your eat and drink on, with most located reasonably close to the Governor Hotel.

Beer Me

Let’s start off with my true love. Beer.

Almost every Portland restaurant and bar is going to offer at least a couple fantastic local beers for you to try. This is Beervana, and our great city has more breweries per capita than any other city in the world.

Given the option, brews from local breweries like Laurelwood, Gigantic, Breakside, Ninkasi, Fort George, Boneyard and Hopworks are always a sure bet.

But if you are looking to geek out with fellow beer snobs and sample from 24 constantly rotating taps, look no farther than Bailey’s Taproom. As their goal is to offer the most eclectic selections of beer around, you are sure to find something that matches your

Honorable Mentions:
A few additional places to get a pint include Rogue Distillery and Public House, Henry’s Tavern, Deschutes Brewery, Bridgeport Brewing Company

Portland’s Famous Chefs

Andy Ricker is a James Beard award winning chef and Pok Pok is the restaurant that put Portland’s food scene on the map. While this is only one of two recommendation that is across the river and not within walking distance of the Governor Hotel, the authentic Thai cuisine is worth the price of a cab fare. And if you do go, you’ve got to try their amazing fish sauce chicken wings, which were just named by Thrillist as one of America’s most iconic foods.

While getting a table at James Beard award winning chef Gabriel Rucker’s Le Pigeon can be an extremely difficult thing to do (hint: go early and sit at the chef’s table), you can always try Rucker’s Little Bird to get your fix of his imaginative French cuisine. I’ve personally had one of the most amazing meals ever at Le Pigeon (our other recommendation across the river) and highly recommend it if you are looking to be impressed and dine at one of the best restaurants in the good old US of A.

John Gorman might not have a James Beard award on his resume, but he is responsible for 3 of my favorite restaurants in Portland. For our Searchfest recommendation, you won’t find a closer or better choice than his year old Tasty N Alder. Last year I took some colleagues here and everybody raved about the food. Take a big group and plan on sharing multiple dishes with your table.

Food & Drink (Places known for their cocktails and food)

Andina’s Choros a la Chalaca – Photo by Lincoln Barbour

Clyde Common is a European style tavern which offers delicious food and some seriously fantastic cocktails. Plus they have a very impressive list of whiskey and always some good local beers on tap. The open dining room lends itself to a boisterous casual setting perfect for your group of search marketers.

Andina showcases some of the best local ingredients fused with popular dishes found from the coast of the Andes throughout Peru. This is a great place to go with a large group so you can order and share from a wide selection of their amazing Peruvian inspired tapas. They also feature some mouthwatering main courses and a great selection of cocktails and wine. I’ve eaten here several times in the past with just my wife for our anniversary and with large parties for birthday celebrations. Make sure to try one of their four types of cebiche, a signature dish of Andina’s.

Davis Street Tavern was the last minute destination last year for our large group of SEMpdx’ers before hitting up the Searchfest After Party. They offer modern American dining in a historic Portland landmark building. If you are looking for excellent food and drinks, you can’t go wrong with Davis Street Tavern.

Seriously Good Eats

Tagliatelle – photo by Joe M.

Back in 2010, GQ named Gruner one of the 10 Best New Restaurants in America. I’ve eaten here a few times and have never been disappointed. As their website states, “Gruner is cozy alpine cuisine”. Think old world comfort meets new world sophistication.

Grassa is known for its handmade pastas and casual setting. There is usually stoner rock playing on the turntables, but as their website states, no you can’t get a tattoo here. Not that you would want to as you will be kept plenty busy choosing between the fabulous Radiatore, Squid Ink Fettuccini or the mouthwatering Carbonara.

I’ve not personally eaten (yet) at Racion but everybody I’ve talked to who has insists that you must try their tasting menu. The restaurant is divided into an open kitchen bar (first of its kind in Portland) and a lounge. The food is modern Spanish, and if you enjoy the art, preparation and presentation of a meal, you will certainly want to give Racion a visit.

Casual and Quick Eats

Lardo Sandwich by Matthew Hine on Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Lardo started out as a food cart, but now has two brick and mortar locations. This sandwich shop not only boasts some of the most delicious sandwiches Portland has to offer, but also 12 taps of mostly local beers.

Cheryl’s on 12th offers a little bit of everything as it is a restaurant, bakery and market. For dining in they offer breakfast, lunch, morsels and supper specializing in New American cuisine. Their expansive menu offers everything including soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, salads, burgers, meatloaf, steak, omelets, scrambles and their famous Portuguese Fried Rice. Cheryl’s really is the place to go if you want a wide selection and great food.

Boxer Ramen. This isn’t the “top” ramen you survived on during those poor years living in a college dorm (although truth be known I still on occasion eat that stuff…). No, this is the real deal. And while my favorite Ramen place in town is Boke Bowl, I’ve heard some nice things about Boxer Ramen, the newest addition to the Ramen revival here in Portland. Note that this place is cash only so bring those dolla, dolla billz, y’all.

Little Big Burger offers exactly that…little burgers with a big burger taste. Or as Jules Winnfield says, “Mmm-mmmm. That’s one tasty burger”. LBB keeps the menu simple by offering a limited menu focused on burgers, cheese burgers, veggie burgers, fries and root beer floats. Reminds me of how In-n-Out likes to roll. Focus on a few items and do it well.

Best Food Carts

Portland is known for its food carts, and right across the street from the Governor you will find several options. If you are having trouble picking one,
here are some of my personal favorites:

Nong’s Khao Man Gai is a one trick pony, but that pony does one hell of a trick. When you go to Nong’s Khao Man Gai you will be getting….yep, Khao Man Gai. Just what is Khao
Man Gai? Chicken and Rice. Or from their menu, “Poached, organic chicken with rice simmer in chicken stock and Thai herbs, served with sauce of fermented soybeans, ginger, garlic, Thai chilies, vinegar, house made syrup and soy sauce. Garnished with cucumbers and cilantro, and accompanied by a light soup. Nong’s is open Monday thru Friday from 10am to 4pm.

Shoyu Chicken at 808 Grinds | Photo by Anna B. from PDX Yelp

808 is the area code for Hawaii, a place known for its warm weather, sandy beaches and love of Spam. And while you can find Spam Musabi and the required side of macaroni salad with every plate, 808 Grinds also offers some fantastic Hawaiian inspired food. You can’t go wrong with both the shoyu chicken and the 808 fried chicken.

If you are like Tony Bourdain and love all things pork, then get your little piggy self over to the People’s Pig. Yes, as the name suggests this isn’t a place to take your vegan friends, because they are all about the pork. This is certainly one of the top carts in town and a great way to experience what Portland’s food cart scene is all about. I highly recommend the porchetta sandwich.

For Those Serious About Their Whiskey

Multnomah Whiskey Library | Photo from Dina Avila Photography

Multnomah Whiskey Library is Portland’s newest attraction, which is why some people have willing waited over 2 hours just to get in. What is the fascination with the place? To start they have an extensive selection of whiskey and other libations. Next, the setting certainly reminds one of a library; definitely an old money feel to this place without being stuffy or intimidating. Finally, the servers don’t prepare the drinks behind the bar, but in front of you at your table.

Tips for getting in? Don’t go on weekends. Go early or go late. You can show up early, get your name in and then go next door to Kask or Tasty N Alder for a warm up cocktail while you wait. They will call your cell phone when your seat is available.

Best Happy Hour

In Portland you will find that most restaurants and bars have some amazing Happy Hour menus. And happy hour doesn’t mean just getting a buck or two off of your drink; happy hour is typically a meal all unto itself. So while some of our other recommendations like the Davis Street Tavern and Andina have great happy hours, here are some additional places to get some great food at really low prices.

My wife and I stopped by The Ringside Fish House for happy hour a few weeks ago and we were both impressed. Now, if you are planning to go, make sure you get there early. The happy hour menu is only available in the bar area and while it accommodates many, it fills up fast. However, they are used to being busy and despite how crowded it was on my last visit, we had our drinks and first round of food within 10 minutes of being seated.

Yes Ruth’s Chris is a chain restaurant (that’s actually considered a bad word here in Portland) but almost everybody I’ve talked to when doing my research for this post recommended them for their happy hour. So if you don’t need something distinctively Portland, this is a great option for happy hour.

I’ve got to be honest in saying that I really don’t know a lot about the Red Star Tavern and looking at the reviews on Yelp they seem to be very mixed. However, the one thing I have heard about is their happy hour menu. So while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them as a place for dinner, if you are hankering for some cheap eats, this might be the place for you.

Something for Your Sweet Tooth

Blue Star Donuts’ Sesame Salted Carmel

If you are craving something sweet don’t give in to the hype known as Voodoo Donuts. The line is long and the donuts are just ok. Instead try one of these great options for something to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Blue Star is the more delicious gourmet version of Voodoo, offering a wide selection of unique donuts made from a classic brioche recipe that originated in the south of France. With flavors like Blue Berry Bourbon Basil, Pistachio Cheesecake with Raspberry Hibiscus glaze and Bacon Maple, you will most likely enjoy a donut experience unlike anything you’ve had before.

Ruby Jewel’s owner started selling her homemade ice cream sandwiches out of a cooler at Portland farmers markets. Today you can find their ice cream sandwiches in stores across the country. Using local ingredients, every flavor is carefully hand crafted daily. Go in for a cone, or have them make you a custom ice cream sandwich on the spot.

So there you have it…my recommendations for where you should get your eat and drink on while attending this year’s Searchfest. Oh and if you need any other recommendations, just look for me, I’m the guy with a beard and beer belly …oh wait, that describes 50% of Portland’s men, so just hit me up on Twitter @twistedlister instead.

Cheers and happy eating!

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Reader Comments

  • Mr. Diggles | February 26, 2014

    Great list! I have eaten at almost all of these places. There is a new joint called Tilt that has stolen my heart though. So if you are in PDX it is worth checking out:

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