A Splash of Humor and a Dash of Asshole

Portland Restaurants vs. The World


Round 1: Service Staff

-French Waiters are proud of their chosen profession
-Los Angeles Waiters are just doing this until they land that big role as an extra in a Burger King commercial
-New York Waiters are content to serve you, as long as they don’t have an audition for a background dancer in the new off Broadway presentation of ” Batman on Ice”
-Portland servers will get to your table after they finish their hemp milk latte and are done talking to their fellow employees about the new non-profit art project they worked on all night while drinking PBR tall boys and smoking American Spirits.

Round 2: Culinary Idols

-The British have Marco Pierre White and Fergus Henderson
-France has Joel Robuchon and Alain Ducasse
-New York has David Chang and Eric Ripert
-Chicago has Grant Achatz and Charlie Trotter
-California has Thomas Keller
-Portland has a chick that ran quite a few restaurants into the ground, and then started a place cooking half assed food for 30 people a night.

Round 3: Iconic Restaurants

-Spain has El Bulli and Arzak
-England has The Fat Duck and St. John
-France has La Maison Troisgros and Robuchon
-New York has Daniel and Le Bernadin
-California has The French Laundry and Spago
-Las Vegas has it all
-Portland has Voodoo Doughnut and Portland City Grill

So, to all of us who call Portland home, let’s take a step back. Let us not glorify our town as a great food city, or a hidden gem in the culinary world. Let’s keep it real and realize that we are just laid back and easily impressed. I’m not saying we have only horrible food and bad restaurants, but we are not on the level that most of you think we are. Our bars are pretty awesome though.


5 responses

  1. Douglas

    so true, cody! portland buys its own good press and sees it as gospel. every five years or so some publication calls portland the next napa valley and nothing comes of it. my biggest problem with portland is that they refuse to support highend restaurants. they claim to want something nice, but refuse to pay for it and support it.

    January 30, 2011 at 4:37 pm

  2. El Guapo

    Well, first of all, anyone who would compare Portland to Paris or New York is out of their mind….or perhaps has never been anywhere near either city. And for sure, Portland is not a fine dining town. Never has been and maybe never will be.

    However, I disagree that a town’s fine dining credentials are the most important component of whether a town is a “great” food town or not. For example, you mention that Las Vegas “has it all”. Well, as far as tourist oriented, impossibly expensive fine dining restaurants that no local ever goes to….yes, it does. But that doesn’t make LV a “great” food town…on the contrary, it is a pretty crappy food town where people who actually live there dine at an unending slew of chain restaurants.
    Italy is a great food nation, not , in my opinion, because it is home to a bunch of 3-stars, but because the sandwich you buy at the average gas station is better than 90% of the sandwiches you will ever eat in this country. The way I knew Portland was a great beer town (no doubt about that one) was when I walked into a redneck logger bar outside of town years ago and saw most of the working class crowd drinking craft brews.
    In other words, I think the democratization of good food is much more important than the little sliver of food experience that is fine dining. As far as food awareness, availability and ubiquity of quality ingredients (for residents, not just professionals) and an overwhelming bias for local establishments vs. chains, Portland does pretty well. As far as a cutting edge fine dining scene, forget it…and we certainly are lacking in some of the old-school ethnic dining experiences….chinese, greek and italian-american are all weak spots here. Nevertheless, if you take your sights off of NYC and Paris and look at comparable US metros like Indianapolis, Charlotte, Sacramento and Nashville, Portland is at or near the head of the pack.

    March 3, 2011 at 7:44 am

  3. I respect your views, but must offer a response. I think Portland has really good food and some really nice restaurants. The basis of the post is Portland being considered a great restaurant town. We are doing nothing here that hasn’t been done already. There is really no innovation going on here. As far as Las Vegas, you are sadly mistaken. With restaurant offerings from Joel Robuchon, Jose Andres and Thomas Keller, how could it not b ea great food town. Im not saying that every restaurant there is amazing, but it has the greatest concentration of awesome restaurants ever assembled. You were 100% right on Portland being a great beer town, nobody can touch us there!!!

    March 7, 2011 at 1:43 am

  4. Robert

    Portland is no restaurant town, no matter how much they wish they were. I’ve lived in actual restaurant towns, San Francisco, L.A., etc. Portland restaurants charge twice what L.A. restaurants do, despite having a fraction of the overhead and the food is middling. You can find good pizza, but you’ll need to search hard for it and it will be over priced. And don’t even get me started on Chinese food. Okay, I’ll start myself: Don’t bother asking a native where the good Chinese food is, after all how would they know? Chances are they’ve never had any. The difference between L.A. Chinese food and Portland Chinese food? In L.A., you can swing the proverbial dead cat with your eyes closed and hit a good, inexpensive Chinese restaurant. In Portland, you won’t find any dead cats to swing because the Chinese restaurants have them on the menu. Carts we have and their food is cheap and good. So yeah, were not a restaurant town, We’re a “cart town”. That’s it.

    March 7, 2011 at 5:13 am

  5. El Guapo

    I think we actually agree, for the most part, and that we are saying two different things. I would never put Portland up as a great restaurant town. Better than most of its peers, maybe, but not even close to NY, LA, SF, DC, etc. No argument. But you said “food city” in your original post, not “restaurant city”, and that really is a different thing, with fine dining being just a small piece of the picture. The overall picture of how regular people eat is pretty good here, although even in this regard, I’m not saying Portland is NY or SF or any of the others. As far as Las Vegas, I’ll stick to my guns. A big collection of trophy restaurant outposts copied from other cities does not make it a great food town. Sure, all of your big names have found it impossible to resist cashing in by opening up there, but so what? Is there anything happening there? Is there a Las Vegas style, or cuisine? No. Can you eat a great meal at a lot of these places? Certainly….and I have. But there is no food culture there. When Vegas starts sprouting something both great and original, then it might belong in the big leagues.

    March 9, 2011 at 2:01 am

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