Power lunching in Portland has its perks. The usually stuffy hotel restaurant—a safe space for discreet conversation and expensive suits—is leagues beyond the standard in most other cities, thanks to a growing, food-first trend from big-name chefs. Even downtown’s more formal eateries keep to Portland’s strict locavore standards. So go ahead, splurge on the Dungeness crab Louie; you’re not paying for it anyway!
One of Portland's first farm-to-table restaurants—it opens in the early 1990s—Higgins has staying power. This can be attributed in part to its timeless cuisine: impressive house-cured charcuterie, seasonal risottos, and a walloping whole-pig plate, not to mention chef-owner Greg Higgins’s longtime loyalty to the local farmers who produce his ingredients. With a classy white-tablecloth dining room and wood-worn back bar, the downtown restaurant has been a local power-broker meeting place for decades.
Even without the panache of Top Chef heartthrob Doug Adams (he left in 2016 to open Bullard), Hotel Lucia’s Pacific Northwest homage continues to be a lunch stronghold for travelers and business folk alike. Southern out-of-towners will appreciate Adams’ swan song: fried chicken over Texas dill bread with honey and hot sauce. There’s also a standard Cobb salad for those who don’t want grease stains on their suits.
If Bordeaux and seared foie gras are required to close a deal, you can do no better than Francophile bistro Little Bird, with its elegant red-leather booths and floor-to-ceiling mirrors. You’ll find a golden beet salad with lamb sausage, marrow-poached scallops, and a luxurious double brie burger all on the docket. In a time crunch? Utilize the "just a sip" portion of the menu, with small wine pours and half martinis.
The 130-year-old refurbished Ladd Carriage House has a distinguished aroma (thanks to the wealth of leather furniture and crackling fireplace) and reasonably-priced lunch menu ($7–16). Expect American fare like Caesar salads, BLT sandwiches, and grilled cheese and tomato soup spliced with British staples, like house-cured corned beef and Shepherd’s pie. Time your lunch to run late, and dodge work early at the upstairs Rookery Bar for billiards and live music.
If your guest’s appetites tend towards the less adventurous, check out Hotel Modera’s ground-floor eatery. You’ll find fried calamari, romaine salad, tuna melts, and pizza—enough variety to appease the pickiest eater. The outdoor patio is a godsend for sunny days, and there’s plenty of rentable space, from boardrooms to shuffleboard-equipped rec rooms, for a full-on catered business conference.
Before James Beard winner Vitaly Paley reinvented the Heathman Hotel dining room with his seafood-heavy vision, it was one of the city’s most shoulder-padded lunch destinations. This is the place for gettin’ stuff done over seafood towers, caviar, fish and chips, and Dungeness crab cake. Seafood takes center stage, but options like steak frites, a Brussels sprouts salad, and rotisserie chicken will appease the pesce-wary.
For clients who follow chef celebs as closely as their portfolios, Jackrabbit (inside the newly renamed Duniway Hotel), brainchild of celebrity chef Chris Cosentino, fits the bill. The squeamish need not apply: stinging nettle risotto, seared foie gras and pig’s feet over brioche toast, and a whole pigs head are just a few of Cosentino’s obsessions. A near-certainty here: you won’t run out of things to talk about.
At the back of this unassuming box of a downtown restaurant, owner Ryoshiro Murata silently slices tuna belly and salmon skin, then deftly rolls them into soft, slightly vinegary rice and silky nori. It’s as close to the New York Masa experience as our lower-budget sushi city gets—and that’s pretty damn good. Light and fresh Japanese fare could be the perfect preamble to a long flight—or an afternoon not spent in a food coma.