6 PDX Restaurants and Bars You Must Show Off to Holiday Visitors this Month

Portland Monthly food critic Karen Brooks dishes on where to take friends and family for winter libations and celebrations.

By Karen Brooks November 23, 2015 Published in the December 2015 issue of Portland Monthly

One Stop Chocolate

The perfect day in Portland begins with a chocolate macchiatto at Cacao, an equilibrium of espresso and liquid chocolate that hits the brain directly in the place where thirst and desire reside, naughty but nice. Fully buzzed, realize your holiday gift panic is over: beautiful chocolate bars abound, big and small, from here and beyond. 414 SW 13th Ave, cacaodrinkchocolate.com

Bicsuits and Holiday Pie for Breakfast

Your guests can eat oatmeal at home. Lauretta Jean’s serves a proper morning meal: oven-fresh biscuits, each containing euphoric amounts of butter, served every way imaginable—French toast to vegetarian Benedict, or just cradling fresh pork sausage, an egg, and maple butter. Slices of breakfast pie (below) are drawn from a serious collection including fresh pumpkin and a hazelnut-crowned honey pie, also available to go. 3402 SE Division St, laurettajeans.com

1215 laurettajeans dbooio

Image: Karen Brooks

Coziest Lunch

Luce is a perfect local taste—a spare room that warms the soul with generosity, deliciousness, and fair prices, from a kitchen clearly in love with small-town Italy. Make hay on up to 12 homemade pastas, three kinds of fresh-baked focaccia, wonderful cakes, and lovingly chosen Italian wines. The city’s best soup lives here, too: cappelletti in brodo (stuffed pasta in broth), which squeezes the essence of whole chickens and short ribs into its deeply soothing bowl. Dig in, the Luce way, with good friends, merrily toasting the year. 2140 E Burnside St, luceportland.com

1215 luce lngfvk

Luce’s simple, sublime spaghetti with garlic oil, hot peppers, and clams.

Image: Karen Brooks

Eat, Read, & Be Merry

How to have your piece of Stumptown and eat it, too? The handsome new Olympia Provisions cookbook—a hilarious mash note to growing up Greek, charcuterie, and foot-long frankfurters, backed by the restaurant’s recipes—is poised to break big (multiple locations, olympiaprovisions.com). A meal at Country Cat, deep in granny testimonies and cast-iron cooking, is repackaged by chefs Adam and Jackie Sappington in Heartlandia. Amid its 80-plus recipes, fried-chicken secrets are revealed and cookies dance with smoky bacon and butterscotch chips (7937 SE Stark St, thecountrycat.net). Pasta by Hand, from Lincoln’s Jenn Louis, inspires us to get a little flour under our fingernails. Contemplate this end-of-year resolution (and the manicure damage) while digging in to the restaurant’s compelling spaccatelli with smoked tallow (3808 N Williams Ave, lincolnpdx.com).

Notes From an Insider

During this hectic dining season, I get no “hello,” “howdy do,” much less a “happy holidays” from friends. They greet me more like a hungry dog eyeballing a cheeseburger—anxiously, with a little tooth and drool, and a firm “Where should I eat NOW?” Right now, the answer is, “Hope you’re well, too ... and Taylor Railworks.” Yes, we also want to know what Southern-Asian-whatever cooking is. Chef talent Eric Van Kley—formerly the rock of Little Bird bistro—is charting a fresh course, mixing intricate sashimi, soy-sauced grits, and pickled radish–topped pork chops on casually chic plates in an industrial clubhouse space near the east-side train tracks. Prime seats: chef’s counter. Essential dish: foie gras, ham, and pineapple sliders. 117 SE Taylor St, trwpdx.com

The Late-Night Cocktail Experience

In a city of craft bars and unconventional thinking, the key ingredient to a great drink is something elusive. It’s called “fun.” No one’s embracing the idea more than Bit House Saloon’s posse of fine barfolk, dreaming up ideas in near darkness in a labyrinthine saloon that could be an extra in Ken Burns’s Civil War. Find single-barrel whiskeys, barrel-aged beers, boisterous cocktails, and conversation with customers (favorite topics: ’90s hip-hop, philosophy, and ring flair). Sure, Clint Eastwood would shoot holes in the sous vide machine behind the bar, but even Old Squint Eyes couldn’t resist a Quentáo cocktail, bursting with fresh, tart cider, rich with cinnamon syrup, capped with amaro chantilly cream, and waiting warm for us in a circulator. This is how the West was won. Have two. 727 SE Grand Ave, bithousesaloon.com

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