N.B.: Please read the prior blog entitled “Be Careful!” before this blog, so you’ll have an idea of what I look for in a restaurant.
There are a number of terrific ethnic restaurants very close to The Fulton House. Here are several that Wendy and I patronize regularly.
ITALIAN: Only about 5-minutes away is a great Italian joint called “Gino’s.” It’s well enough known by the neighborhood that the owners never even bothered to change the sign out front from the restaurant that used to be there — thus, “Gino’s” is labeled “Leipzig Tavern.” Walk into the bar (imported from Europe) and, hopefully, one of the booths will be open; they’re spacious and comfortable and offer privacy with their high backs. If there’s only two of you, start off with a half-order of the Caesar salad (it’ll be more than enough). Then order the pasta with clams, the pasta with mussles, the pasta with both, or one of the day’s specials. Order a pint of Guinness on tap if you’re a beer drinker. Your waitress might have a forearm adorned with a tattoo, or your waiter might sport four rings in his ear, but they’ll get your order right, time the service perfectly, explain the menu and recommend a good Italian wine if you ask, and do their job perfectly. The bill for two (without wine) will be less than $50, a very good deal.
MEXICAN: “Chez Jose” is 3-minutes from The Fulton House. This place caters to singles, duos and entire extended families, but the noise level does not overwhelm. The offerings are numerous (don’t forget to check the chalkboard with the special), with many vegetarian entrees, the portions are huge, and the service is by young folks perhaps working their way through nearby Lewis & Clark College. With a Dos Equis or a microbrew on tap, your bill for two will be only about $30.
JAPANESE: Walk to “Osaka-ya” in 2-minutes; it’s a block away. It’s owned and run by Japanese, the wait persons and cooks are Japanese, and much of the clientele is Japanese. So it’s authentic. And it’s inexpensive (but impossible to exactly determine a typical price range because it depends on what and how much you order). The menu is varied — there’s incredible and super-fresh sushi and a full range of cooked Japanese specialty dishes. Sip an Asahi beer or have a sake or two (remember you’re walking, so don’t worry about enjoying your drinks).
Good old AMERICAN: Either “Macadam’s Bar & Grill,” “Corbett Fish House,” or “Fulton Pub,” all three only about a 5-minute walk away. A large restaurant which is always crowded, “Macadam’s” offers ribs, steaks, chops, chicken, seafood, burgers, soups and salads, and a wide variety of appetizer plates. “Corbett” offers a midwestern-style fish fry, using only very high quality rice bran oil, containing the least saturated fat of any common cooking oil. There’s fried catfish, barramundi, oysters, yellow perch, walleye, halibut and prawns, steamer clams and mussels, oyster shooters, calamari strips and New England clam chowder. Finally, “Fulton” is one of Portland’s many microbreweries, offering a wide range of brewed-on-premises beers, ales, porters and stouts, together with a variety of “pub grub” meals (burgers and fries, quesadillas, salads, soups, etc.). All three places are always friendly and crowded, and offer outdoor seating with casual service and very inexpensive prices.
We have menus for all these restaurants, as well as many more, so The Fulton House guests can make an easy decision about lunch or dinner before setting out.
Portland is known nationally as a terrific town for “foodies.” Last year, Food & Wine magazine picked the city as the tops in the U.S.A.
But what makes a restaurant great? There are at least four aspects to consider — food, ambience, service and price.
FOOD. Of supreme importance….if the food is truly outstanding, I can almost forgive inferior service, not the most appealing ambience, and relatively high prices. However, I’m interested in all aspects of the food ordered: taste, portion size, and fresh, creative ingredients skillfully melded. Of lesser (very lesser) importance to me are presentation (“pretty food” on colorful, oversized crockery) and unusualness (e.g., crab with raspberry sauce or ravioli stuffed with blue potatoes and green tomatoes). All too often I discover that food critics rave about the food and when I order it it’s a very small overpriced portion. (Of course, most food critics aren’t concerned with cost because their publication is footing the bill.) Then, there’s the wine list…it drives me nuts when wines are marked up more than 100 percent. If I can purchase the bottle at a local grocery or wine store for $X, in my opinion that bottle should cost no more than $2X at a restaurant.
AMBIENCE. Some of the best places I have ever eaten at had formica table tops and paper napkins. I’m a native of greater New York City, and I can tell you that the best and freshest ethnic food served there does not come in restaurants with chic art on the walls or trendy table decor. If I want paintings, sculpture or tapestries, I prefer a museum. And if it’s “the place to see and be seen,” then I’m probably not going to be happy with it. The same holds true for Portland.
SERVICE. A famous Supreme Court Justice once remarked, “I may not be able to define pornography but I know it when I see it.” In like manner, it’s difficult to describe what makes for superlative service but I know it when I get it. And among my biggest peeves are haughty wait persons so taken with themselves and the wonderfulness of the establishment where they work that they act like they’re doing me a great favor just by doing their jobs. Other peeves: don’t ever serve me my entree while I’m still enjoying my soup or salad; offering only bottled water at jacked up prices (I like tap ice water); sommelier snobs (I’ve found that a great way to handle these annoying individuals is to take a bite out of the cork after it’s presented and comment on it’s place of origin…”A mediocre year for Spanish cork trees and it shows in the vapidity of this cork!”); and, finally, waiters who try to hurry me or my dinner partners into ordering by asking us if we’ve made our decisions and then hovering before we close and set down our menus.
COST. Most of us have a reasonable feel for the cost of different foods; most of us have a reasonable feel for the length and difficulty of the cooking process; most of us have a reasonable feel for the creativity behind development of the recipe of the food we ordered; and, thus, most of us have a reasonable feel for outlandish overpricing. Unless my salmon was caught by a Portugese fisherman using barbless hooks alone in his rowboat 100 miles from shore, there’s no way it should cost $40, particularly since the piece I’ve been served goes about 4 ounces. And there’s no coffee so incredible that warrants a $4.50 per cup charge. See above for wine pricing. See above for tipping based on service.
Having said all of this, I really believe that Portland offers an incredibly wide array of top-flight restaurants that deserve our and your business. Don’t hesitate to ask John and Wendy, your innkeepers at The Fulton House who, after all, live and dine here, for our advice. And please don’t hesitate to tell us if we’ve led you astray and the restarant we suggested didn’t live up to what we told you.
At The Fulton House we can offer you menus of places we favor or invite you to use our guest computer to Google up a restaurant you’ve heard of and are thinking of patronizing.
There’s so much top-flight entertainment coming to Portland that all visitors, regardless of age and taste, will find something to thoroughly enjoy.
First, there’s the hottest Broadway show and Tony Award winner — “Monty Python’s Spamalot” — which will open on Wednesday, August 22 for a two-week, 16-performance run at the Keller Auditorium. This show, based on the hilarious movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” is a runaway hit wherever it appears. Tickets at ticketmaster.com
The Artists Rep brings two plays, “House & Garden” and the musical “The Ghosts of Celilo,” to the Newmark Theater; tickets go on sale on Tuesday, August 21 on-line at www.artistsrep.org.
Now on to music…. First, the Oregon Symphony opens its season with “Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2,” conducted by Carlos Kalmer and featuring pianist Valentina Lisitsa in late September. Next up is their “Tribute to Ray Charles, followed by a concert by immortal Motown star Smokey Robinson. There are Pops Concerts — “High Wire High Jinks,” “Bela Fleck and the Flecktones” and “A Sentimental Journey with Norman Leyden”; Holiday Concerts — Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” “Gospel Christmas” and “Yuletide Spetacular”; and Classical Concerts — Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg; “Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2,” and Carmina Burana. Check for details at OrSymphony.org
At the Rose Garden on Wednesday, August 22 is “Awake: Josh Groban Tour 2007”; Groban is described by the New York Times as “A crooner with the power to knock the arena senseless.” Tickets on sale at LIVENATION.com On Saturday, September 29, a double rock bill: Bryan Adams and “George Thorogood and the Destroyers.” Tickets on sale at AEGLIVE.com And on Tuesday, October 30, enjoy Disney’s “Best of Both Worlds Tour,” featuring Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus, with special guest “Jonas Brothers.” Tickets on sale at AEGLIVE.com.
On Sunday, August 26, in concert at The Amphitheater at Clark County (just across the Columbia River in Washington), see ZZ Top, “The Pretenders,” “Stray Cats” and “Gin Blossoms”; and on Wednesday, September 12, enjoy two classic bands, “Def Leppard” and “Styx.” Finally, on Wednesday, August 29, witness the “Soul Violins Tour 2007,” featuring Daryl Hall and John Oates at Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Tickets for all these events at LIVENATION.com
All Portland events are about 8-minutes from The Fulton House and public transportation is just a half-block away, saving you the hassle and expense of parking downtown. The Washington events are about 25 minutes away by car.
Come to Portland and enjoy the entertainment! And stay at The Fulton House for across-the-board excellent accomodations and great breakfasts!
Talk about close! The Fulton House Bed & Breakfast is only about 2-minutes away from an area of Portland visited most often by visitors — Westmoreland and Sellwood. Wendy and I often frequent this neighborhood to eat at our favorite Italian joint or to browse among the many shops there.
What makes Westmoreland and Sellwood so popular? Perhaps it’s the shops and antique “malls” that offer more home decor destinations, both vintage and new, than any other shopping district in Portland.
Or maybe it’s the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge and Wapato Marsh, where you can sight dozens of different birds and other wildlife, very unusual in a close-in, easy-to-visit spot in a major city. Nearby, walk or bike to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) on the Springwater Trail along the Willamette River.
For golfers, there’s the beautiful Eastmoreland Golf Course. For flower lovers, the Rhododendron Garden. For the adventurous, the Oaks Park Amusement and Vintage Skating Rink.
From May through September, wander through the Moreland Farmers Market every Wednesay from 3:30-7:30 p.m. And on every first Friday evening of the month, enjoy “First Friday Art Quest,” when all the galleries, artist studios and most shops stay open until 9:00 p.m. There are sidewalk artists and musicians, lively artist receptions, local music, occasional literary readings, wine tastings, and generally just a good time for all.
Just cross the Sellwood Bridge, about 2-minutes from The Fulton House, and you’re there.
The “2007 Craft Biennial: A Review of Northwest Art and Craft” has just opened at Hoffman Gallery at the Oregon College of Art & Craft in Portland. Works on display were selected by three panelists — a curator, an art dealer and a writer — and they explore “an extraordinary number of approaches and styles of handmade work in Oregon and Washington.” (The Oregonian, August 12)
Displays range from collage works and textile hangings to inkjet printed images and glass sculptures, a total of 82 works by 58 Pacific Northwest artists. The final works were chosen from 324 submissions by 174 artists, who picked their best pieces.
Four works received “Merit Awards”: a paper collage by Mary Wells; a sculpture by Amy Johnston; a painted beadwork image by Scott Schuldt; and a sculpture by Kate MacDowell.
The exhibition is open from 10:00 a.m.-5 p.m. daily from now until Thursday, September 27.
The Oregon College of Art & Craft is only about a 10-minute drive from The Fulton House, since both are located in S.W. Portland.
Let’s look at some of the great musical events coming up soon in and around Portland.
At Edgefield Manor, formerly the County Poor House (that was actually its legal name) but now owned and operated by the McMenamins family of microbreweries and pubs, several truly great musical artists will appear. On Thursday, Aug. 30, Stevie Wonder performs and on Thursday, Sept. 13, BB King and Etta James will offer their musical magic. For those of us old enough to have grown-up kids, these legendary names are certain to bring back memories.
These two concerts are part of Edgefield’s “Concerts on the Lawn” series, and the venue is only about a 30-minute drive from The Fulton House. Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster outlets, online at Ticketmaster.com, or charge by phone at 503-224-4400. For additional information about Edgefield or the concerts, check www.edgefieldconcerts.com
The Portland Symphony is sponsoring a free summer series of “Classical Concerts in the Park” — on Saturday, Aug. 11, in Grant Park; on Sunday, Aug. 12, in Washington Park; on Sunday, August 19, in Laurelhurst Park; and on Sunday, Sept. 2 in Foothills Park. All these venues are easy driving ditance from The Fulton House. Another option is to take public transportation and avoid the hassles of finding a parking space; luckily, there’s a bus stop a half-block from us. For further information, check PortlandFestivalSymphony.org
George Jones will perform at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, located in downtown Portland (i.e., Southwest Portland, the same section of the City as The Fulton House) on Wednesday, Oct. 10. That venue is only about a 10-minute bus ride from us.
On Saturday, Aug. 18, McMenamin’s “Grand Lodge” will present the “American Music Festival,” featuring roots/jazz/old-time/blues. The Grand Lodge is located in Forest Grove, about a 30-minute drive from The Fulton House.
Finally, every Tuesday afternoon in August (shows start at 2:30 p.m.) the historic Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood will present the “2007 Timberline Mountain Music” series, featuring live folk and bluegrass music at the Lodge’s outdoor amphitheater. All concerts are free and you won’t find a more spectacular venue than the 8,000-foot level of Mt. Hood, Oregon’s tallest peak at 11,235-feet. Timberline is about a 1-1/2 hour drive from The Fulton House. And even if you don’t want a concert, you should see the W.P.A.-constructed Timberline Lodge as part of your visit to Portland.