Glammy Girls Night
Every now and then, a girl needs an excuse to put on her Jimmy Choo knock offs and a dress that’s probably too short, do her makeup just like the MAC girl did when you bought all that eye stuff you never wear because it looked really good on Scarlett Johanssen in Elle magazine, and kick up the aforementioned killer knockoff heels at a place as dazzling as she. Add a few gal pals, flutes of champagne, and a spritz of sass and you’ve got a recipe for trouble–the fun kind. Here are a few eateries/drinkeries for a psuedo-starlet out on the town–places where your expertly applied eye makeup won’t be taken for granted.
With ceilings as high as a Christian Louboutin platform pump, banks of windows as glittery as the pavé diamonds in a Bulgari bracelet, and a sexy trendy feel that’s more Pink Elephant than Portland, the bar at Nob Hill’s 23 Hoyt is a satisfyingly glamorous destination for you and your gal pals, with elegant French 23 cocktails and tall flutes of Argyle Brut for sipping, and cheese, charcuterie, spicy almonds, pickled asparagus and deviled eggs for nibbling.
Gaze into the mirrors suspended over this Division Street stunner’s open kitchen and see your future…meal, that is (along with a LOT of lightbulbs). The latest project from Stumptown sage Duane Sorenson, this upscale hotspot is dazzling discerning diners with chef Joshua McFadden’s sophisticated take on rustic New York-style Italian, like warm chicken livers with raisins and marsala, Delicata squash fritto, housemade ravioli, and pork osso bucco. Finish with a vanilla bean panna cotta in pine cone syrup, then sip one of the bar’s exquisite grappas as you plot your next visit. Prix fixe seekers–opt for the five-course chef’s tasting menu.
Bamboo Sushi NW
Visit the Southeast Bamboo mothership’s sustainable sushi superstar sister early to beat the Northwest 23rd Avenue hordes (happy hour is Monday through Friday, 4-6pm, if that helps), and be sure to try the “house on fire” mackerel, a sashimi plate and the Chasing the Dragon roll…if you’re still hungry, there’s always the epic Sumo Burger–a half pound of Snake River Farms’ Wagyu beef with aged Tillamook white cheddar, caramelized onions, onion rings, bacon and a fried egg. And when you’re done with that, plan on double dessert, because even after you’ve had Bamboo’s chocolate egg rolls, you’re still going to want to investigate neighboring Salt & Straw’s ice cream palace. Read full write-up>>
This classy little Southeast wine bar is equally charming in the warmest of times and the coldest of times–and considering that we have far more of the latter than the former here, one of my favorite fall, winter and spring pastimes is to curl up in a cozy booth with someone special, wistfully sipping rosé and watching the rain pelt the front windows. The bar shakes and stirs consistently excellent cocktails, the wine list is beautifully curated, and the menu moves seamlessly from nibbles like oysters on the half shell and mix-and-match artisan cheese and charcuterie boards to heartier fare like stuffed sardines and roast chicken with basil pistou. Beware the bewitching happy hour—it’s disconcertingly easy to arrive at 5pm for the $7 Washington mussels in tarragon cream sauce and $5 Aviation gimlets and end up lingering until last call, because once you’re under Bar Avignon’s spell, it’s rather painful to return to the real world.
If the Sex and the City girls were meeting you for Cosmos ‘n gossip tonight, you’d take them to Bluehour–perennially hip and swanky Pearl District mainstay, see-and-be-seen hotspot, and the perfect place to get your sexy on. Start with Chivas Regal-kissed Blood & Sand cocktails in the sexy mirror-lined bar, then settle into your patch of white tablecloth-draped dining room real estate and move onto raw oysters with rhubarb–verjus mignonette, beef tartare with salt and vinegar chips, SuDan Farm’s lamb chop with farro, grilled fennel and blackberry sauce, and for dessert, perhaps a decadent chocolate torte with buttered popcorn ice cream, or, just a visit from the ever-so-glamorous cheese trolley.
The droves of tea lights flickering within this foxy former warehouse turned enchanted glass-walled inner Southeast industrial district dining room serve to adequately illuminate the way to your gin martinis, Viridian farm nasturtium-dotted burrata salads, grilled Cattail Creek lamb leg with watercress and morels, and salted caramel and chocolate profiteroles, while casting only the most flattering of glows on your primped and polished countenances, rendering it an excellent choice for date night–be it your first date, or 2000th.
Fifteen stories above downtown Portland, perched atop the luxurious Nines Hotel, sits space-agey Departure Lounge and its incomparable east and west-facing outdoor terraces, and there’s no better place to call a meeting of your favorite see-and-be-seen fashionistas. Slip into your favorite LBD, don some stilettos (very useful for fending off the covetous hordes who will want your prime lounger-with-a-view seating), order a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, and make it a girls’ night to remember (or forget).
Those seeking a classy joint worth getting dolled up for are jazzed about Vitaly Paley and Ben Bettinger’s sensibly swank new Broadway Street eatery in the Hotel Lucia, where seasonally-driven Northwest fare fuels a convivial downtown crowd. And if you end up getting the proverbial room after a few too many of the dangerously affordable signature cocktails, come morning, the Imperial pastrami hash and crab croque-madame are but an elevator ride away—the dining room serves three squares a day, starting at the ungodly hour of 6:30am on weekdays.
Irving Street Kitchen
The sort of place you can take almost anyone—dates, colleagues, family, friends, tipsy girls’ night out expeditions—and have an excellent time, this Pearl District restaurant’s creative Southern-influenced New American cuisine feels both sophisticated and hearty, with dishes like creamed white corn soup with chanterelles, maple-smoked brook trout and arugula salad, grilled duck sausage over gingersnap basmati rice, and divine desserts like the pecan skillet pie, strawberry soda floats, and legendary butterscotch pudding. Service is friendly and accommodating, and little curtained booths offer you sanctuary from the merry melee–if you’re a recluse, want to get romantic or just need a nap after downing the blackberry crème fraiche-smothered cornmeal waffle during brunch, you can close the curtains and hide/smooch/nap, whilst plotting how to nick the milk-bottle chandeliers. Read full write-up>>
Little Bird Bistro
Late hours, a central location, and trés delicious dishes make this younger sibling of renowned Le Pigeon an inviting downtown destination regardless of the hour (they’re open until midnight) or your craving—stop in for a glass of wine and a charcuterie board or reserve a dark red leather banquette for a leisurely supper. The kitchen is helmed by longtime Le Pigeon sous chef Erik Van Kley, who orchestrates a simple French menu that zeroes in on beloved, expertly-executed bistro classics like steak frites, coq au vin, and marrow bones (and the iconic Le Pigeon burger), while pastry chef Lauren Fortgang spins sweet fantasies like strawberry elderflower floats, apricot givré with a corn financier, and her housemade chocolate plate. Depending on your mood, sit at the gleaming copper bar, see and be seen in the main dining room, or, provided you don’t suffer from acrophobia, opt for my favorite perch—the tiny upstairs table hugging the balcony corner.
Mediterranean Exploration Company
Every neighborhood needs a stylish supperish social hub, and MEC has the Pearl District covered—you’ll hear the buzz of conversation emanating off the open air window bar from blocks away. Inside is a lively hive of hip, well-dressed sorts sipping cocktails and sharing eclectic small plates like lamb tartare, Tunisian couscous with rose petal harissa, Oregon albacore with beet olive salsa, and cardamom ice cream affogato. Like its sister restaurant Toro Bravo, MEC will lead you by the fork through the long list of mezza via a chef’s choice tasting menu that’s well worth the $40, especially if you’ve already burnt out your decision-making abilities agonizing between the Spanish Diplomat and Retsina Spritz.
Portland’s east side is a food lover’s haven, but isn’t always a dolled-up damsel’s first thought when pondering how best to paint the town San Marzano red. Fortunately, Buckman’s sultry Nostrana is an excellent choice for a group of hungry hotties, sporting sexy cocktails like the Fresh Kicks, Rhubarbarella, and classic Campari and soda, a pretty L-shaped bar that could easily claim your attention long into the evening, and delicious upscale Italian fare. I’d recommend wearing your little red dress this time around, because even a glamourpuss is expected to cut their own pizza at Nostrana and marinara splatters can be murder on a white frock.
Oven & Shaker
James Beard-award nominated chef Cathy Whims (Nostrana, Genoa) and Aviation Gin co-founder Ryan Magarian joined their culinarily complimentary forces to open this sleek Pearl District hangout, where the white hot wood-burning pizza oven bakes and blisters a steady stream of thin crust Neopolitan style pies while hot bartenders shake up icy Anejo Manhattans and Pineapple Trainwrecks for a trendy crowd. Lovers of the widely-worshipped Nostrana radicchio salad, it’s on the menu, along with three other pretty young leafy things, and a handful of “finger and fork” small plates. On weekends, go off the beaten pizza path with the inventive brunch dishes like broiled grapefruit with brown sugar caramel, duck Eggs in Purgatory, and the prosciutto plate with pimento cheese and a biscuit. Weather permitting, have your wood-fired meal and White Lady cocktail outdoors on the beautiful sidewalk patio–you’re smack dab in the middle of some of the Pearl’s prime people-watching terrain.
Portland City Grill
Spritz on the Chanel No. 5 and spray on the sleazy investment banker-repellant–you and your girls are headed to the top of downtown’s Big Pink, because there’s no view like a Portland City Grill view. Grab a window booth, order a bottle of bubbly, clink to your comraderie, share a few small plates, and entreat the piano player to play a rousing rendition of Madonna’s Material Girl…twice.
Raven & Rose
Set inside SW Broadway’s gracious historic Ladd Carriage House, this lavishly-remodeled downtown eatery has dual personalities. Downstairs, dolled up couples-about-town delicately slurp oysters on the half shell with their champagne and dig their forks into Park Kitchen alum David Padberg’s steak tartare and “rabbit two ways” in the elegantly appointed dining room, while upstairs, liberated office mates unwind over bartender Dave Shenaut’s craft concoctions in the Rookery Bar, a lofty wood beam-thatched space that’s part shiny cocktail lounge, part flat screen and billiards-endowed man cave.
Glossy, saucy downtown hotspot Saucebox has everything you and your sequin-splashed crew could possibly want–the prime downtown location, a creative cocktail list that seems miles long, trendy decor and a club-like feel, live DJs on Friday and Saturday evenings, late owl hours, exotic bites, and a waitstaff that is never hard on the eyes.
If two heads are better than one, then two restaurants must be better than one, and if the two restaurants are attached and one of them is actually a bakery, that must be better than a private Living Room Theater showing of Amélie, a bottle of Cristal Rosé, and a bucket of bacon fat croutons. Enter St. Jack, Portland’s very own bistro-bakery dream team, part darling Clinton Street corner bistro, part patisserie, the latter which opens daily at 8am to supply the neighborhood with pastry chef Alissa Rozos’ divine housemade éclairs, flaky croissants, and feather-light mini-madeleines. The bistro menu reflects chef Aaron Barnett’s affection for rustic French cuisine (think tureens of puff pastry-capped escargot, oyster and scallop-studded fisherman’s stew, and whole roasted trout over creamy French lentils), while Rozos’ dessert menu reflects…well, my dreams, actually (think chocolate crème brûlée with beignets and strawberries and créme chiboust with pistachio financier). If you find it hard to choose, just remember—two dinner entrees are always better than one, and two desserts are better than the aforementioned Amelie and bacon fat croutons screening.
Set in the inner Southeast’s historic Plow Works Building, so close to the tracks that your Kentucky Cardinal cocktail trembles when the trains go by, this low-ceilinged space beguiles with its wide wood beams, stunning open kitchen, sexy swanky bar, and chef/owner Erik Van Kley’s expertly prepared “Borderless American Cuisine.” Even the most sophisticated dish has a hint of both the homey and exotic, like the hearty grilled marrow bone topped with bánh mì fixings and served with warm housemade dinner rolls. Staunch pescatarians will be thrilled, the menu leans towards the sea, with starters like two sweet scallops on a bed of cucumber and spicy mayo, mains like Oregon albacore topped with nectarine salsa, and desserts that…well, they’re just normal desserts, no fish there. Actually, I take that back, the desserts aren’t normal, they’re fantastic, especially the signature waffle with bruleed banana, smoke-laced crème fraiche, and melt-in-your-mouth pecan praline.
Get glammed up and meet your posse at seductive Teardrop Lounge, a favorite among the beautiful Pearl people and serious craft cocktail afficionados alike. Sip Finishing School, Love in the Afternoon, and Hibiki Hi-Balls and nibble on a house cheese or charcuterie plate, salt cod arancini, or nettle and mushroom crostini whilst admiring the chiseled jaws laboring behind the undulating bar, and steadfastly ignoring the not-so-chiseled jaws laboring to get your phone numbers.
That Isabel Marant dress you ordered fresh off the runway has arrived, you’ve squeezed all 11 toes into your new Rag & Bone ankle boots, and you’re itching for a pretty cocktail and some stylish ambiance to match your own stunning aura. Meet your girls downtown at the Nines Hotel’s Urban Farmer steakhouse for a Kitty Kat cocktail (be sure to buy your man-eating 40-something bestie an Eye of the Cougar) and a few dozen raw oysters with champagne mignonette. You’ll feel quite at home amongst the fashionably-attired mannequins, white leather furniture, attractive crowd, and luxurious glass rooms you can claim as your very own glammy see-through VIP lounge. Psst: Late night happy hour runs from 10pm to close, with $5 cocktails du jour and all sorts of liquor-absorbing small plates.
Get your capsaicin fix at this airy, elegant, fresh flower-filled Division Street cantina, where chiles reign supreme and the mezcal mingles freely amongst the merry crowds that populate the sleek marble bar and hidden back patio. Chef Kelly Myers incorporates seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients as she puts her own unique stamp on Mexican classics (definitely try the trout pozole), and specializes in eye-openingly (and sometimes eye-wateringly) inventive salsas. A small but mighty lunch menu is served most days via the kitchen window, and the smoky molé-drenched rotisserie chicken dinner can be ordered daily by noon for evening takeout. And as far as dessert is concerned, missing out on the Woodblock chocolate cake with passion fruit chile ganache is no bueno.