Jean Blaske and Nadia Cieslak are like most people who enjoy going out to eat.
They aren’t beholden to food critics and those deft use of adjectives to describe dishes. Instead, they are co-workers at AAA who like exploring restaurants on their own.
Their wants are practical. They judge the restaurant on taste, good portions, fresh ingredients, good service and interesting ambiance.
Because they both work in the travel industry, people naturally ask them for their recommendations.
Blaske is a 40-year veteran of the travel industry, the last seven as a certified travel agent and destination specialist at AAA. She helps people map their trips and offers suggestions about where to eat on their travels.
Cieslak is a member services representative who has worked at AAA for seven years as well. She loves to cook but considers eating out a way of treating herself.
Here are their favorite recommendations:
Seasons and Regions Seafood Grill, 6660 SW Capitol Hwy., Portland
“They grow their own vegetables so they are really fresh and they have really good fish at a reasonable price,” Blaske says. “The chef has a 13-acre organic farm that serves the restaurant and they make their own soups.” One dish remembered for its creativity was a salmon dish in which the salmon was wrapped in paper-thin potato. A favorite breakfast item is eggs benedict. They like that the menu is updated daily because the chef makes his own soups, sauces, dressings, spice blends and desserts, all in-house.
Justa Pasta Co., 1326 NW 19th Ave. at Pettygrove, Portland
Unassuming hideaway with a pasta focus but also offering fresh, wild fish and seasonal mushrooms. All the pastas are homemade and children are welcomed. Good wine selection, and outdoor seating.
Mother’s Bistro and Bar, 212 SW Stark St., Portland
Enjoyed for quantity and quality. Really good egg breakfasts. Slow cooked foods, handmade dumplings, stews, and roasts, braised dishes. Highlighting recipes served by moms.
Stepping Stone Café, 2390 NW Quimby St., Portland
Homemade corned beef hash with giant chunks of corned beef and excellent pancakes. A neighborhood hangout.
Byways Café, 1212 NW Glisan St., Portland
This small establishment is always filled with people, so much so that once you sign in they take your phone number and call you in your car when there is available seating. No waiting in the rain or standing outside.
Really good bloody marys; and bacon, pumpkin, blueberry or blue corn pancakes.
Fish Sauce, 407 NW l7th, Portland
Cieslak is described as a foodie who eats out all the time. She raves about this Vietnamese restaurant because of its small menu of farm-to-table specialties. Recommended are their Banh Mi sandwich, and Goi Rau Thorm salad with jicama.
Another favorite is a curry dish that is served vegetarian or with meat. It is a delicious mix of carrots, kabocha squash, yam, sweet onions and fingerling potatoes. They recommend shrimp with this. Sandwiches are served on French baguettes.
Huber’s, 411 SW Third St., Portland
This legendary eatery was founded in 1879 and is known for its turkey dishes and Spanish coffees. Service is extraordinary. Eat at the bar.
Southpark Seafood, 901 SW Salmon St., Portland
The twosome raved about the oysters served at the 13-seat oyster and raw bar, the artistic presentations, and some of the best fish in the city.
Shigezo Izakaya, 910 SW Salmon St., Portland
Across the street from Southpark, this Japanese restaurant serves sauce-less ramen dishes, especially Abu Ramen, that both diners raved about.
They like the mat-covered floors where you don slippers and sit on the floor as well as booths with curtains. When dining here you have an authentic Japanese experience. They also recommend visiting during happy hour.
The Decarli, 4545 SW Watson, Beaverton
They go for the pannacotta served in a Mason jar with a balsamic reduction and fresh fruit. Noted for French cuisine and cocktails.
Chameleon Restaurant and Bar, 2000 NE 40th, Portland
Located in the Hollywood district, this restaurant makes everything in-house and they like the ambiance. Chef/owner Pat Jeung, who grows much of his food on his 30-acre farm, offers up Asian/Metro Euro food with a “really good” happy hour. They raved about the acorn squash ravioli.
NOLA Doughnuts, 365 N. State St., Lake Oswego
It doesn’t look like much from the outside and finding where to park is tricky but people line up for their handcrafted donuts made from a three-day process that is found in French pastry shops. Light and flaky with New Orleans-style beignets made to order that Cieslak says are much better than the historic Café Dumonde she visited in New Orleans.
Ate-Oh-Ate, 2454 E. Burnside St., Portland
Blaske, who lived in Kauai, says this Hawaiian restaurant offers some of the best local food in Portland. She points to their great mac salad, and Kalua pig, a pork shoulder wrapped in banana leaves, slow roasted and served with steamed cabbage. The owners, who also own Laurelhurst Market, serve all natural meat and fresh vegetables.
Pelican Brewing, Pacific City
Their clam chowder is so good and if you can’t get inside the restaurant because it’s too crowded, Blaske says get your order to go, sit in the car and enjoy the view of the ocean. She describes the chowder as “not fishy, lots of bacon and potatoes, and a great view of Cape Kiwanda.” It’s even better than what she’s had at other restaurants in Cannon Beach and Tillamook. Want more? The smoked salmon artichoke dip is, in a word, awesome.
This writer can’t wait to try those on this list she has not frequented — yet.
Cutline & photo credit: Photo by Margaret Moran