Ava Gene’s is one of the “Best Restaurants in American”, or so says Bon Appetite, who put it on their 2013 list which will appear in the August issue. They said the same thing about Woodsman Tavern last year which I disagreed with, and I have to do the same this year, though I haven’t been since last Spring – maybe it has changed.
- Ava Gene’s: 3377 SE Division St., Portland, OR; 971-229-0571
Apparently the rest of the Portland restaurant scene still sucks, because that is our only mention, while Seattle got three:
- Bar Sajor: 323 Occidental Ave. S, Seattle, WA; 206-682-1117
- Joule: 506 Stone Way N, Seattle, WA; 206-632-5685
- The Whale Wins: 3506 Stone Way North, Seattle, WA; 206-632-9425
garden girl says
I agree with you about both Woodsman and Ava Genes….With so many new places opening in Portland, this is not our “best”.
Jelly Filled says
I’m curious to read what new Portland restaurant, if any, you find to be better than Ava Gene’s. Also what don’t you like about it Food Dude?
Food Dude says
Off the top of my head, I can’t really think of an Italian restaurant I really like in Portland. I guess that comes from living too long in Italy. As for what I didn’t like – the space is overdone – too busy. I was there on a warm evening, and it was way too hot – had to be in the 80’s inside. It was also very loud (though they were full). Many dishes were very oversalted, a couple to the point where we couldn’t enjoy them. The pasta was undercooked – yes, I know what al dente is, these dishes were way beyond that. Overall, I was most impressed by the smaller plates. Desserts were forgettable. Service was excellent(!) Over a few different nights, the groups I went with didn’t have any desire to go back.
Jelly Filled says
Well said. While I agree many of the priciest items are underwhelming the smaller plates are the best. I have not experienced undercooked pasta, but the saltiness and sauce has been inconsistent.
I also had undercooked pasta there. I’m glad you said it first. I enjoyed the staff and I actually liked the decor, but the food was a little bit of a letdown.
The Bonegypsy says
Fact is, Ava Genes is an attempt to do for Portland what Frankies Spuntino (Frankies 457 on Court Street) has done in Brooklyn so well over the years…build a loyal neighborhood following with good pastas and ample vino and strong cocktails. In my discussion with the two Frank’s that run Frankies, I understand that originally they were both working with Duane Sorensen on bringing the whole FrankiesSpuntino concept to Portland, but then he cut them out of the picture and decided to do it himself. Undercooked pasta, oversalted sauces and the usual unnecessary noise level (don’t get me started on the Woodsman Tavern). Bottom line is that Portlanders are an easy crowd to please I guess. Everyone who visits Portland gets a standing ovation. Ave Genes is a hipster Mama Mias. Better to grab some genuine Italian deliciousness down SE Division at Taste Unique.
I haven’t been to Ava Gene’s, but I just wanted to put in a good word for 2 Italian restaurants in Portland- Mucca Osteria and Gallo Nero. I don’t want to start the whole “authentic” debate, but these places satisfy my needs for great Italian food.
+1 on Mucca. I was also tempted to respond to FD’s comment about not finding an Italian restaurant in PDX that he likes. I find Mucca Osteria both consistently excellent in quality and sufficiently “authentic” to fit our needs as well. Well worth a visit, FD, if you haven’t already been.
Food Dude says
I don’t recall trying Mucca Osteria, but will put it on my list! Thanks for the suggestion.
Love Mucca! It deserves much more love. Try the scallop appetizer.
As far as Ava Gene’s goes, I loved most of it – once the irritation of the menu wore off. The Parma ham and mackerel were standouts. Also enjoyed the chicken livers bruschetta, the Wagyu Collete (although technically it can’t be Wagyu) and the lamb dish. Both pastas I had were stellar. Perfectly cooked and salted. The Slovene white wine was very different and enjoyable. All desserts would be ordered again. Service was near perfect. Only complaints (one is a biggie for me) – it was too damn hot. Don’t like spending $250 and sweating while I eat. Yes, it was too loud. I thought the interior design (minus all the hard surfaces) was very well done – especially for DIY Portland. All three of us would definitely go again, once the weather cools down a bit.
The experience may be a bit more casual, but the dishes I’ve had from Piazza Italia are some of the best Italian food I’ve had anywhere, including Italy.
I love mama mia’s for NY style Italian. Excellent ingredients, family owned and fairly priced.
I second the vote for Piazza Italia. One time a friend and I were debating over a pasta dish with cream sauce and one with pesto. They offered to combine the two into a pesto cream sauce. It was delicious.
Also, I’ve been wanting to try DOC. I would have thought that it would beat Ava Gene’s. Who likes DOC?
Another thumbs-up for Mucca.