written by Portland City Guide, Caitlin Dwyer
Good food without pretense, just the way your Mom would make it. For Chef and Restaurateur Lisa Schroeder, this axiom became the foundation for her popular Portland restaurants, Mother’s Bistro and Mama Mia Trattoria. In the light, bustling dining room of Mother’s, it is easy to sit back and feel at home. Tables are clustered together in amiable proximity; large chandeliers dangle from the ceiling; ornate mirrors and antique frames adorn the walls; and everyone seems to be eagerly digging into their meals. Around the corner sits Mother’s sister restaurant, Mama Mia Trattoria, an all-Italian version of the home-style comfort food that Schroeder champions.
But to associate comfort with simplicity would be a mistake. Schroeder’s meatloaf, pulled pork, French toast, and crab cakes take their roots from the best kind of hearty home cooking – but are made with skill, subtlety, and flair that most Moms would love to master. Schroeder honed her culinary skills in Europe and New York City before finally settling down in Portland.
Now a grandmother as well as one of the city’s prominent entrepreneurs, Schroeder took a few moments to sit down and tell me about her Perfect Day in Portland, Oregon.
1. Start your day with a pastry from The Pearl Bakery (102 NW 9th Avenue). “I like to grab a croissant and walk through the Pearl…You see so many different things when you’re walking.”
2. Browse the artisan stands and listen to street musicians at Saturday Market (SW Ankeny and Naito). “I always take guests to Saturday Market. The perfect place to shop for a present – you can always find something that’s locally made.”
3. Pick up the perfect fondue pot at kitchen stores Sur La Table (1102 NW Couch) or In Good Taste (231 NW 11th). “I like to look for something new and unique – a nice serving piece, a pretty plate.”
4. Take the streetcar up to NW 23rd Ave, and browse the classy boutiques along this old commercial street. “This street is another concentration of locally owned businesses. People have worked hard to keep the area relatively free from chains. 3 Monkeys (811 NW 23rd Ave) has great accessories and jewelry. I like Twist (30 NW 23rd Pl) and Dazzle (704 NW 23rd Ave) for knick-knacks.”
5. Thin crust, extra cheese? Grab a slice at Escape from New York Pizza (622 NW 23rd Ave). “I used to live in New York. I have to stay for a slice of pizza.”
6. Take a leisurely stroll through downtown. “People should consider downtown Portland the biggest mall of all. It’s got the Pearl, 23rd, department stores, a streetcar, and it’s pleasant to walk around.”
7. Pick up your necessities at Pioneer Place (700 SW Fifth Ave). “If I’m going to a shopping center, I’ll go there. People are very defeatist about parking downtown. I never fail to find a spot. You just have to tell yourself, ‘Yes, I am a rock star, and I will find rock star parking.’”
8. Stroll the beautiful Tom McCall Waterfront Park. “If I ever get a break, I’ll use it to take a mid-day walk on the waterfront.”
9. Sit down for lunch at E-San Thai (133 SW 2nd Ave). “I think this is best Thai food around. It’s the Mother’s of Thai food – hearty and well-made. I love their pad kee mao.”
10. Head to the East Side and search for new recipes at Powell’s Home and Garden (3747 SE Hawthorne Blvd). “I love the books for cooks! I just like to browse there.”
11. Walk the shady, residential streets of the Hawthorne district. “Usually after shopping, we walk away from the street and into the neighborhoods. We like to look at all the houses in that area. It’s got some interesting architecture.”
12. Get your antique on at Portico (3630 SE Division). “It’s a great place to look for pieces of furniture, little knickknacks for the house.”
13. Stop in for coffee at Stumptown (4525 SE Division). “When I’m in the neighborhood, I have to go to here. It’s the original location. There’s one downtown near Mother’s, but when I’m in Southeast, I have to find the original.”
14. Pick up groceries at New Seasons Market (1954 SE Division St). “I’m an original. I want to shop in places owned by people who sell unique things.”
15. Eat sopas for dinner at Nuestra Cocina (2135 SE Division). “If E-San is the Thai version of Mother’s, this is the Mexican version. Chef Ben Gonzalez makes these chorizo-filled tartlets and homemade tortillas…how can you go wrong?” (City Guide’s addendum: Nuestra Cocina also makes a killer margarita!)
16. Maple Glazed, Portland Crème, Dirty Snowball, or Triple Chocolate Penetration? Pick up dessert at Voodoo Donut (22 SW 3rd Ave). “When friends come to town I have to take them. Everyone does it…but it’s required.”
17. Sip on a nightcap at MuuMuu’ (612 NW 21st Ave). “Restaurant people don’t usually get off until late – two or three in the morning. You want to go somewhere where you can get food where it’s still happening. I can go there after work, get something to eat, and still find something fun going on.”
To celebrate the release of Lisa’s new cookbook Mother’s Best: Comfort Food That Takes You Home Again written with Danielle Centoni that includes 150 favorite recipes from Mother’s Bistro and Bar we are giving away 12 copies in our February Portland Twitter Contest! Visit our Portland contest page for all the details on how to win a copy!
What local Portland celebrity would you like to see next on 52 Perfect Days? E-mail Caitlin and let her know your ideas!