Portland's answer to the archetypal French bistro, Carafe resides inconspicuously on an obscure block in downtown Portland directly across from the Keller Auditorium. While Carafe is an ideal way to start or cap a night out, it's also a destination in and of itself. One night's special appetizer arrived as a mound of chanterelles sautéed with shallots, spilled over grilled bread and topped with a poached farm egg. Sopping up mingled yolk and mushroom pan drippings might be the best use of bread ever. With a deft balance of savory and sweet, duck confit was a fitting follow-up, the ruby-fleshed breast perched atop a buttery potato cake and ringed with grilled peaches and Padrón peppers. Carafe's burger, served on a Ken's Artisan Bakery bun with custardlike housemade mayonnaise, consistently earns high marks, but on our last visit it was far too salty. Perhaps the addition of bacon and white cheddar were to blame. Try it first at happy hour when, salty or not, it's a steal at $4.95. Don't forget to scope the wine list, which is full of bottles under $30, and watch for Carafe's rotating three-course prix fixe menu, only $25.
Order this: Crispy outside, moist inside duck confit.
Best deal: Burgundies and local pinots under $35, some of the lowest markups in town.
I'll pass: Carafe's over-salted burger.