Before heading to Portland (Oregon), I did my research. After all, I was heading to one of the best foodie destinations in the country. Naturally, a lot of our day was planned around our meals, and I’ll tell you right away, there’s no getting around the calories in a trip to Portland.
Many of our meals consisted of local ingredients, and were described as innovative, hearty cooking. No Portland list can really cover all the great stuff there is to find, but I’m eager to share what I tried, and what I think is a good representation of what food in Portland is really about.
1. Tasty n Sons – We went here for brunch (offered every day from 9am!), and thanks to our jetlag got there early enough that we did not have to wait. Get a round of Bloody Mary’s immediately, and an order of biscuits. All of their brunch items are made to share, so we pretty much ended up ordering half the menu. Tasty N Sons is the perfect option for a light and fancy lunch. Our favorites here were the patatas bravas (with an over easy egg), the sausage and polenta ragu, the sweet huckleberry biscuits, and the chicken n biscuits. Pro tip: Show up at 9 am, and you’ll get seated right away. By 10am, the wait was an hour long on a Sunday!
2. PokPok + Whiskey Soda lounge – Everyone talks about Pok Pok, and I knew I had to try it. I was not disappointed with this small Thai outpost, which delivered serious spice and deliciousness. While we were waiting for our table at the Division street location, we went across to the Whiskey Soda lounge (same owners). Their uber popular fish sauce chicken wings hit the spot along with a Tamarind whisky sour at the lounge. For dinner, I especially loved the spicy pork salad (Laap Meuang) with herbs, cracklings and a ton of garlic. Word of warning though, the spice levels are definitely intense here!
3. Bollywood Theater – A restaurant serving Indian street food in a colorful room filled with Indian kitsch and playing black and white Bollywood films? Sold! Started by chef Troy McLarty after a trip to India, he has recreated the space beautifully and authentically. The food was good too – the aloo tikki (potato patties) smothered with chickpeas was great, and the kati rolls (paratha wraps stuffed with meat/vegetables/egg/onions) were good too. Wash it down with an Indian Thums up, or one of their inventive cocktails.
4. Food carts – Most cities have food trucks, but Portland has food carts, groups of which are organized in “cart pods”, some of which take up entire city blocks. Portland has over 500 food carts, they are really part of the dining culture in Portland, and the city would not be the same without them. Nong’s Khao Man Gai has earned such an immense following, and offer only one dish – their namesake khao man gai, which is steamed rice, poached chicken and a sauce with ginger and spice. It was served with a bowl of broth for sipping and was a perfect meal for a cold and overcast morning in Portland.
We also tried a number of other carts at the 5th and Alder pod – including a Moroccan stand, a Thai stand, and a Euro stand. We were overhwhelmed with the options, and you will literally find everything imaginable here.
5. Voodoo Doughnuts and Blue Star Donuts – Portland is a donut town, and Voodoo and Blue Star are the most popular. The line out of Voodoo in the city was insane and we chose not to stand in line, but we happened to see another location later that didn’t have the crowds. We picked up an assortment of colorful doughnuts, and enjoyed them in the way that you’d enjoy a fresh sugary, colorful treat. I will say, we carried a box of these back on our plane, and got a number of folks offering to help us “carry” it J
Personally, I preferred the Blue Star donuts- they were more real, unlike the Voodoo ones which had all this colorful candy and cereal and other stuff on them. All their donuts are brioche based, and the crème brulee flavor comes with a shot of Cointreau inserted. Delicious. We also got the old fashioned, which we enjoyed with a cup of coffee.
6. Broder – A Scandinavian style restaurant that emphasizes simple cooking, and opens for breakfast/brunch daily at 9am – yes please! All menu items are Swedish or Nordic inspired – and I’d recommend getting a mix of sweet and savory dishes. We loved the Danish pancakes (Aebleskiver), and the Lefse (potato crepes) with eggs and spinach. Each bite was delicious,and given how hard it is to find Scandinavian food (or even otherwise!), I’d highly recommend a stop here if you are in Portland.
Other highlights included Pine State Biscuits (yes, Portland is a biscuit town also), Salt and Straw for innovative and adventurous ice cream (think blue cheese), and multiple coffee stops at the many Stumptown Coffee Locations.