In 2007, Portland was recognized by the Food Network Awards as the “Delicious Destination of the Year: A Rising City with a Fast-Growing Food Scene.” This food scene includes everything from full-on restaurants to breweries to food trucks on street corners. Here are some highlights from our trip!
Saturday Farmer’s Market at PSU: Portland has an amazing farmer’s market, which was named one of the five best farmer’s markets in the United States by Eating Well Magazine in 2007. The market rotates to different locations in the city every day of the week, but make a point to visit the market on Saturday, when masses of vendors set up shop in a square at Portland State University. Be sure to try some of Oregon’s famous berries (particularly the marionberries), but also save room for samples of cheese, meats, jams, honey, nut butters, baked goods, cider, beer, wine, and other goodies. If you’re more in the mood for a full meal, there are also plenty of stands with more substantial fare, such as Lauretta Jean’s, where we picked up slices of fresh-baked quiche.
Food Carts: Portland has a food cart scene that is probably best described as Off the Grid On Steroids. There are hundreds of food carts scattered in batches all over the city, sometimes even lined up all the way around an entire city block. I opted for chicken curry from the E-San Thai cart at SW 10th and Adler, where literally every dish is $5, and definitely provides enough food for multiple meals. If you go a bit further afield up to NW 23rd Street (which is a great little area filled with cute boutiques and cafes), you can find the PBJ’s Grilled cart, which sells gourmet grilled twists on the classic PBJ. For a peanut butter addict like myself, my grilled “Oregonian” with Rogue Creamery blue cheese, marionberry jam and hazelnut butter was a little slice of heaven.
Mother’s Bistro & Bar: This lovely restaurant with quaint farmhouse decor is apparently the place for brunch in Portland, as evidenced by the hordes of people waiting for tables outside. Even with an 11:30 reservation (on a Friday, not even on a weekend) we weren’t seated until close to noon, but that being said, the food was definitely worth the wait. My friend and I both ordered the open-faced Greek Frittata with fresh spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese and kalamata olives, which was reasonably-priced at $9.95. Oh, and it was also completely delicious. We both eventually had to ask our waiter to take our plates away to stop us from practically licking our plates clean. If you can’t make it for brunch, consider grabbing a seat at the bar in the evening, when Mother’s serves up some killer cocktails, such as the Thai Sparkling Lemonade with ginger infused vodka, muddled basil, ginger puree, and fresh-made lemonade.
Voodoo Doughnuts: I literally can’t remember the last time I had a donut, which I view as the most flagrant example of empty carbs and bad sugars, but I felt that a trip to Portland wouldn’t be complete without checking out Voodoo Doughnuts on SW 3rd Avenue. Voodoo serves up an eclectic assortment of donuts, topped with everything from bacon to Froot Loops. Apparently they used to produce donuts that were glazed with Nyquil and dusted with Pepto-Bismal, but thankfully health officials have since outlawed those creations. Still, I think it’s safe to say that Voodoo’s location directly across the street from the “Keep Portland Weird” mural is 100% justified. Voodoo is definitely worth checking out, but be warned: I experienced a pretty miserable sugar crash!
Stumptown Coffee Roasters: Aside from the occasional soy latte, which I don’t think I’ll ever give up, I’ve pretty much stopped drinking coffee over the past year. However, if Stumptown Coffee Roasters had a location in San Francisco, I’d be back on the java train immediately! This independent coffee roaster and retailer has a few locations in Portland, as well as in Seattle and New York City. I had recently read that the best iced coffee is cold-brewed (i.e. steeped in cold water, rather than just poured over ice), so I was excited to order a “Stubbie,” which is Stumptown’s 10-ounce bottle of cold-brewed, freshly-bottled coffee. The coffee was indeed smooth, mild, and not too bitter…in a word, delicious.
Tea Zone & Camellia Lounge: If you’re more into tea leaves than coffee beans, check out this tea lounge in the Pearl District. The menu features hundreds of types of tea from all around the world. I ordered a comforting black tea with traces of vanilla, which arrived in a small kettle along with an hourglass timer to alert me when it was time to remove the tea leaves. I found the Tea Zone to be the perfect place to sit down and relax for a while, but there’s also a lounge in the back serving cocktails, with happy hour specials and live music most days of the week.
While we hit most of the top spots, we also walked by a number of more off-the-beaten-track restaurants that I can’t wait to visit the next time I’m in Portland. Which, hopefully, will be soon!
During my senior year of college, in the course of searching for jobs and mulling over where I wanted to live post-graduation, I developed a mysterious obsession with Portland, Oregon. Had I ever been to Portland? Nope. But had I read and re-read Portland’s Wikipedia entry, with its references to Portland’s environmentally-conscious culture, its many independent coffeehouses and microbreweries, and its temperate oceanic climate? You betcha, and it was enough to convince me that I would be insanely happy if I could only find a job and move to Portland. Obviously, life took me elsewhere, and I didn’t get to test out this theory until I visited Portland this past weekend. I’m happy to report that the city lived up to all my expectations!
Portland is a lot like a smaller version of San Francisco, with a quirkiness that is proudly acknowledged in the famous “Keep Portland Weird” slogan. Simultaneously, there’s a feeling of health and wholesomeness, engendered by the trees lining every street, the abundance of vegan and gluten-free options, and the friendly, smiling people. At one point we walked past one of the many fountains filled with happily splashing kids, and I felt like I’d been transported back to an era of classic 1950s-style Americana.
A few general tips if you ever visit Portland:
Today I’ll write about things to do in Portland, and tomorrow I’ll write about places to eat and drink.
International Rose Test Garden: This stunning rose garden is located on the far west side of the city inside Washington Park, which is also home to a Japanese Garden and the Portland Zoo. The Rose Garden spans 4.5 acres and is filled with over 7,000 rose plants of approximately 550 varieties, including hybrids from all around the world. Walk to the highest end of the garden and look east for a beautiful view of Mount Hood through the trees. The garden is open 7:30am to 9:00pm daily, and admission is free.
Powell’s City of Books: This independent bookstore in the Pearl District (just north of Downtown) spans a full city block and is three stories tall, giving The Strand in Manhattan a serious run for its money. The store sells millions of new and used books, including rare and out-of-print books, and we easily spent over an hour wandering through the aisles (check out the store directory below to see why). Be sure to visit the Blue Room, where the 12-foot tall shelves filled with classics will remind you of just how any great books you haven’t read yet.
Saturday Market: This outdoor arts and crafts market by the waterfront is the largest open-air market in continuous operation in the United States. If you’re looking for some quirky Portland souvenirs, this is the place to go. There are a lot of the typical wares found at crafts fairs, such as soaps and candles, but it’s worth wandering through the stands to locate some of the more unique products, such as the jewelry and housewares made out of utensils, or the purses made out of old board games and book covers. Despite the name, the market is actually open on both Saturdays (10 to 5pm) and Sundays (11am to 4:30pm), from March through December.
Oregon Brewers Festival: Every year over the last weekend in July, dozens of breweries bring their finest ales to the Portland Waterfront for this four-day long beer festival, with over 80 brews on tap. Purchase a beer mug for $6 and tokens for $1 each, with one token buying you a (fairly hefty) taste of beer, and four tokens buying you an entire mug. Lines can get a bit long, but we discovered that this often didn’t correspond with the quality of the beer, so definitely check out some of the less popular brews. Some of our favorites included Beer Valley Brewing Company’s Jackalope Imperial Pumpkin Porter, Salmon Creek Brewery’s Oatus the Red, and Cascade Brewing Company’s Razberry Wheat.
Stay tuned for a second post tomorrow with details on where to eat and get your caffeine fix!