I recently spent five days in Portland with Nate. He consistently travels there for work and has completely falling in love with the city. It’s a bit of a foodie/mountain biking/hipster/yoga/healing/nature mecca and he’s convinced it’s the perfect city for us. It’s large enough that it offers everything we’d want from a city – arts, culture, public parks and events, walkability, lots of good food, great farmer’s markets, job opportunities, and accessibility to a somewhat major airport (because of course in our dream life we frequent Europe yearly).The culture of the city seems to really fit in line with our values, something we’ve found quite counter to living in LA land. Until last week I had only been to Portland once and though it seemed pretty cool, I wasn’t convinced it quite lived up to Nate’s rave reviews. I worried I was a bit too type A to live in such a bohemian, free-spirited city. But I over those five days I was proven oh so wrong, and now I’m completely smitten with everything about #PDX.
This trip we came prepared, with nearly fifty bookmarked places to check out from local recommendations, articles, food blogger recommendations, yelp reviews and places Nate has discovered in the weeks he’s spent there. We were thoroughly prepared and feel seriously proud for getting to experience nearly 20 different restaurants and food trucks in the span of five days. We treated the city of Portland like one big tapas bar, usually splitting just a single item, appetizer, drink, or dessert at each place we went. That way we basically got to try three times as many places because let's face it, when we're talking Portland, stomach space is a previous commodity! This worked particularly well because so much of Portland's food scene is casual/food truck oriented so we didn't have to feel guilty about taking up a table and ordering so little.
Lets start by saying, despite the fact that Portland loves in bacon (maple bacon doughnuts everywhere. Sorry bacon lovers, I just don’t get it.) its one of the most vegan/vegetarian friendly cities I’ve ever been to. We’re talking quinoa risotto, vegetarian bowl, chickpea burger, mushroom gravy biscuits, tempeh bacon. Yeah, I ate it all and it was super exciting. There are also approximately 239423042 juice bars/trucks. So somehow I managed to get my hands on quinoa and a green juice/smoothie five times during my trip! Go veg protein!
Because former me would have totally appreciated the recommendation of a fellow foodie, here is a nowhere near comprehensive, but personally tested and kneading home approved guide to Portland. Enjoy!
Salt & Straw. If you go to one place in Portland, go to Salt and Straw. Last year before Nate spent a month in Portland I read about this place on buzzfeed, saveur, and bon appetite all within the span of 3 days. I told Nate, you have to go to this place!!!. He went and then proceeded to return almost everyday of his trip. My husband is a bit of an ice cream connoisseur and this is the best he’s ever had. Lucky for fellow Los Angelenos they recently opened up a shop in Larchmont, but we like the Portland original shops the best. 1. Because they have a coconut milk flavor (yay dairy-free!) 2. We swear the scoops are bigger. Damn. You dieting Los Angelenos. And 3. the Portland scoops cost less. Though what do you expect living in LA… They offer a handful of regular flavors but update a second handful of seasonal flavors each month. It's all locally sourced and the flavors are the most complex and interesting flavors I have ever seen. If you’re not going for the Coconut with Salted Caramel Bars, my favorite flavor is the Cinnamon Snickerdoodle – richly flavored cinnamon ice cream swirled with giant chunks of soft gooey snickerdoodle cookies. You’re welcome.
Pip’s Original Doughnuts. Only the best doughnuts I’ve ever had. Sorry, Chicago. These little poppers are tiny sized, so be sure to order a bunch. Best of all they are made to order which means you’ll bite into them while they are piping hot and literally still dripping with a bit of grease – don’t worry, you can drink a green juice afterwards. They have 6 simple flavors; we tried all but the maple bacon, and can attest they are all delicious. But it’s really about the freshness and the crunchy just-fried texture of these beauties. Simplicity is perfection with this place. I also had a "smokey robinson" chai tea which was super interesting and I'm pretty sure infused with liquid smoke- like nothing I have ever tasted. They are famous for their chai and have tons of flavors- you can even do a chai flight! How cozy!
Prasad – I went to yoga Friday morning while Nate worked and discovered this not-so-secret-don’t-believe-me-check-out-their-yelp-reviews café, which shares a space with the yoga studio. I went three times in the four and a half days I was there, and am convinced if I lived in Portland I’d visit at least once a week. They serve made to order fresh juices, smoothies, breakfast, and vegetarian bowls – basically all the things I eat while I’m at home, but better. They are completely vegan and gluten-free. Their Chili Bowl was divine with spicy house-made black bean chili, quinoa, sautéed kale, flavorful cashew dressing, and a giant serving of avocado. Definitely one of the best meals I had on the trip. Sharing a space with the yoga studio, this place has a quiet relaxed vibe.
Andina This was one of the only two full-service restaurants we ate all. Hello food trucks and fast casual dining. And it was one of the best, most interesting, completely re-defines my ideas of food, meal I’ve had in a long time. Get a reservation or be prepared to wait a while because this place has a bold reputation, and rightfully so. We started out with bread served with three traditional Peruvian sauces – a peanut based sauce, a spicy passion fruit sauce, and a bright fresh chimichurri type sauce with tons of kick. Let me be clear, this was just the free bread that came with the table. Yeah. Awesome. We then had a potato small plate smothered in three more completely unlike anything I’d ever tasted sauces and roasted caramelized peanuts. So good. They had an entire vegetarian menu. Not kidding, which is flipping amazing. I ordered quinoa risotto “Quinotto” with fresh market vegetables, laced with truffle oil, and decorated with a plate full of colourful sauces. It came out looking like plain old quinoa until I took a bit and my mind was blown. Seriously. Go here. It's a bit on the fancier side with copper tables and dark, cozy atmosphere. Definitely a special place.
Hot Lips Pizza They have vegan pizza. Woah. It looked fantastic, but I splurged on some roasted vegetable with feta. It was even more delicious with a giant glass of red wine. Great lunch place. Top-notch casual pizza.
Blue Star Donuts Donuts for Grown-ups - one of their slogans, pretty perfectly sums up this place. Delicious donuts with super creative, interesting and complex flavors, made fresh with high quality real ingredients. When we got there at 3:00pm on a Saturday afternoon there was a 20+ minute line out the door and a lot of the most popular flavors had already sold out. We had the blueberry bourbon basil which was super basil-y and really interesting with flavors that grew on you the more bites you took. We also had the buttermilk lemon poppyseed which was insane - perfect balance of sweet and tart real lemon flavor a-top a perfectly crispy old-fashioned cake style donut. Definitely worthy of the hype.
Potato Champion This was the first thing I ate after touching down in Portland. It's part of an open park of food trucks encircling a quaint picnic area. Super cute. Super Portland. Fantastic food truck in part of a little square of food trucks. We had the palak paneer fries - the perfect fusion of Indian sag paneer with thick cut Belgian frites topped with a sweet cilantro chutney. So good. So interesting. I've never had anything like it.
Por Que No This place was packed when we walked by on a Thursday night. Loved the casual atmosphere of ordering at the bar then seating yourself. We ordered guac with freshly made grease-still-on-them (in a good way) chips, the pomegranate margarita (super strong, super delish), house-made horchata, and a veggie taco. The tacos were small, but super cheap, and meant to be ordered in large batches. Everything was delicious and the restaurant had a fun, eclectic, yet relaxed atmosphere.
Portland State Farmer’s Market Hands down the BEST and biggest farmer's market I have ever been to. The selection of fresh produce and artisan foods make this place a foodie heaven. They have everything from vegan cheese spreads, homemade kombucha, french bakeries, local jams, breakfast burritos stands and tons of food carts. The vendors are friendly, knowledgable and give lots of free samples. This is the first farmer's market I've ever seen with re-usable dishes/utensils and labeled bins for returning them. If only all farmer's markets could be this progressive. This was one of the highlights of my entire trip.