For a relatively small city, Portland, Oregon has developed an outsized reputation as a foodie haven. Pretty much every major food magazine
has glowingly chronicled its restaurants, food carts, renegade chefs, fresh produce and farm-to-table ethos. The television show Portlandia mocked the city’s well-known artisan food scene with what's become an iconic theme song, We Can Pickle That
. But perhaps the most telling evidence of all is the growing number of Portland based restaurants and gourmet shops that have opened second locations in that second-rate little restaurant hamlet, New York City.
The biggest problem that a visitor will face is selecting what and where to eat, and with self-restraint, because it is not difficult to eat around the clock. On the first challenge, the city’s visitors association, Travel Portland, maintains an excellent website with smart food and drink selections. Here are some highlights.
Food carts and food trucks are now ubiquitous across the country, but Portland is arguably the pioneer of the trend, and has the most developed food cart scene per capita of any city in the country. Food carts are organized into “pods”, often with seating areas so although the food is to-go, on a nice day it’s just like dining in an al fresco restaurant – with a huge variety of menu choices.
It can be hard to keep up with what’s new in food carts, but the blog Food Carts in Portland does an excellent job. Learn more about food carts.
Pine State Biscuits
is in many ways a typical Portland restaurant story. It started out as a food cart at the Portland Farmer’s Market, and it didn’t take long for these incredibly decadent breakfast sandwiches to create a following. Try the Reggie Deluxe – a buttermilk biscuit that contains fried chicken, bacon & cheese topped with gravy, and all of that topped with a fried egg. And then plan to take a nap.
Another great pick for breakfast? Mother's Bistro & Bar, which offers a wide range of breakfast dishes, from biscuits to migas.
Whiskey Soda Lounge is one of the Andy Ricker Southeast Asian restaurant empire, which is expanding nationally. In Portland, the flagship restaurant is the James Beard Award winning Pok Pok
, and there’s also Noi and another restaurant opening soon. In New York City, there are two Pok Pok locations, one a sit down restaurant in Brooklyn, the other a take out for the restaurant’s famous chicken wings. At Whiskey Soda Lounge, the concept is Thai food, but specifically the type of Thai food that you’d eat with drinks. There’s no shying away from the unfamiliar, like, for instance, Hu Muu Thwat, crispy deep fried strips of pig ear served with a black vinegar dipping sauce. The cocktails options are also creative, ranging from those made with drinking vinegars, to beer slushies, to cocktails made with local ingredients, like for instance a cherry gin gimlet, made with fresh local cherries.
Unusual flavor combinations are a hallmark of the PDX food scene and this gourmet ice cream store is no exception. Salt and Straw
describes itself as “farm-to-cone,” a moniker that makes perfect sense in this town. Although brown ale and bacon ice cream, or pear and blue cheese may not first pop into your mind when you first think of an ice cream treat, Salt and Straw will have you changing your mind. You could stick with safe flavors, but why not give honey balsamic strawberry with cracked black pepper a try?