A Food Lover in Portland, OR- Top 5
Hi all my food loving adventure junkies! This post was written specifically for you.
A lot of my city visits are too quick. This means there is little time to explore all that each place has to offer. I know that a lot of people travel like me and only get a limited amount of time in their destination. This may be because the travel is work related, it’s just a long weekend away, or you’re just stopping through. Because we often have such little time to explore, I wanted to start sharing the top 5 food related destinations or activities that a given city has to offer! My latest short visit stop was in Portland, Oregon. We flew in and out of the airport on our way to our wine region destinations for our recent long vacation. We had a total of 24 hours to see the city. The list below is not comprehensive, but rather some key spots that are no fail for food lovers if you’re trying to make the best of your short time too!
1. Blue Star Donuts – Portland is known for not one, but two famous donut shops (Voodoo and Blue Star). After reading up on both brands before my visit, I felt that Voodoo was leaning closer to being more about the “experience” of the visit rather than the food itself. Although I didn’t try both, I now can personally understand reviewers observations that Blue Star Donuts has established focus on the actual donut and it’s ingredients. That simple. There are less than a dozen daily flavors and aside from a cup of coffee, there is nothing else in the shop. We tried four flavors ( 2 people couldn’t finish in one sitting….but hey…afternoon donut snacks are great!). The first three donuts all hwere a classic, cake dough type donut (my personal favorite kind). Mexican Hot Chocolate was super rich with fantastic chocolate ganache style frosting. But beware of the after kick of the cinnamon and cayenne. It is apparent enough to have you sipping water; but, I liked the hint of heat! Maple Bacon was…well there was bacon on it….enough said. But seriously, it’s that sweet and savory combo that screams breakfast. Olive Oil and Orange was the sleeper of the group. A simple classic donut with citrus undertones and a powdered sugar exterior. It was a refined bite that kept you coming back. The most fun donut was our Cointreau Crème Brulee that featured at plastic dispenser filled with Cointreau to squeeze into our crème centered, flaky donut. I loved the squishy dough and sweet crème center and the donut top was laden with torched sugar, just like in the original dessert. It’s clear Blue Star has integrity in their donut quality. It easily shines through and from a foodie’s perspective it is much appreciated. The chain now has locations across the city, so find the one closest to you at the moment and stop in. Be prepared for a few minutes wait time!
2. Lardo – Like all the Top 5 included in this list, I had eyed up Lardo long before setting foot in Portland. They are known for their pork heavy, deli style menu. An eatery that once started on the Portland food cart scene now has 2 brick and morter locations in town. It has a small straightforward menu that you order from at the register. Make sure to add on one of their local craft beers or cocktail concoctions. The lardo fries are a shoe-in side with parmesan and fried herbs topping them off. After asking the staff for recommendations, we went with the favorites, Pork Meatball Banh Mi and Korean Pork Shoulder. Both were slightly sweet, a tad tangy, and had a hint of spicy to them. And both were happily polished off. It’s an affordable, reliable place to grab lunch and a brew!
3. Portland Segway –You’re asking how does this fit in with food? Well, directly it doesn’t. But, Portland was the.perfect.city. to explore by Segway. Not only are segways a ton of fun but Portland isn’t too vast of a city, so you can digest most of the city in this one activity. We didn’t have long to explore Portland, so this was a perfect solution. I should also mention that local tour guides are impeccable people to ask for recommendations for restaurants. Most of them are locals so they can give you the inside scoop to avoid crowds or join in, depending on what you are looking for! This specific tour also had a brief “break” where we were able to run into Rogue Brewery (a must visit for local craft beer) for a quick tasting. Did I also mention you get to go over two of the cities bridges on the tour? Pretty darn cool.
4. PokPok– This was my most anticipated stop in Portland. Follow along with @pokpokpdx on Instagram and you’ll quickly understand why. Have you heard of the famous chef, Andy Ricker? Well, this is his brain child after many, many Thailand visits. He immersed himself into their food culture and has thoughtfully recreated some of their most classic dishes (you will not find plates like the Americanized Pad Thai on the menu). His Ike’s Fish Sauce Wing’s have made chicken wing top lists all over the internet, and after first hand experience I can say they rightfully have a place there. The exotic scents and spices will shock and excite your tastebuds. I encourage anyone who wants to have a true Asian experience to head to PokPok. As a warning, there is a pitcher at each table for a reason. Most of the dishes are spicy, not just a hint of heat, I mean nose dripping, tongue tingling, arms sweating spicy! But, it’s worth the discomfort.
5. Salt and Straw– Disclaimer- this one is not from first-hand experience. I did walk in, I did survey the twenty patrons deep line, and I did see the unique ice-cream flavors and the piled high cones in person. It was on my to-do list and one of their locations lives right across from PokPok. But, I overestimated my stomach space and couldn’t handle the extra course that evening. Salt and Straw is a homemade ice-cream parlor that serves up everything from “interesting” to downright ludicrous looking flavors. But, they must be doing something right with the long lines, great reviews and continued expansions. Sure you can get their plain Double Fold Vanilla but, why not try Pear and Gorgonzola or toasted Baguette PB&J ?
I hope you get to visit just one, or all of these locations! I know they made my time in Portland especially delicious!
…all for the love of the dish