Portland’s Food Scene
It’s blasphemy to admit that, in general, eating good food is not my sole mission in life. I’m only mildly interested in trying out a cool, new restaurant. When it comes to food, I’m the type to eat what sounds/looks good to me at the moment. I also think my tongue is desensitized from eating too much spicy food, so I’m not a fair judge. Don’t get me wrong – I have a pretty adventurous palate, and I love to eat good food. I just don’t go out of my way too often.
Portland struck a different chord. It was the quirky, nerdy, cute boy that made you (or maybe just me) excited to go to school. Portland made me excited to eat. Everything about Portland was Check out this restaurant! Go try the coffee! Drink all the beer! Don’t mind if I do! Even then, I don’t think we explored as much of the food as we wanted since there were only 10(?!) meals you could squeeze into 2 days. We made a valiant effort though. 🙂
One day had amazing weather, while it rained all throughout the next. Fortunately, the rain wasn’t strong enough to kill our buzz. We pushed on to do our exploring just enough so that our bellies could digest. It was the perfect, short getaway weekend.
Places to Eat
Stepping outside of our Airbnb, we spot a cafe right around the corner, another cafe across the street, another cafe down the street across the street, and so on. I couldn’t be happier.
When N and I landed in Portland at 9:55AM Friday morning, but couldn’t check into our Airbnb yet, we sought refuge for a few hours at the Happy Sparrow cafe. It was a warmly decorated cafe with a decent menu of drinks. I also had my first kolache (and not last) here, which I utterly obsessed over. On this first visit, I got the Texas link kolache with jalapenos, and N got the plain bacon and eggs for breakfast. The bread bun was so soft, like biting into fluffy marshmallows. I also ordered a Vietnamese coffee. N got the Merry Milk Tea. Smooth and not too sweet – perfecto.
So good that I brought the gang back the next day after our disappointing Blue Star donuts (sorry to the Blue Star/Voodoo fans) to grab more kolaches and another Vietnamese coffee hehe. This round consisted of chorizo, eggs, and cheese kolache for me and Jenn and a Thanksgiving cranberry, turkey stuffing kolache for N.
Do the Thai dominate the food market in Portland..? Because Thai restaurants popped up everywhere. Even when it clearly wasn’t a Thai restaurant, Thai fusion was evident in the food or menu or owners. I love Thai food by the way, so no complaints.
However, the group’s consensus was that Pok Pok let us down. The hyped Vietnamese fish sauce wings made our faces cringe with sodium overload. The plate that made them popular – grilled half or whole chicken stuffed with lemongrass, garlic, pepper, and cilantro served with unique dipping sauces – did not have much flavor. Among the group, we also split the curry noodles and chicken sate skewers. Nothing too special about those either.
SALT & STRAW
The flavors here had a lot of personality. Collectively, we sampled Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper, Buttered Mashed Potatoes & Gravy, Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons, and Spiced Goat Cheese & Pumpkin Pie. My couple-friends, Jenn & Ben (they should open an ice cream parlor) ended up with one Coava Coffee & Cocanú Craque cone and one Honey Lavender cone. “This tastes like a lavender candle,” Ben expressed. I think they both liked it. I don’t have a sweet tooth, so I didn’t get one. N thought he wanted the strawberry, balsamic one, but the sample yielded an overwhelming balsamic taste. No dessert for us.
There was a beer fridge in Whole Foods!
Darn, I don’t have a photo of this, but it was cool. We bought some. We drank them.
BLUE STAR DONUTS
Like I mentioned earlier, Blue Star disappointed. I thought my nonexistent sweet tooth made me unfairly biased. To my surprise, the group showed little enjoyment for the donuts as well. The flavors sounded delicious though. Second picture, from top left corner: Orange olive oil, chocolate buttermilk, the OG, and blueberry bourbon basil. Missing flavors: Mexican hot chocolate and apple fritter. I guess the good thing was these donuts weren’t too sweet.
NONG’S KHAO MAN GAI
Ding, ding ding!!! Favorite of the trip for everyone! Now that I think about it, the four of us were consistently on the same page with the food during this trip. This place is famous for its adapted Hainan chicken dish. It sounds pretty simple – boiled chicken, steamed rice with ginger dipping sauce. How the heck can it be so good?! I’m not sure. The tender chicken dipped in yummy ginger sauce, bites of crunchy, pickled veggies, and a small bowl of hot, chicken broth to slurp on brought it home for me. All comes with the order. To add to the magic, a thai tea float! Fireworks all over my taste buds. 😀 😀 I don’t even want to mention it because it doesn’t matter – we ordered a chicken peanut with rice dish too. Don’t do it, just go for the Hainan chicken plate. N and I circled back to eat here again on our last day after we dropped off Jenn & Ben at the airport since our flight was later muhaha.
Sushi was a must-try in Portland for Ben, former sushi chef in San Jose. This restaurant was semi-fancy, great ambiance, and had a bar. Service was awesome. I thought the sushi was good. Not an authentic sushi restaurant as it offered special rolls and all that. My favorite was the spicy scallops nigiri. Overall, it was a standard, decent sushi place and great for a get together environment.
POR QUE, NO ?
I absolutely love tacos. My go-to: al pastor on corn tortilla, topped with slices of pineapple, topped with tons of onion and cilantro, and drenched in spicy salsa. Feed me that, and we will be best friends. LA taco trucks have spoiled me rotten.
Anyway, I ordered al pastor tacos at this super casual, hipster looking restaurant, and I give it 5 out of 10 by my taco standards. The meat tasted very marinated. Pineapples present at least. There was cheese, which I’m indifferent about on my tacos. The habanero salsa made it for me, of course. I wasn’t super impressed, yet I walked out of the restaurant content overall.
TASTY N’ SONS
We planned on going to Screen Door for our final meal together in Portland. Did a drive-by and saw a snaking line, probably due to Sunday brunch time. Said nope and went to Tasty N’ Sons instead, which was still a solid Plan B. We stood in a more manageable queue and, thankfully, got seated within the first round.
I like Portland because the food usually comes with a twist. It’s different, it’s weird. I would recommend the steak & eggs with cornmeal on the brunch menu. It came out in a steaming, hot plate. The steak looked to-die-for medium rare. The cornmeal bed had flavor; however, there was a lot of it. Jenn ordered french toast with a scoop of whippity, whipped cream plopped on top. The softness of it melted in my mouth and tasted like a sponge cake. I also really like whipped cream. Of course, you can’t have a brunch without two small plates of kim-chi. What? Yup. Oh, and tequila bubblies.
Wow, we ended up eating a lot in two days! That’s the end of our food adventures. I planned on adding what we actually did, besides stuffing our faces, but I don’t want to bore you with the unimportant details. Instead, I’m just going to list them and add pictures. 🙂 Hope this post got your appetite craving to go to Portland!
Shopping at Columbia Gorge Outlets, or anywhere (NO SALES TAX!)