A champion of earthy and organic food, Portland—also known as PDX or Bridgetown due to its many bridges—is a pioneer in the farm-to-table, tip-to-tail, and slow-food culinary movements. Delightfully quirky (the local motto is “keep Portland weird”) and increasingly international, the city’s neighbourhoods are filled with an eclectic mix of one-of-a-kind food trucks and elegant fine-dining options. There is no better time to visit this Pacific Northwest gem.
2 Must-try Restaurants
Describing its constantly changing tasting menu as “horticultural cuisine,” the focus here is on the fields, farms and forests surrounding Oregon’s largest city. It’s personal, too—set in a cozy space just across the river from downtown. Book ahead and pull a stool up to the counter to chat with chef Aaron Adams as he creates dishes made from edible flowers and an array of other foraged, vegan ingredients. A recent menu included Lonesome Whistle hominy corn grits with kumquat, which is as poetic as it is satisfyingly delicious.
Operating since 1879, Portland’s oldest restaurant claims to have invented Spanish coffee and still serves its version—a mix of Cruzan 151 rum, Bols triple sec, Kahlua, coffee, nutmeg and whipped cream—tableside out of blue flaming cups. Long specializing in comfort food, especially turkey dinners served with mashed potatoes, sage dressing, gravy and cranberry sauce, it is also known for fresh, local seafood. Huber’s never closes early, no matter what. Rumour has it that when the place once flooded, the owner served Spanish coffee from a rowboat.
Brunch, Lunch, and Dinner
Brunch: Screen Door
Located east of downtown in Kerns, Screen Door’s weekend brunch is one of the city’s best—tuck into fried oyster po-boys (made with local oysters), eggs Benedict or chicken and waffles.
A simple luncheonette, Maurice adds French flair to the midday meal. Owner and chef Kristen D. Murray worked as a pastry chef in France, and her desserts are the stuff of legends.
Dinner: Pok Pok
Small, but mighty, Pok Pok on Southeast Division Street is known for its Southeast-Asian street food, especially its Vietnamese-style chicken wings that are tossed in fish sauce and served with pickled vegetables.
3 Beer and Cocktail Stops
From fruity ales and cocktails made from local ingredients, to distilleries making award-winning spirits, Portland is full of places to raise a glass—or two.
This is one of the Pacific Northwest’s largest whiskey distilleries and visitors to its facility near the Willamette River can take a tour and then stop for a tasting—the signature single malt Westward Whiskey is the star, but the artisanal rum, vodka, aquavit and limited-release pours are also worthy of a shot.
The menu changes twice a year with many ingredients sourced locally or made in house—try the Everything Zen made with Macchu Pisco, Suze aperitif and a macadamia nut tincture.
Portland has always been on the leading edge of the craft beer movement and Upright Brewing is one of the city’s best—try its selection of fruity, farmhouse ales.
Tarts, Pie, and Chocolate
Ken Forkish, a James Beard Award nominee, makes some of the best sweet treats at Ken’s Artisan Bakery, including the Oregon Croissant, made from local berries and hazelnut cream, and fresh fruit tarts that change with the seasons. Pick up some sweet and savoury pies (the apple sour cream streusel is the speciality) at Pacific Pie Company, before trying the decadent truffles and Mayan chocolate at Moonstruck Chocolate Café.
Open from lunch to early morning (think 3 a.m. cravings), Cartopia is a grouping of food trucks on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard. Positioned in a circle—a cluster of picnic tables in its centre—the fare here is anything but standard. Try a single-size pie from Pyro Pizza, the wood-fired poultry at Chicken and Guns or Potato Champion’s savoury Belgian-style fries topped with chili cheese and pulled pork.