Incase you didn’t know, Portland has amazing food. Really. Amazing. Food. Quite an epic culinary scene, if I do say so myself. Being the foodie that I am, that was one of my main reasons for visiting. Before my arrival, I spent hours researching and creating an entire Google map bookmarked with vegan bakeries, food carts, and other up-and-coming cafes. This in particular was a major help. Although I am not vegan (let me repeat–NOT vegan), I love vegetarian and vegan food mainly because the cuisine is so innovative and healthy. Plus I like to adhere to the fact that food can be equally just as delicious and satisfying without exploitation or mass-killing of animals. I try to make it a point to hit up veggie restaurants also because it is one of the only ways I can get a decent dose of fruits and vegetables in my diet while traveling. So here I’ll give you a glimpse of what I stumbled upon and loved, liked, and wished I could have gone to (but didn’t have the time). There’s is most definitely another Portland adventure in the works (other than planning on living there in a few years), so I’ll get through the whole list (and then some) eventually…
The Doug Fir is rad. I fell in love with the interior design (and the shows they host) more than the food, but this was my first available meal after I landed so I’m not complaining. Definitely decent. I just so happened to be there for “Crafty Wonderland” and I wish I could have tried other dishes, especially for dinner. It’s mainly a bar, but for bar-focused restaurant, I was definitely impressed with the offerings. Pictured above is the “Farmer Sandwich”, roasted veggies and cheese (and I asked for some sliced turkey in it as well), and a side salad.
Two Tarts Bakery
Two Tarts is a great little bakery off of 23rd NW that offers cute artisan mini-cookies, namely grapefruit shortbread and peanut butter creams. ‘Nuff said.
This happened to be a cupcake pit-stop I encountered walking in the downtown district the first day. Had never heard of it before, but I was pleasantly surprised. I bought two mini-cupcakes (one peanut butter, I can’t remember the other…) and was stoked.
CORN-MEAL CRUST PIZZA. How can you go wrong?! Pretty damn good, if I say so myself. This pie was half eggplant, mozzarella, bleu cheese, basil with fresh tomatoes, and half house-made fennel sausage, mozzarella, caramelized onion, marinated green peppers, and tomato sauce. The beet salad (not pictured), was also pretty bomb. Dove Vivi, I heart thee.
Cool Moon Ice Cream
Cool Moon is the ice cream of all ice cream places. So many flavors to choose from, it’s almost overwhelming. I mean, look at this list! I had two flavors: ginger chai, and the other was “kulfi”, which was pretty much my dream ice cream flavor imitating a classic indian frozen dessert, consisting of my favorite things combined into one: pistachio, cardamom, and rosewater. Impressive.
BAKERY BAR. O.M.G. Um, I’d have to say, probably my favorite bakery next to Sweetpea (further down). And it just so happened to be less than a minute walking distance away from where I was staying for the week. I wish I hit it up more often than I did, but I let go of all self control on my last day and bought cookies and breads left and right to take home with me on the plane. I took home lemon-rosemary shortbreads, chocolate coffee bread, a chocolate chip cranberry oatmeal cookie, and, my favorite: the vegan chocolate peanut butter banana cookie… I was all over that. They’re fairly new and still expanding but you would have no suspicions because they are on it. I’m so in love with this place that I even inquired about a baking internship (in my dreams…) but hey, you never know, they do exist. Part-time dental hygienist, part-time baker at the Bakery Bar. It could happen. Check out their amazingly cute cakes!
Pictured above is a soy mocha chai and a roasted veggie goat cheese breakfast egg sandwich. I love you, Bakery Bar!
Saint Cupcake was probably the best cupcake bakery I went to. I just so happened to unexpectedly come upon the one in the NW (a way bigger location than the one on SE Belmont, as shown in the last two pictures) and went from being disappointed from not being able to get in to see a movie at the Mission to instantly giddy because it didn’t matter anymore–I stumbled upon cupcake heaven! That was way better than getting in to see Sunshine Cleaning. And what was best of all was that they had the only two flavors I wanted to try that day (flavors change daily): Pumpkin Spice, and a Fat Elvis. Alongside a little carton of milk, I was in heaven. Saint Cupcake rocks.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters @ The Ace
Now I’m not a coffee drinker, but it would’ve been a sin for me to pass up Stumptown while being in Portland. It’s a must. I conveniently checked it out while visiting the Ace Hotel one day (my favorite hotel in the world), bought a bag of beans to take home to a coffee lover, a thyme iced tea for myself (incredible), and a halfway-decent blackberry scone. I’m sure it’s great coffee though. The decaf lattes I had at other various places (ie. Bakery Bar) serve Stumptown, I’m pretty sure, and those were definitely yummy. While you’re at this location, you can hop in the photobooth in the lobby of the Ace and check out the amazing mural in the stairway leading up to the rooms!
These photos don’t do these fancy Bon Appetit-esque desserts justice. Pix happened to be a post-dinner sweet stop on the way home, after I’d already been sugared out from cupcakes and such earlier on in the day. So my taste buds can’t really give an honest review other than the “birds nest” I ordered was too sugary for my liking. This is a place I definitely need to go back to to fully enjoy.
Tin Shed Garden Cafe
This was one of my top must go-to places. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the Tin Shed is an eco-friendly, yummy restaurant that has an awesome little outdoor patio and a really nice vibe. I’d been dreaming about the sweet potato brioche french toast before I even left Santa Cruz. That’s how obsessed I got. Everything on their menu sounded so amazing, it was hard to choose. I ended up getting a scramble that consisted of mushrooms, garlic, spinach, bleu cheese, candied walnuts, and green apple. Honestly, it left me a little disappointed because the garlic overpowered all of the other flavors and the portion was a tad smaller than my stomach wanted. The sweet potato french toast, on the other hand, definitely stood up to my expectations. I wanted to go back again and again and again (their dinner offerings sounded amazing, as well!) but the fact that this place was a little bit of a barge to get to (up on NE Alberta) kind of made it a challenge. Tin Shed, I heart you and will be back to you!
Choosing the “right” place to go to breakfast in Portland was probably the hardest thing to do while I visited. There is an overwhelming abundance of choices and I had no idea whose opinion to trust because everyone has different tastes and the reviews of certain places were inconsistent. Well, here’s one that I kind of kicked myself in the fanny for going to. I showed up absolutely famished and indecisive and as you can tell, I didn’t get a decent picture of the whole deal because I scarfed that three-egg salmon/spinach/manchego frittata down before I knew what hit me. My order was misinterpreted so I had to wait an additional 20 minutes or so on top of everything. I was way over it. It really wasn’t that impressive. Although I did thoroughly enjoy their homemade cardamom toast.
McMenamin’s Kennedy School
I have a love/hate relationship with McMenamin’s only because you have to be 21 and over or be accompanied by a parent to attend their movie theaters because they serve alcohol. I’ll get over it and thoroughly love them though in a few months when I return. Kennedy School is pretty darn rad though. It’s a historic elementary school converted into a lovely lodge. Former classrooms were converted into guest rooms, a restaurant, movie theater, soaking pool, and brewery. I can’t wait to go back and stay the night sometime. Back to the food though. My vanilla milkshake and creole steak bourbon sandwich pretty much hit the spot. The other menu offerings sound pretty delicious as well. Definitely hit this place up.
If you couldn’t already tell by the dozen or so pictures I’ve posted, I was completely obsessed with Moxie RX. I first heard of ’em through a Sunset review of the top 10 food carts in Portland and knew I had to go. They’re only open on the weekends so I had to strategically plan on going there the day before I left. They’re way up on Mississippi Ave. (a bit past Alberta where the Tin Shed is) but this place alone would make me want to live in that area. I would go here every (open) day for breakfast, lunch, and more. This little food trailer made my trip complete. Everything about it. The style, food, dishes, Pee Wee Herman picnic bench… HELLO! Completely head-over-heels in love with Moxie. I had a soy “Rx smoothie” (banana, almond butter, dates) and the “Eggs & Greens” (greens with smoked salmon, mushrooms, lemon thyme vinaigrette, topped with a fried egg and roasted leeks) — out of this world. I also bought a fig & goat cheese panini to-go. This place left me with purely undeniable happiness.
Oh Pok Pok. The thai place of Portland. Critics claim it is one of the best restaurants in the city. I have to be honest, it definitely didn’t live up to all the hype I heard. But then again, I hate spicy food and thai food probably isn’t my favorite for that reason alone. I wanted to love it. I really did. Spicyness aside, it was decent. I really enjoyed the chicken wings and the roasted game hen that was infused and marinated for god knows how long to get those amazing flavors in it, but I couldn’t order much else off the menu in fear of spice. We ordered the special deep fried halibut and destroyed the whole thing but the sauce below it was like a lava pit and had to be avoided at all costs. It was definitely a protein-packed dinner. At least I was still able to gorge out on Voodoo doughnuts afterward.
Oh. My. Goddess. Never in my life did I ever imagine a doughnut shop such as this. It really blew me away. Now this place definitely lived up to the hype. After Pok Pok on a Friday night around 10 or so, this place had a line out the door. We intended to go to the one downtown SW but the line was around the block! So we went to the smaller, second location in NE. Either way, it rocked the planet. A rotating carousel of a zillion different kinds of crazy DOUGHNUTS?!?!? I was mesmerized by the thing, trying to make up my mind as I stood in line for ten minutes. Their flavor combos are incredible. For less than 6 bucks, I got three doughnuts and a small carton of milk. And not to mention, they sell VEGAN doughnuts!!! See that chocolate oreo one above drizzled with peanut butter? Vegan! And uber delicious, as well. I couldn’t tell the difference between a vegan and a non-vegan one. The PB&J ended up being my favorite. I usually despise jelly-filled doughnuts but this was an exception. If you thought PB&J couldn’t get better than it already is, well this will prove you wrong. Best doughnuts of my life. No joke. They even cater for weddings!
Sip Juice Cart
I was really stoked on going to this drink cart for two main reasons: vegan milkshakes that had received rave reviews from bloggers, and the fact that it was right next to the People’s Co-op, which just happened to be having a vegan bake sale that day. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like something sweet when I finally got there (a chocolate PB shake would’ve been bombbbbb), so I ordered a “green” smoothie (Greensicle) to get a few greens in my life instead and that consisted of kale, spinach, banana, orange, vanilla, and agave. Yummy but not worth $4. Next time a vegan shake it’ll be!
Vegan Bake Sale @ People’s Co-op
I just so happened to come across the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale website a few weeks before I arrived and was so stoked to find out that there was going to be one in Portland while I was there! I couldn’t get over how perfect the timing was. It was located upstairs above the grocery store and man, there was definitely a plethora of vegan goods to choose from! Chocolate peanut butter brownies, cupcakes, cookies, muffins, etc. My favorite was the blueberry green tea cupcake. The worldwide bake sale is such a great idea. One of these days I’m going to participate.
Papa G’s is an all-vegan organic deli in the SE that is almost equivalent to SC’s Dharma’s. No one can beat Dharma’s though. The staff was really friendly and the food served quickly. This was another one that I had read mixed reviews on. But I went anyway. I had a Tempeh Reuben burger made out of wild rice and a side of the coconut sweet potato smash. Okay, the sweet potatoes alone were to die for. It was almost like dessert. How in the world they got to make them like that, I have no idea, but I want to know their secret. So creamy, thick, and sweet, like no other mashed sweet potatoes I’ve had before. I was in love. That was enough to make up for the semi-hard rice in the tempeh burger that kept making crunchy noises when I bit into it. I’d give this place another chance, or maybe just go and eat those smashed taters alone.
I didn’t intentionally save the best meals for last, it just so happened that my top two favorite meals of the whole trip were in the last 24 hours before I left. The last night I was there, I wanted a bomb dinner. Being the difficult, picky eater that I can sometimes be, I was choosey about where to go to as to be sure to end my Portland experience on a high note. I wanted so badly to go to Portobello, waited all week for it, but was unaware of the fact that reservations were pretty much necessary unless I wanted to wait for two hours until a table opened up. Roaming up and down the streets, nothing sounded too good (I even passed up Ken’s Artisan Pizza). But then, aha! Tapalaya! I took a quick glance at the menu and was intrigued. “Bites of New Orleans” and small plates/tapas, something eclectic and different. Probably the best meal I’ve ever had. No joke. I had almost every single one of my favorite foods combined into one entire dining experience. We ordered about 10 small plates: pork tenderloin with a smoked bleu cheese fondue and Texas toast, Gumbo, a biscuit stuffed with a shrimp stew (did I mention that Portland is all about biscuits for some reason?! still haven’t figured that one out…) Veggie Jambalaya with butternut squash and cauliflower (very risotto-like), portobello fries, wild mushroom bread pudding with an amazing savory gravy sauce, house-made corn bread, and god knows what else. All I know is that I was in heaven. For dessert, they offered homemade ice cream and the waiter told us we had to try the bacon flavor. Reluctantly, we ordered that alongside a piece of pecan pie. Sounds weird, I know, and I’m not a huge bacon fan, but it was surprisingly good–a nice balance of salty, smoky, and non-overpowering bacon flavor. One little taste was enough to do me in. What I wanted most of all was to try the sweet potato ice cream but they were out! Oh well. It was still amazing. And the service was incredible. We had the raddest waiter in the world. I loved him. I would drive 500 miles to go to this restaurant alone. It was that good. Do yourself a favor and go to Tapalaya on NE 28th. You will not be disappointed.
Sweetpea Bakery impressed me on so many levels. Not only do they make fabulous vegan wedding cakes and cupcakes, sandwiches, the best friggin’ vegan chocolate peanut butter oatmeal bar that will make your eyes roll backward (the Charlie Brown), but they have a vegan brunch every Sunday as well! I visited this lovely establishment twice, and the second time was a Sunday morning for the $10 all-you-can-eat gluten-free brunch before my departure. The variety was amazing and satisfying. I got all my food groups in one meal practically! Gluten-free pancakes, biscuits and gravy, steamed kale, asparagus-tofu scramble, herb-roasted potatoes, stewed strawberries, and the best of all that made me go back for seconds: the peach crisp. Holy moly. That’s all I can say… But back to the Charlie Brown bar. Seriously, a peanut butter freaks dream come true. I was almost needing an insulin pen after that one. But if you like peanut butter at all, you’ll love Charlie Brown. Sweetpea, I love and miss you dearly and will be frequenting you often once I move to the lovely city you are located in.
Here’s a list of a few places I missed and can’t wait to try next time:-Portobello Vegan Trattoria–Paradox Cafe–Bye and Bye–Blossoming Lotus–Laughing Planet–Clyde Common–Besaw’s–Garden State–Bunk–Toro Bravo–The Farm Cafe–Por Que No Taqueria–Genie’s–Broderand many, many more….
So! There you have it! I hope some may find this useful, especially since it took me almost five hours to compile this whole thing together (no wonder I was putting it off for so long…). But it’s nice to look back on it now and feel content in my Portland culinary excursions. Portland has great food, and that’s an understatement.