I continue on my rampage of “I could move to Portland” comments, while ignoring the eye-rolling response it elicits from Andrew. But seriously, I could move to Portland…if only there were jobs for us. And while the natural scenery there is beautiful, that’s not why I would move there. I’d go for the food. Always the food. Here’s a list of the great places we ate and if you’re up in Portland for the weekend, don’t miss them!
Blue Star Donuts (website)
Start your day off with the delicious and not-too-sweet brioche donuts from Blue Star. They’re so light and fluffy, I ate 2 donuts myself, when I usually take a pass on sweets for breakfast. My favorites were the passionfruit cacao nib donut and the blackberry compote with peanut butter powder donut, although the chocolate ganache one was a very close contender. I prefer the location in downtown Portland over the one in Hawthorne, but to each their own. If you go to the location in downtown, Heart Coffee is very close by, although you can just get Stumptown coffee at Blue Star.
Some people enjoy Voodoo Donuts, but to this San Francisco Bay native, it feels like the Haight threw up in there. Not a fan…
Ava Gene’s (website)
If I lived in Portland, I would eat at Ava Gene’s at least once a week, possibly more. People who know me know that I love Locanda in SF, but Ava Gene’s can out-Locanda Locanda. It is THAT good. Everything we had here was delicious - cauliflower salad, calamari fritto misto, pasta with tripe (Andrew had something tamer but he didn’t offer me a taste so I assume he liked it) and panna cotta. Usually we pass on dessert unless it’s a tasting menu, but everything was so good, we just wanted to keep eating.
It’s fancy and great for a special occasion, so this is where we ate for our 2 year anniversary dinner. We had like 15 courses (chef’s tasting menu) but they were all delicious and very innovative, bursting with flavor, especially the “tastes” that you get to start the meal. I’m not sure if Castagna would consider itself molecular gastronomy, but I might.
Pok Pok (website)
If you want great Thai food, this is the place to go. Chef Andy Ricker recently released his cookbook (Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand) and I’m looking forward to receiving it as a Christmas present. We had to eat at 4:30 pm in order to avoid the hours-long wait (although we still had to wait 30 minutes), but it worked out well for us as we could eat before we went to the airport. If you can’t eat at an ungodly hour and you don’t want to wait forever, take-out might be your best option. We got the famous chicken wings and the beef salad. Both were excellent!
Salt & Straw (website)
This ice cream shop with 3 locations in Portland just opened their first one in LA. The efficiency of the operations at the Salt & Straw I went to was quite impressive, but I guess it has to be in order to keep the long lines moving. San Francisco is no slacker in the ice cream department, so I can’t say that Salt & Straw was better than anything I’ve ever had. However, they are the only ice cream shop that has a pear and blue cheese ice cream. The only other time I’ve tasted that combination in ice cream was at my wedding when it accompanied the salad. For that, Salt & Straw gets kudos.
Nong’s Khao Man Gai (website)
A food truck that serves chicken and rice (Hainan chicken) and that’s it. It was delicious comfort food for this Asian who grew up on those flavors. I was lucky enough to get some fried chicken skin bits on top of my chicken and rice. Go early or they’ll run out. Unfortunately, I ate the whole thing before I could take a picture of it. Oops.
Multnomah Whiskey Lounge (website)
1700 bottles of whiskey line the walls in a beautiful setting like an old library. This is not your dive bar. Ordering a cocktail is a production and they make it table-side on a cart. Definitely make a reservation or go early and leave your name. While you wait, you can walk around the Pearl District. The hostess will call you on your cell when your table’s ready.
P.S For coffee, hit up Heart Coffee, Stumptown or Ristretto.
If you have recommendations for Portland, please share them in the comments. I can’t wait to go back.