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Sick of hearing about Portland yet? Yeah, me too – and I live here.
Words & images: Heidi Swift
Unfortunately, the rumors are true. We have the most rabidly awesome bicycle advocates, sweet green bike boxes, the skinniest and whitest hipsters, kick-ass music and a whole city full of fun-employed people knitting cozy sleeves for bike racks (Really – yarn-bombing… google it.) As I was putting this together my friend Dan urged me not to promote the “Portlandia of myth.” As he advocated for a more grown-up review of the city, three members of the Gründelbrüisers cyclocross team took off their skinsuits (these ‘crossers were playing Bocce Ball in a public city park against other cyclocrossers also dressed in skinsuits) to reveal matching Speedos. On their chests, they’d written a message in Sharpee pen for their opponents: Fuck Team Beer. “Dan,” I said, apologetically, “Look around us. What can I do?” But Dan is right. Portland is amazing not because we’re weird, we drink too much beer, we love our bikes too much and we knit clothing for bike racks. The same creativity that drives the shenanigans gets translated into a culinary scene that is bursting with reinterpreted traditions, innovative flavors and outright foodie obsession. The grub here is mind-blowing. And the drinkin’ follows suit. When I’m not on a bicycle, I can usually be found stuffing my face and this is where I go to do it. Read on…
Likely the best Portlandia skit. [according to Tim Schamber]. Jeff Tweedy of Wilco.
While not quite as fanatical as the hipsterati of Williamsburg in Brookyln, Portlanders still take their brunch pretty seriously.
Tasty N Sons: If you can only hit one place for breakfast while you’re in town, this is the one. From the Chocolate Potato Doughnut with crème anglaise to Burmese Red Pork Stew with short grain rice and eggs—the food is consistently mouth-watering, surprising, comforting and memorable. Get highbrow with the Boudin Blanc Omelette with fava bean tapenade, truffle cheese and white sausage or go bold and attack the House Bacon Burger with Beecher’s cheddar or smoked bleu cheese. Bacon cheeseburger for brunch? Hell yes. (While you wait to be seated, snag a coffee at Ristretto Roasters nearby.)
Pine State Biscuits: Southern goodness (the owners are transplants from North Carolina) with Portland flair. Order the Reggie sandwich and enjoy a fluffy biscuit with fried chicken, cheddar cheese, and bacon. Do yourself a favor and order it Deluxe—a runny egg is just the thing to set this baby off. The whole thing comes slathered in gravy, natch. This is a tiny place and it almost always has a wait. It’s worth it. Counter service only.
The Cricket Café: The Cricket doesn’t share the same foodie notoriety as the previous two hot spots (yet you’ll still enjoy a considerable wait on the weekends), but it’s my neighborhood go-to fave, mostly because of the extensive and incredible morning cocktail list. The Bloody Gary is a thing of beauty and the Saint’s Hash has become my “usual.”
Big Ring Restaurants
Ken’s Artisan Pizza: My in-laws are old-school Sicilians who immigrated to California when they were in their 30s. They still speak exclusively Sicilian and have a brick oven in the backyard that they built by hand. Those people know pizza. When they come to town, this is where I take them. Super thin-crust pies with simple, fresh ingredients cooked proper in a big, igloo-shaped brick oven. Arrive early and prepare to wait. Get the margarita and arugula pie and ask for anchovies on the side. Trust me on this one.
Clyde Common: Hello, braised pork belly. This spot kind of has it all—a charming bar with killer cocktails, a daily house-made punch (!), absinthe served in the traditional style and a long list of other deliciousness. The dinner menu is packed with tasty tidbits like pork rillette and charcuterie wrapped trout. At lunch be bold and try the fried oyster, pickled cabbage, scallion and spicy mayo sandwich (or just get the crazy delicious burger). Oh, also, it’s in the Ace Hotel and the staff are all smart and beautiful. Bonus.
Pok Pok: If you haven’t had Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings at Pok Pok, stop what you are doing and beg, borrow or steal your way to Division Street. They’re laced with garlic, plum sugar and a lacquer of caramelized Phi Quos fish sauce and they will blow your mind. Everything else is fantastic, too, but be warned—these kids don’t mess around with the spice. (You’ll probably have to wait so go to Whiskey Soda Lounge and have a jelly beer. The Salted Plum Collins is my favorite cocktail in town.)
Beast: Prepare for something truly special. Beast serves a six course prix-fixe menu (with optional wine pairing). Commit to the long haul, eat what they serve you and try not to moan too loudly when the inevitable mouth-gas hits. Two seating’s per night: 6:00 p.m. and 8:45 p.m.
Le Pigeon: Quickly becoming a Portland classic, this sweet spot lives up to the hype (and that’s saying a lot, because it’s a darling of the foodie elite). Chef Gabriel Rucker was named the James Beard Foundation’s 2011 Rising Star Chef of the Year in May. Of course, that’s not nearly as impressive as his awesome tats. Come over here and let me squeeze your little beef cheeks! Yum.
Teardrop: Old-school style cocktails side-by-side with contemporary cocktail recipes created by famous bartenders around the country. Shave your mug, you heathen! This place is on the fancy side of town. Vintage glasses add charm. Charming bartenders add eye-candy. Delicious food adds double bonus.
St. Jacks: The new kid on the block. This place was just named the “Rising Star of 2011” by the Oregonian. I don’t know exactly what that means, but I do know that this is an honest-to-God, amazing French-style café in an otherwise hippy neighborhood. Besides that, they’ve got some of the best bartenders in town and the things they do with bourbon make me giddy and breathless.
In truth, most of the places in this piece could be considered local favorites, but these are the staples that I turn to again and again.
Yoko’s: I’ll regret telling you about this place, but that’s just how much I love you. This small sushi spot is tucked into a nondescript neighborhood in SE Portland. There’s almost always a wait (it goes by quickly and you can wait next door at the C-Bar), but the prices are unbeatable, the sake list admirable, the fish is mouth-watering and they serve the biggest seaweed salad I’ve ever seen. Do not skip the Taka’s Tuna. Not great for groups over four, and if you show up when I want in I will kick you on your good knee.
Por Que No: Amazing tacos! Don’t be put off by the long line out the front door, it moves quickly. The ceviche served with cucumber slices instead of tortilla chips (it’s a starter, but I order it as a meal) is perfect if you’re a typical weight-obsessed roadie. The margaritas are brilliant, but I usually opt for a glass of Chamucos tequila, neat. Try it. Both locations have outdoor seating.
Dove Vive: This isn’t my favorite pizza in Portland (that would be Ken’s), but the cornmeal-style crust has won a lot of fans and is definitely worth a taste. The real reason I’m including this place is because of the kale salad and beet salads; they have that shit nailed. Also, the heart sign outside of it is adorable and quintessentially Portland.
The rumors are true—Portland is beer town. There’s no way to do it all justice, but these are the places I go when I need to have a hoppy fix.
Apex: The sheer number of taps here should provide something for everyone. I’ve discovered Pliny the Elder served on tap on more than one occasion, but they usually don’t advertise it, so be sure to ask. Sit outside and go next door to Los Gorditos—you can bring back some sopes (or carnitas!) to go with your beer suds.
HUB (Hopworks Urban Brewery): A bike-themed brewery! What could be better? HUB is a great spot for groups with delicious pizzas and burgers. Try the BikeBar location on North Williams Street and peep the custom Chris King tap handles. The beer is truly masterful—I favor super hoppy beers like the Organic Hopworks IPA or, when you can get it, Ace of Spades (an Imperial IPA).
Belmont Station: This bottle shop carries more than 1,200 beers and the associated Biercafé (next door) always has an impressive and diverse lineup of beers on tap. If you have a question about beer, these are the people to ask.
Like Doping But Not
Stumptown is the famous one, but it’s probably time to expand your horizons and try some delicious beans from one of our many small roasters.
Heart: Besides being adorable, this little spot also dishes out some of the best coffee I’ve had. Besides, they’ll make it in a Japanese siphon contraption that will make you feel like a mad scientist.
Courier Coffee: Strategically located very near to Powell’s Bookstore (you are going to Powell’s, aren’t you?), this quirky coffee shop delivers iced coffee served over a single, oversized cube of ice. Whether you get your cup of love hot or iced, be prepared to wait for it: perfection takes time and these guys brew coffee one mug at a time, with care. Secret bonus: the baker, who you will never actually get to see, is a talented, stunning and a very lively woman named Leala. Eat her delicious goods and daydream.
Water Avenue: Small batch, seasonal coffees meticulously prepared in a location that will show you a side of Portland you wouldn’t otherwise see (artist-industrial east side of the river).
Calling this “dining” is a stretch, but if you’re looking for laid-back food options that won’t break the bank, check ‘em out.
Burgerville: Having been raised in the land of Dick’s Burgers (where the cool hang out, as Sir Mix-a-Lot is my witness) it took me a while to warm up to Burgerville. That said, it’s a delicious burger, the ingredients are sourced locally; and there’s always a list of seasonal items (Blackberry shake! Walla Walla onion rings!) that will blow your mind, and you can get sweet potato fries in the fall. Yum.
Laughing Planet: A post-ride staple for many a hungry cyclist, this burrito joint serves what they call “Portable Nutrition Devices” (PNDs) along with nutritious bowls, fresh-squeezed juices and, um, really delicious homemade cookies and pies. Try Soylent Green Bowl if you’re cutting weight for the Tour de France or cut the bullshit and order your burrito “Mondo Deluxe” for extra-big, extra-juicy awesomeness.
Food Carts: Some are good, some are bad. Here are some I like: Herb’s Mac & Cheese Cart (pick your toppings, extra bacon for me please) and Pie Hole (individually-sized pies! Yes!), Whiffies Fried Pies, Fifty Licks (bacon ice cream!), Potato Champion (Belgian-style fries, get drunk and eat them late at night), The People’s Pig (pork!).
Directory | in order
Yoko’s: (503) 736-9228
This guy gives his take on the whole Voodoo Donuts versus Blue Star Donuts debate/comparison.
RECENT UPDATES (ADDED BY TIM SCHAMBER)
• Blue Star Donuts. They are the best donuts in town without question. You only need to buy two because they are decadent. bluestardonuts.com
• Tasty n Alder. From the folks who bring you Tasty n Sons and Toro Bravo. Breakfast is ridiculous here. Get there early as people start to lineup prior to opening. tastyntasty.com/alder/
• If you like cured meats, then you must find Olympic Provisions. It’s kind of off the beaten path, but worthy of a visit. Right next door is Steven Smith Teamaker. They make some of the best tea around and the packaging is stellar.
From way back in Issue 06. Buy it here.
The future is now… and it looks a lot like... Read more →