A recent mini-stay in Portland with a fellow foodie obviously required lots of detailed planning, much begging for recommendations from fellow food-lovers, the compilation of an actual spreadsheet and enough eating to make us burst out of our Spanx (or perhaps that was just me).
Here's a handy guide to all our favorites, though you'll probably need a bit more than 24 hours to eat your way through everything. And make sure you reinforce your Spanx just in case.
Pine State Biscuits serves Southern-style diner food in three locations, featuring toothsome biscuits freshly made on the premises. The richly savory mushroom gravy was a standout, as was the fried chicken. Tasty & Sons and Tasty & Alder serve brunch with an eclectic spin every day and came recommended by pretty much everybody - we enjoyed the halibut sandwich, butternut squash frittata, and the Saigon brussels sprouts - and wished we'd had room for more. We were sad not to make it to Screen Door for chicken and waffles, as this was also near the top of our recommended list, as were Muscadine, again for Southern food and Broder for a Scandinavian brunch .
Coffee and Tea
If you prefer a lighter breakfast or need sustenance throughout the day, Portland's coffee is almost as good as Seattle's *wink*, and we enjoyed sampling some of the local roasts. Heart Roasters in the Pearl District serves rich espresso drinks from its own house-roasted beans in beautiful surroundings - try the Heartwarmer with habanero oil - while groovy Coava pulls an excellent house-roasted espresso in its huge, buzzy South East Portland location, which was also the best place we found to play hipster bingo. Barista has several downtown locations serving a choice of beans from different roasters, while we all know about Stumptown. We were also sad not to be able to fit in a visit to Smith Teamaker's new tasting room in the up-and-coming Central Eastside district.
While many of the aforementioned breakfast joints would make excellent lunch options, we found lots more bright, bustling places serving casual fare with efficient service. We adored Bollywood Theater where we found small portions of flavorful Indian curries and excellent breads served on tin tableware and a selection of esoteric Indian spices and ingredients for sale. Pok Pok's Northern Thai street food, wings and drinking vinegars are Portland institutions though it was closed for maintenance during our trip. Downtown at Grassa we enjoyed bowls of handcrafted fresh pasta, while the epic-looking sandwiches served at neighboring Lardo looked amazing. If you're looking for a snack the several locations of Little Big Burger serve simple burgers made from local ingredients with their famous truffle fries.
Lunchtime is also when Portland's famous food carts come into their own. Everyone recommended the simple, but perfectly cooked chicken, rice, sauce and broth from Nong's Khao Man Gai and it didn't disappoint. Go early though to make sure they still have extra crispy chicken skin and fried chicken livers.
If you're into food, you'll want to bring back a few souvenirs. If flavors are your thing, salt maven Mark Bitterman's The Meadow offers a huge selection of salts (including beautiful stacks of pink Himalayan salt blocks for cooking), a wall of different artisanal chocolate bars, every conceivable flavor of cocktail bitters, wines and flowers. It's a weird combination that somehow manages to work like a dream.
For more salt, go to Jacobsen Salt's tasting room in the Central Eastside, where you can sample flavored flaked salts harvested from the clear waters of Netarts Bay on the Oregon coast, together with artisan food products made with the salts. Also available for tasting are the local honeys from Bee Local (another company under the Jacobsen umbrella). Round the corner stop by Ancient Heritage Dairy, the only urban creamery in Portland, and peek through the huge windows to see the gorgeous cheeses being made. The cheese is available for sale next door at Alma Chocolate, where delectable chocolates, chocolate nut toffees and drinking chocolates are crafted and sold.
Afternoon Sweet Snacks
By this time lunch will be but a distant memory, so it's time to consider a snack. Everyone said that Blue Star Donuts was better than Voodoo, and after sampling treats from both we had to agree that Blue Star's imaginative flavors and buttery rich brioche doughnuts trumped Voodoo's wacky flavors and designs. We were devastated not to be able to fit in a visit to Salt & Straw for ice cream, but since this was hands down the most recommended place on our list, please go there and tell me what you think. We were also sad not to be able to try Maurice, 'a pastry luncheonette', which is open for dessert until 7pm.
We had fabulous cocktails at both Shift Drinks and Teardrop Lounge, and thoroughly enjoyed the sherry flights, ham plates and great service at Hamlet (which also wins the prize for cutest logo in Portland). The Multnomah Whiskey Library though is on another level entirely - vast shelves of booze accessed by bartenders swinging from library ladders as they craft personalized flights of whiskey or other liquors accompanied by excellent snacks. It was like watching performance art and I never wanted to leave. Only members can make reservations, everyone else is served on a first come, first served basis.
Little Bird Bistro eclectic bistro fare in sexy space with red leather banquettes and an upstairs gallery, and served up hands-down the best meal I've had recently - the pumpkin gnocchi and passionfruit ice cream profiteroles will linger long in my memory. It's also worth standing in line for the world-class bacon pizza at Ken's Artisan Pizza. Other dinner recommendations from those in the know include Ava Gene's, Taylor Railworks, Ox and Kachka.