Even though it’s been two weeks since I’ve returned home, I still look back fondly at my trip to Portland and continue to dream about all the food I ate.
And I’m not kidding when I say I ate continuously on this trip. This was a real foodie vacation (sure, I visited with my sister and little nieces but even then I was eating with them) because Portland has really turned out to be a food-loving city, feeding all types from lumberjacks to hipster hacks.
Here are my vacation photos that didn’t bubble into a full post but are still worth sharing. Portland, I will see you soon! (Still dreaming.)
Dinner on Fire at Imperial
I arrived in the late afternoon so had enough time to head for a late dinner downtown. I had made reservations at Imperial, a popular restaurant on Broadway headed by former Top Chef contestant Doug Adams. I read that Chef Adams is leaving the restaurant to start his own venture, so I wanted to try his food before he left. Turns out, I saw him leaving the restaurant as I arrived for my 8:30 p.m. reservations, so I didn’t get to see him in action. But I still had an enjoyable dinner as I sat at the counter facing the wood-fire oven used to grill many of the meaty dishes on the menu.
I started with a fun-sounding cocktail that seemed appropriate for me called “Trophy for Showing Up” ($11, made of Hendrick’s gin, campari, ginger, lemon and cava), followed by a refreshing watermelon salad (so needed sitting in front of the hot flames) with a slight kick from the chili oil. My main was a gorgeous bowl of Manila clams ($26) with a lamb skewer, lamb merguez sausage, wood-fired piperade, and cannellini beans. While flavorful, it was a hard dish to eat (was it a soup, was it a broth?) and the lamb chunks were on the chewy side. Still, it was a delicious meal in a festive atmosphere (the restaurant was packed before and after I left).
The deets: Imperial, 410 SW Broadway, Portland. PH: 503.228.7222. Open daily for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or weekend brunch. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. www.imperialpdx.com
Blue Star Donuts – the anti-Voodoo
What I realized while in Portland is people love their baked goods here. There are fresh bread, pastries, pies and biscuits mixed in with dishes everywhere! And of course, there are donuts.
While Voodoo Doughnuts draws the tourists and lines (I admit, I fell for it in my early days), the real donut star should be Blue Star Donuts, which has several locations (including ones in LA and Tokyo). Made primarily with a brioche dough, these cake-like donuts aren’t crazy like the multi-colored donuts with odd names at Voodoo, but they are quite unique for donuts.
I went one morning to its Washington Street location and tried one of its Meyer lemon curd donut and tiramisu donut. The lemon curd was nice but I wished it had more filling, and the tiramisu had the classic flavors of coffee and cream, but I had saved it for the afternoon so the donut itself turned a bit mushy. I still want to go back and try the other flavors because the balance of sweetness is more sophisticated than Voodoo’s.
The deets: Blue Star Donuts, five locations in Portland. Visit its website for details.
Maurice Luncheonette: For the Ladies Who Lunch
A lot of the popular restaurants I seemed to have read about were mostly open only for dinner, but that didn’t mean I didn’t eat well. I still found some great places for lunch, including a stop at the quaint and tiny Maurice Luncheonette, named one of the “Top 10 Best New Restaurants” in 2014 by Bon Appetit.
This French-inspired cafe has the layout of a luncheonette with its long counter taking up most of the room (that’s where I sat) but it had the decor and quiet vibe of a tea room, almost like a gathering place for “ladies who lunch.” Everything was so precious, even the food, like the open-faced trout sandwich I ordered. It was too pretty to eat, but don’t get confused, I totally devoured this sandwich, with pops of ikura for saltiness and the crunch from the fresh radishes. It was a very sophisticated plate, although I felt the pricing and small portions made Maurice a bit too precious.
The deets: Maurice Luncheonette, 921 SW Oak St., Portland. PH: 503.224.9921. Open Tue.-Sat., 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. No reservations. Major credit cards accepted. mauricepdx.com
Ramen Craze is Everywhere
I can’t escape the ramen frenzy back home in the Bay Area and neither could I do the same during my trip because Portlanders love ramen just as much. And their craze is spurred by Tokyo chains, such as Marukin who opened not one but two locations in this city in the last few months.
Marukin’s casual ramen spots can be found in the Southeast neighborhood and also as a stand in the new Pine Street Market in downtown. I went for lunch to the Southeast location, which is a bit out there by itself near the large streets that feed into the highways and bridges. You order at the counter and get a number and your order is brought to you.
There were only three ramen options on the menu (along with a couple of curries). I tried the tonkotsu shoyu ($10), which was a lighter version of the popular pork bone broth and perfect for the warm weather. I don’t know if I found anything special about the noodles, but it was a decent bowl that hit the spot. (I actually like our Tokyo import, Mensho, better.)
The deets: Marukin, 609 S.E. Ankeny St., Portland (also a location inside Pine Street Market). Opened daily 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. No reservations. Facebook page.
Getting My Fill of Stumptown and More
I’m not a big coffee fanatic, but I love Stumptown Coffee from Portland, so I tried to drink a latte made with this roaster’s beans every day on my vacation. When I couldn’t get Stumptown, I also liked the brew from the just-as-popular Barista Coffee.
It was my favorite time of the day when I could sit down with my latte and rest in between meals. The popular Stumptown is inside the hip Ace Hotel, where there’s a large comfy sitting area. Barista is the upstart with some of the new spots, including a cafe that looks almost like a saloon in the popular Northwest shopping district. You can’t go wrong with either coffee.
Relaxing at Steven Smith Teamaker’s Tasting Room
I did take a break from my lattes to try one of my all-time favorite tea spots, Steven Smith. Ever since I discovered this tea maker, I’ve been a regular buyer of their teas online. But when I was in town, I made it a point to check out its cafe, especially since they have a larger new space in the Southeast area (I feel like everything is popping up in this part of town) in a bit of an industrial district near the freeways.
The tasting room can provide tea flights and special tastings, but it’s also a comfortable relaxing spot to just sip your tea and read a book. It’s also the only place where you can get tea lattes. I tried a matcha latte (which is pretty common in the Bay Area) but also got a Earl Grey latte (I’ve never seen latte foam with black tea). Both teas are pre-sweetened before the foam milk is added (I substituted for soy), so it can be on the sweet side.
I definitely left with a few supplies of teas to avoid shipping costs. LOL.
The deets: Steven Smith Teamakers Tasting Room, 110 SE Washington St., Portland. Open weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Website
Spanish Xurros from 180 Xurreria
There were so many new things opening up in Portland, and one of them was 180, Oregon’s first xurro shop.
Xurros are the Spanish version of the Mexican churros, and 180 (the name comes from the 180 degrees celsius it takes to fry the xurros) was created by the same people behind the popular Spanish restaurant in town called Ataula. The xurros are served plain and dipped in chocolate with a sprinkling of salt, but I was intrigued when I read about their cream-filled xurros.
While the regular xurros are made into what kind of looks like a loop (or is it a twist?), the cream filled xurros are petite like three-inch long xurros. You can buy two for just $3, and choose the flavors of your filling. I got the catalan custard and dulce de leche. I loved the flavors of the cream filling but the xurros themselves were a bit on the oily side (which always reminds me why I don’t like deep-fried things but I always forget with donuts).
Of course, you can also get hot chocolate like the Spanish tradition of xurros and chocolate.
The deets: 180, 2218 NE Broadway, Portland. Opened weekdays from noon to 8 p.m.; and weekends, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. www.180pdx.com
Brunching at Tasty N Adler
Brunch is big in Portland, and one of the popular place is Tasty N Adler. The people behind this restaurant actually has an empire of artisan meat-focused restaurants, starting with its original Tasty N Sons and now the fairly new Toro Bravo.
But Tasty N Adler was the most convenient for me, and I went for a weekday brunch, trying first a small order of the lemon ricotta pancakes (good but a bit smothered by the blueberry syrup) (pictured at very top), and an amazing cast iron frittata ($10) that was an umami-bomb of savory flavors with the escarole, English peas, and fontina.
The deets: Tasty N Adler, 580 SW 12th St., Portland. PH: 503.621.9251. Daily brunch from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner from 5:30 p.m. Reservations accepted (but a good size reserved for walk ins), major credit cards accepted. www.tastynalder.com
An Old Favorite with Ken’s Artisan Bakery
While you can see that I was definitely checking out a lot of the new eateries around Portland, I still made time to visit some of my old favorites. During my last Portland trip, I stayed at a hotel near the popular Northwest shopping district. And one of my favorite things to do in the morning was walk over to Ken’s Artisan Bakery for some fresh pastries and coffee. (There’s also a popular pizza restaurant of the same name.)
So on my last day in Portland, I started my morning by heading to the cafe in the Northwest area. You’re always greeted with an array of enticing baked goods, from croissants to eclairs. My favorite is their strawberry tart made with tons of fresh strawberry slices. It was the perfect way to say goodbye to Portland.
The deets: Ken’s Artisan Bakery, 338 NW 21st Ave., Portland. PH: 503.248.2202. Open Mon.-Sat., 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sun., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. kenartisan.com
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