Aside from all of the great food and drinking, Portland, Oregon was also voted one of the most “environmentally conscious” cities in the world. Yes the world. According to Environmental News and Commentary, Portland, Oregon is 1 of the 15 “Green Cities in the World” due to its high walkability, large community of bicyclists, expansive network of public transportation options and 10,000+ acres of public parks. When you visit Portland you will be amazed by the obvious question “why have I never visited Portland before now”. Portland is the perfect get away and play city. Here are 10 reasons why you should eat and drink your way through Portland, Oregon.
- Walk and Bike your calories away-
When you visit Portland, and find yourself eating you way through the city, it is comforting to know that you can cycle or walk your calories off while you head to your next destination. In Portland, cycling is an important form of transportation. Portland is now ranked one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the world. Approximately 8% of commuters bike to work, and its easy to understand why. The streets have wide bike lanes which span across the city insuring safety, ease, and availability to those who choose to bike to work or play. When people aren’t cycling around town they can usually be found… walking. Portland neighborhoods are made up of nearly 100 distinct and unique communities all relatively close to each other and all very walkable. Many of Portland’s old neighborhoods are lined with sidewalks, tall trees, and beautiful old homes with lots of character. In addition the blocks are short which somehow makes Portland a “friendly walking” city. During my visit to Portland I was in a car twice, and that was to and from the airport over three days. As I indulged in the neighborhood eats, I walked more than I consumed, without even noticing I had walked over 10 miles a day.
Just when you have had enough of Portland’s fabulous restaurant scene, or quirky food carts one can turn many corners and find a farmers market with more than you can imagine. Portland’s farmers markets do not just have berries, pickled jars of goodness, mushrooms from the rain saturated forests, incredible baked goods, universal food carts, prepared foods from their community restaurants, but ALSO some of the most interesting local artisans to show their skills and sell their handmade wares. The Portland Saturday Market is the biggest of the bunch, offering some of the best food and goods such as, jewelry, handmade soaps, spoons bent into bracelets, paintings from local artists, and so much more. Those who visit Portland will feel the energy among the masses enjoying the market. Smells of hot dogs, clapping to the buzz of performers, discussions of purchases, and laughter throughout, this market is reason enough to come back to Portland.
- Pine State Biscuit-
I visited Portland with a serious foodie friend. We would wake up at 7am to walk 3 miles from Downtown Portland into the South East Division of the city to wait in a 2 hour line at one of Portland Oregon’s most amazing food destinations, Pine State Biscuit. Pine State Biscuits launched their kitchen at the bustling Portland Farmers Market in spring of 2006. Owners, Walt, Kevin, and Brian opened up a small biscuit shop on Belmont Ave in 2008. Pine State Biscuits is a mix of old-style Southern goodness and modern restaurant professionalism, all tied together with some Portland foodie sensibility. Using only the freshest local ingredients, often straight from farm to table, they built a following at the Portland Farmers Market with their golden Cream top Buttermilk Biscuits served with sausage or mushroom gravy, thick-cut bacon, fried chicken, eggs, grits and preserves. I would say one should visit Portland just to taste the absolute best biscuit and gravy dish I have ever had!
- Food Carts-
What can I say about the Portland Food Carts, only that this was the very reason why we planned to visit Portland in the first place. In a city distinguished for its food, you can find some of Portland’s most innovative chefs crowded in “pods.” The food carts of Portland are a legendary visitor attraction of the city.. they even have them stationed in the airport to greet you as you arrive. In Austin, there are many Food Trailers, which are mobile and can move to different destination around the city. In Los Angeles and New York we call the Food Trailers, Food Trucks, but they function the same way. In Portland there are 600 Food Carts. Distinctly different as Portland is, these Food Carts stay in groups throughout neighborhoods called food “pods”. When you stumble upon a pod of food carts it is a no brainer you need to stop the hard part is deciding what you fancy most. My favorite food cart pod in Portland is the Adler pod. This is the largest assembly of food carts in downtown Portland. Think of a huge parking lot, smack in the center of a downtown area, with food carts lined up side by side on each side of the lot. After you assess each cart, it may be difficult to narrow your choice down to one, so if this occurs I suggest why not grab a little bit of everything. There is limited seating to stuff your face in Adler pod itself but fear not, Director Park is directly adjacent with plenty of room for your gluttonous behavior. A few of my favorites carts were: Kargi Gogo, Thai Basil, and Caspian Kabob.
Cheers to Portland! According to CNN, Portland has the most total breweries and independent microbreweries of any city in the world. Portland has played an important role in the microbrewery revolution in the U.S. and is nicknamed “Beertown” and “Beervana” as a result. Portland’s beer buzz started in the 80’s; you can find at least one acclaimed brewery in the majority of Portland’s neighborhoods. If you are a beer lover, there is no reason why you should not be visiting Portland annually. Here is a list of breweries in Portland you can never go wrong with.
- Explore some more-
If you have ever watched the show Portlandia, you will often hear them say, “Portland, people go there to retire”- well yes they should. There is a neighborhood for everything in Portland, and all of them have personality. If you are thinking about making a trip to Portland, make sure you have some time to take an Uber a little farther than you might want to bike or walk and you will be rewarded by finding more restaurants that are beyond belief. We wandered into North Portland which is a little more hipster and edgy. We found ourselves on Williams Avenue where we dined at Lincoln Restaurant, brought to you by Chef Jenn Louis and Bar Manager David Welch. Lincoln restaurant is bringing Portland locals consistent, simple and purposeful dishes. The restaurant values old, sturdy, and reliable but is also modern and certainly classic. What they serve for the day comes from seasonal fare concentrating on utilizing what they grow and raise there in the Northwest, bites such as octopus on plancha, rye lasagnette, NY steak, and pancetta grace their menu. Just to tell you how surprising and weird a certain area of Portland can be, as we exited Lincoln on Williams Ave we found breweries open till late, an oyster lounge bar, and a Victorian house nestled in between the two with locales summoning visitors to enjoy the house party they were having. It brought nostalgia from scenes of the movie Singles. Portland could not get stranger, but it still feels safe, a truly unique place that may have figured out a recipe for good living! When you visit Portland you must explore, and according to Lonely Planet other areas that are worth seeing are; Southeast’s Hawthorn Street, with its selection of bars, cafes, and shops; and Northeast’s Alberta Street, featuring galleries, bakeries, outdoor cafes and a monthly street party called Last Thursday.
- Shop until you are hungry-
Portland has almost as many options for shopping as it does eating! Some of the best shopping areas of Downtown Portland are, Nob Hill, Pearl District, Hawthorne Avenue for vintage apparel, and the Lloyd District. If you are leaving with bags and bags of goodies from Nordstrom’s, H&M, or some perfect Portland Boutique you might have worked up an appetite, or if you have just finished filling out your home library at the World Famous Powell’s book store, or grabbing hats from local merchants you certainly might be thirsty by now. Well have no fear, Downtown Portland happened. There are so many wonderful pubs, eateries, speak easy’s, lounges, restaurants, and beer halls to choose from that you will never go hungry or thirsty during a serious shopping session. Whether you are getting happy hour drinks at Barlow, where they are very fond of dry ice in their libations, or you find yourself at Swine Moonshine + Whiskey Bar for any stiff drink you can think of, you really can’t go wrong.
There is however one bar that you need to visit while you are here. The not speaky easy that appears to look like a speak easy, Pepe Le Moke, has you arriving into a walk way with distractions prior to checking in, and once you get a table the host takes you through a dark staircase into Portland’s private escape. The subterranean space beneath downtown’s Clyde Common and Ace Hotel, Pepe Le Moke houses Portland‘s star bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler in a hidden basement like bar, that is too cool to explain, you just need to visit it.
- Nong’s Sauce-
Be still my heart. Oh that sauce! What looks like a small family owned Chinese restaurant, is secretly home to a sauce that will leave you dreaming about Portland for days. Nong’s Khao Man Gai is the sweet spot brought to the world by Chef Nong Poonsukwattana. There are three locations in Portland, their original location, a food cart at the Adler Pods, and another food cart on SW 4th and College. It is a destination for many who visit Portland. Not for its one dish wonder Khao Man Gai; but for that sauce. The original Khao Man Gai is from Hainan province, China. You can also find it called Hainanese chicken. It is traditionally cooked with whole chicken, served with rice and the perfect blend of spice. At Nong’s Khao Man gai there is essentially one dish, and can be prepared mild or spicy. As for her sauce, well just know she is bottling it up and it is selling out to the masses (link below). Staying true to local farmers, Portland’s own Mary’s Chickens is where Nong’s sources their birds!
When Nongs was asked a question, about raising the price to $6 for Khao Man Gai? This is what she says: “Every time I have to raise the price is a hard decision. Food cost has risen since I open in 2009. I’m still competing in food cart category price and it’s very competitive price. But in the end, I want to serve the food with quality and integrity behind it. I don’t want to compromise to cheaper and lower quality of food. I also taking good care of my team. I pay more to compost the garbage and try to use more compostable supply. I’m doing everything American legit. I never paid for advertising. Yes! words of mouth still exist! Customers paid for quality of food and good practice business. You got the best deal!!!” I think this says everything about this Portland gem. http://khaomangai.com/sauce/
- Weirdos like to eat donuts-
I am sure you have heard of the saying “Keep Austin Weird”; well they say the same thing in Portland. “Keep Portland Weird” was one of the first things I heard from a local woman after arriving. At first I was a little surprised by the that as I had not noticed the weird in Portland, that is of course until I stumbled upon Old Town, and landed at Voodoo Donut. Located in Old Town’s popular nightlife district, this is a well known visitor attraction. The donuts, topped with creative ingredients such as bacon, Captain Crunch and Oreos are as wacky as Portlandians. Founders, Kenneth “Cat Daddy” Pogson and Tres Shannon wanted to bring something fun, different, and one for the ages. Locals and visitors alike line up 24 hours a day for what may be the most original donuts in the world. You need to see these donuts to believe how “strange” they really are. Voodoo donuts are as entertaining as they are delicious, with inspired names like; the Old Dirty Bastard donut (Raised yeast doughnut with chocolate frosting, Oreo’s™ and peanut butter), the Marshall Mathers donut (a plain cake donut with vanilla frosting and mini M & M’s), and the Maple Blazer Blunt donut (a raised yeast donut rolled into a blunt & dusted with cinnamon sugar. The tip is dipped in maple frosting and red sprinkle embers). It is with menu choices like these that Voodoo Donut is doing its part to Keep Portland Weird. Wait till you get there and have to stand in that line, you will not only be able to observe the weird that passes by Voodoo, or those who stand strong in line with you, but the décor is weird by itself. I had to purchase 5 Voodoo Doll Donuts to bring home with me!
Portland is known for its Indie Music scene, so you cannot go wrong when you head to the West or Southeast parts of the city to sample the nightlife. There are a wide variety of live music halls that turn dance club as the night goes on. One incredible place to see in West Portland is The McMenamins Crystal Ballroom, a National Register of Historic Places. This is a 100 year old ballroom, where you can’t help but wish those walls could talk. This venue has had some of the most timeless music icons of the last century perform there. The phenomenal interiors boast antique chandeliers, along with decadent ceilings and fixtures. If big, historic, and impressive, is not what you had in mind, head southeast to the legendary Doug Fir Lounge. Here you get a more modern feel where live music and dining are both offered nightly. Doug Fir Lounge made an impact on Portland’s live music scene, drawing indie bands from around the country to perform. After you’ve listened to music and danced off some calories what better way to say goodnight to Portland but with a late night slice, yup Pizza! Of course there are many late night eateries in Portland, but one you have to try is Sizzle. This Pizzeria is open till 4am. Nosh on classic and unconventional pizza by the slice, with a large selection of vegan, veggie & meat options to satisfy everyone. You will not be sorry, nor hungover.