I don't often say this. In fact, I may have never said this. But as I exited the plane this morning from Portland, Oregon back to Long Beach, California, these words came out of my mouth: "I think I found a city whose food rivals that of New York."
And silence hit the tarmac.
Not that I'm an expert, but I happen to love food. If you knew how much I gushed and mooned over the dining options in Brooklyn and Manhattan, you too would find it shocking that a relatively smaller and unassuming city on the West Coast would be the main contender -- over say, Los Angeles or San Francisco. But yet, it seems to be.
What's more, the food in Portland is comparatively inexpensive. This signature cocktail (featured below and named the O Mai) is made with gin, apricot, ginger, lemon, and a mysterious ingredient called Herbsaint. In New York or LA, this same cocktail would cost $15, but in Portland, it was only $9 at Luc Lac, a Vietnamese fusion restaurant in downtown.
Luc Lac also offers happy hour 7 days a week, featuring a vast number of share plates for only $2. Yes, you read that correctly. Some of my favorites were the Coconut Prawns, Crispy Rolls, and La Lot, which is grilled minced beef rolled in betel leaves.
Next, let's talk dessert. If pie is what you crave, then the Random Order Coffeehouse and Bakery in the Alberta Arts District is the place to be. Their pie list includes a Salted Caramel Apple Pie with Vanilla Sugar. There's also Brandied Cherry, and one with apples, blackberries, and walnut streusel topping. Yum.
For breakfast, my top pick is Mother's Bistro , which we tried on our very first day in the city. Paul got the Crab Cake Sandwich and I had the Grilled Portabella Mushroom Scramble. The mushrooms were marinated in balsamic vinegar and mixed with spinach and Asiago cheese. It was crazy good alongside their biscuits with homemade marion berry jam. We also got a large French Press of Stumptown Coffee to wash it all down.
Lastly, let's talk beer. There are more craft breweries in Portland than in any other city in the world. We didn't even begin to scratch the surface of them, but for what it's worth, my favorite was Fat Head's Brewery . They've got a tasty, blueberry blond ale that's garnished with several blueberries bobbing along the top. Their food is also incredible, as Paul went back not once, but TWICE to order their cheeseburger! (He was by himself the second time, as I was attending an author reading at Powell's Books, but we will get to that in a minute.)
Other Restaurants of Note:
Andina (Awesome Peruvian food in the Pearl District)
Voodoo Doughnuts (This place is a Portland institution, and for good reason: They do wacky, inventive stuff, like take a glazed doughnut and top them with chunks of Oreo and melted peanut butter. It's called the Old Dirty Bastard, haha. And I didn't photograph it because I was too busy eating it.)
More Fun Portland Activities:
1. Hike the 4T Trail. The 4 T's stand for tram, trolley, trail, and train. This hike has you taking all of them, including an aerial tram from the top of a mountain. But the wilderness part through Marquam Nature Park is absolutely the highlight. The trees are neon green with moss and ferns, and the top of the hike leads to the highest point in the city. Just remember to wear old shoes that you don't mind getting dirty and that have a bit of traction, as it never stops raining in Portland so the trail is muddy and you could be slipping and sliding if not properly prepared.
Explore Powell's City of Books, which is three stories high and occupies an entire square block. For lit lovers, it's a thing of beauty. We went on a rainy Sunday afternoon, and found it overflowing with people browsing through the stacks, sipping coffee in the coffee shop, and even attending an author reading they hosted that evening for Sam Lansky's new book, The Gilded Razor. I wanted to scoop up the entire building in all its monstrosity and bring it back with me to Long Beach. If only . . .