Portland, Oregon holds a special place in my heart…or should I say, stomach. Saying the food is good here is an understatement. There’s certain spots I can eat for a few days straight, and still crave it the next day and years after. Sounds like true love, doesn’t it? Portland was a fitting place to spend our Valentine’s Day weekend with the Lai’s (the most tender couple on the planet). Amazing food, tax-free shopping, gorgeous waterfalls…what’s not to love?!
This was the second time David and I visited Portland. Our first PDX adventure took place in January 2015, so it’s (only) been a year…but our tummies were grumbling for more. We were more than happy to show Linda and Michael around and revisit many of the foodie places we loved so much. Every restaurant in this city has character and charm that added to the dining experience. Even the pretty brick walls on the streets are made for hipsters and #instagramhusbands.
Here’s my top 3 must-eats:
Nong’s Khao Man Gai
Chicken and Rice
So simple, yet so good. That famous ginger sauce though. I ate this twice the first time I was in Portland. This time around, I ate it THREE days in a row! This dish just hits the spot and comforts the soul. Note: their food cart in downtown is only open until 4pm and closed on weekends, so head to the restaurant location instead.
Truffled Foie Gras au Torchon
rye bread, celery root compote, smoked rosemary almonds
Perfect flavorful creamy goodness for all truffle and foie lovers. Little Bird even has a late night happy hour (after 10pm daily) that offers a $5 double brie burger! They rotate their menu pretty often – we were hoping to have their dungeness crab souffle again, but we can only reminisce now:
OMG!! status. This is a brilliant combination. The meat was still juicy, the pho broth was packed with authentic flavor, and the subtle hoisin and sriracha sauce in the ciabatta bread completed this creative fusion of pho and french dip. Lardo’s pork meatball banh mi is on point too.
Now for the sweets:
Salt and Straw
Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper
I ate this on the daily, as much as I ate Nong’s chicken – 3 times. Don’t judge me. Even when I sample the other interesting flavors, such as pear with blue cheese, my favorite is still strawberry. Mmm.
Side story: The first time I was here, I almost didn’t make it. Because I was too excited (or more like I am a clutz), I failed to look both ways before crossing the street. A car was a few seconds away from hitting me. It gave David the biggest panic attack…luckily, good ice cream makes everything better.
Blue Star Donuts
Passion fruit cocoa nib and cointreau creme brulee donuts
These donuts are made from scratch and take over 18 hours to make. There’s usually a line too and they sell out. I’ve tried another creme brulee donut in Boston, but it doesn’t compare to Blue Star.
Black pepper cheesecake with candied orange
This is a cute date spot…even when your date is yourself ;). This cheesecake is soft, smooth and delicate – not overly dense or sweet – allowing you to savor each bite.
And of course brunch:
Of these three, I would eat at Pine State Biscuits again:
Here’s what people stand in line for at Screen Door though:
Go at least 30 min early before it opens to avoid a long wait on the weekend…
Risotto cakes and eggs with butternut squash and potatoes
This now seems like a lighter option after the first two pics. My AirBnB host recommended this place to me. I liked it a lot! It comes with a complimentary side of ooey gooey buttery croissant too. The prices are also hard to beat.
Other travel tips:
-Favorite hotel in Downtown: Hotel Monaco
Convenient location and unique with its own quirks. Scored a good deal on Hotwire. I hotel hopped the first time I was in Portland and stayed in 5 different hotels.
-There are so many cute AirBnB options on the outskirts of Downtown!
Recommended neighborhood: Hawthorne/Belmont
Staying in Belmont was pretty central for all the places we wanted to go.
-Renting a car is a good idea.
Especially if you’re going with a group, rent a car. It saves time and allows you to drive out to see the waterfalls. We booked ours through Chase and it was only $38 for 3 days (plus with Chase Sapphire Preferred card, insurance was covered). Finding street parking in Portland wasn’t stressful either.
-Public transportation is easy to navigate.
It does take longer to get to places, but it makes a fun adventure. Day pass is $5 – ride to/from PDX airport takes an hour. MAX lines are fine at night, but I’d be more hesitant about taking the bus after 8pm. There have been a few unpleasant experiences I’ve seen or encountered myself.
-Spend an afternoon wandering and reading at Powell’s Books, the main one in downtown.
-Lastly, drink list for cocktails: The Vault, Teardrop, The Observatory (plus their fried bread!)
Both times I’ve been to Portland, I’ve had over 2 days of solo-travel before anyone else joined me. I tend to get lost a lot in Portland when I’m by myself, from getting off the wrong bus stops to then walking on the wrong street…but in trying to find my way, I stumbled upon this beauty:
I know there’s going to be many more “next time’s” with Portland. Oregon is our neighboring state after all – a 7 hour drive to the city center. So the question is: where to eat next?!