Mixing fresh, local ingredients with a colorful community of inventive chefs, Portland’s restaurant scene is a recipe that can’t be recreated anyplace else. So strap on some loose-fitting pants and dig into it with this three-day tour de fork.
There’s no getting around the calories on this trip, so burn them early by walking to Mother’s Bistro, located in Portland’s easy-to-traverse downtown. Reservations are recommended, but it’s worth waiting in line for their Pacific Northwest take on traditional dishes, like wild salmon hash.
After breakfast, explore downtown by foot. From Saturday Market to Pioneer Courthouse Square, wherever you go, be sure to end up near the food carts at Southwest Ninth and Alder, where more than 60 wheeled eateries fill two city blocks. From bento to barbecue, you’ll find nearly every lunch item imaginable here.
Evening fare will all be on the east side, so wrap up your downtown exploration and head to Southeast Division Street, where the original Stumptown Coffee location will fuel your eat-a-thon into the night. Hailed by critics as one of America’s best dining streets, Division is home to Pok Pok, the daring Thai street food joint known for chef Andy Ricker’s rich, spicy fare like fish sauce wings and drinking vinegar that’s tart and delicious. Other dinner options on and near Division include Ava Gene’s and the Woodsman Tavern (both owned by Stumptown Coffee founder Duane Sorenson), Nuestra Cocina, Xico and many more. For dessert, choose homemade pie from Lauretta Jean’s or ice cream from Salt & Straw, where flavors like Arbequina olive oil and pear with blue cheese provide a culinary finish to a delicious day.
Rise and shine with a trip to North Portland’s Tasty n Sons. A line routinely forms for brunch, so get here early. Representing a new guard of eateries in Portland, the neighborhood restaurant helmed by chef John Gorham has a regularly changing menu, but items like their Croque Madame with eggs sunny side up never go out of style. (Tip: Many of the same menu items are available at Gorham’s downtown outpost, Tasty n Alder.)
Next, it’s back downtown to Little Bird Bistro, a great place to sample dishes from chef Gabriel Rucker, two-time James Beard Award winner, without having to wait for dinner at Le Pigeon. The French-cuisine-meets-comfort-food menu highlights Rucker’s taste for fine, rich ingredients, so don’t overlook the burger, or if you do, at least get a side of fries.
Whatever you get, you can walk it off by strolling through the Pearl District (or to the nearest streetcar stop) to Northwest Portland, where another Beard Award winner, chef Vitaly Paley, has been delighting diners since 1995. Paley’s Place is set in a Victorian home and seats just 50 people, so reservations are recommended; if the weather is nice, try for the front porch. From every seat, the focus is on fresh, Northwest preparations of seasonal ingredients. There’s a lot to choose from, and thankfully a tasting menu is available upon request.
Try to save a little room for one of Portland’s favorite late-night treats at Voodoo Doughnut. From their bacon maple bar to their purple-licious “grape ape” doughnut, these sweet treats aren’t just for breakfast. And that’s a good thing, since the raucous location in the Old Town entertainment district is open 24 hours a day.
Start your last day with a local legend, The Original Pancake House. Located in Southwest Portland, and beloved by Portland native James Beard, this is the historic 1953 home of the national chain. Their Dutch Baby is a massive air-filled, apple pancake that’s more than big enough to share (though you won’t want to). After cashing out (and we do mean cash — this old-school eatery doesn’t take plastic), spend the rest of your morning exploring nearby Multnomah Village, home to quaint boutiques and toy and book shops.
Head back to the east side for lunch, where Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard’s Por Qué No serves up street tacos and bowls that are big on ingredients but reasonable on the wallet. Beat the lines by timing your trip before or after peak meal times.
Explore Hawthorne until it’s time for your reservation at Northeast Portland’s Beast — with only two seatings (6 p.m. or 8:45 p.m.) Wednesday through Saturday, calling ahead is a must. Chef Naomi Pomeroy’s six-course pix-fixe dinner of French-inspired dishes are all made fresh with ingredients bought at farmers’ markets that week. Served in a communal setting, this artfully prepared, fresh and local food is what dining in Portland is all about.