In a city as food-obsessed as Portland, it should come as no surprise that pickles are a culture unto their own. From jars of locally made pickles to our renowned beer and wine scene, Portlanders loves fermented foods so much we even named one of our baseball teams (the Portland Pickles) after them. Between the city’s many pickle-heavy restaurant menus and its annual Fermentation Festival, there’s certainly no shortage of places to try these top-notch fermented treats across town.
Upgrade your pantry with a jar of MoonBrine Pickles, which started as the pet project of New Yorker-turned-Portlander Stewart Golomb in 2003. Today, those hot and dill pickles are still made in small batches in Southeast Portland. Visitors to the MoonBrine Shop & Snacketeria will also find a host of other pickled products only available at the shop, including farm fresh veggies, relishes and more.
Few other restaurants in Portland are as closely associated with pickled foods as Kachka, the nationally recognized Southeast Portland restaurant famous for its Russian-inspired cuisine. Alongside mini carafes of house-infused vodka (with flavors that rotate seasonally), diners can nosh on plates of cured fish and caviar; delicate, plump dumplings; updated classics like cabbage rolls and schnitzel; and, of course, pickles. A platter of pickles here might include tender, cured chanterelles and smetana (a type of sour cream); a pungent sauerkraut; crunchy cucumbers; and more, all depending on what’s in season — and all pairing perfectly with the restaurant’s expansive vodka list. If you’re feeling particularly under the weather (or still recovering from last night’s partying), Kachka also offers pickle juice to help cure your ailments.
Pickles also feature heavily on the menu at award-winning Korean American restaurant Han Oak in Northeast Portland. Start dinner with an assortment of house-made banchan (including chef Peter Cho’s family daikon-and-napa-cabbage kimchi recipe) before the koji-marinated pork belly bo ssam arrives. Pickled bits dot the rest of the menu, from neon yellow daikon pickles to soy-pickled chilies and an umeboshi-infused highball spiked with Jinro soju and purple perilla.
Sometimes, when a pickle craving strikes, you just need to go all in. At Aaron Adams’ preservation-focused lunch counter Fermenter, pickled and fermented foods — including cultured beverages, plant-based cheeses and charcuterie, and plenty of pickles — take center stage. (Pickling crocks are also available for purchase.) Fermenter’s all-vegan menu changes with the seasons, but you’ll want to make sure to try their house-made tempeh featuring local beans and cultured spores imported from Indonesia. After lunch, grab a pickle stick (literally a dill pickle on a stick) to go to cleanse your palate.
Portland Fermentation Festival
If you’re yearning to meet other like-minded pickle fanatics, schedule a trip to the Portland Fermentation Festival. Held in the Pearl District’s Ecotrust building, this annual one-day event in October celebrates everything from kimchi and kombucha to fermented fish and fruits. Founded in 2010, the pungent evening typically features keynote speakers like famed fermenter Sandor Ellix Katz and showcases more than 50 fermented foods and drinks. (No wonder it’s come to be affectionately known as “Stinkfest.”)
Portland food carts offer a wide range of simple, satisfying eats and some surprisingly sophisticated fare.
These local brunch hot spots offer reservations, meaning you can enjoy your pour-over coffee and avocado toast without waiting for hours.
With such a talked-about and delicious food scene, it comes as no surprise that Portland chefs have racked up a few James Beard Awards over the years.