We just got back from spending a weekend in Portland a few days ago, and all I can say is “wow” to the Portland food scene. From food carts to novelty doughnuts to international cuisine, Portland has it all covered and it’s all incredible. I literally ate so much there that on one occasion, I could not finish a grilled cheese that I got from a food cart. And grilled cheese is my favorite food.
Since Colby is a chef and I am a self proclaimed major foodie, we did a lot of research on where we should eat. This included scouring Pinterest, reading blogs, asking friends and fellow bloggers, and pouring over several books about the top 100 best restaurants in Portland. Here are the places we ate while we were there, our ratings, and what we would recommend.
Pok Pok: ★★★★
We heard from several people that we should go to Pok Pok for amazing Thai food. They have several locations around Portland – we went to the original – and after looking at their menu online we had no idea what to expect, so we just headed out the door and decided to find out when we got there. The atmosphere was authentic, relaxed, and the tables were close together. The waitress recommended some of the favorites and our neighbors at the table next to us warned us not to get everything spicy. They were sweating and chugging water so we assumed that was good advice.
Our order ended up being the fish sauce wings and the Pok Pok special, which is half a roasted hen, spicy papaya salad, and sticky rice. The wings were amazing, like 10 out of 10 good. They kind of overshadowed our other dish, but it was also incredible. The papaya salad was intense and the dipping sauces that came with the chicken were yummy. If you’re looking for delicious, authentic Thai food, head here and definitely get the wings – and then experiment with another entree.
Salt & Straw: ★★★★★
This was some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had. With flavors like olive oil, sea salt, and honey lavender, you know they know what they’re doing. We were really only in Portland for two full days but we went here three times. My favorite was the strawberry honey balsamic with black pepper (divine) and Colby loved the cinnamon snickerdoodle, but we also tried chocolate gooey brownie and dandelion sorbet with spring flowers (I had to get sorbet for something light the day I ate way too much and it was so interesting but so good). I’ll be forever wishing we had this place in SLC.
Tasty & Alder: ★★★★★
This was Colby’s favorite place we ate our whole trip. Tasty & Alder is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with different menus for each. We went for brunch and the wait was over an hour, but it was so worth it. We fell in love. After several suggestions from the waitress and some more consulting with people at tables near us, we ordered two chocolate potato doughnuts, Bim Bop bacon & eggs, and the Whole Toad.
Things come out at different times and they are meant to be shared with everyone at the table. The Whole Toad came out first, which is essentially a savory bread pudding: an over easy egg and a blend of spices are put on top of a brioche bread pudding. They bring it out while it’s still only half-done with instructions to wait a minute, and then stir everything together. I can’t even put into words how good it was. The crust of the bread was perfectly crispy and the textures and flavors blended perfectly.
Next was the Bip Bop bacon & eggs, a Korean breakfast dish. Chow mein noodles, fried rice, lots of spices, and a fried egg are all combined for a serious burst of flavor. Just like the Whole Toad, we stirred like crazy to blend everything together and it was definitely good. I wish we had branched out a little more with this one, since it was the same concept as the Whole Toad, but it was yummy. We saved the doughnuts for last, which was definitely a mistake. They were obviously delicious but potato doughnuts are so heavy. I was stuffed and could barely walk back to the car.
Ken’s Artisan Pizza: ★★★
I’m not going to lie, I was disappointed by this place. It was also listed as one of the best restaurants in Portland, and several blogs claimed it as the best pizza they had eaten in a while, so we had really high hopes. It was good, but there wasn’t really anything that set it apart as great. We tried the blanca and the fennel sausage and onions, and were satisfied but weren’t blown away. Maybe we just ordered wrong, but there are so many places to eat in Portland, you might want to venture to something more memorable.
Blue Star Donuts: ★★★★★
If anything, Portland is known for its doughnuts: mainly Voodoo Doughnuts with its Instagram-able pink box and exciting selection of flavors. We’ve obviously heard a lot about Voodoo Doughnuts, but after reading a lot of blogs and talking to a few locals, we learned that they might not actually be the best doughnuts in Portland. Everything recommended Blue Star instead – less touristy and more focused on quality than novelty. We were not disappointed.
We waited forever for these, but in the end, they were everything you could ever dream of in a doughnut. Made from scratch every day using brioche bread (one thing I discovered this trip: brioche is better than anything) and expertly combined flavors, these were the best doughnuts either of us has ever had. My favorite was the blueberry bourbon basil and Colby loved the lemon poppyseed buttermilk. We also tried Mexican hot chocolate, classic glazed, and cinnamon sugar, and all of them are to die for. I probably can never eat another supermarket doughnut again.
Colby has been obsessed with ramen practically since I met him, so we had to go get some while were in Portland. Lots of sources recommended this place, and we were surprised to find it moderately empty and tucked into a more remote part of the city. This was the only place we didn’t have to worry about what to order: we both got a bowl of ramen and added on an appetizer of potstickers.
A woman at the table next to us told us she has eaten a lot of ramen, and Biwa’s was her favorite. Colby agreed. I’m not a huge ramen-eater myself, but the incredible smoked pork along with the soft boiled egg made it go up quite a few notches in my book. The only reason I can’t give this five stars is the price, a little expensive for what you get, but the food makes it worth it. Colby said it’s a solid 4.5 but I told him I’m only doing whole number ratings.
Not pictured: Like I mentioned, we also ate at the Grilled Cheese Grill, one of the many food carts around the city of Portland. I was way too full to actually give a subjective review, but I will say I was a little disappointed in the food cart scene. It’s so famous, but compared to Salt Lake City’s food trucks, it’s a little lacking. But let me know if you disagree. Maybe we went to the wrong places.
Overall, I can’t wait to go back to Portland and eat even more amazing food. What are your favorite places to eat in PDX?