The food in Portland is probably one of the main factors why I think the city is the best in the USA. Maybe it’s because the tap water here is delicious itself, so food cooked in it tastes better. Maybe it’s because Portland is full of bohemian hippies (not really, but a little). Whatever the reason, I had some of the best American meals during the couple weeks I was in Portland.
Tea Chai Té – Coconut Chai Tea
“Red rooibos, coconut, ginger root, vanilla & cinnamon.”
Tea Chai Té has easily the most impressive selection of teas that I have ever seen, nearly a hundred flavors. They are creative beyond belief. The two locations are both beautiful and aesthetic, and definitely a cozy meeting spot or for surfing the web.
This place was particularly special for me, as it was the first place I went to in Portland, and it was recommended by Emily who met me there to introduce me to Portland culture, before taking me to the Rams Head for raspberry ale and …
McMenamins Rams Head Pub – Cajun Tater Tots
I can’t say enough about these tots. I actually went back a week later to get another batch, they were so good. I expected them to be spicy from the Cajun. Not so. Maybe very mildly spicy. But pure deliciousness. Comes with peppercorn ranch and organic ketchup (Portland style). One serving is good enough for a full meal. It’s a signature dish at all the McMenamins locations, and not to be passed up.
Oh yeah, and they are $2 in happy hour!
McMenamins Al’s Den – Zeus’ Housemade Falafel Burger
“Goat cheese tzatziki, romaine, aardvark hot sauce, crystal bakery kaiser roll, truffle fries.”
A week after The Rams Head, I met up with a friend at Al’s Den, an underground tavern with a great three-hour music show followed by a comedy hour every Friday and Saturday night. I got the falafel burger. Amazing. Not big, but simply delicious. Not really sure what else to say about it beyond that it’s a must try if you like falafel. And it’s also part of the happy hour menu, so another good choice for budget travel.
Shut Up and Eat – Italian Grinder
“Mortadella, copocollo, sopressatta, prosciutto, provolone, olive caper relish, tomatoes, roasted red bells, house marinated mild peppers, cabbage & braised greens, on a seeded roll. Grilled meats and toasted.”
Oh my Gawd!!! When this sandwich arrived, my first thought was “how the heck am I supposed to eat this?” I don’t even know what most of the ingredients are, though I look forward to the day when I am so well versed in them I can recognize them by taste. But that will follow from my travels in Italy. For now, I will have to satisfy myself with what was arguably the best lunch I have ever had. And besides, how can you pass up trying a cafe called “Shut Up and Eat?”
Voodoo Doughnuts – Memphis Mafia Doughnut
“Fried dough with banana chunks and cinnamon covered in a glaze with chocolate frosting, peanut butter, peanuts and chocolate chips on top!”
This is the only meal I had that wasn’t particularly special as to quality. It seems to be agreed by many that this joint is overrated. That doesn’t, however, stop the lines from being dozens of people long at peak periods. They even had cordons in the parking lot for an overflow line. But they definitely need a special mention for creativity. The fritter I purchased, as you can see to the left, was certainly over-the-top in design. They had many more in their selection which I would have loved to try if I was willing to force more than one doughnut down my gullet. But my favorite doughnut shop will continue to be Kettle Glazed Donuts in Hollywood, at least until I find something better overseas. I hear the donuts at the street vendors in Macedonia are out-of-this-world.
Brunch Box Food Cart – The Outlaw Burger
“Patty with cheddar, bacon, onion ring, grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, BBQ sauce and mayo on Texas toast.”
I was told that the street food in Portland served some of the best meals in town. They weren’t kidding. I tried the Brunch Box, which had an amazing selection of creative items. Easily one of the best burgers I’ve had. And I’m not giving that as hype. It was simply one of those burgers that made me think “My God, what did they put in this?” Not overly greasy. Just the right serving amount. Simply perfect. I’m going to hit a few more food carts before I leave, but this one was special to me.
When I arrived in Portland, I went to a couchsurfing event and asked what the best sushi parlor was in town. Nearly everyone simultaneously said “Saburo’s.” So I went there. They were right. Just the California Rolls were a notch above anything I’ve had before. And I got the Chef Special, which included my first serving of octopus. Not something I would usually pick, and I can’t say I’m fond of it. But hey, I’m taking off all inhibitions to trying new foods. I’m just glad I can add octopus to the list of foods I’ve tried. But if you like sushi and you’re in Portland, Saburo’s is your place. And don’t expect a large bill either. Update: I drove by Saburo’s a couple weeks later. There were several dozen people outside waiting for a table. Seems the rest of Portland knows it’s the best sushi in town as well.