Portland was named the number one food city in America in Tom Sietsema’s story that ran in December 2015 The Washington Post, “The 10 Best Food Cities in America, Ranked.” The timing could not have been more perfect. In late November, my husband and I were talking about going on a trip. We wanted a road trip to be part of the adventure. Some place that we haven’t been to. A destination with good food and new sites to see. Portland was the first place that came to mind (prior to reading this article). We could drive up Highway 5, through Mount Shasta, and make stops at a few small towns along the way. We booked an Airbnb for a week, from December 26 – January 3 and the planning began. Planning is part of my job. I am a PR consultant in the hospitality industry and very lucky to not only work with very talented chefs and restaurateurs but to work in an industry that I truly love — food and hospitality. I spent a few late nights diving into Sietsema’s article – reading about the restaurants he recommended, in addition to one of my favorite sources when traveling — the “36 Hours” column in the New York Times. I have referenced that when traveling to places that are near where we live to International destinations, including Barcelona and Lyon. It’s always a great mix of some well-known spots and some hidden gems. With these two references, combined with some other great articles found in Bon Appetit magazine, Food & Wine magazine, and recommendations from some of my foodie friends, the list of restaurants, bars, and local boutique shops to check out was growing to be very long. To no surprise for those that know me (and my Type A personality!), I created a spreadsheet. I mapped out each restaurant and bar by neighborhood. I had various columns that included their hours, whether or not they took reservations, happy hours, and notes on some must-try dishes. We had exactly 5 nights in Portland because two days were essentially shot due to the drive (about 9 hours each way). Now came the tricky part. How to fit in all of these amazing spots? Before even leaving for the trip, I knew we’d make another journey to Portland at some point over the next couple of years, so started to narrow down the list and felt very satisfied with the end result.
Now the journey begins, in this 3-part series of exploring Portland, told mostly in photos mixed in with brief captions and other anecdotes. The end of the series includes a list of all of the places we visited, and that I’d recommend you add to your list, for easy reference.
Stop #1: Breadboard Restaurant. After crossing the border into Portland, we needed a spot to grab food and Ashland has been on the list as a good place to check out on the road trip from SF -> Portland. Known for the Shakespeare Festival, which takes place at the theater in town. Another reason to visit: the fluffy buttermilk pancakes made from scratch at Breadboard Restaurant . Just off the main road through town, this little diner is filled with charm, and some of the nicest people I’ve come across (actually, a take-away from the entire trip: people in Oregon are very friendly!)
We made it! Taking in the views on one of Portland’s nine bridges entering downtown. We walked from our house (Albert Arts District) to the Pearl District, which is just over 4 miles each way. Walking through the different neighborhoods is, in my opinion, the best way to get a feel for the town and to stumble on places and things you might have missed if you weren’t on foot. We really lucked out with the weather. While it was cold (barely 30 degrees!), almost the entire week was sunny and blue skies.
Stop #2: Kachka. Our first night in Portland couldn’t have started off any more perfectly. I’d be reading a lot about Kachka, a spot known for Russian-fare and house-infused vodkas. We arrived at 5pm, to find it packed already. Luckily, there were two spots that had just opened up at the bar. The bartender gave us two shots of their earl grey-infused vodka, alongside some Russian cookies. Delicious!
Herring ‘Under a Fur Coat’ at Kachka – not only did the description sound delicious — a Russian, 7-layer dip with herring, potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, mayo and eggs — but how could you pass up a dish with that name? It was amazing.
Stop #3: Ox. This Portland hotspot came highly recommended by some foodie friends and has always been on my list. We had a reservation and choose a spot at the chefs counter, which is my favorite place to dine. Not only for a chance to see all the action, but to interact with the talented people creating the food. Ox serves Argentinean-inspired food cooked in a wood-fired grill all in a beautiful, hip setting.
Grilled Cauliflower w/ a tahini-feta puree and a selection of housemade chorizo, perfectly cooked @ Ox.
House-made sorbet and a coffee to end the night @ Ox.
One of the best empanadas I’ve ever had: spiced beef, green olive and raisin @ Ox.
On to the next day, Stop #1: Clyde Common. Known for their handcrafted cocktails and located in a hip part of town, this was on our list to check out. The bar was already buzzing at 5:30 p.m. and we snagged two stools at the bar. Beautiful, open space with communal tables and a fun group behind the bar.
Stop #2: Olympic Provisions. Probably on most people’s list, this was a must. Not only do I love a good charcuterie plate and order one any chance I get, but especially at this spot, it was a must and what we came for. The housemade charcuterie is delicious, unique and flavorful and so good, that we decided to try a few other things from the rustic, European-inspired menu. This is the Chef’s Choice – a selection of five meats, pickles and bread.
Stop #3: Expatriate. A very hip bar serving global bites and cocktails in the Northeast district of Portland. We had to get the popular Jame’s Beard Onion & Butter Sandwich – so simple, yet so amazing! It’s pretty much a piece of toast with butter, onions, parsley and grey salt!
The fried jalapeno bite – also delicious!
Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3!