Last time I gave you all sorts of tips on how to get to Portland, and get around the place once there. What next? You should eat. I’m quite fond of food, myself. I eat it most every day. You’re likely the same, and Portland has lots of food to cram in your nutrient intake orifice of choice. So gander below, at places I’ve been that apply heat to deceased flora and fauna, then put it on a dish for you.
Note: I might have missed your favourite place, but that’s just because I haven’t eaten there yet. Leave me a tip in the comments and I’ll visit said place, then pan it in a future review.
Map: If you’re getting lost, here’s a handy dandy map I put together. It’s swell.
Restaurants – Food carts – Around
Food cart pods are ubiquitous downtown and offer cheap eats in a variety of cuisines and qualities. Generally the food is pretty good, though, and definitely has a leg up vs Vancouver and our tiny-but-growing fleet of mobile carts. Check online frequently for the hot, new, shit.
Outside of downtown, the carts form mini pods on vacant lots, circled like covered wagons in the old west. Strings of fairy lights and lanterns provide illumination, bands often play, and usually one or two of the carts is selling beer and/or wine. It’s basically heaven, or a BC LCLB Inspector’s worst nightmare (amazing how those two things are usually the same). Again, these pods change and shift frequently, so keep an ear to the e-ground. Definitely take the time to track them down, though, as this is the quintessential Portland experience.
Restaurants (Brunch) – Kenny and Zukes – 1038 SW Stark
Do you want pastrami? No, I mean, do you REALLY WANT pastrami? If you screamed Yes at the top of your lungs, go to Kenny and Zukes where something huge awaits you: the line to get in. At the end of that line, though, is a pastrami sandwich the size of your head. It’s pretty tasty, too, as is the kosher pickle you get with it.
Restaurants (Brunch) – Mothers – 212 SW Stark
In a season 2 episode of Portlandia, a group of locals wait in line for brunch so long that they develop their own rituals, customs and society. I would bet that the inspiration for this episode is the outside of Mother’s Bistro on Saturday morning. The food is fantastic but, is it worth the wait? You have to try it once (hint: I have not been back). They do accept reservations, but with quite a few hoops to jump through before one is granted.
Restaurants (Wings) – Fire on the Mountain – 708 E Burnside
FotM is a somewhat legendary Portland institution, and that reputation is well deserved. The secret is truly in the sauce here, as the wings themselves, while pretty good, are not best-in-class. The hot wings I had on my first visit were neither the hottest wings, nor the best wings-in-general I’ve ever had, but they definitely were the best hot wings I’ve chowed down on, specifically. Lots of heat and flavour options, coupled with a rather decent lineup of custom-brewed craft beer, makes a happy Chuck.
Restaurants (Dinner) – Pok Pok – 3226 SE Division
Okay, let’s get this out of the way: the wait times are absurd. Downright shocking. On my most recent visit I was quoted 2.5 hours, and they don’t take reservations, to boot. However, unlike the pool of suckers slowly growing outside Pok Pok’s SE Division address, I simply marched across the street to the associated Whiskey Soda Lounge and instantly scored a patio seat.
WSL will let you know when your time comes at Pok Pok and, in the meantime, you can enjoy a variety of cocktails, beers, wines and even most of the appetizer menu from Pok Pok. Do yourself a favour and start dinner early.
Is it worth the wait? Unlike Mother’s, I go back every single time I go to Portland. I was also dropped on my head a lot as a child, so it remains unclear what weight this endorsement holds.
Restaurants (Dinner) – Luc Lac – 835 SW 2n
Luc Lac is NOT amazing food. It’s simply pretty decent Viet grub, even though the Pho is quite bland. What Luc Lac IS, though, is a fun twist on what you expect a restaurant to be, and one of those “so cheap you leave smiling” Portland experiences that are harder and harder to find. They keep prices down by keeping the seats full: order when you walk in, get a table given to you as your food becomes ready, and walk out the second you’re done, because you’ve already paid.
Go for Happy Hour between 4 and 7pm, and you’ll find a menu of pretty decent $2 and $3 food items. You can leave stuffed to the gills with perfectly okay Viet food for sub $10 and, remember: no tax.
Restaurants (Dinner) – Little Bird – 215 SW 6th
For something a bit higher end and definitely more French-ish, Little Bird is a must-try. Reservations fill up early, so plan your visit a few weeks out. Prices are a bit higher than perhaps we’re used to in Vancouver, with entrées generally being in the mid-to-high 20s USD (32-40ish CDN), but sometimes you just can’t wait until you’re back in Lotustown for your next fix of Foie Gras or Duck Confit.
Restaurants (Dinner) – Deschutes Brew Pub – 210 NW 11th Ave
I’ll keep the rest of the breweries, brewpubs and bars in a different post, but Deschutes goes here. Why? It’s not a bar. It’s a family friendly restaurant in a big-budget room. It is definitely not a bar (although the bar half feels bar-ish, it’s not enough to get over the vibrating reservation discs and queue of strollers out front). Couple that with overtly cheery, prompt service-with-smile and a room crammed full of over 200 patrons and I have to hate it, right? Wrong. I **want** to hate this place. I really do. It’s Disney’s version of a BrewPub. However, the food is very good, the beers are excellent, and the price is downright cheap. Oh, how easily I sell out my standards.
Okay, that’s enough for this post. Next time: Bars and Bottle Shops. I might even do Breweries then, as well, but I think those guys might just get their own post.