Hipster places to eat and drink in Portland? I know what you must be thinking — surely that “hipster” descriptor is redundant, what with Portland being one of the most inherently hipster places on the planet. Still, there isn’t really a more effective way of classifying these places.
I was in Portland for a wedding, and wasn’t there very long really — certainly not long enough to say whether or not these are the best places to eat and drink in the city. But nevertheless, I couldn’t let the opportunity to pass to write about the gorgeous things I did eat and drink there. I’ve divided the places I went up into a few different categories, although really you should consider eating the following in any order and at any time of day.
Salt and Straw
Let’s kick off with the best, shall we? Salt and Straw is a Portland success story that makes such great ice cream it now has outlets in city up and down the west coast. I went to the shop on NE Alberta and enjoyed myself a tasting flight of ice cream — perfect for someone who find it impossible to make choices! My favourite flavours were the freckled woodblock chocolate and sea salt with caramel ribbons.
Perhaps even better still, I popped into Salt and Straw’s Wiz Bang Bar at Pine Street Market, the city’s first food hall, which is worth checking out in its own right. Here, Salt and Straw serve heavenly creamy soft serve. I grabbed a salted chocolate chip cookie dough concrete to work my way through while I wandered around Portland’s Lan Su Chinese garden a few blocks over. I apologise for the hyperbole, but it was genuinely, truly a life-changing taste experience.
Blue Star Donuts
Where do you even go from there? Why, to doughnuts, of course. I skipped out on Portland’s famous novelty Voodoo Donuts, firstly because of the queue and secondly because my sources told me there were better to be had elsewhere.
Blue Star donuts was in rolling distance of my hotel, so I skipped out on the average croissants and headed there for breakfast instead. Twice. I tried the maple bacon doughnut that you can see above, and the blueberry cake doughnut that you can see below. They were both at the very pinnacle of the American doughnut experience — bouncy, sticky sweet and soft as clouds. Now that I’m looking at the other two flavours on display below I’m kicking myself for not trying those as well.
Airy, retro Sweedeedee is exactly the kind of cafe you want at the end of your road. The main reason is its salted honey pie, which is the kind of sweet baked custardy dessert that heals broken hearts.
Sweedeedee actually serves a bunch of pies, all of which looked pretty irresistible, but if you’re not an Oregon native you should consider ordering up a slice of the marionberry. People in Oregon go nuts for marionberries, which are a sweeter kind of blackberry that when baked look and taste almost like blueberries.
If you like you start your day with something sweet then look no further than brunch at Broder Nord. This Nordic chain boasts Portland’s biggest selection of aquavit, but I stuck to the sweet treats.
Puffed up little aebleskiver pancakes and crisp outside, doughy in the middle and served with dipping curd and are perfect for sharing. This means you can justify also ordering a blueberry griddle cake with maple syrup.
Nong’s Khao Man Gai
Nong’s Khao Man Gai might be the most inconveniently delicious street food ever invented. I walked two blocks to find a wall to sit on to eat it and still made a dreadful mess, which is why no pictures. It involves chicken, rice and soup, which makes it sound simple, but don’t be deceived. To understand more, check out this Eater article. Otherwise, just trust me and make it your top street food priority in Portland.
The Grilled Cheese Grill
I’ve included The Grilled Cheese Grill because it’s always important to know where to get grilled cheese in a city, but to be honest, I wasn’t blown away. The cheese was bland, as was the bread, and it’s not a patch on my London favourite, The Cheese Truck. Still, grilled cheese.
Oh hello, this is more like it.
Matt’s BBQ was ages out of my way and felt like it was nowhere near anything else. Served from a caravan in a car park, this place does what my insider told me is Portland’s best brisket. I won’t lie, I had had a lot to eat that day already, so I went for the pure version — no carbs, no sides, just pure melting meat. It was astonishingly tender and I’d repeat the detour to eat here again.
Restaurants and Breweries
Welcome to America! Here is more food than any human can possibly ever eat!
Lardo was the first place I went after a day of flying from the UK to Portland via Seattle. I was ready for a big dinner, but not this big. I went for the pork meatball banh mi and we shared some dirty fries, but I honestly don’t think we ate very many of them (too much, too much). Lardo also has amazing local beer on tap and does some great happy hour deals.
Start your day the Cuban way with one of Portland’s most original and popular brunches. Pambiche is gloriously colourful and cheerful both inside and out. I am a sucker for spicy eggs, so I chowed down on the sausage scramble with gusto. It served as a pre-wedding breakfast (as opposed to the actual wedding breakfast, see below) and got us all in the mood to party.
¿Por Qué No?
I can almost guarantee that the bride and groom are as in love with the tacos from ¿Por Qué No? as they are with each other. They decided to celebrate their love for this Mexican food with their just their closest family and a handful of local friends in a sunny back garden in Portland. It was a delicious occasion and everyone left feeling very happy and full.
A cheese bar! Chizu is a cute little spot downtown and serves up plates of local cheese. I couldn’t manage one myself (see all the food above), but I did drop in to pick up a block of award-winning Lorelei goats cheese made by my colleague Jim down the road at the Briar Rose Creamery. The people behind the counter couldn’t have been more helpful and lovely.
Breweries and Bars
Founded in 2010, Breakside is one of the most popular breweries in the Pacific Northwest. If you want a quintessential Portland brewpub experience with amazing beers and hefty burgers, Breakside is your best bet.
Whereas Breakside’s two locations will require a taxi or long walk to get to from the centre of town, Bridgeport is more conveniently situated in Portland’s Pearl District, a fashionable and lively quarter not far from downtown. Inside, Bridgeport is big, airy and industrial and serves fantastic beer and nibbles. There’s a cool seating area outside too.
Altabira City Tavern
Altabira City Tavern is a rooftop bar and restaurant situated on top of Hotel Eastlund, the second place we stayed in Portland. We went up for early evening cocktails and snacks on a gorgeous evening before heading off to watch the baseball. The views and vibes were sublime, and we loved the pizza and bellinis.
Pepe le Moko and Clyde Common
The Ace Hotel in Portland was sadly all booked up when we were looking for somewhere to stay (it was all very last minute). We ended up staying just across the road instead, but still enjoyed many of the Ace’s facilities. In the daytimes it typifies the mellow, hipster feel that Portland does so well. At night the lights are turned down low and the energy is turned up a notch as arty 30-somethings talk late into the night over artisan piggy bits.
I had some particularly great nibbles and dessert at Clyde Common, which is just upstairs off the lobby and seems to be a great place for groups. I also loved Pepe le Moko, an underground cocktail den with its own entrance. Head down the stairs and settle in to one of the leather booths or pull up a seat at the zinc bar. The curved, low-slung ceiling gives this spot an intimate, filmic feel and the cocktails are eye-windeningly punchy.
Portland residents will complain that Stumptown has sold out now that its been bought by nationwide coffee chain Peet’s. But they’d be lying if they said the coffee wasn’t good.
This Portland success story has a little outlet in the Ace Hotel. Queue up with commuters in the morning to grab yourself a takeaway cup, or pull up your MacBook and join the freelancers in the lobby.
Heart takes coffee brewing seriously and has genuinely Nordic roots thanks to its Finnish founder. There are four outlets around town and serves up a latte that’s perfect, if a little precious.
Outwardly, Barista might seem like its too hipster for its own good, but I got the friendliest, chattiest welcome here. The coffee was spot on too.
Man, that was a lot of food and drink to consume in a week. Did I miss anywhere? What’s your favourite US city when it comes to eat and drink?
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