I found myself back in Portland, Oregon sooner than expected, but really, how could I stay away from a serious hub for eats and booze for so long? The weather was perfect – in the mid to high 70s for May/June. One might think that it was prime weather to check out all the tourist spots, but we only made it to one – the obligatory Multnomah Falls (6). It’s a short, paved hike to the top with a small bird’s nest for you to peek over the falls. There is a sit down restaurant at the foot called Multnomah Falls Lodge if you’re hankering for some solid American basics with a view of the waterfall. However, we wanted to make the most of our time in the City of Roses, and brunched at the very Portland Olympia Provisions, which is known for their serious charcuterie (11)(12). I ordered their namesake bloodymary, and eggs benedict atop pancakes with a wedge of their carefully layered potatoes that had a seriously crispy, crusted exterior (13).
Brunch held us over until the early evening, which we started with libations at Victoria Bar (9). The cocktail names during our visit referenced the Princess Bride (8) – with names like “True Love,” “Murdered by Pirates,” and “Battle of Wits” and “Inigo Montoya.” One that confused us at first was one that we pronounced “ma-wa-gue.” Until we started chatting about why one line wasn’t represented: “Marriage… Marriage is why we are gathered here today…” And then we realized it was there the entire time as “Mawage.” With all that booze, I wanted to make sure we didn’t crash before dinner, so I ordered some corner fritters served with a chermoula sauce (a North African marinade typically made up of coriander, lemon juice, garlic, and cumin); and green chile cheese fries. The chile cheese fries were made with waffle fries and green chile queso – *sigh* a chef after my own heart) (7). After a couple more cocktails, we made our way over to Kachka – a small Russian restaurant that looks like if a hipster and your babushka’s kitchen had a baby. We ordered almost all the small plates available during their late night happy hour, including their assorted pickled vegetables (5). We also made sure to pair everything with our favorite horseradish-infused vodka.
The next day, we made sure to continue our hobbit-like eating habits and cram in as many food and drinks spots as possible. We started our last full day in Portland with burgers at Killer Burger because I demanded trying the peanut butter and pickle burger (2). The peanut butter was actually a savory peanut sauce that you might find in Thai food and matched quite well with the briny pickles.
To pass the time between our next meal, we visited McMenamins’ Kennedy School (16), a former elementary school from the early 1900s that was converted into a surreal combination hotel/restaurant/multi-bar/brewery/bizarre art gallery that still has all the charms of its former self – including classroom doors, tiny school water fountains for the small of stature, and even a detention room (14) (now a well-stocked bar for the naughty ones). Feel free to show up any time during operating hours. You don’t need to be a hotel guest in one of the school’s old classrooms to be able to explore the property and have a drink at one of their bars. We checked out the boiler room bar (15), which was beautifully lit up and adorned with carvings and sculptures as a contrast against the harsh metal pipework. The food is average, but the cocktails are solid (they even make their own spirits and brews that you can purchase). Feel free to also take a stroll with your beverage around the grounds.
We followed cocktails at Kennedy School with… more cocktails! We got our drinks with a few pre-dinner bites at Expatriate. Their bar snacks included some American classics with some Asian inspiration – example, hot fried chicken sweetened with honey over a rice flour waffle. Expatriate also featured a black sheep on the menu – their take on a James Beard Foundation sandwich that we had to order – James Beard’s Onion and Butter Sandwich, which has, as you guessed it, butter and onions (4). The filling was also sprinkled with grey salt and parsley between white bread (the original subs mayo for butter). As simple as it was, we could tell that was some quality butter!
After fitting in one more cocktail at Angel Face, we rounded out the evening around the corner at Laurelhurst Market, a restaurant and butcher shop well known for its meats. We ate our way through the menu but enjoyed the beef tartare and foie gras to start (1). We also shared a couple of their steaks, including the Chicory & Cocoa Rubbed Hanger Steak with Chimichurri, Pickled Red Onion. To balance out all that meat, we ordered the Endive and Radicchio Salad with pickled green strawberries and a side of roasted baby carrots with radicchio, fennel honey and mint – you know, to be healthy. And then we properly squashed any attempts at being healthy with beignets and chicory and chocolate dipping sauce.
On our last day in Portland, we fit in one last brunch at Screen Door. The place focuses on southern cuisines and is known for its fried chicken, so we ordered their fried chicken over a sweet potato waffle, and rounded it out with a bowl of shrimp and cheddar grits. The grits were solid and served with one of their great biscuits, but still felt largely forgettable. There was consensus though that the fried chicken was incredibly tasty and crispy. After some neglected tax free shopping, I rounded out my trip with one last treat – ice cream from Salt and Straw. Their densely rich textured ice cream in combination with their unique seasonal flavors makes this a popular ice cream spot. Be prepared to wait in line. We gave ourselves just enough time before my flight back home. I opted for a double scoop of Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper, and Sourdough (pieces of tangy sourdough bread) (10).
With the help of friends, I managed to eat and drink my way through Portland up until the car ride to the airport, munching on my ice cream cone! I can’t wait to do it all again!