We are back from four fun days in Portland, Oregon. Portland is full of great food so of course our itinerary revolves around destinations of delicious eats. Besides stuffing our faces with scrumptious treats, we also had the chance to explore the beauty and the eclectics that Portland has to offer, even took a scenic drive to the beautiful Oregon Coast. We rented an apartment through VRBO.com and that’s usually my preferred way of accommodation when it’s more than just Joe and me. It’s more fun to have everyone together instead of in separate hotel rooms, plus having a full kitchen is always great especially this time we are traveling with a toddler. We did get a rental car mostly for the day trip to go outside of Portland, but it’s not necessary to get one if you are planning on staying in and near downtown, as the public transit systems like the Streetcars and the Max Lines will take you everywhere you need to go.
I can’t wait to come back to check out more food hotspots and hit up some acclaimed museums and whacky galleries like The Tardis Room (Dr. Who themed bar!!), Portland Museum of Art, 24-hour Church of Elvis, Freakybuttrue Peculiarium, and Pittock Mansion.
Here is our itinerary and I’ve listed all the links and locations at the end of this entry. Enjoy!
Thursday. We arrived in Portland around 11am, first thing we did was to hop in the car to get lunch. The Food trucks/carts/pods business have been blooming in the recent years and they are literally everywhere in Portland, it’s all part of the support-small-and-local-business movement. And most of them provide restaurant quality gourmet meals that are great for on-the-go folks as well as people like myself who just want to sample a little bit from each vendors. We visited the Alder Street location, which has the largest numbers of food carts and pods in downtown. (Click here for a list of all Portland food carts)
We sampled the porchetta sandwich from The People’s Pig, Haddock ‘n chips and deep fried Mars bar from The Frying Scotsman (loved the curry powder in the batter!) The highlight was the chicken and rice from Nong’s Khao Man Gai. We are all still craving for that perfectly tender poached chicken, gingery garlic chili sauce, served on a bed of white rice with a side of pickled cucumber. Mmmmmm! It’s served directly in parchment paper with all the goodness wrapped up into a little tasty parcel. The Thai iced tea and Vietnamese iced coffee (made with Stumptown Coffee) from Nong’s were also great!
After lunch, we walked three blocks over to Cacao for a little dessert, and our sweet tooth was definitely satisfied with their rich, thick and velvety smooth drinking chocolate. The sampler trio is $6, consists of three 3 oz. drinking chocolate – Dark chocolate, milk chocolate with cinnamon, and spicy dark chocolate. So decadent and creamy, awesome for any chocolate lovers!
Next to Cacao, is Blue Star Donuts and Coffee, where we picked up a half dozen for breakfast the next day. Blue Stars offer some unique flavor combo, such as bourbon-blueberry-basil (yummy!), marionberry with peanut butter powder, passion fruit glaze with cacao nibs (our favorite!), bacon maple, and the coolest one – creme brulee donut with a pipette of Cointreau (top left). Eating day-old doughnuts definitely isn’t the best way to go but these were still pretty darn delicious the next morning.
Portland is also known as the City of Roses. We took a relaxing stroll at the Portland Rose Garden (free admission). Admiring rows after rows of colorful blooms and breathing in fresh and fragrant air really gave us a boost of energy.
After settling into our rental apartment and a quick tour of the neighborhood, we headed out across the Hawthorne Bridge to the famous Thai restaurant, Pok Pok. If you don’t have a dinner reservation, I recommend coming early before 6pm to beat the long wait. Pok Pok has a full bar and serve some awesome cocktails so grab a drink while you wait. If the wait is over an hour long, go across the street to Pok Pok’s sister restaurant Whiskey Soda Lounge and grab some drinks and appetizers (WSL also serves the famous fish sauce wings from Pok Pok), Pok Pok will call when the table is ready.
We were seated pretty much right away, and immediately ordered a round of refreshing cocktails as well as their well-known drinking vinegar. The table water (top left) is flavored with Pandanus leaves, very unique and invigorating. The rest of the drinks: The “Hunny” (grapefruit juice, lime, honey drinking vinegar, tequila), salted plum collins (salted plum, vodka, lemon, soda), hot toddy made with bourbon and Korean yuzu-honey tea, lychee drinking vinegar mixed with soda water (SO yummy!), and the “Naam Manao” (freshly squeezed limeade) for the non-drinker.
Our waiter was very friendly and helped us to narrow down the menu selection. Every dish was superb! Light yet packed with flavors, I can see why they were featured on every food and travel show. We enjoyed the papaya salad, grilled corn smothered with salted coconut cream, the acclaimed fish sauce chicken wings, mild curry and coconut noodle soup, and the grilled boar collar which was served with a plate of raw mustard green covered in ice (to maintain its fresh and crispness) to help us cool down in case the chili pepper gets too spicy.
After dinner, we visited Powell’s City of Books, which is a 3-story bookstore that takes up a whole city block! It’s so big that visitors can get a map from the info booth to help with directions. It really is a magical place, book lovers can easily spend a whole day there! I even found some Chinese comic books that I read growing up.
Friday, was a day trip out to the Oregon Coast. We started at 10am, and it took about 1.5 hour to get to the city of Tillamook. Even with mostly single-lane and slightly windy road, the drive was pretty easy and very scenic. Half of the time we felt like we were lost in the enchanted forest, emerald green conifers and alder engulfed in fog, very eerie at parts but really a neat sight.
We arrived at our first stop, which was the Tillamook Cheese Factory. With the free self-guided tour, we were able to view the factory and the witness the assembling process from the second flour. The end of the tour guides the visitors to the sampling station, where one can sample a variety of Tillamook’s finest. But for me, the best part was the ice cream! Tillamook uses the same cream and milk for the cheese and made some beyond awesome ice cream. With so many flavors to choose from, we finally decided on both marionberry pie and mudslide. It was hands down one of the finest and tastiest ice cream I’ve had. And let’s talk about the cone – the ice cream is usually the star and people see the waffle cone merely as a container to hold the frozen treat but At Tillamook, the waffle cone was just as much of a star as the ice cream. Flaky, airy, crispy with perfect sweetness…it tasted like those wedges of thin crispy wafers one would find at gelato shops.
With our stomach full of cheese and ice cream, we drove 10 minutes north to Bay City for lunch at the Fish Peddler, a small restaurant inside of Pacific Oysters. We had oyster stew, oyster shooters, and oysters on half shells. The crab melt (made with Tillamook cheese) was quite buttery and tasty as well. In the back of the restaurant, you can also see workers clean, shuck, and wash mountains of oysters.
After lunch, we took the 3 capes Scenic Drive with a stop at Cape Lookout State Park and Pelican Brewery (which had a stunning view of the Haystack rock and Cape Kiwanda.) Cape Lookout State Park has camping facilities and rental cabins, with the sandy beach on one side and lots of hiking trails through the forest, I can see myself spending a weekend there.
Another 15 minutes driving south along the coast, we have arrived at Pelican Brewery and Pub in Pacific City. It was such a beautiful day with a perfect and Sunny 75F, we scored a table outside and enjoyed a great view of the sandy beach, the cape, and the magnificent haystack rock. We ordered a couple of the beer sampler (not listed on menu) with a plate of beer-battered fries (fried to crispy perfection), it’s $7 for 3oz tasters of each of their 6 beers plus 1 seasonal beer. My favorites were the Scottish Ale and the Creamy Stout. Each of the food items on the menu (including desserts) are made with Pelican’s own beer, everything sounded delicious but we already made dinner plan elsewhere.
Reluctant to leave the sunny beach, we dragged our feet back to the car and headed back towards Portland downtown to make our dinner reservation at Andina, a Peruvian tapas restaurant. Thankfully Andina’s food met and exceeded all expectations and made us forgot all about that white sandy beach we were on just two hours ago. Onto the delectable spread of tapas that we ordered and shared:
Top: Curatodo de Sauco (whiskey, citrus, honey, with elderberry syrup), Beef tartare (mix with quail egg, sweet potato, and corn), causa solterito (timbale of yukon gold puree, cotija, corn, and tomatoes).
Middle: Grilled octopus kebobs, filet mignon (obsessed with the side of sauteed frisee, fingerling potatoes, and achiote oil), beef empanadas filled with slow-cooked beef, raisins, and olives.
Bottom: Causa Morada (timbale of purple peruvian potato and shredded chicken), piquillo peppers stuffed with quinoa, cheese, and Serrano ham (my favorite!), and for dessert, keylime scented alfajores with manjar blanco custard.
Saturday morning, we walked a block to Portland State University, also home to the best farmers market I’ve ever been to. We sampled everything from fruit, jam, chocolate, to pate and pickled vegetables. Brunch was kimchi hot dogs at Bingo Sandwiches and Huevos Rancheros from Cocina Verde.
We drove towards the harbor, where the Saturday Market takes place each week. It’s a huge outdoor bazaar that takes over a few city blocks, and it is filled with crafts, jewelry, as well as some more eclectic and strange merchandises. We shared a giant elephant ear as a snack, which is a fried dough coated with cinnamon sugar.
The famous Voodoo Doughnuts is only a block away from the Saturday market, and of course the line was so long that it probably was a 90 minute wait. I’ve heard their doughtnuts were awesome, but no way we were going to wait in that line. We walked another block over to Stumptown Coffee Roasters to enjoy a couple cups of espresso and lattes, and we were on our way to our next destination.
There are lots of breweries in Oregon that are quite popular, and several of them are located right in Portland. We called up Widmer Brothers Brewing Company and were able to book a free tour of their facility on the same day. The tour lasts about one hour, with first half in the production facility, and the second half sampling and drinking four different kinds of beer. A fun, casual, and informative tour, and we got to drink a good amount of beer. The signature beer at WB is the Hefeweizen, which is an unfiltered beer that has a great citrus and flora aroma. We also liked the Summer Citra Ale a lot, it’s very refreshing, the perfect summer beer.
With all that beer in us, we were all craving something greasy and salty. I tracked down this food pod that I’ve seen on several food shows, called Big-Ass Sandwiches. Grilled meat (ham, turkey, or roast beef) piled on a ciabatta roll, topped with mountains of fries and bechamel sauce. Perfect food to sop up all that alcohol. (Joe and I shared one, no way I can finish a whole sandwich by myself!)
Feeling content, we decided to bask ourselves in nature. A short 30 minutes drive east, we arrived at the magnificent Multnomah Falls. Park at the Multnomah Falls rest area stop and follow the signs, it’s just a very short walk to see this gorgeous sight. Hike another 0.2 mile and you will end up on that bridge to be even closer to the cool mist of the falls. Simply stunning!
On our way back into downtown, we stopped by distillery row and visited House Spirits Distillery. I was originally only interested in purchasing a bottle of their Stumptown Coffee Liqueur, but ended up doing the $5 tasting to sample all the spirits. I usually don’t care of Gin but really liked their Aviation Gin! The Aquavit and the Voldstead Vodka were so smooth and I was in loooove. HSD also sells some unique bitters, I was very tempted to buy a couple but I’m proud to say that I still walked away with only the coffee liqueur as that is the only thing not available nationwide. This place is such a gem, definitely worth checking out!
Our last morning in Portland, we woke up early to go to Voodoo Doughnuts Too, their location only a few miles outside of downtown. I’ve heard that this location does get crowded but nowhere near the crazy lines at the original location. Most people who want to purchase dozens for corporate offices come here early in the morning. We got here around 8:30 and voila, walked right up to the counter and took our time to explore their extensive menu. I gotta say their doughnuts were pretty bad ass. The Portland Cream (similar to Boston Cream) has the best custard I’ve ever tasted in a doughnut, and the maple bacon had the perfect balance of sweet and savory. The signature voodoo doll doughnut with a pretzel stake (filled with raspberry jam to resemble “blood”) was fun to eat! We also saw another customer walked out with a whole bucket of doughnuts. No joke, an actual bucket! I looked it up online and turned out that you can call ahead and requeset Voodoo Doughnuts to save you a bucket of assorted day-old doughnuts, all for $5! They usually donate all their leftover doughnuts so if you want the bucket, call ahead.
Lugging around that pink Voodoo box in the airport caused quite the commotion. I’m sure it’s a common sight at PDX airport, I’ve even seen people carrying the infamous pink box at various airports across the country. But a lot of people asked about the doughnuts and even the TSA workers teased and wanted us to leave them behind because there are liquids (the jam and custards) inside the doughnuts.
Our final stop was to get our actual breakfast, at Pine State Biscuits. We had looked for them at the farmers market on Saturday but they were at a music festival instead. Flaky and buttery biscuits and crispy fried chicken, good morning indeed. We got a plain biscuit with marionberry jam and butter. The Reggie – biscuit with fried chicken, gruyere, bacon, gravy, and cheese. You can also get a Reggie deluxe, which is the Reggie plus a fried egg, a complete breakfast! We also got the McIsley – biscuit with fried chicken, mustard, pickles, and honey. SO unbelievably declicious.
With a full stomach and a pink box of voodoo doughnuts in hand, we returned home with very fond memories of Portland and already started planning our next visit.
The People’s Pig (SW 10th and SW Washington, Portland, OR)
The Frying Scotsman (SW 9th and Alder, Portland, OR)
Nong’s Khao Man Gai (SW 10th & Alder St. Portland, OR)
Blue Star Donuts (1237 SW Washington Street, Portland, OR)
Cacao Drinking Chocolate (414 SW 13th Avenue, Portland, OR)
Portland International Test Rose Garden (850 SW Rose Garden Way, Portland, OR)
Pok Pok (3226 SE Division Street, Portland OR)
Powells City of Books (1005 W Burnside St., Portland, OR)
Tillamook Cheese Factory (4175 Highway 101 North, Tillamook, OR)
The Fish Peddler at Pacific Oysters (5150 Oyster Dr., Bay City, OR)
Pelican Brewery and Pub (33180 Cape Kiwanda Dr Pacific City, OR)
Andina Restaurant (1314 NW Glisan St, Portland, OR)
Portland Farmers Market (In Portland State University: SW Park Ave & SW Montgomery St, Portland, OR)
Portland Saturday Market (Waterfront Park and Ankeny Plaza. SW Naito Pkwy and SW Ankeny St.)
Voodoo Doughnuts (22 SW 3rd Ave, Portland, OR)
Stumptown Coffee (Several locations. Downtown: 128 SW 3rd Avenue, Portland, OR)
Widmer Brothers Brewing Company and Pub (Retail: 929 N. Russell, Portland, OR. Pub: 955 N. Russell, Portland, OR)
Big-Ass Sandwiches (304 SE 2nd Ave Portland, OR)
Multnomah Falls (Interstate 84, exit 31)
House Spirits Distillery (2025 SE 7th Ave, Portland, OR)
Voodoo Doughnuts Too (1501 NE Davis St, Portland, OR)
Pine State Biscuits (2204 NE Alberta, Portland, OR)