Russian cuisine? You’ll find it and you’ll feel like you are in St. Petersburg.
Farm-to-table fare? It’s all over town and there are some of the most amazing Farmer’s Markets as well.
Asian dishes? There’s a Vietnamese restaurant that’s so authentically delicious and inexpensive that I could have eaten there every night.
I spent three days in Portland, Oregon, last fall and literally ate my way through the city enjoying the diverse dining in Portland.
I can see why the Washington Post recognized it as America’s best food city. Portland’s diverse dining IS simply the best.
The only city that might have it beat is New York City – which really you can’t compare to any other city!
A robust and diverse food scene
I dined in at fine-dining restaurants and outside at food pods. I munched on artisan donuts and nibbled my way through the popular PSU Saturday Farmers’ Market. I sipped some of the most stellar brews – coffee and cider, that is.
Not a beer drinker, I passed on homegrown beers, preferring the wines from this part of the Pacific Northwest with my meals. I sampled the chocolates, the ice cream and frozen Greek yogurt too.
I literally felt like I was in a foodie coma by the time I left town.
Since I like to share, I’m going to tell you some of my Portland favorites, examples of the fabulous, diverse dining in Portland:
For a cup of Joe to start your day
You can take your pick from a selection of Portland coffee brews. There are many to choose from and all are worth trying. You’ll find coffee shops on almost every downtown street and sometimes more than one. Stumptown Coffee Roasters is a Portland original. My friends also took me to Coava, where I bought some beans to bring home to my boyfriend who enjoys extra strong coffee.
For when it’s time to eat donuts
Stroll over to a Blue Star Donuts shop for the artisan variety, where you can find combinations like Blueberry Bourbon and Orange Olive Oil donuts. However, if you’re more into hipsters and totally mashed up concoctions on your donuts, you’ll want to visit Voodoo Donuts. It’s a Portland landmark.
For lunch outdoors, check out the food pods
Around the city wherever food carts are grouped you can sample a few cuisines at a time. Our Portland Walking Tours guide told us that “Portland has been called the street food city of the world because of the abundance and variety of food carts that line the city streets. Supposedly there are more than 600 food carts in the city. Wow-o-wow!
For afternoon dessert
Take a long walk, jog, or bicycle ride around one of Portland’s many parks, so you can enjoy the Frozen Greek Yogurt at Salt & Straw Wizbanger Bar. This soft-serve dessert bar has frozen treats unlike any you’ve ever tasted and they’re worth the calories. OMG, my trio shared a yogurt cup topped with half Greek Sour Cherry Syrup and half California Olive Ranch Olive Oil & Flaky Sea Salt. I know it sounds like a strange mixture. The sweet, savory and salty flavors were so good, so good, so good.
For a lazy Saturday afternoon
A tasting in the tap room at Portland Cider Company is labeled an “English tradition with great Northwest flavor!” This PDX cider house offers 28 taps of cider, the biggest selection in Oregon. I had never experienced a flight of ciders before and the brews were quite different than I expected. We ordered five 3 oz. tasters for $7 — dry cherry, sangria, strawberry, blood orange and cucumber hibiscus. My favorite was the blood orange. I like a sweeter cider.
For happy hour
At Kachka, a Moscow Mule is only $5.00 between 4 – 6 p.m. According to Eater, owners “Bonnie and Israel Morales offer the most spirited introduction to Russian dining (and drinking!) in America.” I wasn’t that familiar with Russian cuisine, so was eager to try something new. Not a fan of caviar, my guests and I passed on the Russian delicacy and instead ordered traditional Bread and Whipped Salo, note Salo is cured fatback mixed with garlic and coriander, and one of the highlights on the menu, and Siberian Pelmeni dumplings filled with beef, pork, veal and onion. Also so good.
For an elegant dinner
Head to Quaintrelle, winner of a 2018 Diners’ Choice Award. It’s a bistro known for its Pacific Northwest flavored recipes. The chef creates menus based on seasonally available ingredients from local purveyors. For example, my guests and I shared a bruschetta appetizer topped with cherry tomatoes, artichokes, basil, and chevre, and our salad featured cucumbers, squid, jalapenos, fish sauce, mint, shiso and pistachios. Definitely worth a reservation.
I was won over by the words on the wall that defined the namesake’s meaning: “quaintrelle (n.) a woman who emphasizes a life of passion, expressed through personal style, leisurely pastimes, charm, and cultivation of life’s pleasure.”
For an Asian meal on the cheap
You have to try LúcLãc Vietnamese Kitchen. It’s a counter-service restaurant where lines are out the door on most nights. Not to worry, the line moves quickly. You order when you get to the counter, wait for a table to become available and once seated, your dinner is on the table in minutes. Their menu includes Salads, Vermicelli Bowls & Rice Plates, Pho, Banh Mi and other Kitchen Specialties. I ordered the Vermicelli Bowl. It was one of the best Vietnamese meals I’ve ever eaten.
Treats to take home
Last but not least, are Alma Chocolates. You must stop by this chocolatier and take home a box of homemade chocolates for your loved ones. My Portlandian friend said these chocolates are divine and she is correct. They were ah-may-zing! I bought a small sampler for my chocolate-lover boyfriend. I might just order a box from their online store for gift-giving in the future.
To market, we go
Ooh, ooh, ooh, I also cannot forget to tell you to go to the Portland State University (PSU) Farmers Market on Saturday morning in downtown Portland. The market is open year-round on Saturday from 8:30 am to 2:00 pm. It’s the largest Portland farmers market and is located at South Park Blocks between SW College & Montgomery Streets. I wish I could have brought home the fragrant flower bouquets and abundant fruits and veggies, but they would perish in my suitcase. Instead, I opted for heirloom popcorn and Portland hazelnuts.
There is so much more fabulous food to experience in Portland. I can’t wait to go back. Same time next year? You betcha!
What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?
- It’s an easy city to navigate without a car. There are convenient transportation systems around the city.
- There are food choices for all tastes and budgets. And the restauranteurs are accommodating to different health concerns.
Check OpenTable for restaurant reservations and make them in advance for places like Quaintrelle and Kachka, which may book up, especially for dinner.
*All photo credit (except lede photo): Judy Freedman