Enjoy a food-tour of Portland, Oregon from our guest author Carmen Allan-Petale who invites us to taste everything from barbeque to brunch to liquid nitrogen ice cream.
Portland is known as the foodie capital of the North West of the USA and it’s easy to see why. The mishmash of cultures in the largest city of Oregon brings with it an array of food. You name a dish and there will be a restaurant in Portland specialising in it. From Texan barbeque to Bosnian food, you can find it in the city where surprisingly only 10% of the population was born there.
With so many great places to eat it can be a little overwhelming to choose the best. So I’ve given you some tips, from the more formal setting of a restaurant to the casual dining of the food cart scene that Portland is known for.
Podnah’s Pit Barbeque
You know it’s good barbeque when you have to queue to get in to the restaurant. Thankfully there’s a bar at Podnah’s so you can pull up a stool while you wait and enjoy a few beverages. I had the best Bloody Mary ever which was garnished with olives and chillis.
Podnah’s is sparsly furnished with wooden tables, giving it a casual vibe. A lot of effort goes into their food however – all the meats are slow smoked using 100% oak hardwood, without electric, gas assistance or charcoal. The owner (who is originally from Texas) begins each day at 5 a.m. every morning to have the meat ready by dinner that night.
As you can imagine, this results in finger lickin’ good food – the meat at Podnah’s is to die for. We shared the Pitboss Plate which had a little bit of everything on it, including brisket, pulled pork, pork ribs, sausage and two sides of collard greens and BBQ beans. Our friends bet us $10 we wouldn’t be able to finish the plate – but we did! With meat that delicious it was difficult not to.
Tin Shed Garden Cafe
I ate the best brunch I’ve ever eaten at the Tin Shed Garden Cafe, situated on Portland’s trendy Alberta Street. Brunch is my favourite meal of the day, so this is quite a compliment.
I love the ethos of the cafe, which is very hippyesque. All the food is free range and all leftovers are composted. Spend a little time in Portland and you’ll realise that this mentality fits in completely with the city – locals in Portland are very environmentally conscious. The Tin Shed is lovely in the summertime because there’s plenty of outdoor space to relax in their garden and if you have your dog with you they are more than welcome.
Once again, we had to queue to get in on a sunny Sunday but this time we could enjoy coffee and tea while we waited. The only downside to this is that there’s not much seating out the front so we had to stand to enjoy our coffee. Nonetheless, the wait wasn’t long and soon we were in their picturesque garden eating the best brunch of my life. I had the Benni Hill; poached eggs on an English muffin with bacon, avocado and Hollandaise sauce. For my side I had potato cakes. I was certainly full by the end of the meal, but very content.
Lan Su Chinese Garden Teahouse
If you’re a fan of tea, this is the place to come. Not only will you have a book full of different teas from around the world to choose from, but you can sit by the window and enjoy the peaceful scenery of the Chinese Garden while you sip your drink. I had the Eight Treasures tea which was a mix of flowers and fruit. Although served in a small cup, the waiter will come over and refill your tea numerous times until you can’t drink any more!
If you’re feeling peckish, there’s also an array of snacks on the menu to enjoy. We had the Steamed Buns which will filled with vegetables and served with a cucumber salad and a tasty sauce.
Just as important as the tea here is the setting that you enjoy your drink and meal in. The tearoom is built in a traditional Chinese style and the gardens surrounding the teahouse are peaceful even though you’re in the heart of Chinatown in downtown Portland. It does cost $9.50 to get into the gardens, but I think that’s money well spent.
Nong’s Khao Man Gai
Portland is known for its food carts. You will see them dotted around the city and during lunchtimes queues will form outside some of the best. One of these is Nong’s Khao Man Gai. There’s only one dish served at this food cart – chicken and rice – but it’ll be the best chicken and rice you’ve ever tasted. What makes it so delicious is the secret sauce cooked up by Nong – the owner of the food cart who moved from Thailand to Portland in 2003 without much money to her name.
These days she owns one of the most popular food carts in Portland thanks to her delicious sauce and simple fare. It’s very cheap as well so if you’re low on travel funds it’s the perfect place to go. If the day is sunny, head over to Portland’s Director Park where there are chairs and tables for you to enjoy your chicken and rice on. (And free wi-fi!)
Mix ‘n’ Match
Ice cream is very popular in Portland, which is surprising because it seems to rain there most of the year. At another food cart we sampled the delicious icecream of Mix ‘n’ Match. But this is ice cream with a twist – it’s made with liquid nitrogen meaning that it is scooped up with much theatrics as your ice cream forms in a bowl bubbling over with mist – not unlike a witch’s cauldron.
I decided on the maple and bacon flavour which is a little different but did not disappoint. Real maple syrup with mixed in with freshly fried cuts of bacon and cream to produce a sweet yet savoury ice cream scoop. Delicious!
Before coming to Portland I was getting sick of the usual hamburgers and fries that elsewhere in the US people seem to love. Finally in Portland I found a foodie haven where there’s everything from fine dining to the casualness of the food carts. And being a bit of a food snob myself, this is why Portland is now one of my favourite cities in the USA.
Where to find great food in Portland, Oregan
Podnah’s Pit barbeque; 1625 NE Killingsworth Portland Oregon 97211
Tin Shed Garden Cafe for brunch; 1438 NE Alberta St, Portland, Oregan 97211
Lan Su Chinese Garden Teahouse; 239 Northwest Everett Street, Portland, Oregon 97209
Nong’s Khao Man Gai; food cart for Thai chicken and rice at 1003 SW Alder St, Portland, Oregan 97205 and other locations
Mix’n’Match Ice Cream food cart; 33 SW 3rd Avenue, Downtown Portland, Oregan
Carmen Allan-Petale is one half of the couple behind Double-Barrelled Travel, a travel blog focused on vlogging. Carmen married Dave last year and they quit their journalism careers earlier in 2013 for a life on the road. Currently they’re in the USA, with plans to head to Central and South America next. You can like Double-Barrelled on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.
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