Visiting Portland is good fun, for it’s an interesting city. Proud but not pretentious. Small but not too small. Carefree but idealistic. In a nutshell, it’s a hip urban dwelling set against the backdrop of dramatic Pacific Northwestern scenery – tall pine trees, majestic waterways, and a lot of Caucasians in flannel shirts.
In Portland there’s plenty to see, do, and of course, EAT. Portland these days is known as a foodie hub, punctuated by its armies of food trucks – Portland has over 500 of them! The cuisine at all these food trucks is varied, often delicious, and sometimes experimental. From its food trucks, Portland is leading a foodie revolution.
Food Truck City
Mississippi Marketplace is a collection of 10 excellent and “sustainable” food trucks on an eco-lot. Located on North Mississippi, it’s open every day but each food truck keeps it own hours.
Among them is Koi Fusion, a Oregon / Korean fusion food truck that is consistently mentioned as being among the best in Portland. With dishes like Kimchi Quesadilla (with Monterey Jack cheese!) or Korean Reuben, how can you not be enticed?
After much deliberation, I grabbed the Korean Cheesesteak, which is filled to the toasted bun’s brim with sauteed onions & peppers, melted cheese, sauteed kimchi, wasabi mayo, Korean spread, and your choice of protein. For the protein you can grab tofu, chicken, pork, short rib, or steak. Picture below is with the steak. AMAZING. Often the case in Portland, the ingredients at Koi Fusion are fresh, local, and GMO-free.
Only wish I could try everything there…
This food truck is open every day from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm, except Fridays and Saturdays, when they’re open til 8:00 pm. If you can’t make it to this location, Koi Fusion has 6 others, including in Cartlandia, Bethany Village, and Washington Square.
Also part of the Mississippi Marketplace, Homegrown Smoker is a must visit, serving top-notch smoked comfort food that’s all vegan. Burgers, burritos, and sandwiches are part of their BBQ-fused arsenal, but their heaviest hitters are their smoked “plates”, which include items like vegan tempeh ribs, smoked Beyond Meat chikn, and maple-ginger seitan hyam.
With their Combo Plate (picture), you get the above mentioned goodies and can choose 2 sides, like their “Mac-No Cheese” and their “Chipotle Slaw”.
Vegan or not, this is excellent BBQ food. It’s almost hard to tell that you’re not eating meat, especially with the “chikn”.
Their hand-cut Sweet Potato Fries with chipotle aioli sauce are out of this world too.
On Mondays, Wednesdays & Thursdays they’re open from 12 pm – 7 pm. For Friday & Saturdays it’s 12 pm – 8 pm. On Sunday it’s 12 pm – 6 pm. Unfortunately they’re close on Tuesdays.
Homegrown Smoker also has deli on 1628 SW Jefferson.
Wolf & Bears is another spectacular food truck, with 3 locations: Downtown, Mississippi (pictured), and SE 28th. They were once named “Best Portland Food Cart” in the Willamette Week Best.
Their menu is all “Middle-Eastern inspired vegetarian fare”, with many vegan and gluten-free options.
Below is the Falafel, a harmonized union of hummus, grilled onions, grilled eggplant and roasted red peppers.
Below is their Sabich, an Israeli sandwich with a hard-boiled egg, diced cucumbers, potato, mango pickle, onion, cracked pepper, pickles, olive oil, grilled eggplant, and of course hummus.
Make sure when you’re visiting Portland you’re also checking out its many scenic attractions, including the..
International Rose Test Garden
The International Rose Test Garden is the number one attraction on Trip Advisor for Portland. This is for good reason. You’re surrounded by rows upon rows of varied roses and treated to a canopy of mountains in the background.
In typical Portland fashion, it was raining quite heavily when we arrived. But later on, the sun forced itself out, transforming the park and allowing us to see its 2 very different faces.
Back to eating…
Brunch in Portland
Brunch is a popular thing in Portland. But unfortunately so is lining up for brunch. I’m not a fan of lining up but we did so for Sweedeedee, a brightly lit home-style brunch spot on 5202 N Albina Ave.
Here you’ll find everything you want if you’re craving brunch food -from eggs to chocolate chip cookies, from bacon lettuce beet sandwiches to corncakes. Below is their crunchy granola with seasonal fruit and yogurt, topped with sweet honey and marionberry jam.
The highlight though was definitely their pecan pie. Any of their pies are great.
The restaurant Gravy is supposedly terrific but expect a big line there for brunch. I simply don’t have the patience. Right next door to Gravy is Slate, a worthy alternative with spacious outdoor seating and a menu that will satisfy one’s brunch cravings.
Texmex style Migas is available and very nice. As per the menu, it’s a “scramble with house made chorizo, corn tortilla strips, cotija, and cilantro sour cream with potato hash.”
Their breakfast bowl with pan-fried seasonal veggies, potatoes, and quinoa is also a tasty option.
After eating, if you’re interested in something touristy and historical, the below attraction should be your first pick.
Built in 1914 as a French Renaissance-style château, Pittock Mansion is the former home of newspaper magnate Henry Pittock. The mansion offers a glimpse of turn-of-the-century-living from an upper class standpoint, alongside a look into Portland’s history and the role Pittock played in it.
The mansion is massive. There are 46 rooms in total, from lavish dining quarters to bathrooms equipped with what were at the time state-of-the-art shower units.
From the mansion grounds, you’ll also have an unobstructed view of downtown Portland. The Pittocks were high rollers.
Downtown Portland is home Powell’s City of Books, another must see attraction. They lay claim to being the world’s largest independent new and used bookstore. Grab a coffee and literally lose yourself in this impressive book citadel.
The famous Voodoo Doughnuts is also in downtown. In hindsight, I should have waited in line, as I’m told it moves pretty quickly. Next time!
Awesome Food / Beer Festivals
Keep an eye out for food or drink related festivals in Portland. The Vegan Beer & Food Festival, for example, regularly holds festivals in Portland and Los Angeles.
We were lucky enough to be there when they had one on June 11th. There were had 50+ breweries and 30+ restaurants. If you haven’t noticed, Portland is a haven for quality vegan cuisine and this festival properly showcases this.
Roots and Blooms was the food stall with this creamy Mac and Cheese.
This vegan hot dog was something special too, coming from the stall Cycle Dogs.
This festival is held at the Zidell Yards, which is close by the Tilikum Crossing. This newer bridge offers spectacular views of the Willamette River. It’s pedestrian friendly, as private cars are not allowed, and the Portland Streetcar system runs on it.
In summary, Portland is awesome. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but does it take its food seriously.