World-renowned for its quirky character, a (somewhat) representative TV show (yes, Portlandia, only about 80 percent of people are that unique), excess of people with tattoos, and acceptance of people wearing Birkenstocks with socks even when it’s raining, Portland, Oregon is certainly a special place.
On top of its hipster reputation, however, Portland is making a name for itself among the foodie population. The blocks of food carts and dozens of delectable restaurants and cafes certainly deserve your attention. Here are the 50 foods you need to shove into your mouth before you die (but preferably sooner).
1. Tomato B’s from Waffle Window
You can drench any waffle in delicious, sweet syrup, but you’ve never had a savory waffle quite like this.
2. Reggie Delux from Pine State Biscuits
The comfort food of your dreams made even better because it’s drenched in gravy.
3. Smoked Rabbit Pie with Cheddar Crust and Mustard Ice Cream from Le Pigeon
Compliments of Portland’s top restaurant and James Beard award-winning chef Gabriel Rucker comes one of the most unique food combinations I’ve ever eaten. If the title alone doesn’t awaken your senses, the dish is also served with a relish of liver. Sound disgusting? Think again. It’s one of the most delicious dishes I’ve eaten.
4. Bacon-Wrapped Dates from Toro Bravo
It’s wrapped in bacon and you may even get a flamenco dance show while the delicious Spanish tapas dance in your mouth. No more convincing needed.
5. Crispy Pork Belly from Departure
Served alongside a gorgeous view of the Portland bridges. Need some veggies to cancel out the slight lack of healthiness of pork belly? Try the wok fried Brussels sprouts.
6. Any seasonal flavor from Salt and Straw
Prepare yourself, these flavors are not your typical chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream flavors. Think more along the lines of carrot cake, zucchini bread, bone marrow, dill pickle and lucky charms. If the seasonal flavors are a bit too much, go for the classic cinnamon snickerdoodle or almond brittle with salted ganache.
8. Spencer Sandwich from PBJs Grilled
You may have been eating PB and J since before you knew your name, but you’ve definitely never had anything as magical as this grilled PB and J with walnut butter, ham, caramelized onions, brie and pear butter.
8. BBQ Pulled Pork Fries from Potato Champion
It’s the better version of In-N-Out’s Animal Fries.
9. The Salty Captain Cupcake from Saint Cupcake
Salted caramel is what food dreams are made of and putting it on a moist cupcake just makes it even better. If you’ve already eaten enough from going through the first eight items on this bucket list in one day, feel free to try the mini cupcakes (but you’ll probably just end up eating five of them).
10. Blueberry Bourbon Basil Doughnut from Blue Star Donuts
While VooDoo Doughnuts has a special place in the hearts of pretty much everyone who eats doughnuts in Portland, the ~fancy~ doughnuts come from Blue Star. Let’s just say you can’t get a bucket of day old doughnuts for $5 from Blue Star (these doughnuts are not to be squished).
11. Marshall Mathers Doughnut from VooDoo Doughnuts
Don’t worry VooDoo, we still love you and your $5 buckets. Pretty much everyone will tell you to order the Maple Bacon doughnut, but as one of about three non-vegetarians in the world who doesn’t like bacon, I would suggest the Marshall Mathers (it’s covered in frosting and mini M&M’s).
12. Coffee (obviously) from Stumptown Coffee
You can tailor this bucket list item to your coffee preference since pretty much everything is delicious. Stumptown offers fresh, fair-trade brews from around the world. Their “hair bender” roast is a favorite, but getting one of their cold brews on a hot day is just as advisable.
13. Fried Chicken and Waffle from Screen Door
Brunch lines from Screen Door stretch out the door and down the block, but the comfort food is well worth the wait. With the southern food influence, Screen Door still adds a tough of unique Portland flavor, such as with their sweet potato waffles.
14. Coffee Shrub Spritzer from Barista
Part espresso, part drinking balsamic vinegar, and part bubbly cleansing and refreshing drink. This unique concoction bears some similarity to trendy kombucha, but with the addition of more caffeine to soothe that caffeine addition.
15. Pizza from Nostrana
Home of the best, authentic Italian pizza for miles. The pizzas are freshly baked with homemade mozzarella and so authentic they are served whole and you cut them yourself with scissors.
16. Salted Vanilla Popcorn from Pinkleton’s
It’s not just normal caramel corn. With flavors like salted vanilla, orange cardamon and spicy Mexican cocoa, it’s addictive hipster popcorn.
17. House Smoked Salmon Salad from Elephants Delicatessen
And by number 17, we finally add something healthy (but delicious) to the list. This one even rivals all those Sweetgreen salads every college foodie loves (but for half the price).
18. Walnut Bread from Ken’s Artisan Bakery
When I went off to college, one of the foods I missed most was fresh bread with delicious chewy crust. So, when I came home after my first quarter, I ate pretty much an entire loaf of this walnut bread (with some help from the fam) on my drive home from the bakery. It’s that good.
19. Conchas a la Parrilla from Andina
In contention with Le Pigeon for Portland’s top restaurant, Andina serves authentic Peruvian food, but of course, with that classic Portland flare. This dish is scallops serves with crispy onions and soaked in a delicious butter sauce. Recommendation: eat with a Pisco sour, Peru’s famous lime-flavored cocktail.
20. Caramel with Salted Dark Chocolate Ice Cream from Ruby Jewel
My obsession with ice cream is very real. I live by the ideology that every time is the right time for ice cream, and you always have room for ice cream. With this in mind, after 20 years of my life spent searching for the best ice cream, I have decided that this ice cream tops the list.
21. Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings from Pok Pok
Getting to eat these wings after months of dry dining hall chicken is an unforgettable experience. For the vegetarians out there, Pok Pok cooks mushrooms in the sauces in which they marinate many of their meats, which is equally as delicious (even coming from a dedicated omnivore).
22. Beer-Battered House Fries from Tilt
French fries are already starchy and comforting. However, Tilt batters them and fries them more to make them even less healthy and even more delicious. You can get a massive platter (yes, entire platter, much bigger than your face) for only $6.
23. Auntie Paula’s French Toast from Tasty n Sons
French toast is no joking business and Tasty n Sons does it right. The bread is perfectly cooked and the syrup and toppings vary based on what’s in season (right now fresh blueberry syrup is the topping of choice).
24. Dirty Chai and Buddha Bowl from Prasad
This is the food you typically think of when you think of Portland: vegan, and gluten-free with lots of raw, local veggies. To help fulfill more stereotypes, the cafe is even in a yoga studio. One time when I visited, they had a sign advertising the need for an “experienced juicer.” Only in Portland would they have a list of applicants flaunting prior juicing experience.
25. Truffle Fries and Blue Cheese Burger from Little Big Burger
Small burgers with good (local, obviously) beef, delicious cheese, fresh buns with a side of fries and truffle oil (one of the most luxurious toppings known to man).
26. Charcuterie Plate from Olympia Provisions
Formerly Olympic Provisions until being forced to change by the International Olympic Committee, Olympia Provisions is well-known for its meat selections. They hand-make all their sausages and roast all their meats to perfection.
27. Apple Brined Pork Chop from Tasty n Alder
While the pork is perfectly cooked, don’t limit yourself. Also try the shrimp cocktail which is greatly improved by being wrapped in America’s favorite food, bacon, or the fried Brussels sprouts.
28. Spicy Dark Drinking Chocolate from Cacao
It’s like taking a shot of a Hershey’s chocolate bar.
29. French Onion Soup from Petite Provence
It’s covered in bread and cheese and then baked. You shouldn’t need more convincing.
30. Pescado Tacos from ¿Por Qué No?
The out-the-door line is well worth the wait for these taco truck style tacos. The ingredients are natural and fresh and served on homemade tortillas. Never forget to treat yourself for waiting in line with a large margarita (or spiked horchata).
31. Cold Brew Coffee with Hazelnut Milk from Local Roasting Co.
A Portland food bucket list would never be complete without cold brew. At the Local Roasting Co., you can watch every step of the coffee-making process such as watching the coffee beans roasting, the cold brew dripping or the house-made hazelnut milk being made.
32. Chinese Crepe from Bing Mi
This is not the normal crepe find-at-any-hipster-cafe crepe. Bing Mi serves their version of the traditional Chinese street food crepes with pickled veggies, a wonton cracker, and black bean paste. Make sure to get it with plum sauce.
33. Ruby Port Fondue from Urban Fondue
You may be sensing a theme in my delight for carbs and cheese. Here, we continue the trend. Urban Fondue serves an amazing selection of cheese fondue, broth to cook meats and veggies and (don’t worry) chocolate fondue. They are also connected to the bar Bartini, so their cocktail selection is dreamy.
#SpoonTip: If you have a large enough party, ask to book their loft area where you can sit with fancy pillows and hid from the rest of the guests as you down your fourth cocktail.
34. Just Ginger Kombucha from Townshend’s Brew Dr. Kombucha
Another stereotypical hipster food makes an appearance on the Portland bucket list. While many Portlanders simply brew their own kombucha, save yourself from potentially… upsetting… bacteria and drink a slightly safer, but just as delicious brew.
35. Foie Gras Bonbon from Beast
The best description I have heard of Beast’s foie gras is “meat-flavored butter.” While true, don’t let it discourage you. Meat-flavored butter has never tasted so good.
36. Porchetta Sandwich from Lardo
Nominated as one of the best sandwich restaurants in the United States, Lardo has made a name for itself in Portland. The porchetta sandwich offers house-prepared pork, gremolata (herb mixture), caper mayo, arugula and parmesan. Needless to say, you will not be lacking in your lard consumption after this one.
37. Japanese Eggplant from Aviary
I’m used to the college dining hall eggplant that has the consistency of the green goo you played with as a kid and about as much flavor as water. Aviary (obviously) does not fall victim to this eggplant problem. The Japanese eggplants are smaller and more flavorful than regular eggplants, and if you’re not typically a fan of the texture of eggplant, the rice pearls on top add a good crunch.
38. Carbonara from Grassa
The product of all those addicting gifs of pasta being made (which I’ve watched far more times than I care to admit) is homemade pasta from Grassa.
39. Lamb Samosas from Bollywood Theater
While you can settle into your comfort zone with more traditional Indian plates such as chicken curry or pork vindaloo, Bollywood Theater claims it fame (and awards for best gourmet cheap eats) for their Indian street food.
40. Argentine Asado from Ox
If you think meat deserves its own quadrant of the food pyramid, this is the place for you. With meat portions ranging from 12oz to 42oz, you’d need the appetite of Hagrid to leave here hungry. Meats such as short rib, lamb and even goat or hedgehog are grilled to perfection and can be finished off with a warm hazelnut brown butter tart.
41. Yolko Ono from Fried Egg I’m In Love
If you haven’t already been convinced by either the name or the picture, I’m not sure what to do. Fried Egg I’m In Love serves a variety of fried egg breakfast sandwiches that are perfect for any time of the day. Feel free to add a mimosa to your order (also acceptable at any time).
42. Whatever they serve you at Farm Spirit
Portland’s high end fixed-price vegetarian restaurant serves seasonal vegetable dishes from local farms. If a place like this can survive among Portland’s demanding, vegetarian, (slightly) pretentious foodie population, you know it will be good.
43. Stuffed Fried Olives from Renata
Ever since my mom said she didn’t like olives when I was three, I’ve hated olives. However, Renata manages to do miracles to olives (a definite thanks to the fact that they’re plunged in oil and served with a rich, creamy sauce).
44. Marsala-Soaked Fig Crepe from Suzette
One time I tried to cook vegan crepes and it was a complete disaster. My friends will probably never forgive me or ever try to eat vegan again. However, Suzette does not suffer from my same failures.
The inside of the crepe is stuffed with figs, chickpea spread, caramelized onions and spinach, but the crepe itself can be ordered regular (for all my fellow dedicated butter lovers), vegan (I admire you but could never be you), or gluten-free.
45. Special Noodle Soup from Rose VL
Rose VL serves traditional Vietnamese food from their restaurant nestled in an unassuming strip mall. While the strip mall location may not have the same hipster allure as food carts, the cheap and delicious food definitely has the same food cart vibe, quality and quirkiness.
46. Roasted Whole Organic Chicken from Coquine
Gather your friends (or don’t) because this is an entire chicken.
47. Lavender Glazed Donut from Coco Donuts
Despite the craze surrounding VooDoo and Blue Star, I would vote Coco Donuts for best donuts in Portland. Their donuts are more cakey (unlike Krispy Kreme donuts that I feel like I can finish in two bites). In addition to their magical donuts, Coco Donuts can also claim coffee mastery with their house-roasted blends.
#SpoonTip: Don’t limit yourself to one donut, please also try the old-fashioned donuts.
48. KJG Hot Dog from Kim Jong Grillin
Korean BBQ gets a makeover with this hot dog served on a Bahn Mi bun with mayo and pickled mango.
49. Fried Kale from Smallwares
How do you make kale, the stereotypical epitome of health, into an artery clogging, gleefully delectable masterpiece? Smallwares has the answer: fry it and add bacon.
50. Pork Burrito with Kimchi from Koi Fusion
The child of some of your favorite comfort foods comes to life at Koi Fusion. Koi Fusion serves burritos, tacos and quesadillas with Korean-inspired fillings (Korean seasoned rice, cucumber, kimchi etc.). At one lucky point in the life of Portlanders, you could even get Koi Fusion at the Portland Airport.