Portland is infamous for being weird, amazing food trucks, craft beer, strippers, and Powell's Books. I've been to Portland twice but every time I've been lucky to experience it differently. Keep reading if you want to check out the places I visited and tips on where to eat.
We developed quite an appetite for appetizers and beer on our 6 hour drive. As soon as we checked into our incredible AirBNB, we headed to the neighbourhood bar called Cruzroom.
Happy hour specials include $5 pints and $2.50 tacos. If you go to the Cruzroom you must get the Sweet Caroline taco (Apple braised Carlton Farms pork topped with honey mustard slaw and a dill pickle and jalapeno relish). One of the best tacos I've ever had in my life (next to Tacofino).
We timed our first visit perfectly to be able to hit up a second place for happy hour. Our next stop was the Knock Back. They also had $5 beers and sliders on special. We ended up getting their OG slider and the TKO Chicken Slider. The OG was ok, but the chicken slider had a kick, it was good. Lillian thought it was even better than the Sweet Caroline Taco.
We had to take a break cause we made a reservation at Clyde Commons at the Ace Hotel for an evening dinner. The atmosphere was great at Clyde Commons, make sure you take a Photo Booth photo before dinner in the Ace Hotel lobby. It's a great souvenir to bring home. What to get and what not to get. GET: seared duck breast, spaghetti squash & duck confit carbonara, citrus Don't get: squid ink fettuccine, mussels, Oregon bay shrimp, Parmesan brodo. The duck breast was so flavourful and cooked to perfection. The squid ink fettuccine was funky on so many levels, just not good at all.
After dinner, we went for more drinks at Pepe Le Moko. The wait was supposed to be for 30mins but we got super lucky and was called back immediately for a table. The spot is in the basement of the Ace Hotel, kind of reminded me of a nuclear bunker. The ambience is very romantic though and it's very evident with the number of dates going on near us. I don't recall the drinks we ordered but here are the pics ;)
During our drinks, we asked our server where she would go for dancing and she suggested the Holoscene. So our next stop was the Holocene. Indie pop dance music, $5 cover, $5 drink specials in a warehouse-like setting. Music was alright, tons of young people (we felt old). But they played remixed indie pop which was super cool i.e. Phoenix.
The next day we woke up, ran around the neighbourhood to sweat out the alcohol from the previous night. Worked up an appetite and head to the Waffle Window #2. One thing to note, if you check out the Waffle Window's website, it says they have chicken and waffles. They don't have it at the #2 location in the Alberta Arts District (much disappoint). The waffles were pretty damn amazing though. Nice sweet crust and dense fluffy middle, it was a dreamy waffle.
After that meal, we headed into Downtown to look for the world's smallest park. That was the one thing I needed to see this time around.
Other places to check out is the Mississippi Arts district. They have great places for food like Mexican, Southern food, ice cream, ramen, and burgers. We stumbled upon this gem of a gallery.
For dinner, we checked out the Portland Night Market that was on for two nights only. Our server from Pepe Le Moko advised us to check it out. There was an artisan market inside and in the parking lot, there was a food cart area. The one awesome thing about the night market was that they served alcohol throughout the premise. They also had a live DJ playing sick beats throughout the evening.
Our evening took us to Bar Bar on Mississippi where they had no cover, tons of outdoor seating, and drinks. Our friend ordered fries which was Cajun and regular, both very good. For drinks, we ordered an upsidedown margarita and a DTY (no idea what it stands for).
We ended up taking an uber home and order Dominos to our AirBNB at 12:30AM. Super quick service and just a note, the mango habanero chicken wings are hot AF. Don't order them if you're a sissy like me, you'll need a gallon of milk to cool that mouth off afterwards.
The next morning, we were on a hunt for a brunch spot in the Alberta district. We checked out 3 spots before landing on Petite Provence as every other place had massive lineups. Thankfully, they had bar seating available and we ordered our meals. As much as it was delicious, French food is heavy... Food coma status for sure. I definitely recommend people to check out this place cause they bake all their bread fresh in-house. Servers were super friendly and the food came quick.
We ended up Downtown again on day 3 to just explore, found Stumptown and got myself the legendary cold brew coffee. It was good, different flavour profile and unique on its own.
The highlight of the day was at Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen. We waited all day for their 4pm happy hour because their happy hour menu is truly epic. $2-3 dollar dishes, drinks specials, just an incredible experience. We had to line up well before they opened to ensure we got a seat. Highlights? Ca Phe Cola - house carbonated vietnamese slow drip coffee on tap/ smoked salt and orange zest, Pork skewers (make sure you get a couple of these), Crispy rolls, chicken wings, and the papaya salad.
We ended up going to Target afterwards to pick up $5 bottle of wines and played Uno at our friend's AirBNB. In hindsight, we should have just had wine the rest of the night, but because we're foodies, we ended up at Boxer Ramen on Alberta. Lillian really enjoyed her Shiyo Ramen but the spicy miso ramen is extremely spicy. I don't think Japanese people would even go to that depths of spicy but these crazy hipsters at Boxer Ramen tried to murder my taste buds. It wasn't awful, but it wasn't Vancouver calibre. The Decor is spectacular in the lobby and a bit half done in the main room. Our friend @timsoreal ordered the Okonomiyaki tots, mmmm tots. But they weren't as good as the tots found at Tacofino (you notice how much I love Tacofino?).
We ordered the fried potstickers with much regret. It wasn't bad, we just ordered too much food. We were still reeling from the Luc Lac happy hour.
Here is the main issue with the ramen. The meat resembled too closely to cured ham. It wasn't fatty and slow cooked like traditional ramen places. Perhaps this was their style, but I've never had pork this way in ramen before and it wasn't great. Lillian definitely enjoyed hers though so to each their own?
The next day before we left, we wanted to hit up one more brunch place. The previous day, we tried to go to Pine State Biscuits but the line up was around the building. On Monday morning, there wasn't a line so, GREAT SUCCESS.
I ordered the Reggie deluxe and Lillian ordered the Chatfield plus two cold brews from Stumptown ;) The Reggie Deluxe was heavy but they can fry chicken like masters. The Chatfield has an apple butter smeared on the fried chicken squished in between the biscuits. Pine State is a must try on anyone's list.
This trip was amazing on so many levels. The one thing that I really loved about Portland was the availability of carshare like Uber and Lyft. It's such a game changer and we met so many interesting drivers like Jesus who made our ride so much fun coming back from Downtown. I can't wait for car sharing to come to Vancouver so I can drive for one of those companies on my free time.
If you have any questions regarding any of the places I tried or need any recommendations on which district to stay in, feel free to leave a comment below.
Cruzroom- 2338 NE Alberta Street, Portland,
The Knock Back - 2315 NE Alberta Street, Portland
Clyde Common - 1014 SW Stark Street, Portland
Pepe Le Moko - 407 SW 10th Avenue, OR
Holoscene - 1001 SE Morrison Street, Portland
The Waffle Window - 2624 NE Alberta Street, Portland
Bar Bar - 3943 N Mississippi Avenue, Portland
Petite Provence - 1824 NE Alberta Street, Portland
Stumptown Coffee - 026 SW Stark Street, Portland
Luc Lac - 835 SW 2nd Avenue, Portland
Boxer Ramen - 2032 NE Alberta Street, Portland
Pine State Biscuits - 2204 NE Alberta St, Portland