My first visit to Portland, and I spent 2 days just eating my way across town. It is truly the land of milk and honey, but instead of milk there’s coffee and instead of honey, there’s craft beer. And also a TON of great food. Here’s what I ate…
Hands down, the best breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had. I got the Egg Zeppelin (Portland is also full of awesome puns) which consisted of 2 over-medium fried eggs, 2 cart-made sausage patties, 2 slices of Tillamook cheddar, and an aioli made from Aardvark hot sauce – all on sourdough, toasted just right. It was deliciously simple, no bells and whistles, just super high-quality ingredients prepared perfectly. Whatever they put in that MAGIC EGG DUST of theirs worked, because we ate there TWICE, and had us singing this little diddy the entire trip:
Poached eggs, they just fall apart
Deviled eggs just break my heart
Boiled eggs take too long to start
(And if you’re wondering how the bridge would go, you can thank my friend Katharine for coming up with: Scrambled eeeeeggs, wait…)
DAY 1 – Late Lunch/Dinner: Lardo
Lardo is an ode to the sandwich. It takes classics like french dips and tuna melts and throws in elements of international cuisine to the mix. As you can see from the “Chef’wich” Special above, the Pulled Pork Vindaloo add some Indian flavor to the BBQ sandwich. But once I saw the Pho’rench Dip on the menu, I felt like I found my sandwich soulmate: roast beef, hoisin sauce, bean sprouts, Thai basil, jalapenos, and a side of pho broth for dipping. My mind was blown. And bonus points to Lardo for correctly punning the word pho! The warm broth was the perfect accompaniment to the gray, rainy Portland weather and the raw jalapenos on the side provided an extra punch of heat to warm you up!
Day 2 – Breakfast: Pine State Biscuits
We started Day 2 bright and early at Pine State Biscuits. Pictured above, I got the Reggie Deluxe: fried chicken, bacon, cheddar and a fried egg smothered in gravy and inside of a homemade buttermilk biscuit. It was full on southern comfort in the Pacific Northwest! You can go pretty crazy with your biscuit sandwiches if you wanted to; they’ve got steak, chicken, pulled pork, bacon, or you can double down (that’s TWO fried eggs). Wash all that down with some genuine Stumptown Coffee, and you’re starting your day off right!
After lots of sightseeing, we stopped off at Brass Tacks for another sandwich. There are a lot of sandwiches in Portland. On any given street, you can safely assume that you’ll be able to find a sandwich or a slice of pizza. It’s almost odd how much of the same style fare is available in Portland, but it seems to work – and it’s all quite delicious, so it’s not really a complaint as much as an observation.
That being said, Brass Tacks serves up artisinal sandwiches with a healthy array of vegan options too. You can see on my order form that I got the “Salami to Introduce Myself” (see, I wasn’t kidding that Portland is all about them puns – see also “Queen Labeefa” and “Turkey it to the Limit” – even if they can’t all be gems like “Fried Egg, I’m In Love”). Anyway, this salami sandwich was exactly what you would expect of a delicious salami sandwich. House-made kettle chips were a nice touch (comes with every sandwich), but for my money, nothing beats the salami sandwich at Larchmont Village Wine and Cheese back home in LA. Onward!
DAY 2 – Quick Afternoon Snack: Bushel and Peck Bakeshop
We stopped off a very cute cafe and bakeshop called Bushel and Peck. I ordered a Raspberry Cardamom Coffee Cake and coffee. I ate it. It was great. Onward!
So, finally, on our last day, we moved beyond the sandwiches and went to the Whiskey Soda Lounge – a bar on SE Division Street which serves delicious Thai fare from the famed Pok Pok, just down the street. I say famed because the menu description of their Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings simply said, “Yes, these are the wings you’ve been looking for.” Dangling prepositions aside, that kind of confidence is well-earned. These mighty, meaty hot wings are sweet and savory, marinated in fish sauce and peanuts with pickled veggies and Thai basil on the side.
I also ordered the Sour Cured Pork Riblets, which were a crispy, tangy treat. They were served with a side of peanuts, cabbage, ginger and red hot chilies. The best way to eat these is to take a bite of the pork with a small handful of peanuts and the tiniest bite of the chili pepper (they are crazy hot). Then, while you are chewing on all those hot and spicy flavors, take a big bite of cabbage to refresh your taste buds. Repeat.
The third dish pictured above is the MSG Beef. I’m not kidding. That’s flank steak that is cooked for hours and pounded with a sledge hammer. On the side are two dipping sauces – one wet and one dry. The wet sauce is a Thai chili paste, full of intense spices, but not spicy. The other is the mixture of salt and MSG (just a touch!). You dip the steak into both of these and eat it with some sticky rice. Your taste buds will never be the same.
DAY 3 – Farewell, Portland: Blue Star Donuts
It was sad to leave this city of culinary delights, but it might have been for the best since I would have just kept eating until I exploded or went broke. But before we left, we stopped off at Blue Star Donuts. These soft, brioche donuts are made from a recipe originating in the south of France. The buttermilk old fashioned was definitely the standout. A box of four of these donuts and a big cup of Stumptown Coffee made the drive home bittersweet.