OK, it’s about time I wrote a little about the fabulous food mecca that Portland is. I haven’t lived in a city where my three main food groups, beer, coffee and pork belly, are so revered and celebrated. Scan the guide books and prepare to be amazed by the sheer number of breweries and coffee shops listed. If you look further you will soon notice how many restaurants prominently feature sexy shots of pork belly in action. You could spend your days driving down countless streets and numerous neighborhoods and still never fully see everything this amazing city has to offer. Whether you want traditional brick and mortar restaurants or the most imaginative food carts and street offerings… Food is everywhere!
Here is a partial list of where we’ve been in our quest to live life to the fullest, Bacchus Style!
Double Dragon, http://www.doubledragonpdx.com/
An amazing little neighborhood spot with fantastic cocktails and great Asian inspired bar food. Their pork belly banh mi was voted best in Portland by the Portland Mercury for a good reason, it’s incredible. We’ve eaten here twice at lunchtime, and each time the food and drinks were great. They have a lovely outdoor patio with picnic tables perfectly suited to al fresco dining. Obviously the banh mi has to be eaten but also try the pulled pork and kimchi’d collard greens, which they kindly added a fried egg on top for a truly over the top Bacchus experience, it was amazing!
Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen, http://www.luclackitchen.com/
This spot came highly recommended to us by Wayne the Wine Wizard from Wine Up Williams, an awesome wine bar on Williams street. I adore Vietnamese food and really wanted to try Luc Lac. We were on a Beau-free date night (more like late afternoon) and had to rush to get a few places in so we were standing in line before they opened. Luc Lac has an amazing happy hour with 2 and 3 dollar smaller portions that is unbeatable, the highlights were the Nem Nuong Sausage Banh mi, chicken wings caramelized in fish sauce and garlic and sugar cane shrimp. The disappointment was their kitchen specialty Jade Noodles with Shrimp. It was just ok, I really expected far more considering they call it a specialty dish. I will go back soon and try more dishes though I may steer clear of noodles.
POK POK, http://www.pokpokpdx.com/
By now you probably noticed I have an affinity for Asian food. Pok Pok is Andy Ricker’s amazing hole in the wall Thai restaurant that will make you feel like you were transported to a roadside spot in Thailand or Vietnam. The menu has so many amazing dishes you could spend an afternoon just reading the offerings and drooling. I love menu stories and think they personalize food and create a dialogue between guests and restaurants. Each dish on Ricker’s menu comes with a story of it’s origins and makes you feel like you were riding around in a car with Andy as he’s taking you on a personal tour of his favorite kitchens. I loved the Kung Op Wun Sen so much I bought his book and made it seven times over the next two weeks. WOW! Do not miss the much talked about chicken wings in fish sauce.
Watch this short clip from Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hVGk1BLZ6Q
Olympic Provisions, http://www.olympicprovisions.com/
The lost art of charcuterie and salumi making has been the rage in North America for several years and there are no signs of it slowing down anytime soon in Portland. With so many great spots to taste this ancient craft it was a hard choice where to go, but we settled on perhaps Portland’s best known one, Olympic Provisions. We started with the French board, a tasty selection of French charcuterie that included their saucisson sec , saucisson d’Alsace (which could have used a stronger hand in seasonings), amazing rillettes, garlic sausage and great pickles. I could have stopped with this, added a big green salad and been completely satisfied. But I am Bacchus and continued with two sandwiches, Chorizo and the Chicken Schnitzel. Of the two, I favored the chicken schnitzel, it was everything you want in a sandwich (flavor, crunch, great taste). The chorizo was just so so with the flavors again being too mild for my liking. They have a small but great selection of wines by the glass. Next time I will try one of their other boards!
Philippe’s Bread, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Philippes-Bread/882143555136421
Ah Philippe’s Bread! Cue up the Edith Piaf, close your eyes, bite into a baguette and be whisked away to la Belle France. I grew up in Chicago of two French parents who’s quest for the omnipotent bread was paramount. We traveled near and far looking for the ultimate loaf. I fondly remember having to stop a small, out of the way bakery my mother had heard about near Bordeaux because she read an article saying they made ancient bread in a wood burning oven. Philippe, who is originally from Lyon, understands breadmaking like no other baker in America. I came to know Philippe from his stint in Fort Bragg, California at the aptly named Fort Bragg Bakery where I used to stop in for croissant and coffee. I was working at a winery delivering wine and needed caffeine. Philippe’s breads always looked and tasted so good I could resist grabbing a loaf or two. He reminds me of the classic French baker devoted to the craft who works all night and naps on sacks of flour while his breads proofed. A kind of dedication one rarely sees anymore. But don’t let his sleepy demeanor fool you, the guy is a genius and I am happy he decided to move to Portland for very selfish reasons. If you come to Portland stop by, grab a baguette then grab some cheese and charcuterie and feast!
Podnah’s Pit, http://podnahspit.com/
I am a barbecue crack head and have been all my life. I grew up in Chicago’s Southside knuckles deep in rib tips amidst some of the countries best barbecue joints, Freddie’s, Lems and Leons. Yeah people can go on about Southern BBQ or Texas, but Chicago is where it is at, or so I thought till I ate at Podnah’s Pit. My barometer for eating at a bbq joint is if you cannot smell the wood smoking a mile away than it isn’t real bbq.
We had just hiked to Mirror Lake near Mount Hood and were craving some soul satisfying messy food and a few beers. On the drive back to Portland, we passed several place offering bbq but none passed the smell test. Lisa had googled Portland BBQ and one place stood out, Podnah’s Pit. We did a drive by with the windows down, took a whiff and realized we found the real deal. Everything on the menu sounded so good so I settled on ‘The Pitboss” that came with a 1/4lb brisket, 1/4lb pulled pork, 2 pork ribs, 1 sausage link, cornbread and choice of 2 sides for only $23. Literally everything was amazing and delicious. I have never been a huge fan of bbq brisket as it usually is too dry for me but Podnah’s made me a convert. All bbq is served with a selection of housemade sauces that will make you smile.
Voodoo Doughnut, http://voodoodoughnut.com/index.php
We had read so much hype about Voodoo Doughnut, Portland’s infamous doughnut spot with the tagline “the magic is in the hole!’ , that unfortunately it was too hard to live up to. We got there around 6 pm after gorging ourselves at Luc Lac with high expectations of crispy sweetness. The first clue to how it was going to be came when someone walked up and asked if anyone in the 30 minute wait line was actually from Portland and no one responded yes. When travelling, I always prefer restaurants jammed packed with locals than places designed to separate tourists from their dollars. Undeterred, we kept inching forward, waiting for our turn to get into the building and order.
I was intrigued by the funky decor with an eclectic feel and expansive offering of doughnuts. It reminded me of what a cool Krispy Kreme would look like after spending Spring Break dead drunk in New Orleans. We ordered several doughnuts including the cock and balls, chocolate crueller, old fashioned chocolate glazed cake doughnut, old dirty bastard, and the signature Voodoo Doughnut, a raspberry jelly filled raised doughnut frosted with chocolate glaze and a pretzel sticking out of it’s heart. Forgive me mother but I did not name these doughnuts. They were all good but not worth the lengthy wait in line, maybe I am not a doughnut connoisseur and I guess I would return if I happened to be driving by, wanted something sweet and noticed there was absolutely no line. The cake doughnut and crueller were wonderful.
Next up will be Portland Food Carts, Breweries and Coffee shops…