36 hours in Portland, Oregon

What do you think of when planning a day trip somewhere- a beach, a big city, the mountains? Those are all great choices. During a day off, my girlfriend and I thought with our stomachs and headed to the foodie city of Portland, Oregon. This culinary wonderland was a whirlwind, revolving entirely around where to eat next.

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We arrived late on a Thursday night, picked up our rental car, and headed to the hotel for a good night’s sleep before our delicious adventure. Preparing for this trip, we made a list of 20+ restaurants to try, but for time’s sake, we had to narrow it down.

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First stop was the Screen Door for an early breakfast

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2337 E Burnside St, Portland, OR 97214

$$

Breakfast, Lunch, Brunch, Dinner

We could not have been happier with this choice; it was the best way to start of our 36 hours in Portland. Screen Door is a farm to table restaurant with southern flair. The menu was an eclectic mix of South Carolina low country cuisine, soul food and cajun one pot cookery, and New Orleans Creole and French preparations.

The entire menu looked amazing and we struggled to narrow down what we wanted most. We knew we had a long day of eating ahead of us, so we decided not to fill up with the first meal.

For myself, I decided to go with their Fried Chicken and Waffles

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Three buttermilk battered natural fried chicken breasts over a sweet potato waffle. If you decide to stop by, this dish is a must. I can honestly say that this is the best fried chicken I have ever had in my life.  There were a few things that truly set this dish apart, such as the cut of the chicken they used and the seasoning in the flour. Most fried chicken is made with breast on the bone, wings, thighs, and drumsticks; this fried chicken was made with boneless chicken breast. Besides it being effortless to eat, the breast was plenty juicy and evenly coated with the seasoned flour. The batter was light, crispy, and had a good amount of cracked black pepper. The pepper gave it a subtle spice to balance out the sweetness from the waffle and the syrup.

My girlfriend ordered their Low Country Shrimp and Grits with a side of biscuits and gravy.

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Four jumbo wild caught Gulf shrimp sautéed with bacon, garlic and tomato served over cheddar grits, with two eggs any style and a buttermilk biscuit. The Shrimp had pleasant but not overwhelming heat, and the grits were creamy and cheesy. The biscuits were light and fluffy, and accompanied by a rich, peppery gravy.

Our server also recommended their most popular appetizer: Praline Bacon

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Smokey bacon caramelized with toasted pecans, brown sugar and cayenne. This appetizer was the perfect balance of sweet, salt and spice.

After walking the neighborhoods, our second stop for lunch was Pok Pok.

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3226 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202

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Lunch and Dinner

Pok Pok is a Thai restaurant, but not in the Americanized fashion we have become accustomed to. You won’t find Pad Thai or drunken noodles on their menu. Pok Pok specializes in Northern and Northeastern Thai food that you would usually find in small street side restaurants, pubs and cafés. It’s the kind of food that would go perfectly with an ice cold beer or one of their classic flavor infused drinking vinegars.

The menu at Pok Pok was another difficult one to make decisions from, especially because the items are different than what I had seen before. I wanted to try everything.  Our plan of attack was to get their signature dish and another two that looked interesting to share.

For the signature dish we went with Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Chicken Wings

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Half a dozen fresh whole natural chicken wings marinated in fish sauce and sugar, deep fried, tossed in caramelized Phu Quoc fish sauce and garlic and serve  with Vietnamese table salad. I’m not usually a big fan of fish sauce because it can often be overpowering, but the fish sauce paired with the garlic were perfectly caramelized on the outside, giving them a balanced taste of umami (savory) and sweetness.

Next was their Neua Naam Tok

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Spicy Isaan flank steak “salad” with fish sauce, lime, and chili powder dressing, shallots, lemongrass, mint, cilantro, and toasted rice powder. This “salad” was so fresh and well balanced. The steak was charred and sliced thin, then tossed with the bright lime dressing and whole leaf fresh herbs. All I can say is I could eat this salad every day.

We also ordered Kaeng Hang Leh

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Northern Thai sweet pork belly and pork shoulder curry with ginger, palm sugar, turmeric, tamarind, Burmese curry powder and pickled garlic. Pork belly, pork shoulder, and curry, need I say more?

When in Portland, one has to get coffee, especially when you need a small break from food and that pick-me-up to get us through the rest of our 36 hours. Portland is one of the craft coffee hubs of America, with the biggest one being Stumpton Coffee Roasters. Our original list of places had at least six different coffee shops, but I had to choose one. We decided to try an up and coming spot called Courier Coffee.

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923 SW Oak St, Portland, OR 97205

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Courier Coffee uses house roasted single origin beans in their espresso drinks and pour overs. This snug, intimate location provides knowledgeable service along with their great coffee and scratch made treats. Each morning, Courier makes their cookies, muffins and savory items. They only prepare enough for that day, so you have to get there early before they run out. All of their ingredients are from the farmers market. Their pour over coffee is unique in that they use 23 karat Swiss gold filters. These reusable filters are nonreactive to oils in the coffee, preserving the flavor. Because gold is the most nonreactive medal, it’s ideal for making coffee and have less wear and tear.

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We attempted to go to Blue Star Donuts after coffee, but they were completely sold out by the time we got there.

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SW Washington St, Portland, OR 97205

SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214

NW 23rd Ave, Portland, OR 97210

N Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR 97227

$$

Next time I am in Portland or Los Angeles, my mission is to get some of their donuts. The company is located in Oregon, California and Japan. Their doughnuts are special because they are made from a classic brioche recipe that originated in the south of France. The dough takes 18 hours to make and is made from scratch daily. The other ingredients that are used in the doughnuts and toppings are all locally sourced. This is my first stop when I visit again, and probably my last before i leave.

If you enjoy reading or collecting books, then you absolutely have to make a stop at Powell’s Books.

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3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214

1005 W Burnside St, Portland, OR 97209

Though this has nothing to do with eating food, the collection of cookbooks, textbooks, and memoirs are outstanding. I could lose so much money there. No matter what your interest, this place will have aisles and aisles of books on that subject. When planning your day to include Powell’s Book Store, be prepared to spend at least 3 hours there.

Before dinner, we decided to stop off at a local staple for some fresh donuts to take home: none other than VooDoo Donuts

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SW 3rd Ave, Portland, OR 97204

NE Davis St, Portland, OR 97232

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I remember seeing VooDoo Donuts on every Food Network or Travel Food show. When I thought of Portland, I thought of VooDoo. Walking into the shop, you can tell that they embody the culture of Portland. It’s quirky, has its individualistic qualities, and produces great food. In the awe of being there, we forgot to get the iconic VooDoo Doll donut (I know, I know, shame on us) but we still made out with a pretty nice haul. Hands down, my favorite was the peach fritter, but I’ll have to try more of their classics next time.

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Can’t go wrong with Captain Crunch or M&M covered donuts

Thankfully for dinner, we decided to go to a small plates restaurant. We sat at the bar, and ordered multiple dishes without pushing ourselves too far over the edge. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Tasty n Alder 

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580 SW 12th Ave Portland, OR, 97205

$$ (in Vegas you would be spending $$$ or $$$$ for these ingredients)

Tasty n Alder is a New American Steakhouse with international influences centered on small plates, cheeses and seasonal side dishes. I realize now that I hadn’t picture documented their bread n butter and the Spanish Iberico Pork Skirt Steak (which was outstanding). Coming from Vegas, the standards for pricing is much higher than other parts of the country. When we saw these amazing items on this menu for such reasonable prices, we decided to go a little crazy.

Josh’s Meats Charcuterie Board

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The meats for the charcuterie board comes from their other restaurant Toro Bravo. The board included fresh smoked chorizo sausage, salami, and pate with a side of fresh baked bread.

Hudson Valley Foie Gras with Pineapple Jam

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Perfectly  seared Foie Gras atop buttery brioche bread with tart pineapple jam. For those  who aren’t familiar with Foie Gras, it’s made from the liver of a specially fattened duck or goose. Like anything that is pretty much all fat, it just melts in your mouth. Most Foie dishes are served with a citrus element to help cut through the fat.

Goat Cheese Dumplings Arrabiata

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The sweet and light goat cheese dumplings pair well with the spicy tomato sauce, and it’s served with grilled pieces of their house made bread.

Wagyu Skirt Steak with Chimichurri

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Wagyu beef is the most desired of beef, which is genetically predisposed to intense marbling of fat. Going back to the previous point of fat from the Foie, it just melts in your mouth. Wagyu cows are found in different regions of Japan, and their meat is extremely rare and expensive. There are breeds of wagyu from the U.S. that are a mix of Japanese Wagyu cattle and American Angus cattle. The steak we got to enjoy was of the American Wagyu variety, making it a little more affordable. Still, it was an incredibly delicious piece of meat, especially with the fresh Chimichurri sauce.

Duck Duck Potatoes

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Double fried potatoes in duck fat with a fried duck egg on top. By frying the potatoes more than once, the exterior of the potato becomes very crispy and the inside creamy.Everything is better with a fried egg on top, especially a duck egg, which has a bigger and richer yolk.

Somehow we found room for dessert, or I made her find room for ice cream. We chose Salt N Straw for that delicious treat.

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NW 23rd Ave, Portland, OR 97210

3345 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202

2035 NE Alberta St, Portland, OR 97211

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One of my all time  favorite desserts is ice cream. Not just any ice cream, but well done ice cream. I try not to just go to Cold Stones or Baskin -Robbins to fulfill my ice cream cravings. I try to find the places that source the best local ingredients, have distinctive flavor combinations, or the  unique techniques that they use to prepare them.

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This place does different very well. Whether it’s their sea salt with caramel ribbons, olive oil, or pear with blue cheese- their classic flavors and monthly specials are outstanding. I decided to go with their Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper and Stumpton Coffee & Burnside Bourbon.

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Though it was such a short amount of time, we packed a lot of food into it. This won’t be the last time I go to Portland, Oregon; we barely scratched the surface of the food scene there. The next time we go, we need to check out the food truck villages; Portland has one of the best food truck cultures in the nation. If you don’t know what to eat when in Portland, besides the great list I gave you, just go to the food truck areas and you will have plenty to choose from. I hope you enjoyed this article, and get a chance to try some of these places while you are in Portland. As always stay hungry and remember “We all have to eat, we might as well eat well.”

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