Portland: So Much to Eat and So Little Time

I stopped in Portland, Oregon on my drive up to Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, B.C and then on the way back down. The last time I made this road trip it was with family over thirteen years ago. At that time, Portland did not have the food scene that it does today. I recall we had really good Chinese food in Portland Chinatown so we ate at the same restaurant on our return. On this trip, there were so many places to try there would be no time for any restaurant repeats.

Of all the stops, Portland impressed me the most in terms of the quality and variety of food. Here’s a summary of my best bites in Portland which might be helpful to anyone planning on visiting this culinary city:
Cuban Food

Pambiche is a Cuban restaurant located in Kerns where we had our first dinner. We shared a plate of tostanes, or fried green plantains. These crisp savory snacks are considered the french fries of the Caribbean.   

 Of the three dinner plates that my party ordered, it was the Rabo Encendido, oxtail plate that was the most successful. The tender oxtail is braised in a spicy creole wine sauce and served with white rice and amazing corn fritters.   

I have been drinking Portland’s Stumptown coffee for several years now. My local coffee shop in Oakland uses their beans for expresso beverages and also sells their beans. This was my first time going to an actual Stumptown coffee shop and I felt anticipation and excitement because I was such a big fan. I am still a big fan. 

 Ice cream
There is no excuse for any foodie city not to have a gourmet ice cream shop. In Portland that shop is Salt & Straw. It’s all about using the best seasonal and local ingredients and thinking up innovative flavors. With three shops in Portland and one is Los Angeles, I am sure there will be more Salt & Straw in my future. 

 Food Cart/Chinese
Mama Chow’s Kitchen is a cute food cart serving Chinese food and is parked in Downtown Portland amongst several other neighboring food trucks. The food truck scene is actually quite prevalent in Portland. We chose to go to Mama Chow’s Kitchen because this food cart has ties to Oakland. The owner Jeff is from Oakland and his family used to own and run Best Taste in Oakland Chinatown.   

 We picked up some wonton soup, lollipop wings, and garlic noodles. Lollipop wings are chicken wings that are cut in a way where the chicken is pushed up and you can hold the bone like you would for the stick of a lollipop. The crispiness of the chicken and the flavors of honey, soy, and garlic running through the lollipops are delicious and addictive. I prefer the garlic noodles from Mama Chow’s Kitchen to some of the most famous ones in San Francisco. The texture of these noodles were the perfect al dente and sometimes that’s all it takes.   

You can’t go to Portland and not stop at Voodoo Donuts. When you see people carrying their pink boxes it’s hard to ignore. With all the food I consumed, I just wanted to peek in and see what the hype was all about. When you stop at Voodoo Donuts for the first time, you can’t not get the voodoo doll.  

 I think someone played some voodoo on me because I left the shop with a pink box.   
 Indian Food

Dinner at Bollywood Theater was my favorite meal of this trip. Serving Indian street food, this Portland establishment creates a casual and fun dining experience. Where else can you eat and shop? To the left of Bollywood Theater is a market selling a large selection of Indian spices, ingredients, and products. Seating is available indoors as well as outdoors.  

We ordered quite a few dishes for the three of us. Surprisingly, my favorite dish was a vegetarian dish, dal and coconut curry. Lentils and seasonal vegetables are cooked in a coconut and curry sauce and served with saffron rice. I have to say that the only dancing happening at Bollywood Theater was my palate.