This week, we’re sticking with our West Coast tour and offering up food and drink favorites from our home city of Portland, Oregon. Have you missed any of our “48 Hours In…” profiles thus far? You can check them out here.
The city of roses, bridges, and Stumptown…
Oh, Portland. After a decade, you’re finally starting to grow on me. Your rivers, your bridges, your crazy cyclists. The food and drink selection, however, is certainly one of your shiny bits. Every time one of my friends comes into town, they always want to know where to eat and drink – and I’m always happy to tell them. But much like larger cities, such as LA and NYC, it’s all about where you’re located at the time. You’ll hear folks ask you which side of the river you’re on, and whether you’re north or south of Burnside – the two geographic entities that divide Portland into a grid. Thus, a comprehensive list with my favorites in each section of the city. Hope you’re hungry – and thirsty!
The Knock Back (best for happy hour, drinks)
2315 NE Alberta St.
The Knock Back is what I consider to be high class dive bar – and my favorite seat in the city, hands down. The music is loud, the room is spacious and comfortable, and the bartenders are always up for good conversation. Co-owner Jane Platt runs the kitchen, with an impressive menu from sliders to salads, including the best sandwich in Stumptown, the Tempeh Reuben. Make sure to order yourself a Painkiller from bar manager Jesse Card.
Por Que No (best for lunch, dinner)
3524 N Mississippi Ave. (multiple locations)
Tacos and margaritas. Simple, delicious, and easy on the wallet. It’s a tiny, popular spot, but all the good ones are these days.
Tin Shed (best for breakfast, brunch)
1438 NE Alberta St.
I’ve been a Tin Shed fan for a decade now, ever since it was really just a little shed of a dining room. You’ll hit the standard brunch line on a weekend morning (it’s a little easier to grab a seat mid-week) but the coffee is always flowing. Their ‘Everything Nice’ plate, with its potato pancake and sweet potato brioche French toast, is definitely the way to go.
Ox (best for dinner, drinks)
2225 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd.
Ox is pricey, but worth it. I wasn’t super excited about my one and only visit to chef Greg Denton’s previous restaurant, Metrovino, but I’m glad it didn’t hold me back from dining at Ox. Every dish I’ve had – on multiple visits– has been superb. The menu is meat heavy, of course, and both the wine list and cocktail menu are solid.
Toro Bravo (best for dinner, drinks)
120 NE Russell St.
Chef John Gorham is a gem, both personally and professionally. His staff is happy, his diners are happy, and the offerings at every one of his spots (Tasty & Sons, Tasty & Alder) are worthwhile – but Toro Bravo is my favorite. It’s all tapas style, and the selection is divine. You’ll want to start with the bacon-wrapped dates.
Ecliptic Brewery (best for lunch, dinner, beer)
825 N Cook St.
Mussels, braised brisket, and house made ice cream were all on the menu when I visited Ecliptic for the first time as part of a media luncheon. The brainchild of Portland beer pioneer, John Harris, Ecliptic not only scores for brews, but raises the bar on brewpub food everywhere, from sweet and spicy drumsticks to a trout po’boy.
Pine State Biscuits (best for brunch, lunch)
2204 NE Alberta St. (multiple locations)
I have a soft spot for Pine State. When we were closing our catering company back in the day, Pine State was a popular food cart just ramping up for their first brick and mortar – and they acquired quite a bit of of our equipment to get their kitchen off the ground. Every time I visit any one of their three locations, and order myself a plate of their signature biscuits with both sausage and mushroom gravy, I reflect on the life and legacy of kitchen equipment, how it moves from one ending to another beginning. It’s a grand thing to see great people making great food achieve great success.
Multnomah Whiskey Library (best for small bites, drinks)
1124 SW Alder St.
This shiny, leather-bound cocktail club is sexy and sultry and completely worth all the hype it’s received since opening last year. Over 1500 whiskeys line the walls, in addition to a full array of spirits both local and international. Chef Gabriel Pascuzzi, who spent time at Noma and Colicchio & Sons, leads the kitchen, with every dish beautifully executed. Insider tip: Get in early, when doors open at 4.
Clyde Common/Pepe Le Moko (best for lunch, dinner, drinks)
1014 SW Stark St.
Clyde Common is just a Portland food & drink staple at this point. The bartenders are world-renowned, the staff is welcoming and hospitable, and the menu changes regularly…and always delivers. Happy hour happens twice daily – both post-work and late-night, just before close. Be sure to make your way around the corner and down the stairs to Pepe Le Moko post-meal to enjoy the best Grasshopper in town.
Driftwood Room (best for happy hour)
729 SW 15th Ave.
Oh, the Driftwood speaks of years gone by, of Rat Packs and martinis, of lounge singers and cigarette girls. Housed in the beautiful Hotel deLuxe, the Driftwood Room is a winner for happy hour, with one of the best burgers in town. A classic in the heart of the city.
Raven & Rose (best for dinner, drinks)
1331 SW Broadway
Raven & Rose has had quite the staffing turnover since they opened their doors last year. Thankfully, the quality of food and drink has survived the shuffle, and remains one of my best spots to bring out-of-towners. Though the food menu is a bit lacking upstairs, the Rookery Bar is a stellar for catching the score of the game with a drink of choice in your hand.
Savor Soup House (best for lunch)
1003 SW Alder
I just adore this little food cart on the corner of 10th and Alder. They have a rotating menu of soups, a handful of hearty salads, and all the grilled cheese combinations you can imagine. And in the summer time, it’s all about the Arnold Palmers.
The Whole Bowl (best for lunch)
SW 9th and Alder
Also another favorite cart of mine, the Whole Bowl only has one option – a whole bowl of protein with avocado, rice, black beans, cheese, and a super special Tali sauce. The line is always ten people deep – and there’s a reason.
Muu Muu’s (best for happy hour, small bites, drinks)
612 NW 21st Ave.
Parking is a total nightmare near 21st and “Trendy-third”, but with dear friends who live in the area, Muu’s is a regular spot for me. The decor is dark and divey (with a giant, random portrait of actor Heath Ledger on the wall), the drinks are strong, and the menu is surprisingly eclectic yet tasty, with everything from a Caesar salad to chicken satay.
Bar Mingo (best for happy hour, dinner, drinks)
811 NW 21st Ave.
Kat suggested we stop by for happy hour recently, and I was impressed. The meat and cheese plates were perfect, and the house wines were up to par. The gnocchi on the dinner menu is perfection.
Pok Pok/Whiskey Soda Lounge (best for lunch, dinner, drinks)
3226 SE Division St.
What can be said about Pok Pok that hasn’t been said already? Chef Andy Ricker did a fine job building a wonderfully unique menu with powerful flavors, even if he’s since departed for the Big Apple. Whiskey Soda Lounge, the sister and fallback waiting room for Pok Pok, offers a smaller menu and fantastic cocktails if the original location is too busy to snag a table.
Perierra Crêperie (best for lunch, dinner, late night bites)
SE 12th and Hawthorne
This food cart has been a staple of the Cartopia cart pod for a number of years now – and my go-to for late night Nutella & banana crepes. Perfect post-barhop.
White Owl Social Club (best for drinks, late night bites)
1305 SE 8th Ave.
I love the White Owl. It’s a rock-n-roll neighborhood bar in the industrial district with quick bites and plenty of standards for drinkin’, as well as an expansive outdoor patio. But what I adore is the “Build Your Own S’mores”, complete with personal fire and all the fixin’s. A restaurant menu rarity, it’s a sweet way to close out any evening.
Jennifer Matthewson (Heigl) is the founder and editor of Daily Blender. Her first book, Career Diary of a Caterer, was published in 2009, and she has contributed to a number of publications both print and online, including Delta Sky and BBC.com. You can follow her on Instagram, as well as on Twitter both here and here.
*Photo credit: Jennifer Matthewson / Daily Blender