ATTENTION ALL FOODIES! Portland is the foodie mother-ship and she's calling us home!
It's no secret that taiko players like to eat. It's also no secret that Portlandians also enjoy quality food and beverages. Whether you're a carnivore, omnivore, or herbivore, Portland has you covered with farm fresh, artisan-made, quality food from around the world. The best part about the food scene in Portland is that it's EVERYWHERE. Good food is available at the airport, at grocery stores, in expensive restaurants, and from food carts on the side of the street.
TCA Board Member and former NATC Conference Coordinator Elise Fujimoto has compiled a list of local Portland favorites that are not to be missed. Check out her full list on Yelp. A few CHOICE selections are included below.
Best Food Cart
Portland has a proliferation of food carts. To make small business ownership accessible and attainable, Portland has allowed food carts to gather in specific areas. Some organize into groups called pods. To be clear, these are food CARTS... not food TRUCKS. CARTS. At any given point in time, there are 500 food carts all over Portland in fixed locations. Some of the more popular pods of food carts are around SW 9th and Alder (60 carts) and SW 5th and Stark (20 carts). For a map of food carts across the city, check out www.foodcartsportland.com. NATC 2019 will be closest to the SW 4th and Hall Food Cart Lot (25 carts). More about Portland's food carts.
My pick for the best food cart in Portland goes to Nong's Khao Man Gai. Nong's started as a food cart serving a traditional Thai dish of poached chicken and rice with a soy-based vinegar sauce that will hug your insides and make you feel like you just ate your grandma's cooking. Think Hainanese chicken rice with a slight Thai twist. Nong is the owner of this magnificent chicken empire. She came to the U.S. from Thailand in 2003 with $70 in her pocket and used all her money to purchase her first food cart. Her empire has now grown into two food carts (PSU location is at SW 4th and College) and a restaurant on the East side of town on SE Ankeny. EAT THERE. JUST DO IT. (photo credit: JOH_3075 CC SA 2.0 License)
I'm going to preface this by saying that I am recommending the best brewery based on the places I've visited and that I'm swayed by food quality in addition to beer. I should also add that I prefer light beers - but understand the stout, hoppy preferences of others. If you are of the latter category, you might take these recommendations with a grain of salt. No matter your preference, if it's pubby options you seek, check out this excellent Eater site: pdx.eater.com.
There is a neighborhood in downtown Portland called the Pearl that houses a few brewpubs I would highly recommend. All these locations are within a few blocks of Powell's City of Books. Okay, Breakside Brewery is a little farther away. But your walk there will help you burn off the beer calories. And you have to make the trek there for their brats and shepherd's pie! After you've gotten your workout, stop in at Deschutes Brewery Portland Public House for a pint and some delicious food. Some may think this place is a little touristy, but their popularity is well deserved. If you miss Deschutes' downtown location, you can also find them at the Portland airport! Then make your way up to 10 Barrel Brewery for their seasonal passion fruit beer, and delicious fried brussels sprouts!
Finally, end up at my personal favorite pub, Rogue Pearl Public House. Rogue beers are famous in my household, so I've been a fan for a while. Maybe I'm a little biased, but their selection is amazing. They offer everything from thick stouts like Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout, to herby and delicious IPAs like 7 Hop, to light and fruity concoctions such as Marionberry Cider. And my personal favorite: Honey Kolsch. Top it off with traditional pub fare. I can vouch for their wings. Crispy and juicy all rolled into one. The best part is their service. Their bartenders are welcoming, fun, and very knowledgeable about their beer. Stop by Rogue and have a pint. You won't regret it. (Photo Credit: Rogue Ales Distillery & Public House.jpg|Rogue Ales Distillery & Public House)
This is a touchy subject. Doughnuts, a.k.a. Donuts, can be a sensitive subject in Portland. There is a lot of pride that comes with the doughnut. My personal favorite, for a solid, good quality doughnut is still Blue Star. Their brioche dough cannot be beat. If you can only spare calories for one doughnut, get their Blueberry Bourbon. You won't regret it. If you have enough calories for two, then add the passionfruit with chocolate nibs. And if you're going ham, get the creme brulee donut. But I digress.
I'm here to talk about my favorite doughnut place, and if I'm being honest, it's Pip's. They offer that "it" factor. FACT: Their doughnuts have shelf life. They definitely taste better fresh, right out of the fryer. So eat them there. Don't bother taking any as omiyage. Pip's makes mini-donuts and fresh, delicious chai tea and coffee. And while they have an adorable mobile food truck, I highly recommend visiting their storefront. Pip's Original Doughnuts and Chai is located in Northeast Portland, so you can stop by on your way to or from the airport. (photo credit: Elise Fujimoto)
Like any modern metropolitan area, Portland is flush with awesome brunch spots. From the famous Tasty n Alder (also Alder n Sons) to Broder Cafe with Nordic morning essentials like aebelskivers and lingonberry jam to Mother's Bistro. I'm going to talk about breakfast on the GO. Have you ever had a full English breakfast stuffed between to pillow soft brioche buns? ME EITHER. Until I went to Kingsland Kitchen in Old Town. Located inside the Embassy Suites hotel, Kingsland offers an array of breakfast delights. However, they truly excel in their breakfast sandwich game. They have other options like avocado toast and eggs benedict, but I've never made it past their breakfast sandwiches. (photo credit: Kingsland Kitchen Facebook)
Best Everything Else
Here are some other delicious eats to consider during your trip to NATC this summer!
Wailua Shave Ice. There's no better way to beat the heat than a refreshing shave ice! Wailua Shave Ice brings a taste of Hawaii to the Pacific Northwest with fluffy and flavorful Hawaiian style shave ice.
Cheese and Crack Snack Shop. The Cheese and Crack Snack Shop has a small footprint, so large parties are not recommended. If you do make your way over to their location, definitely try their Brie Brulee, famous soft serve (with espresso, matcha, beet, or strawberry dust!), and the cheese curds!
Ken's Artisan Bakery and Ken's Artisan Pizza. Ken is the ruler of all things yeasty. His breads are delicious. Croissants are buttery, chewy deliciousness. And his pizza is award winning. Try either location!
There are so many more to mention. Grassa for affordable and delicious Italian. Luc Lac for Vietnamese food. Simple Local Coffee. And then there are the recommendations from the Portland locals to consider as well! Portland Taiko Executive Director Wynn Kiyama suggests Kale for Japanese curry, Din Tai Fung for amazing dumplings, and Shizuku by Chef Naoko for Japanese food.
Still have time before or after NATC? For more recommendations, check out my NATC PDX Eats Yelp list.