Portland Food Mini Guide Food Carts Final

Travel: Portland Food Mini Guide

Think great American foodie cities and New York, San Francisco and Chicago come to mind. Then there are places like Seattle, home to Pike Place Market, New Orleans with its Creole cuisine and Austin for finger-licking BBQ. Portland, Oregon, hasn’t always been an obvious addition to the list. But this city, with a population of about 600,000, is batting above its average and has become something of a foodie hotspot in recent years.


Portland offers great eating from food carts to hip casual dining and small batch producers. That’s in addition to its progressive attitude, cycling culture, picturesque trails and love of everything handmade.


Portland Food Mini Guide Stumptown Coffee Roasters Stumptown Coffee Roasters

Start your day at Stumptown Coffee, one of the city’s original foodie hotspots. This coffee shop, named as a nod to Portland’s logging industry, first opened in 1999 and now boasts five locations. I like Stumptown’s Stark café in the foyer of the Ace hotel, which combines great coffee and people watching. Kenny and Zuke’s deli next door serves up Jewish classics like pastrami on rye and bagels.


Portland Food Mini Guide Powells Books Powell’s Books


From there head to the iconic Powell’s City of Books on W Burnside Street. Powell’s is billed as the biggest independent book store in the world. The flagship store on the edge of Downtown and the Pearl District is over 6300sq metres and has more than one million books in stock. Made Here PDX around the corner is also worth a visit. The store stocks products designed, made, built and baked in Portland and they make for great souvenirs. It’s an easy stroll into the heart of the Pearl and its boutiques, bakeries and galleries. Stationery lovers will enjoy Oblation Papers and Press while Cielo Home and Christopher David are great for home wares. Make your way back towards downtown as lunch time rolls around.

Portland Food Mini Guide Food Cart Street Portland’s “food cart street”


There is no more iconic lunch in Portland than something from a food cart. There are between 400 and 700 carts – depending on whose numbers you believe – clustered in “pods’’ across the city.  The pods are often parking lots, with carts around the edge and cars in the middle. It’s not unusual to see dozens of people on the street eating anything from BBQ to Mexican from take away containers.  You can get a decent lunch for $8 to $12 dollars.


One of my favourite carts is the Grilled Cheese Grill (cover image), which offers a fun take on the humble grilled cheese sandwich with the motto ‘Come by for a taste of your childhood. Unless your childhood sucked, and then we’ll let ya have a taste of ours’. Many of the sandwiches have school-inspired names like the Kindergartner (a classic grilled cheese, either Tillamook cheddar or classic American cheese, on your choice of white or multigrain bread) and one of the other locations even features an old retrofitted school bus where you can eat your lunch.


VoodooDoughnutVoodoo Doughnut close up

If you feel like something sweet head to Voodoo Doughnut for a loop doughnut (a doughnut topped with fruit loops) or a Bacon Maple Bar doughnut. This doughnut store is something of a tourist attraction, offering legal wedding ceremonies and the city’s “official’’  doughnut which was endorsed by the then mayor in 2008.  The original location on SW 3rd Ave is open 24 hours. Spend the afternoon in one of Portland’s many parks or shopping at Pioneer Place.

Even though Portland is in the Pacific Northwest don’t expect the umbrellas to come out if the rain starts coming down. It’s generally only a drizzle and not enough to put Portlanders off.

A day in Portland isn’t complete without a visit to Pok Pok. It’s a quick and easy 20 minute bus ride from Downtown to this hip and happening Thai restaurant which looks like something of an shanty hut with fairy lights strung up everywhere and rooms tacked on to rooms. Chef Andy Ricker’s street food is legendary and be prepared to wait for it. Go early or put your name down and head over the road to Pok Pok’s sister bar Whisky and Soda. If you have a US cell number the hostess will text you when your table is ready. I particularly like the charcoal roasted game hen stuffed with Thai spices and the sticky Vietnamese fish sauce wings.


Portland Food Mini Guide Salt and Straw Salt and Straw ice cream close up


Finish over the road with an “farm-to-cone’’ ice cream at Salt & Straw where there’s a big focus on local ingredients and producers. The owner of a well-known salt shop provides the Guatemalan Fleur de Sel used in the very popular sea salt with caramel ribbons. Another flavor, Stumptown Coffee & Burnside Bourbon, combines Stumptown beans with bourbon from Eastside Distillery. The collaborations even extend to local elementary schools. Each of Salt & Straw’s three stores work with local schools in their neighbourhood as part of their ice cream inventors series. You can read about the children behind the flavours on Salt & Straw’s website, 15 per cent of the profits from their sale goes back into the school, and, in true Salt & Straw style, they taste great.

It doesn’t get more Portland than that.


Images and words by Amelia Harris



Stumptown Coffee

Various locations including 1026 SW Stark St


Kenny and Zuke’s

Various locations including 1038 SW Stark St


Powell’s City of Books

1005 W Burnside St between 10th and 11th Ave


Made Here PDX

40 NW 10th St


Oblation Papers and Press

516 NW 12th Ave


Cielo Home

528 NW 12th Ave


Christopher David

901 NW 10th Ave,


Alder Food Cart Pod

SW 10th between Alder and Washington


Voodoo Doughnut
Various locations including 22 SW 3rd Ave


Pok Pok

3226 SE Division St


Salt & Straw

Various locations including 3345 SE Division St



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