For me, no city stirs more Midwest envy than Portland, Oregon. Nestled on the west side of the Cascade Mountain Range, the city itself embodies an artistic and sustainable sensibility, a vibe expressed by both its citizens and establishments.
The first stop on a recent trip to Portland was to a restaurant/deli/grocery/gift store called Elephants. The space contains an eclectic mix of materials, fixtures, furniture and found objects (used for décor), encouraging customers to meander through the space creating their own journey. Not only is the food fantastic (I highly recommend the Marionberry scone…and I don’t even like scones), but the product selection—grab and go food, artisan cheeses, cured meats, prepared salads, housewares, home décor and wine—combined with the quirky, homey interior makes for a great shopping experience.
The next place we ventured to was The Rams Head pub, a brewpub belonging to the McMenamins chain. McMenamins is a restaurant, hospitality, brewery, coffee roaster, distillery and winery chain. While they boast over 50 establishments in the Pacific Northwest, each location is distinctly different, taking pains to honor the existing structures (many of which are on the National Historic Register) through décor and artwork. The company also participates in strict sustainability standards in its manufacturing. Other establishments within the chain include the Kennedy School, an old school re-purposed into a hotel with restaurants, a movie theater, soaking pool, bars and brewery. The World of Edgefield, another noteworthy location, used to be the Multnomah County Poor Farm now re-purposed into a hotel with a golf course, distillery, spa and salon, winery and brewery.
Since we were in Portland, the catalyst of the food truck movement, we had to go check out one of the most popular trucks. The Grilled Cheese Grill, opened in 2009, has become an iconic element in Portland’s food cart community. The menu consists of a dizzying array of grilled cheese creations, culminating in the Cheesus. The Cheesus is a burger with tomato, lettuce, ketchup and mustard flanked by two grilled cheese sandwiches (in place of buns). Once your difficult decision of ordering is overcome, at two of the locations, you have the opportunity to sit in their unique bus dining areas. One location has a renovated school bus used for seating, and the other has a double-decker bus. Both have signature elements including hand-painted murals on the ceiling, old yearbook photos and old Trivial Pursuit cards on tabletops to pass the time while waiting for your gooey sandwich perfection. The nostalgic Grilled Cheese Trucks satisfy cravings of childhood comfort foods with their delicious sandwiches.
Our last stop in Portland was to the infamous Voodoo Doughnut. Known for their funky flavors and eclectic pink interiors, it was the perfect last stop. They have a myriad of flavors to choose from. The Voodoo Doll is a raised yeast doughnut filled with raspberry jelly, topped with chocolate frosting and a pretzel stake to complete the voodoo doll look. The Memphis Mafia is a nod to Elvis, consisting of a banana fritter with chocolate frosting, peanut butter, peanuts and chocolate chips. The Bacon Maple Bar jumped off the menu for me! It’s a raised yeast doughnut with maple frosting and bacon on top.
It was a super soft, yet chewy doughnut and the sweet and smooth icing was a perfect complement to the crispy, salty bacon.
Portland is a wonderfully unique city chock full of indie culture and packed with lots of local gems. I can’t wait for my next trip!