Portland, Oregon is a weird place—and that’s coming from somebody who lives in San Francisco. But I’m using “weird” in an endearing way (again, San Francisco). From the care-free coffee shops to the strip clubs with surprisingly good grub to the extreme proximity to a world-class wine country, this city is a paradise for a food-lover. If you’ve been to The City of Roses, it might just change the way you view your own city. Here’s how it changed mine.
1. I’m mad there’s no Duane Sorenson establishment in my city. You may be most familiar with Sorenson’s wildly popular coffee roastery, Stumptown, but in Portland, he’s also a restaurateur. His spots are some of the best in the city, and all situated on SE Division Street. And I ate at them all: The Woodsman Tavern, Ava Gene’s, and Roman Candle Baking Co. At the latter, they give you a pair of antique-y shears to cut their square pizzas (which is so Portland). Mr. Sorenson, want to migrate south to San Francisco, please?
2. I now consider strip clubs a legitimate place to eat. Hear me out: Portland is famous for their huge number of gentlemen’s clubs—and, in fact, it has the most per capita of any U.S. city. Portland’s liquor laws are rather unique, too: The city requires all bars to have a legitimate food menu, which has fostered some pretty impressive offerings. Case in point? Bon Appétit did a roundup of Portland strip clubs with the best food last year. So, naturally, my travel buddy and I hit The Acropolis at 9:30 AM for some of their famous steak n’ eggs before heading to wine country. And it was pretty damn good—especially for $7 a plate.
3. I scoff at sales tax on food. In Portland, there’s no pesky tax that beefs up your restaurant or bar tab. In fact, there’s no sales tax at all in the state of Oregon. That made eating and drinking (and shopping) even more fun.
4. Pinot Noir will never be the same for me again. The cool climate of the Willamette Valley (pronounced will-AM-ette, to my surprise) yields more delicate Pinots than their big, juicy California counterparts—my personal preference—and also makes for some seriously dramatic (and super Instagrammable) fog. A particularly memorable tasting experience was at Soter Vineyards, where they start you off with a glass of rosé, then take you to a hillside lodge amidst huge trees and fog for a seated tasting. Spectacular.
5. I expect every café, restaurant, and shop to have gorgeous flowers and impeccable design. Seriously, every damn place in Portland, Oregon is so stunning. Even the accounting offices and laundromats have super design-y logos, hip interiors, and pristinely arranged fresh buds. I made sure to bring back some of that quirky sensibility for my own place with prints from Budd+Finn, the most delightful home and gifts shop in the Pearl District.
Photo by Lorin Warner