Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My Recent Travels: Portland

This past weekend Matt and I had the opportunity to visit Portland to see my sister-in-law (Cara), her husband (Dustin) and their son (Moses). Of course, the reason we went was because we wanted to see them, but the trip also gave us a great taste of Portland (literally) as we were shown around by locals. Now, I'd visited Portland before with a few friends when I was in college, and we had a great time, but I wasn't previously aware that this city is rumored to have the most restaurants per capita than any other city. Whether it's true or not, the fact they have that rumor makes it an even cooler destination for me. One of my all-time favorite activities is eating. As is hanging out with people. So a weekend full of hanging out with people while eating makes it a trip well-spent.

I'm a strong believer that hole-in-the-wall or family-owned restaurants taste better than giant chains. Don't get me wrong, I love the big guys, too, but when I'm traveling I like to try places I can't get at home. Although we were only there for a couple of days, we had the privilege of experiencing six different food businesses (not all of them were for full meals):

1. After trying to go to a couple of Ethiopian places that were closed, we decided to give Russell Street Bar-B-Que a try for lunch on Saturday. I had the Pulled Pork Sandwich which was quite tasty, and everyone else seemed to enjoy the Smoked Beef Brisket. I think what I liked best, though, was the decor. They had a lot of cute pigs all over, and there was a sign by the entrance that said abandon children would be given double espressos and...something else I can't remember right now, but remember thinking it was amusing.

2. I had read about Voodoo Donuts online a few days before our trip, so I was sure to request that as a location to stop by. The line was really long -- out the door and down the street -- but it also went quickly and was definitely worth the wait. My two favorites were the one that had oreos all over the top and the maple bar with bacon on top. I know this sounds a little odd, but the bacon combined with the maple flavor is quite tasty.

3. Something came up over the course of conversation about these Food Carts at SE 12th and Hawthorne that have fries, burritos, BBQ and crepes. As soon as I heard crepes, we had to go there. These sweet and savory crepes are made with all sorts of ingredients. The one part I didn't like was how long it took to get my crepe - Matt was able to think about getting a burrito, go over, get one, wait for it, come back, think about eating it, eat it, and still wait around...but my chocolate and pear crepe was still delicious and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

4. Cara happened to have a coupon for Cha Taqueria, so we decided to go there for lunch on Sunday. Now, Mexican food can sometimes be a bit tricky for me since I can't eat cheese, don't like tomatoes, and can't handle spicy food. I'm always able to find something I can eat, though, and I usually like it okay, but the "something" I found to eat at Cha Taqueria was amazing. Even without the cheese, the Alambre (Grilled steak, bacon, ham, peppers, and onions served on a sizzling skillet with handmade tortillas and all the fixings) was quite delectable. I was really sad when I realized we forgot our leftovers in the hotel fridge on the way back home...because it was GOOD. The restaurant overall was really nice. It had a chic feel, and you could tell from the decor that dinner/nightlife was where most of its business came in. Their prices on the lunch menu seemed quite reasonable, though, and the portions were large enough that I could've easily made at least two meals out of my entree.

5. Dustin happens to be a very talented musician, and he also happened to be playing at Mississippi Pizza Sunday evening, so we got to eat some good pizza while listening to some good music. Overall, I really liked the feel of Mississippi Pizza. It had a kind of eclectic feel, and had a separate room where they featured the musicians. While a lot of places with live music turn into people listening to the performers as background music (which doesn't make much sense because you have to yell at each other to hear the conversation and don't have a chance to appreciate those on stage), the way the room was set up made it easy for people to sit, listen, enjoy the music and socialize afterward. The pizza was good, too, which certainly gives additional motivation for people to come back.

6. The last food establishment we had time to visit was The Waffle Window, a window off the side of a restaurant that serves waffles topped with sweet or savory flavors. Sadly, Cara wasn't able to join us (although hopefully we'll be able to go again next time). I ordered the Berry Bliss which was quite good - I really liked the sweet taste of the batter with the fruity topping. Matt seemed to like the banana/nutella waffle he ordered, and Dustin tried the Farm Fusion which had more of the savory toppings. Although it wasn't a large piece of waffle, the amount was just enough to be filling.

Okay, now I'm really hungry again, thinking through all the delicious food places we visited this past weekend. We had a lot of fun doing things besides eating (i.e. bowling, walking around a street fair), but since food is my hobby and I love it even more with good company, I felt I had to share. Now I'll be on the lookout for more places to try next time we go back down to Portland, too =)

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