Courtney in Portland, OR
This past June on the last part of our Pacific NW trip we spent a couple days in Portland, Oregon. My initial research to the food scene in Portland was overwhelming with so many delicious choices from food cart pods to food halls and everything in between. I also called upon my foodie cousins that visited recently to send me their recommendations. Now keep in mind I was traveling with my husband and 3 year old daughter, so know that with a toddler in tow sometimes I must stray from even the most well thought out travel plans and cannot go to the ends of the Earth for a specific meal. Case in point, going to the large collection of food carts downtown called the Alder Street Food Cart Pod to try the popular cart serving Thai chicken and rice, Nong's Khao Man Ghai. They are open Mon-Sat 10-4 or until sold out. Anyway, we arrived early afternoon to our south waterfront hotel, the Hyatt House Downtown which was about a mile away from the Alder Street Pod. We soon made our way to Alder Street and when we got to Nong's around 3:00, they were closed. Sold out! I was devastated. Have you ever seen a grown woman pout because of food? I admit it was a lame reaction and partially blame the hanger. I was prepared to hop on a StreetCar and find their brick and mortar restaurant. Knowing it wasn't practical and again HANGER, my mood turned around when we found a nearby food cart serving Piadina (thin Italian flatbread). My caprese version was delicious and fresh.
After regrouping at the hotel for a nap (toddler), gym time (mom and dad), and getting cleaned up, we headed back out for dinner. Luckily, there was a StreetCar stop right outside our hotel that we hopped on and headed a couple miles north to Pok Pok. This place is known for creative Thai street food. We started with an order of shrimp chips which were light and enjoyable. Note: their standard water is reminiscent of a toasted tea. The waitress said it is flavored with Pandanus leaf, which gives it a slight toasted rice and vanilla flavor. It felt mandatory to order their signature fish sauce wings; they didn't disappoint as they were caramelized to perfection. We also shared the Kaeng Hang Leh, "Northern Thai sweet pork belly and pork shoulder curry with ginger, palm sugar, turmeric, tamarind, Burmese curry powder and pickled garlic" along with some sticky rice for good measure.
Next up, ice cream. We had received Salt & Straw as a recommendation from a several people so had to give it a try. Luckily, it was only about a .6 mile walk from Pok Pok. Well, folks, the line was long and wrapped around the building.
I think I was too excited to be completely annoyed with the line. It moved decently fast from what I remember and once you got close to order, friendly employees came to give you samples of your choosing as you continued to wait. I went with a seasonal June flavor called Toasted Baguette PB&J, it was part of their Rescued Food collection. It was amazing and I loved the texture change with the chunks of soaked and toasted baguette. Their partner in this collection, Urban Gleaners (a non-profit redistributing food from high-end restaurants and grocery stores to help end hunger) "has such a huge surplus of bread from local bakeries that there’s always extra, even after delivering to local schools." Take a look at this detailed description, "We take some of those extra baguettes, toast them to golden brown, and steep them in sweet cream to extract that toasty goodness. The toasted baguette ice cream then gets a double swirl of jam made from frozen berries and fruit from the Urban Gleaner’s freezer and chocolate peanut butter for a PB&J unlike any other." I love the story behind the flavor. I should also mention that our daughter and my husband got double vanilla and sea salt with caramel ribbons, respectively, and declared them the best versions of those flavors ever. Job well done, Salt & Straw!
Our second day in Portland, the food highlights were the Sushi B-ritto's from Wasabi Sushi PDX in the CartLab PDX, a unique food hall of sorts where they renovated an old restaurant bar to now house separate food carts (currently: sushi, sliders, and Korean fusion) in addition to the bar. It was across the street from our hotel making it very convenient to take to-go and enjoy in the comfort of our nice in-room kitchen in our Hyatt House room.
Last but not least, our trip to Portland wouldn't have been complete without a trip to Voodoo Doughnut. I think the picture speaks for itself. Shout out to the 'Old Dirty Bastard' in the top right which was a marvelous combination of chocolate frosting , Oreo cookies, and peanut butter!
We loved our time in Portland. Not to mention the weather was sunny and warm. We thought the city was easy to navigate with the public transit especially with the StreetCar mobile app as well as the pedestrian friendliness of the different neighborhoods. We also thoroughly enjoyed exploring the International Rose Test Garden and our toddler loved the Rose Garden Children's Park. It was also nice to walk the waterfront downtown Portland. One day we popped into the Little River Cafe for some smoothies and salads, which was delightful. Next time we would love to explore the Pittock Mansion, go to one of the highly suggested hiking spots, take a trip to the Oregon Coast, explore Portland's Division Street (lots of shops and restaurants), and also check a few of the Bon Appetit Best New Restaurants off the list - Portland has four!
Toddler Travel Notes:
- We used the Brica Travel Bag which fit our Britax Boulevard car seat secure but snug. The shoulder straps and wheels were nice options for lugging around the airport and Amtrak station.
- The Portland transit including the Max light rail and th Portland Streetcar were both easy to use and stroller friendly. Kids under 7 ride free with a paying customer.
- Our hotel- the Hyatt House Downtown was Family friendly with sizable, modern rooms with kitchens, free breakfast, an indoor pool, and across from a Streetcar stop.
I hope you get to travel near and far, and often!