Hello and thank you for dropping by. Are you planning a visit to Portland? As I’ve mentioned on my previous post — Slow Weekend Getaways — I’m sharing more details on our PDX experience. Hopefully the stories I’ll share of the places we visited and the special moments we had from our trip will inspire and bring you the same lighthearted experience on your PDX trip or wherever this season’s adventures bring you.
“The ultimate goal was to experience their food cart/truck scene. It’s the perfect way to stay on budget whilst experiencing something intimate and local. We felt a sense of connection and comfort through all the local food joints we went to. The folks in all such businesses we met were very warm and friendly which is icing on the cake considering the very satisfying gastronomic experiences we had that is so highly appreciated on this short trip. Satiated, indeed!” – an excerpt from my previous post Slow Weekend Getaways.
We went on this trip to celebrate our good friends’ baby girl’s Birthday, early October of last year. Upon our arrival early morning, we spent the first half of the day exploring the city before heading to our friend’s place in the afternoon.
Looking for breakfast, Portland style?
We landed in PDX just in time for breakfast. I was so eggscited and eggstremely enthusiastic going to our first food cart pod of the trip: Fried Egg I’m in Love. We got the Yolko Ono and Egg Zeppelin, and it was just as good—probably even better—as eggspected!
The food cart is situated in a lively corner lot along with other food carts in the eclectic Hawthorne neighborhood along SE Hawthorne Blvd. which boasts plentiful local shops and cafes. A visit here will surely get you a taste of Portland all the while supporting its local mobile food industry.
For your sweet tooth.
Just a couple of minutes west on SE Hawthorne Blvd. is Farina Bakery where we got scrumptious French macarons. The atmosphere in this local bakery is quiet, rustic, and cozy—adorable decor with mismatched cottage style chairs and tables, and colorful wall murals. The bakery display showcases beautiful cakes, petit fours, and viennoiseries. Such a lovely spot to unwind with company and get your sweet fix.
SF plug: my favorite French macaron in San Francisco is from Chantal Guillon. It’s quite hard to find one that we like better or at least on par with CG when we visit other cities. We’ve even tried the popular one in SoCal and others in SF, and CG has always been our top choice for these delicate sweets. Not until Farina Bakery—theirs are actually great as well. Though my biased self still has CG as my fave, the consistency and texture of their shells and filling are really good—moist meringue filling sandwiched between thin, light shells. A must try when you’re in San Francisco for your sweet fix.
How about some coffee to go with that?
We got the lil treats to go and took a short drive further west on SE Hawthorne Blvd. for our two coffee joints of choice. We love coffee and I love (love!) the sense of community and intimacy in coffeeshops at our favorite spots in San Francisco so I wanted to experience that in Portland as well.
Quite a funny story here. I wanted to see some roasting action just as we would in the coffeeshops in our neighborhood at home, so I was excited to check out Coava Coffee Roasters. Lo and behold, it was closed when we got there, but was I aware of that? Nope. Little did I know, next door was another coffeeshop, Elevator Cafe & Commons. Their door was open while Coava’s was not, but this gal was not paying attention—went inside, ordered a latte, and as I was chatting with the baristas, I noticed their beautiful modern and industrial space (I’ve seen their space from pictures online) and it was at that moment I realized, I was in fact, in the wrong coffeeshop. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Just a few blocks down is the second coffeeshop of the morning, Upper Left Roasters. Vibrant atmosphere, bright and modern open-space interior with tons of seating options, and it also has that same sense of community vibe I was looking for in a coffeeshop. As you walk in, you’ll see their roasting spot on the left.
Time to unwind. We grabbed a spot in their patio, enjoyed their latte (a cup for J), our macarons to-go from Farina Bakery, and my latte from Elevator Cafe & Commons. There was this cute dog beside us waiting for its human, a couple of young ladies in their comfy I live next door attire chillaxing, and the view of a not so busy intersection—bikes, some cars, and residents walking their furry friends. Just pure great vibes all around.
Both coffees were good but I liked the Elevator coffee slightly better which I think is sweet considering I went there by mistake.
Inspired by the ordinary: We parked down the adjacent residential street that is so beautifully tree-lined. Just like San Francisco, Portland is a biophilic city. Needless to say, this beautiful tree-lined street reminded me of some residential neighborhoods in SF. This residential street was such a sight to see!
You know that blissful feeling of being in a new place?
That feeling was what I got just by walking into this street. Talk about something so ordinary yet so inspiring!
Street art – local shops – FOOD CARTS
On our way to our friends’ place (in a suburb about two hours away from Portland), we stopped by the Alberta Arts District to get us some refreshments for the road plus a little gift for the hosts. As soon as we got to the Alberta Arts District, we immediately said we were going back the next day to spend more time in this diverse and vibrant neighborhood.
Firstly, say hello to the sweetest and dearest furry friend of the ‘hood. Hai =^._.^= ∫
Looking for some healthy refreshing juices/smoothies? We found this adorable juice truck—that is actually a renovated camper—called Sip for our road-trip refreshments.
The kind and friendly gentleman behind the counter helped us decide which green smoothie to get. J got their Die Hard (kale, spinach, parsley, cilantro, cucumber, celery, lemon, sea salt) and I opted for their Greensicle (kale, spinach, banana, orange, vanilla, dates). J’s smoothie was definitely GREEN and he said he liked it (good for him, my Popeye man!) I on the other hand, was absolutely happy with my sweeter choice. Both were great to take on our two-hour road trip ahead.
If you’re in this area looking to unwind and get some healthy, organic refreshments, this local juice spot is definitely worth a visit.
Hidden behind Sip is this absolutely lovely boutique garden, Thicket. Our friend is a passionate cook so along with a bottle of California wine, we got them a cute little pot of rosemary plant from Thicket. The very nice lady who helped with the purchase offered to tie a ribbon around the small pot and made it presentable as a gift – such a sweet lady!
This garden, like a secret little oasis in such a buzzing area, is filled with a lush selection of botanical beauty that will surely leave you feeling inspired whether you have a green thumb or simply appreciate the beauty in gardens.
Attention: craft beer lovers!
A visit to Portland, AKA Beervana, is not complete without a visit to its local craft breweries. We got back into the city pretty late which was the perfect time to try them out.
Base Camp Brewing did not disappoint.
As the name suggests, the place is a camping/outdoor-themed brewery—the spacious and impressive interior feels like you’re in a cabin/camping grounds. There’s a canoe hanging upside down above the tasting bar that’s facing a wall art composed of a series of nature and landscape photography and as you look up at the high ceiling, you’ll notice the adorable hanging lanterns and the twinkly lights that give the effect of a starry starry night.
Staying true to that Northwestern vibe, it was relaxing and laid-back, along with a couple of their awesome IPAs (Gnar Gnar and Nomadic), it was the perfect spot to cap the night.
Or so we thought. . .
Hunger struck and we decided to get some late night munch at yet another one of the city’s food cart parks, Cartopia. (SF plug: it felt like we were in SoMa Streat Food Park!)
As if the first 2 glasses of hops weren’t enough, we took our delicious food from Chicken and Guns to go to the next door divey and rustic food cart friendly bar, The High Dive.
Spent what was left of our energy relaxing in their heated patio and finally, truly, capped the night. (ﾉ◕ヮ◕)ﾉ*:·ﾟ✧
Since our flight back to San Francisco the following day was not until late evening, we took this opportunity to explore and cruise around different parts of the city.
More food cart experiences!
Our first stop was at the Alder Street Food Cart Pods. Sadly, I read that this joint will be replaced by a luxury hotel so make sure to visit travelportland.com for updated locations of the food carts.
We wanted to try the famous Nong’s Khao Man Ghai but the cart was closed during our visit. The great thing about these food cart joints is that there are always other carts you can try.
Carts we tried: The Dump Truck for their dumpling sampler + Sawasdee Thai for Pad Thai + The Grilled Cheese Grill’s The Gabby. Everything was really good. J really liked the dumpling sampler and I like how melty/creamy, with the right amount of buttery soft and toasty, the classic grilled cheese was.
As we cruised around downtown Portland, it reminded me a little bit of Chicago (where my folks live). It was gloomy that time so it also reminded me a bit of San Francisco’s foggy days where busy, downtown tree-lined streets gave you that feeling of being in a nostalgic film.
Drove away from the hustle and bustle to the quiet residential streets of the Alphabet District to explore more of the local and towny scenes. We spotted what looked like their own version of San Francisco’s famous row of victorian homes, The Painted Ladies. These candy colored row houses definitely brightens up the gloomy Pacific Northwest vibe.
We went to a nearby local juice/smoothie shop, Prasad, for much needed healthy refreshments after a night spent in Beervana. Their organic smoothies were delicious! (BTW, one of the juice gals looked like Emma Stone, we were starstruck. LOL x 100)
Stop and smell the roses.
To continue our slow day, we drove just a few short miles to visit the beautiful International Rose Test Garden. I’m just going to let these images give you an idea of the lovely time you’ll have in this serene place.
Bring some local goodies home.
If you’re into baked goods like me—specifically those soft, airy, and flaky ones—take some Portland goodies home. Drop by Ken’s Artisan Bakery for a box of Oregon’s Croissant and Morning Buns to go. When in SF: Tartine Bakery’s Morning Buns in the Mission District.
Last food cart of the trip!
For our early dinner, we went to Matt’s BBQ. It was the perfect choice for our last food cart experience. A must-visit for all you fellow carnivores! Kee’s #Loaded Kitchen is also located in the same spot as Matt’s and we would have tried them too if only they weren’t closed when we got there—heard they were good too!
Time for A leisurely STROLL.
No other neighborhood was perfect for the remainder of our trip (taking-in our last day in PDX) than the Alberta Arts district.
How about a nice cup of coffee for your walk? We went to the local coffee roaster in the neighborhood, Extracto, and got a couple of lattes. I had an interesting conversation with one of the friendly baristas who just recently moved from San Francisco. We thought the same exact thing—coming from a foodie city such as San Francisco, Portland’s food scene is definitely one of the best.
Not only is Portland’s food scene top notch, everyone (as in every single one of them) we met on this trip made us feel so welcomed and the overall atmosphere of the places we went to made us feel a bit at home.
Nothing makes traveling (no matter how short the trip is) more pleasant and memorable than the flavors of its own culinary offerings, its culture, and more importantly, the warm and welcoming locals you meet.
Thank you for reading and I hope this helps you with your Portland trip or inspired you to stop and smell the roses the next time you head out the door for an adventure, big or small.