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February 10, 2017

Portland: Brews + Books + Donuts

If you want to go back in time to the grungy 90’s mixed with some delicious new age food and a great beer scene, Portland Oregon is the place for you. Luckily, we have great friends that are nearby in Seattle (Chris & Stacey) that were able to show the city of Portland to us. We split an Airbnb right above the coffee shop Just Bob in the Alberta Arts District. This was a great little neighborhood to stay in - walking distance to a variety of restaurants, bars, and cafes nearby.

Portland is made up of many small districts, each with their own feel and unique spots to grab a drink or bite to eat. We followed Chris & Stacey’s lead with their experience and local recommendations from their friends in Seattle who frequent Portland.

Entrance to Rogue Brewery in Portland

Pips and Bounce - Ping Pong Bar

First stop after we checked into our Airbnb was Pips and Bounce – a ping pong themed bar with local beers on tap. We started with a healthy hummus app and a round of beers for the guys + cocktails for the girls. $15 gets you a table for 30mins (they gave us slack on the 30mins since we were eating & drinking more than actually playing). Cool scene and a great place to get some semi-competitive pong in.

The Commons Brewery

Next up was a short walk over to The Commons Brewery for charcuterie + beer flights to taste as many local beers as possible in our 48hrs in Portland with a little fancy snack on the side.

This was probably a group favorite spot. Great beer with a comfortable and cozy atmosphere.

Cartopia - Food Cart Pod

On our way to a very late dinner to try out one of the many local food carts, we ducked into another indoor/outdoor heated bar for a round of drinks + dancing.  We overheard 90s music blaring from the outside and decided to pop in to scope it out. None of us remember or saw what this place was called, but this spontaneous bar made for a great time, and built up our hunger even more.

We arrived at Cartopia, a heaven-on-earth for late night food (open until 3am).  There are several food cart pods (collection of food carts) located throughout Portland - with Cartopia located in the neighborhood of Hawthorne. You can find everything from a crepe cart (Perierra Creperie), to a Mediterranean Chicken spot (Tahrir Square). You can also find Potato Champion, Pyro Pizza, Chicken & Guns, and El Brasero, each of these food carts featuring their own unique twist on their classic food offered. Think of it as a permanent food truck rodeo with picnic tables, firepits, and a lighted village. Definitely something that should be offered in every city.

Food carts are found everywhere in Portland instead of food trucks. They also go by the names of lunch wagons, taco trucks or snack shacks and are part of Portland's charm.

Check out this guide to the exhaustive list of food carts and this guide for a list of Portland's food cart pods. No trip to Portland is complete without enjoying some munchies from a food cart.

Voodoo Doughnuts

The next morning after sleeping in, first on the agenda was a tourist favorite, VooDoo Doughnuts. They say the line usually wraps around the building and can be 1-2hr wait just for some pretty good, but not great donuts. The appeal being cool designs, quirkily named donuts, insta-worthy pink boxes, and a well-known national reputation. Locals go to Blue Star, but since we’ve tried that on Abbot Kinney in LA, we ventured to Voodoo. We arrived around 10am on a Saturday morning, so we expected a very long line. Miraculously, we walked up to the line and it was only 15-20 deep, so only a quick 10min wait.  Tip: look up the flavors on your phone before walking up to the line so you see the complete flavor list, and know exactly what each donut is made up of. This selection could get pretty overwhelming given that they offer about 90 different donuts.

We ordered the maple bacon, voodoo doll (stuffed with raspberry filling), Viscous Hibiscus, and a No Name Donut (PB + Rice Krispy Treats). You have to order 4 to get the signature pink box, and it’s cash only so keep both of those in mind when going. Donuts were only $0.95-$2.50 each (with a few a bit higher), so it’s fairly easy on the wallet. The general review is that they were all super sweet and rich, but still pretty good donuts overall. With unique flavors, designs, and names this is a can’t miss experience when in Portland for the 1st time.

But in our opinion, if you want the best donuts Portland has to offer, head over to Blue Star.


Powell's Books

Next on the agenda was a must do stop to Powell’s Books, the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world. Powell's is THE top attraction in Portland so we definitely recommend for anyone's first visit to Portland. Honestly, it doesn't look that impressive from the outside. Even when you first enter you don't get a sense for how large it is, that is until you begin to wander aimlessly from room to room and then realize you are completely and utterly lost. In my opinion, there are worse things than getting lost in a giant bookstore.

To get a sense of how large the flagship store is, it takes up a whole city block at 1.6 acres, 68,000 square feet. That's enough to house over 1,000,000 books. They organize books by genre via a color coded room system. They have large colored labels throughout the store to help guide you.

Since I'm a big reader, I left with 3 new books. Oops.

Deschutes Brewery

Next up on our beer tasting tour was Deschutes, a very popular bar amongst locals and visitors alike. The consensus favorite for us was the Obsidian Stout which had 'notes of espresso and dark chocolate with a roasty finish.' Deschutes is also a pretty popular restaurant so if planning on dining here, consider making a reservation!

Rogue Ales & Spirits

Our beer tour continued with Rogue - who is nationally known with their crazy flavors found in bottle shops across the US - including a Siraracha HOT Stout, VooDoo Doughnut Mango Astronaut Ale, and the Beer Beard. We each opted for a flight here as well with the favorite being the Hazelutely Choctabulous - which is the Rogue Chocolate Stout blended with Hazelnut Brown Nectar aka candy in a bottle. We ended this flight with the server-recommended chilled bacon-vodka shots. Crazy flavors all around here.

10 Barrel Brewing Company

With the recollection getting a bit blurry, we had to look this one up to remember what we got.  10 Barrel Brewing Company offers 10 samples for $10.  Two of these were ordered for our table of 4, along with their famous Cucumber Crush sour beer (incredibly refreshing), and a round of waters. Make sure to put in a few orders of their salt & vinegar pork rinds ($2/each) to snack on with your wide selection of beers. Incredibly tasty and delicious.


All of this beer and bacon vodka shots had us craving some substantial food, and Chris knew just where to take us...Lardo. This was highly recommended from Chris's coworkers. Lardo started as a food cart before becoming the popular sandwich shop that it is now. They use old-world techniques with a mouth watering menu featuring (among other things) burgers, meatball Bahn Mi's and a twist to the traditional side of fries - crispy pig ears dipped in honey. You bet we ordered that. Lardo also has a rotating tap of craft brews, because, we're in Portland after all.

Oh and if you're wondering what Lardo actually is:

A type of salume made by curing strips of fatback with rosemary and other herbs and spices.


Pine State Biscuits

If you haven't noticed by now, breakfast is a huge deal for us. Nothing sets the tone for the rest of the day like a delicious and satisfying breakfast. That's why we HAD to check out Pine State Biscuits. Chris and Stacey have eaten there before and raved about it so we were excited to try one of their famous biscuits. Also, you know a place is good when the line wraps around the building EVERY morning.

But to understand the gravity of our excitement, you have to realize that all four of us moved to the west coast from North Carolina, where biscuits are perfected to a delicious buttery art. Finding a restaurant where the owners hail from North Carolina with a goal to bring NC goodness to the west coast is a gem. Not to mention, they had freaking Cheerwine there people, and in a glass bottle! If you don't know what Cheerwine is, it's a soda from our beloved home state which is a better version of Dr. Pepper.  It was a beautiful glorious morning.

To make the morning even better, there was a beautiful colorful mural across the street. Obviously I had to take pictures there, in true blogger form.

All in all, we quite enjoyed a weekend of eating and drinking our way across Portland. This is our absolute favorite type of trip, with some of our favorite people. Hoping to plan many more of these weekend getaways with this couple as we continue exploring the west coast!

Stay tuned for our next post on Portland, featuring our adventure "chasing waterfalls" along the historic Columbia River Gorge.

Happy Travels,

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