Pacific Northwest Food and Cocktail Ramblings Part 4: Portland

Day 7: The food and cocktail journey continues in Portland.

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Views from the Japanese Gardens

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Broder Cafe: Sweet and Savory Swedish Brunch

Neighborhood: Ladd’s Addition

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★

Affordability: ★★★★

Ambience: ★★★★

Service: ★★★★

Food Quality: ★★★★1/2

Overall Rating: ★★★★1/2

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Smoked Salmon Smorrebrod

Having travelled to Copenhagen last year, I developed an interest and appreciation for Scandinavian cuisine.  The flavors are quite mild but they cultivate such delicate flavors with fresh herbs, seafood, and fish.  Broder Cafe is located in Southeast Portland neighborhood filled with chill bars and intriguing restaurants.  The interior feels quite Scandinavian – wooden, geometric, and ornate with an outdoor patio.  The service was decent and everyone who worked there seemed to look like they were from Sweden.

We started with the Fika Bord, which is an assortment of pastries, which were not overly sweet. They were very nutty and served with a zesty lemon curd and berry compote. I would have liked for it to be moister, but I am not an expert on Scandinavian pastries so perhaps they are meant to be on the dryer side.

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Fika Bord

What blew me away was their baked eggs with goat cheese, golden basil tomatoes and squash.  It just melts in your mouth.  The herbed chèvre was incredibly creamy and served with a fresh walnut bread.  It was served in such an appetizing skillet dish as well.  We ordered a side of the Swedish pancake, which was super tasty with the scallions and had a crunchy texture.  The pancake went really well with their spicy ketchup.

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Vegetarian Baked Eggs
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Swedish Pancake

Having been in Copenhagen and unable to eat their Smorrebrod, which is a traditional Danish open-faced sandwich with different topings, I was eager and excited to try Smorrebrod at Broder.  We had the Chèvre and golden tomato on rye, which was herbaceous and fresh.  We also had the Smoked Salmon Smorrebrod with the shrimp salad, which was flaky and smoked with a generous portion of trout.

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Smorrebrod
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Chèvre Smorrebrod

Broder is a unique and affordable Scandinavian brunch spot that pays attention to their ingredients.  Their food is fresh, savory, and distinct in a clean, minimal environment.  I would definitely come back here.

Umami Cafe at the Japanese Gardens: Fulfill your Tea/Garden Fantasy

Neighborhood: Arlington Heights

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★★

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★

Affordability: ★★★

Ambience: ★★★★

Service: ★★★★

Food Quality: ★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★

The Japanese Gardens are a must see in Portland.  They are the most impressive Japanese Gardens outside of Japan and not too far from downtown Portland.  They are serene, gorgeous, and difficult to get enough of.  I loved how green it was with the calming waterfalls.  They also have a cafe in the gardens, which serves Japanese tea and snacks.  I was so excited to see a Japanese tea spot.  It’s a clean, modern spot for taking a break from walking through the luscious gardens.  They have outdoor seating where you can enjoy the surreal views while drinking some tea.

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Matcha Tea with Mochi

Their menu has options for tea pairings with traditional Japanese desserts.  We ordered the Matcha Tea with Mochi.  I felt like it was overpriced given how small the mochi is for $14 but it was a remarkable experience and a good pairing.  It is also presented in an artistic way.

Voodoo Doughnuts: Yes, it does live up to the hype!

Neighborhood: Downtown

Affordability: ★★★★

Ambience: ★★

Service: ★★★★★

Food Quality: ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★

After we walked through the stunning Japanese and Rose Gardens, we developed an appetite for something sweet.  When you’re in Portland, everyone tells you to try Voodoo Doughnuts so we of course had to try it for ourselves.  Voodoo Doughnuts is a tourist stop and there is a line usually but when we went there, which was around 8pm, the line was not bad and it moved fast.  Prepare to be asked for money by the locals there while waiting in line. It’s kind of a crazy, hectic area so you want to leave as soon as possible when you’re done eating your donut.

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THE Voodoo Doughnut

It is across from the “Keep Portland Weird” sign so check that out after you’re done getting your donut fill.  They had a wide variety of donuts and they are known for their distinct pairings.  We tried the Voodoo Donut and it was super fresh with divine chocolate on top.  The old-fashioned was really fresh too and the Maple Blunt was delightful.  Was Voodoo all it was cracked out to be?  Yes, it was.  Their donuts were spectacular and worth the wait.

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The Sudra: Vegan Indian Food at its Best

Neighborhood: Kerns

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★★

Affordability: ★★★★

Ambience: ★★★★★

Service: ★★★★★

Food Quality: ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★★

After doing some more walking around, we of course developed an appetite again.  I had read about Portland’s Indian food scene so I had to try it as a lover of Indian food.  Not only does Portland have a thriving Indian food scene, they have vegan Indian food with South Indian dishes!  How wonderful!  Sudra is a relaxed outdoor spot next to some food carts where you order at the counter.  It’s very affordable with large portions.  They have really remarkable Indian food including South Indian food like Dosa, which is hard to find most of the time.  They also do a Southern twist on Indian food with some of their touches like adding kale to a dish.

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Chicken Tikka Masala Thali

We ordered the Chicken Tikka Masala Thali, which was made with Beyond Meat chicken and very satisfying, creamy masala sauce with the peppers.  Since we ordered the Thali – which is a larger combination plate, it came with a tasty kale infused dosa, sambar, coconut milk raita, and kale/beets with a tahini dressing.  Like I said before, it’s not traditional, but a fusion that works really well.

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Lentil Kofta

We also tried the Lentil Kofta and the fried lentil balls were really crispy – a similar texture to falafel.  It came with a brown basmati rice that was made perfectly with a delicious sauce that had kale and caramelized onions and chapati – a thinner version of naan, which is difficult to find on most menus.  I loved that they had Beyond Meat items and vegan versions of a hearty masala sauce.  I adore this restaurant and appreciate what they do. I would definitely come back here when I am in Portland again.

Ash Bar: Innovative Cocktails in a Cave

Neighborhood: Kerns

Affordability: ★★★

Ambience: ★★★★★

Service: ★★★★★

Cocktail Quality: ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★★

After an extremely satisfying dinner, we decided to explore the neighborhood and read about some pretty impressive cocktail bars in the area.  We decided to try Ash Bar, which had the best cocktails ever!  It was a Monday night so it was empty, which worked in our favor since it is a very small, intimate cocktail bar tucked inside of a restaurant.  I would say they had about 10 seats around the bar so I am sure it’s hard to find a spot on a weekend night.  Cameron was our bartender, who provided excellent service, was down to earth and took his craft seriously.  They have very impressive cocktails that are very unique.

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Oliveria cocktail

I had the Oliveria cocktail, which was a smoky savory cocktail.  It had mezcal with basil oil, Ancho Reyes verde, tomato, water, and balsamic – just wow!  I was blown away by the flavors and how well they blended together.  You have smoky, sweet, savory, and spicy in one cocktail.  If you’e into savory cocktails, this will be heavenly.  It was delicate with so many exciting flavors.

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 Blooming Thistle

My drinking partner tried the Blooming Thistle, which was a smoky scotch with ash, manzanilla sherry, artichoke and smoke.  Another aesthetically pleasing and impressive cocktail.  We also try their Mossed in the Woods, which was a sight to see.  It came with dry ice, vodka, fig and sake.  The cocktail had more mild flavors but it was a wonderful balance of sweet and bitter.  If you are looking for incredible cocktails in an intimate environment, Ash Bar is the place to be.  I’ve had plenty of cocktails and these were some of the best I have ever had in my life.

Church: A Place for Sinners

Neighborhood: Kerns

Affordability: ★★★★

Ambience: ★★★★

Service: ★★★★

 Beverage Quality: ★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★

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Pink Rabbit

Church is the bar to go to after you get your fancy cocktail fix.  It’s no frills, fun, and has a hilarious church theme with a confessional photo booth and a pleasant outdoor patio.  I liked the interior red lighting and decor there adding to the sinful experience.  I also appreciated that they had vegan options for late-night food.  Most late-night food in Chicago is not vegan friendly at all.  They have decent, affordable cocktails that aren’t too sweet.  For $10 I had the Pink Rabbit, which had Mezcal, cranberry, agave, lime, and basil.  It was refreshing and of course had the smoky Mezcal flavor.  Church is an excellent spot to end the night on a repenting note.

Day 9: Last Day in Portland/The Glorious Pacific Northwest

Tiki Tea: Vibrant Bubble Tea

Neighborhood: Alberta

Affordability: ★★★★

Ambience: ★★★★

Service: ★★★★

Beverage Quality: ★★★★1/2

Overall Rating: ★★★★1/2

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Traditional Bubble Tea

I love tea but the U.S. is definitely a coffee country.  I adore all kinds of tea and am always thrilled to see a tea cafe.  I was especially excited to see a Bubble tea cafe.  Tiki Tea has high-end bubble tea with plenty of options and homemade tapioca pearls.  They also have almond and coconut milk options, which I highly appreciate since I don’t drink dairy milk.  I ordered their traditional bubble tea with the tapioca balls and it was excellent.  It had a flavor reminiscent of Jasmine Green Tea and wasn’t overly sweet.  We also tried the masala chai bubble tea and it had a mild chai flavor.  It wasn’t as successful as their traditional bubble tea, but it was still nice to have Chai bubble tea.

Piedmont Food Truck: Refreshing, Affordable Options

Neighborhood: Alberta

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★

Affordability: ★★★

Ambience: ★★★

Service: ★★★★

Food Quality: ★★★1/2

Overall Rating: ★★★1/2

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Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl

Portland is known for its food trucks, which they refer to as food pods/carts.  There are so many food truck areas in Portland with 8-10 different carts and an excellent variety of cuisines.  It was hot and I wasn’t super hungry so I tried a Poke place, which was decent.  I had an ahi tuna poke bowl that was deconstructed rather than everything being served on top of one another.  The avocado it came with was really hard and clumpy, which is why it was only a nice poke bowl.  The crab salad was tasty and I appreciated that it wasn’t drowning in fattening mayo, but had a light soy sauce with a yuzu flavor.  This was a decent, affordable quick bite, but it wasn’t stellar.  The other options ranged from Thai food to heavy, fried seafood – which didn’t seem appealing on a hot day.  I appreciate that Portland has these food carts because they are super convenient and affordable.  I just wasn’t impressed with what I ordered.

Blue Star Donut: Voodoo Donut’s Classier Sister

Neighborhood: Mississippi Ave.

Affordability: ★★★

Ambience: ★★★★

Service: ★★★★

Food Quality: ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★

Friends also recommended Blue Star Donut to me as a place that was just as great as Voodoo Donut, if not better.  It was higher end, which means it was also more expensive, but they had fancier donuts with ganache and walnuts.  We had the Chocolate Walnut Ganache donut, which had really fine, decadent chocolate with crunchy, toasted walnuts.

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Chocolate Walnut Ganache

Unlike Voodoo Donuts, which is open 24 hours, Blue Star Donuts closes when they run out of donuts for the day so I wouldn’t wait till it’s late in the day to go.  We had gone around 3pm and it was great because there was no wait.  Blue Star is definitely the more gourmet, higher-end sibling of Voodoo.

Kennedy School – McMenamins: Jack of all Trades

Neighborhood: Concordia

Affordability: ★★★

Ambience: ★★★★

Service: ★★★

Beverage Quality: ★★★1/2

Overall Rating: ★★★1/2

While New Orleans has the Country Club, Portland has Kennedy School.  Kennedy School is a former elementary school that was converted into a hotel filled with bars, restaurants, a pool, and movie theater.  We were excited to try out their pool since it was in the 90s and balmy, but the pool just happened to be closed that day so we were disappointed.  Since we were disappointed, we decided to try out their bars.  We went to Detention, which is a whiskey-themed cocktail bar – each bar has a different theme and beverage that they feature.

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Cajun Tater Tots

The cocktails were not the best I have had, but they were average and it was a unique experience.  I tried the Whiskey Old-Fashioned, which was a traditional, boozy old-fashioned with a large chunk of ice.  I was more impressed with the crispy, flavorful cajun tater tots.  The tater tots are a perfect snack to soak up the boozy drinks.  Kennedy School is worth going to for the unique experience, but I don’t think their bars are necessarily the best cocktails in Portland.

Bollywood Theater: Indulge in Multiple Senses

Neighborhood: Alberta

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★★

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★

Affordability: ★★★1/2

Ambience: ★★★★★

Service: ★★★★★

Food Quality: ★★★★1/2

Overall Rating: ★★★★1/2

Where can you feast on scrumptious Indian food and watch Bollywood films at the same, damn time?!  At Bollywood Theater and there are two locations in Portland.  We went to the one in the Alberta, which was large and open with a patio.  It was decorated with a Bollywood theme of course and had a nice, woodsy feel to it.  It’s a casual spot where you can order at the counter.  They also have a full bar with cocktails, wine, and beer.  I was feeling like having a refreshing glass of rose, which paired well with the bold and intense flavors of Indian cuisine.

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We ordered the Paneer Makhani Thali, which came with a delicious Paratha that was fresh and crispy.  The paneer was grilled to perfection and served with cashews in a divine, creamy Makhani sauce with savory flavors.  The sambar was also really flavorful with eggplant that had great texture.  The daal was probably the most underwhelming part of the meal since it was kind of bland.  The chutney was very fresh.

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Paneer Makhani Thali

It has a cool concept with the films playing, order at the counter – Paneer Makhani Thali – delicious paratha – fresh and crispy, the paneer was grilled really well with cashews, sambar was super good with eggplant, daal was good but a bit bland, but the tasty chutney made up for the lack of flavor.  I was truly impressed by the Paneer Kathi roll, which was quite large.  It came with smooth paratha and was stuffed with paneer, egg, and pickled onion with a side of chutney.  It’s the perfect savory street food.

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Paneer Kathi roll
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Chickpea Burger

We also tried the chickpea burger, which was a mini ball of fried chickpea served on grilled bread rolls.  The chickpea burger had a lovely texture and flavor.  I love the Indian street food concept here at Bollywood.  It’s a really fun spot where you can watch some dramatic films while eating super delightful Indian street food.

Concluding Thoughts:

– Well, there you have it – the conclusion of my Pacific Northwest ramblings series.  I left the Pacific Northwest extremely satiated in multiple ways.  I was refreshed from the serene nature and fulfilled by the vast array of delicious international, vegan, and pescatarian cuisine.

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Portland Rose Garden

The Pacific Northwest knows how to cultivate a healthier lifestyle given the more accessible healthier food and the gorgeous nature that is within the surrounding cities.  I cannot wait to return and enjoy a part of the country that really does value our ecosystem.  It reinvigorated my appreciation for nature.  Ever since I have been back in Chicago, I have been seeking urban gardens and parks because I love how peaceful they can be. 

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