Even though I grew up outside Portland, I’m always discovering new restaurants or returning to my favorite watering holes whenever I visit home. This spring, I made my way to five popular spots in Portland, Oregon, including sushi, breakfast, dessert and vegan offerings. Here’s my mini restaurant guide:
(Plus some fun city photos to get you in the ~mood~)
1. Salt & Straw and Whiz Bang Bar
Salt & Straw (yes, originally from Portland not Los Angeles) is my favorite place to buy ice cream, aside from JP Lick’s in Boston. There are several locations of Salt & Straw in Portland, but I like the Alberta Street location best because there are cute shops nearby (including the craft store Collage). I got the chocolate potato chip ice cream and the pot of gold ice cream—which is Lucky Charms flavored—in a split scoop.
Whiz Bang Bar is the custom ice cream bar branch of Salt & Straw, located at Pine Street Market in downtown Portland. The best part is that you can get soft serve here but not at Salt & Straw; I tried the vegan strawberry (aka frozen strawberry goodness) and the corn flake soft serve (aka vanilla custard cereal milk). Both were so sweet and creamy and wonderful. You can get toppings like homemade cookies and cream or fudgey brownies for $1 more.
Again, I cannot recommend Salt & Straw enough, though be prepared to shell out about $5 for ice cream.
2. Hana Japanese Bistro
Also on Alberta Street, Hana Japanese Bistro boasts a wide selection of sushi rolls for about $8 each. We tried the locally-named Portland roll and Mt. Hood Roll, along with fried tempura rolls that my friend and I both adore. All four rolls had a good blend of textures and flavors; one of my top recommendations for sushi outside of Japan.
3. No Bones
Calling itself the new “favorite vegan beach restaurant & bar,” No Bones is in a hip area of Portland called Mississippi Ave. It’s a perfect visit at sunset to stroll the streets lined with bars and tea shops.
I tried their Wild Colada, which is coconut and berry slushy with rum. It was absolutely delicious—also note the pineapple slice and orchid on top.
For my main course, I got their $8 crab cakes, which is an appetizer on their menu. The two carrot-based fried cakes came with a hot sauce on top, and a bed of raw purple cabbage. I was not a fan, to be honest. It was fried food mixed with raw vegetables and too much heat for me. Plus, at $4 a crab cake, it felt very overpriced and not enough to fill me up, to say the least.
However, the atmosphere helps make up for it—to an extent. You can sit inside, which is a sort of eclectic, voodoo bar feel with pink flamingo lights and tiki themed decor. Or, you can side outside on wooden tables in the Portland sun, again tiki-themed. I’d only go again for cocktails, but my vegan friend liked their fries.
4. Papa Haydn
The. Best. Dessert. In. Portland. Papa Haydn’s is known for its desserts, and lists dozens upon dozens of options in its menu, so you can choose between the creme brûlée, moist cakes, sorbets, pies, cheesecake and everything imaginable. I chose the chocolate soufflé topped with fudge and raspberries, with cream on the side. Heavenly. I knew I wanted a moist chocolate cake with raspberry, and the waitress said this is exactly what I wanted. She was right. It was beautifully rich.
Most of the desserts are less than $10, too. Papa Haydn is a nice, fancy restaurant, so if you want a night out you can go here—or just stop by for dessert afterwards at a candlelit table.
5. Tin Shed
Obviously as you can see from the photo, it’s not the most photogenic food, but dang, Portland’s Tin Shed has amazing breakfast dishes. This is the Roll Over, “sausage and egg scramble smothered with smoked bacon gravy or mushroom-rosemary gravy.” I chose mushroom rosemary, and it was indeed flavorful and had a natural gravy texture. It comes with either potato pancakes or cheese grits, and I chose the latter, which resulted in a creamy and savory scramble. I also added a signature biscuit (there’s fresh jam on the table)—and the whole meal was about $14.
This is not your wimpy LA kale avocado toast breakfast. This is a hearty and homey meal that gets everything right. The biscuit was warm and moist with a crunchy crust. The sausage was moist, too. My one critique would be that it was a little too wet with eggs AND gravy AND grits, but overall it was a cohesive dish, and quite affordable for all the food you get.
The Tin Shed is known for being dog-friendly, and has a semi-outdoor patio where you can bring dogs—and even order from the dog menu to give your pet a peanut butter-banana ice cream or meat mixed with rice or sweet potatoes. It has a bit of a wood cabin feel in the adjacent room of the restaurant.
I’d definitely go back here for a filling and classic breakfast.