Day Five: Portland – Food Truck Tour

Food Adventures, Portland

We only had one day in Portland (literally about 30 hours total), so despite the depressing cold rain, we ventured out into the streets for a familiar LA food trend that has truly taken off in Portland — Food Trucks. While LA has had plenty of organized food truck gatherings and events, we hadn’t seen anything quite like this before. The trucks would rent out the edge spaces of ordinary parking lots, face their storefront to the sidewalk, and open for business more or less every day. They are always there so you don’t need any apps or websites to track them down. Awesome, right? Determined to eat like the locals do, we managed to track down three main clusters of food trucks in downtown Portland.

One of many food truck clusters in downtown Portland!

5th & Oak

– Spoons on 5th: it’s raining cats and dogs, and we were trying to be adventurous in our food selections, but who could possibly turn down a hot bowl of soup? We decided on the chicken barley soup, which comes in a cute wax-lined paper cup with a hunk of rustic bread. The guy behind the counter was friendly and clued us in on where to find shelter (hint: the bank/mall across the street has seating areas, couches, and coffee tables for your on-the-go dining pleasure). The soup itself was hearty with a bit of an unexpected kick from the black pepper. Martin polished it off happily.

Saigon Food to Go at 5th & Oak

– Saigon Food to Go: there is a surprising amount of Vietnamese food vendors in Portland! I was tempted to try their pho but opted for the safer and easier-to-eat goi cuon (“salad roll”) instead at $1.50/each. A bit steep but the rolls were fresh – definitely made that morning because the rice paper was still deliciously soft and supple (every spring roll enthusiast knows how hard and tough the banh trang gets when refrigerated for ANY period of time). The sauce was not particularly special but good nonetheless.

9th & Alder

– Samurai Japanese Cart: I loved the Engrish on their whiteboard announcing that “New Year’s Coming!” – super cute. Their menu boasts a variety of bento perfect for a quick lunch for nearby office workers but one in particular stood out to us – the agedashi tofu bento. This took a bit of time to prepare, but it was AMAZING. The blocks of tofu were fried fresh to order and they were breaded with mochiko which disintegrates in the sauce and becomes a thick, gooey coating. LEGIT. This agedashi tofu comes with a sweet soy sauce rather than the dashi broth I’m used to, but it tasted great. The rice is piled high and the order comes with some steamed veggies (also made to order). They even gave us hot genmaicha while we waited in the rain, and they’ve arranged a place between carts for customers to sit. 5 stars in my book. I’d come here every day if I lived or worked nearby! I also found out after looking them up on Yelp that the famous Japanese animator and film director Hayao Miyazaki likes this place when he visited Portland. If that isn’t a vouch for authenticity, I don’t know what is!

Agedashi Tofu Bento at Samurai Japanese Cart

2nd & Washington

What initially brought us to 2nd & Washington was Built to Grill (which is rated ridiculously highly on Yelp), but they were closed for the day. :( Unfazed, we explored our options and decided to pick up dinner for our impending long (LONG) bus ride to San Francisco.

– Taste of Korea: Reminiscent of the Korean bbq places we left behind in LA (particularly Gushi in Westwood, probably because of its teeny tiny hole-in-the-wall feel), this food truck offers rice plates with meats ranging from bulgogi to kalbi to spicy chicken. Martin decided on the fried tofu platter and I had the kalbi platter. I thought the $10 price tag was a bit steep at first, but then we received the to-go bag and WOW was it heavy! Each plate had a serving of salad (they remembered to leave the dressing on the side for us), a plastic container of kimchi, and a serving of my favorite banchan – japchae (Korean stirfried glass noodles – it is under the little cup of kimchi in the photo below). In the main section, you can’t miss the very generous amount rice. My order came with about 3 or 4 strips of the delicious, slightly sweet barbecue short ribs — almost double the portion you get for a plate at most places — and Martin’s had a few large triangles of breaded and deepfried tofu. Yum!

Kalbi Bento at Taste of Korea

There really is something for everyone when you eat at these food truck clusters. Aside from American fare like soups, sandwiches, and burgers, the ethnic cuisines ranged from Mexican to British to Greek to Thai and much more! We even spotted a teeny tiny booth (literally about the size of a phone booth) where one man set up shop to sell pho along the sidewalk. If only our stomachs were able to handle sampling every food truck/stand we saw!

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Check out Spoons on 5th: www.spoonson5th.com

SW 5th & Stark
Portland, OR 97204

See their Yelp reviews here.

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Check out Saigon Food To Go:

SW 5th and Stark
Portland, OR 97201

See their Yelp reviews here.

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Check out Samurai Japanese Cart:

950 SW Alder St
Portland, OR 97205

See their Yelp reviews here.

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Check out Taste of Korea:

412-426 SW 3rd Ave
Portland, OR 97204

See their Yelp reviews here.

Day Four: Portland – Voodoo Doughnuts, St. John’s Theater and Pub, Veritable Quandary

Food Adventures, Portland

After a short yet scenic 4-hour Amtrak ride, we arrived at a rainy and miserable Portland. Despite not being able to visit the International Rose Test Garden nor the Widmer Brothers brewery, we decided to make the most of our brief 1.5 day stay. Much of Portland, but really the entire trip, was dedicated to food. First destination after checking in to our hotel: Voodoo Doughtnuts.

Large variety with their own spins on the classics!

Doughnuts. The funkiest, yet most creative doughnuts I’ve ever seen.  But for all the excitement and rave reviews, they were good but probably not worth the 30-minute wait (I’m not being sarcastic, I’m sure the lines have been longer than during that rainy Portland night) for doughnuts. Portlanders definitely didn’t seem to mind waiting in the rain for a hometown favorite.

Cash only! Although with so many people buying half dozens and dozens, they should really have a credit card machine!

A combination of waiting and fatassery drove us to get a half dozen, each of us picking three flavors, all of which I tripped and fell on top of while crossing the slippery streets of Portland, but I digress.

I fell on them but still good, still good! Alice’s picks – from top left, clockwise: Old Dirty Bastard, Voodoo Doll, and Maple Bacon Bar

My choices – decided to play it safe without all the crazy toppings! From top, clockwise: Maple Bar, Old Fashion Glaze, Portland Cream

These comical pastries with very unique names would satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth.

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Check out Voodoo Doughnuts: voodoodoughnut.com

22 SW 3rd Ave
Portland, OR 97204

See their Yelp reviews here.

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About an hour after we left Voodoo Doughnuts, we decided to take it easy and visit something that was non-existent in LA, a theater-pub. In the course of trying to find this theater (or so we thought at first), we had to brave the torrential wind and rain. We had no clue where St. John’s was nor did we realize that the bus route we took was roundabout and distance-wise, not that far from downtown Portland at all! Now some of you might think that spending time watching a movie in a theater while on vacation might be a little wasteful but this is an experience you rarely find in many cities, especially at home in Los Angeles.

Let’s skip over the pleasantries of waddling through wonderful Portland rain and get right to the theater pub. Honestly we both thought it was just a theater with a pub-like concession stand serving burgers, fries, and beer. Turns out it was actually a pub with an extra room designated as a theater. And yes, there is quite a distinction between a theater with alcohol and a bar with a theater. This also meant that even though we showed up a full 15 minutes late, soaking wet, they still let us in! We were also pleasantly surprised to see so many families with their kids there, although I guess it makes sense since the movie showing was Puss in Boots.

We weren’t expecting much from the food. I mean after all, it initially seemed like just a pub in the more suburban area of Portland. However, the burger was actually very good, slightly overcooked but well-seasoned. The fries were even better than the burger, so much that we ordered another large side of fries as we kicked back with our beers. They may even rival the fries from In n Out – thin, crispy, and many pieces still had the skin on them. I have to add that there were comfortable lounge chairs and tables too but we arrived too late to nab one.

Reminiscing back at this experience, I feel like LA should definitely have something like this where regulations and zoning would allow for a business similar to this to exist. If anyone knows of any theater pubs in LA, please do let us know!

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Check out St. John’s Theater and Pub: www.mcmenamins.com

8203 N Ivanhoe St
Portland, OR 97203

See their Yelp reviews here.

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Portland seemed to spite us with every waking minute. The rain worsened as we left St. Johns but we managed to get back to our hotel and made a reservation for Veritable Quandary. We caught wind that this restaurant had amazing Osso Bucco so we had to make it. Keep in mind that we’ve already had burgers, fries, and beers not more than half an hour ago.

Dimly lit and cozy, perfect for getting away from the elements.

Appetizer: Rabbit Pate with Toasted Brioche and Baby Arugula

Very gamey pate, just the way we like it. A little chewy, definitely not a texture I like on my pate but flavor is great. Alice thought the baby arugula tasted like green apples, but I didn’t try it.

Entree: Osso Bucco with Parmesan Risotto

Not what we expected but we should’ve known that this was going to be very hearty. The meat was very tender and fell right off the bone, inside of which contained the buttery and fatty awesomeness that is bone marrow. The ragu and creamy risotto made this a stick-to-your-ribs sort of dish.

Dessert:: Chocolate Nocello Souffle

The delivery and execution of this dessert was rather comical. The waitress kept hovering awkwardly and nervously by our table in anticipation for the delivery of the souffle. She must take her job very seriously.

This was an actual “true” souffle, compared to the Sunken Souffle, or what we endearingly called a “lazy souffle” because it didn’t rise, that we had at Elliott’s Oyster House in Seattle. Nice and fluffy with a gooey dark chocolate center.

Flight of Inniskillin Ice Wines. From left to right: 2006 Vidal, 2007 Riesling, 2007 Cabernet Franc

Alice decided to complete the meal with a flight of Inniskillin Ice Wines from Canada. We’ve been meaning to try these and it’s the first time we’ve seen a restaurant carry Inniskillin as these are true ice wines from Canada (as opposed to the faux but still delicious ice wine from Talley Vineywards in Arroyo Grande). The true ice wines have more finesse to them and definitely sweeter (but not syrupy), deeper flavor. Our favorite was by far the Cabernet, which had a complexity and fruity notes, the beginnings of a full-bodied Cab. The runner-up would be the Vidal, which was sweet and fairly smooth. We felt the riesling left something to be desired, as it had an awkward tartness, ironic since rieslings are known for their sweetness. All in all, the flight was such a great offering for VQ to have!

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Check out Veritable Quandary: www.veritablequandary.com

1220 SW 1st Ave
Portland, OR 97204

See their Yelp reviews here.