We were fortunate enough to shoot our recent Birchwood Brown campaign in the forests of Portland. We were prepared to be blown away by the nature on our doorstep; beaches, woods, lakes, mountains - the list goes on. However what we were, somewhat naïvely, underprepared for was the incredible food scene that thrived within the city. Turns out Portland is the foodie capital of the US and was actually voted America’s best food city in 2022. There is so much on offer that the choice can be overwhelming, so we got William and Hallvard to sit down and share with us (and you) all their best eatery tips for The City of Roses.
The places to eat
Arguably one of the better sushi places we’ve ever been to, this location got suggested to us by everyone from our CMO (who used to live in Portland), to the receptionist at the hotel, to the people we worked with on the campaigns.
We made sure to book a table in advance, which is the way to go for most places in Portland. It’s a food town, so restaurants tend to get filled up days in advance.
It’s a classic sushi restaurant but with a greater selection of small plates and starters on the menu. We went with the strategy of ‘the more the merrier’, and we asked the waitress to bring a selection of personal favorites of nigiris, sashimis and small plates. The Tofu Agedashi and Bamboo Dragon were our favorites, but people around us were also raving about the salmon. It might be the Scandi in us that tends to favor the more Arctic version of that fish.
We tried to order the Black Sesame Brownie, but they had just run out. It looked unreal though.
Who doesn’t like a food market / food court? We went to Pine Street Market for lunch on our first day in Portland, and were (partly) impressed.
Half of the crew went for the burger option, and felt like, well, it was a burger. While there was nothing wrong with the burger, it was still just a burger.
The ramen however, was from another planet. We went with the daily special, which when we ate there was garnished with tofu and brussel sprouts. We asked the hipster looking guys behind the counter what they’d done to the sprouts, but they wouldn’t disclose any trade secrets.
This was so good that half of the “burger squad” went on and ordered a separate ramen on the side. Memorable.
“Go to Afuri”.
“You can’t miss Afuri”.
“Get a table at Afuri”.
Safe to say, we had to check out Afuri. While known for its ramen, this vibey restaurant offers up a variety of Japanese dishes ranging from sushi, to ramen and small plates. And cocktails. We had cocktails.
Prior to this evening, we had never heard about Japanese sweet potato (Jaga Bata on the menu), but we now have. And we’re happy about it. We enjoyed a selection of small plates, including an unreal Wagyu Tartare, some tongue melting scallops, and topped it off with a range of ramens.
Was the ramen better than the Pine Street Market though? We’re not sure. But you didn’t hear that from us.
Sort of a hidden gem (at least we’re told), the restaurant at The Hoxton hotel serves up some of the finer Mexican food in Portland. The tacos are just as experimental as you would expect from a hip city like Portland, and the spicy margaritas are, well, spicy.
The view and vibe is really cozy, which makes up half of the experience on this one. We ate here once, but would be happy to go 3-4 times more.
“What’s actually Mediterranean food?”
In the Uber on our way to this highly reviewed restaurant, it dawned on us that we were not actually quite sure what we were about to encounter. Italy, Spain and France all have a coastline in the Mediterranean, but surely we weren’t having Italian?
When a restaurant writes “Mediterranean food”, we learned that they usually mean a blend of Greek, Lebanese, and Israeli flavors. That means gyro, it means hummus, falafel and loads of feta. It’s a vegetarian’s heaven, as well as having great meat options for those who crave that.
If we had a recording of the sounds and bursts of excitement coming from our table that night, that would’ve been a review enough. It was great. It was tasty. It was filling.
We loved every bit of it. Except for dessert. They were a bit pale. But at that time we were already too full to enjoy anything at all.
We heard about a café with a Scandinavian theme, so we had to check it out. Sure enough, they had Swedish, Norwegian and Danish dishes on the menu. We tried to order with proper Scandi pronunciations, but the poor woman behind the counter didn’t get much when we asked for Tunnbrödrulle and Smörgåstårta.
The food was good, but the dishes were a little bit “Americanised”. Nothing wrong with that, but our Scandinavian palettes were just expecting something else when diving into it.
We spent the only free night in Portland watching the game between Portland Trail Blazers vs Cleveland Cavaliers. Although the food options were of the less finer sort, we can’t get away without mentioning snagging a bucket size tray of chicken fingers and fries.
Was it good? Naaah. Could we feed a small town with two portions? Yes. It did it’s trick, and the included beer did help on the overall value.