Portland, OR, is somewhat of a sister-city to Seattle, but it is distinctive in its presence in the Pacific Northwest. We decided to check out this city for our annual trip, and we enjoyed the city immensely. As with our trip to Spokane, I created an itinerary for us to experience well-known Portland hubs and to seek out some lesser-known treasures. Several friends are from or have visited Portland, so this is a collaboration of suggestions, tourists’ websites, and guidebooks. 
On our first day, we arrived in Portland just in time for lunch. We beelined to Pok Pok, a popular Thai restaurant. We enjoyed the fish sauce chicken wings and an herbal noodle salad. It was absolutely delicious. The crispy chicken was not even slightly greasy, and the lunch was incredibly satisfying. 
Then we headed to Stumptown Coffee to see if Portland’s own roaster could supply as good a coffee as the extension shops in Seattle. It did not disappoint. The latte was frothy and potent with espresso. The cafe was open and sparsely decorated. But you shouldn’t go to a coffee shop for its wallpaper. It should still always be about the coffee or lattes. 
For dinner we ate at Chez Machin, a creperie that served gluten-free crepes. We enjoyed a lemon and berries crepe and a summery vegetable crepe. Both were tender and moist, and the sweet berries were balanced with the tart lemon in a most enjoyable way. The tables and walls were decorated in a casual style, and guests seated themselves at small wicker tables. The menu offered a generous selection of crepes and other smaller items to satisfy your hunger. 

We stayed at Forest Springs Bed and Breakfast, and the primary innkeeper had been a pastry chef in his previous life. As a result, he made the most delicious spoonbread that I’ve had. Fluffy but filling it was lightly sweet with corn, spinach, and Feta cheese. Because of Josh’s food allergies, we didn’t get scones, but the fresh fruit starters that he prepared for us each day wiped away any longing for pastries.

On our second day, we ate lunch at Deschutes Brewery. Among other things, it was one of the restaurants listed as offering gluten-free burgers. So we trekked down there to see what their menu offered. Although the efforts were valiant, Deschutes should probably do a little more research about gluten-free bread options. The head baker later contacted me to let me know that the bread served on that particular day was a substitute to their usual fare, but since in food service you only get one shot to impress, they should have chosen a better substitute. This one was soggy, crumbly, and not even shaped like a bun. I know from eating at some restaurants in Seattle that you can have a gluten-free burger that’s actually shaped like one.

I am a huge fan of drinking chocolate, having enjoyed my first truly European-style drinking chocolate in Philadelphia a few years back. I am always thrilled when I find a shop that is brave enough to serve it to Americans, who usually prefer hot chocolate or milk chocolate. Well, Portland’s Cacao Drink Chocolate delivered a splendid interpretation of drinking chocolate with its Chocolate Flight. Rich, thick, creamy, and distinctive chocolate was dazzling as much as it was delicious. 

For dinner, we checked out Pambiche, a popular Cuban restaurant that is remarkable in its appearance. I’d read several reviews about Pambiche praising the flavors and combinations of the menu. Perhaps I read too many, because while the food was pleasant and satisfying, the flavors did not pop out as remarkably as I had expected. We have dined in a few Cuban restaurants, and I found that this one was average in its flavors and seasoning. On the other hand, the drinks were creative and refreshing. Although the restaurant delivered decent food, the reviews made it appear better than it was.

On our final lunch in Portland, we checked out Blooming Lotus, a vegan, raw food cafe. Its humble, casual appearance caught us off-guard at first, and the wrinkled paper menus passed back to us through the line of customers needed to be reprinted. It seemed to fit into the Portland neighborhood’s come-as-you-are vibe, and most of the other customers seemed comfortable with the arrangement. We had vegan nachos, which consisted of a nut crust piled high with tomatoes, onions, scallions, and vegan avocado spread and nacho “cheese.” The flavors were crisp, fresh, and raw. Simple, direct, and definitely no-frills.

Because we’d been so nutritionally wise at our lunch, we indulged in some gluten-free pastries at Back to Eden Bakery. The friendly barista-server graciously allowed me to take an amazing number of photos. The quaint bakery was decorated tastefully, but it was packed with product. It took a few minutes of perusing of the shelves and of the bakery case to settle on our pastry selections.

Just a few doors down, and languishing in the hot sun, sat this double-decker bus that now served as one of Portland’s younger food carts, a trend sweeping the nation. The bus didn’t drive the food theme, which was primarily sandwiches and some seafood. Since we had already enjoyed a vegan lunch, we bade them best of luck.

Visit Portland, but don’t get too hyped up about the reviews. Find some new favorites, because Portland has lots to offer.