I knew Portland was a city full of good food but I still did not quite come prepared for the deliciousness Janey and I encountered with little effort.
Salt & Straw is the go-to ice cream place in Portland. They have a few locations around the city and are usually packed in the summer time. Even for being out of season, Janey and I experienced relatively long lines. You can smell a Salt & Straw location before you even see it thanks to the fact that they make their own waffle cones. Nothing is more welcoming than the smell of waffle cone, nothing!
Salt & Straw specializes in homemade ice cream with a distinct flare of originality in its flavors. You can get the usual but why would you when they have flavors like Pear and Bleu Cheese, Balsamic Strawberry with Cracked Pepper, and Arbequina Olive Oil? The great thing is that each employee will grab you out of the line as you near the front and sort of be your ice cream concierge. They come equipped with spoons and—if you aren’t careful—will eat an entire scoop of ice cream in just samples!
I literally went to Salt & Straw every day after the first time we experienced it. Janey hit a wall on the second day and just went along but I plowed ahead. My favorite flavor was Sugar, Spice and Everything Nice. A very summery flavor that was reminiscent of a field of flowers. It contained fennel-pollen (a sort of floral flavor), sugar cookie and wild berries.
The Pear and Bleu Cheese was great as well and not as much of a challenge as I thought it would be as a flavor. Salt & Straw does a great job creating eccentric flavors that are a completely new experience for you.
About the time Janey and I experienced the Screen Door we were both nurturing food babies from three days of binging. The Screen Door does Southern food with no frills. The food is simple and delicious.
They make their own pimento cheese, which I thought was quite tasty. It was smooth and creamy and packed just a tiny bit of heat.
The main attraction—their fried chicken—was out of this world. It seems that every time you eat good chicken you feel compelled to say out loud to those around you,
“This is the best fried chicken I’ve ever had.”
As if all the other fried chicken is hidden in the shadow of this fried chicken. Now, having said that—this was seriously the best fried chicken I’ve ever had! It was boneless but succulent and juicy. The exterior was extra crispy and just a tad spicy. I somehow managed to eat most of the collared greens and baked macaroni and cheese even though my body was at critical mass. The collared greens has a bit of a vinegary taste to them—delicious. The baked mac and cheese could have been an afterthought considering the quality of the primary foods on our plate but it was nice and brown on top with a bit of crust from baking—the inside was gooey and cheesy. The gravy on top of the side of mashed potatoes had big chunks of slow-cooked pork within it—I don’t think I can describe this meal with any more fervor.
One thing I noticed was how fast the service was for such a busy restaurant. I love it when restaurants are banging and in the middle of their evening dinner rush and still run effortlessly—this confidence is exuded throughout all facets of The Screen Door’s operations.
Janey and I almost had a high school relationship with Voodoo Doughnut even before going to Portland. We got all excited when we heard about it on television and sort of yearned for it. Finally, once the tickets and reservations were made for Portland Voodoo Doughnuts became sort of passé. Its pristine image as an awesome doughnut place was tarnished after we heard from others that it is more or less a tourist trap—that it had been around the block a few times. The honeymoon period of irrational exuberance was over and we touched down in Portland with not much of a desire to go to Voodoo.
On an early morning walk in downtown Portland I turned a corner and saw Voodoo’s intentionally gaudy neon sign. Even in the morning the shop had a very short line of only a few people. I was on my own and, well, I like doughnuts so I decided to give it a try.
I committed to this high school relationship metaphor so bear with me. I almost feel like, after going to Voodoo, that Portland’s residents might be a bit bitter that their doughnut shop gets so much attention by other people. What I found were good quality doughnuts with interesting toppings—nothing more and nothing less.
Thanks to Voodoo Doughnut’s name, you can buy a bumper sticker or a t-shirt that proudly exclaims, “I GOT VD IN PORTLAND!” This is the type of off kilter humor that makes Voodoo Doughnuts a successful business.
I ended up going to Voodoo two times. Here’s a list of what I got:
Captain My Captain – Iced doughnut topped with Capn’ Crunch
The Loop – Iced doughnut topped with Fruit Loops
Maple Bacon – Maple frosting with bacon on top
Old Dirty Bastard – Chocolate frosting, peanut butter, crushed Oreos
Voodoo Doughnut – Voodoo doll shaped raspberry filled doughnut with a frosting face. The finish touch is a pretzel spear through its heart.
Voodoo doughnut is unabashedly unkempt in its appearance and its customer service is lacking but the owners somehow combine that as part of their charm. A sign over the counter plainly states that they do not take pennies.
This is about half of the food Janey and I experienced in Portland. More will come later!