One foodie quest in PDXFood paradise destinations

First published 11 January 2022

WE BOARDED THE train to Portland from Eugene with our sights and appetites set on our food paradise destination. Call it a culinary quest for finding the best food trucks and carts turned full-service restaurants. After all, who does food trucks better than Portlandia?

Arriving at Union Station just in time for lunch on Friday, we walked a few blocks to the bustling new Pine Street Market. Reminiscent of New York's hip Chelsea Market, Pine Street offers an inviting atmosphere with tantalizing aromas, warm café lighting and lively music. A welcome and needed addition to the Portland food scene, the market rounds up some of the city's most relevant chefs and offers a communal space for guests to sip, sample and socialize. I was pleased with my selection of Israeli street food from Shalom Y'all, while my partner slurped a hearty bowl of authentic Japanese ramen from Marukin.

After taking a waterfront stroll to recover our indulgence, we made our way uptown to Verde Cocina. What used to be a farmers' market cult favorite is now on its third restaurant, managing to maintain its charm and authenticity despite its major scale-up in operations. We ordered margaritas made with house-infused habanero tequila along with the fresh ceviche and made-to-order guac, which did not disappoint. Stuffed to the brim, we called a taxi to drop us at our rental house on NE Alberta Street.

First up for the second day in Portland: breakfast at The Big Egg. This quaint corner café has a simplistic menu of breakfast sandwiches, with unusual options as well. Take the lemon curd and bacon sandwich. What did the chef stuff between slices of grilled brioche? An unusual concoction: scrambled eggs, fresh thyme, sautéed leaks, kumquats, toasted pistachios and wild arugula. Hello Portland sandwich, stay weird.

For lunch, we opted for Italian street food at Gabagool. Standout truffle potato gnocchi served with shiitake mushroom, squash, brown butter, sage and a fried egg won my heart. After lunch, we wandered into boutiques and record shops along Mississippi Street.

Next, we ventured over to Yakuza, a Japanese eatery and bar with an innovative menu (it has a food cart called Kuza Burger in St. Johns as well as a cozy Japanese-style cabin that you can rent behind the restaurant). ˛e burger--- piled high with crispy truffle shoestring potatoes and creamy chevre---left us speechless and put the rest of the night in the rearview mirror.

The next morning, we borrowed bikes from our rental and headed south. For a late breakfast, we stopped at Tidbit Food Farm and Garden, a pod with a delightful patio complete with fire pits, live music and a quality beer garden. Feeling gluttonous, we ordered the "inner detox" from Slow Squeeze, along with a waffle sandwich from Smaaken for good measure. What self-control?

Next, we biked to the Portland Mercado, an indoor-outdoor Latin American market and food cart pod. We snagged a table outside and snacked on tamales and tlayudas with fresh salsa.

Making our way back for the night, we stopped by Fifty Licks, where we delighted in blood orange creamsicle and caramelized honey ice cream.

Before boarding the train, the next day, we grabbed sandwiches for the ride from the nearby Charlie's Deli, a serious dive that churns out killer sandwiches. After an epicurean whirlwind of a weekend, we were on our way back to less delicious realities.

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