by Nancy Bestor
My husband Bob and I come from the San Francisco Bay Area. When we moved to Ashland, Oregon in our late 20’s, we had already spent many of our adult years eating and drinking at hip locations throughout the Bay. Moving to little Ashland was something of a culture shock in the food and drink department. Yes, there are plenty of very good restaurants in Ashland, but not the big city ethnic and urban spots we were used to. Thus, we’re always looking for an excuse to drive to the city, whether Portland or San Francisco, and eat and drink our way around town.
Last month we slipped away from our teenage daughters and spent three delicious days in Portland. We booked a hotel on priceline.com, and were lucky to get the Waterfront Marriott, for $115 a night. Parking downtown can be tricky, but we usually find nearby street parking and only have to pay a hour or so here or there and that’s much cheaper than downtown Portland garage prices.
On our first day, we met dear friends Do and Ray for lunch at my new favorite Portland eatery, Boke Bowl. This “casual ramen spot” started like so many other Portland spots as a pop-up food cart, and serves homemade ramen noodles, and my favorite, steamed filled buns. Another absolutely delicious dish was their warm brussel sprout and cauliflower salad. I would never have tried it if it weren’t for my vegetarian friend Do, and it was oh so delicious. The fried chicken steamed bun was also my favorite, and the grilled eggplant pork bun was my favorite too. As you can tell, everything was my favorite, and I must head back soon to try more dishes. Wait times can be long at Boke Bowl. We arrived just after they opened, at 11:30, and were seated immediately. But by the time we left an hour later, the line was out the door.
We met Ashland friends Dale and Kim for drinks late that afternoon at another great spot, Departure Restaurant and Lounge. Departure features a stunning outdoor patio bar, 15 floors up above the Nines Hotel, right smack in downtown Portland. The panoramic views alone are worth a visit, and sitting in the late afternoon sun with our young and hip Ashland friends amid the even younger and more hip Portlanders made for a lovely afternoon.
We ate dinner that night at Little Bird, the sister restaurant to the popular French restaurant Le Pigeon. The more casual Little Bird was very good, although on the spendy side compared to other Portland spots we have frequented.
The next day we met Ray for lunch again, this time at Bollywood Theater on North East Alberta, for delicious Indian street food. Very different from the heavier sauced Indian food I have loved in the past, Bollywood’s offerings included roasted beets, kati rolls – chicken, egg and chutney rolled in Indian flat bread, dahi papri chat – housemade crackers topped with chutney and chickpeas, and more. Everything is served on steel plates, just like street food in India, says owner Troy MacLarty. I recommend it!
Our eating tales are not over, because believe me, Bob and I can squeeze a lot of meals into two-and-a-half days. That night we met our friend and former co-worker Sammy and her beautiful new daughter Vivienne for dinner at Por que no? on North Mississippi Avenue. It was a very busy night at this popular taqueria, but the long line moved almost as quickly as my Pomegranate Margarita disappeared.
Finally our Portland food odyssey had almost come to and end. But, before we drove home on Sunday morning, we stopped for a delicious breakfast at Pine State Biscuits. With its fabulous take on American diner style food, Yelp reviews continually mention waits up to two hours on weekend mornings. But again we beat the crowds by arriving just after they opened at 7:15. We ordered, snared a table and soon dug in. I had the Reggie, which is fried chicken, bacon and cheese served on a fresh baked biscuit and smothered in gravy. Bob, always trying to show me up, had the Reggie Deluxe, with an added fried egg. They were fantastic, and we drove home happy and eight pounds heavier.