Through the past 2o or so years I have lived here, Portland has treated me well. But, more importantly, it has also treated my stomach well. My early high school years spiked my curiosity in other culture’s foods and new experiences which prompted everything from trying Ethiopian food for the first time to sophisticated fine dining to food carts. But, throughout this journey, I can happily say that I’ve tried a whole gamut of different food groups and flavors I never thought I’d previously taste.
So, as tribute to the city and restaurants that widened my perspective, I’d like to mention a few of my favorites:
Screen Door — Living in the Northwest doesn’t present too many opportunities to feast on Southern delights and delicacies. So, when I found the chance to go to a Southern-themed restaurant for brunch, I was absolutely ecstatic. And, trust me, my enthusiasm didn’t diminish at any point during this mid-morning outing. At first glance, when many of the dishes on the menu contained the words “Cajun, Alabama, blackened chicken, fried, and grits,” I knew it was going to be good. But “good,” doesn’t just cut it – the food was AWESOME. Just remember, this is not a joint to visit if cutting carbs, fat, and calories. Indulge in it all!
Try: Praline Bacon Waffle or Cajun Scramble
Tip: Sit at the bar and strike up conversation with the Chefs!
Kenny & Zuke’s - Every once in awhile, I crave a large, hearty sandwich. If you find yourself in the same position, look nowhere else but Kenny & Zuke’s. Every sandwich here is guaranteed to feed an army, so no one ever leaves hungry or empty-handed. Personally, I haven’t found Pastrami at many sandwich shops, and if I have, I probably did not try it because I thought it was sketchy. But, here at Kenny & Zuke’s, the Pastrami is definitely un-sketchy and quite delicious. So, that coupled with it’s casual but lively and loud atmosphere keeps its customers coming back (including me) time and time again.
Try: Ken’s Special (Pastrami, chopped liver, cole slaw, and Russian dressing)
Tip: Leave plenty of time when coming here and bring a newspaper or magazine – the line is often very long!
Toro Bravo — If you are an indecisive individual, you will love Toro Bravo and tapas restaurants. In Spanish cuisine, tapas basically serve as a variety of snacks or mini appetizers. This is perfect for an indecisive individual because it encourages ordering many different choices to eventually combine to make a meal. And, if you go to a tapas restaurant with friends, it is highly encouraged to share amongst all of the different dishes. But, not only do I enjoy Toro Bravo because of its element of tapas, but the food is also very fresh and flavorful as a result of Toro Bravo’s commitment to use ingredients from local farms and markets. I especially love the different spices used in Toro Bravo’s concoctions as well as the fact that the menu continuously changes!
Try: Machego & Paprika Fritters with Salsa Roja, Smoked Pork Shoulder Sandwich with Celery Root Slaw, and Moroccan Tuna with Dried Cherry Couscous
Tip: Bring as many friends as you can (and friends that like to share)!
Salvador Molly’s — China may be known for the Great Wall of China, but Salvador Molly’s is known for the Great Wall of Fire. Curious? Well, the Great Wall of Fire is a compilation of photos on the wall of contestants who successfully consumed the Great Balls of Fire (Habanero pepper ground cheese fritters). But, in addition to this contest, Salvador Molly’s serves amazing fare with its inspirations and unique flavors coming from Ethiopia, Hawaii, Thailand, New Orleans, Jamaica, and more. And, while waiting for food, make sure to take some time to look at the elaborate walls adorned with various souvenirs, photographs, artwork, and sculptures. Each piece tells an interesting story about the inspiration and food they’ve chosen to make at Salvador Molly’s!
Try: Mojo Kahlua Pork (My personal favorite – you won’t be let down, promise!)
Tip: Go at the noon hour to dine on one of the $4.95 lunch specials!
Andina – I will never forget the first time I went to Andina. After stepping foot into Andina for the first time, I sincerely thought I had left America. The impressive decorations, in-door décor, bright lighting, wafting smell of food, native Peruvian Chefs and sounds of traditional music teleported me to Peru instantaneously. At first glance, I still don’t understand about 75% of the menu; however, the first time I went I ordered a marinated chicken dish and a spicy cocktail with Habenero pepper infused vodka combined with a mango puree. At first sip, the cocktail was sweet but delivered a clever kick of spice at the end and the chicken was very flavorful. Overall, a wonderful experience and I’ve enjoyed my visits since!
Try: Seco a la Norte & Nacute (lamb-shank traditional Northern Peruvian style)
Tip: Call ahead and go on a night when the entire band is playing!
Perhaps writing this post on an empty stomach was a bad idea or perhaps a good idea that it reminded me to go to these restaurants!