Thirty years of living my friends! And things are looking better than ever! For my 30th last week Derek, Riggins, and I drove down to Portland, OR for one night. We stayed at the Mark Spencer Hotel, which is dog friendly and right between downtown and the Pearl District. My birthday wish was to eat my way through Portland and we did our best, but its tough even for me, to keep an appetite up all day!
Where we Ate:
I lost my photographers drive by dinner/drinking time so i’ve only got photos of Blue Star and Pok Pok to share. But I HIGHLY recommend Tasty and Alder – we waiting for an hour+, but it was worth it! We had bone marrow and a shrimp with chili starter that were both perfection. 10 Barrel is what you’d expect – plenty of beer and people. We met friends who live in Portland and caught up over a tasting. I think i liked one, maybe two. Not because they were bad, but because they were types of beers I don’t usually drink. Best to stick with what you know rather than force down lagers and stouts when will you want is an IPA – ya feel me? But I digress.. i’ll start at the beginning…
Blue Star Donuts
Regular and vegan donuts in both normal and unique flavors. ( I’m not vegan, but its means there is no dairy so when i see a vegan donut i don’t hesitate!)
There is nothing skinny about a donut shop, and certainly not when you’re turning 30. I bought one regular buttermilk glazed for Derek and two for me: Olive Oil Orange and Blueberry (both vegan). All were cake style (they have both kinds, but only cake style in vegan options). Both of mine were suburb! The orange one was a bit dry – which was unexpected since “oil” is in the name, but the flavor was so light and addictive. The Blueberry was more decadent and sweet.
Hard to know whether these were amazing, or if I was just SO thrilled to be eating donuts on a mini vacation, in Portland, with my adventure buddies. We had a little curbside picnic and set off to find a dog park for Riggins. He stepped on glass shortly thereafter and we were forced to go back and clean up his paw, but briefly we felt like locals, grabbing a sweet Saturday morning bite in the northwest drizzle. In our actual local drizzle we’d be making “healthy breakfast”, cleaning, prepping for the gym, and lobbing dog duties back and forth (no, i think i took him out last…must be your turn). Instead we indulged and welcomed walking pooper through the rain. Vacation is the best.
Pok Pok PDX
Pok Pok is thai food but goes beyond the staples you’ll find on most thai menus. I guess i’d describe it as “authentic thai” – but in since i’ve never been to Thailand, what the F do i know about authentic. Their website describes the menu as “food you’d find in the pubs, homes, restaurants, and streets” of Thailand and southeast Asia. Famous for their fish sauce wings – which we got and they sort of lived up to the hype.
I was sold on this place after I saw it on Diner’s Drive-Ins, and Dives (so obsessed with that show, my not-at-all-guilty pleasure). They are notorious for lines, which proved true when we arrived at 2pm and were told we had a 45 minutes wait. We agreed, they took our cell number promising to text when our table was available, and directed us down the block to their sister restaurant Whiskey Soda Lounge. What do you do when your restaurant has waits all times of day? Profit off of their hunger of course! What sounds better – “45 minutes” or “one drink”. Sold.
Whiskey Soda lounge offered some food items and an tasty drink menu. I picked the Heat Ray because i wanted to try one of their Som drinking vinegars. It was tasty, but the thai chile sure made it tough to power through when they texted 20 minutes early that our table was ready! We left with rosy cheeks and burning bellies.
We were sat upstairs on a enclosed porch. It was raining but the heaters were on and so we enjoyed fresh air and a view of Portland residential life while we dined. They start you off with spicy peanuts – free starters snacks are the best because they make me decision making less hard, don’t you think?? Like, say you couldn’t decide between sweet or spicy, crunchy or mushy…? well maybe those salty nuts gave you your spicy fix and you’re ready for something gooey and sweet. We knew we were getting the fishy wings and asked for a recommendation for the second. They waiter suggested the Khao Soi, a coconut milk curry, which we got with beef.
Wings were so rich. Very tasty, but so sweet. Fish sauce wings sounds strange, but you get that fish sauce taste only for a second and then its just garlic and sugar. (When i read that back, it still sounds magical). They were sticky and satisfying, but honestly I don’t think I’d get them again. Just because there are definitely more interesting things on the menu to try. The wings felt a little like the equivalent of Orange or General Tsos chicken in Chinese food – that sounds MEAN so let me explain! They weren’t cornstarched and mushy or anything, just that they reminded me of something someone who doesn’t really like Chinese or Thai food might like. Seemed like the flavors were masked by sugar. To be fair, we ate ALL of it, so trust me it was good, just not quite what I expected.
The beef Khao Soi was so good – and also very rich. Nothing stood out to me, but it was fresh and the meat tender. The toppings some raw on the side and the noodles crispy and fried. Most thai curries are just mush on mush, so this one was refreshingly …crunchy?
All in all, I’d recommend it to anyone. It felt authentic and well prepared, the servers were enthusiastic and knowledgeable. We gobbled it all up, and left feeling like we needed a nap. My only complaint would be just that – its so rich. A problem easily solved by ordering lighter options. The green papaya salad oughta do it next time.
This chubby angel passed out in the car while we ate. We stopped at a park on the way back to the hotel and he ran his heart out. Unfortunately, next time we’ll probably leave him behind. I thought it would add to the fun to have him there, but by dinner, we just felt guilty leaving him again. Gotta ditch the guilt or ditch the dog i guess. But at least we have this epic portrait to remember his first trip to portland by…!