I got back from Portland yesterday, and I must say I am seriously envious of all of you Portlander foodies. I don't know of any other place like Portland.
Portland people demand local, organic, non-GMO everything. Often restaurants have a large billboard on the wall stating that all their ingredients are local and organic, and listing the farms they use to source their ingredients. We even saw organic beer. We also saw some restaurants that had food gardens in the back where they grew the basics. I got the feeling that in Portland, using lower-quality cheaper ingredients would actually result in financial losses for the restaurant/cart because no one would buy from them. It proves that if enough people demand good food made with good ingredients, even businesses selling cheap snack food adapt.
Chris - Here are some noteworthy places from my week in Portland:
* Food carts downtown. You can't go to Portland without going to the food carts. Cheap and good. Some of my favorites are Nong's for the Thai steamed chicken and rice, Kargi Gogo Georgian food (Georgia the country, not the state) for almost everything (I don't have a favorite between the kachapuri, lobiani and badrijani), and The Whole Bowl for a healthy rice and beans bowl with toppings.
* Pok Pok. One of the very few truly authentic Thai restaurants in the US. Everything we had there was excellent.
* Andina for Peruvian food. I really like Peruvian food in general, and Andina does a solid job.
* Ox. Technically, it's a Argentinian-inspired grilled meat restaurant, but we had several non-meat dishes that were excellent (we went there with vegetarian friends).
* Tasty n sons for brunch. Standard brunch fare, but very well executed.
* Simpatica. Fantastic meal with mostly local ingredients. Only open Fridays and Saturdays, and Sundays for brunch.
* ... I hesitate to recommend Tanuki, unless you're the adventurous type. It's a sake bar, with a large sign at the door saying "No minors. No sushi. Dark." I would add to that "no vegetarians", "no parents" (depending on what kind of parents you have) and "no coworkers". This place is out of the way. They were playing distorted metal music and Japanese cult movies, and there were pinball machines in the back. They serve Korean-inspired drinking food (small plates). We thought the food was susprisingly good, and the sake selection was impressive.
I'm curious to know what you Portlanders think the best place for donuts is. We went to Blue Star donuts and Voodoo, and each place had its fans.
Nuvrei bakery was also really good, especially the chocolate almond croissant.
But for me the highlight of my time in Portland was the farmer's market on Saturday morning. Enormous and full of interesting ingredients! It beats our biggest farmer's market in Seattle. We planned our trip so that we could load up on ingredients just before our drive up to Seattle. We got sea beans, morels, porcinis, maitakes, fresh peas, fava beans, garlic scapes, chard, mustard greens, two kinds of kimchi, goat cheese, blueberries, cherries, Spanish chorizo, pasta, and more. We also had some really yummy snacks for lunch there.
I hope you have a great time in Portland. We certainly did. Would love to hear about your food discoveries, so please report back!
Thank you everyone for your recommendations. We'll be back soon for sure, so any places mentioned that we didn't have a chance to hit are very welcome for the next trip.