First time in Portland? Don’t use an umbrella, Voodoo donuts suck (Blue Star is much better), Glisan is pronounced Glee-san, Couch rhymes with smooch, and the dream of the 90s has led to homelessness and young people not being able to retire.
This is mainly for my friends attending the ASA (American Society for Aesthetics) annual conference being held in Portland this year. I had intended to try out a bunch of restaurants near the conference hotel this summer, but I got ill and was not able to do so.
But I am happy to provide you with a list of my favorites! I realized in compiling this list that I eat really cheap food – so nothing on this list is fancy. It’s a cheap eats list and if you go – I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Portland has good coffee and my favorite is Upper Left Roasters! It’s named Upper Left because it is the upper left part of a wonky-shaped neighborhood in Portland called Ladd’s Addition. The espresso is excellent. I like their coffee so much that I get bags of it shipped to my place in Miami. They roast on-site.
Decent coffee by the conference hotel is 40 Pounds. I’m not a huge fan of their baked goods, but they do have a full bar and always have plenty of places to sit (with outlets and good Wi-Fi).
My absolute favorite cheap eat is a drive from the hotel – but it’s worth it for this famous drive-through bahn mi place: Best Baguette. You can get your sandwich with the veggies “in” or “out” – if you order “out” they place all the veggies in a little baggie. They’re liberal with the jalapeno! I cannot confirm that the veggie bahn mi is vegan but loads of vegetarian / meat and more meat options. This stuff is so cheap and so good. (I do not recommend the Vietnamese Tacos but do recommend the bubble tea!) Vegetarian / Meat (and more meat)
Upper Left Roasters doesn’t serve just coffee…they have good toasts as well. Artisanal toasts – I know how it sounds. I like the spelt with house-made nut butter and sea salt. Vegan / vegetarian / meat options.
Near the conference hotel, you’ll find Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen. This place isn’t a secret – so prepare for a wait. But it’s good! Vegan / vegetarian / meat options.
Nicholas Lebanese Restaurant is a good place to share some amazing bread and yummy food. Their SE Madison location is a short cab ride away from downtown. Vegan / vegetarian / meat options.
Los Gorditos has several locations in Portland – the closest is in SE Division (a MAX ride away). Good salsas and tacos. I like this place because it has a HUGE vegan and vegetarian menu. If you’re a meat person – you might be able to find better tacos (but for vegans, so many options). Mostly good for vegan / vegetarian but they do have meat too.
Up the street from Los Gorditos on Division, you’ll find Bollywood Theater. It’s not a theater but a comfortable fun atmosphere for small plates / street food. Perfect for sharing. They also have Thali meals. (I’m a fan of their okra). Vegan / vegetarian / meat options.
This might be too niche – but THE BEST vegan subs require a car (I can drive!) at a place called RAD MAGIC SUBS. It’s a food truck located at the back of the FOOD FIGHT! vegan grocery store. They have weird hours so check first. Vegan options only.
DONUTS AND SHAKES
(Not a recommendation) The conference hotel is a stone’s throw from Voodoo Doughnut– and you’ll see people cueing up to go pick up a dozen. They’re not my favorite – more gimmick than substance for a donut. You can get donuts in the shape of Voodoo dolls that leak blood color jam.
(Not a recommendation) NOLA DOUGHNUTS is also close to the hotel and is a better bet than Vodoo – but I still do not recommend them. They’re a little too fancy.
BLUE STAR is by far my favorite donut shop. The drip coffee isn’t bad either. I like the blueberry bourbon donut, buttermilk old fashion, and the olive oil donut. I think they have Blue Star’s in the airport now -if you don’t have time for one before. They always have a vegan option if it isn’t sold out.
BURGERVILLE SHAKE! Hear me out: Burgerville is a local fast-food chain. The burgers are good but the shakes are great! I tried to convince visiting friends to go check them out and they refused — wanting only to eat at fancier places. I insisted they get a shake on the way to the airport – and now the shakes are what they remember most from their trip! There are seasonal fruit shakes but the hazelnut chocolate shake is always a good bet. (Hazelnuts are called filberts in Oregon and are homegrown!) All shakes have a vegan “bliss” option. Vegetarian / Vegan