Food cart pod in Portland

Portland's Top 3: Beer, Donuts & Food Carts

1 March 2018

Oregon’s largest city is big on food. Think farm-to-fork dining to dedicated vegan eateries (and even a vegan mini-mall!), and from kombucha on tap to urban wineries, and there’s plenty of options to eat your way around Portland. But what’s really put PDX on the must-eat map is its trifecta of the most-searched foodie finds: craft beer, gourmet donuts and food carts. Let’s dig right in!

Craft beer

Beer flight at Deschutes Public House, Portland, USA Flights of (beer) fancy at Deschutes Portland Public House. (Image: Cassandra Laffey)

With over 75 craft breweries in the city limits and around 1,000 options on tap, you better believe Portland froths over its IPAs and lagers. In fact, on a Brewvana Portland Brewery tour, I learn that Portland is the fresh beer capital of the world.

Pints Brewing Company, Portland, USA Rad beer aficionados imbibe at Pints Brewing Company. (Image: Cassandra Laffey)

My guide and self-described beer nerd, April, takes our small group on a Beer Love In The Pearl walking tour of the Pearl District, stopping in at three craft breweries along the way. Our meeting place is Deschutes Portland Public House, an inviting, airy space of cosy wood and aged barrel accents, where we sample a beer flight of six Deschutes brews. Working from a light lager through to malty ales and dark stouts, we sample seasonal, classic and brewers’ creations.

Tater tots and ale at Rogue Distillery and Public House, Portland, USA Fall flavours – Pumpkin Patch Ale and tater tots at Rogue Distillery and Public House. (Image: Cassandra Laffey)

Next up is Pints Brewing Company, where we walk past the brick-walled bar into the backroom tap room and spy brewer Matt tending to the small-batch barrels. We down three more samples here – a kolsch, IPA and porter – before heading to the final stop: Rogue Distillery and Public House. Rogue Nation brews are the most exported beer from Portland, says April, and it's here that I also get to try the last of a seasonal fave – Rogue Farms Pumpkin Patch Ale, as well as a doughy malt ale, a rye IPA and a cold brew (infused with coffee for an extra kick). Best way to soak up all those craft brews? With a couple of bowls of tater tots – yum!


Voodoo Doughnut donut, Portland The signature Voodoo Doll jelly-filled donut from Voodoo Doughnut comes in a different guise every day. (Image: Cassandra Laffey)

Beervana tour guide April says there’s no such thing as a bad donut – I tend to agree – and the doughy rings most people associate with Portland are from  Voodoo Doughnut. You’ll find their original pink-festooned storefront in Downtown Portland where it’s not unusual to encounter queues down SW Third Avenue, however the inclement weather on the day I visit means I just stroll right in. Order a quirky flavour (Bacon Maple Bar or a cereal-studded donut?) or grab a pink box to go. Bonus: it’s open 24 hours.

Voodoo Doughnut store exterior, Portland, USA Voodoo Doughnut knows how to draw a crowd at its original location. (Image: Travel Portland)

Another quirky fave is Blue Star Donuts (there’s also an outlet at Portland International Airport) for the inventive options on offer. Nibble on a Blueberry Bourbon Basil ring or maybe try a seasonal flavour like the Carrot Za’atar Fritter? Seriously, try them all!

Pip's Original Doughnuts, Portland, USA Pip's Original Doughnuts might be mini but they're mighty delish. (Image: Travel Portland)

More local donut fixes can be had at Pip’s Original Doughuts & Chai for housemade chai and cute-as mini donut flights; Coco Donuts – handcrafted gourmet goodness; Delicious Donuts for classic (big) donuts; and for the herbivores, the all-vegan Doe Donuts – locally sourced, artisanal donuts with drool-worthy flavours.

Food carts

Downtown food carts, Portland, USA The Alder Street or Downtown Food Cart Pod in Portland with the famous Nong's Khao Man Gai food cart front and centre. (Image: Travel Portland)

Did you know Portland has more than 700 food carts? Me neither, until my Food Cart Tour of Portland with guide Brett Burmeister. In Portland, food carts are clustered into pods where you’ll find a few vendors in a lot – much easier than chasing your fave mobile van around town! The biggest is the Alder Street Food Cart pod at 10th Avenue and SW Alder Street in Downtown Portland, where around 60 carts congregate for city workers and travellers alike to nosh on.

The Dump Truck food cart menu The intriguing menu at The Dump Truck food cart. Yep, that's Bacon Cheeseburger Chinese dumpings with secret sauce...(Image: Cassandra Laffey)

Nong’s Khao Man Gai, which specialises in one dish – khao man gai, Thai-style poached chicken rice – and has amassed a loyal following since its inception in 2009, is one of Portland’s most popular food carts. Other local longstanding faves in the Downtown pod include Savor Soup House, which uses seasonal produce; The Grilled Cheese Grill for cheese toasties; The Whole Bowl; and #1 Bento – a Korean barbecue food cart. Asian food cravings can also be sated at The Dump Truck – Chinese dumplings with just the right amount of bite, and Bing Mi! – a fan fave on top 10 Portland food cart lists for the eggy North Chinese-style jian bing wraps.

The Whole Bowl food cart bowl, Portland The virtuous vegan bowl at The Whole Bowl. (Image: Cassandra Laffey)

Venture to the northeast Portland pod at Mississippi Marketplace, which also has seating, for popular food carts such as Native Bowl (healthy and hearty brown rice bowls), Homegrown Smoker Vegan BBQ and Koi Fusion (think Korean tacos and burritos).

Feature image: Travel Portland/ Jamie Francis

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Cassandra Laffey

Consumed with unrequited wanderlust, I get my fix in 24/7 cities and hippie retreats. I'm still looking for the ultimate combo of secluded beach and major metropolis, and my happy place is a 5-star hotel room all to myself - sigh.