12 Must-Dos (& Eats!) in Portland, Oregon

September 13, 2018

Good coffee, locally brewed beer, lush greenery, moody rain, artisanal pickles: these are a few things that come to mind when I think of the Pacific Northwest. When I visited Portland, Oregon, for the first time last year, I found all of these things to be true. I also discovered a city with a thriving food scene, focused on conscious growing and eating; and a friendly, fun-loving place with a host of adventures to be had. I instantly felt right at home.

Since I only had a few days in town, I barely got to cover the basics (Voodoo Doughnut and Hale Pele, anyone?). But I've already started planning my trip back.

And thanks to Chef Bonnie Frumkin Morales—longtime Portlander, author of 2018 Piglet winner, Kachka, and co-owner of the eponymous restaurant—I've already figured out my itinerary. Bonnie shared 12 of her favorite places to spend time (and eat well) in the place she calls home. I can't wait to check them out when I make the return to Rose City.

What to eat

1. Brunch at Coquine

It's my favorite restaurant in Portland and I admire Chef Katy Millard very much. Going there for midweek brunch is my favorite. It feels like a secret even though it's a nationally recognized restaurant.

2. Pick up a Slice at Scottie's Pizza Parlor

Tiny pizza parlor owned and operated by the nicest, most genuine guy around. Get the Hawaii 5-0-5 by the slice or the DeFino square pie if you're getting a whole pizza. Also, the specials are always fantastic and have the best names.

3. Get Cozy at Nong's Khao Man Gai

Chicken and rice may sound boring. Here, it is anything but. This is pure, nourishing comfort. Get chicken skins if they are available, too.

4. Scream for Fifty Licks Ice Cream

Hands down the best ice cream around. Their location on Burnside has huge windows and I can see what flavors are on the menu as I drive by. I don't think they did that intentionally, but man, it works. I totally pulled over the other day and stopped in because I saw they had Banana Pudding flavor. Dangerous. And if you don't do dairy, their Coconut Saffron Lemon situation is outstanding.

5. Bliss Out at Cloudforest Chocolate

At their new shop that just opened, they sell coffees and pastries in addition to their fantastic chocolates; it's a nice way to start the day and snag a few samples of their bars while you're there. The Goma "gray" chocolate with sesame and matcha is stunning, as are all of their really complex single origin bars.

Where to shop

6. Stop By Any of the Local Farmers Markets

There are many in town. I am partial to the Shemanski Park market on Wednesdays, but really, there are no bad ones.

7. bring home a souvenir from Pigeon Toe Ceramics

They specialize in elegant, locally made ceramic wares for the home. They make a simple, beautiful spoon rest. I love it so.

8. Browse for Hours at Powell's Books

It's in all the guidebooks, but Powell's really is something to behold. I stop by the Eastern European Cookbooks shelf every time I'm there to see what new out-of-print gems I'll find. Make it a perfect afternoon with a stop at Maurice for lunch.

Where to adventure

9. Visit the Portland Japanese Garden

The garden just had a major revamp a couple years ago. It was a great place before, but now it is a must-visit when exploring Portland.

10. Pick Berries on Sauvie Island

I still can't believe that this is within Portland city limits. So much bucolic beauty! There's also a nude beach that people are into, if you want a true Portland experience.

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Chester Blackberries

A post shared by Vicki Egger (@sauvieislandfarms) on

11. Take a trip up to St. John's Bridge

Just a stunningly beautiful bridge. If you need something to do to justify going to North Portland just to look at a bridge, then definitely check out Occidental Brewing while you are up there.

12. Walk the Eastbank Esplanade or Tom McCall Waterfront Park

A great riverside walking path to get in sweeping views of the city.

View this post on Instagram

Sunset awhile back.

A post shared by Cole Herning (@coleherning) on

Bring a little PDX to your day

What are your favorite things to see/do/eat in Portland? Let me know in the comments so I can add 'em to my list!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Andy Ward
    Andy Ward
  • Rory
  • Kathleen
  • hardlikearmour
  • A
Brinda is the Director of Content at Food52, where she oversees all site content across Food52 and Home52. She likes chewy Neapolitan pizza, stinky cheese of all sorts, and tahini-flavored anything. Brinda lives in Brooklyn with 18 plants and at least one foster pup (sometimes more). Find her at @brindayesterday on Twitter and Instagram.


Andy W. January 6, 2019
You'll never eat a potato dish as good as the Papas Bravas at Ataula in the NW!
Rory September 15, 2018
Can't have a true Portland experience without food carts. I recommend Cartopia at 12th and Hawthorne. Pyro makes really good pizza and soda, and potato champion's fries and rosemary truffle ketchup are amazing.
Brinda A. September 17, 2018
Rosemary truffle ketchup?! With or without the fries, I'm in (but I'm definitely there for the fries). Thanks, Rory!
Kathleen September 15, 2018
Pip’s Donuts is hands down the best. Made to order - with flavors like raw honey and Jacobsen’s salt. And they also make chai. They have a commitment to paying their employees a fair wage and investing in the community.
Brinda A. September 17, 2018
Love that, Kathleen, thanks for the great tip.
hardlikearmour September 14, 2018
If you're into pastry Nuvrei is a great place to check out, as is Ken's Artisan Bakery. Courier Coffee has the best canelé in town. Pix Patisserie/Bar Vivant has fantastic fancy dessert and sparkling wine galore (plus yummy savory tapas).
If you're into tea, I think it's fun to do a tasting flight at Steven Smith (of if I'm alone get a tea latté. If you're into liquor we have quite a few distilleries -- check out distillery row. Also for cocktails - Pepe le Moko and Tear Drop Lounge. Into sour beer - check out Cascade Brewing Barrel House or if you make it to Tillamook De Garde brewing. If you like wine and want to pair it with food I recommend Coquine with a tasting menu and wine pairings or Davenport with a bar seat and let the bartender, Kurt Heilemann, pick wine and suggest food for you.
Brinda A. September 17, 2018
Wow, hardlikearmour, thank you! These are so wonderful. Adding them to the list right now—I better get back to Portland really soon.
A September 14, 2018
Voodoo doughnuts is an all around terrible choice for any and all list's, choices, articles, and for doughnuts, they taste terrible, because they are terrible, everything about that place is fake and phoney and should be looked at as a curse on us food loving Portlanders! Yuk, boo, and gross!
Brinda A. September 14, 2018
Hi A, thanks for sharing your take! I know there are a lot of wonderful doughnuts in Portland—where should I go next time?!
Anna B. September 14, 2018
Blue Star for sure!
Brinda A. September 17, 2018
Awesome, can't wait to come back and check it out!
Taylor S. September 20, 2018
Blue Star - absolutely incredible with Oregon-specific flavors (think herbs, booze, and huckleberries). Best of all, they're in the airport too!
Janet D. September 13, 2018
For an awesome Portland chocolate experience check out Creo Chocolate! They offer handcrafted chocolate bars you won't soon forget.
Brinda A. September 14, 2018
Wow, looks so good, Janet. Adding to my list.
Cole H. September 13, 2018
Psssst! The picture supposedly showing the Eastbank Esplanade is actually of a New York riverside park...
Cole H. September 13, 2018
Here's one you can use instead:
Sunset awhile back.
Cole H. September 13, 2018
Brinda A. September 14, 2018
Ah! Thanks for catching that, Cole! Swapped it out. :)
colette July 3, 2019
That is the Steel Bridge over the Willamette River, Portland Oregon, NOT NYC.
Michelle September 13, 2018
Pok Pok is a world class Northern Thai restaurant on Division and Pok Pok Noi on Prescott features the same fare in a much more relaxed atmosphere. Try the spicy Ike's wings, green papaya salad, Muu Paa Kam Wan spicy boar collar and their roasted corn on a stick. Finish your meal with Mango, bourbon or vanilla coconut milk ice cream.
Brinda A. September 14, 2018
Thanks, Michelle! I've made it to the Pok Pok in Brooklyn, but will definitely have to get to the Portland restaurant next time I'm there. Also, those ice cream flavors....!!
BerryBaby September 13, 2018
Thank you it's nice to see an article about Portland. Couple of things though, it does not rain here as often as people think we finally got rain yesterday 9/12, it hasn't rained here since 1 June!
We have so many wonderful places to visit, you mentioned quite a few, here are a few more… The Pittock Mansion (it's haunted!) , the Rose Gardens, the Chinese gardens, Pioneer Square (Portland's living room), cruise the Willamette River on the Stern Wheeler..brunch is amazing, chicken and waffles at Screen Door, aPizzaScholls, and drive a little outside Portland to gorgeous wine country! The Pacific Ocean is an hour and a half from Portland and a very scenic drive. As a friend said when visiting, "Everywhere you look, it's a picture perfect postcard!"
(Oh and the nude beach is not a Portland experience...
I had forgotten all about it
Brinda A. September 14, 2018
Thanks a million, BerryBaby, those suggestions sound amazing. Love a good haunted mansion (and ALWAYS up for wine country).
kitchengardener September 13, 2018
wayfinder Brewing with unusual German style beers and german food with a kids menu that includes steak frites! in the inner southeast.
Crystal Springs Rhododendron Grden, especially lovely in the Spring
Kens Pizza
Brinda A. September 14, 2018
Thank you, kitchengardener! What great recommendations.
Liana September 13, 2018
Blue Star Donuts are amazing! They have really interesting flavors (their carrot and za'atar fritter was genius) but they also do the classics well.
Barbara E. September 13, 2018
Steve Lawrence at the Chocolate Maker's Studio makes fabulous chocolate bars--the best are the pecan brittle and the salted caramel ones.
Brinda A. September 14, 2018
Ah, Blue Star! Will definitely be making it there next time I'm in town. And the Chocolate Maker's Studio, too. Portlanders are evidently in no shortage of incredible chocolate! Thanks, Liana and Barbara.