I haven’t been to Oregon since I was a little kid, but this article just intensifies my suspicion that I need to get myself back there.
Portland, Oregon, is a town known for its immensely reasonably standard of living. I’ve officially moved there three times over the past 10 years, but each time I move, a job or school has pulled me away from my favorite city prematurely. People who have been there understand my relentless attempt at relocating. There’s more to Portland than the Keep Portland Weird sign though. Good public transit, great coffee, amazing microbreweries, easy access to nature, and tons of bookstores. What more could you want?
During my time in Portland, I’ve fallen in love with another of its attractions: food. Unlike many food meccas, much of the best Portland cuisine costs less than a single cocktail in London or New York.
One theory says that chefs who are priced out of bigger cities like San Francisco and New York come to Portland to develop their talent at a lower cost of living. Whatever the explanation, Portland certainly feeds its visitors well. If you are interested in culinary ecstasy without blowing your budget, Portland is the spot for you. Here is a rundown of where to eat in Portland and their budget food culture.
Where to Eat in Portland
The food carts are an absolute must in any trip to Portland. These stationary trucks contain kitchens and friendly proprietors who serve up fresh home cooking. The best Vietnamese food I’ve had in my life is from a cart in the cluster on SW 9th and Alder, where the average price of an entree (which is big enough to last two meals) is $7.
The Portland Food Cart website is an excellent guide to food cart awesomeness and a key to where to eat in Portland on a budget.
Nearly every city with enough liberals has a farmer’s market. Portland has several, the king of which is the Saturday market at Portland State University. The place is a veritable wonderland of breakfast food to warm you up (the tamales are my favorite), coffee to energize you, and vegan baked goods if you’re feeling naughty. There’s also live music, happy children playing, and of course tons of gorgeous, local produce, meat, honey, jams, herbs, and cheese. If you’re visiting Portland, try to stay a vacation rental so you have a kitchen, because–take my word for it–you’ll be sorely tempted to stock up at the market because it is one of the best places to eat in Portland.
The Saturday market (March – December, 9am – 2pm) is top of my list, but there are plenty of markets to keep you busy throughout the week.
Given Portland’s reputation for down-to-earth wholesomeness, it has a surprisingly thriving happy hour scene. Most restaurants and bars offer amazing food specials to accompany early evening drinks. The helpful website Drink Portland keeps encyclopedic-like notes about happy hours across town. You can search by time and location, and even see a list of all the happy hours going on right now. It’s always happy hour somewhere in Portland.
A few of the best spots for happy hour and where to eat in Portland are Crush, The Doug Fir Lounge, and Clyde Common. For people on a super budget, check out The Tube ($2 drinks and inexpensive vegan food 5-10pm) and Vita Cafe (more veggie and vegan deliciousness). If there’s any doubt that Portland is serious about happy hour, the 5th Quadrant has all-day happy hour on Saturdays and Sundays.
Brunch is an opportunity for restaurants to show off their talent at a lower price, and in Portland, the brunch scene is thriving. You may have to wait to get a table, but nearly every establishment offers a cup of coffee while you wait.
My favorite places include the indoor/outdoor Tin Shed, diner-style Zell’s, the sophisticated Cafe Nell, and The Place to See and Be Seen, Mother’s Bistro.
Where do you love to eat in Portland?
Food coma has you searching for a bed? Why not check out one of these places!
Hi – Portland Northwest is a budget hostel located in the heart of the city. This is an ideal place to start your food exploration of Portland. This cozy Victorian hostel has several options from dorms to privates and also has their own kitchen so you can take advantage of all of the Portland Farmers’ Markets!
Looking for a stay in a historical building in the heart of the city with old world luxury? The Benson a Coast Hotel is your ideal option in Portland. This old-school hotel has been upgraded to have all the modern amenities and is a perfect spot for those wishing to be in the heart of the city just a short walk from Pioneer Square.
Looking to have a home away from home in Portland? Book these furnished suites with gorgeous views of the city to feel at home in Portland. These two bedroom apartments are perfect if you are traveling as a group and want to take advantage of all the great Farmers’ Markets in Portland.
Rebecca lives in San Francisco and is the founder of Inhabit Vacations, a site that helps travelers find hidden gem vacation rentals.