This post is by Kay Boatner, one of our contributors.
Most people go to the Pacific Northwest to make the most of their spectacular surroundings. Mountains, oceans and parks aplenty afford for fabulous outdoor experiences. I went to the Pacific Northwest to eat.
Here are my top 5 recommended restaurants for any travel foodie:
Old Town Pizza: I won’t lie to you—a lot of Old Town’s appeal is in its atmosphere. The dark and cozy pizza parlor is purportedly haunted, making any meal there instantly interesting. The ghost of a prostitute who was murdered where the restaurant now stands, Nina (pronounced “Nigh-na”), is said to haunt the basement and visit the diners from time to time. If you don’t catch a glimpse of Nina, you’ll still be able to try some of Portland’s best pies, including everything from the basic cheesy Margherita to the more adventurous Tostada, covered in crushed corn tortillas, spicy beef and black beans. The dough is made all day long, so everyone eats fresh. And the pie guys at Old Town are perfectionists—our server asked us if it was ok if he re-cooked our pizza because it didn’t come out to his high standards. Later, one bite told us all we needed to know: the wait was worth it.
Papa Haydn’s: Dessert! Papa Haydn’s dishes out breakfast, lunch and dinner, but it’s the sweets that are worth mentioning. Haydn’s is on the pricier side, so I say skip the adequate entrees and get your chocolate on. Marjolaine, Papa’s chocolate mousse and hazelnut-praline cream confection, is worth every calorie, and some serious thought went into smuggling out the super-rich St. Moritz German Chocolate cake in my too-small purse. The baked goods all look as yummy as they taste, too. Each item is like a work of art, with tons of intricate piping and perfectly-iced eye candy to ogle.
The Ram’s Head: One of the McMenamin brothers’ better Oregonian establishments, the Ram’s Head is both run-down and sophisticated, making it appealing to all sorts of Portland folk. It’s housed in what was once The Campbell Hotel, built in 1912. The Campbell’s old-school character remains in the Ram’s coffered ceilings and stamped-tin wainscoting. But really, the best things here are the spicy tater tots served with Cajun dipping sauce. Insider tip: Pair the tots with the Rubberhead beer, which is not normally on the menu. The bartender will know what you’re talking about and you’ll be rewarded with a refreshing blend of the spot’s Ruby and Hammerhead ales.
Voodoo Doughnuts: While not off the beaten path—Voodoo is located in the heart of downtown Portland—this doughnut shop so captures the eclectic, adventurous spirit of Portland, I couldn’t leave it off my list. From the Marshall Mathers M&M option to the purple sprinkle-covered Grape Ape to the bubble gum topped Dubble Bubble, there’s nothing in Voodoo that won’t give you sugar shock. Voodoo definitely has something of a naughty sense of humor, with titles like the Cock-N-Balls, Triple Chocolate Penetration and Old Dirty Bastard on the menu. The kooky décor gives you something to look at while you wait in the inevitable line; chatting with the locals and tourists is half the fun, though.
Schooner Lodge: All of your instincts will tell you to run as far away as you can from this remote, ramshackle oceanic outpost. Ignore them. I had some of the best food of my life at Schooner. A lack of nearby options and the lateness of the hour forced my travel buddy and me into this decrepit-looking restaurant; needless to say, it was not on our coastal itinerary. Thanks to some truly stellar pumpkin cannelloni and fresh rockfish, it became one of the highlights of our trip. The staff is friendly, the low-key locals are boisterous and the food is on another level. The dishes themselves are simple, but cooked so perfectly it’s hard to find fault. Do not leave without sampling their New England clam chowder—it’s the best I ever had.
-post by Kay Boatner