For the Tourist's Love of Food
Updated: Mar 15
Recently I found myself living in south east Portland, Oregon and I've made it a point since I got here to try as many new places to eat as possible. I didn't know much about Portland before I randomly landed here for awhile, but I quickly heard that it's known as a "foodie city" and I am now here to tell you that it stands up boldly to it's reputation.
One thing Portland has food wise that I have not seen to be very prevalent in other cities is food carts. Not only food carts, but food cart clusters making up unique little food cart pods all over the city. Some of them are more famous than others and some of them are much fancier than others, but they mostly all seem to fit the category of authentic.
(I'll elaborate on Portland's food carts in a future blog)
Another concept that I absolutely LOVE about Portland's food scene is that it seems like Portland tends to discourage out-of-town chain corporations by sending them mostly to the suburbs to make room for Portland based mini franchises. Now, don't get me wrong, there are plenty of major corporations around here but presence of local businesses is inspiring.
These small businesses tend to stand out as you travel the city because you'll see that local business owners utilize quirky catchy names that add a little fun to the map. Anyway... a little about my own experience with Portland and it's food. When I first got here it felt quite grumpy and I'd say some of the locals can be a little jaded toward people that aren't from here just as they are in any fun place.
If you aren't from Portland though, and you do not know anything about this place, take note:
•Most restaurants around here have a water station. The staff will likely expect you to know this and they can get pretty agitated if you ask for a glass of water.
•There are multitudes of restaurants that use the order and take a number approach to food service here. I recently found out that this has been coined as "fast casual" dining. At these places you can consider yourself the server. Your food will cost the same as it would if you had table service but you have to carry everything you order to your seat, find any napkins, condiments or utensils you need, and go back up to the counter and wait in line again for anything else you may want. Then you are expected to bus your own table and sort your trash out before landing it in the bus bin.
Sometimes I'm surprised they don't have a sanitizer bucket with a sign asking you to clean your table too. [Don't get any ideas Portland] Why should I tip the staff if I'm doing all the work? Sometimes it feels like they should offer a service discount to compensate me for the bussing services I've contributed.
Some people like this style of services, but to me it feels more like I'm staff. I'm single and often eat out alone. The whole purpose of leaving my house to eat is for human connection. I'm perfectly capable of feeding myself, but I choose to go out with an underlying excitement for the experience that comes with it. Conducting the service myself takes a lot of the fun out of it.
I'd recommend this style of serving to the introverts out there as it offers the least amount of human connection necessary for an in-house eating experience short of ordering from a vending machine.
[***PLEASE read my updated article on Fast Casual restaurants from the point of view from someone who has now worked at one. It's a very intriguing rebuttal to the above disgruntled tourist's point of view]
•When you find the gems in this city, they are platinum and most certainly a fine tried-and-true example of superior customer service blended into masterpieces of culinary art where you can taste the passion that went into each dish. ••• Major shout out to Salty's on the Columbia! They will fully blow you away from customer service to flavor all the way down to comfort and shoreline views. MMM mmmm •••
•YOU CAN FIND ANYTHING HERE! If you can dream it, you can eat it somewhere here in Portland. I'd elaborate, but it would take all day. *Especially so for vegans or anyone with any type of dietary restrictions.
•DOUGHNUTS, ICE CREAM, doughnuts, ice cream, donuts, ice cream... This city has an interesting and far too tasty of an obsession with doughnuts & artisan ice cream; 🤷🏻♀️ don't ask me, I'm still new around here although it may be difficult to refrain from drooling.
•Portland's food does not lie outside their very prevalent theme of "Keep Portland Weird", in fact I'd say it's very much at the heart of it.
All in all Portland truly is a "foodie city" that is thriving with delectable delights, artisan shops and more food carts than you can count. When you come to Portland, do indulge in their restaurants because you never know, you may just wind up having the best meal of your life.