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Travelzoo Experience: Exploring Portland's Foodie Scene

One of the most coveted perks at Travelzoo is the Travelzoo Experience, in which Deal Experts and other employees take advantage of the same travel, entertainment and local deals we publish to our subscribers and report back on their experience.

Our trip to Portland was inspired by an $89 each way fare sale on Virgin America, which began service between Los Angeles and the City of Roses not too long ago. What better way to travel there than in style aboard an award-winning airline?

Portland has become quite the food scene over the past decade-plus, so one of our prime objectives was to cover as many places as possible on our hit list. Every meal we had was gourmet and delicious, from simple sandwiches to decadent six-course meals. Among the highlights:

Brunch: One of our favorite breakfasts was at Tasty & Sons, a spot known amongst the neighborhoodie foodies for its unique, ethnic-tinged egg dishes. If you’re in the mood for Moroccan, opt for the Moroccan chicken hash. Want Korean? Try John’s Breakfast with homemade kimchi, veggies, brown rice and a sunny side up egg. The restaurant recently opened a sister location called Tasty on Alder near the Pearl District and I hear it’s just as good.

Lunch: All of our friends told us to go to Pok Pok, an unassuming Thai restaurant in converted house in the Southeast neighborhood. Heading here at the tail end of the restaurant’s lunch hour also proved to be a smart decision given there was no wait. Being from LA where we have a large Thai Town, I was skeptical about tasting anything I hadn’t sampled at home. Boy, was I wrong. One of the restaurant’s most popular staples are its Vietnamese fish sauce wings -- six chicken wings marinated in fish sauce, deep fried and caramelized with garlic. It was pure magic and worth every bite. We also ordered their house specialty rotisserie chicken, which on the surface sounded like your run-of-the-mill rotisserie chicken, but it was stuffed with lemongrass, garlic, pepper and cilantro, and served with a spicy dipping sauce. Amazing! Definitely some of the best chicken I’ve ever had in my life.

Dinner: It’s rare to have the experience of being in a communal dining hall for multi-course meals. So we knew we had to at least experience two while we were there. Among the gems in the city are Beast and Simpatica. Beast features a seven-course meal on weekends and served at two large communal tables. It was fun talking food and getting tips from local foodies about where we should go for our trip. The meal itself was incredible – one plate offered up bite-sized pieces of foie gras, steak tartare, pork rilletes and pork pate. It was to die for. The next evening, we went to Simpatica Dining Hall. Known as a catering company, it serves a communal meal every Friday and Saturday night with an ever-changing menu. We had another amazing chicken dish there – it was brined and then smoked and served with duck fat potatoes, arugula and a mustard sauce. Yum!

Brews: We then felt a need to sample some of Portland's finest brews. First we went to Stumptown where baristas have perfected the art of the pouring the cappuccino. Then it was off to try some of Portland's other brews. A friend recommended Upright Brewery located in the basement of a loft building in the Southeast where they craft their own beers and only open their tasting room for a few hours a day. Their specialty is in Cezanne-style Belgian-type beers, and it definitely did not disappoint. On a near 90-degree day in the city, it really hit the spot.

Outside of food, we went to all the neighborhoods, browsed shops and even took a half-day trip to see the Columbia Gorge and Multnomah Falls, the second highest falls in North America. It was a gorgeous day to see the “natural” side of Portland, and a mere 40-minute drive from downtown.

All in all, if you’re looking for a good balance of food, shopping (no sales tax!) and nature, Portland is definitely the place to be.

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Tips by

Deal Expert, Los Angeles
Monday, August 5, 2013
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Lily Fu