foodie heaven

Portland’s quirky, progressive culture fosters an impressive culinary scene

A food truck garden

Oregon’s largest city has a lot to offer the queer traveler, including a nice selection of nightlife spots, plenty of arts and culture, a gorgeous nearby wine country, and one of the most progressive attitudes around. For sure, Portland is incredibly welcoming to all, but you shouldn’t overlook the city for its impressive eats. 

You could easily spend a long weekend here just sampling endless local cafes and famous doughnut shops, but it’s well past time to focus on the area’s great foodie chops. I spent a few days in town recently with my teenage son Matthew, who’s coming into his own as a foodie — and we were both excited to jump in and explore. 

On our first evening, we ventured to Dolly Olive, one of the newer and more talked-about spots in town. The menu features southern Mediterranean specialties and is built around a shared plates concept, which fascinated Matthew. Standouts included the Potato Cavatelli, with a rich and satisfying spicy pork ragú, and the Classic Italian Meatballs. And even the little things were done right here; when my son asked for something other than a cola, the bar crafted him a sparkling lemonade mocktail on the spot that really impressed us both.

Two gorgeous cups of hot chocolate covered in roasted marshmallow

Walking back to our fun digs at The Woodlark, a sweet LGBTQ-friendly boutique hotel in the heart of downtown, we stumbled on 1927 S’mores Company in a small storefront that evokes a cozy camping adventure in the nearby Cascades. The treats here are just the right size for dessert after a big meal, and we were fascinated to watch the staff handcraft our orders, using small torches to perfectly brown the custom-made marshmallows. I enjoyed the Pacific Crest, which featured coconut rum marshmallows and salted caramel. Matthew went with the Troop 1927, a treat made with chocolate grahams, a whiskey marshmallow, and creamy peanut butter.

A plate of friend chicken wings

For breakfast, we really enjoyed Super Joy Coffee Roasters, which had some very creative flavors. Tops, in our opinion, was the Sakra Latte, which was made with lychee and rose, making for a lightly sweet and floral take on a latte. Over at Cheryl’s on 12th (a supporter of the Portland Lesbian Choir), we found plenty of comfort food along with a nice selection of coffee drinks.

We always like to patronize queer-owned restaurants when possible, so we were thrilled to stumble on the Lil’ America collection of food carts exclusively owned by BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ chefs. The funky vibe here reflects the diversity of foods available in Portland, from Korean to Latine to Guyanese to Filipino. There’s also a cart called Speed-O Cappuccino, entirely staffed by sex workers and strippers serving mochas, lattes, and vegan sandwiches. We tried their grilled cheese and a PDX Fog drink — delicious! — and chatted with them about how open the atmosphere at Lil’ America was.

Interior of  cafe. Lots of tables, bright windows and people eating lunch

Other favorites included Pizza Kat, where we enjoyed delicious thin-crust pies while rocking to The Doors, Violent Femmes, Lou Reed, and others. Toki, a new, casual restaurant by famed local chef Peter Cho, features fun Korean American flavors, such as steamed bao burgers and spicy gochujang tamarind Korean fried chicken wings.

A woman uses a blowtorch to roast a marshmallow

Going back to the sweet side, Ranger Chocolate Company makes some incredible confections. Their Oregon Wine Country Pinot Noir Chocolate Bar pairs so well with almost any red wine that I may have to order a caseload for home. You can visit the factory/shop and enjoy coffee delights at their café. We doubled up on the s’mores and tried Ranger’s S’more Mocha, with toasted house-made marshmallow, whipped cream, and chocolate-dipped graham. I guess my diet can start when we get home!

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