…and Portland is for Pok Pok!

Aaaand over a week later I finally get to telling you about the rest of my Portland trip. I’m so on top of it.

So here’s the deal. I went to Portland for pretty much one reason: to eat and drink all of the things. A related and secondary reason was to go back to the very restaurant that had blown my mind the last time I went to Portland.

Saturday Night

Around 6:30pm on Saturday, it was clearly time to begin the evening the right way: cocktails. A very nice PDX bus took us out to Division Street, which is the new “place to be” for Portland nightlife. At least, that’s what all the fancy magazines tell you (including Food & Wine). Portlanders don’t seem to be aware of this fact, though.

At any rate, things must always be done in order. Step 1: Check in at Pok Pok. They tell you it’s a 1.5-2 hour wait. Cool. No big deal.

Step 2: Go across the street to Whiskey Soda Lounge, a cocktail bar also owned by the founder of Pok Pok, which serves lovely cocktails, has an extensive whiskey list, and offers a select menu of Pok Pok signature items.

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The best part about this deal is that a) you get to drink lots of cocktails, and b) they’ll simply call over from Pok Pok and your waitress at the bar will let you know when your table is ready. So really, there’s never any sense of “waiting” because you’re drinking the whole time and will be properly warned when it is time for dinner.

The Whiskey Soda Lounge is one of those comfortable bar spots where you can while away hours without even realizing it. There were three of us waiting for dinner, but the two-hour wait seemed hardly a blip in time. With some delicious cocktails (including unique ingredients like house-made drinking vinegars, as well as jelly beer) and a few snacks (such as deep-fried pig ear strips with vinegar dipping sauce), I hardly realized it was past 8pm when we sat down to eat.

Part of the magic of Pok Pok is the aesthetic. It is designed to feel like a shack, in some ways. There is an indoor seating area, but most of the restaurant consists of tall 2x4s holding up a bunch of plastic siding with heat lamps underneath. So it kind of feels like you’re outside the entire time.

The second awesome part about eating at Pok Pok is that they encourage sharing (i.e. they tell you that you should really do it this way, because that’s how it’s meant to be done). So between the three of us, we ordered 5 dishes, along with brown and white rice. These dishes included a duck soup, a really unusual fresh “salad”, boar collar, eggplant salad, and (of course) Pok Pok’s signature chicken wings.

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This picture is sexy, for sure. But it in no way does these wings justice. Like, I will talk about these wings for the rest of my life. No wings will ever match up. Ever. Buffalo wings are ruined forever, and I AM COMPLETELY OK WITH THAT. Because I have experienced the joy of Northern Thai wings.

For the first time, I feel that I have talked up the food more than the cocktails. (Yes, I drank a cocktail with my meal, but I didn’t even bother to tell you until now!) That’s how awesome this food is. Even drinking delicious beverages doesn’t match up to the glory.

After dinner, we hit the town! First was Cascade Brewing Barrel House, which had a number of really interesting beers on tap, particularly sour beers. It was one of those bright, sort of “shop-like” bars that didn’t quite feel intimate in the way a beer bar should. But it was great to sit around a table made out of a giant beer barrel and enjoy the pretty great 90s music.

The night ended at a McMenamins pub on the northwest side. Unfortunately I couldn’t tell you which McMenamins it was because I was a tad drunk and there are like 15 in the city of Portland. But it was great, and we closed out the bar, which is something I haven’t done since I lived in Chicago. I miss that.

Sunday AM

After a day of beer, followed by a night of cocktails, spicy food, and then more beer…well, it’s no surprise that I was a tad hungover on Sunday. But it was imperative that I power through, because there was still more to eat and drink!

First, BREAKFAST. And of course, we were going to hit up a food cart. (Brunch is a serious waste of time when you’re on vacation. Takes waaaay too long.)

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And then it happened. BRUNCH BOX. Yeah, that’s the name of the food cart we found. IT WAS PERFECT. I had a build-your-own sandwich: Texas toast with an egg, bacon, sauteed mushrooms, and pepperjack cheese. It was perfectly toasted and melty…exactly what you want when you order a breakfast sandwich.

Other options include the OMG (egg, bacon, ham, spam, and american cheese) or the Black & Bleu (sausage, bacon, bleu cheese, grilled onions, and cajun spice). Holy. Crap.

Sandwiches were inhaled rather rapidly and accompanied by some delicious Stumptown coffee (woo local coffee shops!). After some meandering through the Saturday Market (also open on Sundays) and a visit to the Chinese Garden, it was time to start drinking again.

Now, let’s be honest. I didn’t want beer at that moment, seeing as I still had a headache. But I was on vacation and I had only visited one brewery so far, so hitting up Deschutes was pretty much a requirement.

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A flight of beers (on a paddle) was a must-do. That, paired with a really rich lunch of pork belly appetizer and an absurdly cheesy grilled cheese sandwich, left me pretty much incapable of doing much else that day. With several hours left before the train home, another trip to Powell’s was in order. (Because really, when you have nowhere else to go to recover from a beer lunch, a bookstore is as good a spot as any.)

After a few hours of perusing, it was time to hit up one more beer bar for a final brew before boarding the Amtrak back to Seattle. Bailey’s Taproom offers a really high-tech beer experience, with flat-screen TV menus and super fancy cask pulls. They just happened to have Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch on tap, which is one of my favorite beers of all time, so I was a pretty happy camper.

And so concludes my Portland travels. I have no doubts that I will go back. In fact, I think I could make this a yearly thing, really…

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[Next time: Cinco de Derby! The most amazing beer-drinking holidays of the year all wrapped up in one beautiful weekend.]

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