Portland is quickly becoming known as a fine dining destination, with restaurants specializing in creative dishes made with organic, locally grown ingredients. But there’s another side to Portland’s food scene that deserves just as much credit: the wild and wacky restaurants and food carts that offer a truly unique eating experience. We’ve rounded up a sampling of the culinary curiosities that support the city’s unofficial mantra: “Keep Portland Weird!”
Grilled Cheese Grill:
In case a menu comprised entirely of grilled cheese sandwiches didn’t make you feel nostalgic enough, how about eating your grilled cheese in an old yellow schoolbus? The Grilled Cheese Grill (1027 NE Alberta) serves up creative takes on the classic grilled cheese equation that range from the gourmet (Melted brie, roasted red peppers, and spicy brown mustard) to the delightfully juvenile (the “pre-schooler” sandwich comes with the crusts cut off) and gives customers the option of sitting at outdoor picnic tables or in the converted dining area on board the bus. Anglophiles might prefer the Grilled Cheese Grill’s new second location, a double decker bus/dining room parked on SE 28th & Ankeny.
Voodoo Donuts (22 SW 3rd Avenue) is as famous for its strange baked goods as it is for its inimitable atmosphere. Located in old town and never without a line around the block, the donuts here are never boring. Scan the colorful menu on the wall to see a huge variety of tasty treats featuring ingredients like fruit loops, bacon, and tang powder. The donut shop also offers legally binding wedding services, with (naturally) donuts and coffee served at the reception.
The Waffle Window:
The simply named Waffle Window (SE 36th & Hawthorne) is just what it sounds like: a window peeking out from the side of a brick building where you can pick up a waffle. From sliced strawberries and coconut panna cotta to bacon, cheddar, and jalapeno, the waffle topping menu is creative and constantly changing. The best part? No matter how decadent, prices top out at $5.
Unlike bigger cities like New York and Chicago, hot dog stands are not ubiquitous in Portland. In fact, they’re almost impossible to find. One notable exception is Hoyt Dogs (NW 21st & Hoyt), a street stand that grills up locally made hot dogs and sausages with all the fixings. The catch? Hoyt Dogs caters exclusively to night owls: they’re only open 9PM to 3AM, Thursday through Saturday. The late night scene is part of the fun, though–a wide array of entertaining characters tend to be drawn in by the smell of grilling meats. Hot dogs cost $4. Unlimited condiments and people watching are free of charge.
The Chocolate Waterfall:
Located inside the front window of The Candy Basket chocolate company (1924 NE 181st Ave), the chocolate waterfall is truly a sight to behold: 21 feet of dark chocolate cascading down from the ceiling over sculpted Italian marble and bronze. While the waterfall is an iconic feature of Portland’s food scene, it’s not exactly edible: the flowing chocolate has been recirculating in the open air for four years. If the waterfall sparks a craving (and how could it not?), grab a free sample of fresh chocolate at the store, or better yet, take a tour of the chocolate factory to see how these delicious treats are made.
Breakfast is by far this city’s favorite meal, so Portland is packed with places specializing in breakfast and brunch. It can be tough for a restaurant to stand out among the many options, but Slappy Cakes (4246 SE Belmont) figured out a way: they built griddles into the tables and invite their customers to make their own pancakes. Here’s how it works: you choose your batter type, a few “fixins” (options include bananas, chocolate chips, and even goat cheese and chorizo), a topping or two, and then it’s time to get creative–and perhaps more importantly, try not to burn yourself.