Kenny and Zuke's pastrami.jpg
Photo by Leslie Kelly
The pastrami at Kenny and Zuke's is a meaty work of art.
Put down the torches. Please, don't round up a


10 Reasons Seattle Should Be Jealous of Portland

Kenny and Zuke's pastrami.jpg
Photo by Leslie Kelly
The pastrami at Kenny and Zuke's is a meaty work of art.
Put down the torches. Please, don't round up a mob to run me out of town. I heart Seattle, big time. But . . .

Every trip to the lovely Rose City makes me pine: Why don't we have this, that, or the other in our fair city? I'm not even including Powell's, the Trailblazers, or the whole no-sales-tax thing because those are so damn obvious. No, this lineup of stuff that makes me pea-green with envy is purely food-centric.

1. Kenny and Zuke's, home of the best pastrami on the planet. I should be on the payroll of this New York-style deli considering how often I rave about it. There's a huge menu, but for me it's all about the peppery cured brisket that's slow-smoked, making it oh-so-tender and tasty. Take a seat at the bar if you can, and the pastrami masters just might slip you a bite before you order. That talented crew slices pastrami with surgical precision, making for a damn beautiful sandwich. Make mine a Reuben, please.

2. Everybody raves about Pok Pok, the teeny place that's taken Asian to lofty heights. It's very good, especially the addictive wings that are among its signature dishes. But I actually prefer its spinoff, Ping. Ping's pretty dining room is airy and open, and it's not as much of a hassle to get a table. Hey, (James Beard-nominated chef/owner) Andy Ricker, how's about Pinging us in Seattle?

The Meadow salt.jpg
Photo by Leslie Kelly
Shelves at The Meadow are filled with hundreds of salts from around the world.
3. The Meadow is a gorgeous little store in North Portland that specializes in fresh flowers, chocolate, and salts from around the globe. You need some Icelandic salt? Of course you do! How about Himalayan pink or snowy flakes from Alaska? Because they've got it. The owner, Mark Bitterman, has even written an encyclopedic book on the subject, Salted. It's a salt geek's paradise. (Yes, I bought some chocolate salt!)

crawfish pie at Swamp Shack.jpg
Photo by Leslie Kelly
Me-oh-my-oh! The crawfish pie at Swamp Shack is fan-freaking-tastic.
4. Food carts! Hundreds, maybe even thousands of "mobile" kitchens dot the landscape. One of my favorites is called Swamp Shack, on Stark, where you have to order the crawfish pie! But here's the news flash: There's a move toward adding beer gardens adjacent to some of these food-cart clusters. Now check out a pub called Prost in the historic Mississippi district, where there are a bunch of carts out back. Grab a meal and come in for a brewski. What a great idea!

5. Speaking of drinking, I have a big crush on the area of the city known as Distillery Row. Wander from Square Deal to Aviation, sip and learn. The welcome arrival of a couple new taprooms--Hair of the Dog and Cascade Barrel House--in the 'hood make this the perfect shot-and-a-beer kind of destination.

Johnston County ham at Irving Street Kitchen.jpg
Photo by Leslie Kelly
A little bite of the South in downtown Portland, the Johnston County ham at Irving Street Kitchen sure is fine, y'all.
6. I'm deeply patriotic when it comes to wine, dead sure that Washington's fermented grapes have got it all over the overpriced pinot from Planet O, but Portland's got something super-cool that Seattle does not: a barrel-to-bar program. At Irving Street Kitchen, wine is served directly from barrels, which means fewer bottles to recycle. Vintners are excited about this program, which was developed by the restaurant's San Francisco-based owners, and are working on creating blends specifically for this type of service. Sit at the bar and order the Syrah with a side of Johnston County ham and biscuits. That incredible ham is from North Carolina, and it is porktastic!

7. Old-school tableside dining with a side of jazz. Wilf's at the train station is so retro-cool without even trying. And because, damn, sometimes you just want a steak and a Caesar tossed while you watch, these classics live on. I was in heaven, listening to a girl singer while scarfing up Bananas Foster that had been expertly lit on fire moments before it was spooned over ice cream. Yes, I definitely need more flaming food to light up my life.

8. Ooooh, la-la. I finally got to eat at Le Pigeon and this cozy communal-dining experience lived up to the considerable hype. It's got a French accent, but without the fussiness that comes with fine dining. The best seats in the house are at the bar, where you can watch Gabriel Rucker and his crazy-gifted crew do that acrobatic dance known as cooking. I want to go ahead and apologize to those seated around me for all the moaning. Yes, my meal was a full-on food-gasm: An exquisite scallop sous vide in squid ink, seared and snuggled up to a Dungeness crab-potato salad, an egg yolk that had been blasted with a blow-torch perched on top, and then the best damn halibut preparation I have ever eaten. BTW, Le Pigeon has recently given birth to another restaurant called Little Bird.

9. While Seattle's the center of the coffee universe, Portland does right by tea. I loved the chill vibe and yummy food at the Tao of Tea, and, after an exhausting day of eating--wink, wink--I mellowed my harsh with a pot of Egyptian chamomile flowers in the tranquil tasting room at Smith Teamaker. While you sip at Smith Teaworks, you can watch them blending teas through a picture window that looks onto the production facility in the back.

10. There's so much more to explore. I always leave PDX hungry to come back for seconds and thirds. I was in the city last weekend, getting in on the Portland Perks packages offered through the end of the month. A friend took me on a drive-by tour of all sorts of groovy places that were new, or new to me, in Southeast Portland, under-the-radar stuff where locals go. Can't wait to get back and try Grain & Gristle, grab some Italian takeout at Taste Unique, slip onto a stool at Bar Avignon, pick up stuff for a picnic at Foster & Dobbs, sip some suds while supping on the ambitious pub fare at Spints Ale House, and maybe even take a culinary tour of the city on a bike from Pedal Bike Tours. Who's with me?

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