Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Portland's Gastronomic Offerings

Published:Thursday | April 21, 2016 | 4:00 AMDania Bogle
Falafel, hummus, and pita bread.
A sampling of Voodoo Doughnut. The famous Bacon Maple doughnut is to the top left.<\n>
The queue stretches around the corner at Voodoo Doughnut's flagship store in downtown Portland.
Food carts in Portland, Oregon.
Portland's version of Island Grill. A Hawaiian-inspired food cart in the city.
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A taste of Portland

It's great when you're able to travel the world and get a sampling of different cuisines. It's even better when you can get a taste of authentic ethnic cuisine all in one stop.

That's what the city of Portland, Oregon, offered me on a recent visit during the International Association of Athletics Federations World Indoor Championships which was staged at the Oregon Convention Centre (OCC).

One of the major cities in the United States' Pacific Northwest, perhaps second only to Seattle further north in the state of Washington, Portland has earned a reputation for diversity.

A major part of its diversity is what it offers in the way of food. The city's food carts are renowned, and there are several hubs around the city. The one I visited was between SW10th and Alder streets right in the heart of downtown Portland.

Travelling around Portland is pretty easy by tram, light rail, and buses. From the OCC, SW 10th and Alder was a light rail ride and one block walk north. There, an area the size of a small parking lot, were my choice of Korean, Iraqi, Greek, Thai, Mexican tacos, and Kebab. And if you think Island Grill exists only in Jamaica, think again.

The Hawaiian Island Grill offered grilled meat dishes with a twist of pineapple. Most of the menus have main meals that cost between US$5 and $8 and appetisers could be had for around $4.

The meals are served in small cardboard cartons or plastic containers, and the helpings were quite generous. It was enough to fill one person and with some left over, or if you were particularly greedy or hungry, have it all in one go.

On my first day, I chose to go with the Thai cart where I had mango chicken with fried rice - tasty with just the right amount of spices.

I haven't had a lot of Mediterranean except during a trip to Thessaloniki, Greece, and there my experimentation was restricted to the typical Greek tourist dishes baklava - honey and filo dough dessert and moussaka - an eggplant and lamb dish.

I've heard a lot about falafel, and I wanted to try it, so the following day I had lunch at the Iraqi spot. This meal consisted of three falafels - spicy, deep-fried chickpea balls - served on a bed of tomatoes, onions, and celery with a sour cream sauce and hummus. I have to admit - I didn't know anything meatless could taste that good. It was definitely worth the adventure.

Now, everyone who's been to Portland will tell you about Voodoo Doughnut. For days at the OCC I saw people walking around with large pink boxes with Voodoo Doughnut printed on the side and I was curious to find out what it was.

This is Portland's version of Dunkin Donuts. However, what makes Voodoo Doughnut special is the interesting varieties they offer. Whoever heard of a donut with bacon and maple syrup on top?

There's a donut topped with frosting and Captain Crunch cereal; a Fruit Loop donut; there's the Voodoo Doll donut which is shaped like a man and filled with raspberry jelly and a pretzel stake. There's even the cock-n-balls donut - the name says it all.

The demand for Voodoo Doughnut is pretty high. I took a trip to its flagship shop on 3rd Avenue, and the queue to get served stretched outside and around the corner.

The city also offers regular fare, and you can find a Subway, McDonald's, Denny's, Burgerville, and Arby's. For less casual dining, there's Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse, although reservations are definitely recommended. The night a group of six of us went to eat we turned away as the house was full.

When it comes to food, Portland is definitely a very interesting gastronomic adventure.