Oso Market + Bar

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Sometimes, the name of the game is simplicity. In this food-obsessed city, I think sometimes the restaurants are over-thought, dishes over-embellished and menus over-complicated. Not the case at the new eastside eatery Oso Market + Bar. It’s a lovely spot serving lunch or dinner that feels like a small bar or lunch counter, and it’s simple in the best way possible.

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I had lunch at Oso last week, and the above picture curried chickpea sandwich was pretty great — simple, warm, made with great house-made ingredients like pickled fennel. They served it with a side house salad that was just simple. Simply dressed, simple greens, and exactly what I needed for a nice workday lunch. The menu does have lots of meaty options too, and the charcuterie looked mighty delicious. It’s certainly not just for veggies.

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Stop into Oso Market for a meal, and browse their selection of oils, wine and other local products. Maybe I’ll see you there for a simple workday lunch!

Oso Market + Bar is located at 726 SE Grand Ave., just next door to Dig a Pony. They’re open from lunch until late every day.

Harlow

Harlow, Portland, Oregon

Can we all just admit for a minute that breakfast in this town has gotten ridiculous? Don’t get me wrong — I love it, and when I’m on vacation in another city, I miss the incredible options we have here. All I’m saying is, we are seriously lucky.

Since we’ve been in love with Harlow’s sister restaurant Prasad (in the Pearl District’s Yoga Pearl building) for quite some time, we wanted to try the one across the river and it has wedged its way into our hearts for those Sunday mornings where we want to take our time over breakfast.

Harlow, Portland, Oregon

Prasad focuses on raw, vegan fare, but at Harlow the focus shifts to more gluten-free food. You can still get raw and vegan stuff though. I’m head over heels for the quinoa pancakes with blueberries, and Eric hasn’t yet stopped ordering the huevos rancheros (pictured below) exclusively.

Harlow, Portland, Oregon

The beverages are also sublime, from fresh juice concoctions that will start your day right to the dreamy Peruvian hot chocolate I enjoyed last weekend, complete with malty maca and melted dark chocolate.

Harlow, Portland, Oregon

Harlow is located at 3632 SE Hawthorne Blvd., right in the heart of that lively district. Go for weekend brunch or make a day of it and take in a bit of the neighborhood.

a n d Cafe

and Cafe, Portland, Oregon

My family all lives nearby, and we get together a lot. There are 11 of us now (just from my immediate family of my sisters and parents) and between us, we have a hilarious grouping of food allergies, intolerances and preferences. We’re also always in flux.

For awhile, one of my sisters was paleo while we were vegan and my other sister’s family was gluten-free and dairy-free (except for one kid). By the next gathering, it was plant-based for a few of us, flexitarian for others. My parents then went vegan for awhile but are notoriously flexible. But recently, we’ve had my mom stumped. She has resorted to telling us all to bring our own dinner when we come over. It’s just too much to keep track of.

and Cafe, Portland, Oregon

I’m pretty amazed in Portland at how many options we have. I don’t see a menu very often that doesn’t include something for the vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free/paleo/what have you among us. And I think that’s a part of what makes Portland’s restaurants so cool and enjoyable and unique.

We ended up on a recent Saturday morning at the a n d Cafe on E. Burnside. Tons of options, including a special hash with vegan gravy and herbed tofu mixed with brussels sprouts.

and Cafe, Portland, Oregon

a n d Cafe is located at 5420 E. Burnside. They make breakfast and lunch, the service is snappy and friendly and they have lots of options for those of you with, let’s say, needs.

Boke Bowl

Boke Bowl, SE Portland, Oregon

I’m still totally unsure as to why they’d need to do this, but when I was in elementary school, they marketed school lunch to us with “cool” magnets featuring brightly colored flamingos and slogans like “It’s cool to eat at school!”

They didn’t have to sell me — most of the time, my mom didn’t let us eat hot lunch at school because it wasn’t very healthy. Instead, she’d pack up fresh fruit and veggies alongside sandwiches and skim milk for us. But on the rare occasion that we got to buy lunch at school, it was awesome — especially on chicken fried steak day. I find it weird that I’m an adult who has been vegetarian most of my life now, but I could not get enough chicken fried steak back in elementary school. Pair it with tater tots and over-boiled grayish green beans and you’ve got a classic early 90s school lunch.

Boke Bowl, SE Portland, Oregon

Absolutely nothing about Boke Bowl resembles school lunch, except for the long table running the length of the restaurant. Something about eating in the company of strangers takes me back to my cafeteria days. The food here is far more complex and wonderful than all that business. My favorites at Boke Bowl are the vegan rice bowl and the caramelized fennel ramen (try a side of rice tots!) Most days, this is exactly what I want for a complex and yummy lunch.

Boke Bowl, SE Portland, Oregon

Boke Bowl is at 1028 SE Water Ave. in SE Portland’s industrial district, just a short walk from the waterfront and Eastbank Esplanade. Stand in line — it’s worth it.

Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply

Naomi's Organic Farm Supply, Portland, Oregon

I met a friend about a year ago at a new coffee place — the kind of place where they roast each bean with immense care and they really care about every part of the coffee production process. A classic Portland coffee place.

I get migraines sometimes, so I don’t drink traditional coffee. When I drink it at all, it’s got to be decaf or I risk a debilitating headache. So when I walked into this very Portland-y coffee place, I scanned the menu for a decaf option. I asked the barista at the counter, and he was visibly annoyed.

“It’s just not as good if you order the decaf,” he argued. “The regular really brings a bouquet of flavors.”

For a minute I felt a little defensive. Just let me pay you five bucks for some stupid decaf so I can go talk to my friend!, I thought. But in the days after that, I reconsidered that this man was someone who is completely immersed in the quality of his product. That’s pride and expertise, and I’m glad I live in a city like that (most days).

Naomi's Organic Farm Supply, Portland, Oregon

At Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply, they have pride and expertise and a similar attitude about helping people discover gardening, composting and all the rest of it. They are experts.

I bought a house last year with a big yard. The yard, in square footage terms, is like five times the size of the house. So I’ve needed to get familiar with plants and gardening and all the other things that come along with home ownership on a huge lot. Through that process, I’ve learned to love gardening books and the people who love them. Especially in Portland, where there is so much great info on organic gardening and so much emphasis on cool plants and animals.

Naomi’s made me want to rip out everything in my yard and start from scratch — with the beautiful plants strewn throughout the space. Fig trees? Yes, please. Olives and passionflower and manzanita, too. Visiting Naomi’s is inspiring — but that’s even before you’ve had a conversation with Naomi herself, who is a walking encyclopedia of organic gardening. Some days, they have chicks (in the spring), goats and even bunnies for sale in the shop, which adds an incredible cuteness factor. Add in a great selection of gardening books, and that’s what I’d call a one-stop shop.

Naomi's Organic Farm Supply, Portland, Oregon

Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply is located in SE Portland’s Reed neighborhood, at 2615 SE Schiller St. Their blog, plus workshops and event info is on the Website.

Eastbank Esplanade

Eastbank Esplanade, SE Portland, Oregon

I’m sure you won’t believe me, but I actually don’t know how I ended up in a taxi with six Marines zooming across Rome in the middle of the night. I was visiting a friend in college, and she met up with some other friends, and then we were heading somewhere else after the bars had closed their doors for the night. It just happened.

The taxi zoomed to a stop, just near the banks of the Tiber River. We unloaded, unsteadily, and moved as a pack across a bridge. It was beautiful (as you’d expect), the city lights reflecting off the surface of the water, and we all took it in as we crossed. A few of our friends in uniform had been drinking (perhaps a little too much?) and one of them slurred through a story — just a week before, he’d jumped into the Tiber, cowboy boots and all, while running from the police. As he’d sailed off a low bridge and into the polluted water below, he’d screamed, “I have diplomatic immunity!” and I guess that was the end of the chase.

Eastbank Esplanade, SE Portland, Oregon

Not the best image of Americans abroad, but sometimes taking in a city’s main waterway makes you feel invincible. The Eastbank Esplanade, which hugs the Willamette river on the east side of downtown Portland, is a really fun thoroughfare to walk, bike or take in the city skyline we hold so dear. Just don’t go about flaunting your diplomatic immunity.

Eastbank Esplanade, SE Portland, Oregon

The Eastbank Esplanade stretches along the east side of the Willamette river downtown Portland, starting near the Steel Bridge and heading south. It’s a splendid spot to bike, walk and take in the city skyline.

Water Avenue Coffee

Water Avenue Coffee, SE Portland, Oregon

A neon sign reading “COFFEE” in big red letters loomed over Eric’s head at Street 14 Coffee in Astoria. We sipped our drinks and ate our breakfast in groggy silence until the Belgian guy at the table next to us leaned over and asked, “So, what happened last night?”

The commotion had started at almost midnight. We were curled up in bed with a Macbook, watching an episode of Maron when suddenly, directly through the wall, we heard screaming. Not playful screaming, but murder screaming. “POLICE!” the voice shouted. “SOMEBODY CALL THE POLICE!”

Eric jumped up out of bed, told me to call the police and stay in the room and bolted out into the hallway to bang on the door of the room next door. A young woman opened it and told Eric that her boyfriend was just freaking out. It wasn’t a big deal. But as he looked past her, he saw the riled-up man’s face was scratched and bloodied. Meanwhile, through the wall, I was arguing with a teenage front desk employee at the hotel who somehow couldn’t understand the words “call the police.”

The police came, discerned that the couple were extremely high, lectured them through the paper-thin walls for a good long time and then finally left close to 2 a.m. We never saw a single other person so much as poke their head out to see what was wrong — which was just impressive since this was a hotel with shared bathrooms down the hall. I certainly hope no one ever tries to murder me in a hotel room.

The next morning after a truly dreadful adrenaline-fueled night of sleep, Eric woke up, rolled over and said to me, “Let’s get out of here.”

Water Avenue Coffee, SE Portland, Oregon

The weekend was a total bust, which was extra disappointing because I had planned the whole thing as a surprise for Eric. Later in the summer, he knocked it out of the park with a surprise weekend away for me. But for awhile the morning after the weird domestic incident in our hotel, we did have a fabulous breakfast under that neon COFFEE beacon. They have one of those at Water Avenue Coffee too — although this one is blue. They serve really high-quality coffee that’s roasted about 10 feet away right in the same building. It’s tasty, simple and you can buy some beans to make at home or sit in the pleasant little shop on the couch and do what Portlanders do — work, surf and otherwise set up a combo mainline of coffee and wi-fi.

Water Avenue Coffee, SE Portland, Oregon

Water Avenue Coffee is a local coffee roaster and shop in SE Portland’s industrial district, located at 1028 SE Water Ave. Check out their blog for more.

Canteen

Canteen, Portland, Oregon

October, 2010. It was our fourth wedding anniversary, and we wanted to go out and celebrate with a nice meal. Not hard here in this city — so I donned a dress and some lipstick and put on my nicest heels and we headed out. We went to a restaurant with a James Beard award. Silly me for assuming that people would get fancy. What was I thinking?

In order to watch the celebrated chef cook our meal, we specially requested to sit up at the counter, where we could keep tabs on the food and take in the action of the kitchen. As my rabbit was prepared in front of my eyes, two dudes sidled up to the bar next to us, just out of the corner of my eye. I looked over and, for just a second, thought, “Are those guys homeless?”

They weren’t homeless at all — they probably lived in fancy houses in the Hawthorne neighborhood. But that’s our hipsters for you. This incident spurred a game that we play sometimes, guessing whether someone is a hipster or a hobo. As I sat there, in my high heels, ordering a fancy anniversary dinner, our hipster friends sipped at their tall boys of Miller High Life and ate their impeccably cooked burgers. Long live the Portland hipster.

Canteen, Portland, Oregon

Canteen feels like hipster ground zero. The juice, fresh pressed in front of your eyes by burly raw food enthusiasts, is great. It’s a place where our beloved hipsters with face tattoos feed their three-year-olds walnut taco crumbles and fresh pressed ginger juice. It might be indie Portland heaven.

In the summer, there’s no better place. The people-watching on Stark is good, the chairs are comfy (or try the long old-growth timber bench running the length of the restaurant) and you can kick back and drink fresh juice while you people watch and play my favorite game. Highly recommended: The Walnut Taco salad and Super Veggie juice.

Canteen, Portland, Oregon

Canteen is at 2816 SE Stark St. in the Sunnyside neighborhood – just watch out for hipsters. Follow them on Twitter for even more juice.