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.

Cedo’s Falafel & Gyros

Cedo's Falafel & Gyros, Portland, Oregon

I love a falafel — I loved falafel before people knew what the heck falafel was. But I guess those are the street-cred perks of being a young vegetarian. My friend Alice introduced me to Cedo’s this year and it’s a favorite spot now. It’s simple, inexpensive and most of all, delicious.

Cedo's Falafel & Gyros, Portland, Oregon

At Cedo’s, I highly recommend the falafel sandwich or the mixed platter, which gives you options — falafel balls, hummus, baba ganouge etc. If you’re into meat, I hear the gyro’s good too. I love this place for lunch because it’s simple and easy.

Cedo's Falafel & Gyros, Portland, Oregon

Cedo’s Falafel & Gyros is located at 3901 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Find them on Yelp.

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.

New Deal Cafe

New Deal Cafe, Portland, OR

Two years ago, Eric and I went on a two-week trip to India. We were there for a wedding (which meant I was working) and the wedding was one of the more stressful things I’ve ever been involved with. All in all, it wasn’t a super-relaxing trip. I’m so glad we went, but next time it’s going to be under different circumstances.

We only spent a couple days in Delhi, and the rest of the time we were in a smaller city in eastern India. I love Indian food, but eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner for 13 days started to get a little monotonous. Then, to top off the rest of the experience, I got some kind of water-borne illness on our last two days there. I drugged myself to the max just to get myself on the plane. I can’t ever remember wanting to be home so badly.

The next morning, we woke up in Amsterdam. As we got off the train at Amsterdam’s Centraal Station, the sun was just beginning to make an appearance and the bakeries began to open their doors. At last, I thought. The western world!

We ditched our suitcases and walked down the street, browsing for a place to have our first meal. It only took us a few steps and we were standing in front of an adorable cafe with an 8€ all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet with bacon, scrambled eggs, granola, yogurt, coffee and hash browns. I had barely eaten in two days.

I’m sure we didn’t represent our country very proudly that morning, inhaling plates of bacon and hardly saying a word to each other, except, “Breakfast is so good.” 

New Deal Cafe, Portland, OR

And you know what? Breakfast is so good. That’s why I’m so glad they serve it until 4 p.m. every single day at The New Deal Cafe in NE Portland. It’s welcoming and casual, you can camp out for awhile to work or read and the food is completely delicious. With specials like banana chocolate chip pancakes, how could you possibly go wrong?

New Deal Cafe, Portland, OR

The New Deal Cafe is located at 5250 NE Halsey St. Go for breakfast, anytime.

New Deal Cafe

Random Order Pie Cafe

Random Order Pie Cafe, Portland, Oregon

Allow me to take a moment to tell you about a pie. It was a coconut cream pie with a salted graham cracker crust. It was pretty delicious, if I do say so myself. I hand-toasted coconut flakes for the top, whipped the cream topping into foamy peaks and pressed the crust into the pan. Then I packed it across town to the Portland Pie-Off and entered it into — unbeknownst to me — the most popular category.

There were coconut cream pies, banana cream pies, chocolate cream pies and a few less-than-traditional concoctions. The competition was intimidating. The day was also on the warm side, which made me nervous about my freshly whipped cream. But we laid in the grass on our picnic blanket and let the judges do their work. I did happen to notice quite a few of them huddling around my pie in particular. That’s how I had the feeling I might win.

Random Order Pie Cafe, Portland, Oregon

I did win — in my division, at least — and even if I hadn’t, it was one of my most fun Portland afternoons. I’d like to make this my official request to bring the Portland Pie-Off back! I would totally enter again.

Incidentally, I made my blue-ribbon pie again about a month later for a party and it didn’t set up right. It was coconut soup and no one ate it. Pie can be tricky!

Random Order Pie Cafe, Portland, Oregon

I make a mean pie, but the folks at Random Order coffeehouse and pie shop could run circles around my blue-ribbon coconut cream. That’s why I love them. I love their caramel apple pie and really, every pie they make, and I keep going back for more. Who doesn’t love pie? As a side note, they make a really yummy vegan panini with a white bean spread. Don’t miss it on the lunch hour.

Random Order Pie Cafe, Portland, Oregon

Random Order is at 1800 NE Alberta St. Stop in for pie, cocktails or the aforementioned sandwich. They’re all good. Find Random Order on Twitter too!

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.

Cupcake Jones

Cupcake Jones, NW Portland, Oregon

The way the story goes, my sister Emily was to be delivered via scheduled caesarean section. The doctor looked at his schedule and suggested September 13, 1985. The problem with that date, though, was that it was my second birthday. So even though the doctor had to move his Saturday tee time, she insisted that we have our own birthdays and my baby sister emerged on September 14.

The convenient solution to having your kids just one day apart is that you can combine their birthday parties! This was a revelation for my parents. Just one big mess, one huge herd of small children in the house, one day of chaos. They were sold.

This worked really well the first couple years. Until the year when we were 3 and 5. That year, we had each invited probably 8-10 friends and they all sat around us on the floor of the living room in their party dresses. The five-year-olds gathered around me, and the three-year-olds gathered around Emily. It was time to sing. The problem, of course, is that three-year-olds are such followers. They get confused easily; they’re little. So instead of doing the proper thing and singing to Emily, they followed the lead of the older kids and everyone in the room sang to me only. Emily burst into tears. Birthday ruined.

That was the last time we had a joint birthday party for awhile.

Cupcake Jones, NW Portland, Oregon

Everyone gets their own cake at Cupcake Jones — no sharing required. You can get a jumbo or a mini cupcake in flavors like peanut butter cup or chocolate mint. They even offer some vegan and gluten-free cupcakes so no one has to go without. My favorite is the vegan, gluten-free chocolate. Happy birthday to us, sister!

Cupcake Jones, NW Portland, Oregon

Cupcake Jones is in the Pearl District at 307 NW 10th Avenue. They tweet too!

Bluebird Bakers Cookie Bar

Bluebird Bakers Cookie Bar, Portland, Oregon

The first time I discovered that my Spanish friends didn’t eat peanut butter, my mind was blown. How could anyone not eat peanut butter?! It was a time in my life when my eyes were opened to a new thing called a cultural difference. I was just sure that if they tried it, they wouldn’t be able to resist. So I tried feeding it to them.

First, I tried a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was too sweet, then just too weird. I was disappointed, but I didn’t give up hope that easily. So we invited another pair of matched Spanish-American students over to Conchi’s house, and our goal was to bake peanut butter cookies.

They were certainly not the best peanut butter cookies, by the time we had calculated the correct recipe with foreign measures and found some reasonable peanut butter to work with. But they did taste a lot like home, and in the end, our Spanish friends humored us and tried a cookie, but it was us who ate them, late at night in a kitchen in Barcelona, because sometimes a cookie has the power to take you home.

Bluebird Bakers Cookie Bar, Portland, Oregon

They must know that everyone appreciates the taste of a delicious cookie at Bluebird Bakers Cookie Bar. This spot, on tree-lined Thurman St. in the Northwest District in Portland, is practically a time capsule. It’s a charming little place — a cookie bar — where you can walk in, order a really well-made cookie in flavors like dark chocolate with salted caramel or chocolate chunk, and enjoy a simple, well-made treat.

The bustle of the baking behind the counter is something to observe — all that bustle is preparing these lovely cookies to go out in shipments to local stores like New SeasonsZupan’s and Market of Choice. But the freshest ones are right there in the cookie bar, waiting to be eaten fresh out of the oven. Sit in the window seats and watch the bakers work for awhile — it will most definitely remind you of home, no matter how far away that is.

Bluebird Bakers Cookie Bar, Portland, Oregon

Bluebird Bakers Cookie Bar, 2390 NW Thurman St. in Northwest Portland. Buy a dozen and share them with your friends.

Tell me you’ve tried them — and if you have, which is your favorite? For me, it’s definitely a toss-up between the chocolate chunk with sea salt and the vegan peanut butter banana.

Bread & Broth

Bread & Broth, Portland, Oregon

We were just on the tails of a trip to Scandinavia to see our friends get married and we were short on money. Plus, I was sure we’d be exhausted after our wedding and that we’d just want to relax. So that’s why I suggested that we go to Arizona on our honeymoon. It was a short flight, it would be warm in October and we could just lay by the pool for a week. Foolproof plan. Right?

I was right in the beginning — for at least 36 hours, we were exhausted. But then, after we slept, we came out into the hot desert sun looking for something to do. And we weren’t coming up with much. We don’t golf, we didn’t have any money, we got bored after an hour of laying by the pool. We thought about going to the Grand Canyon, but I wasn’t old enough to drive the rental car and people drove so fast that making the drive freaked us out. We walked through antique shop after antique shop — we don’t like antiques. We bought visors and aviators as a joke. We drank margaritas. We kicked around the idea of driving our rental car over state lines and heading for Vegas. Then we decided it wasn’t a good idea.

After a week, we saw maybe three interesting things and we’ve never been so glad to be home. Sorry Arizona, but you’re not my jam.

Bread & Broth, Portland, Oregon

Even though the food is better, I always imagine that vacationing in Portland might be a little on the boring side. We don’t have huge tourist infrastructure (although, admittedly, it’s growing a lot now). I love living here, but would I vacation here?

If you’ve been downtown this summer, you know that people are legitimately on vacation in Portland. I usually spot them unsurely pedaling their way through our downtown bike lanes, not sure which direction they’re heading, or standing in front of the food carts at 9th & Washington.

The cart Bread & Broth makes a killer tofu sandwich: Tofu steaks with vegenaise, avocado and red onion on a perfectly soft baguette. This place is highly recommended — if you can fight your way through the tangles of tourists crowding the sidewalks.

Bread & Broth, Portland, Oregon

Bread & Broth is a food cart in the immensely popular pod at 9th & Washington, downtown. Find these sandwich-making dudes on Twitter and Facebook.

Have you eaten at Bread & Broth? Which sandwich/soup combo is your favorite?

Local Choice Market

Local Choice Market, NW Portland, Oregon

I decided it was finally time to take Eric to Madrid. I studied abroad there — and he’d patiently take my calls at all hours because of the time difference — but he’d never walked the streets I loved, tasted the tapas, drank the wine and strolled through the Puerta del Sol.

For a week, we wandered. I walked him past the apartment I lived in, the school I attended and the spots where I used to meet my friends for dinner and drinks. And then, once the trip down memory lane concluded, we went off in a new direction, looking for a spot we could call our own. We found it in Chueca — a large, four-story gourmet grocery store with a restaurant on the top floor. We walked past fresher-than-fresh seafood onto an entire floor lined with small stalls. One sold hamburgers, another traditional tapas. Twice we ate dinner there, relishing the food, the view and the experience.

Local Choice Market, NW Portland, Oregon

I hadn’t seen anything quite like this grocery store in Portland until I happened on Local Choice Market. They offer seasonal veggies and high-quality meats, then have a special area for wines and beer (pull up a stool and taste something!) a deli section and an area with an espresso bar and fresh-squeezed juice selections. Pull up a chair and make some new Portland memories.

Local Choice Market, NW Portland, Oregon

Local Choice Market is located at 830 NW Everett St. in Portland’s Pearl District. Do your shopping, or stop in for a juice, lunch, coffee or wine tasting. Follow their blog for more.