Pacific Northwest Food

Eating Everything in Portland, Seattle and Vancouver

We interrupt our regularly scheduled recipes to talk about how you need to go to Portland, Seattle and Vancouver and eat everything you can get your hands on.

Last week, we headed north for spring break. I knew there was a Pacific Northwest food scene, but I had no idea that everything we ate would be more delicious than the last.

Also, you will notice that not a single thing was healthy. It was vacation. Don’t judge.


You can smell the sugar from blocks away. The music pounds inside.

You can smell the sugar from blocks away. The music pounds inside.

I think most people have heard of Voodoo Doughnuts, the home of weird flavors, long lines, pink punk decor and hard rock music. The unusual flavor combinations are their hallmark: vanilla glazed with Tang powder; sprinkled with cereals; bacon maple.

And they’re good. They’re just not… great. You could get a donut from Safeway, top it with Froot Loops and get the same effect.

White tile, blue accents, like a large country kitchen.

White tile, blue accents, like a large country kitchen.

The good donuts come from Blue Star. As the guy at Stumptown coffee explained, “Voodoo is a donut factory with a funky vibe. Blue Star is what happens if you give OCD foodies a pristine kitchen to handcraft their treats.” Agreed. They’re pretty, fresh and taste like they might have been made by someone’s grandmother.

Lunches and dinners were much more challenging because there were 100 places we wanted to go, and not nearly enough meals to go around.

We tried to take Neven Mrgan’s PDX food recommendation and hit Tasty’n’Alder, but there was an hour-long wait for a table. Not happening with a hungry 8-year-old in tow. Instead we went around the block to Grassa for amazing, unpretentious Italian food. I’m glad we did.

Later in the trip we returned to Grassa’s sister restaurant, Lardo, which redefines a sandwich shop. My pork banh mi sandwich was delicious, but you really, really need to try the dirty fries: herbs, parmesan, fried pork and zesty pickled peppers make for the fries that you never knew you needed or wanted. I’m not big on fries or meat, yet I can safely say that they are amazing.

We were also treated to a homemade meal of ribs made by my friend’s husband, who just happens to be part of the Taqueria Nueve team in Portland. After dinner, we went to artisan creamery Salt & Straw for delicious cones.

Of course, the rest of our destinations couldn’t live up to that, right?


We split a meat and cheese platter and a porchetta sandwich. I'm still full, a week later.

We split a meat and cheese platter and a porchetta sandwich. I’m still full, a week later.

After years of trying and never being in the city on the few days/hours that they’re open, we finally made it to Salumi. It opens at 11:00 AM, and the line starts forming at 10:30. It’s absolutely worth the wait. It’s a tiny shop with a handful of tables, and is everything that you could possibly want in a cured meat emporium.

The Tap House in downtown Seattle may not be the fanciest meal you’ll eat, but the food is respectable and they have Hacker-Pschorr on tap. I couldn’t have been happier.

Assiagio Ristorante in Seattle is an old world Italian restaurant: white tablecloths, classic dishes. They don’t have a kids menu, but they were more than willing to let The Assistant craft his own half portion of mix-and-match items: gnocchi and bolognese sauce. And he enjoyed that so much that he ate a big helping of my penne alla vodka with prosciutto. Far and away the “fanciest” meal of our trip.


We arrived in Vancouver early in the afternoon and needed a snack and caffeine to hold us over to dinner. Caffe Artigiano fit the bill: espressos and biscotti for the adults, and a cookie for The Assistant.

Gravy, cheese curds and green onions. Whoa.

Gravy, cheese curds and green onions. Whoa.

Can we talk about Canada and the poutine? Why have the Canadians invented something so decadently caloric? I thought this was America’s territory. I know true poutine is a Montreal thing, but I can’t imagine that it’s better than what we had in Vancouver. We even went to Mean Poutine for “dessert” after dinner one evening. Seriously, I may have a poutine addiction.

We absolutely stumbled upon Earl’s Test Kitchen, near the art museum in Vancouver. The Husband had the Peruvian chicken special, which he said was delicious, and I had a fantastic vegetarian Korean bibimap rice bowl to offset all of the poutine.

Nando’s! Nando’s is a London favorite, colloquially known in our family as “that yummy chicken place.” We had no idea that it had made it to Canada. Needless to say, a little peri-peri chicken had to be on the menu.

Other Stops

Happy cows watched us eat.

Happy cows watched us eat.

While driving south from Seattle to Portland, we needed to find a place to eat. The Husband threw out a few suggestions, and The Assistant jumped all over Thai. Roadside Thai? In Lacey, Washington? It was even stranger when we pulled up to the Jasmine Thai storefront, a small shop in an office park off the main road. There was only one other car in the lot, but I’m guessing that this place does most of its business at lunchtime. We had a fantastic meal under the watchful eye of the salt and pepper shakers.

And last but not least, in Bellingham, Washington: After waiting in line at the border for nearly an hour, we were plenty hungry. We drove into downtown Bellingham and wandered around looking for something local to catch our eye. Avenue Bread smelled amazing, and they happily customized an adult-sized sandwich to meet The Assistant’s specifications, a turkey pesto with tomato, no peppers, lettuce or cheese. He was so excited about it that he jumped up and down with joy. Yes, that’s the perfect lunch for The Assistant, and I wish that I could get that excited over pesto.

Overall, it was the best week-long stretch of eating in my entire life. If anyone has any reason for me to go to Portland, Seattle or Vancouver again, just let me know. I’ll be there.

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