Tagged Wander Magazine

Best Restaurants in Portland – We check out PDX restaurants with serious Instagram fame

Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez

Lately, my trips have been centered around food, with just a sprinkling of history and city tours. When I traveled before, I’d always search out the best shopping districts, find a cute little pastry shop, and manage to sneak in a massage or a manicure with my travel mates. But these days, it’s all about the food and booze.

When I started planning this trip, the top priority was to seek out and eat at the best restaurants in Portland. I researched on my own, got some tips from friends and screened through pages of Yelp. But this might be the first time that I leveraged Instagram to lead the way.

After just minutes of going down an Instagram black hole, I came across dozens of restaurants that looked absolutely amazing. From waffles and pastries to French food and famous chicken wings, I was salivating and bookmarking everything. And honestly, what better platform to go hunting for food in foreign territory than with Instagram?

Here are some of the restaurants I found using my favorite PDX food hashtags and some other gems we found along the way.

Instagram-Famous Joints You Need to Check Out

Pok Pok

People freak out over Pok Pok and its creative Northern Thai street food fare. I HAD to go to their original location on SE Division St. and try their fish-sauce wings for myself. I was told a number of times to go for lunch as the line can be much more manageable. The second that I step foot inside Pok Pok, I immediately felt like I was back at the food stalls in Jakarta and Bali. Servers are super enthusiastic about all of the menu items and specials and the casual, outdoor vibe might be just what you need after a long day of exploring.

The dishes at Pok Pok Portland are meant to be shared so either come incredibly hungry or with your food adventurous friends. Between the three of us, we ordered a little something of everything.

Pok Pok chicken wings
Always order the wings at Pok Pok.

You MUST order Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings. These wings are marinated in fish sauce and sugar before being deep friend and tossed in a caramelized fish sauce and garlic sauce. Great on their own or with a side of coconut rice, these wings are definitely a standout.

We also ordered the Kung Op Wun Sen, a noodle dish with gulf prawns and pork belly baked with soy, ginger, black pepper and other Thai ingredients. The Neua Naam Tok was another favorite. This flank steak “salad” is served up with a bunch of fish sauce, lime, chili powder, cilantro, lemongrass and toasted rice powder. The grilled fiddlehead special of the day was amazing and off the menu. Make sure to ask about the specials of the day as Pok Pok focuses on seasonal dishes whenever possible.

Pine State Biscuits

For whatever reason, soul food is a major player in the Portland food scene. You’ll find chicken and waffles, biscuits and gravy and meat and three specialties all across the city. If you have a long day ahead of you and need a serious start to your morning, you must try Pine State Biscuits.

This locally famous joint has four locations across the area and will likely have a line outside the door whenever you go. Trust me when I say this place is worth the wait. Stop by for breakfast or lunch and you’ll be in awe of the biscuits piled high with bacon or fried chicken and a healthy serving of gravy.

Reggie Deluxe from Pine State Biscuits
The Reggie Deluxe…I can’t even.

The Reggie Deluxe seems to be everyone’s favorite with fried chicken, bacon, cheese, egg and gravy. Adventurous diners will love the Pine State Fried Club, a trio of fried grit cakes each topped with a slab of fried chicken drizzled with spiced honey, pimento cheese, country ham and white cheddar. Check the specials board whenever you arrive and you might find some fancy waffles or homemade pop tarts.

Lardo

Lardo's Pork Meatball Bahn Mi
Lardo’s Pork Meatball Bahn Mi. OMG.

Nothing makes me happier than a well-executed, no frills, locally-inspired sandwich place. I found out about Lardo during one of my late night Instagram black hole benders and I’m so happy I did. If you don’t order something porky at Lardo, you’ll still find something on the menu to dream about weeks after you leave PDX. The restaurant’s showstopper is the Pork Meatball Banh Mi and it’s f*cking unbelievable. Giant pork meatballs are stacked with pickled vegetables, cilantro, cucumber and sriracha mayo on a fresh baguette.

I had to show some form of restraint and ordered the Lardo Fries which were tossed with fried herbs and parmesan. But the heathen in me was definitely eyeing everyone else’s Dirty Fries, which are topped with pork scraps (!!!) and marinated peppers. Once again, this place is great to go to with friends so order some beers and snag bites from each other’s sandwiches, while you sit outside and watch all of the kooks walk and bike by.

Voodoo Doughnuts vs. Blue Star Donuts

These guys need very minimal introduction. One is known for its colorful and quirky, available-at-all-times-of-day, donuts and the other takes an artisanal and seasonal approach to its flavors.

We stopped by Voodoo Doughnut super late at night and had our pick of freshly fried doughnuts. (Go for the Portland Cream doughnut!) This place is a hot tourist destination so don’t get trapped in a humongous line at peak times.

Blue Star Donuts
Just a small sampling of flavors at Blue Star Donuts.

Blue Star Donuts uses local and seasonal ingredients in their brioche-based donuts. I brought home all kinds of flavors ranging from Blueberry Bourbon Basil to Lemon Poppy Seed. It’s nearly impossible to buy just one of these bad boys unless you give zero f*cks about your waistline.

Salt & Straw

I’m pretty sure Portlanders, Portlandia-folk?, have made it their goal to keep the secret that Portland actually gets really amazing weather in spring and early summer. We visited in March and it must have been 75 degrees outside. So it’s no surprise that fancy ice cream is a thing in PDX and that there was a huge line nearly every hour and day at Salt & Straw.

Salt and Straw's ice cream flight
Salt and Straw’s ice cream flight

In proper form of a sweet tooth addict, we went for an ice cream flight so we could try a little bit of everything. The Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper flavors was one of my faves, as well as the Honey Lavender and Pear & Blue Cheese. It’s pretty easy to see that Salt & Straw is known for its unconventional flavors. Make sure you ask about all of their seasonal flavors as they are plentiful.

Amazing Portland Restaurants and Eateries We Found Along the Way

Huber’s Café

Huber's Cafe Portland
Coffee and a show at Huber’s Cafe

I was directed by a number of friends and strangers that a Spanish Coffee at Huber’s Café is a must. The place is cozy and intimate, but you can also belly up the bar at chat it up with bartenders, locals and passersby.

Don’t ask any questions; just go directly to Huber’s at any time of day or night. These things are seriously strong so you’ve been warned.

Bollywood Theater

We stumbled on Bollywood Theater after killing sometime in the Alberta Arts District and I’m so glad we did. The appeal behind Bollywood Theater is the fact that Bollywood videos are projected on the restaurant’s beautiful wooden walls and that everything is served on authentic Indian dishes and cups. But the street food dishes and small plates are what really lures people in and to visit again.

The Kati Roll at the beautifully designed Bollywood Theate
The Kati Roll at the beautifully designed Bollywood Theater.

The Kati Roll was such a good afternoon snack. Inspired by Indian street food stalls, the Kati Roll is a piece of flatbread with egg, your choice of meat, pickled onion and green chutney. The Lamb Samosas were another favorite and were filled with lamb, spiced potatoes, mint, onion, ginger and peas. Do yourself a favor and order an extra side of Tomato Raisin Chutney; you’re going to love it.

The Screen Door

If you’re looking for down-home Southern food in a hip atmosphere, The Screen Door is where you need to be. I heard about this place a while ago, looked for  their social media presence, and found out that these guys seems to be doing it old school via word-of-mouth marketing. The restaurant is nestled on a quaint part of East Burnside, but rest assured that the crazy lines will lead you the way to their front door.

You’ll find a little of everything on the menu. People seemed to love the Fried Chicken and Waffle stack and Po’Boys. We ordered essentially everything. but you MUST order a side of the Screen Door Praline Bacon, which is coated with pecans and cayenne brown sugar. I seriously could have just eaten that for breakfast. We ordered items like Shrimp & Grits, Huevos Rancheros and Eggs Benedict and they were all amazing. The brunch cocktails here are money so when in doubt, order a couple rounds of The Ramos Gin Fizz. Who knew gin, cream, egg whites, citrus and orange flower water could be so delicious?

When You Want to Try it All in a Single Day

My man and I had the absolute pleasure of going on the Best of Portland Food Tour with Eat Adventures Food Tours. Co-owner Angie Johnson graciously allowed us to join a trip and she somehow managed to show us a glimpse of nearly every type of PDX cuisine in a single afternoon. This tour is perfect if you’re not in town too long but still want a slice of everything.

You might think that Portland is just about their food carts and craft breweries, but there are so many things happening in between. In a matter of just three hours, we visited five different spots. Our marathon of eating and drinking began with appetizers at Southpark Seafood as we got to nibble on a board of house-made smoked fish, crackers and mortadella.

Enso Urban Winery Portland
Enso is absolutely adorable outside and is a perfect spot for wine tasting.

Other stops along the way included Ecliptic Brewing for some locally-made brews and delicious bar bites; an urban winery called Enso for AMAZING Rosé and some of the best bread and olive oil I’ve ever nibbled on; the Hapa PDX Ramen food cart on SE Division, which is also home to a handful of other adorable and delicious carts; and Ruby Jewel for some delicious ice cream sandwiches.

Hapa Ramen in Portland
Hapa Ramen in Portland
Ecliptic Brewery bites
Portland Breweries are plentiful and offer some amazing, non-conventional bar snacks. Order a few things from Ecliptic and you’ll be set.

The Best of Portland Food Tour is a fantastic way to learn about the history of Portland and how chefs and food trends have shaped the area to what it is today. Take this trip at the beginning of your stay as you’ll travel through several different parts of Portland with Eat Adventures. If you want to eat off of the beaten path and be among locals, book a tour with these guys immediately. You’ll be in good hands and with good company and Angie will definitely take care of you and your appetite.

 

 

 

Rad hotels in Portland — Take a peek at my favorites

Written by Nadia Ibanez

Portland is one of those cities that I’ve been so eager to learn more about, especially since it’s only two hours away by plane. From what I’ve seen on that silly Portlandia show, to all of the amazing shots coming from the #eatPDX Instagram feed, Portland has been on my mind for months. I finally got the chance to explore the city and made it my job to eat everything in sight and stay at the coolest spots. If you’re planning a trip to PDX, I highly suggest you check out my guide to some of coolest hotels in Portland.

Before you even start planning all of your meals or make reservations at all of the restaurants you’ve been salivating over, lock down your hotel reservations. There are pockets of trendy restaurants, food carts, arts districts and shopping scattered all across the city of Portland so find a hotel in the middle of everything you want to see.

For a hip, party vibe with a dash of live music

Jupiter Hotel
This place is SO Instagram worthy. Photo courtesy of the Jupiter Hotel.

The Jupiter Hotel is located on the Eastside of PDX, walking distance from amazing restaurants, shopping, strip clubs, coffee shops and so much more. The Jupiter offers everything that I could want from a boutique hotels in Portland: Locals working the front desk who can give you the inside scoop on restaurant and entertainment recommendations; quirky decor in all of the rooms, a super rad music venue next door, and a perfect location.

And not to mention their extremely affordable rates. If you’re partying in the area and need a place to stay, available rooms are only $99 if you try and book after midnight.

Centrally located on East Burnside Ave., the Jupiter is a party in itself. You can stay at the Jupiter and within the blocks around the property and have the best time ever. From breweries, highly acclaimed restaurants, strip clubs and everything in between, I guarantee you’ll find a way to occupy yourself.

Jupiter Hotel condoms
Props to the Jupiter Hotel for thinking of everything…

During our stay, an art show featuring local artists was held in the lobby while live music played nearly every night at the neighboring Doug Fir Lounge. Rooms are spacious, uniquely decorated and you can even personalize your space with the chalkboard-painted door. Cheeky additions to the nightstand include ear plugs and condoms (because rumor has it that the Jupiter is where, let’s stay, the sex positive come and play).

If you’re looking for a super quiet place to rest your head while traveling through PDX, this might not be your best choice. Although, ask the front desk for a “chill” room when you book as these books are slightly away from the hotel lobby and bar hi jinx. But when you’re in Portland for the weekend, who has time to sleep anyway?

For a beautiful place to treat yourself and your honey

I absolutely love all of the Kimpton Hotel properties I’ve ever stayed at or visited. They’re always beautifully designed yet somehow have their own distinct styles. There are three Kimpton properties in Portland and we had the absolute pleasure of spending an evening at Hotel Vintage in downtown Portland.

If you’re looking for a hotel in Portland with spacious and luxurious guestrooms, a full bar, game room, a nightly hosted wine hour, live music, bike rentals, and restaurant, the Hotel Vintage is your one-stop shop. We checked in on a Saturday afternoon and missed the hosted wine hour by a hair. The front desk graciously gave us drink tickets to use at the bar, so keep this in mind if you’re planning on a late check in.

Hotel Vintage PDX
Stick around the lobby at the Hotel Vintage in downtown Portland for a hosted wine hour and live music on the weekends.

If we didn’t have dinner reservations, I’m fairly certain we would have spent our entire night at the hotel. Live music was playing from the lobby bar from 6-8 p.m., guests were tapping into their inner child at  the game room, and the entire hotel was bustling with energy. Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, this spot is such a fun place to check out.

Our room was AMAZING. Make sure you sign up for the Kimpton rewards program, Karma, for some extra perks. Our King Suite was enormous and was so warm and cozy that we had some serious problems leaving our room. We could have seriously hosted our own party with the amount of square footage in our suite.

Hotel Vintage Portland lobby
You might just find that you’ll check into Hotel Vintage Portland and then never actually leave the property. There’s so much fun to be discovered here. Photo courtesy of Hotel Vintage.

If you do find yourself leaving the bed, spend some time at the hotel bar, Bacchus Bar. Our bartender poured us some stiff drinks and he proudly took our drink vouchers from earlier. If you get hungry, the hotel’s Pazzo Ristorante will satisfy your pasta and pizza needs.

There are some great bars and restaurants that are walking distance from the Vintage, not to mention Mary’s and Voodoo Doughnut. Once you get your fair share of vices and sin, Hotel Vintage will be a wonderful refuge.

For a history lesson in Portland rock and roll

Portland is no stranger to great musicians and music venues and the Crystal Hotel perfectly glorifies rock and roll from generations before us and today. The McMenamin brothers, Mike and Brian, started their business in the brewing industry before trying their hands at transforming historic buildings into amazing hotels. The Crystal Hotel, located across the street from the legendary Crystal Ballroom, is in a rad flatiron building with 51 guestrooms inspired by previous bands who’ve played at the Ballroom.

DSC_2168
If these walls could talk…at McMenamins Crystal Hotel in Downtown Portland.

We stayed in the Flogging Molly room, which was beautifully decorated in their music lyrics, but if you’re lucky, you’ll score a night in the Grateful Dead or Marvin Gaye rooms. There’s a bit of a hip hostel vibe here and most rooms share communal bathrooms on each floor so keep this in mind while you’re looking for hotels in Portland.

Crystal Hotel pool
Grab a robe from your closet and bring a local brew down to the underground soaking pool at the Crystal Hotel.

The Crystal Hotel is definitely something you need to see in person. They’ve got all kinds of amenities like their own restaurant, Zeus Cafe; their own line of coffee, which is brewed every morning; a rad below ground bar and music venue called Al’s Den; and an underground, saltwater soaking pool. (Say what?! Don’t forget your bathing suits!)

If you’re looking for a totally off-the-grid place to rest your head while you’re visiting, you have to check this place out. And if you find out that you absolutely love this place, ask about the McMenamins Passport where you’ll be awarded handsomely for visiting all of the McMenamins properties and pubs.

There’s seriously something for everything when it comes to looking for hotels in Portland. Whether you’re looking for a luxe place to lavish with your babe, a trendy place in the middle of everything, or a property with a cool story, Portland has got it all.

See the sights of San Francisco with GoCar Tours

GoCar SF Golden Gate Bridge

Written by Nadia Ibanez, photos by Michael A. 

I’m sure you’re sick of hearing it: I don’t do touristy things. But when you have friends or family in town for the first time, or if you’re helping someone knock things off their SF bucket list, sometimes you gotta give in. Case in point: My friends and I wanted to see SF not by foot or by car. But by GoCar.

Let’s face it. You can walk miles in SF and not realize it. Unless you’re walking uphill, then that sh*t hurts. Parking and driving in the city without getting stressed out by the car and foot traffic? Yeah, that’s a joke too. So the next best alternative is GoCar. I guarantee you’ve seen these yellow, three-wheelers buzzin’ around in San Francisco and San Diego. But don’t be fooled. These little guys have some power and you can zoom around the City better and more efficiently than by foot or full-sized car.

We magically scheduled our rental on a sunny SF Sunday, got some instruction on how to maneuver around, checked out a couple of paths we could take, and were on our way. I’ve gotta say that I was completely shocked as to how fast the cars went and how much fun these things could be.

GoCar SF
You can go almost everywhere in these little things.

We started our ride in Fisherman’s Wharf, rode to Chrissy Field, went to the beach, through Golden Gate Park and everywhere in between. If you stay on the pre-determined route, you’ll hear a really cool history of SF from the speakers within the car. The tour is self-paced so even if you decide to make a pit stop or get off the route, the GPS will pick up again once you get back on the trail.

chrissy field view
We found some awesome view points while on the GoCar Tours route.

Some of the best parts of the day were zooming down Lombard, up to Coit Tower and around Alamo Square. Although they were highly touristed areas, you’d be surprised as to how much stuff you can pack in a single day.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Unless you’re planning on just driving these cars around, I’d book these GoCars for a few hours. It’s hard to see everything with just a one-hour rental. Splurge a little and rent the cars for a few hours.
  • If you plan on having these cars into the late afternoon. Make sure to bring plenty of layers because it gets chilly. I suggest a hoodie, scarf, light throw blanket, sunglasses and gloves.
  • Bring a group of friends along when you go on these tours. Each car seats two people and I guarantee you’ll have a ton of fun with more people in your group.

If you’re looking for an alternative way to show some out-of-towners the City, or if you’ve lived here awhile but want to see SF in a whole new light, GoCar Tours is how you should do it. For more information, visit www.gocartours.com.

 

 

 

 

Who’s going to Lightning in a Bottle 2016?!

Written by Nadia Ibanez, Photos courtesy of Lightning in a Bottle

I should have a section on Wander for “Wishful Thinking” posts. It happens just about every week where I’m sitting at my 9-5 job and get a crazy inclination to check out a cool new art show, concert venue, totally crazy event, or new hotel — you name it, I’ve done it. Or, at least I’ve planned to go to something and then plans/universe turned me in a different direction. A couple years ago, I made the intention to check out Lightning in a Bottle at some point in my 20s/30s. And if you know me, you know this event is 1000% Nadia friendly.

Over Memorial Day weekend, thousands and thousands of people convene for a six-day festival of amazing music, yoga, live art installations, a meditation temple, cooking classes and demos, booze, and environmental consciousness in the form of food, vendors and much more. Essentially, people going to LIB are seeking full immersion in a culture that embraces community, self-awareness, the healing benefits of music and yoga, and the act of befriending strangers with common interests.

This year, Lightning in a Bottle will return to the San Antonio Recreation Center in Bradley, CA. Music headliners include some of my favorite artists like Chet Faker, Grimes and Jaime XX and a boatload of other DJs and musicians. While some people are going for the dance and EDM scene, I think I’m more excited about the yoga and meditation aspect, along with spending a couple days out in the wilderness and under the stars. For a hippie, festie girl, this would be a dream come true. Now it’s just a matter of finding a squad to join me.

For more information, check out lightninginabottle.org or check out the 2015 video below. Hope to see you there!

 

Caputo is the brand new rustic Italian eatery you HAVE to check out

Caputo SF front door
Caputo is the Embarcadero’s newest restaurant.

Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez

San Francisco’s waterfront neighborhood, aka the Embarcadero, is some prime real estate for luxury apartments, AT&T park, tech companies and so much more. The locale recently welcomed its newest restaurant to the ‘hood and I had the absolute pleasure of checking out the new digs at Caputo.

If you’re in the mood for rustic, tratoria-style Italian food, Caputo is definitely a place to check out. Opened in October 2015, the beautiful restaurant boasts an open kitchen and a welcoming, wood patina bar and dining room. Caputo, which took over The Slanted Door’s previous space, is helmed by Executive Chef and partner Sam Ramadan and managing partner Shah Bahrenyi.

Caputo_SF_kitchenWhen we visited, we had the pleasure of watching Chef Ramandan and Chef de Cuisine, Carrie Anne Lopez, conjure up their delicious dishes together. When you visit for dinner, I definitely suggest taking a seat near the kitchen to watch all of the magic unfold.

Caputo's beautiful bar.
Caputo’s beautiful bar.

Per usual, we started our meals with a couple cocktails. (A girl’s gotta be able to recommend a good cocktail, amiright?!) The booze list is plentiful. You’ve got your pick from California-centric wines, local micro brews and a bounty of fresh cocktail concoctions. If you need to kill time before a baseball game or whatnot, you definitely need to check out this stunner of a bar that overlooks the Bay.

We started our night off with a few super bright and light cocktails. Go for the Caputo Bellini or a Cucumber Collins. Or try my favorite of the night, the Corpse Reviver #2, a mix of #209 Gin (distilled at nearby Pier 50), lemon juice, St. George Absinthe, and Kina L’Aero d’Or aperitif. So good.

Caputo's massive meatballs
Caputo’s massive meatballs
Caputo_SF_burrata
Fluffy, creamy and savory. Try Caputo’s Burrata with oven-roasted mushrooms and honey.

For starters, I suggest the Meatballs Al Forno and the Burrata. The smokiness and richness of the meatballs and San Marzano marinara pair perfectly with the creaminess of the burrata, served with oven-roasted mushrooms, hazelnuts and honey. Other small plates on the menu include a Salumi Board, salads, yellowfin crudo and Pecorino Flan, which sounds heavenly to the fat kid in me.

Caputo_SF_raviolo
Caputo’s Raviolo is filled with ricotta and a farm egg. OMG.
Caputo's Squid Ink Spaghetti with rock shrimp
Caputo’s Squid Ink Spaghetti with rock shrimp

Everyone around us was ordering various types of Caputo’s woodfired Neopolitan-style pizzas. Oh, and I’m definitely coming back to taste the Whole Mediterranean Branzino grilled over almond wood. But alas, we played the pasta card and ordered a Squid Ink Spaghetti alla Chitara, served with Rock Shrimp, and the Raviolo, one beautifully plump ricotta-filled and farm egg hunk of pasta in a shallow pool of truffle butter and grana padano sage butter. Come to Caputo hungry and with friends because I’ll guarantee you’ll want to try a bit of everything from the menu.

Caputo's Butterscotch Budino
Save room for dessert.

If you save room for dessert, Caputo offers a hefty list of dessert wines, port, cognac. scotch and coffee to accompany your sweet tooth. We opted for the Butterscotch Budino, a velvety butterscotch pudding of sorts topped with sea salt caramel and an almond biscotti crunch. The Valrhona Chocolate Terrine and the Rosemary Polenta Cake was calling our names but we ate entirely too much.

For cocktails, wine, pizza and pasta, check out Caputo before everyone else discovers how great it is. For more information, visit hwww.caputosf.com.