A Foodie Guide to Portland, as Told by a Local

The gourmand and hiking guru shares his recommendations for experiencing Oregon.

Portland foodie and adventurer Adam Sawyer has written for Eater and is a professional guide who gives Oregon-based culinary, cultural and adventure tours. He's also written guidebooks to hiking Oregon's waterfalls and about Oregon's best dog hikes. His latest book, "Unique Eats & Eateries: Portland" comes out in Spring 2018.

Sawyer spoke to Wheretraveler.com about his favorite eateries, waterfalls, hikes and day trips from Portland. 

How would you best characterize the dining scene in Portland?

Very eclectic. With regards to style, genre, ethnicity, it’s hard to think of something that isn’t represented here. The overriding theme is Northwest-influenced farm to table. The Willamette Valley—where Portland is located—is arguably the nation's premier growing region. Throw in the fact that the Pacific Ocean is an hour and a half away and you have the perfect storm for a cuisine scene.

Portland, Oregon

How is Portland's food truck scene different from other cities in the U.S.?

As far as I know, Portland is the only U.S. city with a cart culture as opposed to a truck culture. The carts are able to congregate into pods. While they legally have to be mobile, they don’t have to move as long as they pay rent at the pod they’re in. So, you get collections of carts that cater to the needs and tastes of each neighborhood.

Because the pods don’t move, they often become the soul of a community—the place for friends and families to have dinner, socialize, even grab a few craft beers from a beer cart. They're more than dining options, they're social hubs.

What is best dog-friendly restaurant in Portland?

The Tin Shed. Not only is their food excellent, but they have a dog menu as well, which includes doggie dessert. I may or may not have first-hand knowledge that it’s delicious.

Best place for a rainy-day meal?

I love the Horse Brass. It’s a proper English-style pub complete with steak and kidney pie, tall beer pours and drunk soccer fans.

What’s up-and-coming on the dining scene in Portland? 

Izakaya—Japanese pub grub—places seem to be making a charge, as well as barbecue of all sorts. 

Portland, Oregon

What do you think would surprise people about Portland’s dining scene?

Probably two things: For starters, how casual it is. With few exceptions, you can eat at the nicest restaurants in Portland in a pair of jeans, hiking boots and a short sleeve shirt with a collar. It’s like the Northwest version of eating in the Florida Keys. Secondly, how good the food is at bars and brewpubs. 

If you could eat only one Portland meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

The chorizo con papas breakfast burrito from King Burrito. But ask me seven different days and you’ll likely get at least five different answers.

What are the musts for visitors to Portland? 

The Saturday Market, the PSU Farmers Market, Forest Park (take the Lower Macleay Trailhead up to Pittock Mansion and back), Powell’s City of Books, 10th and Alder food cart pod and the McMenamins Kennedy School.


Adam Sawyer at coffee shop

What are your favorite day trips from Portland?

The Columbia River Gorge and the Coast.

Favorite waterfalls in Oregon?

Abiqua Falls inspired me to quit my job and explore the outdoors. It’s on the cover of my book, “Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon.” And Latourell Falls has a 224-foot plunge, neon-green lichen and perfect columnar basalt. She thunders elegantly, if you can imagine such a thing.

What is your favorite hike for a novice in Oregon? Your favorite for a seasoned hiker?

Sweet Creek Falls for the novice. It’s short, with numerous waterfalls and old-growth forest. For the more advanced hiker, Ice Lake in the Wallowa Mountains. The “Alps of Oregon” are home to imposing granite peaks, alpine lakes, meadows and of course, waterfalls.

Wallowas in Eastern Oregon

What’s one place in Oregon that keeps drawing you back?

Speaking of the Wallowas, Eastern Oregon. On the other side of the Cascade Mountains things get a lot drier, but are just as jaw-droppingly beautiful. And compared to the Portland area, there’s almost nobody out there.

What’s at the top of your travel bucket list?

There’s a few. But for the outdoors, I’d really like to get to Iceland. Or New Zealand. Or the Philippines.

What’s the one thing you always have with you when you travel?

A small bottle of cheap whiskey. Code of the road.

Hiking in Oregon

What’s your spirit city?

Without making a composite city, it’s probably some place I haven’t been to yet. But Portland is pretty close. 

Your spirit activity?

Hiking. It’s the best thing in the world for the mind, body and soul. 

Jennifer McKee
About the author

Jennifer is the Managing Editor of Morris Visitor Publications, where she has worked since 2005. She grew up in small...