Whether it's award-winning farm-to-table restaurants, cute coffee shops or a vibrant street-food scene, the city of Portland, Oregon has all its bases covered when it comes to food and drink, and there's no doubt it should make it on to every food-lover's must-visit list. And, speaking to Gregory Gourdet, who heads up Portland's revered Departure restaurant, it's not hard to see why.
"One of the biggest things to understand about Portland is just how close the community is with the farming community. Because of the weather, we're able to grow food 12 months a year. It's this wonderful cycle of all these amazing things being grown, and that turns into all these amazing things being cooked."
Gourdet namechecks everything from berries to hazelnuts and salt as home-grown products to look out for in Portland. It's enough to whet the appetite. But with such a long list of what to eat and where to go, it can be hard to know what to choose. We ask Gourdet for his top tips for a food-filled trip to Portland, Oregon.
The best neighbourhoods for food and drink in Portland, Oregon
Downtown is a great neighbourhood to feel the hustle and bustle of the city, although it's pretty small so you can walk the whole area. It's the place to hit a lot of the bigger city restaurants that offer full dining – there's lot of hotel dining as well, but these hotels are doing really great things with food. My restaurant Departure is in that area; we see a lot of different guests, from travellers to the local community.
Then I really like two other neighbourhoods, northeast and southeast Portland. They have the strongest sense of community and neighbourhood in the traditional sense – there are a lot of homes there and they feel quite quaint.
Southeast is the younger, edgier area, with a lot of younger people starting their businesses there, while northeast was historically an African-American neighbourhood.
There are definitely a lot of iconic concepts in southeast Portland. There's Salt & Straw, which is a very important ice cream company for us. It's now a national brand with a branch in southeast Portland, but they started out with an ice cream cart in the northeast area.
Pok Pok is one of the leading Thai restaurants in America and its original location is in southeast. The chef started as a little grill cart in front of the house that's currently the restaurant, and the restaurant is in a converted house that's been there for many years.
Because of Portland's weather, there's this amazing cycle of things being grown and that turns into amazing things being cooked
Then Ava Gene's is a great Italian restaurant. The chef, Joshua McFadden, used to be a farmer on the east coast. He just wrote an amazing book called the Six Seasons of Vegetables, which showcases his thoughtful approach to Italian cuisine with a strong focus on vegetables.
Then in northeast there's a restaurant named Ox, which is run by a couple, Greg and Gabi Denton. It's an Argentine-inspired restaurant where everything is cooked over an open flame. It gets really hot in there! But it's worth it for really beautiful cuts of meat and seasonal seafood cooked over an open fire, and vegetables with a lot of depth and body.
The best restaurants in Portland
One of my favourites is Navarre, a European-inspired restaurant concept with really beautiful food. You order everything à la carte and it's all shared. It's really tiny and delightful. From eggs to duck confit with cherries, it has lots of classic European flavours. I think it's definitely one of Portland's best-kept secrets.
There isn't much high-end in Portland, if any. Castagna has a modern tasting menu format, where the chef does about 12 dishes. That's probably the most structured fine-dining restaurant we have.
The best places for street food in Portland
We're one of the premier cities in America for food-cart culture. We have pods of food carts, little communities where they're all parked together. At the moment in Portland we're seeing a lot of these pods losing their space when the land gets turned into developments.
Downtown there's one that I go to that's pretty iconic that's sadly going to be taken down. Some people from it have been able to open restaurants so it's not the end of their business, but for some, it's everything that they have.
Portland Mercado is my favourite cart pod. It's all ethnic cuisine. There's a Haitian cart there, there's a lot of South American and Mexican cuisines. It's not right smack dab in the middle of the city, it's little bit out there, but it's definitely the right place to discover the cuisine of Portland.
The farmers' markets to check out in Portland
We have farmers' markets year round. We have the Portland Farmers' Market at Portland State University 365 days a year. There's one Downtown on Mondays, and there's one on Wednesdays and Saturdays. All the other neighbourhoods further out have their own markets as well. At those markets you can find anything from all the seasonal vegetables, to local honey, chocolate and charcuterie. And restaurants are serving there as well. Lots of operations have carts at the markets, some farms have restaurant concepts so you're able to eat what they grow.
Portland's best rooftop restaurants and bars
I'd have to say Departure. Our restaurant is one the 15th floor of The Nines hotel overlooking downtown with panoramic views, so I definitely think we're a wonderful place to have cocktails. We have two terraces so summer – which falls between May and October in Oregon, with guaranteed sun for the most part – everyone goes nuts because the weather has finally cleared up. There are a lot of terraces in Portland, actually.
Noble Rot has a wonderful wine program and they have a really good rooftop as well. We're the only two rooftops that are open right now.
The best bars in Portland
For a taste of Portland, head to the You Can, In Portland pop-up at the Old Truman Brewery. Find out what's going on at the pop-up here.
Delta's nonstop flight from London Heathrow to Portland International Airport resumes on Friday 4 May. Operating four times a week until Saturday 6 October 2018, Delta offers Wi-Fi access, plus free mobile messaging, in-seat entertainment, complimentary prosecco and more. Fares start from £497, including taxes. delta.com