Travel Eats: Portland coffee, donuts, and other indulgences

This is part of a series of posts about my vacation to Portland, Oregon, in late February 2013.

Latte at Sterling Coffee Roasters
Latte at Sterling Coffee Roasters

As is probably evident, my roommate/travel partner and I did a lot of research on the Portland food and drinks scene in preparation for our trip. Among the themes that quickly emerged: coffee and donuts, plus other artisanal sweets and breakfast items. With a little planning, we managed to hit most of the major places on our list. I knew we’d cover the classics – I’d heard about Voodoo Doughnut for years, and Stumptown is a well-known roaster whose brews I love when I can get them here in Chicago. But I didn’t expect another donut shop (Blue Star) to win me over with its brioche-like dough and bold-flavored glazes, or to taste such an outstanding bagel-and-cream-cheese combination at Bowery Bagels that I thought it could only exist in Sriracha-spiked dreams, or to have the best French macarons either of us had ever tasted at Ken’s. And as someone who loves spending time in coffee shops, I was thrilled by Stumptown’s wall of magazines to go with its impeccable cups (I paged through Barista and Imbibe) and the vastly different but equally enjoyable atmospheres at Extracto and Sterling. I could go on, but just see for yourself in the photos below.

Oreo-peanut butter doughnut and apple fritter, Voodoo Doughnut
Oreo-peanut butter “ODB” doughnut and apple fritter, Voodoo Doughnut
Blueberry-bourbon-basil donut (and dulce de leche-hazelnut donut, not pictured), Blue Star Donuts
Blueberry-bourbon-basil donut (and dulce de leche-hazelnut donut, not pictured), Blue Star Donuts
Thai chili peanut bagel with lemongrass cream cheese, Bowery Bagels
Thai chili peanut bagel with lemongrass cream cheese, Bowery Bagels
Biscuit with pimento cheese, Pine State Biscuts
Biscuit with pimento cheese, Pine State Biscuts
Almond brittle with salted ganache and Happy Birthday Elvis with malted banana, peanut butter, and marionberry jam, Salt & Straw
Almond brittle with salted ganache and Happy Birthday Elvis with malted banana, peanut butter, and marionberry jam, Salt & Straw
Macarons in chocolate-mint, orange-ginger-chevre, and salted caramel-coffee, Ken's Artisan Bakery
Macarons in chocolate-mint, orange-ginger-chevre, and salted caramel-coffee, Ken’s Artisan Bakery
Chai latte, Extracto Coffeehouse & Roastery
Chai latte, Extracto Coffeehouse & Roastery
Cappuccino, Stumptown Coffee
Cappuccino, Stumptown Coffee

The details: Voodoo Doughnut, 22 SW 3rd Ave.; Blue Star Donuts, 1237 SW Washington St.; Bowery Bagels, 310 NW Broadway; Pine State Biscuits, 2204 NE Alberta St.; Salt & Straw, 2035 NE Alberta St.; Ken’s Artisan Bakery, 338 NW 21st Ave.; Stumptown Coffee, 128 SW 3rd Ave. and 1026 SW Stark St.; Extracto Coffeehouse & Roastery, 2921 NE Killingsworth St.; Sterling Coffee Roasters, 417 NW 21st Ave.

This week’s Best Bite: The Kedzie breakfast, Grandma J’s Local Kitchen

The Kedzie, Grandma J's Local Kitchen
The Kedzie, Grandma J’s Local Kitchen

Why it’s this week’s Best Bite: I was overjoyed by this unique take on eggs benedict on a recent weekday morning. The poached eggs sit atop cheddar jasmine rice cakes, crispy on the outside and cheesy on the inside, with hollandaise, pico de gallo, and black beans to tie it together. Large pieces of grilled pineapple and red pepper also make a statement as garnishes, joined by a pleasant arugula salad. It’s filling and a little exotic, meant to be enjoyed with coffee and a good read (in my case, the never-ending quest to catch up on magazines).

Sunny interior, Grandma J's Local Kitchen
Sunny interior, Grandma J’s Local Kitchen

Walking into Grandma J’s is like stepping into someone’s living room, mismatched furniture and all. Bold art, antique photos, and knick-knacks huddle under the colorful fabric panels that adorn the ceiling, and an armoire surrounded by wall-mounted clocks holds an array of hot sauces, a gentle reminder that it’s still a restaurant. The service is casual and friendly, and the open kitchen makes it feel like you’re pulling up a stool to watch Grandma cook (if Grandma was younger, with hipster sensibilities). It’s tucked away in Humboldt Park, a block from my old apartment – I so wish it had opened while I still lived there, as it would have been a dream to have brunch like this within walking distance. If you go, make sure to also stop for a treat at 100-year-old Roeser’s Bakery, just across North Avenue.

Mason jars and cozy details, Grandma J's Local Kitchen
Mason jars and cozy details, Grandma J’s Local Kitchen

The details: Grandma J’s Local Kitchen, 1552 N Kedzie Ave., Chicago.

Travel Eats: A weekend in Minnesota

Travel Eats documents my food adventures outside of Chicago.

Turkey and artichoke grilled cheese, Marigold Kitchen
Turkey and artichoke grilled cheese, Marigold Kitchen

Before heading full-speed into Restaurant Week, I wanted to share a few more photos from my vacation earlier this month. From a sandwich that stole my heart when we stopped for lunch in Madison (see above), to more of my favorite bites and sips from Saffron in downtown Minneapolis (see also: this tagine); and from a hearty Northwoods breakfast to convenience-store-assembled dessert by the fire, there was a little bit of everything. Definitely a cold but successful getaway!

Saffron Rose cocktail, Saffron
Saffron Rose cocktail – gin, saffron, orange blossom water, and sparkling rosé
Turk hummus with caramelized paprika butter and za'atar, Saffron
Turk hummus with caramelized paprika butter and za’atar, Saffron
Salted caramel trifle, Saffron
Salted caramel trifle, Saffron
"Chocolate four ways" – low-brow dessert at its finest
“Chocolate four ways” in the condo – pop-tarts, puppy chow, cookie, and hot chocolate, a.k.a low-brow dessert at its finest
Breakfast, The 502 at Chase on the Lake
Northwoods breakfast with cheese sauce on top of scrambled eggs on top of hashbrowns, The 502 at Chase on the Lake

What have you eaten during recent travels?