Bend's varied and expanding restaurant scene is commendable for the size and age of our little city. Still, it's hard not to look to Portland, whose food scene is setting the standard for Oregon and the nation. This past weekend, I rang in 2011 by spending 48 hours in the Rose City, eating my way through various neighborhoods and cuisines and at the same time proving that it's possible to indulge in our neighboring city's cuisine without going broke. From street carts to champagne bars, here's how I stuffed myself silly on a shoestring budget.
201 South 2nd St., Oregon City
Oregon City, once a booming hub of the West (it was the first incorporated city west of the Rocky Mountains), now lies rather desolate with little more than a massive paper mill on the river as an attraction. Well, that and the Highland Stillhouse. A must for any scotch lover or Anglophile, a meal in the Highland Stillhouse draws from classic British cuisine. The whiskey list includes over 250 varieties organized by region and Scottish, English and regional ales on tap abound. But beware - it's hard not to turn in for the night after a massive plate of fish and chips ($8.25 for a half portion) or the bangers and mash ($10.25).
3131 SE Division St., Portland
From the folks behind what is arguably Portland's best Thai restaurant, Pok Pok, comes Whiskey Soda. More of a small plates and cocktails bar, Whiskey Soda serves aahaan kap klaem, the "drinking food" of Thailand and offers appetizer-sized dishes at affordable prices. Not for the faint of heart and stomach, Whiskey Soda doesn't tone down spices, flavors or ingredients for American palates. We tried the squid salad ($8), Thai chicken wings ($12) and special of pork three ways - jowls, tail and tongue ($10). Everything was spicy, bursting with flavor and perfectly cooked. Although if you're not into gnawing around a pig's tailbone, I'd shy away from the latter dish.
3950 North Mississippi Ave.
Sometimes a long wait at a favorite brunch spot necessitates trying a new option - which is what happened to my party on New Year's Day. Instead of the tried-and-true Gravy, which had a two-hour wait, we decided to hit up Miss Delta, the southern-style eatery across the street. With few diners eating, we were a little apprehensive, but our stomachs demanded grease ASAP. What we got was some great brunch food, my favorite being the breakfast tacos ($7.50) filled with eggs, bacon, cheddar and pico de gallo and served in a fried corn tortilla. The fried cheese grits were like little pillows of love; smoky, crispy and the perfect sponge for the previous night's champagne. Miss Delta also offered a variety of classic southern cocktails as well as supper and dessert.
1012 NW Glisan Street, Portland
The day after a particularly boozy New Year's Eve called for the world's best comfort food, pho. This Vietnamese restaurant, an upscale take on Portland's popular Pho Van, is a sleek answer to traditional mom and pop pho joints. Sit at the bar for happy hour, which goes to 7 p.m., and get bowls of pho for $4, as well as a variety of appetizers like lemongrass chicken and hoisin ribs for around $5 each. Add a cocktail or happy hour glass of wine and you've got a meal for under $20 that rivals any restaurant in the Pearl.
Carts on Foster
SE Foster Road and SE 52nd Ave, Portland
Any trip to Portland is incomplete without a visit to one of the city's hundreds of food carts. Grouped in "pods," Portland's carts can be found in abandoned parking lots, street corners and everywhere in between. We hit up the Carts on Foster pod in Southeast Portland, one of the newer and smaller pods. Truthfully, you can't go wrong with food carts in Portland. We ordered bacon-wrapped dates and a Beef Cafta gyro from two of the carts and although it was 20-degrees outside, the novelty of standing and eating gourmet street food remained.
3402 SE Division Street, Portland
Judging from the fact that you can walk into basically any little dessert place and have a memorable sugar rush, Portland's got some amazing pastry shops. Pix makes its own pastries, chocolates and ice cream, and offers savory small plates as well. We went for the Shazam!, a caramel mousse, salted almond and chocolate cake confection wrapped in dark chocolate with an architectural effect ($6.75). Paired with one of the rotating champagne glass pours, the dessert was an elegant, decadent end to my Portland weekend of gluttony.