Keep Portland Weird (and Never Hungry): A Local Foodie Guide to Central Eastside
BY CRAI S. BOWER // PHOTOS BY ELIJAH HOFFMAN
Portland, Oregon’s burgeoning Central Eastside isn’t just proof that neighborhoods can be renewed without losing their urban grit. It’s also a perfect encapsulation of the city’s gastro cred: come to this ’hood and you’re bound to eat really, really well. Located directly across the Willamette River from downtown, the warehouses and lofts in this industrial area have lately been converted into a primordial soup for the city’s artisan class. Cheesemakers hawk their wheels, coffee roasters age their beans, and food carts cluster in convenient pods. Arrive early, well-rested, and empty-stomached.
Skip the dairy aisle and head straight to the cheesy source: Central Eastside’s delicious Ancient Heritage Dairy.
Portland is the king of all things farm-to-table, and nothing epitomizes that better than Ancient Heritage Dairy (1311 SE 7th Ave.; 707.478.3703) – after all, the cheesemakers originally hailed from rural Madras, Oregon, before relocating to the heart of Central Eastside. Okay, so the sheep still graze out of town, but here you’ll find gorgeous stacks of their award-winning cheeses, which occupy humidity-controlled caves and beg to be sampled. There are all kinds of choices here, but you can’t go wrong with the Hannah, a golden sheep and cow’s milk blend that’s aged for six months. As a bonus, you can even witness the cheesemakers in action, as they separate curds from whey.
Is your sandwich, well, lacking? Olympia Provisions’ top-notch charcuterie has the (wait for it) cure.
Now that you’ve got the cheese, it’s time to pick up some meat. Next stop on this Portland neighborhood guide, then, is Olympia Provisions (107 SE Washington St.; 503.954.3663), where it’ll fast become clear how this food-loving city remains a cut above. (Pro-tip: If you’re lost, let the vibrant “MEAT” sign guide your way.) Home to what may be Portland’s best salami sandwiches, Olympia Provisions celebrates charcuterie culture within a restored industrial building that also houses creative startups, artists, and a café. Load up on Northwest-sourced capicola, patés, and other cured creations.
What could follow delicious cured meats? How about a salt tasting room? Oh yes, that exists – leave your blood pressure monitor at the door. For all your saline needs, there’s the Jacobsen Salt Company(602 SE Salmon St.; 503.473.3952), whose Central Eastside showroom resembles a wharf-side warehouse. Owner Ben Jacobsen harvests his crystals from Netarts Bay, a couple hours away on the Oregon coast, and while his flakes are sold plain, flavors such as Oregon Pinot Noir, Vanilla Bean Flake, and Smoked Cherrywood are well worth a taste.
COFFEE AND LIBATIONS
Don’t talk to me until I’ve had my micro-roasted, traditionally aged, Water Avenue Coffee.
Portland without coffee? It’s like San Francisco without the fog. But just when it seemed like the Pacific Northwest was at full java saturation, along came the micro-roasters at Water Avenue Coffee (1028 SE Water Ave. #145; 503.808.7083). Here, they’re dedicated to roasting small batches of beans to exacting specifications with heritage equipment, and are also pushing the boundaries on traditional techniques (coffee beans aged in wine barrels, anyone?). Even if it’s just a simple latte you’re after, you can be sure it’ll be perfectly frothed.
You won't need to head for the hills for a local vino sampling: Fausse Piste’s urban winery brings the bubbly to you.
Need something a little harder? Good news: Central Eastside is home to its very own winery, Fausse Piste (537 SE Ash St. #102). Portland’s urban wineries have recently followed the lead of the city’s kitchens in celebrating the Pacific Northwest’s agricultural bounty, and Fausse Piste’s founder himself began work as a chef before turning to wine. Head to the tasting room on Saturday afternoons to sample his exceptional Rhone-style vintages (designate a driver beforehand). Oh, and don’t be waylaid by the name Fausse Piste (which translates to “wrong path” in French. It isn’t, though.).
Time for a bit of stomach lining. There’s no comfort food like Russian comfort food, and Kachka(720 SE Grand Ave.; 503.235.0059) is the place to go for ridiculously addictive pelmeni (hearty Siberian dumplings). In a Mother-Russia-inspired, tchotchke-filled room, diners also fill up on classics from beef tongue stroganoff to the esoteric “herring under a fur coat,” a salad made of pickled beets, potatoes, apples, and of course, herring. Best bring your sense of adventure, and your furry hat.
WALK AND NOSH
What’s better than a food truck? A whole pod of food trucks, obviously. No Portland neighborhood guide worth its salt (and sugar, and spice) would be absent its mobile eats, and Central Eastside Food Carts (510 SE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd.) are definitely destination-worthy. (Locals swear by the pork asada relleno wraps and Baja fish tacos.)
Take advantage of the “port” in Portland, with a picturesque promenade along the Eastbank Esplanade.
Time for a stroll. While it’s easy to forget when wandering amongst warehouses that the Willamette River flows nearby, the scenic Eastbank Esplanade, a 1.5-mile boardwalk that stretches between the Hawthorne and Steel Bridges, is easily accessible for urban explorers. While the project does its part to anchor the shoreline against erosion and reestablish critical fish habitats, it’s also great for river views – and provides a canvas for public art by RIGGA, a local artist group responsible for the on-site installations.
THE LOCAL LOOK
Central Eastside has no shortage of art galleries, and the Newspace Center of Photography (1632 SE 10th Ave.; 503.963.1935) is one of the best. Exhibitions change frequently, while the Pop-Up Show series continues to highlight excellent local talent. The gallery also provides contemporary photographers with all the necessary tools, whether they want to develop black and white prints, utilize a lighting studio, or take a workshop in the digital classroom.
Blend in with hip locals, thanks to the trendsetting menswear at Machus.
The “Portland Look” extends to the city’s denizens, and for gentlemen of discerning taste, Machus (542 E Burnside St.; 503.206.8626) is a must. The men’s fashion boutique stocks dozens of forward-thinking labels rarely found north of San Francisco. Enhance your Northwest style with a dab of Machus’s signature scent.
Plan your Central Eastside excursion.Search for carsin and around Portland.