Best Desserts and Breweries in Portland
A preview into Portland’s best fare.
In our upcoming March issue, we’re featuring travel in the city of Portland. This new tourism hub—commonly associated with Portlandia for the show’s comedic interpretation of this eclectic city—is a foodie’s dream, with top chefs flocking to the area to deliver everything from stellar fine dining restaurants to worldly food trucks. Western Living’s Food & Wine editor Neal McLennan has selected the best eating experiences for our print issue, but to get warmed up, we’re giving a web exclusive look at brews and sweeter bites, with the best brewery experiences and dessert spots Portland has to offer.
Sweets: Where to Find Portland’s Best Desserts
Blue Star Donuts
If you’re looking to bypass the long lines and touristy bustle of Voodoo Doughnuts, try out a more sophisticated take on the doughnut. Blue Star Donuts is located in the central Pearl District and although it appears low-key with its simplistic coffee shop design—the highlight is in the taste. Fresh doughnuts are displayed in a variety of ‘elevated’ flavours (like the Peanut Butter and Blackberry Compote, which plays on a classic PB&J). You may be drawn to the trendy Maple Bacon, but it may be more worthwhile to sample some of the “adult-friendly” flavours, like Hard Apple Cider Fritters or Blueberry Bourbon Basil.
Just around the corner from Blue Star is the Ruby Jewel flagship store. In typical Portland style, this homegrown company started at local Farmers’ Markets where Lisa Herlinger started selling ice cream sandwiches out of a cooler. After gaining popularity and demand, Lisa and her sister Becky Burnett expanded their operation, opening two locations in Portland and selling their sandwiches in grocery stores down the US West Coast. Upon visiting, scooper Austin steered me straight to their sandwiches, serving up Raspberry Heart Cookie ice cream with marzipan and shortbread between two double chocolate cookies. Gourmet flavours and a venue oozing an artisan feel make Ruby Jewel a must—particularly the ice cream floats with sodas made from scratch.
Salt and Straw
This ice cream joint has become a Portland phenomenon—and it shouldn’t go unnoticed. Started by Kim and Tyler Salek, Salt and Straw has now spread to LA and is known for their unconventional savoury twists among their array of flavours. Choices like chocolate and toasted sesame or Missionary’s Ginger and Tamarind Chocolate Sorbet might seem off-kilter, but after sampling a few with the help of their friendly staff, you’ll be sold and ready to delve into their frozen creativity.
Sips: Where to Drink the Best Beer in Portland
Burnside Brewing Co.
Slightly off the beaten path, Burnside Brewing Co. is located in East Portland, and although you may be hesitant on the venture, it is highly worth the small trek (or bike ride). The atmosphere is welcoming and quaint, and although it’s family-friendly before 10pm, it makes the perfect late-night date spot. With around fifteen brews available between their seasonal and house selections, there’s no shortage of options, or food to pair with your pick. For the full experience, I recommend their tasting flight, which lets you try a 4 oz. pour of all their draughts—perfect for two to share. Looking for a unique brew to remember them by? Try the Sweet Heat: this apricot wheat beer made with scotch bonnet peppers is surprisingly smooth with a satisfying spicy finish.
McMenamin’s Kennedy School
While McMenamin’s can be found all around Portland, the Kennedy School is by far the most noteworthy and can be a travel destination on its own. In 1997, McMenamin’s took over this school located in residential North East Portland. If you choose to partake in their accommodations, you can stay in one of their converted classrooms, each divided into two large king-bed rooms (the hotel offers more economical accommodations in a separate building later added to the property). If only visiting for the evening, you’ll notice a roaring outdoor fireplace at the entrance telling you this is no ordinary school. Exploring the halls, you’ll discover a classic cocktail lounge, a whisky and cigar bar, a games bar, a reggae bar, a full restaurant, a soaking pool, and a movie theatre serving food and drinks to your couch seating. Known for their Ruby Ale and Terminator Stout, McMenamin’s offers a variety of brews, but this venue is sure to overtake the experience. If you plan to stay, book well in advance—weekends tend to book two months in advance and three months during the summer months.
In the Pearl District, Deschutes features a friendly pub atmosphere to unwind and enjoy some great local beer. Although headquartered in Bend, OR, this 27-year-old brewery still has windows into their brewing room at the Portland location. Set up with quintessential West Coast design and wooden accents and equipped with TVs, the pub is the perfect place to enjoy the game over a pint of smokey Black Butte Porter or their easy-drinking Mirror Pond Pale Ale. Aside from their stretching bar, the venue spreads into a full dining room for a family-friendly visit. Want to bring the brewery home? Deschutes is widely distributed, including availability in Alberta and BC.