Content originally written for the Let’s Go: USA & Canada Guide by our researcher-writer, Graham Bishai.
Blue Star Donuts ($)
1237 SW Washington St.; (503) 265-8410; www.bluestardonuts.com; open daily 7am-8pm
Blue Star, with true star status as a Portland thing, takes donuts to a whole ‘nother level. In its hopping minimalist digs, it bakes donuts fresh daily with dough from scratch and a recipe supposedly from the south of France. Ingredients are locally sourced and the result is locally raved about. The available selection is out on display so you can drool while waiting in line, unable to decide which one—or which ten—you want. Everything from bergamot to basil make up its flamboyant flavor options, and many donuts are dashed with cayenne to give them a bite. Local coffee and tea are also available.
Doughnuts from $3; vegan options; wheelchair accessible
Cheryl’s on 12th ($$)
1135 SW Washington St.; (503) 595-2252; http://www.cherylson12th.com/; open M-Tu 7am-4pm, W-F 7am-8pm, Sa 8am-8pm, Su 8am-4pm
If capturing loyal customers by serving fried rice for breakfast doesn’t scream Portland, I don’t know what does. With all the usual brunch™ classics and a lot more, Cheryl will hook you up with whatever you’re feeling. The place has hints of a Parisian bistro, New York deli, and backroads country diner. 80s feel-good music send chill vibes The menu is similarly geographically amorphous, serving up chili bowls, fish ’n chips, Indian curries, and Mexican Ranchero bowls. Breakfast is served until 4pm, but on weekends, plan ahead and come on the early side so you’re not waiting until 4pm, too.
Entrées from $8; vegan and vegetarian options; wheelchair accessible
3632 SE Hawthorne Blvd.; (971) 255-0138; www.harlowpdx.com; open M-Sa 8am-9pm, Su 8am-3pm
Whatever sappy caption you’re eager to write about your next meal, Harlow’s non-tacky extraness will fit the bill. Want a shot of CBD in your cocktail? No problem. But, like, act casual—you don’t want to look like a tryhard. Here, in this all-vegan, fast-casual, sophisticated spot, they do the most without looking like it. Vines line the walls and mismatched furniture gives it an eclectic, back porch feel. The fare is well-seasoned, it’s service well-oiled, its clientele well-dressed (but not well enough to look like they were trying to be). Grab one of their artsy cocktails or an entrée, and sit in the verdant space. You’re doing amazing, sweetie.
Entrées from $7, cocktails from $8; all vegan and gluten free; wheelchair accessible
Salt and Straw ($)
3345 SE Division St.; (503) 208-2054; www.saltandstraw.com; open daily 11am-11pm
As soon as you walk inside this coveted Portland ice creamery, you’ll want a big scoop of whatever that smell is. Flavors defy convention, from Olive Oil to Pear and Blue Cheese, both of which are—before you make a face—fabulous. Next to the classic ice cream menu is not the toppings menu, except, well, it kinda is. It’s the flowers menu, listing monthly rotating ice cream flavors paired with edible flowers to enhance the already crazy-good taste. Go nuts with the samples; try before you buy. The vibe is fun and the staff are friendly.
Single scoop $4.10; vegan options; wheelchair accessible
Graham left behind the stressed-out chaos of Cambridge for the laid back life on the West Coast. A refreshing change of pace, he assumed, until the line for coffee on his first morning took 2 mins longer than he’s used to, and the Northeast nasty jumped out. Starting in Vancouver, Graham meandered south, toning his calves being a pedestrian on San Francisco’s hills and by navigating the monstrosity that is Los Angeles using just his feet and public transit (only resorting to Uber twice!) Graham’s love for the West Coast life only increased as he sat by the Puget Sound in Seattle, sipped kombucha in the crunchy cafes of Portland, climbed into a waterfall in Yosemite and stayed in an abandoned opera house in Death Valley. By the time he hit upper 80s sun of San Diego, buff calves and sun tanned, the words “West Coast, Best Coast,” almost slipped out of his mouth. Identity crisis looming, he figured it was time to go home.