Welcome to EAT THIS CITY, your tour of the best restaurants in one of our favorite cities, as chosen by a world-class chef, celebrity, or local hero.
This week, we return to Portland, Oregon, a city that has staked a well-deserved claim on the national culinary scene. Taking us on a tour of all that PDX restaurants have to offer is Portland-native Joey Harrington, former NFL quarterback for the Detroit Lions, and three-year starting quarterback for the Oregon Ducks. He’s a partner in Pearl Tavern — a new modern Pacific Northwest eatery that’s quickly making its mark on the city.
We asked Joey about Pearl Tavern, and what it offers the City of Roses:
I’m a partner with two other people that are the pinnacle of their field in this city. Kurt Huffman has opened close to 25 restaurants in Portland, and they’re incredible; everything from bakeries, to sandwich shops, to restaurants of the year. The bar side of things is run by Ryan Magarian. He was a partner in starting Aviation Gin and has two great spots in town — Oven and Shaker and Hamlet. His passion is crafting an experience. My job is to be a connection to the community. Three percent of all the profits from the restaurant are going to my foundation, the Harrington Family Foundation, to fund scholarships for Oregon high school students.
While we’re by no means a sports bar, there is a subtle sports theme to it, and I’m trying to tell the story of old Portland and old Oregon through vintage photos and memorabilia that are subtly placed throughout the space. Hopefully, we’ve created something together that’ll be part of the fabric of Portland for a long time.
All right friends, who’s hungry? Let’s dig right in — here are Joey’s picks for the best food in Portland!
It seems like forever, Apizza Scholls or Ken’s Artisan Pizza have been the two pinnacles of gourmet pizza in town. But I’ve actually never been to Apizza Scholls, and I’ve only been to Ken’s once. I grew up on American Dream and Flying Pie; both just hole-in-the-wall, true pizzerias.
American Dream pizza has, in my opinion, the best crust in Portland, and Flying Pie literally puts a pound of meat on their pies.
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Local Elote corn plate is our special for lunch today and till we run out of the fresh Delish corn!!! Also we will have a trike and menu serving up delicious grub all week @exnovobrew while they get a new hood installed! Come out and drink their beer and enjoy some TACOS while your at it! Today @5 pm then all week!
I like The Taco Pedaler. It’s right on 24th and NE Broadway. It’s a little hole-in-the-wall that I believe used to be a food cart and now is a brick-and-mortar store. They opened up about a year or two ago and I think they do the best tacos in the city. Get every taco you can, with every topping you can. It’s all a la carte; chicken, beef, pork, guac, pico, crema, and just whatever you want to put on there.
It’s just fantastic. You cannot go wrong.
This is tough, because there’s a lot of different Asian foods. Are we talking Japanese? Thai? If I’m going to get Thai food, I’m going to go to Thai Seasons. If I’m going to get sushi, I’m going to go to Bamboo; they have two locations, one in SE and one in NW and they pride themselves on having a sustainable menu.
There are honestly probably 100 different food carts that you could eat at in Portland and seriously not go wrong. But, Bundy’s Bagels. He makes his bagels every morning, and what I love about his spot is that he has a “pay it forward bagel board.” So if you come up and buy a bagel — you can buy a morning bagel, you can buy a lunch bagel — you can buy one for somebody else and put it on the board.
If, at any time, no questions asked, you’re in need of a little bit of lunch, you can walk up and take one of the pay-it-forward tags off the board and get a free bagel.
Pip’s is awesome, and they make their own chai, which is so good. They make tiny little donuts, and they do them in bacon, chocolate, and cinnamon-sugar. The best place for sweets.
I think one of my favorite things about Portland dining is that there isn’t anyplace you can’t wear jeans to. But one of the best meals I’ve had in the city was at Le Pigeon. I mean, the guy [Chef Gabriel Rucker] has won more James Beard awards than he knows what to do with.
Also, Ox. It’s too good not to put up here as well.
If I’m being honest, I think our new spot would fit right in here. What we’ve tried to create with Pearl Tavern is a place where you would see someone in a suit after work, or you would see someone in jeans and a t-shirt. A place that’s not going to be pretentious, but you’re still going to get a great steak, a great burger. The game will be on in the background, but you’re never going to be overpowered by it, the volume’s not going to be on, it’s not going to be like a sports bar.
It’s a place that I’ve had a lot of people say reminds them of somewhere in New York or Chicago. More than anything, I’d like to have people say that it’s a really fun place to go with friends.
To be honest, I’m not a vegetarian, but you know where I would go? Andina. It’s Peruvian. They’ve won restaurant of the year in Portland a couple of times. They also have an entirely gluten-free menu, if you need gluten-free.
There are definitely meat dishes, but this is a good place to have a vegetarian meal.
Urban Farmer inside the Nines Hotel. They have the best English muffin I’ve ever tasted. Homemade, crazy-melt-in-your-mouth English muffin. Or I’d go to Screen Door. Go any time of day, any weekend. It’s right around the corner.
ICONIC FOOD OF THE CITY
I don’t know if it’s iconic food as much as it’s an iconic restaurant, but I would have to say Jake’s. The original Jake’s; it’s old wood panelling, it’s forest paintings, it’s dark, heavy, charming. It’s that place where, 30-40 years ago, that was the spot to be. Great cuts of fish, and my dad still raves about the razor clams.
If I think of an iconic restaurant in Portland, it’s going to be Jake’s.
ODD CULINARY EXPERIENCE
Castagna is one of the most creative food experiences I’ve had. Sea urchin foam. I had sea urchin foam. And, I don’t know if it’s odd, but I think I’m going to put Aviary here as well. I think the menu falls into this category.
The Butterscotch Pudding at Irving Street Kitchen. It’s become so popular that they’ve actually made to-go mason jars of it. So you can just walk in and order it to-go, and they just have one of those flip-lid mason jars waiting for you.
Lardo is a sandwich shop with two locations that serves incredibly creative and indulgent sandwiches and has a mean plate of dirty fries!
For date night, I’d go to DOC. It’s a tiny little place, I think it seats like maybe twenty-five? Twenty-six? You walk through the kitchen in order to get to the tables. It’s quiet. The food is absolutely fantastic.
RESTAURANT RUN BY A FRIEND
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PERIGORD BLACK TRUFFLE RISOTTO with grana padano TONIGHT $25 DO. NOT. MISS. THIS INCREDIBLE dish #family #tonight – – – – – – – #vscogood #vscogrid #vscogram #watchthisinstagood #eater #tasteintravel #fwx #bhgfood #mneats #feedfeed #tcmlivingwell #eattheworld #photo #dinner #italian #onthetable #vsco #vscocam #igers #vibes #handmade #soul #love #pasta #truffle #black #menu
OX; first of all, Greg Denton and Gabi Quiñónez Denton are fantastic people. We have a summer cook-off fundraiser for my foundation, the Great Summer Chef Off, and they’ve volunteered to cook at that for the past three years. They volunteered even after they won restaurant of the year. They are just incredible, wonderful, down-to-earth people making fantastic food, and doing it in a way that’s memorable.
The food is incredible. They’ve been nominated for James Beard Awards numerous times and they were part of Food & Wine magazine’s “Best New Chefs” list . The atmosphere of their place mimics the type of people that they are.
Renata; they also volunteered — after winning restaurant of the year last year — at my foundation. The owner is a guy named Nick Arnerich; he and I played football together in high school and he was one of my wife’s good friends back then. He and his wife, Sandra, were at French Laundry together and then came back to Portland, where Nick is from and opened an Italian restaurant that is just absolutely fantastic.
Thank you, Joey, for taking us on a culinary tour of Portland!
Stay tuned for more EAT THIS CITY — where each week we’ll feature a premier chef in a different city sharing their insider eating tips! Missed a week? Check out Tampa, Durham, Toronto, Baltimore, Monterey, Vail, Lexington, Bentonville, San Antonio, Warsaw, Kansas City, NYC, Washington DC, New Orleans, Cleveland, Miami, Seattle, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Sydney, Portland, Chicago, Austin, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, New Orleans, Providence, Memphis, Orange County, Boston, and Detroit.
See you next week!