The Endless Road Trip: Porklandia
Portland, Oregon may seem like the type of hippie-dippie place that knows its silken tofus from its seitan (and it is). But as I recently discovered, these hipsters also know their swine, from head to tail. Oregon is a serious pork-producing state, and Portland chefs get crazy/creative with pig parts of every variety. I ate my way through Porklandia so that you don’t have to.
At Tasty n Sons, nearly every dish, from salads to kimchi to chicken, comes with an egg on top (as god intended). It climaxes with this perfectly golden-brown, intensely crispy fried pork cutlet, served over spinach, with a soft fried egg for a crown.
The Woodsman Tavern is the first place I have ever been served a ham plate and then told the proper order in which to eat the hams, as if this was a fancy wine tasting—from most delicate to heartiest. Each one was prosciutto-thin, but with the full salty taste of a good ol’ Virginia-style baked ham.
Don’t forget the ears! At Whiskey Soda Lounge, a casual spot from acclaimed Pok Pok chef Andy Ricker, they’re stewed in 5-spice and deep-fried until crisp, served with a black vinegar dipping sauce. They’re crusty on the edges and chewy in the middle, with the texture of…well, ear.
On to the other end of the pig: at Ricker’s third restaurant, Ping in Portland’s Chinatown, the Macanese-style pork chop bun is a massive pork loin fried in pork fat and served unadorned, on a simple bun. No need for anything dumb like vegetables or mayo.
On the more downscale side of the sandwich spectrum, Big Ass Sandwiches food cart offers “The Pork Hammer”—bacon, ham and sausage, all topped with coleslaw and a mound of golden French fries.
A bar snack at Clyde Common in the Ace Hotel: pork head roulade. They cook up the pig’s head, mix together all of the meat that falls off, flatten it out, sear it, slice and serve over a green pesto.
Another food cart find: The Gaufre Gourmet serves Liege-style waffles, including this take on southern biscuits and gravy: a waffle made from biscuit batter and topped with white sausage gravy.
You had to know spam was gonna show up here somewhere! The baoPDX cart serves their artisan spam topped with Tamagoyaki—a sweet Japanese egg dish—plus nori and green onions.
Finally, you can’t leave Portland without hitting up the legendary Voodoo Doughnut to try their maple-bacon doughnut. Forget fake bacon flavor—real desserts have whole strips of bacon on top.