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Portland, Oregon

laughing planet cafe portlandWhether you're an omnivore, herbivore or "locavore," you'll dine well in Portland. The city is at the cusp of America's "farm to table" movement, with many chefs relying heavily on local ingredients sourced from the fertile Willamette Valley. Sustainable and organic fare is top of mind -- and menu -- at many restaurants, and vegetarians rarely lack for options. Portlanders tend to eat early and dress down (it's not unusual to see jeans at a fancy restaurant). Looking for a quick bite? Don't miss Portland's many food carts, which can be found in every flavor from Bosnian to Venezuelan.

Tip: Check out FoodCartsPortland.com to search by location, operating hours or type of cuisine.

Finding the Best Restaurants on the Road

Higgins has been at the forefront of Portland's sustainable food movement since the mid-1990's, when chef Greg Higgins opened this restaurant dedicated to highlighting the best of fresh, local, organic ingredients. Menus change seasonally and even weekly, featuring Northwestern specialties like salmon, mushrooms, berries and rhubarb. There is always a variety of options for vegetarians.

A more recent entrant on the Portland dining scene, Ping brings the spicy street food of Singapore and Malaysia to the city's Chinatown neighborhood. Here you'll craft your meal out of skewers and small plates -- like quail eggs wrapped in bacon with spicy mayo, Vietnamese-style short ribs or Singaporean coconut curry rice noodle soup. Ping is overseen by chef Andy Ricker, who also runs Portland's popular Thai restaurant, Pok Pok.

Portland may be incredibly vegetarian- and vegan-friendly, but carnivores need not go home hungry. At lunch time, Laurelhurst Market serves up hearty sandwiches piled high with choice meats from its butcher shop; in the evenings, it transforms into one of the city's best steakhouses. In addition to the melt-in-your-mouth steaks, there are always a few seafood dishes on the menu.

Noble Rot may bill itself as a wine bar -- and it's got a simply fantastic selection of regional wines -- but you'll want to go for the farm-to-table cuisine. Chef/owner Leather Storrs sources much of his produce from his own farm-let, which happens to be an urban, organic garden on the rooftop of the fourth-floor restaurant. Before you tuck into the food (the menu changes often) and especially before the wine, take a tour. Just wear flat shoes; the hike up a narrow staircase is a bit treacherous.

In a city as health-conscious and eco-friendly as Portland, there's no need to resort to a greasy fast food joint when you want a quick meal. The Laughing Planet Cafe has seven locations around the city, each serving up a wholesome menu of burritos, salads, soups, smoothies and "bowls" (like the Chairman Meow Rice Bowl: steamed Asian vegetables with organic brown rice). Though Laughing Planet's focus on sustainable local ingredients is an earnest one, the company doesn't take itself too seriously; its burritos are also known as PND's (portable nutrition devices) and are made to fit neatly into a bicycle's water bottle holder.

Can you truly say you've lived if you haven't tried a doughnut topped with maple frosting and bacon -- or vanilla icing and Froot Loops? These quirky combos are just the tip of the iceberg at Voodoo Doughnut, one of Portland's food institutions (motto: "The Magic is in the Hole!"). Now open in three Portland locations, Voodoo serves up the city's most creative -- and creatively named -- doughnuts, including the "Gay Bar" (with rainbow-colored cereal on top) and the "Captain my Captain" (topped with Cap'n Crunch cereal). Doughnut-loving duos can even get hitched here; the owners are ordained and can perform legal wedding ceremonies.

Tea lovers will delight in Tao of Tea, where the extensive menu includes dozens of teas from China, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Vietnam and South America. As you sip, enjoy light snacks such as Southeast Asian spinach rolls, dal with rice, or smoked vanilla tea ice cream. The company's original teahouse, with its soothing rock waterfall, is located on Portland's east side; there's also a Tao of Tea outpost in the Tower of Cosmic Reflections at the Lan Su Chinese Garden.
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