Eat Like A Portland Local, Take The Forktown Food Tour

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Bring your appetite and leave happy, they do all the rest.

I love to eat and I love guided tours, put the two together and you get a magical marriage resulting in Portland’s Forktown Food Tours. Imagine someone taking you to all the best restaurants in town and all you have to do is bring your appetite and wear comfy walking shoes. It sounds like a great deal to me. I’d like to think I’ve done a pretty good finding some of the cool restaurants in Portland but I’ve pretty much stuck to one area of town, the downtown core. I’ve stayed there for two reasons, everything is easy to walk to and also there are so many amazing dining experiences to choose from. But, it’s time to branch out and it wouldn’t be 30 Days In Portland if I just stayed put, after all this is about adventure and exploring all of Portland.

Forktown Food Tours

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The tour I sign up for takes place every Friday from 2 to 5pm and is called the Alphabet District Tour. A heads up this is reason enough to make your Portland a 3 day get away at least. The tour starts at Besaw’s Restaurant, which means I’ve got to get there. A bit too far of a walk from The Westin Portland so instead I opt to take the Street Car. It’s only 1 block from the hotel and it runs every 14 minutes at a cost of $1.

Portland Street Car

taking the street car to the Alphabet District of Portland

Via the Street Car it’s a 10 minute ride followed by a 5 minute walk and then I’m at Besaw’s. A warm greeting from Kelsey, the Forktown tour guide, greets me when I enter and the other adventures arrive shortly after which means we can begin. Kelsey starts off with some general housekeeping info and while she is sharing that cocktails arrive for a start of the tour toast.

Besaw's restaurant

tour guide Kelsey and a fellow foodie say hello

Cheers to our Forktown Food Tour

The tour begins in earnest. First up a bit of history on Besaw’s. Established in 1903 as a beer parlour and gambling hall, prohibition saw Besaw’s transform itself into a restaurant serving simple home cooking to the travelers and neighbours alike. With the end of prohibition Besaw’s was the first establishment in Oregon to get a liquor license and they haven’t looked back since. Kelsey isn’t sure what our tasting meal here will be because the Chef is always experimenting and changes it up for every tour. Today we are sampling a tart made from fresh ingredients in their own garden located at the back of the restaurant. A great way to start the tour and we still have 6 more places to go and 1 mile of walking to do.

spinach tart with herbs and greens from the Besaw's garden

Our next stop is Kenny & Zukes Bagelworks. One of 3 locations for this Portland go to bagel shop. Claiming to have some of the best bagels in the Pacific Northwest, Kenny & Zukes is a a must visit. Everything is made in house. The bagels are hand rolled, boiled with malt & sugar and dusted with seeds and flavouring, just like in Montreal. They also make their own pickles and deli meats including Corned Beef & Pastrami. For our visit we are treated to bagels with a cream cheese & chive smear, house made pickles and their famous Rueben sandwich. OMG I could have stayed here for the whole afternoon.

Kenny & Zukes Bagel Works

bagels with cream cheese & chive smear

house made pickles at Kenny & Zukes

rueben sandwhich at Kenny & Zukes

Luckily before I went up to the counter and ordered a dozen bagels we were off to our next stop, Saint Honore Boulangerie. This is my Achilles heel, I love desserts and I’d already stumbled across another location of Saint Honore so I knew that we were in for a treat. When you step inside Saint Honore you can smell the buttery goodness in the air. ahhhh heaven. We sample a bread pudding rich with custard and a heavenly pastry that is layers of butter, sugar and flaky pastry. I forgot to ask what it was but I called heaven in my mouth.

inside Saint Honore Boulangerie

Treats from Saint Honore

Pastries from Saint Honore

a little taste of heaven and butter from Saint Honore

We need to move, fast or I’ll stay here forever. Our next stop is a little different and gives our bellies a little bit of a break. We are off to Bull Run Distilling Co. Crafting small batch spirits in Portland since 2010 we are created by the Distiller, Lee Medoff. Lee takes us on a tour of the facility and then we head straight to the tasting room. Gin, Vodka and American Whiskey, we try them all. I actually come back two days later and buy a bottle of their Gin for a friend back home. She’s a big G&T drinker Smile

Bull Run Distilling Co

aging spirits at Bull Run Distilling

Menu of Spirits available at Bull Run Distilling

let's have just a little sip please

Sadly we must say goodbye but our next stop on the tour brings a smile to our face, we’re off to a food cart called PBJ’s Grilled. A food cart serving up grilled “sammies” that are a few notches above what you’d serve yourself at home. Kelsey places our order and then we watch and wait. Two sandwiches are on order for us, the Oregonian made with Challah bread, hazelnut butter, Rogue Creamery blue cheese & house made marion berry jam. The other sandwich is called the Spencer and is made with campognola bread, PBJ’s walnut butter, caramelized onions capicola and pear butter. I told you these were gourmet “sammies”. Seriously #NomNomNom, I’ve even heard they make sandwiches to pair with various wines. So Good!

PBJ's Grilled food cart

the making of our PBJ's Sammies

The Spencer sammie from PBJ's Grilled

I'm going in and eating my Oregonian sammie from PBJ's Grilled

Next up we need a drink so we walk over to Taste on 23rd, a wine bar, small plates & bottle shop. Perfect timing I say. Here we get to try a couple of wines paired with some small bites. I particularly loved the devilled egg. The wine list is a good size and it’s broken down by flavour profile not by grape. So if you are feeling like something Juicy they have it or perhaps you want Luscious or Smooth, they have those too. A casual fun atmosphere in an old house turned wine bar I can see this place being a neighbourhood hangout.

Taste on 23rd

inside Taste on 23rd wine bar

wine with food pairing at Taste on 23rd

another wine tasting with more food pairings

We have one more stop on our tour and that is at Two Tarts Bakery, a sweet way to end the tour for sure. It’s been almost a full 3 hours and I feel like I’ve made new friends. We gather around a table one last time and enjoy some fabulous cookies. Chocolate Chip which has a hint of sea salt and French Macaroons which melt in your mouth. Heavenly.

Two Tarts Bakery

bakery case at Two Tarts

Chocolate chip cookie and Macaroons from Two Tarts

It’s over and I am full, stuffed actually. Not only have we enjoyed some great food during the Forktown Food Tour but Kelsey also gave us tons of historical info on the area and on Portland itself. This is why I love guided tours so much, they are more than just the immediate subject matter if you get the right guide. I highly recommend you take a Forktown Food Tour when you visit Portland next. If you can’t do the Friday Alphabet Tour then I hear the North Mississippi Ave Tour is also amazing.

Cheers to a great time!

cheers

I want to thank my sponsors Roam Mobility and GM Canada for helping me make this series possible. Roam of course for their awesome product to help me stay connected at a reasonable price and to GM for providing me with a sweet ride to make the road trip in. I don’t know what I’ll be getting yet but I’m looking forward to exploring and test driving a brand new GM.

Sponsor

Roam Mobility is a Canadian wireless company that eliminates US roaming fees by connecting you directly to its nationwide network in the USA.  To get started with Roam, all you need is one of their USA Travel SIM Cards or devices, then you can enjoy unlimited talk and text, plus data anytime you cross the border. Just pick a plan that fits your needs, schedule when you want it to start and travel free from USA roaming fees with Roam Mobility! To learn more, visit www.roammobility.com.

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Marc Smith is a former event planner turned vagabond adventurer. He loves strong Americano's, great wine, cold beer and zip lining over tree tops. Formerly of Vancouver, most of Marc's time when not travelling is in Canada's largest city, Toronto. Follow along on his nomad adventures and discover places to stay, things to do and where to eat & drink as he explores the world one city and region at a time.

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