“Everything you see on ‘Portlandia’? It’s kind of true,” a friend said during my swing through the city that I’d most want to move to if I didn’t already have the job of my dreams. I relish the abundant quirks: lines for (stellar) breakfasts, even midweek, and strip clubs inclusive enough to offer vegan fare. And I applaud the sense of pride demonstrated even by fast-food operators, foremost Burgerville, which rolls out raspberry milkshakes and Walla Walla onion rings in the summer. But most of all, I love the ingredients here – 300 kinds of truffles, berries so delicate they don’t leave the state – and what a small contingent of talented chefs does with them. One of the scene’s few missing ingredients: fine-dining establishments. “Portlanders prefer places where they feel comfortable in their hiking boots and fleece,” says Michael Russell, the restaurant critic for the Oregonian. Personally, I’d pick first-class farmers markets or some of the country’s trailblazing Asian retreats (hello, Pok Pok!) over a place that charges triple digits for dinner. Admittedly, I picked summer to visit, when Portland’s flavors are peaking. But superb coffee, wine and bread – crucial building blocks of any gastronomic destination – know no season. And it doesn’t hurt that everyone, fellow customers and servers alike, is Minnesota Nice. In one week, I never once heard a car horn.The search for America’s best food cities: Portland][
Defining moment: At New Seasons Market, one of my favorite grocery stores anywhere, I asked an engaging clerk about what looked like bullet-shaped blueberries, at which point he introduced me to honeysuckle fruit from Siberia.
Best breakfast: The inevitable line outside the southern-accented Screen Door in Portland is partly explained by the restaurant’s buttermilk fried chicken stacked on a sweet potato waffle.