: Fried Egg I'm in Love

Take A Guided Walk Through Portland’s Dynamic Food Scene

Eat your way through historic neighborhoods on a tour of the city’s culinary favorites.
March 11, 2024

When Sherri Brown sidles out of JinJu Patisserie with a tray of tiny cakes that look like elegant jewels, the group responds with a chorus of oohs and aahs. “I always make a bold claim that what we’re going to have here will be the most beautiful thing you’ll eat on your trip to Portland,” says Brown, who founded Portland by Mouth food tours in 2018. 

An avid world traveler, Brown has found that one of the best ways to get to know a place is to eat your way through it. “I was looking to reinvent myself after moving to Portland, and food tours were a natural fit,” she says. Brown offers three distinct walks, and each dives deep into the culture, history and food of a specific Portland neighborhood. 

As an ardent fan of all things breakfast, I opted for Brunch on Mississippi, and this dreamy patisserie on nearby North Williams Avenue is our first stop. The plan is to start in this neighborhood known for international eats and then, over the next three hours, take in six culinary hot spots, along with landmarks and quirky shops, all the while learning about Portland’s enthralling food scene.

JinJu Patisserie's tiny cakes

Where Pastry Meets Poetry

The joyful golden cakes, also known as JinJu’s popular coconut passion fruit petit gâteau, taste as poetic as they look. From the sweet and tangy passion fruit curd to the airy coconut mousse and the crunch of the shortbread cookie, each bite pops with tropical-fruit flavors. It’s fitting when Brown explains that “JinJu” is Korean for “pearl” or “treasure.” And even more so when she shares that the owners, both originally from Seoul, South Korea, met while working in Las Vegas over a decade ago — the perfect match of a master chocolatier and an acclaimed pastry chef who worked at top restaurants.

“Like so many others in our culinary community, they found their way to Portland for a better work-life balance,” says Brown. “Our city has enough going on to feel vibrant, but it’s also small enough that you don’t feel swallowed up, plus there’s access to the great outdoors.” What I love about the tour already is Brown’s energetic storytelling; her enthusiasm for the people behind the food has the group captivated, and we’ve only just begun. 

Experience Portland’s Food-Cart Renaissance

As we meander through North Portland’s leafy neighborhoods packed with vintage homes and historical brick buildings, Brown adds that Oregon’s livability is a common refrain she hears from chefs and makers who call the state home. “It’s one of the reasons we have such exceptional chef talent for this size of city.” She points out examples of the city’s ever-present whimsical spirit from the enchanting wishing tree to the historic iron and brass rings that appear on curbs and sidewalks. 

Our next stop is one of the city’s most high-energy food-cart pods, Prost! Marketplace. It’s late morning, and the deck with picnic tables and fire pits is already packed with friends, families and — because it’s Portland — cute dogs in rain gear. Brown finds us a table, then returns with coffee from Bloodbuzz and the signature breakfast sandwich from Fried Egg I’m in Love (which has since moved to a nearby brick-and-mortar location). I take a bite of the latter’s Yolko Ono, chewy sourdough bread stuffed with the perfect fried egg, a sausage patty and a slather of homemade pesto. 

Owner Jace Krause has a background in the Seattle tech industry, but he dreamed of a slower pace and opened his food cart about a decade ago. “He wasn’t a trained cook, but he could whip up an excellent egg sandwich,” says Brown. It’s a typical food cart story in Portland. “You’ll find chefs who worked in Michelin-star restaurants, alongside cooks with no culinary training but who had a great idea,” she says. 

¿Por Qué No?

Sample Farm-to-Table Street Tacos

The heart of the historic Mississippi District has a wonderfully eclectic selection of boutiques and art galleries. For a pause between breakfast bites, Brown brings us to one of her favorites, Paxton Gate, a curio shop stocked with rare finds like taxidermy and fossils, vintage art, and botanical prints. We walk a few blocks to ¿Por Qué No? — one of Portland’s most beloved taquerias — where owner Bryan Steelman has created multiple outlets that focus on sustainability, from local food sourcing to providing health care for his workers.

The menu offers a range of savory street tacos, from a classic carnitas and barbacoa to a pollo asado made with a spicy, chipotle-rubbed grilled chicken. Brown orders a tray of their seasonal tacos verduras. “It’s the best way to sample some of the great produce we grow here,” she says. The tiny tortillas arrive brimming with roasted delicata squash and rainbow carrots, sauteed sweet onions and kale. 

Blue Star Donuts

Sweet Endings With Chocolate and Doughnuts

As promised, the food tour unfolds like a leisurely progressive meal. Brown announces we’ll end on a sweet note after we pop into The Meadow, one of the city’s top culinary wonders. In the pocket-sized shop that’s abundant with gourmet salts, bean-to-bar chocolates, rare vermouths, funky cocktail bitters and fresh-cut flowers, I feel like I’ve been whisked away to Paris. Founder and salt expert Mark Bitterman spent years living in France and restoring chateaus. 

Our final bite brings us to Blue Star Donuts, a Portland phenom that launched in 2012 with the mission to create “doughnuts for grownups,” using fresh herbs, spices, fruits and liquors in a brioche-dough base. While we savor the sweet aromas, Brown orders a selection that includes the blueberry bourbon basil, a doughnut that catapulted to fame after starring on the cover of Bon Appétit magazine. 

We carry the doughnuts a few doors down to pair with tea at Broder Nord and sit at outdoor tables as a streak of sunshine bursts through the clouds. Brown recaps the tour, fields questions about her favorite dishes in the city and encourages all of us to text her with any questions. As we say our goodbyes, I realize that in just a few short hours, I learned so many things about Portland I never knew, while feeling like I was part of a small party that Brown invited me to join. Brunch has never been so invigorating. 

High Horse at The Bidwell Marriott Portland

Places to Stay

You’ll likely want to extend your stay after your tour to check out more of the city’s dynamic dining options. Located in downtown’s West End, the Ritz-Carlton, Portland is the first property from this chain in the Pacific Northwest. The luxury hotel also offers a spa, an infinity pool, a club lounge, a fitness center and a restaurant — all with exceptional city views. The Bidwell Marriott Portland, also downtown, is filled with eco-friendly design elements and colorful Oregon-inspired artwork. It’s also a great place to get an elevated PNW-style meal at the buzzy High Horse restaurant and bar. In historic Old Town, the Hoxton is a boutique hotel with chic mid-century furnishings and a secret speakeasy. Another option is the boutique Hotel Grand Stark on Portland’s eastside, with two Italian-style dining and drinking establishments opened in 2023 by Portland’s beloved charcuterie business, Olympia Provisions

About The

Kerry Newberry
Kerry Newberry is a Portland-based writer who covers food, wine, farms and travel for a variety of publications. Her work has appeared in Forbes, Fodor’s Travel, Edible Portland, Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) and more.

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