I’m thinking about writing weekend posts dedicated to a Portland native’s ideas about how to spend summertime in the Rose City. So prepare your minds for lots of details! This weekend, it was a flurry of navigating here and there, from walking across the Burnside bridge drinking coffee to eating some of the best ramen I’ve ever tasted right here in the west side of town.
All this traipsing around stemmed from my best friend and I’s hankering to embark on a Portland coffee crawl of sorts, beginning with the newly opened Glyph Cafe & Art Space in the Pearl District and ending with Coava Coffee Roasters on SE Grand Ave. on the east side of Portland. But the first damper in the adventure spirit was the sad reality that Glyph was closed for a holiday vacation week–so we had to rearrange our plans.
After realizing that Glyph was closed, we wandered up the street just shy of the original Powell’s bookstore and spotted Pearl Bakery on a secluded corner. I’d heard of Pearl Bakery’s fame after eating its bread at restaurants in the area, but inside was a fairly modest setting with rustic accents and a nice array of breads in the back as well as a glass display of mouthwatering pastries.
And this is what I ordered.
Aptly named “The Pearl” (probably because of its whopping price of 8 dollars), this grilled cheese blew my mind. I actually sort of dislike grilled cheese, but THIS was heavenly. Fresh foccacia bread turned inside out and grilled to perfection, with the insides oozing a thick mass of beautifully melted provolone cheese and a smattering of Dijon mustard. There was so much cheese. As in hot, delightfully greasy provolone seeping through the middle and enveloping the edge of the bread. How could something with so little ingredients taste so rich? My mind was boggled.
With our bellies filled up, we headed past W Burnside St. and towards Case Study Coffee, a place I’d passed by many times on my way to Pioneer Square. This place was a classy destination with a bit of a preppy vibe, with housemade syrups like fleur de sel caramel, toasted hazelnut, and aged bourbon caramel. I ordered an iced coffee with the aged bourbon caramel and a dash of half and half.
After the first sip, I actually wasn’t quite sure what to think of it. The brew definitely had smooth taste and texture, but it was plied with a much more acidic flavor than I prefer, particularly in the aftertaste. So Case Study is not my most favorite, but everyone has different coffee tastes and for those of you who like your joe with an acidic base (harhar), I’d recommend Case Study!
We left Case Study and continued into the heart of downtown, passing Pioneer Square and then strolling up the street leading to the famed Burnside Bridge. On the bridge, bikers nearly bowled us over and we enjoyed a stunning view of the murky waters of the Willamette river as the sun brightened up the city after a cloudy morning. But after the mile walk, we were wheezing when we, tired heroines, finally made it to Coava Coffee Roasters.
Coava is apparently Portland’s current favorite roaster, bumping Stumptown downward, but now I’ve tasted it and can say that my allegiance is still loyal to Stumptown. Not to say that Coava isn’t noteworthy. This location of Coava was a transformed warehouse or garage with big open spaces and long tables. The menu was simple, listing only lattes, macchiatos, espresso, and drip coffee. The atmosphere was very laidback, with M83’s alternative tunes humming in the air and light streaming inside through the garage opening.
I ordered another iced coffee and added the usual half and half plus some agave syrup, and similarly to Case Study, the flavor was robust but acidic. I’d say that Coava’s wasn’t as jarringly acidic as Case Study’s, so it tasted a lot more enjoyable. I loved the brew’s rich, tan color.
Then my friend and I both agreed that it was the perfect weather to eat ice cream. So we drove to the touristy 23rd Avenue for Salt & Straw’s seasonal July flavors (“Berries, berries, berries!”) I frantically licked my melting cone, rivulets of blackberry jam and birthday cake frosting ice cream running down my fingers. Chunks of vanilla birthday cake peeked out from the scoop and colorful sprinkles added some nice crunch as well. It was messy, sticky, but delightful. It was also much sweeter than I expected. But if you’re looking for unique, crazy flavors, Salt & Straw is your place!
Our last stop was dinner, the newly opened, Seattle-born Kukai Ramen & Izakaya restaurant in the Cedar Mill area. We waited over an hour for a table, so I was quite hungry with heightened expectations. Nevertheless, Kukai truly delivered on this Japanese classic. Chicken karaage started off our meal, which was Japanese fried chicken with spicy mayo and lemon. Searing hot with a sweet breading, these chicken pieces were huge and packed full of meat.
Our Tonkotsu ramens arrived later, steaming bowls of wavy noodles hidden in a delicious, savory pork broth. A soft-boiled egg bobbed inside the broth along with a hefty slice of pork belly, and we dug in. The soup favored a lighter taste with none of that horribly salty flavor, while the noodles were supple. Only the pork belly disappointed slightly, having a tougher texture than a lovely soft consistency, but overall the meal was stellar.
Seriously, the best ramen I have ever tasted. I was pleasantly satisfied with everything served.
And then we went home and cried over One Tree Hill episodes. But what a DAY. Portland definitely proved itself to be a summer haven, so stay tuned for more weekend excursions!