The Portland You Know: The food carts
You'd have to live in a cave to have missed hearing about the food carts that have brought fast food of every ethnicity to the streets of downtown Portland and many neighborhoods. On one downtown block, we found Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican, Polish, Cuban, Korean, German, Hawaiian, Brazilian, Peruvian, Ethiopian, Scottish and Indian -- before we stopped counting. Favorite names: "Thai Me Up" and "The Frying Scotsman" (fish and chips). Most dishes under $8, and tasty.
Listings: Downtown food carts, on block bordered by Southwest Ninth and 10th avenues and Alder and Washington streets, plus other locations. www.foodcartsportland.com.
Portland Worth Discovering: Byways Cafe and Kenny & Zuke's Delicatessen
If you stay at the Crystal, it's an easy walk to the food carts (and easy waddle home), but keep these nearby places in mind for breakfast or lunch.
Byways, in the heart of the Pearl District, is the hip neighborhood's refreshing antithesis: homey, old-fashioned comfort food (but with style) in an atmosphere to match.
Beneath cases of travel souvenirs, from kitschy snow globes to Amish Country tea plates, you'll sit in a booth with sparkly red upholstery and chow down on giant omelets or blue-corn pancakes for breakfast, or lunch lavishly on a Multnomah Melt -- twice-grilled challah topped with baked turkey, avocado, ham, red onion and havarti ($10.25, with sides).
If you (Heart) New York and yours is broken because you can't get decent pastrami, you might find your fix at Kenny & Zuke's, just a dill pickle's throw down Stark Street from the Crystal. The capers and pickled onions that came with my Everything bagel and Nova lox were a tangy counterpoint to the rich salmon and chewy (boiled before baked) dough ($11.95).
Perfect Jewish deli food? This isn't the Portland I know. But that was the point, wasn't it?
Listings: Byways Cafe, 1212 N.W. Glisan St., 503-221-0011 or www.bywayscafe.com. Kenny & Zuke's Delicatessen, 1038 S.W. Stark St., 503-222-3354 or www.kennyandzukes.com.