The hip sip in Oregon is probiotic kombucha — on tap, discovers Jesse Mulligan.

Portland is more than just a city with good food. It's like your weird foodie friend, who always discovers things about a year before you do and by the time you've caught up, they're already on to something else.

As a friend, Portland would be exhausting but as a culinary destination it's exciting and, of course, delicious.

So much of the best eating in the city is driven by innovation, invention and a love of the new.

DRINKS

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Portlanders drink a lot of beer. Even the worst bar on the street will have a selection of craft beers on tap, while the best, like Deschutes Brewery, offer hundreds of choices and a range of "flights" [tapas] to help you work your way through them.

Oregonian wine is good, too. One great way to try it is at an urban winery like South East Wine Collective, where enthusiastic city-based winemakers order in grapes from the vineyards and play with them in small, experimental batches.

You can drop by the cellar door and sample the results, alongside some of the best food I ate on my trip.

But a lot of the excitement right now is around non-alcoholic drinks, like probiotic kombucha, now on tap around the city, and sharp but super-refreshing "drinking vinegars" mixed with soda water on ice.


Draught beer is big business in Portland. Photo / Creative Commons image by Flickr user Ian Sane

And, of course, there's coffee - the west end of downtown features Heart, Stumptown and my favourite, Courier; where they'll make you a flat white if you're not scared off by the tattoos.

BAKING

There's no excuse for eating bad bread in Portland, although you might want to find an excuse for all the sweet stuff you'll be monstering at famous local spots like Lovejoy Bakers and Little T (don't miss the cream cheese brioche).

Do doughnuts qualify as baking? There are very good ones in Portland. Bypass the very famous Voodoo Doughnut and instead look for Blue Star, where the lines are shorter, the doughnuts lighter and the flavours just as exciting - go for the lemon curd if they haven't sold out already.

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A blueberry bourbon basil doughnut from Blue Star. Photo / Supplied
BRUNCH

Portlanders love brunch as much as we do and it's unlikely you'll be admitted to hospital because you didn't eat enough eggs on your trip. Tasty n Alder is a great choice for the little tilt they put on traditional dishes. The Korean bacon and eggs is out of this world, you have to stir it fast in a hotpot when it lands on your table.

Sweedeedee is tiny and perfect - about the hippest place you'll ever eat, but if you can go off peak and score a table, you'll see why they get queues out the door for their pie.

Off the beaten path is Ned Ludd, a local secret for people who want an excellent brunch without having to fight for a table. And Harlow is wholefood heaven, with bowls of goodness so tasty you won't notice it's vegetarian.


The Bim Bop Bacon and Eggs at Tasty n Alder. Photo / Supplied
UPMARKET

Modern cooking spot Racion is clever and unexpected - unexpectedly inexpensive, even. You can do five courses for $55 - incredible value for the level of cheffery you'll experience.

One of my favourite meals was at Aviary, an understated suburban eatery with incredible ingredients thrown together in new and tasty ways - like chargrilled octopus tentacle with bruleed ricotta.

CHEAP AND TASTY
Pok Pok is probably Portland's most famous restaurant - a northern Thai-style eatery where everything hums with taste and the sticky chicken wings are a compulsory order.

I loved the ramen and the super sweet service at Boke Bowl (like almost everything in the city right now, it's even better with a side of pickles).

Portland even has a local spin on McDonald's. Little Big Burger stores are dotted around the city, serving up perfect baby burgers, cooked to order and putting the big chains to shame. For something a little flasher, Lardo does incredibly tasty sandwiches with good beer in multiple locations around the city.

Portland is famously home to hundreds of amazing food carts, which serve up dishes from around the world to hungry office workers and onto it tourists. One of the most famous is Nong's Khao Man Gai chicken and rice, simple but excellent.


The excellent chicken and rice from Nong's Khao Mon Gai food cart. Photo / Supplied
DESSERT

You'll be barely off the plane before people start telling you about Salt & Straw, heavenly ice cream perfected in a university lab and now scooped late into the night for the hundreds of people willing to queue for flavours like pear and blue cheese.

For a cocoa fix, try the drinking chocolate at Cacao - a shot of it is all you need, particularly if you order it spicy.


Get your ice cream fix at Salt & Straw. Photo / Supplied
LATE NIGHT

Arriving in town late or just fancy squeezing in one more meal? Clyde Common offers a great bar and excellent food past midnight.

I didn't get to Luc Lac, but it's a fave among hospo staff looking for great Vietnamese in the very early hours.

CHECKLIST
Getting there: Air New Zealand flies twice daily to Los Angeles from Auckland, increasing to three daily services from December to March. From there, US domestic carriers continue to Oregon.

Further information: See travelportland.com and DiscoverAmerica.com for more on visiting Portland, or check out the 'Trip Tuner' to design your perfect USA holiday.

The writer travelled as a guest of Travel Portland, and stayed at the Residence Inn by Marriott.