The north-west area of the US is similar to the north-east in terms of its beautiful landscapes, jaw-dropping National Parks, outdoor adventures and relaxed, earthy vibe. Both regions also offer visitors reason to plan a trip around their food & drink passions – the north-east has amazing seafood, dominated by the plentiful and delicious Maine lobster; the north-west is renowned for its excellent fresh food markets, artisanal coffee culture, refined red & white wines and as the epicentre of the US craft beer market.
Although the north-west’s scenery has been the main drawcard for travelers over the years, two of its biggest cities have become increasingly popular as foodie destinations where people can indulge in their favorite gastronomic delights. Combining the two cities in the same trip is easy as they are only 2 hrs from each other and there is much to see and do in-between too.
Famous for having the most microbreweries of any city in the world, love of the outdoors and nature, liberal political views and the TV series ‘Portlandia’ that pokes fun and its hippie, alternative vibe. It’s quite the un-American city.
Foodie Must Do’s:
Beer – Very Good Beer! Of course it’s all about quality craft beer and the many microbreweries that have become the social heartbeat of the city. The best way to get around to them and enjoy more than one of the tasty brews is to book on a Brewery Bus Tour. They include about 4-5 brewery stops and a tasting run through of the brew menus, which are heavily populated by tasty IPA’s. There are too many to get through but some of our favorites include: Hopworks Urban Brewery, The Commons, Lucky Lab, Bridgeport and Full Sail.
Breakfast – Finding Houston friends Emma & Charlie were recently in the area and recommend waking up with one of the best breakfasts they’ve had in the US at Tasty n Sons.
- Portland Farmer’s Market – Open 8.30am -2pm Saturdays. (Mid-March through late-December) at Portland State University. Up to 500 stalls from local farmers and producers.
- Coffee – Stumptown Coffee Roasters @ 128 SW 3rd Ave, Downtown. Also have four other locations including the flagship store @ 4525 SE Division St and are now in Seattle and NYC.
Voodoo Doughnuts @ 22 SW 3rd Ave are a Portland icon producing some crazy flavors and toppings.
- Sample any food imaginable via some of the best Food Carts in the country.
- Enjoy dinner and great views at Portland City Grill @ 111 SW 5th Ave.
- The Nines Hotel is located in downtown Portland and has the hip rooftop Departure restaurant and bar with great views over the city.
Get Out of Town:
Willamette Valley – Famous Pinot country about 45 mins drive from Portland around the town of Dundee. Dundee Bistro is a great stop for lunch and to taste Ponzi wines. Other notable wineries include: Domaine Drouhin, Domaine Serene and the tiny but beautiful cellar White Rose. Generally, most wineries need advance bookings.
- Columbia River Gorge – 1 hour out of Portland with beautiful scenery to enjoy a gourmet picnic, towering waterfalls and hikes.
- Mt Hood – Skiing in winter or hiking in summer, Mt.Hood is Portland’s adventure playground. Stay at the historic and famous Timberline Lodge from the movie ‘The Shining’.
Best known as one of the rainiest cities in the US, Seattle and the surrounding area is headquarters to some of the wealthiest and trendiest corporations in the world including Amazon, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Expedia, Google, Microsoft and Costco. That all makes it an expensive city to live but its lifestyle riches make it a great city to visit. It has become a foodie mecca thanks to the fabulous Pike Place Market, love of cafe and coffee culture and access to wonderful fresh seafood, including the famous Dungeness crab.
Foodie Must Do’s:
Pike Place Market – This is where most people will start their Seattle foodie experience and probably find themselves coming back to again and again to enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes that take place daily at this famous market. The best way to enjoy some the best food stalls, learn some history and taste yummy samples along the way is a food tour. We recommend Savor Seattle Food Tours. It is very popular so you’ll need to book a time via their website.
Coffee – Yes, it is the home of Starbucks and you can go and check out the original premises at Pike Place Market(or is it??… the original was actually located at 2000 Western Ave). But what this coffee powerhouse prompted was an influx of excellent artisan coffee houses that cater to serious and indie coffee aficionado’s tastes. Some of our favorites in this very competitive market were: Victrola(Capitol Hill location), Bauhaus(Capitol Hill) and Caffe D’arte(near Pike Place Market).
Capitol Hill Area – Just a short stroll up the hill from Pike Place Market you will note the cool cafes and eclectic feel of the area. Savour Seattle Food Tours does a great ‘Hip on the Hill’ tour taking in some great coffee, cafes and bites along the way. Melrose Market is a gourmet food market in an old warehouse building with a small number of outlets selling tasty sandwiches, cheeses, meats and more. At the back of the market is a great restuarant called Sifka and Spruce where you sit at one long communal table and watch the chefs prepare your meal.
Ballard Area – A short cab ride away from downtown but worth the trip to enjoy some of Seattle’s best restaurants. Emma & Charlie’s favorites here were: The Walrus and the Carpenter for the BEST oysters in town including Treasure Cove oysters which have only been 6 hrs out of the water! It’s a tiny place with up to a 2 hour wait at times so get there early and enjoy a drink at nearby Bitteroot if you get thirsty waiting on a table. Delancey is great for traditional Italian thin crust pizza with simple but delicious toppings. Essex Bar which is attached to Delancey for great music and cocktails.
Other Seattle Must Do’s:
Jump on a Tour of Seattle – because it’s hilly and spread around the many waterways, Seattle is not easy to navigate on your own. We recommend a 90 min ‘Qwik’ Tour with entertaining tour guide Charles. Many famous and infamous residents call(ed) Seattle home including Bill Gates, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Ted Bundy and Bruce Lee. The tour includes the homes and history of these notable celebs along with the HQ’s of its famous corporations, the ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ boathouse, Grey’s Anatomy hospital and the chance to take photos with amazing views over the city from Kerry Park.
- Sailing the Bay or taking a Washington State Ferry – weather permitting, this is a relaxing way to see Seattle from the water. Take the ferry to one of Seattle’s beaches for the day.
- Seaplane – a great way to view Seattle and surrounding area from above. Take in views of Mt.Rainier, Olympic NP, the San Juan Islands and nearby Canada.
- Space Needle – very touristy but on a clear day you can see forever. We would suggest booking a time ahead online to avoid long lines. There is a restaurant at the top.
Foodie Stay: Inn at the Market – wake up each morning with the sights and smells of the market right on your doorstep.
Get Out of Town:
Mt Rainier & Olympic National Parks – As per our America’s National Park Beauties write-up last year, the north-west has some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the US. But the weather gods need to be on your side! On a clear day, Mt. Rainier towers over Seattle and appears to be at every angle you look. If it’s a clear day get in the car early and make the 1 hr drive to get even closer and you will be mesmerized how beautiful this 14,411ft stratovolcano is. The town of Paradise sits at 5,400ft and is as far as you can go unless you are game for the guided overnight hike to the top(not an easy hike!). There is a beautiful lodge to stay at and a large visitors centre from which you can grab a map and do some smaller hikes on your own around the area. In winter you should check the Mt.Rainier NP website for road closures and park opening details. In summer the wildflowers are particularly beautiful and there is lots of camping, hiking, wildlife and waterfalls in the area.
A day trip out to Olympic National Park is also a memorable trip, which is blessed with the natural wonders of Mt.Olympus ranges, beautiful lakes, hot springs, stunning coastline and ancient rainforests.