Behind every great food city is a public that feeds off on the excitement of its new cuisines, cooks, and eating experiences. Portland is no exception. Heck, we’re even devotees of dining al fresco at food carts despite the infamously unpalatable Northwest weather. Fiercely supportive of independent businesses and individuals who strive to create unique flavors, Portlanders are drawn naturally to handcrafted cheeses and to the people who make them. The destinations highlighted here serve as a guide to the very best of Portland’s ingenuity, commitment to craftsmanship, and insatiable interest in cheese.
Foster & Dobbs
This honest-to-goodness neighborhood specialty shop, which sits smack in the middle of some of Portland’s most beautiful tree-lined streets, stocks a wide variety of domestic and imported cheeses alongside every accompaniment you might desire. Show up hungry and enjoy a generous selection of cheese and charcuterie plates, salads, and neoclassic sandwiches, like the hot and melty Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar with mango chutney and spicy mustard.
Foster & Dobbs 2518 NE 15th Avenue Portland, OR 503.284.1157
Large wooden carts laden with flowers, fruits, and vegetables flank the entrance of this postage-stamp-size market located next to the Woodsman Tavern. Inside, the idyllic bodega is filled with high-quality versions of all the goods you might shop for at an open-air market: flowers, charcuterie, bread, milk, eggs, and a selection of about 40 premium cheeses. Regular shoppers favor Spanish goat’s milk cheese Pata Cabra and alpine Scharfe Maxx.
Woodsman Market 4529 SE Division Street Portland, OR 971.373.8267
This establishment is exactly what it sounds like—a bar, with cheese. Owned and operated by Portland’s biggest cheese celebrity, Steve Jones, winner of the 2011 Cheesemonger Invitational, the shop offers a staggering selection of more than 200 cheeses, six beers on tap and 50 in bottles, 30 wines, and cheesy favorites like raclette and mac and cheese. Despite working more than 15 years in cheese retail, Jones still merrily refers to his weekly deliveries as “cheese Christmas.” We’ll toast to that.
Cheese Bar 6031 SE Belmont Street Portland, OR 503.222.6014
Conceived by Pastaworks market owner Peter de Garmo and executed by Kevin Gibson—one of Portland’s most recognized culinary talents— this delightfully unfussy space is ideal for casual midday and early evening dining. Ingredients shift with the seasons but evergreen dishes involving cheese are not to be missed. Try the chèvre chaud and arugula salad or a satiating grilled cheese made with Le Maréchal (a flavorful Swiss mountain cheese), a smattering of shallots, and a touch of Dijon mustard.
Evoe 3735 SE Hawthorne Boulevard Portland, OR 503.232.1010
Grain & Gristle
A comfortable and inspired environment for tucking into a satisfying meal with a pint of Pacific Northwest beer, Grain & Gristle has been a success from the moment it swung open its doors in 2009. Eight beers on tap and a three-cheese plate showcase regional producers and rotate regularly. One menu highlight: the 2fer, a hearty blueplate dish for two accompanied by two servings of 12-ounce beers.
Grain & Gristle 1473 NE Prescott Street Portland, OR 503.298.5007
Crossing the threshold of Ned Ludd is like stumbling into a cozy corner of a fairytale forest with tiny plants and warm lighting offset a rustic wood backdrop to create a homey vibe; seasonal menus are influenced heavily by a wood-fired oven, the kitchen’s primary heat source. Chef Jason French’s commitment to handcrafted food carries through to his cheese selection—always a carefully considered collection of small production, and often farmstead, cheeses. For the full experience, order your cheese with a side of fresh-from-the-hearth flatbread.
Ned Ludd 3925 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard Portland, OR 503.288.6900
Chef-owner Vitaly Paley and his wife, Kimberly, are some of Portland’s food pioneers. In 1995 they created this comfortably upscale dining room that has become an anchor in the city’s food scene. Chef de cuisine Patrick McKee insists that the best part of his job is selecting cheeses for the restaurant, and it shows: the first thing patrons see upon entering the dining room is a gorgeous cheese board with 12 to 15 ripe selections, many from the Pacific Northwest, including luscious Sunset Bay from Rivers Edge Chèvre and creamy Cirrus from Mt. Townsend Creamery.
Paley’s Place 1204 NW 21st Avenue Portland, OR 503.243.2403
Opened in August by the owners of Ox Restaurant next door, this 15-seat bar serves cocktails, wine, beer, and a collection of Argentinian-inspired small plates prepared in the Ox kitchen. Its name nods to the building’s history as a creamery and highlights bar manager Jamal Hassan’s use of whey left over from the restaurant’s ricotta production in his concoctions. Try the Whey Gin Fizz, a light, tangy, and herbaceous quaff that pairs beautifully with a pot of housemade ricotta and chimichurri crostini.
Whey Bar 2225 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard Portland, OR (behind Ox Restaurant) 503.284.3366
The Victory Bar
Come for the beer and stay for the spaetzle. Though it’s often called a bartender’s bar, the Victory seems to have attracted everyone in the neighborhood as well as the larger Portland metro with its crafted cocktails, beers from around the globe, and discerning selection of small-production wines. Spaetzle baked with Gruyère and topped with crispy shallots is a staple menu highlight, but the cheese doesn’t stop there: try the hush puppies with Grafton cheddar or choose a stellar cheese board curated weekly by Cheese Bar’s Steve Jones.
The Victory Bar 3652 SE Division Street Portland, OR (503) 236-8755
At this classy restaurant and bar at the base of the Ace Hotel, the menu is grounded in European traditions freshened up with seasonal ingredients. Bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler has developed quite a following for his extensive selection of American whiskey and barrel-aged cocktails. “We have folks that come in three times a week for the Bourbon Renewal, ” he says. For an easy introduction to the staff’s skills with booze and cheese, stop by and try two happy hour specials that are reinvented daily: grilled cheese and punch.
Clyde Common 1014 SW Stark Street Portland, OR 503.228.3333
Wineries & Wine Bars
ENSO Urban Winery & Tasting Lounge
Check all wine and cheese pretension at the door: ENSO is a casual urban winery that works with a number of grape varietals largely from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Wine tasting options abound, as all are offered in a flight, by the glass, or by the bottle. Wines from other Portland winemakers are also available by the glass, as well as two rotating taps of Pacific Northwest beer, which complement rustic cheese and charcuterie boards.
ENSO Urban Winery & Tasting Lounge 1416 SE Stark Street Portland, OR 503.683.3676
Tucked away on a quiet street in the Central Eastside industrial neighborhood is Fausse Piste winery and its sister restaurant and wine bar, Sauvage. Plates are composed of seasonal regional ingredients prepared simply to provide a nice backdrop for wine tasting. The Fromage du Jour plate is designed with wines in mind—more than 50 bottles from small or family-run producers around the world. Don’t miss the happy-hour highlight: smoked chicken wings with blue cheese and slaw, accompanied by a glass of snappy Riesling.
Sauvage 537 SE Ash Street Portland, OR, #102 (entrance on 6th Avenue) 503.807.5565
One of Portland’s gustatory jewels, Kir wine bar offers 50 wines by the glass, mostly Old World and sustainably produced, and a modest menu of small plates—all of which are affordable and approachable. “Our house staff works very hard to study up on our wine program,” says owner Amalie Roberts, “so not only do you get a lip-smacking glass of wine but an education in wine.” Cheese makes its way into a dish or two—atop pillowy gnocchi or shaved over crisp salad greens—and shines in the spotlight on a plate with salami and pickles.
Kir 22 NE 7th Avenue Portland, OR 503.232.3063
Charcuterie & Meat Shops
Nestled inside City Market is a butcher shop best known locally for its pâté, and for good reason: co-owner Eric Finley is on a mission to change the public perception that “pâtés are a super-gnarly liver product.” He achieves this by using ingredients like venison and sun-dried cherries, and he even creates a bourbon-spiked chicken liver mousse. What’s more, the counter is located adjacent to legendary purveyor Pastaworks, which stocks a selection of cheeses to scratch nearly any curd-related itch.
Chop 735 NW 21st Avenue Portland, OR (inside City Market) 503.221.3012
Walk into either of the two Olympic Provisions locations and feel your appetite peak instantly. Erin Williams, chef at the NW location, selects cheese for both restaurants and takes inspiration from the cured meats cranked out next door. “I like cheeses from the regions that have inspired our salami and that represent a variety of milks, methods, flavors, and textures,” she says. Look for composed selections, such as the Alsace Board featuring house-made Saucisson d’Alsace, whole-grain mustard, Rieslingsoaked raisins, pretzel-bread crostini, and a delicious wedge of Alsatian Petit Munster.
Fino in Fondo
If you manage to wander beyond Portland’s city limits and make it to McMinnville, the Fino in Fondo salumeria is an ideal place to fill your picnic basket before visiting the wineries dotting the Willamette Valley. “We are creating our own Italian culture bubble here,” says co-owner Eric Ferguson, who models his shop after mom-and-pop salumerias in Italy, known to carry local cheeses and high-quality staple goods. The tartufo salami will transport you to Turin, especially when accompanied by a slab of subtly sweet and milky Crucolo cheese.
Fino in Fondo 777 NE 4th Street McMinnville, Oregon 503.687.1652
Cheese & Crack
Understanding that cheese can sometimes get fancy and complicated, William Steuernagel opened this food truck to bring cheese to locals in an approachable, affordable, and delectable way. The cart’s lovely and very lunch-able boxes are designed to satiate a hearty appetite and include house-made crackers, two selections of cheese and cured meat, and a couple of accompaniments, many of which are made on-site. Brace yourself for swoon-worthy combinations like Oregon Blue and Steuernagel’s marionberry preserves.
The Cheese Plate
Local favorites shine at this curdcentric spot, such as Ancient Heritage Dairy’s Valentine and Tillamook’s White Cheddar, which pair with fromage fort, homemade lavash, and crackers, plus a dollop of seasonal compote on the cheese plate. Relax on the cart’s mini deck and enjoy cheese alongside refreshing vegetarian and vegan side dishes like pickled eggs, kale chips, or seasonal melon spiked with cardamom sea salt. On a wintry afternoon, cheer up with a warm and melty Scotch Rarebit or grilled cheese from this cart and a cuppa from neighboring Townshend’s Tea.
Grilled Cheese Grill
The Cheesus, the legendary sandwich at the Grilled Cheese Grill, consists of a hamburger patty served between two grilled cheeses in lieu of a bun, which may be enjoyed at a table inside a converted school bus or double-decker bus. The Cheesus might not be for everybody, but if it’s for you, it’s awesome. Other options range from the most basic, the Kindergartener, made with cheddar or American on white, to the super-gussied-up Shocker with bacon, provolone, jalapeños, and roasted red peppers on sourdough. Naptime to follow.
Grilled Cheese Grill Double Decker Bus SE 28th Avenue Portland, OR and Ankeny Street Portland, OR 503.206.7018
The School Bus NE 11th Avenue Portland, OR and Alberta Street Portland, OR 503.206.8959 Alder Pod Cart SW 10th Avenue Portland, OR and Alder Street Portland, OR @GrildChzGrill
And Then Some Ice Cream!
Salt & Straw
Ice cream is more than a passion for Salt & Straw’s chief ice cream maker, Tyler Malek; it’s his blank canvas. New flavors—always a few involving cheese, which lend funky, fermented, umami tastes and a unique sweetness to the frozen dessert—are in constant rotation at the company’s two brick-andmortar locations. Malek has featured regional varieties from Rogue Creamery and Portland Creamery in his creations. Rumor has it that Gorgonzola Dolce may be on deck soon—another excuse to lick some cheese without drawing attention to yourself.
Salt & Straw 2035 NE Alberta Street Portland, OR 503.208.3867 838 NW 23rd Avenue Portland, OR 971.271.8168