Ever since Andy Ricker first visited Thailand on a backpacking trip in 1987, he’s sought to bring the country’s range of flavors home to the United States, re-creating the bright, bold cuisine with his Pok Pok restaurants and sister venues in Portland, New York, and Los Angeles. But even though the James Beard Award-winning chef spends months abroad every year, searching for tips and tastes to elevate his own culinary interpretations, there is only one place he considers home: Portland. Ricker has lived in the city’s Southeast neighborhood for the past 20 years, and opened Pok Pok’s first location there, on the vibrant Division Street, in 2005. Ricker approaches Portland with the same sense of adventure as he does food: He takes out-of-towners for refined Russian fare, his favorite offbeat attractions include an outdoor Roman Catholic shrine, and his chosen Sunday morning routine involves Vietnamese noodles and a stroll up Mount Tabor. Read on for more of Ricker’s favorite things to do in Portland.
How much time out of the year do you spend living in Portland? I call Portland home, no matter where in the world I sleep. I am here about five months out of the year, at least.
What neighborhood do you live in, and how long have you lived there? I live in Southeast Portland, near Pok Pok on Division Street. I have for about 20 years now. (3226 SE Division St.; 503-232-1387; pokpokpdx.com)
What hotel would you recommend for friends visiting town? Since I almost never stay in hotels in Portland, I cannot give firsthand knowledge on this. But I can say that most friends who come through stay at either the Ace Hotel (1022 SW Stark St.; 503-228-2277; acehotel.com) or The Nines (525 SW Morrison St.; 877-229-9995; thenines.com).
Where is the best place to find Portland's signature dish? I don't think Portland has a signature dish. Rather, it has many signature dishes: Beef cheeks at Le Pigeon (738 E. Burnside St.; 503-546-8796; lepigeon.com), The Reggie at Pine State Biscuits (1100 SE Division St.; 503-236-3346; pinestatebiscuits.com), Chicken and Jo-Jos at the Reel-M-Inn (2430 SE Division St.; 503-231-3880), and (of course) Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings at Pok Pok are just a few.
What is your favorite restaurant to take visitors? Kachka! I always take out-of-town folks there for their modern take on Soviet food, ice-cold vodka, and warm service. (720 SE Grand Ave.; 503-235-0059; kachkapdx.com)
Where can you find the best cocktails? Pretty much anywhere—Portland is as cocktail town. But if pushed, I would point to Clyde Common (1014 SW Stark St.; 503-228-3333; clydecommon.com) and Pepe Le Moko, where world-class bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler plies his trade (407 SW 10th Ave.; 503-546-8537; pepelemokopdx.com).
Where can you find the best beer list? I am not a craft beer drinker, but Portland is littered with taprooms and breweries. Even the local pubs often have very deep beer lists. You can't go wrong, really. Apex on Division Street has a huge selection, and their patio is always jammed in fair weather. (1216 SE Division St.; 503-273-9227; apexbar.com)
Where can you find the best wine list? Not much of a wine drinker either, but Andrew Fortgang of Le Pigeon and Little Bird (215 SW 6th Ave.; 503-688-5952; littlebirdbistro.com) always keeps a stellar cellar.
Where would you choose to splurge on a night out? Portland is a pretty lowbrow city, so for a fun night of food and drink in an upscale setting, I'd choose Departure Lounge on the rooftop of The Nines. Chef Greg Gourdet turns out beautiful plates of innovative food with a heavy Asian influence, using the best of the Pacific Northwest’s bounty. (525 SW Morrison St.; 503-0802-5370; departureportland.com)
What is your go-to after-hours bar? Usually the Reel M Inn (2430 SE Division St.; 503-231-3880), which has been named the best dive bar in the USA. But when I’m downtown and want a killer cocktail in a cozy environment, it's Pepe Le Moko for me.
What’s the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon? In the summer, I'd recommend a drive out to the Columbia Gorge—beautiful scenery just an hour from the city. In the winter, I'd check into Loyly Spa (2713 SE 21st Ave.; 503-236-6850; loyly.net) for a steam, sauna, and a deep tissue massage, followed by an afternoon coffee and snack at Little T American Baker just up the street (2600 SE Division St.; 503-238-3458; littletbaker.com).
What is your Sunday morning routine? Roll up to Hà VL for the best Vietnamese noodles in town, and the best cafe sua da (Vietnamese iced coffee) to go with it. Then maybe take a stroll up on Mount Tabor to get the blood flowing. (2738 SE 82nd Ave.; 503-772-0103)
Where is the best brunch? The Woodsman Tavern. Great food, perfect laid-back atmosphere, and a huge whisky selection. (4537 SE Division St.; 971-373-8264; woodsmantavern.com)
Where do you go for the perfect cup of coffee? Stumptown. I go to the original location on Division Street because I live within walking distance, but there are other locations around town. (4525 SE Division St., 503-230-7702; stumptowncoffee.com)
What’s your favorite view in town (that tourists might not know about)? Council Crest Park. You can see several mountains, the river, and parts of the city. You can go any time during the day, but it closes in the evening. (SW Council Crest Dr.; 503-823-7529; portlandoregon.gov)
What’s your favorite path or trail to follow on a walk? Out on Sauvie Island, there are some nice walking trails.
What are your favorite off-beat cultural attractions in the city? The Grotto is a Catholic wonderland, with a park showing Stations of the Cross and a view to the east (8840 NE Skidmore St.; 503-254-7371; thegrotto.org). Ground Kontrol is a retro arcade that has old video games and pinball with booze (511 NW Couch St.; 503-796-9364; groundkontrol.com). The Farmers Market has a broad array of local products, performances, and prepared foods; it’s offbeat because real farmers go there, not just resellers like at most urban farmers markets (Various locations; 503-241-0032; portlandfarmersmarket.org).
What’s your favorite shop, store, or boutique? Canoe. They’re known for curated gifts and crafts—the best in town. (1233 SW 10th Ave.; 503-889-8545; canoeonline.net)
What’s the ultimate souvenir from Portland—something you can only get there—that you recommend people bring back with them? Marionberries.
What’s the city's best-kept local secret? Elvis Lives. If you are lucky, you'll see him playing on the street!