Few states do so many different foods—and beverages—quite like Oregon. A lot of people might never think of the Pacific Northwest state as a foodie mecca, but perhaps that’s what makes this such a special place.
With award-winning cheeses, world-class wines, and seafood to die for, there’s only one word to define Oregon’s cuisine: quality. With a dedication to providing their community with top-tier meals, taking a pilgrimage to try Oregon’s best-known dishes will be worth your while.
Using local ingredients and focusing on environmental integrity, wherever you are in the Beaver State, you’ll taste the difference right away. In no particular order, here are the most popular foods and drinks in Oregon:
Oregon is simply too serious about good cheese for any cheesy jokes. The state has over 250 varieties of cow, sheep, and goat cheeses from local cheesemakers, making it a cheese aficionado’s haven.
Of course, Tillamook is by far the largest and most iconic. This creamery has long been world-famous for its medium cheddar and has earned over 750 awards in its nearly 120 years of production. It’s now one of the largest family-owned creameries in the country.
But, you can’t go to Oregon without visiting some of the countless other creameries. Rogue or Umapine Creameries are both worth checking out. For those interested in making cheese, Pholia Farm in southern Oregon’s River specializes in Nigerian Dwarf goat and raw milk cheeses.
Additionally, true cheese lovers will want to visit in the middle of March when the annual Oregon Cheese Festival takes place. Held outside of Medford at Rogue Creamery, visitors can sample numerous products as well as learn more than they ever thought they could about cheese.
Beaver State? How about the Brewery State? The Pacific Northwest is known in general for its stellar locally-crafted brews, but nothing compares to Oregon’s. It makes sense since the state has rich volcanic soil and an ideal climate for growing dozens of varieties of high-quality hops.
Currently, the second-largest producer in the country, just behind its northern neighbor, Washington, Oregon was the leading hops producer in the world through the 1930s. Of course, while the search for the perfect pint has always been a solid Oregonian pastime, the state has only recently gained its reputation as a microbrewery hotspot.
During the early 1980s, pubs were still illegal throughout the state, in a long holdover from post-Prohibition restrictions on alcohol. It wasn’t until 1985, after years of lobbying, that local brewers finally succeeded to overturn these decades-old laws which banned the manufacture and sale of alcohol on the same premises.
Up until then, locals had little shot at getting their delicious alcoholic art to the public. With the lifting of these strict bans on selling on-site, however, brewers could now do business right where they worked their magic. And thus, the state’s microbrewery culture was born.
And while in some ways still relatively young, Oregon has already established itself as a serious contender for the best beer out there. Today, the state has the highest per capita concentration of microbreweries anywhere in the world, truly the premier place for a perfectly Pacific Northwest pint.
Captain Crunch? Maple bacon? Weddings? Check, check, and check. If you have an affinity for all things sweet and unexpected, you might lose yourself in sugary ecstasy at Voodoo Doughnut. This shop does wacky like none other—fitting, as it represents Oregon’s largest city that’s known for its motto, Keep Portland Weird.
Since it became Portland’s first donut shop in 2003, Voodoo has been concocting crazy combinations that keep their lines long year-round, like their famous Oh Captain, My Captain ring, which is piled high with frosted vanilla and Cap’n Crunch cereal, and the Maple Blazer Blunt, a sugared roll meant to resemble a lit cigar.
There’s also the Grape Ape, the Guava Colada, the Homer, and the Old Dirty Bastard (a monstrous glazed treat with its waves of chocolate frosting, heaps of crushed Oreos, and great mounds of peanut butter). Naturally, there are tamer combinations for those who may not feel up for trying dried chilis on their donuts.
Of course, if you’re done with fried sugary rings going to your waste, you can always put a ring on your finger instead and tie the knot at Voodoo. The shop is legally licensed to perform civil unions and will gladly take you and your sweetheart to the next level of sweet bliss.
All Things Marionberry
Found in pies, scones, ice cream, jams, wine, cider, liquor, candies glazes, cheesecakes, and other desserts as well as paried with Pacific Northwest maintas like smoked salmon, Marionberry is a true Oregonian treat. Of course, if you ever do get tired of the marionberry, don’t worry. Oregon is serious about all varieties of plump, juicy berries.
The state is a top producer of raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, and the southern coast’s very own, incomparable cranberries. That clearly wasn’t enough variety, though, and so in 1956, Oregon State University developed the state’s own marionberry.
A cross between the Chehalem and Olallie blackberry cultivars, this Ore-grown berry quickly became so widely cultivated it now accounts for over half of all blackberries produced in the state, and is lovingly referred to as the “cabernet” of berries. With their unmatched juiciness and deep, sweet flavor, marionberries may quickly become your favorite Oregon food, however you try them.
Clams, Oysters, Chowder, and Mo
To be fair, each one of these should get its own category. Oregon’s coastline is dotted with small towns along Highway 101, each worth a visit for its beauty, quaint identity, and seafood sensations.
From oyster shooters, halibut dish and chips, and clam chowder at Catalyst Seafood in Brookings to the myriad of options in the quirky riverside town of Astoria on the Columbia River, particularly at Silver Salmon, you’ll quickly discover each town has its own must-try restaurant that has its own local claim to fame.
And then there’s Mo’s. If you know what’s good for you, Mo’s Seafood and Chowder will be your first stop—though it might ruin all other seafood experiences forever after. Astoundingly down to earth, this family-run chowder shack originally opened in Newport in 1946 and has long been serving some of the best chowder quite possibly ever made.
Over the years, it’s attracted all kinds of celebrity attention, including then-Senator Robert Kennedy. He visited Newport in 1968 and enjoyed the chowder so much that he took several buckets with him to continue his presidential campaign. Needless to say, this is a must for anyone!
Say wine, and most people think of California or France. But with over 900 wineries and some of the most popular blends in the country—hello, Pinot noir lovers!—Oregon gives the Golden State a run for its money. The state ranks fourth in the nation in wine production and has been competitive on the international scene since the 1970s.
The Willamette Valley in mild northern Oregon is home to two-thirds of the state’s wineries, as well as the grapes that become the region’s most prized wine, Pinot noir. An impressive variety of other wines also come from here including Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot blanc, Riesling, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Of course, Willamette Valley has no monopoly on the market. The Walla Walla, Umpqua, and Rogue Valleys, as well as the Columbia Gorge straddling Oregon and Washington, are other key wine-producing regions. These are just a few of the 11 major viticultural regions throughout the state, making Oregon a must-visit, even if for its wine alone!
Whatever you’ve ever thought about vegans, clear your head and go to Oregon. This state, long known for its environmentally-minded folk with a flair for the funky, has a vegan scene unlike anywhere else in the world, including vegan tattoo shops if you so desire. And we’re not just talking top-notch scrambles or black-bean burgers done right.
Oregon is next level—but don’t just take it from us. Visit Next Level Burger, which has various locations across the state, for plenty of vegan options. From soy curls and jackfruit nuggets to vegan donuts and Out and In cheeseburgers—the animal-friendly twist on the famous Southwestern US burger chain—there’s no end to the creativity, the flavors, and the surprises.
If you ever thought vegans only noshed on nuts or slurped kale smoothies in stultifying quantities, you must experience Oregon’s dazzling variety of plant-based possibilities.
Blame it on millennials’ affinity for sleeping in late, but brunch is quickly becoming a preferred meal in America. Though memorable spots are increasingly easy to find in cities coast to coast, you won’t want to pass up brunch in Oregon.
The home-grown approach to food has transformed the scene in Oregon, making your next late-morning outing much more than just an excuse to drink with your friends at 11 am. Here, you don’t need to limit your thinking (or your taste buds) to mimosas or biscuits and gravy.
You’ll find all the classics and then some, all done in the typical Oregonian style: local, simple, vegan-friendly, and with just enough quirky creativity to make it unforgettable. Brunch combines everything deliciously Oregon in one meal with locally-crafted “beermosas”, vegan chicken and waffles, or marionberry cider being some favorites.
Be sure to hit up Jam on Hawthorne, consistently voted Portland’s best breakfast, for their BBQ tempeh hash browns or vegan French Toast sticks with coconut caramel drizzle. You don’t want to miss out!
Filberts! Yes, Filberts!
One thing is for sure: Oregon’s food scene would not be the same without this full-flavored round tree nut. The state produces over 90% of the United States hazelnut crop and brings in an impressive $150 million each year from the state’s 1000+ farms and family growers.
You might hear the hazelnut locally referred to as a filbert, which folklore attributes to Saint Filbert (Philibert), of Gascony, modern-day France. His feast day is celebrated on August 20, traditionally the time of the first hazelnut harvest in western Europe and England.
This was, as the legend goes, a raucous affair involving the entire town, with carols and lots of drinks to celebrate the bounty. All ages of townspeople, from children to drunken elderly, would race the squirrels to the trees, making the collection of filberts one of the nuttiest events of the entire year.
Whatever you call them, hazelnuts have quite a unique spot in Oregon’s list of iconic foods!
It might seem like all Oregonians have time for their next beverage. Blame it on the soggy weather or the influence of the state’s java-lovering northern neighbor, but resident’s are particular about their cup of joe. In fact, this artisanal approach to coffee is a whole movement.
The third wave movement transformed coffee into a craft industry, changing drinks from simply a commodity or average to. awork of art. An experience to savor, much like with wine, cheese, or beer (beginning to see a theme here?), third-wave coffee shops and roasteries are abound in Oregon.
If you want something truly unique, visit Pendleton’s Buckin’ Bean Roastery, which employs infrared burner technology for flavor consistency in its blends. If all the good brew has your blood singing, hit up Stoked Roasters in Hood River, where the name says it all. These are coffee masters stoked on life, with a mission to bring their passion to as many people as possible.
If you’re looking for more than just a grit-your-teeth-and-knock-it-back cup of coffee to get you through your next work meeting, come to Oregon and truly enjoy your joe. As they say, karpe javem!
You most certainly won’t want to miss out on a culinary tour of Oregon. There are many flavors, quirky creations, and endless surprises to discover from the coast to the mountains and beyond. Whatever your desire, you’re likely to find it here!