Unique Foods to Try in the Northwest

The Northwest is a unique culinary destination. On the one hand, the region has large cities that offer a variety of culinary representation, from Norwegian to Indonesian. Seattle and Portland have long been known as hot spots for creative chefs and unique restaurant concepts. Washington, Oregon, and Idaho are all known for strong agricultural products. And, with almost 500 miles of coastline, the northwest has its own seafood-oriented creations.

That’s a long way of saying you’ll eat well no matter what your budget or where you happen to be. Here are some recommendations on the most unique foods to try in the Northwest – dishes that you just won’t easily find anywhere else.

Paella at The Basque Market. (Photo by Restaurant)

Paella at The Basque Market. (Photo by Restaurant)

Basque in Boise

You might be surprised to know that Idaho is home to one of the largest populations of Basque people outside of Spain – and they’ve been there since the 1800s! That’s why they’ve had time to perfect their culinary offerings, primarily in a small neighborhood near downtown Boise. Enjoy some of the tapas at Bar Gernika (try the sandwiches with a side of croquetas) or The Basque Market (great wine and so many wonderful tapas). You’ll also find an excellent basque menu at the Bardenay Restaurant & Distillery. The Basque Market also offers cooking classes, if you want to take home some new skills.

Eggplant Fries at Poppy. Photo by Restaurant

Creative Veggies in Seattle

While Seattle has world-renowned chef and restaurants with killer skyline views, perhaps one of the most interesting trends in Seattle is the creative preparation of veggies – yes, it’s possible to eat healthy and heave fun! Two must-try dishes: Poppy, in the happenin’ Capital Hill neighborhood, makes eggplant fries that are so good, you won’t want to go back to those old-fashioned potatos. Closer to downtown, Black Bottle in Belltown makes the most delicious blasted broccoli that is so good you’ll never make broccoli at home the same again.

Food Carts in Downtown Portland.  Photo by Beth.

Food Carts in Downtown Portland. Photo by Beth.

Food Carts Pods in Portland

While other cities in the US now rival Portland’s food cart supremacy, Portland was the original innovator and continues to delivery tasty cuisine from small kitchens. Because of the strong real estate market, food carts now tend to be grouped in to small gathering spots, called pods. These are great especially if you’re in a group, as everyone can try something different. Popular pods include Cartopia at SE 12th and Hawthorne (try Potato Champion), Alder Street Food Cart Pod at SW 9th and Alder (try the Grilled Cheese Grill), or Tidbit on SE 28th and Division (try the waffle cart).

Blackberry tart, photo by Newaukum Valley Farm.

Blackberry tart, photo by Newaukum Valley Farm.

Eat on the Farm

Farm-to-table restaurants can be found across the country. The Northwest takes it a step further where you can actually eat on the farm – and many of these meals are not only fresh and tasty, but surprisingly affordable (not to mention a great way to support local agriculture) – so they’re worth the drive. Peaceful Belly in Garden City, Idaho, is a Northwest favorite, and a great opportunity sample Idaho wines and ciders at the same time. In Portland or Vancouver Washington, the drive is short to Sauvie Island for a farm dinner. Both Kruger’s Farm and Bella Organic have sit down themed dinners. Or consider getting off the grid in Lewis County, Washington at the Newaukum Valley Farm (near Chehalis) – 5 courses of organic deliciousness await.

Fish roasting at Tillicum Village. Photo by WA Tourism Association.

Fish roasting at Tillicum Village. Photo by WA Tourism Association.

Northwest Native American Dining at Tillicum Village

A great experience for both tourists and locals, the cruise excursion from Seattle to Tillicum Village is a must. You have to take a ferry – the attraction is located on Blake Island, in Puget Sound, the village allows you to explore the culture, history, and the food of the Salish tribes that were once based here. The menu includes items like fire roasted fish, meat stews, a mug in steamed clams, homemade bread, fruit and veggies. Book ahead for this excursion!

Written by Andy Hayes
Andy Hayes is the founder and creator of Plum Deluxe and Plum Deluxe Teas. A Northwest travel aficionado, he helps create and maintain content here at Best of Northwest.