On a recent summer visit, we chased down the best fresh foodie finds in Vancouver Washington, just across the river from Portland, Oregon.
How many places do you visit where you plan out fresh foodie experiences for each day even before planning visits to museums, parks, shopping, and sporting events? Well, Vancouver Washington is that type of place. Come with us as we share with you the fresh foodie finds in Vancouver, just across the river from Portland, Oregon. Vancouver is filled with Pacific Northwest history, scenic hikes along the river, and a vibrant arts scene. But on our summer visit, we were checking out both the new and established locavore scene of this southwest Washington city.
Discovering Foodie Finds in Vancouver: the New Hidden House Market
When you arrive at Portland International Airport (PDX), you’ll be a mere ten minutes via a bridge across the Columbia River away from Washington State. We took the exit leading to downtown Vancouver and headed for a weathered brick home dubbed Hidden House. No, it’s not hidden by trees and foliage, it’s called Hidden House because of the type of brick the original owners used to build it.
The Hidden Story
Entrepreneur Lowell Hidden, who settled in Vancouver in 1871, didn’t plan to become a successful owner of a brickworks. Lowell just sought out a need and filled it. He opened the Hidden Brick Company at 15th and Main just in time to provide the building material for Mother Joseph’s Providence Academy school and orphanage, which still stands as a Vancouver landmark.
Over the years, Hidden House evolved from a classy downtown residence to a restaurant venue. And now, Hidden House has rave reviews as a farm-to-fork deli/wine shop and casual dining spot.
Lunch at the Fresh Foodie Deli
Local husband-and-wife David White and Elaine Frances, who live in the quaint neighborhood near the Hidden House, also saw a need they wanted to fill. Downtown Vancouver didn’t have a grab-and-go, wine shop, deli type of place. The couple knew locals would head for downtown to enjoy a fresh foodie Vancouver meal. They leased the Hidden House and spruced up the beautiful antique interior, added outdoor seating, and created an ever-changing menu based on their successful catering offerings.
The day we visited, they were offering a new range of pocket sandwiches, filled with local fresh foods and accompanied not by chips, fries, or potato salad, but creative skewers of seasonal produce. A local spot known for its excellent pizza dough bakes the bread for Hidden House Market. It was ideal for my tarragon chicken salad sandwich piled high with crispy lettuce, bright red tomatoes, and sprouts. I chose the Caprese skewer with more red tomatoes, mozzarella, and fragrant basil.
The sun warmed the porch where we sat and ate and were so relaxed that we could easily have chatted the afternoon away.
Whoopie Pies in the Pacific Northwest
On our way out we talked with David and Elaine about the seductively decadent whoopie pies—an unusual find in the Pacific Northwest—but baked daily on-site and becoming rather popular to pick up on the run. Wanting a snack for TV-watching later, we picked up some house-made trail mix and succumbed to the chocolatey goodness of a Whoopie Pie and added one to the take-home bag from the Hidden House Market.
Creative Cuisine at Elements
In this one-week visit to the Pacific Northwest, my friends and I put our heads together and selected some of the best farm-to-fork experiences we could share. Chef Miguel Sosa’s Elements Restaurant was high on the list. Chef Sosa and crew had survived the early days of the pandemic by putting up a creative outdoor “parklet” in front of the restaurant, offering take-out, and putting picnic tables and a chef’s garden out in the back.
Fully vaccinated, we made a reservation for an indoor table and noticed new things there, too. Chef Sosa’s ever-changing seasonal menus are a draw. He sources from the local small organic farms surrounding Vancouver.
Fun Foodie Find in Vancouver: A Vegan Steak at Elements
That night we experienced the magic that goes on in the small kitchen at Elements. We tried something we had never heard of before—a watermelon steak! To create the vegan watermelon steak, Chef compresses the watermelon so that it loses its water-filled, light, crunchy texture, and then grills it. Roasted corn, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and farro succotash round out the meal. There is a blackberry and tamarind barbeque sauce and the chef serves it all over cashew ricotta.
Proteins Also Abound at Elements
Not to ignore the excellent protein served at Elements, we also delved into a succulent duck breast accompanied by some of the same creative tastes that complimented the vegan dish. Other favorite dishes at Elements are their scallops and the loin of pork.
Do It Yourself at the Fresh Foodie Farmer’s Market
The large popular weekend Vancouver Farmers Market is an important stop for foodies who like to pick up local ingredients for a meal, to buy plant starts, and to enjoy a fully prepared meal while listening to live music. We hit the farmer’s market early to avoid the crowds and check out the produce from local farms as well as from the Yakima Valley to the east. There were specialty foods such as salsa, hummus, jellies, and jams.
Native Fishers Contribute to the Farmers Market
Fresh-caught and frozen seafood were available from as far away as Alaska. Recently, we heard about some of the Native fishers who have fishing rights in the Columbia River setting up farmers’ markets booths. If you head out east along the Columbia River Gorge you’ll often see the Native fishers with their long-handled nets fishing from platforms or boats as their ancestors did centuries ago. During the late spring, summer, and fall, the public can purchase freshly caught Columbia River chinook, coho, steelhead, and sockeye directly from Indian fishers in places like Cascade Locks, Oregon, and now, from area farmers markets.
Family Fun at the Farmers Market
There is fun for the whole family at the Vancouver Farmers’ Market. Nearby is a park and playground. The market includes enticing booths where children can taste and explore. The market also has a great area for you to sit down with lunch and listen to live music.
We picked up some fresh produce and I stopped at the soap booth for some of my favorite scented goat milk soaps before heading back to my friend’s home with our fresh foodie finds.
Fresh Foodie Finds Reading List
There are some great books you can find for helping you discover how to cook locally sourced food at home and even how to grow it at home. Here are some of our recommendations. Click on the book cover to purchase it now.
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When You Go Searching for Fresh Foodie Finds in Vancouver
While there is much to do in Vancouver, WA—we love the Pacific Northwest history, scenic hikes along the river, and a vibrant arts scene—you really must check out the fresh foodie finds in Vancouver. It’s less than 10 minutes from the Portland, Oregon airport and offers a great, laid-back visit and foodie vibe. For more ideas on visiting the Pacific Northwest see our expert travel writers’ articles on Oregon and Washington. Get on the road and hunt for more fresh foodie finds.