Any weekday afternoon, nearly 900 students throng the halls of Parkrose High School in outer Northeast Portland. With more than 70 percent students of color and some 28 languages between them, it’s one of the most ethnically diverse student bodies in the city—and some of them have lots to say about Stumptown’s best offerings.
Sophomore Silvia Xiong was born in Minnesota—her parents, Hmong refugees, grew up in Laos—but she’s lived in Northeast Portland since she was a wee thing. At 16, the budding gastronome has plenty of opinions on where to chow, primarily along the city’s booming 82nd Avenue. She adores the wildly decorated, fruity fusion smoothies at Zero Degrees (“Hispanic and Asian drinks mixed together!”) and the boba teas and sweet crêpe sundaes at the Southeast Portland outpost of Japanese chain Mojo Crepes. “They also have a Japanese hot dog,” Silvia says, calling out the wieners piled with seaweed and pickled ginger. And she’s all about the pork belly at K-Town Korean BBQ, spicy or slathered with miso, but she’s waiting until she turns 21 to try the wine-marinated version.
Her mom (a “picky eater”) has warmed to one of Xiong’s favorites: 82nd Avenue stalwart Pho Oregon, with its brimming bowls of the Vietnamese soup, redolent with spices and showered with herbs. And when the family feels nostalgic for chicken and rice, they trek to Aloha to visit La Vang-Herr, owner of La’s, the metro area’s only Hmong food cart. “I get the phat wing—a chicken wing stuffed with noodles, carrots, green onions, cilantro,” says Xiong. “[My parents] go there just to talk with La.”
Where else does she go to connect with fellow Portlanders? That’d be the Lloyd Center Ice Rink, where she joins those gathered at the perimeter, mesmerized by the skaters. “Roller-skating, everybody does that,” she says, “but ice-skating, on ice—it seems so fascinating.”