Banana diets, ethically sourced chicken, pasta addictions, and food photo shoots make the perfect comedic meal.
Plenty of shows play tribute to locations, from Hawaii Five-0 to Law and Order: Los Angeles. But none does it so well or so hilariously as Portlandia. Created by Saturday Night Live alum Fred Armisen and rocker Carrie Brownstein, the series has spent years spotlighting Portland’s culture and locations, while also ripping on its rather distinctive personality (as well as food TV). Part of that personality and culture is built around food, and Portlandia has taken some serious comedic liberties with Portland, Oregon’s drink and dining scene. The show’s eighth and final season just premiered, and in honor of it, here are 20 of Portlandia’s best food moments.
911 Beets Emergency
911 calls are no laughing matter, but in Portlandia they are apparently always a matter of beets. In this season four episode, two emergency operators swiftly handle every call by identifying the cause of each and every issue as beets.
Artisan Movie Snacks
Independent movie theaters, arthouses and even Alamo Drafthouse are known for offering their customers specialized fare during their movie going experience. Portlandia’s local theater chain Cinetopia is getting in on the menu trend, offering a special line of locally themed artisan theater snacks.
The Noodle Monster
There’s a lot of weird things that happen in Portlandia, human and inhuman, that make it feel constantly on the brink of total implosion. But in this season six episode, the city faces one of its realist and biggest threats yet: a ramen monster.
Gingerbread cookies shaped like humans have been called Gingerbread Men since as far back as anyone can remember. But to be more inclusive, a local coffee shop has decided to call its gingerbread cookies “Ginger People.” The change doesn’t sit well with two male customers, who go out of their way to put the “man” back in Gingerbread Man.
The Allergy Pride Parade
An estimated 15 million Americans have food allergies, making it an at times dangerous issue worth addressing. Portlandia sets out to do just that in a season two episode, which honors and raises awareness about all people who suffer from allergies, including those with a lactose intolerance, and those who don’t respond well to syrups and shellfish.
Colin the Chicken and Aliki Farms
In Portlandia, the next best thing to being a vegetarian is being a source-conscious meat eater. In this two-part season one sketch, two restaurant diners attempt to find where their chicken comes from. It starts with getting a full file on the chicken’s background, and ends in a trip to the farm where he was raised. In the process, they get sucked into what one might call a chicken cult.
Kath and Dave Come Back From Spain
We all have those “friends.” You know, the ones that go away on a vacation and come back “experts” on the food, music, and culture of the place they spent approximately seven days in. If those friends grate on your nerves, this Portlandia skit is for you. After a short trip to Spain, Kath and Dave attend their friend Nina’s birthday dinner and annoy everyone with their “knowledge” about Spanish food culture.
Portlandia’s Coffee Shop Manifesto
You’ve probably seen a “don’t talk on your cell phone” signed taped to a coffee shop register at least once in your life. You’ve also probably asked a million questions about a shop’s blends or food. In this season three segment, Portland baristas and coffee shop workers convene to discuss all the ways we as customers annoy them, and create a manifesto for protecting the artistry of coffee.
Prasad Cafe’s Vegan Menu
Trying a new diet can be a truly and digestively shocking experience. It’s proven that altering the foods we eat in major ways, for good reasons or otherwise, can create some weird and funky bodily effects. In this skit, two diners visit a Vegan restaurant and cook up some unsavory reactions to the special menu.
Brunch isn’t a new thing, but when hipsters co-opt it, of course it’s going to get treated like the “newest millennial craze.” With Portland being a town of hipsters, it’s the perfect place to explore and make fun of the evolving culture around the meal between breakfast and lunch. In the season two episode titled “Brunch Village,” the entire town, from the feminist bookstore to Tim Robbins, plays a part in picking apart what it means to brunch in the modern era.
This is one of the Portlandia skits that isn’t exactly about food, but that features food in both a hilarious and prominent way. When the Portland Mayor (played by Kyle MacLachlan) and his assistant (played by Portland’s actual mayor) attempt to illegally buy “fireworks” from a rich local, they get caught in a simple misunderstanding about refreshments.
Bridgetown Weekly Best of Thai Food
This season four skit asks what would happen if restaurants could generate their own positive publicity. A Thai restaurant purporting to have some of the best food around gets caught in a lie after two diners discover all the establishment’s positive press was generated through a fake alt-weekly run by the restaurant.
We live in a food era where making your own meal has moved beyond buffet style. But in this subtle Black Mirror meets Portlandia episode, we’re forced to question whether gaining more control over our food preparation process has actually taken our power away.
In this series of skits, a Portlandian’s pasta addiction has hospitalized him. Once out, he attempts to continue treating his condition, which he does by replacing what he wants with food he doesn't want. The resulting mental mind flips are hilarious if not admirable.
In case you didn’t know, someone has made an actual avocado toast cocktail. While some might call that inventive, others see it as a trend gone out of control. In this season two comedic spin on the craft cocktail movement, two drinkers come face to face with a cool "mixologist" and the wild food-inspired concoctions he produces.
Porchlight Dining Photoshoot
We know food can be sexy, but have you ever happened across an ad or photoshoot where things felt a bit… over the top? If so, you’ll certainly find this skit about a restaurant photoshoot hilarious. Two Portlandia chefs explore the dramatic world of food photography, giving the camera their wildest and most savory poses.
If you grew up in a household that grew their own vegetables, you’re certainly familiar with pickling and jarring. But in some places, pickling has stopped being a thing of necessity and comfort and become a bit of an obsession. In this skit, you can watch two Portlandians teach you how to pickle everything from eggs to band aids.
Many of us know what it’s like to want to lose that five, 10, or even 20 pounds of body fat that separate us from who we are now and being in the best shape of our lives. Sometimes that nagging desire for a perfect bodies makes us do things we shouldn’t, including unsafe fad diets. In this season seven segment, one Portlandian tries out bananas -- a potassium rich diet created by a diet vlogger -- as their terrible choice of restrictive dietary food. Naturally, only eating bananas doesn’t go so well… until it does.
Zero Packaging Grocery Store
In this Portlandia segment, the series steps out of the real world and into the animated one when a zero packaging grocery store opens up in the city. The news makes its way to the city rats, who attempt to capitalize on the shopping trend.
Food trucks and booths can be a tough sell, not just because people can be picky eaters, but because the weather can work against you and your ability to get customers. In this sketch, we learn that sometimes the weather hurts business, but other times it’s just the business that’s bad.