Small but nicely appointed, Le Pigeon is one of the most-hyped restaurants on the East side, and for good reason: Chef Gabriel Rucker has a knack for unusual recipes and polished execution. You can even watch him and the other chefs do their thing as the kitchen is completely open. The meat-heavy menu will deter some vegetarians and vegans, but everyone else is in for a treat. If the cornbread with bacon, apricot and maple syrup ice cream is on the dessert menu, order it.
I've actually never ventured beyond the bar at longtime Portland institution Veritable Quandary. I know there's a dining room back there somewhere, but the bar area is just so cozy—warm lighting, bottles stacked against an exposed brick wall, a bare-chested ship's figurehead presiding over it all from her post above the door. Plus, there's a bar menu served from 3 pm until midnight, featuring snack-y options like fried cashews ($5) and bacon-wrapped dates ($6), alongside burgers and a pizza of the day. The only downside: The bar is tiny, and it fills up fast. ALISON HALLETT
Hot restaurant in the Ace Hotel building. The European tavern-style restaurant is a wide-open space with an open kitchen, long communal tables and high ceilings. They offer an eclectic menu of new American and classic European cuisines. Sip specialty cocktails at the big bar or select from a moderate list of wines including a selection of $6 table wines. Reservations accepted for parties of 6 or more.
Sophisticated, upscale, hoity-toity, spendy: any of these words could describe the atmosphere at Castagna. When it comes down to it, though, it's the food that matters— and Castagna's French and Italian inspired menu is a favorite amongst those in the know. For a less expensive meal (and more laid-back atmosphere) try Cafe Castagna next door, where you'll find what's reputed to be the best burger in town and a slightly more budget-friendly menu.
Once inside, we found a solid little happy hour, featuring Southern-influenced bar food from former Screen Door head chef Rick Widmayer. The small bar is comfortably offset from the more-formal dining room, and the bar staff is friendly; proximity to the Keller ensures that this place will be packed on show nights, and quiet (or closed!) otherwise. ALISON HALLETT
Authentic Mexican cuisine done right—the dishes are built around locally-sourced ingredients and bold flavors, served in a relaxing dining room. They also do a cracking brunch, while Thursday night sees Pazole (traditional pork and hominy soup) on the menu.
It's Portland's very own slice of highbrow Peruvian cuisine with flairs of a Japanese twist here and there. Much of the menu comes in three sizes (small, medium, large) so you don't have to drop rent IF you don't want to. But beware, because it easy to get carried away, especially with a menu full of creatively-concocted seafood dishes like mahi mahi and scallops, as well as spicy meats like pork in adobo sauce. The also have several vegan, vegetarian and gluten free dishes, tempting even dedicated wheat-eating carnivores.
Saucebox is a bar that has a Buddha statue surrounded by candles. When you see the Buddha statue (it's by the bathroom) you might think, "Oh god, really? Asian-inspired food, cocktails, and décor are one thing. Subtlety is good. But did you have to go full Buddha statue?" Well, Saucebox earns their Buddha statue surrounded by candles. They earn it with drinks like their "Best" cocktail, a mojito-like concoction that makes the most of the mint leaves that float within it. They earn it with cocktails of the day, like cucumber margaritas playfully garnished with bright flowers. They earn that Buddha statue by letting you drink out of a pineapple. Accept the Buddha statue. Bow your head in benediction, and drink your drink. JOE STRECKERT