Compiled by Wm. Steven Humphrey, Phil Busse, Julianne Shepherd, Katia Dunn, Quinn Viladas, Katie Shimer, Jessica Troiano, Monica Drake, and Louise Ross
Low blood sugar is setting in, and you're looking at the love of your life as if their head was a pork chop. The question arrives: "Where do you want to eat?" And the dreaded response, "I don't know, where do YOU want to eat?" And then the worst possible response, "Well...I don't know. Where do YOU want to eat?" Around and around the conversation goes, like a damned soul in hell, until one of you hastily packs a suitcase and storms out the door in a huff.
IT DOESN'T HAVE TO END THIS WAY! The Mercury has reviewed 50 of Portland's finest eateries, and conveniently categorized them with locations, numbers, and all the info you need to save your precarious relationship. So pull-it-out, hang-it-up, make your choice, and EAT for God's sake!
1705 NE Couch, 231-5780
Tues-Thurs 12-2, 6-9; Fri-Sat 6-10, $10-20
You'll pay a little more to eat dinner in a charming, eastside bungalow, but it's worth it, and so is the delectable Phad Tai. Spice-aphobes watch out though, this hood likes it hot.
1919 SE 82nd Ave, 788-5244
Long past its status as a well-kept secret, Phö Vàn recently expanded from a décor-less phö house to a dazzling extravaganza of simple Vietnamese soups, noodles, and grilled delicacies. Strictly for carnivores.
219 SW 9th, 228-2310
11:30-10 daily, $5-$10
Thai Peacock's inexpensive, thick curries--the best in town--with aromatic coconut milk, perfectly cooked tofu, minty lemongrass, broccoli, eggplant, carrots and sweet, tasty Thai iced teas, are like drifting off in a bath with your head resting on a smooshy pillow.
400 SW Broadway, 224-8285
Sun 4-9; Fri-Sat 5-10; $20+
2310 NW Everett, 243-7557
Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30, 5-9, Sat-Sun 5-10; $10-20
Typhoon is a Thai-lover's wonderland, full of some of the most refined food in town--beginning with the curries and ending with more complex dishes like the roasted duck, all the food is so delicate and balanced you'll remember it for weeks.
4717 SE Powell Blvd, 775-3170
9-9 daily, $5-$10
In spite of the off-putting sterility of the restaurant (it looks like an Arby's) this is the cradle for some of the most authentic Vietnamese food in town. There's a comfortable balance as spicy soups and chicken dishes mingle comfortably with cool herbs and bean sprouts. The Vietnamese pancake is remarkable.
8001 SE Division, 777-2828
Dim Sum Mon-Thurs 10-midnight, Fri-Sun 10-2 $10-$20
Regarded as the best Dim Sum in Portland, shiny metal carts roll to your table offering savory samples of meat-filled pastries, potstickers, and even exotic chicken feet. Bring a crowd and chow down.
103 NW 21st, 241-8122
Mon-Fri 11-2:30, 4:30-9:30, Sat 4:30-10:30 Sun 12-9:30; $10-$20
Do you long for Chinese food without a tub-load of grease? The Bamboo has a ton of fresh-as-hell dishes, lots with funny names, and ambiance classy enough for a first date.
1667 SE Bybee, 236-4237
Sun 4:30-9; Mon-Thurs 5-9:30; Fri 5-10:30, Sat 4:30-10, 20+
Here's the place for sushi-eaters looking for big, fat chunks of gorgeous, fresh fish, served alongside rolls so fresh and beautiful you'll swear they're works of modern art. But don't come too famished--the place is tiny, and the lines long.
24 NW Broadway 224-3417
Mon-Thurs 11-2, 5-9; Fri 5-10; Sat 12-3, 5-10; $10-20
Ever wanted to see how many California rolls you could eat in one sitting? Hit Takahashi on a Wednesday night and conduct the experiment without losing that girlish figure.
200 SW Market St, 227-0080
Mon-Fri 11:30-2, Mon-Sat 5:30-10, $20+
Hands-down the best (and most expensive) sushi in town, this place is the real deal; shoeless seating on the floor, whispery light, buttery fish that will dissolve once it even sees your tongue, and beautiful, surly waitstaff.
Indian/African/ Middle Eastern
Swagat Indian Cuisine
2074 NW Lovejoy, 227-4300
Lunch Buffet Daily, 11:30-2:30, 5-10; $5-$10
Nothing grants fortitude like a good buffet of Indian food from Swagat. Vast array of spicy (and not-so-spicy) styles of curries, tandoori chicken, and naan to satisfy those who can't get enough.
422 NW 8th Ave, 241-0390
11:30-2; 5:30-9:30 daily, $10-20
A noble attempt at capturing some of the charm of the owner's home country of Senegal--French food left over from colonial days overlaid with indigenous spices and tropical flavors.
Hoda's Lebanese Restaurant
3401 SE Belmont, 236-8325
Mon-Fri 11-9, Sat 12-9; $10-$20
Lebanese restaurants are usually a family affair; you'll find a surprisingly low divorce rate among families who must use sharp knives and ovens in confined spaces. Hoda Khouri carries on in the tradition of her father's and serves up a menu of Lebanese and Middle Eastern plates, breads, and pizzas at more than reasonable prices.
Bombay Cricket Club
1925 SE Hawthorne Blvd, 231-0740
Sun 5-9; Mon-Thurs 5-9:30; Fri-Sat 5-10:30 $10-$20
An Indian friend says this is the only Indian restaurant in town that gets it right. The spices are balanced, keeping curries delicate, and the naan is lovely. Portions tend to run on the light side. Prices average around $15 for an entree, $5-10 for an appetizer. Also, it's best to call ahead for reservations. It's a slow dining experience, with each order individually prepared, and the place fills up fast with customers who don't move on.
Queen of Sheba
2413 NE MLK, 287-6302
Thurs-Sat 12-3; daily 6-10; $5-$10
Delicious Ethiopian food that won't send your delicate American stomach rushing to the can. The vegetables are fresh and never overcooked, and the meats have a subtle spiciness. Excellent injera.
318 SE Grand, 235-5123
Mon-Sat 10-9, Sun 12-8; $5-$10
Get the Vegetarian Mezza Platter: a two-person sampler sprinkled with subtle, spasm-inducing spices and including hummus, pita, those heavenly little crusty sesame bread thingies, falafel, some doughy spinach pockets, and taboule.
2165 West Burnside, 223-1513
Mon-Sat 5-12; Sun 4-11, $20
When you're ready to lay down a fat chunka change for a big bloody steak, onion rings that will change the way you think about fried food, and one or four manhattans, it's got to be Ringside. This joint oozes old-school class that just can't be aped.
8701 SE Powell Blvd, 777-9795
Tue-Fri 11-2; Tue-Fri 5-9; Sat 11-9, $5-10
In heaven, we will all sit at one long picnic table and nosh huge plates of super spicy pork ribs flanked by potato salad and corn bread. Until that day--or for those of us that don't qualify--there is Campbell's.
1742 SE 12th, 235-5474
8-3 daily, $5-$10
Perhaps the only restaurant in town that understands the unbeatable value of simplicity when it comes to eggs. Try the 12th Ave Scramble--corn, tomatoes, spinach, and chedder, all whipped up to a fluffy, egg-lovers delight.
By Ways Café
1212 NW Glisan, 221-0011
Tues-Fri 7-3; Sat 7:30-3, Sun 7:30-2; $5-$10
No fuss pancakes, sturdy, sunny-side up eggs, take-no-prisoner waffles. Our very own truck stop right in the Pearl District, only with more kitsch.
Milo's City Café
1325 NE Broadway, 288-6456
Mon-Fri 6:30-2:30; Sat-Sun 7:30-2:30, $10-$20
If you can't take a greasy breakfast, move it to Milo's. Chipper staff serves high-brow versions of old faves; omelettes, chunky taters, thick crispy bacon, benedicts, and crab cakes. Get there early.
2201 N Killingsworth, 735-4652
Mon-Fri 6-3; Sat-Sun 8-2, $5-$10
There's a reason people line up outside for Sunday brunch; it's the hipster's IHOP, including waitresses friendlier than mom ever was.
Bread and Ink
3610 SE Hawthorne Blvd, 239-4756
Mon-Fri 7-3, 5-9; Sat 8-3:30, 5-10; Sun 9-9, $10-$20
Oi vey! The best cheese blintzes in town. Enough to turn my knees to butter. Try them as part of the seven-course Jewish brunch or standing on their own.
136 NW 9th, 222-5608
Mon-Fri 6-3; Sat 7-2, $5-10
Sometimes the only thing that gets me out of bed is the 6 am promise of a Fuller's egg sandwich made with homemade bread and some spritely conversation with whoever happens to be on the next stool.
Half and Half
923 SW Oak, 222-4495
Mon-Fri 8-6; Sat 10-6, $5-10
Sandwich-making is an art at H&H. The muffaletta, grilled cheese, and the salty/sweet Fluffer Nutter are the tastiest versions I've tried. I dare say these sandies are more satisfying than an afternoon in the sack with Benicio del Toro.
520 NW 12th, 228-2466
Mon-Fri 10:30-3, $5-10
Are you a soup geek? Get thee to Soup Station! This unassuming take-out spot offers divine deli-case items, designer sandwiches, and soup that makes you cry for mama. Toys for sale, too? Who knew?
1300 SE Morrison, 239-0196
Mon-Fri 7-2; Sat 8-2; Sun 8-3; $10-$20
Sometimes you want to go to breakfast, and you don't feel like eating at a place where both the décor and the main ingedient is grease. In times like these, you need Zell's; classy, beautifully prepared breakfast food that you can eat in a celestially-painted yellow room made of glass.
332 N Skidmore, 288-0880
Mon-Sat 5:30-9; Sun 6-9, $5-10
The age-old breakfast dilemma--sweet or savory?--is a non-issue at this joint. Their French toast and pancake specials include items from both sides of the fence. The biscuits and gravy are delicious and the perfect hangover helper to boot.
112 NW 9th, 525-4422
Tue-Sat 5-10, $20+
Instead of bitching about a $16 taco plate, consider everything that Azul has to offer: housemade tortillas, authentic moles, fresh and local provisions alongside exotic fruits and spices to school our genteel palates. Azul's high falootin Mexican cusine is a damn good thing.
2839 NE Alberta, 281-3662
Sun-Thurs 11-9; Fri-Sat 11-10; $5-10
As far as I'm concerned, the Lopez family whips up the best Mexican in Portland. Try the pork quesadilla, fish tacos, enchilada suizas, or vegan tamales with fresh guacamole and pico de gallo. A weekly trip won't be enough.
2137 E Burnside, 230-1132
10-10 daily, $5-$10
Owners Luis and Magdalena have created a Mexican reality that we American pedestrians have only dreamed of: a comprehensive menu with traditional favorites like the smoky and piquant Tinga Tostata, pastor spiced with clove and cinnamon; and the Ole Burrito with Carne Asada and Chile Relleno and guacamole all in one beautiful mouthful.
436 E Burnside, 234-8893
Tues-Wed 11am-midnight; Thurs-Sun 11-4am; $5-$10
Another perfect, late-night Mexican joint: Huge vegetarian burritos with rice, beans, broccoli, mushrooms, and salsa settle the vitamin deficiency in your stomach. White cheese quesadillas with guacamole, cinnamon-dusted horchatas, and amazing chicken tacos with green sauce. Don't expect conversation, however; Mexican news and music videos are constantly on the TV, and the Zapatistas are so awesome, you can't help but watch.
703 SW Ankeny, 241-0462
Sun 10-10; Mon-Sat 10-12, $5-$10
All you need to know about this dive-y little Mexican grill (aside from the fact that it's attached to Mary's strip club): Their cheese enchiladas taste EXACTLY like the ones my Mexican grandmother used to make--rolled in chili powder, fried, and baked--and they're cheap as shit.
El Burrito Loco
1942 N Portland Blvd, 735-9505
10-10 daily, $5-$10
Tired of burritos stuffed with useless rice fillers? El Burrito Loco serves throbbingly huge burritos stuffed with only the meaty (and vegetarian-y) essentials. Eat in or take out, they're the best.
La Calaca Colmena
1408 SE 12th, 239-9675
Mon-Sat 5-10, $5-$10
While pricier than some, this is the real deal. Mouth-watering tacos (don't miss the carnitas!) and fresh salsa are washed down with cold beer and margaritas--a rarity among Mexican establishments.
5919 SE Foster, 775-7501
Tues-Sun 11:30-9:30, $10-20
Start with the frostiest of beers and some handmade chips and salsa. Then tuck into a nice Especiale de la Casa. Viva El Salvador y las carnivores!!
4612 SE Hawthorne, 233-3996
Mon-Wed 11-10; Thurs-Fri 11-midnight, Sat 9 am-midnight; Sun 11-10; $10-20
Hot diggity, tacos that taste like a million bucks, but cost less than five! Dingo's signature tangy slaw is to die for, margaritas are delish, and décor is cool enough to knock off.
807 NW 21st Avenue, 226-4646
Sun-Thu 5-10; Fri-Sat 5-11, $20+
Is there a reason why we wait an hour for a table by the drafty entrance at Caffe Mingo? You bet your creamy beet risotto, stuffed pork chops, and oxtail ragout. The pure and simple homage to Italian cuisine is well worth the wait.
8051 SE 13th, 233-4613
Sun 4-9; Mon-Thurs 4-10; Fri-Sat 4-11, $20+
Where St. Peter's sends good garlic. Tucked off the main drag in Sellwood--Italian food that's loud, spicy, homey, and friendly.
1336 NW 19th, 243-2249
Mon 10-3; Tues-Fri 11:30-6:30; Sat 11-4, $10-20
A Northwest lunch can cost an arm and a leg, but luckily Justa Pasta has yummy food and good ambiance for cheap. The portobello mushroom ravioli are dreamy, the marinara sauce delivers, and the baby spinach salad is simply great.
6433 SE Foster Rd, 771-8873
Tue-Sun 12- 3, 5-10, $10-20
Russian cuisine is lavishly rich; a compensation for a greater proportion of famine to feast back in the Old Country. Beet borscht and stuffed cabbage rolls are just the tip of the iceberg that is Restaurant Russia, an exotic and inexpensive adventure in eating.
212 NW Davis St, 223-3362
Mon-Fri 9-5, $5-$10
Stop by for some cheap and healthy vegetarian take-out. The gardenburgers and burritos are bursting with goodness; the chocolate chip cookies are always warm and delish. Peruse the cute-hound photos while you wait.
Vita Café/Paradox Café
3024 NE Alberta, 335-8233
Fri-Sat 5-midnight; Sun-Thurs 5-11; Breakfast Weekends 8-3, $5-$10
3439 SE Belmont, 232-7508
Tues-Wed 9-9; Thurs-Sat 8-9, $5-$10
Two Vegan/vegetarian meccas owned by the same people. Try the New Years' Breakfast (NYB): tempeh or tofu, a side of crunchy veggies, and the best corncake you have ever tasted, I swear on my holy grave. Well-rounded, scrumptious as hell, and only $5.95. The Paradox's NE sister, the Vita, has a bigger menu, but the NYB is ubiquitous.
4607 SE Woodstock Blvd, 771-3101
Mon-Fri 5-10; Sat-Sun 12-10, $10-20
This Reed hangout has a southern-BBQ-meets-kitschy-cool atmosphere. The soul-style menu is consistently good; standout items include the chicken-fried steak, pork chops, and catfish po' boy. Try the southern sampler for a taste of everything.
816 N Russell St, 284-5518
Mon-Wed 6-12; Tues-Sat 6-1, $20+
The latest addition to the Saucebox legacy, without the downtown locale and chattering yuppies. Spicy South American dishes and adventurous hybrid plates.
1121 SW Stark, 223-9160, $5-$10
It's greasy as hell, but it's open 24 hours (closed Mondays), and when you're tanked out of your gourd, you know you ain't cravin' any of that salad shit. Gardenburgers and hotcakes galore.
2521 SE Clinton, 235-0203
11-2 daily, $5-$10
I think Dots singlehandedly keeps the cheese industry in business, as nearly everything on their menu is slathered in fifteen tons of melted cheddar. Yum! For balance, they give you lots of crispy vegetables, too. The vegetarian Gentle Ben sandwich is loaded with spinach on rye, and pure heaven.
2808 N MLK, 493-8127
Mon-Thurs 11-11; Fri 11-1 am; Sat 8-1 am; Sun 8-11, $5-$10
There are lots of great things about the NE, but variety in breakfast joints isn't one of them. Billy's, however, is a great recent addition: super rich, super classy sausage-eggs-and-onions combos are served in a gigantic, no-wait, glass-and-wood dining room.
301 SE Morrison, 234-1324
Sun 6-2; Mon-Thurs 11-2, 6-2; Fri 11-2, 6-4; Sat 6-4, $5-$10
Basically, the best (and cheapest) dish at this late-night, wrought-iron kitsch restaurant is the Mac and Cheese. You can get it with garlic, or cajun-style, or pesto, and it's always a fresh, simple dish. Everything else on the southern-influenced menu sort of tastes like Mac and Cheese, too, so the real deal is the best option.