WELCOME TO OUR NEW shared hometown! As much as I'm tempted to send y'all to trendy, lame-o spots (bone broth, anyone?) in order to keep you out of my dinner line, Portland's food is so rightly celebrated that I can't help but blast praise on these spots like a human vuvuzela.
Here's where you should eat right now. It's a combination of the absolute best places in town, newer restaurants that speak to our current moment, and classics that may not be the top of the line, but meant a lot to me when I first fell in love with eating in Portland. It's not exhaustive and never could be in less than 1,000 words—this is just a primer to get you started on the caloric endeavor of eating in Stumptown. Godspeed, noob.
Fine Dining: Le Pigeon (738 E Burnside)
This one is indisputable. I can't think of a single food critic in town who wouldn't agree that Gabriel Rucker's little French wonder isn't the spot. Rucker was on the forefront of elevated offal—the best beef tongue with ricotta gnocchi and broccoli to ever hit your lips—but he and Sous Chef Andrew Mace do wonders with fancy cuts and seasonal ingredients, too. Droooooool. (level up: St. Jack, Lang Baan, Ox, Castagna)
Drinking Food: Kachka (720 SE Grand)
Kachka has done so much to advance the food conversation here, turning our comfort-food predilections on their heads by heightening a little-known foreign cuisine. You'll have an epic night of oily fishes and pickled items, cheeses and caviar, and the much-loved Herring Under a Fur Coat—think Russian seven-layer dip with beets, mayo, and fish. If you aren't dining with picky eaters, this is your best bet. (level up: DaNet, Tanuki)
Barbecue: Podnah's Pit (1625 NE Killingsworth)
There are signs that Podnah's long-held bark-encrusted barbecue crown may have competition, particularly from Matt's BBQ on NE MLK. But I've spent more happy times at Podnah's than any other restaurant, savoring the hands-down best brisket in town with chili mac 'n' cheese, and the Thursday night lamb special with shoulder and ribs, which are smoked into gamey perfection. (level up: Smokehouse 21/Smokehouse Tavern, People's Pig)
Asian Soup: Ha & VL (2738 SE 82nd) and Rose VL Deli (6424 SE Powell)
Ha & VL taught me years ago that there's so much more to Vietnamese soup than pho, and I've slurped up every moment since. The restaurant often sells out of its daily supply of rotating soups before noon. The new Rose VL Deli is an evening affair, selling many of the same favorites—think crab flake noodle soup in a rich, thick broth—along with a few new creations. (level up: Kukai Ramen, Umai, Pho Oregon)
- The Original at Slowburger
- Adam Wickham
Burger: Slow Bar (533 SE Grand) and Slowburger (2329 NE Glisan)
I don't have a favorite burger in Portland: It's too hard to choose and based on too many variables, like my mood and hunger levels. But when I first tucked into a high-backed booth at Slow Bar and devoured their monumental beef burger with gruyere, onion rings, butter lettuce, pickle relish, and aioli, it was a revelation. (level up: Killer Burger, All-Way, Foster Burger)
Breakfast/Brunch: Tasty n Sons (3808 N Williams) and Tasty n Alder (580 SW 12th)
Not too many brunches are worth the wait. Rather than tell you to hit Screen Door or Pine State Biscuits, the Tasty restaurants are a worthy investment of a few hours. Tasty n Sons' classic shakshuka and chocolate potato doughnuts are life-sustaining, while Tasty n Alder's Korean fried chicken with house kimchi and eggs is what I want to eat every morning. (level up: Blue Star Donuts, Cameo Café, Broder, HK Café or Wong's King dim sum)
Sushi/Japanese: Bamboo Sushi (various locations)
Bamboo isn't my favorite sushi in town. On one hand, it's expensive and smug. But on the other, it's damned good and also helps advance a much-needed sustainable attitude toward eating fish. It's frustrating, and in many ways the essence of Portland. Go for the Green Machine roll with Oregon albacore and their signature black cod. It may become your favorite—I won't judge you if it does. (level up: Nodoguro, Daruma, Biwa, Yoko's, Shigezo)
Pizza: PREAM (2131 SE 11th)
Go to PREAM because it's so very now: a portrait of the city when you arrived, newbie. It's a spinoff of a stalwart restaurant, Ned Ludd, and it's creating seasonally inspired wood-fired pizzas like lardo with kale, smoked mozzarella, and honey to a thumping hip-hop soundtrack and a surprisingly decent bar program. (level up: Apizza Scholls, Dove Vivi, Thick)
Sandwich: Lardo (various locations)
I'm going to send you to eat the pork meatball banh mi at Lardo as your first sammie. There's lots of places where you can't go wrong, but back when Lardo was just a cart, this was the one I kept coming back for—fiery sriracha mayo with pickled veggies, cilantro, and cucumber. The high-end banh mi has been done a million times since—go try the one that started it all. (level up: An Xuyen, Tails and Trotters, Bunk, Laurelhurst Market)
Chicken: This whole damn city.
I don't know what it is about chicken and Portland (insert joke about wussy liberals here), but we fry/roast/bake a damn fine bird. Imperial's fried chicken and pickled watermelon is transcendent. Pok Pok's wings have spawned an empire. Nong's Khao Man Gai—chicken and rice with a signature garlicky sauce—is perfect simplicity. Reel 'M Inn is dive-bar eating at its best. Newcomer Coquine is roasting a juicy chicken for two. Noraneko makes a rice flour-dusted nugget that defines comfort, while Pollo Norte is killing the Mexican rotisserie game in Northeast. Call us anything but basic when it comes to this bird.
More Newcomers' Guide Articles: