Hong Phat Food Center Meg Nanna

Live in Portland long enough and sooner or later you’ll have to reckon with 82nd Avenue. The thoroughfare, which runs a north-south route along the east side of the city, is the unofficial borderline that you must reach to find an inexpensive used automobile, snap up those vital course credits at PCC’s Southeast Campus, or stop by one of the houses along the route that offers “lingerie modeling.” We’re not here to judge.

But if your general state of mind is to get in and get out of the area quickly and quietly, allow me to encourage you to linger awhile. Up and down this crowded corridor is a wealth of other delights, particularly of the culinary kind. And not just the big seafood restaurants and buffets that can justify enormous signage and swathes of real estate. Tucked inside strip malls and shopping centers or occupying slowly fading buildings along the avenue are some of the city’s best food. Ideally, that should be enough to get you in your car or on a MAX train to lead your own investigation, but if you need some help sparking a future exploration on 82nd, here are some tips on where to begin.

A great leaping off point is the intersection of 82nd and East Burnside, an area dominated by Hong Phat Food Center (101 SE 82nd), a glorious Asian supermarket abundant in fresh seafood and more varieties of instant noodles than you or your blood pressure could possibly handle. Save your shopping spree until after you’ve hit the Lotus Kitchen, the store’s in-house deli. For a pittance, you can stuff yourself with a pork bun the size of a baby’s head or a bag of fried cassava fritters. Just be sure to save room for a bánh kp lá da, a flavorful and colorful Vietnamese waffle that pairs the sweetness of Pandan paste with coconut milk.

If Asian fare isn’t your bag, hurry across the street to Santa Cruz Taqueria and Bakery (24 SE 82nd), a satellite office of the beloved Mexican grocery and restaurant in St. Johns. It is every bit the equal of its North Portland partner, with some of the finest carnitas and pollo that you can get without crossing our southern border.

But if you do go in for Viet cuisine that stays true to its roots, you don’t have to venture far along 82nd to find it. In either direction from Hong Phat are a number of fantastic spots to snag an inexpensive bánh mi sandwich on the run or sit down for a heaping bowl of pho. The most famous of the bunch is Ha VL (2738 SE 82nd), the James Beard-anointed café with a rotating selection of soups including their explosively flavorful Vietnamese turmeric noodles. Equally great, though, is the pho offered up by nearby Utopia Restaurant and Lounge (1125 NE 82nd) and Bánh Mi Nam Loc Deli (328 SE 82nd), both unassuming spots that hide masterful kitchens within.

Since 82nd is still part of Portland, it’s not immune to the allure of the food cart pod. Which is why Cartlandia (8145 SE 82nd) is becoming a destination spot for folks around the city. The place is swamped during lunch hour and on evenings and weekends—so the trick is to get there early. The pod may not stay open later than 9 pm, but it does open its gates at 7 am: the perfect time to fuel up for the day or stave off the hangover with one of 4 Dub Grub’s massive breakfast wraps (hashbrowns, eggs, veggies, and two kinds of meat), a BELT (that’s bacon, egg, lettuce, and tomato) sandwich from Puddletown Bagels, or the Pancake Underground’s Elvis Pancakely, which pays tribute to the King by slathering a buttermilk flapjack in peanut butter and covering it with bananas and bacon.

As with every neighborhood or major thoroughfare in the city, this is a mere surface scratch of what’s available every day for folks looking for a snack to gnaw on in the car or a place to sit down and dig into a full-fledged meal. The idea is to find your own favorites by planning ahead to hit a particular destination or just diving in and hoping to stumble upon something special. In either case, you’re bound to be satisfied.