Say Nice Things About Portland

Say Nice Things About Portland: A Manifesto

You can be the ambassador our city needs right now.

Say Nice Things About… Portland Activism!

Here are a few local activist organizations fighting to make Portland better every single day.

Broken and Beloved

82nd Ave is full of flavor and contradictions. That’s what makes it Portland’s most iconic street.

Say Nice Things About… Portland’s SEXIEST Statues!

They’re historical, they’re artistic… and they’re HOT.

Say Nice Things About... the Portland Music Scene!

Behold! Here are five recurring music nights and events to fall in love with.

Say Nice Things About… Portland’s Kickass LGBTQ+ Community!

Trans strip nights! Drag king vampires! Star Trek tea houses! (And we’re just getting started!)

Say Nice Things About… Portland's Unstoppable Makers!

They'll make an abandoned building a museum. They'll make a scary movie gay. They'll make your favorite restaurant vegan. Get ready to be changed by these five Portland makers!

Say Nice Things About... the Portland Food Scene!

Food cart pods, old standbys, and eateries that support our city’s sex workers.

Say Nice Things About… Portland’s Pop Culture Culture!

The dream of the ‘90s (and ‘80s, and early aughts) is alive in Portland.

Say Nice Things About… Portland Comedy!

The laughs don’t stop in a city where the comedy scene punches far above its weight.

Come As You Are

A Transplant’s Unexpected First Year in Portland

Your Guide to the Biggest Summer 2023 Festivals Around Portland

Pickathon, Portland Pride, Burger Week, and More

Say Nice Things About… Portland’s Delightfully Wild Arts Scene!

Galleries and museums? Of course. But a local cemetery and a mall as well? You better believe it.

Say Nice Things About… Portland's Little Quirks

Dildos. Notes. Gratitude. Portland's eccentricities have made the news—but they're part of what makes this place so great.

Say Nice Things About... Portland's Comics Makers and Sellers!

Artist Ross Jackson describes his love affair with the Portland comics scene... via a comic!

Say Nice Things About… Portland Sports!

“Portland isn’t a good sports town”? We beg to differ.

[Welcome to our "Say Nice Things About Portland" guide to the city! Did you know that this feature package is also in PRINT?? That's right, this is our first print product since the start of the pandemic, and we're psyched to produce a lot more. Find the "Say Nice Things" guide in over 500 locations around the city, and if you'd like to see more guides you can hold, please consider making a small contribution to the Mercury, please and thank you!—eds]

Portland is just about the eatingest city you’ll find, and for good reason. Our food scene is known worldwide for its accessibility, diversity, seasonality, and overall quality. Want Burmese food served by a robot? Top Burmese has got you covered. Fun natural wines served with super-inventive, hyper-seasonal plates? Head to Street Disco, Heavenly Creatures, or OK Omens. 

We could fill a whole encyclopedia about Portland’s food, but here are five reasons we love eating here right now:

1. Earl Ninsom chose to make his restaurant empire here

Chances are if you’re making a must-eat list, all of Ninsom’s restaurants would make the cut. The Thai native started with his flagship Southeast 28th Avenue venture, Paadee. After building a following for the killer boat noodles and tamarind-glazed wings, he opened Hat Yai in 2016. It’s now grown to two locations, and the Southern-Thai fried chicken combo with roti and curry is on any list of iconic Portland plates. 

Ninsom is also behind Langbaan, the prix fixe affair that offers a haute look into hyperlocal Thai cooking: one month it may be an homage to Bangkok’s Chinatown, another, drawing from the Northern region. Ninsom’s also one of the partners behind Eem, the ground-breaking mashup of Matt’s BBQ’s Texas-style meats with curries and fried rice, along with one of the most celebrated cocktail lists in town.

And there’s more! Ninsom is also behind the new Phuket Cafe in Northwest Portland. Sit in the converted train car outside, and have a grand time eating one of the best pork chops ever, served on the bone with laab and tomato relish.

Speed-O Cappuccino / Photo: Suzette Smith

2. Sex work and food are intertwined

It all started with the affectionately nicknamed A-Crop, AKA The Acropolis. Open for more than 40 years, it’s one of the oldest strip clubs in Portland. Its owners have long made sure you can get steak with your legs, and for a sexy price: an 8 oz sirloin special still runs under $10. Spend the savings tipping the dancers. Casa Diablo, on the opposite end, was the first vegan strip club in the country.

But more recently, the movement has been to support the sex workers themselves. In 2019, chef Nikeisah Newton opened Meals 4 Heels, which bills itself as “the world’s only late-night meal delivery service that caters to sex workers and sex positive clientele.” I like the GTP (Gettin’ That Paper), a bowl loaded with Tom Kha roasted cauliflower, sweet potato noodles, pickled cucumbers, truffled tomatoes, herbs, honey Sambal sauce, toasted coconut, and veggie furikake.

And this spring, inside the Lil’ America pod on Southeast 10th and Stark, stripper Dahlia Hanson opened Speed-O Cappuccino. Staffed entirely by sex workers and dancers, you’ll get a queer, bikini barista experience, plus plenty of tasty vegan stoner food like smash burgers and corndogs. 

3. Our food cart pods keep leveling up

Back in the day, the Rose City’s model for food carts were cheap and tasty clusters of vendors offering everything from gyros to pho in converted parking lots. 

But today, they’re so much more than that. That Lil’ America pod we just mentioned? It’s queer and BIPOC-owned, and features carts that are owned by BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ chefs exclusively. 

Hinterland Bar & Food Carts on Southeast 50th Avenue drew in huge cart names like Burger Stevens and Matt’s BBQ tacos. Built into a former acupuncture office, there’s a great bar to accompany all the food. Orders are served on metal trays or renewable bioplastic plates, and you’re gonna get a real fork and knife, which are washed on-site. It’s heated, it’s covered, and it’s wonderful. Park the Carts on Northeast MLK Jr. Boulevard has several Black-owned carts, and offers indoor and outdoor seating. 

Lil’ America pod / Photo: Suzette Smith

4. We’re all about the new, but old time places hold our hearts

There’s always something new opening, and we love that for us. But Portlanders also know to save room in their hearts, and stomachs, for the OG restaurants. They’ve been here for decades, but they still sling sandwiches, steaks, and Spanish coffees better than anyone.

Meaty favorites include Sayler’s Old Country Kitchen and the RingSide. Sayler’s has been around since 1946, serving gargantuan T-bones at a manageable price (and a 72-oz ribeye challenge) out on Southeast 105th and Stark. The RingSide on West Burnside has been a premier spot to splurge since 1944, with unforgettable onion rings and an epic wine list.

There’s Taste Tickler, serving incredible teriyaki subs for more than 50 years on Northeast Broadway. Opened in 1879, Huber’s is Portland’s oldest restaurant, where waitstaff have been putting on an elaborate flaming show while crafting Spanish coffees since before you were even a thought in your parents’ mind. 

5. Kristen Murray has dug in her heels and kept Maurice humming downtown

Maurice opened its sunny doors in 2013, offering a sanctuary for a cheery French-Norwegian lunch and divine fika (sweets). 

Maurice was beloved from the jump, especially for its black pepper cheesecake and dreamy meyer lemon pudding cake. But the tiny space was walloped by the pandemic, and then by an increase in vandalism. For some months, Murray had to board up her huge plate glass windows following a break in.

But she persisted. Today, it’s hopping, the glass now frosted to let in the light. There’s still delicious wines by the glass, a robust tea menu, and that cheesecake. The savory lunch menu changes constantly, depending on Murray’s whims, but a recent trip offered a wonderful savory polenta clafoutis piled with dungeness crab. It’s just about the best place to start a day of downtown adventures, and I’m thrilled Murray has stuck it out.