Betcha worked up an appetite, now that you’ve flashed a peace sign in front of Multnomah Falls, got lost in Powell’s, and stood in line at Voodoo Donuts!
So let’s get down to the real reason you’re here: to eat. Portland’s built its reputation on the basic rules of super-seasonal fare at hyper-reasonable prices. With rents on the rise, that’s starting to change, but we’re still batting WAY above our class in terms of flavor and creativity.
Here’s a look at the new crop of super-tasty eats in Portland, and a helpful guide to which longstanding spots are still bringing it.
Han Oak’s Dumpling and Noodle Night
Chef/Owner Peter Cho’s prix fixe haute Korean dinners are worth making advance reservations for. Seriously, get on that list. But if you’re already here and without a coveted reso, there are now no-reservations, super-casual (bring the kids!) dumpling and noodle nights on Sundays and Mondays. Get the OG pork and chive dumplings that started it all, along with ravishing kimchi and pork dumplings ($9) and another porky bundle mixed with charred broccoli rabe fused with Mama Lil’s peppers ($10). Don’t leave without an order of the incessantly succulent Korean fried chicken wings ($9) and a piping hot bowl of budae jjigae ($13), the soup borne of American occupation of Korea: all red boiling spice with instant ramen, spam, hot dog, rice cakes, kimchi, and American cheese—a sodium-laced wonder dish. 511 NE 24th, hanoakpdx.com
Originally from Ashland near the Southern Oregon border, the now-beloved Pastrami Zombie food truck was almost a dreaded Californian import. But really, owner Melissa McMillan is from Chicago, and all that really needs to be said is this deceptively simple sandwich (Grand Central bread, a heap of coleslaw, Russian dressing, and Swiss cheese) serves as the perfect vehicle for super smoky pastrami that you will crave at all hours. 5429 NE 42nd, pastramizombie.com
You may be visiting from a place that had a poke restaurant already, but was it sustainable? Did it have all the LaCroix? Did it have AIR PLANTS?! I didn’t think so. Poke Mon is best when you customize your bowl, so go a couple of times to see which fish pairs with Pamplemousse (hint: it’s the salmon). 1485 SE Hawthorne, pokemonpdx.com
There is SO MUCH good roasting happening around Portland right now that a rotisserie chicken should be our city’s official bird. I’m partial to Arrosto, with its lemony-bright infusion of oils, sides that include crispy potatoes roasted in chicken fat, and a salty slice of focaccia. Plus a visit gets you in the door of Providore Fine Foods, a very swank and enjoyable market full of food souvenirs. 2340 NE Sandy, arrostopdx.com
For years, Podnah’s Pit has been the top barbecue joint in town, but the arrival of this spunky cart has really mixed things up. We like the brisket and Saturday beef ribs special, but it’s best to get a platter of the works—brisket, a rib, a sausage, pulled pork, and sides—to see what you like best. 4709 NE MLK, mattsbbqpdx.com
SuperBite is a second venture from the minds behind Ox. The concept is constantly evolving, but we’re big fans of happy hour and the few spoonfuls of bliss that the “Spaghetti O’s” bring: Fresh truffle and Irish butter are just about all it takes to launch this into the permanent collection of the memory bank. 527 SW 12th, superbitepdx.com
The epic fried chicken (it’s cooked in THREE fats!) isn’t the only thing you’re going to get at pop-up Mae. It’s just one in a procession of heaping plates of biscuits with pimento cheese and ham, divine things done to seasonal vegetables, and heirloom Southern grain risotto courtesy of Maya Lovelace. (Stretchy pants are required.) Get on the list for a Monday or Wednesday night meal, or try your hand at brunch on Sunday. But plan ahead: reservations are required, and go fast. At Old Salt Marketplace, 5027 NE 42nd, maepdx.com
Wiz Bang Bar
It may be $8.50 for one sundae, but this new project from the owners of Salt & Straw brings passion—right down to the fluffy bread toasted to order and the exquisite jelly sauce. At Pine Street Market, 126 SW 2nd, saltandstraw.com/wizbangbar
Classic Portland Restaurants You’ll Want to Try!
Our once-sleepy lumber town has come a long way to claim the title of best eatin’ city west of the Mississippi. While there are always worthy newcomers, these are the places that continue to shape our palette.
After 10 years, Chef Gabriel Rucker is still defining Portland’s culinary creative scene. While the famous foie gras profiteroles are always on the menu, the inventiveness happening behind the open chef’s counter (which is always free for walk-ins!) is just as tongue-twisting (and pleasing) as when it opened—if not more so. 738 E Burnside, lepigeon.com
Today, multiple Portland restaurants specialize in the following: oysters, ham, fried chicken, and/or burgers. Woodsman, with its woodsy interior and nice sidewalk seating when it’s sunny, is the one that started it all. 4537 SE Division, woodsmantavern.com
One of my favorite meals in memory was sharing a flight of eight incredible seasonal, seasoned, and textured fresh salads, a bottle of rosé, and a rich slice of chocolate cake at the chef’s counter. The wonders Chef Joshua McFadden works with vegetables are the stuff of legend (and he’s got a new cookbook to prove it). 3377 SE Division St, avagenes.com
Blue Star Donuts
It’s been five years since Blue Star kicked the Captain Crunch off the city’s most famous donuts, and their brioche-based sugar circles are still going strong (and also now available in Japan and Los Angeles). Get the classic blueberry bourbon basil, but add in a matcha cake donut and the Meyer lemon curd for good measure. Multiple locations, bluestardonuts.com
I’d like to sum-up Argentinean-inspired Ox as: MEAT MEAT MEAT!! And while that’s partly the case, the open wood fire stove at this staple also puts out a mighty fine coal-roasted spaghetti squash and grilled asparagus. Chef/owner/partners Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quinonez Denton just pulled down the 2017 James Beard award for Best Chef Northwest, so you know they’re still coming in hot. They don’t take reservations, so last-minute tourists have just as much chance at a table as plan-ahead locals. 2227 NE MLK, oxpdx.com
Ha & VL/Rose VL
Both locations of this legendary Vietnamese family’s soup shop are a bit further out east than many Portland visitors will travel, but we’ll say that the experience is worth the extra Lyft dollars. With rotating soups for both the adventurous (the famous snail noodle soup) to the sublime (those turmeric noodles!) the soups rotate daily and are served until sold out. It may wind up being the only place you eat every day of your trip. Ha & VL, 2738 NE 82nd; Rose VL, 6424 SE Powell
Andy Ricker’s meticulous paean to Thai cooking is constantly crowded for a reason, but recently the pressure gauge at the original Southeast Division location has been loosened with a new spot in Northwest and another wing-centric fast-casual restaurant in Sellwood. Multiple locations, pokpok.com
Tasty n Sons/Tasty n Alder
Still great for brunch (and underrated at dinner), these two John Gorham spots are crowd pleasers for brunch and dinner standards infused with world influences. Shakshuka and Alabama BBQ Chicken have never seemed so at home together. Tasty n Sons, 3808 N Williams, tastynsons.com; Tasty n Alder, 580 SW 12th, tastynalder.com
Got a group that likes cured fish, bomb dumplings, and a whole raft of vodka? Go no further than Kachka, where Russian food is elevated to a level of delight and fun heretofore unseen outside Petrograd. Go for the $25-per-person zakuski experience, order more horseradish vodka than you think you need, and get to it. 720 SE Grand, kachkapdx.com
More Restaurants to Try
Tusk—Middle Eastern with a local flair, and great cocktails. 2448 E Burnside, tuskpdx.com
Expatriate—Asian-inflected plates for dinner, and a very inventive brunch. 5424 NE 30th, expatriatepdx.com
Deadshot—Innovative cocktail program on Mondays, with snacks to share. 537 SE Ash, holdfastdining.com
Jacqueline—Seafood joint that tips its hat to director Wes Anderson. Portland! 2039 SE Clinton, jacquelinepdx.com
Rue—Satisfying French-inspired small plates with an adventurous cocktail program. 1005 SE Ankeny, ruepdx.com
Hat Yai—Thai fried chicken, spicy shrimp rice salad, and curries. Highly recommended. 1605 NE Killingsworth, hatyaipdx.com
Besaw’s—Classic and beloved Portland brunch place. 1545 NW 21st, besaws.com
La Moule—Seafood and small plates with special attention paid to mussels. 2500 SE Clinton, lamoulepdx.com
Chesa—Modern Catalonian dishes and inspired cocktails. 2218 NE Broadway, chesapdx.com