Food & Drink

The 8 Best Izakaya (Japanese-Style Taverns) in Portland

Biwa
David L. Reamer
Nodoguro
Mattie John Bamman/Thrillist
Mattie John Bamman/Thrillist
Flickr/Gina Collecchia
Miho Izakaya
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1. Biwa 215 SE 9th Ave, Portland, OR 97214 (Se Portland)

Biwa is a Japanese restaurant serving up yakitori, ramen, and the occasional burger in SE Portland.

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2. The American Local 3003 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202 (Clintondivision)

Though a modern izakaya is not exactly what you’d expect from a place called The American Local, the food delivers. Expect everything from octopus skewers to grit cakes, fresh-baked Parker house rolls to shrimp-fried quinoa.

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3. Yuzu 4130 SW 117th Ave, Beaverton, OR 97005 (Beaverton Hillsdale)

Located in a strip mall in Beaverton -- don't even look for a sign, the only marking is "Yuzu" on the glass door -- this spot is surprisingly comfortable. Japanese-born chef and owner, Yoshi Gemma, serves traditional izakaya, such as light gyoza (dumplings), juicy tori no karaage (fried chicken), and melty buta no kakuni (sake-braised pork belly).

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4. nodoguro 3735 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214

A wildly popular Japanese pop-up experience went brick-and-mortar in Hawthorne's Nodoguro, but that doesn't mean things are getting predictable. Ticketed themed omakase feasts are full of surprises, with frequently changing menus that cater to the truest of hardcore sushi fans. There are three central types of experiences: Sousaka, Hardcore (19 courses), and SupaHardcore (21 courses), where diners should expect both traditional sushi and out-there experimental plates.

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5. Yama Sushi & Sake Bar 2038 SE Clinton St, Portland, OR 97202 (Se Portland)

Chef and owner Scott Chae, who was born in Korea, isn't afraid to innovate. He offers both traditional and American-style izakaya, ranging from Kobe beef skewers with truffle salt, to tender, flash-seared razor clam with wasabi-yuzu dressing. Drinks include chuhai -- shōchū cocktails with fruit puree and soda water -- and the sake menu is loaded with by-the-glass options.

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6. Shigezo Izakaya SW Salmon Street, Portland, OR 97205 (Downtown)

This Downtown spot, which is part of a Japan-based franchise, is all about hidden recesses, from washitsu -- matt-covered rooms where you don slippers and sit on the floor -- to booths with curtains. Try the seared tuna carpaccio with ponzu dressing and spicy mayo or anything from the robata grill, especially the saba (seared mackerel).

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7. Tanuki 8029 SE Stark St, Portland, OR 97215 (Se Portland)

Tanuki prides itself on being niche, catering to lovers of drinking foods from Japan, Korea and Okinawa. Drinking foods, for the uninitiated, are foods that are meant to be eaten along with alcoholic beverages, and with the huge selection of craft Sake, Japanese whiskey and Shochu available, you should have no problem finding a combination that fits your particular palate. Oh, and no sushi or kids allowed. Rules are rules!

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8. MiHo Izakaya 4057 N Interstate Ave, Portland, OR 97227 (Mississippi Ave)

Opened on Mississippi in 2009 by Hawaiian-born Chef Michael Miho, MiHo sits in a tiny bungalow with a red izakaya lantern hanging outside and has specials like $7 roasted game hen and $2 tallboys. With a casual, neighborhood vibe and cheap dishes, it’s a great introduction to izakaya.