Rich with history and just steps away from our sparkling, cherry blossom-dotted waterfront, you wouldn't expect Old Town/Chinatown to turn into a weekend destination for Britneys and Chads, who wander between bad decision bars and pound vodka-crans. But it does, and it isn't much better the rest of the week, unless you check out our definitive list of OT/CT places you'll actually want to go:
For Lunch Away From The Office: Mi Mero Mole
If your office is in Old Town, the Pearl, or anywhere Downtown, Mi Mero Mole should be in your regular lunch rotation: the tacos and burritos are stuffed with slow-cooked guisados, a Mexico City-style stew in every flavor (read: meat) imaginable. Try the lamb mole negro, which is rich and chocolatey, or the hard-boiled egg-stuffed meatballs stewed in a spicy chipotle sauce.
For A Quick Bite On Your Way To A Meeting: Angelina's Greek Cuizina
Once just a lowly (yet popular) gyro cart at the Saturday Market, Angelina’s is now the Old Town’s only lunch spot where you can purchase a Meat Boat and/or Meat Yacht, which are really just a mountain of lamb or chicken piled on a tiny, tangy feta-specked Greek salad. Pro tip: always order pita on the side, or go with a gyro -- they’re slapped on the grill first for extra char.
For Your After-Work Date: Remedy Wine Bar
Their “Daily Antidote” (happy hour with a cooler name) runs until 6pm every day, so you can impress her without depressing your wallet, plus their menu includes plenty of dishes for sharing, like a French Shepard’s Pie, meat plates, and “Cheezy bits”, aka, the parts of the date you hope she'll forget.
For New York-Style Breakfast: Bowery Bagels
Their walls may be plastered with realistic subway signs, but fear not, there won't be any fiddle players or bucket drummers at this grab-and-go spot on NW Broadway, just classic, boiled bagels in classic flavors, like "Everything", that're elevated with the addition of subtle touches like fennel seeds. They've also got original stuff like their Bom.com: a schmear made of caramelized onions and bacon that's a can't-miss.
For Dumpling Cravings: Chen’s Good Taste Restaurant
If you’re walking too fast through the Chinatown section of Old Town, you might just miss this place, but once inside, you’ll find sweet-smelling BBQ duck and other meats hanging near the cash register, all of which you can get to-go or as part of your meal. If you’re smart though, you’ll order their delicate dumplings, which are stuffed with spiced meat. You are smart, aren’t you?
For End Of The Week Annihilation: Shanghai Tunnel
You've had the week (or day) from hell, and your plan is to hole up in the dark and drink the memory of it away: Shanghai is your spot. Drinks are strong and cheap ($2 dollar wells during happy hour), and you’ll want to order their Zapata for eating -- it's house-made chips with both chew and crunch, dipped in hot queso.
For Your Inner Gamer: Ground Kontrol
There's an abundance of (often bro-tastic) places around here to whet your whistle, but only one of these places involves Mortal Kombat, Pac-Man, and classic NBA Jam. So grab a Pabst from the bar and head upstairs to the all-pinball floor, or, head to the back corner to challenge Glen to a mean game of DDR. Suck it, Glen.
For Providing Essential Beverages: Pints Brewing Co.
This place is the Superman of coffee houses: by day, they’re a bespectacled, coffee- (from Portland Roasting) sipping intellectual, and by night they're a beer-pounding party animal who happens to like really good craft beer.
You can trust freelancer Kat Vetrano’s Old Town recommendations because the location of her day job has given her plenty of opportunity/reasons to do all of the above, personally. You can find her pining away for Shanghai’s Zapata on Twitter @kat707.
1. Mi Mero Mole32 NW 5th Ave, Portland
2. Angelina's Greek Cuizina112 NW Couch St, Portland
3. Bowery Bagels310 NW Broadway, Portland
4. Chen's Good Taste Restaurant18 NW 4th Ave, Portland
5. Shanghai Tunnel211 SW Ankeny St, Portland
6. Remedy733 NW Everett, Portland
7. Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade511 NW Couch St, Portland
8. Pints Brewing Co.412 NW 5th ave, Portland
A tribute to the street food of Mexico, Mi Mero Mole by Nick Zukin (of Kenny & Zuke's) has upped the Chinatown taco game... and just about everyone has noticed. Guisados are what the place is about, a Mexican City concept translating to "a stew, stir-fry, or filling," and you can select the kind you want from a chalkboard on the orange wall. Count on a meat, seafood, vegetarian, and vegan option that can be poured into corn tortilla tacos, served as a plate with rice and beans, rolled into a burrito, or grilled into a quesadilla. Boundaries are pushed with adventerous meat options like tongue, rabbit, and blood sausage, which are always better with a margarita from the fast-casual dining room's bar.
With roots as just a food cart at the Saturday Market, Angelina's is now a favorite Old Town lunch spot where you can purchase a Meat Boat and/or Meat Yacht, which is one layer of tangy feta-specked Greek salad with a mountain of meat (lamb or chicken) on top.
Old Town's favorite bagel shop, Bowery goes above and beyond the bagel with crazy spread options (bacon, onion, and mushroom), as well as killer grilled cheese and breakfast sandwich offering.
With its concealed facade, you might just miss Chen's, but that would be a huge mistake, because inside, you’ll find sweet-smelling BBQ duck and other meats, plus their famous, delicate dumplings, which are stuffed with (surprise) even more meat.
This hole-in-the-wall Old Town drink spot boasts strong and cheap libations, plus their Zapata for eating: house-made chips with both chew and crunch, dipped in hot queso.
Remedy's a wine bar and bistro that's serving up locally sourced meats and veggies as well as killer aromatic cocktails inspired by old-timey French recipes.
Classic arcade 'n drink emporium Ground Kontrol has been remodeled/upgraded to version "3.0", which brings new comfy flooring, an LED-heavy Tron grid-esque interior.
Like many Old Town residents near the MAX tracks, Pints Brewing has suffered through an identity crisis, though unlike most, it doesn't cover itself in street mud and scream at newspaper stands all night. By day, it was Everyday Coffee; by night, it was Urban Taproom. But from here on out, by always, it'll be Pints Brewing Co., the newest small brewery in PDX.