Food & Drink

The Best Date Spot in 20 Portland Neighborhoods

Published On 09/08/2015 Published On 09/08/2015
Courtesy of Alyson Levy Photography (edited)

Whether you spend your workday swiping on Tinder or actually, like, go out and meet people in real life, chances are you're going to go on a date at some point in your life. But once you finally get the "I like you, do you like me?" note back with a "yes" where do you go? There are so many options. And then you have to pick up the corsage and brush your teeth and...

Relax! You've got a wingman. Its name is Thrillist. And that's why we've picked the best date spot in 20 different neighborhoods, ranging from fancy dinners to potential Street Fighter humiliation. You can thank us when you name your firstborn.

Courtesy of Lincon Barbour

Pearl District

Andina (address and info)
You’re already in the Pearl, so you know you want something fancy. And you want ambiance. Oh, and good food. Andina has all those things. It's a sprawling, intimate Peruvian experience that has become one of the area’s go-to spots for anniversaries... or just to really seal the deal by going upscale. Tapas are the draw, of which there are more than 30, ranging from rellenos to ceviche to kebabs. Or share a couple entrees (paella, for sure). It might be spendy (well, Portland spendy), but that’s a small price to pay for a surefire trip to at least second base.
 

Old Town

Old Town Pizza (address and info)/Ground Kontrol (address and info)
You’re probably too old to go clubbing. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a date that mirrors the ones you had in high school, awkward old-school video game competitiveness and all. Old Town makes one of Portland’s most unabashedly simple pizzas, but it’s made even better by the fact that the place is notoriously haunted due to all the Shanghaiing that happened underneath. And it’s just a short jaunt to Ground Kontrol, where you can get down on classic arcade games, which is an oddly romantic thing. Especially if you and your date win at Cruisin' USA.

Andy Kryza/Thrillist

Lloyd District

Hale Pele (address and info)
There’s just something magical about sharing a drink in a hollowed-out coconut while a fake thunderstorm drowns out the real rainstorm outside, and about pretending you’re in Hawaii when you’re really on Broadway.
 

Central Eastside

Noble Rot (address and info)
Wine + fancy French food + wine + rooftop seating + sunset = laid.

Andy Kryza/Thrillist

Belmont

Hokusei (address and info)
Arguably the best sushi place in town, Hokusei offers up an incredible omakase/wine & sake pairing that should be an essential date-night move, especially if your date is down with handing control over the meal to a master chef with a very, very sharp knife.
 

Kerns

Luce (address and info)
You know the restaurant from Lady and the Tramp? This is that. But super artisanal. And smaller, with a focus on rustic Italian greatness. And you don’t have to wait to eat because the chef is trying to get dogs to hump out back.

Andy Kryza/Thrillist

Downtown

Raven & Rose (address and info)
There are so, so many great date spots Downtown (shout-outs to Imperial, Departure, VQ, Little Bird, Mucca, and about a dozen others), but there’s just something very intimate about hanging out in the old Ladd Carriage House. Maybe it’s eating fried rabbit and rarebit in candlelight in a historic mansion. Maybe it’s the presence of Rookery Bar -- one of Portland’s finest cocktail emporiums -- upstairs, or the fact that you can pretend to be Victorian-era nobility. This place brings the feels. It’s basically like Spanish Fly. Except historical. And delicious.
 

Montavilla

The Observatory (address and info)
The more adventurous should absolutely get Japanese-inspired fare with a side of tentacle porn at Tanuki. But if you want to play it safe, hit up Observatory. It’s a great mix between casual and intimate, and the menu has everything from an upscale take on fried chicken to steak and seafood... with nothing on the menu topping $20 (including the ribeye!). It’s also across the street from one of our favorite beer theaters, The Academy, in case you want to be on the most predictable date ever. Which, well, you should.

Flickr/blese

Beaumont

Smallwares (address and info)
Because they allow you to try a lot (and share a lot), small plates are ideal for a date. And nobody makes more inventive ones than Joanna Ware, whose “inauthentic Asian” spot offers up everything from soft-shell crab to octopus-kissed kimchi and fried kale/bacon that is basically required eating. And if you’re a night owl, you’re in luck: Barwares -- the joint in the back -- serves a full menu until late. It even has a couch, in case you want to pretend you’re in your parents' basement and have a make-out session. But don’t. Please?
 

Lents

HK Café (address and info)
The perfect day-date spot lets you go nuts on cheap dim sum in a crowded, loud room full of steamed dumplings, mystery stews, and clashing carts. If you want to really find out about your date’s willingness to try new things, this is your barometer.

Courtesy of Carly Diaz

Alberta Arts District

Aviary (address and info)
Nothing really screams romance quite like pig ears, and that crispy dish has made Aviary famous. It’s also the best damned restaurant on a street known for hosting some of Portland’s brightest. The dining room offers up French/Asian/WTF fusion ranging from brioche-crusted sole with shrimp mousse to roasted lamb (and pig ears!) if you want to go formal, while the bar tucked in the back ditches the fancy for elevated bar fare -- Brussels sprout nachos, slaw dogs, sliders -- in case you’re looking for something more casual (or cheap!) without ditching quality.
 

Boise

Sidecar 11 (address and info) and Radar (address and info)
Offering a chance to double-dip on the drinks-and-dinner combo without using your stupid legs too much, these two tiny spots are right next door to one another. Sidecar is one of the neighborhood’s true underrated gems, with a full menu of Manhattans and a candlelit speakeasy feel that perfectly complements its super-narrow layout. Next door, Radar offers up small plates like bluefish pate and watermelon salads that are ideal forsharing, and larger plates like smoked pork shoulder and crab linguini in case you’re not into the whole sharing thing... which is kind of a shitty way to start out a relationship, but hey, it’s your date.

Andy Kryza/Thrillist

Cully

Old Salt Marketplace (address and info)
Cocktails? Check. Great beer? Yeah, this is partially owned by the folks who run Upright. But the real draw here is the meat: Old Salt has an in-house butcher shop that feeds the hearth, which pops out some of the best damned upscale comfort food you’ll eat, period. If you really want to impress, opt for the “let us cook for you” option, where you tell the chef how much you want to spend ($30 minimum), and he showers you in delicious.
 

St. Johns

The Baowry (address and info)
We’re not saying you shouldn’t eat in this funky little place. But we are saying that you should absolutely take a stack of the incredible steamed buns -- pork, chicken, and duck confit among them -- and some breath-freshening kimchi and have a nice picnic in nearby Cathedral Park. Who knows, you might just witness the sight of protesters rappelling off the bridge. Those are the kinds of memories you'll tell your kids when they ask about future oil spills!

Andy Kryza/Thrillist

Division/Clinton

Cibo (address and info)
Sure, you could go ultra swank over at Ava Gene’s (if you plan ahead, that is), but you can get an equally Italian experience at Cibo, the neighborhood’s other great (and lesser-known) Italian spot. The place is more intimate than AG’s, and the menu includes everything from pizza to steak tagliata, fresh pasta, and specials that take the concept of rustic Italian to beautiful heights. Oh, and the menu doesn’t force you to look like an asshole in front of a date by slaughtering Italian words. Bonus points for being next door to Southeast Wine Collective, and for the wonderful view of Portland’s last true adult movie theater, in case you need a conversation starter.
 

Kenton

Swift and Union (address and info)
Look, we love the Dancin’ Bare as much as anybody (including Paul Bunyan, who can’t stop creepily leering from behind the MAX). But with respect to the steak special, you don’t want to go on an empty stomach (or liver). That’s why we recommend this brand-new resto from the Tabor Tavern crew, which specializes in ambiance with a side of steak frites. It’s a fantastic new neighborhood spot (and, let’s face it, letting a date know you’re knowledgeable about hip food sites and new spots is a turn on) without pretension. It also has great cocktails. That puts you one step closer to “ironically” hitting the Bare for dessert.

St. Jack

Nob Hill

St. Jack (address and info)
It’s basically like being in France, but without all the French people: there’s a sea of cheese, small plates including tartare and snails, and big plates that include the incredible lamb T-bone. It’s worth every penny. And unlike Paris, it’s not going to drain your wallet faster than a pickpocket.
 

Hawthorne

Cafe Castagna (address and info)
One of Portland’s most famously respected restaurants offers up a family-style dinner that, at $45 a person, lets you do a chef’s dinner on the cheap(er), while entrees range from lamb chops to tri-tip. Drink lots of wine... if you’re lucky and the two of you have to go back the next day to pick up a car (rawr!), you can grab brunch at Jam. Boom.

Papa Haydn

Sellwood/Moreland

Papa Haydn (address and info)
It’s a simple equation: wine + fancy European food + wine + fancy European desserts + wine = laid. Haven't you learned your equations yet?
 

Hollywood

Pono Farm Soul Kitchen (address and info)
Located next to the Hollywood Theatre and across the street from a wine bar -- date options represent! -- Pono offers up a great surf-and-turf variation in the form of sushi and beef that happens to be raised at the owner’s farm. Unlike another Portland spot where the owner owns his own ranch (and also serves steaks with a side of lap dances), the stuff here is of the highest quality and designed to share.

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Andy Kryza is a senior editor at Thrillist. He met his wife at the now-defunct Matchbox, and tricked her into liking him at Nuestra Cocina. He now just feeds her Hot Pockets. Follow him to candlelit pepperoni: @apkryza.

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1. Andina 1314 NW Glisan Street, Portland, OR 97209

Between the romantic ambiance and the shareable plates, Andina is by far the best date spot in the Pearl District.

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2. Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade 511 NW Couch St, Portland, OR 97209 (Downtown)

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.

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3. Hale Pele 2733 NE Broadway St., Portland, OR 97232

Drinking here is like being on vacation, except you have work the next day.

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4. Noble Rot 1111 E Burnside St, Portland, OR 97214 (Lloyd District)

Offering scenic views of Portland, Noble Rot's a wine bar with a serious vino menu (they've got 300+ bottles in stock from small wineries in the Pacific Northwest and across Europe). Noble Rot's always topping out best of Portland lists, and for good reason; It's a solid date spot with great happy hour specials, and awesome dinner menu, and a great rooftop bar.

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5. Hokusei 4246 SE Belmont st, Portland, OR 97215 (Belmont)

This restaurant saves you the trouble of hopping a cargo ship to Hokkaido by serving up fresh, authentic Japanese sushi right in South Portland. The full bar features a host of specialty cocktails and enough saki to make a samurai weep, and there are also a number of Japanese and locally-brewed beers available on tap.

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6. Luce 2140 E. Burnside, Portland, OR 97214

Enjoy classic, artisanal Italian food without having to step foot on a plane.

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7. Raven & Rose 1331 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97201 (Downtown)

Housed within a historical landmark, Raven & Rose serves upscale comfort food and a nearly overwhelmingly large wine list. The beautiful dining room is inspired by the Irish and British countryside, as does the menu. Take dining to the next level by experiencing a bison cheeseburger paired with a craft beer you can't pronounce.

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8. The Observatory 8115 SE Stark St, Portland, OR 97215 (Montavilla)

Not to be confused with the landmark/museum, THIS Observatory serves upscale dinners, quick lunches of the sandwich and salad variety, and signature cocktails that offers fresh and fruity takes on your go-to classics.

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9. Smallwares 4605 NE Fremont, Portland, OR 97213 (Beaumont Wilshire)

Smallwares serves inauthentic Asian cuisine one small plate at a time. Inauthentic as in take your expectations and turn them on its head. With fare like chicken lollipops and pork skin ragu, there's no better place to get your weird bar food on. For a slight return to normalcy, hit the bar for your choice cocktails, beer, and wine.

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10. H.K. Cafe 4410 SE 82nd Ave, Portland, OR 97266 (82nd Ave)

This place serves great dim sum as well as a fabulous brunch. If you think noodles for breakfast seems weird, then you've clearly never tried it. Pro tip: go for the sticky rice. It may be the best secret hangover cure.

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11. Aviary 1733 NE Alberta, Portland, OR 97211 (Alberta Arts Dist)

On the off, off chance that the bird ISN'T the word, it's probably a good bet that this restaurant/bar is. Aviary's got a great selection of cocktails and beers for you to wet your beak, and the food menu's organic, locally sourced ingredients will leave you questioning why you've been choking down millet seed all your life. Ok, no more puns, we promise!

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12. Radar 3951 N Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR 97227 (Mississippi Ave)

Radar is named in honor of the owner's father and is now pouring craft cocktails on Mississippi in a narrow, exposed-brick-featuring space that's serving American small plates while also showing the best European football (the one in which feet & a ball actually interact) from the continent's top leagues.

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13. Old Salt Marketplace 5027 NE 42nd Ave, Portland, OR 97218 (Concordia)

Old Salt Marketplace is a Concordia-based old-timey-style grocer, butcher, and resto, serving up huge entrees like half-chickens w/ wheat berries and steak tartare with toast.

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14. The Baowry 8307 N Ivanhoe Street, Portland, OR 97203

You have to check out their steamed buns and kimchi. It will change your life.

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15. Cibo 3539 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97214 (Se Portland)

Cibo, a restaurant opened by NW's mastermind Marco Frattaroli, serves wood oven-fired hand-pulled pizza, stromboli and other adventurous takes on traditional Italian cuisine. Entrees alters when head chef Frattaroli changes his mind, but though you'll likely be happy to notice.

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16. Swift and Union 8103 N. Denver Avenue, Portland, OR 97217

Great cocktails, delicious steaks, and beautiful ambiance make this new Kenton eatery a perfect date spot.

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17. St. jack 1610 NW 23rd, Portland, OR 97210

St. Jack is run by a former 23Hoyt chef and named for the man's encouraging grandfather (it's also an Americanization of "coquille St. Jacques", French for "scallop"). There is an elegantly-tiled patisserie with pastry domes and Stumptown coffee as well as a bistro side serving rustic continental fare. Snack on bones marrow gremolata and seared foie gras or, for something heavier, a whole roasted trout with lentils, arugula and brown butter vinagrette.

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18. Café Castagna 1752 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214 (Se Portland)

Chef Wesley Johnson serves up small plates loaded with local produce in this modern venue. Café Castagna also launched an Eastern Mediterranean, Sunday-only brunch menu. The eggs Benedict has lamb ham, there are cardamom donuts, and you can add bacon to the grilled halloumi cheese and bread.

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19. Pono Farm Soul Kitchen 4118 NE Sandy Blvd, Portland, OR 97212

Pono Farm Soul Kitchen books itself as Japanese soul food, although there’s certainly some French influence. The menu is divided into your choice of protein, but there are plenty of vegetarian or seafood options, including an entire sushi menu too.

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20. Sidecar 11 3955 N Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR 97211 (Mississippi Ave)

From a team of dudes with serious PDX bar/resto chops (including the owner of massive Davis Street Tavern), Sidecar's a willfully obscure speakeasy-ish Mississippi Ave watering hole built for neighborhood types, slinging classic 'tails under soaring cei

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