Where to Eat in Portland Right Now
From a sprawling Italian market to a Vietnamese coffee roaster and banh mi shop, these are the must-hit restaurants in Portland.
With Thrillist’s Eat Seeker, we've made it our mission to curate an ever-changing list of the very best things to eat at any given moment, from the brand new spots in town to the hottest of the last couple of years. Even during a global pandemic that is decimating the restaurant industry, new restaurants are opening up from Downtown to Richmond, serving stunning seafood, classic Italian, impeccable ramen, perfect pizza, and so much more—some in response to the changing industry, and others in spite of it. As you scroll you’ll find the ones that have opened up in the last few months, then the ones that have shaped the last few years. There’s also information on the best way to order food from said spots, with takeout, delivery, and a few in-house dining options available.
The gist: Burma Joy is the newest addition of the fabulous Burmese restaurant mini-group Top Burmese, operating on NW 23rd Avenue.
The food: Everything at the Top Burmese restaurant is pure comfort food—these herb-laden dishes like the golden hill noodles or tea leaf curry explore the diverse culinary world of Myanmar, including its Indian and Chinese influences. The Majesty Noodle Soup is especially capable of driving out winter’s chill with its rich, aromatic broth, delicately chewy noodles, and plentiful herbs.
Portland Cà Phê
The gist: This is a must-hit Vietnamese-women-owned coffee roaster and banh mi shop.
The food: Owner Kimberly Dan wanted to change Portlanders’ perspective on what Vietnamese coffee could be like, sourcing all of her beans directly from her family’s home country. At her cafe and roaster she serves coffee drinks that include the classic Vietnamese iced coffee, ca phe su, as well as lattes, cappuccinos, and the like. The food menu is mainly bánh mì and includes vegan options.
The gist: A food cart serving “traditional” Filipino food in “not so traditional ways,” Baon Kainan is a celebration of Filipino heritage.
The food: The signature dish at Baon Kainan is the chicken adobo—served with rice, pickled vegetables, and bok choy, it’s a delicate but assertive flavor, and without any soy sauce, making it gluten free. Other popular dishes include a light, savory shrimp soup (sinigang), delicious kare kare fries with braised beef and peanut sauce, and on Monday nights only, crispy, golden fried pork lumpia. The cart also offers a fun Filipino brunch with offerings like biscuits with longanisa gravy as well as tosilog, a rich dish with fried eggs, pork, and fish sauce tomatoes and onions.
The gist: This food cart turned brick and mortar fuses Mexican cooking with Southern comfort foods for a truly indulgent meal experience
The food: If one dish exemplifies the cuisine at Nacheaux, it’s the burrito. This hulking wrap combines fried chicken with red beans, dirty rice, slaw, cheese, and a “Nacheaux” sauce. It’s big. If you’re looking for something “healthy” you’re better off going elsewhere, but if you’re looking for a hearty, satisfying, and delicious meal there’s fried chicken and cajun fries, shrimp or crawfish po’boys, and a variety of tacos and mac and cheese dishes. It’s a true soul food experience in a city where they are far between.
The gist: Bustling Williams Avenue gets a fast-casual Vietnamese sandwich shop and bakery.
The food: Though the vibe at Lúa is that of a bright, cheerful deli, the menu is rooted in Vietnamese street food and snacks. The most popular item seems to be the various banh mi, served with a choice of protein (including vegan options) with the usual pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber, jalapeno, and cilantro along with a housemade sauce (also with vegan options). The bread is fluffy with a delicate, flaky exterior and is baked in-house each morning. Lúa also offers its banh mi as sliders, something rarely seen in town. Other items include bao, vermicelli bowls, rolls, and even a pandan waffle for dessert.
The gist: This takeout- and delivery-only restaurant serves an interesting blend of Japanese and Brazilian cooking that’s heavy on the meat side of things.
The food: It’s no surprise that more and more restaurants are focusing solely on takeout and delivery during the age of COVID, but only some foods work well within that model. Luckily, chef Marlon Alonso—who spent time at Momofuku and Michelin-starred restaurants before moving to Portland—knew what traveled well when he opened his “ghost kitchen.” Brazakaya serves Brazilian dishes influenced by Japanese izakaya cuisine, with a meaty focus—yakitori skewers made with peppers, tofu, or meats like flank steak and pork belly; lamb burgers with housemade Japanese mayo; Brazilian cut steak with rice, beans, collards, and Brazilian salsa; and a whole platter of meats with similar sides.
The gist: Chef Cameron Dunlop’s high-end dining restaurant is an homage to Pacific Northwest foraging and hunting, presented in a bucolic, cozy dining room.
The food: With a largely vegetarian-friendly menu, Morchella is a love letter to the Pacific Northwest, even naming itself after a mushroom (morchella is the name for true morels). Mushrooms are predominant on the menu, going into pasta dishes and soups, but the menu draws from all elements of the Pacific bounty—charred dandelion greens top venison steak, walnuts and wild rice fill endives, and wild berries top ice cream.
The gist: Cantonese-style barbecue with a focus on chicken and duck is served quickly via counter service.
The food: Portland’s Chinese scene improves year after year, but one area that is lacking, save for a few rare exceptions, is Cantonese-style barbecue. YāYā, on NE Alberta Street, helps to fill that void, serving a variety of smoked and roasted meats, including duck, chicken, and pork belly. The poultry is available by the half or whole bird, served with rice, pickles, and sauce; pork comes with similar sides or sandwiched in a fluffy bao. Everything here is tender, juicy, aromatic, and comforting.
The gist: Modern Indonesian and Chinese cooking from the team behind Gado Gado is served in a hip, fun dining room complete with disco ball.
The food: The Indonesian and Chinese cuisine at Oma’s Hideaway tends to buck tradition and lean into fun, modern American bar food vibes. Take, for example, the Oma-Zing Burger, made with chili jam, American cheese, lettuce, and pickles on a griddled bun with coconut lime leaf butter. It’s best enjoyed with a side of curry fries with chili ketchup. Those bold fusion flavors run through the entire menu, whether it’s the famous corn fritters, a char siu pork rice bowl, or a whole roasted game hen served with herb and cabbage slaw and coconut sambal. Don’t miss the inventive cocktails, either.
Mid City Smash Burger
The gist: A food cart on SE Stark (and now in the Cartside Pod on N Williams) that specializes in a single item, MidCity helped kick off the smash burger craze that now ravages the City of Roses.
The food: Owner Mike Aldridge often refers to his product as “Smashy Bois”—thin, crispy, meaty little patties dripping with American cheese and sauce on a small, fluffy bun. The $5 price tag and nearly instant service essentially makes these delectable little cheeseburgers the best version of a fast food sandwich you’ve ever had. After one or two of these for lunch, along with some of the cart’s crinkle fries, it’ll be clear why the trend has taken the city by storm.
The gist: From Chef Sarah Schafer and Anna Caporael, who previously owned the Southern-tinged restaurant Irving Street Kitchen, Cooperativa is a sprawling Italian market in the Pearl District, with pantry items for home cooking, wine, flowers, a cafe, pizza and pasta shop, and a cocktail bar.
The food: In addition to essential pantry goods and other ingredients for home Italian cooking, the market has a caffé with coffee drinks and pastries; a restaurant for pizza and fresh pasta; a gelato shop; and a bar that includes ready made cocktails which, thanks to new state legislation, are available for takeout, filling all your home Negroni needs.
The gist: Portland isn’t generally considered a destination for Mexican dining, but that is slowly but steadily changing, and chef Lauro Romero’s República has no small hand in that thanks to its casual cafe breakfasts and chef’s tasting menu dinners.
The food: The restaurant is all about Mexican home cooking—in the morning, República offers Mexican pastries and coffee before moving to a lunch menu featuring tortas, guisado-topped tortillas, and pozole. But the evenings are where the restaurant truly wows through chef Romero’s amazing cooking as a tasting menu experience, where items as seemingly simple as rice and beans are elevated and presented in the context of its history. República is more than just good food; it’s also actively engaged in conversations of decolonization and anti-racism
The gist: Tragically, founder Alfredo Climaco passed away from COVID-19 in early 2021, but his legacy lives on at Tropicale. The bar is most famous for its piña coladas, served in hollowed-out pineapples, as well as other tropical drinks and bar food.
The food: Alongside a variety of piña coladas, margaritas, and other drinks, Tropicale offers a short food menu with Mexican staples like tacos, tostada, and ceviche. But it’s the big blended piña coladas served in a pineapple that are the real star here.
Grind Wit Tryz
The gist: This Hawaiian counter-service restaurant serves massive piles of rice and meat dishes.
The food: Grind Wit Tryz has been attracting hours-long lines at its food cart since it opened in fall of 2019. Moving to a brick and mortar location is always a risk for carts, but doing so during the pandemic this last year was an even bolder move. However, that seems to have paid off, as the Hawaiian sensation continues to draw in crowds who carry off over-laden boxes of rice bowls. Portions tend to verge on “absurd” here, with platters of ono chicken, kalua pork, ahi poke, and more. Everything is big, flavorful, and deeply satisfying, even indulgent.
The gist: Portland is certainly no stranger to Vietnamese dishes like banh mi, pho, and vermicelli noodle salads—nor are vegan restaurants anything but commonplace. So it’s no surprise that a vegan, Vietnamese pop-up series would get a strong enough following to open a permanent location, even during a pandemic, like Mama Dút did in late 2020.
The food: Owner Thuy Pham serves vegan takes on banh mi (including pork and mushroom), pork bao, chicken pho, and even bottles of fish sauce. Dessert should not be missed either, whether it’s the vegan cheesecake or a mango tart.
Montelupo Italian Market
The gist: One part Italian pantry shop, one part pasta restaurant, Montelupo navigated the perils of the Pandemic with a mix of outdoor dining and a focus on to-go and delivery meals.
The food: Montelupo is all about Italian home cooking, including a lovely Bucatini alla Amatriciana with pancetta, garlic, tomato and chili; a delicate lemon-braised chicken cavatelli with capers; and heartier dishes like beef and pork bolognese. However, it’s the simplicity of the Tajarin where the cooking really shines, with thin egg noodles tossed with truffle butter and parmesan for a nutty, aromatic pasta dish.
The gist: A food cart turned glamorous brick and mortar with a successful crowdfunding campaign, Malka opened just in time for the pandemic to hit. The restaurant now serves its eclectic, maximalist bowls and sandwiches for takeout and delivery.
The food: Malka’s food is tough to pin down, but often involves rice bowls and salads loaded with fresh fruits, marinated meats, herbs, spices, and sauces. For instance the Important Helmet for Outer Space is a barbecue curry pork and rice bowl with avocado, mushrooms, tamarind slaw, crispy shallots, lime, and more. The Bellflower is a jasmine rice salad with fresh fruit and vegetables, piles of herbs, nuts, sesame, a choice of protein, and coconut-lime fish sauce.
The gist: A vegan Sri Lankan pop-up program turned full restaurant, Mirisata has more than one thing going for it, including an all-vegan menu on spicy, aromatic curries that are rarely seen in Portland. The other area that Mirisata impresses is with its business structure; in a year where restaurant culture and equity was on the forefront of national discussions, Mirisata opened as a worker-owned cooperative.
The food: Throughout the week there are options for vegan roti, sambol, kottu, and sides of curries. The weekend sees a rotating curry and rice platter: always heavily aromatic and often spicy, curries often include jackfruit, eggplant, dahl, lotus root, coconut, and other Sri Lankan dishes.