We take you through Portland’s best food cart parks, distilleries, weird donuts, and more.
Portland’s newest weird-ass take on ice cream
Portland is famous for its ice cream, with spots like Salt & Straw, as well it’s tendency to make everything and anything vegan and vegetarian, so it’s no surprise it would come up with a vegan ice creamery eventually. What is surprising is the base, chickpeas, and what’s even more surprising is that it’s actually extremely good. There aren’t any notes of hummus or anything else troubling, and there’s a range of flavors from triple chocolate to the exceptional blackberry basil. Beyond “ice cream,” the shop offers gluten-free, soy-free pastries and toasts, most of which are vegan.
Fried chicken for the soul
It’s hard to think of a more hotly anticipated restaurant opening in recent times than Yonder, Maya Lovelace’s house of Southern bliss. Fried chicken is the star here, vying for the top Portland spot with three different styles (dusted, dipped, or Nashville style hot), served in a variety of cuts, from a whole bird to wings, or on a sandwich. Southern sides like collard green and Lovelace’s blissful pimento mac and cheese are a must order, but the cornbread is the sleeper hit -- crispy on the outside, but almost cake-like fluffy on the inside, it’s like no other cornbread out there, and is sure to convert even the most cornbread-reluctant eater.
Decadent French bar food
From the team behind the sapphire blue house of mussels, La Moule, Scotch Lodge brings modern French dining, craft cocktails, and a robust collection of whiskey to the cozy, subterranean space formerly home to Biwa. Though the main draw to this lush, aquatic colored lounge is the bold cocktails and vast whisky list, guests can find a variety of contemporary French plates with worldly twists, like fresh pasta, beef tartare, hanger steak, and a pretty killer fried fish sandwich. It’s a bit on the snackier side, but not hard to make a full meal out of.
Detroit pizza, Oregon beers, and old school Portland vibes
The Foster-Powell area is growing up, and it greatly helped in this endeavour by Assembly Brewing. A spacious, industrial dining hall festooned with murals of assembly workers painted by local artists, Assembly Brewing specializes in classic Northwest style ales and Detroit style pizza. Co-owner and brewer George Johnson went to Detroit to study under Shawn Randazzo of Detroit Style Pizza Company, and came back with the thick, crispy, square pizzas, stretching with tons of cheese and a dollop of sauce on top. They pair nicely with the classic style ales brewed on site.
Portland’s hip new little sushi joint
Tekka Bar responds to a question that Portland has been asking recently -- “Can you have too much sushi in a town?” -- with a resounding “no.” This Las Vegas transplant specializes in hand rolls, delicate little cones of nori filled with rice and seafood, like a much more reasonable version of the now ubiquitous “sushi burrito.” Guests can order flights of these hand rolls or enjoy them à la carte. Alongside these light, tasty Japanese treats the bar serves a nice selection of sake, a modest draft list, matcha and sencha green teas on nitro, and a few other drinks.
Portland's Californian Chicago style pizzeria
Portland has a lot of pizza joints, from greasy late-night spots to upscale, wood-fired restaurants. What’s few and far between is Chicago deep-dish, and Star Pizza has moved in from California to help fill that void. At the sprawling, leather-filled dining hall in the Pearl, diners gorge on the reasonably sized, thick-crusted deep-dish pizzas, as well as thin-crust pies, salads, starters, and the like. The thick pizzas are remarkably lighter than expected; Chicagoans might balk at it, but others appreciate the chance to eat more than one slice without feeling ill. The meaty classics, like the “old school” with pepperoni, black olives, and red onion, are the way to go, but the shop offers vegetarian (and even vegan) options that are delicious as well.
A piece of Rome in the middle of Portland
Like Star Pizza, Montesacro Pinseria is a Californian implant bringing a rare style of pizza to the city; in this case, pinsa, a Roman dish that uses flatbread, rather than traditional pizza dough. These light, fluffy pinsa come with a variety of toppings, often with melty mozzarella and meaty toppings like prosciutto or sausage. Along with the pinsa, guests can find cold starters, cheese plates, salumi, wines, panini, and everything else needed to transport them to the wild Roman countryside.
Big, bold, Texas-style BBQ
Portland always needs good barbecue, especially big, smoky, Texas-style BBQ, and Holy Trinity BBQ helps fulfill that need. Originally an Instagram-only BBQ shop, it now operates as a food cart on weekends in a car lot on Powell Boulevard, but will eventually run more days. The thick brisket slow smoked over Oregon oak, tender pork ribs, and spicy sausage tend to sell out only a few hours after he opens at 11am.
Est. 2017 | Northeast
Hip prix fixe menu and stylish bar
Nomad.PDX has long given up its nomadic roots in exchange for a beautiful, spacious building filled with plants and exposed brick. The multi-course tasting menu varies from day to day, based on seasonality and availability of ingredients, and is always a bold, striking exploration of food and its source. It’s also got the stylish and sexy Ash Bar attached, where you can find a la carte items, cocktails, and wine.
Est. 2016 | Buckman and Downtown
Japan’s #1 Portland export
Portland didn’t use to have the plethora of ramen restaurants it has now. And as such, we’re positively rife with Japanese noodle joints, many of them ranking good-to-great. Marukin, though, stands apart: An import straight from Japan, the counter service restaurant serves its sizable bowls of creamy broth and freshly made noodles for around $11 each. If it has a downside, it’s that the vegan bowls aren’t as remarkable as the ones with pork belly and egg, but for those that eat meat, it’s hard to find a better ramen spot in town. Plus there are two locations, one on Alder and one in Pine Street Market.
Established 2016 | N Portland
Fried chicken and curry from Thailand
Chef Earl Ninsom of praised Thai restaurants Langbaan and PaaDee proves he can run a casual counter-service restaurant without compromising quality. The southern Thai-style fried chicken is the focus here. Served best as a combo plate with sticky rice, rich curry, and roti (pan-fried bread), the chicken is aromatic and juicy with a thin but crunchy layer of well-spiced breading. For a truly indulgent experience, mix up a little bit of everything in the curry and wrap it in a piece of roti. Wash it down with a sip of Tamarind Whiskey Smash.
Est. 2015 | Mt Tabor
Fresh, seasonal kitchen with killer cookies
Gathering national recognition and a number of culinary awards and nominations, the family-owned Coquine is a testament to Northwestern ingredients and style that's firmly rooted in French and old-world cooking. It’s possible, and tempting, to eat at Coquine for all three meals of the day, starting with its gorgeous pastries for breakfast, beautifully crafted sandwiches, soups, and salads for lunch, and the the transcendent roasted chicken chicken dish for dinner -- all of which will change seasonally, sometimes day-to-day. Don’t skip the chocolate chip cookies with smoked almonds and caramel, which the restaurant sells by the single or dozen, and even ships to other states.
Est. 2015 | Alberta
Texas-style brisket and sausage served truckside
This North Portland-based BBQ food truck is open seven days a week from 11am until 7pm (or until it sells out of its Texas-style smoked meats, and it always sells out) at the Prost! Marketplace food cart pod. Matt Vicedomini is an unexpected character to be making Portland’s best Texas-style ribs and brisket, as the Long Islander worked at Michelin restaurants in New York before studying barbecue in Australia of all places, but there’s no denying the quality. While the pork ribs and beef brisket are the star of the show, a la carte or on a bun, his sausage shouldn’t be passed over either. You’ll want to get The Whole Shebang for $20, which is each of his meats and all the sides.
Est. 2015 | Cully
Portland’s ultimate pizza darling
An industry darling, Pizza Jerk repeatedly proves that no pizza concept is too absurd for Tommy Habetz, the man behind Bunk Sandwiches, to pull off. It’s a truly Portland pizza spot, in that it’s inventive, laid back, boasts just enough pretension, and is a lot of fun. It’s also just really, truly good pizza. Happily, a new location in the SE Buckman neighborhood opened last year, providing late-night pizza options for the bar crawlers.
Est. 2014 | Buckman
Russian dumpling powerhouse
“Get the dumplings” is something you’ll hear when you announce you’re going to Russian restaurant Kachka. It’s the right move, too, as the beef, pork, veal, and onion dumplings are one of Portland’s most treasured culinary items, as are the tvorog vareniki dumplings with scallions and goat cheese. That being said, basically everything on the menu at Kachka is delicious, with signature dishes like rabbit in a clay pot (exactly what it sounds like) or Herring Under a Fur Coat, a Russian-style, seven-layer dip. A new, larger space also opened the restaurant up for lunch service and a larger dinner menu (the vodka's still here), while the old space became Kachinka, where those in a rush -- or without a reservation for Kachka -- can graze on drinking snacks, dumplings, sausages, and (Vladimir) poutine while practically bathing in vodka. As with Kachka, get the dumplings.
Est. 2012 | Division/Clinton
Simply fancy-ass Mexican food
Any Californian or Texan moving to Portland will opine the common testament that “Portland has no good Mexican food.” What they really mean is “Portland doesn’t have good, cheap tacos,” which is arguable, but it’s also not the only kind of Mexican food out there. Xico serves exemplary high-end, casual Mexican cuisine with fresh, local ingredients whenever possible. Find dishes like enchiladas, mollete, gorditas, and more, along with mezcal, tequila, and even Mexican wines.
Est. 2012 | Downtown
Bustling steakhouse and grill
Chef Vitaly Paley’s influence on the city and “Northwest dining” cannot be overstated, but it’s his bustling steakhouse and grill that might be his best location. The secret is in the roaring wood-fired grills that light the back side of the spacious restaurant, where chefs grill half chickens, flat irons, and rib-eyes. It also quietly boasts one of the city’s best fried chickens, served with local honey and housemade hot sauce, and a number of hearty vegetable dishes to balance things out. Happy hour sees a pretty killer flat-top burger and $5 vieux carres, making it a busy destination every day of the week.
Est. 2010 | Ladd’s Addition & Downtown
All the meat that matters, between two pieces of bread
Starting with the emergence of beloved Bunk, Portland has gone into the throes of sandwich shops, with joints like Meat Cheese Bread, Stacked, and Guero all bringing chef-y techniques and cramming them between two pieces of bread. But ever since transitioning from cart to restaurant in 2012, Lardo’s reigned supreme. Every meat in this place is made in-house, from the succulent porchetta to the hunk of ham that finds its way into the deep fryer (along with the dirty fries). Sandwiches here rotate as often as the beer selection, with mainstays like the bahn mi and the mortadella sharing chalkboard space with goods like the Nashville fried chicken and a monthly sandwich by a famous chef from town. It’s one of the best sandwich shops in America, and has been since the day it opened.
Est. 2009 | PSU, Downtown, & Buckman
Chicken and rice absolutely perfected
Nong’s is perfection in simplicity. Nong Poonsukwattana’s impressive story took her from Bangkok to the US with just $70 in her pockets, to restaurant work, and then a food cart where she served Thai chicken and rice: Khao Man Gai. Today she has a food cart and two brick-and-mortars. At all of them, the dish is seasoned and poached chicken served with rice, a light soup, cucumbers, and cilantro. You can get it with peanut sauce and broccoli if you like, or with tofu for vegetarians, but the original reigns supreme. It’s not only a defining dish for Nong, but one for the city.
Est. 2007 | Alameda
Meaty, elegant prix fixe dining at its best
Beast, Naomi Pomeroy’s ode to meaty fine-dining, was a pioneer of Portland prix fixe dining and finished out a decade in the city as strong as ever, with its signature French-influenced, Northwest cuisine served in a communal setting. The six-course meal, served twice a night most nights of the week, changes every two weeks and remains the highlight of the restaurant; it’s hard to say what guests will see on their plates, but usually a hearty pasta dish at some point in the evening and elegantly arranged local meats and vegetables made with creative aplomb. On Thursdays, guests have a bit more flexibility with walk-in four course meals with vegetarian options, and the prix fixe weekend brunch is one of the most indulgent in town. With any meal, getting the wine pairing is highly recommended, as is stopping across the street at sister bar Expatriate for a cocktail.
Established 2006 | Kerns
The true king of Neapolitan pizza
The debate about who serves the best Neapolitan-style pizza in town has raged for years, and it often comes down to Ken’s Artisan Pizza and Apizza Scholls. Both are great, but Ken’s is unbeatable with its thin, wood-fired, oven-baked pizzas, dolloped with imported cheeses and topped with high-quality meats. Plus, it now sports a full cocktail bar, along with its already impressive wine list. Just be sure to add a heaping pile of arugula to any pizza you get.
Est. 2006 | Kerns
Temple to foie gras and indulgences
It’s safe to say that Gabriel Rucker helped put Portland on the map with his flagship restaurant Le Pigeon (which is pronounced as Americanly as possible). A house of decadence, the tiny, brick-lined restaurant is never empty, as guests pile in to try the rich, modern, French-inspired tasting menus. It’s probably most famous for introducing Portland to the wonders of foie gras: While it was not alien to the city, Rucker’s use of it bordered on arcane, especially with the foie gras profiteroles for dessert. The little puff pastries sandwiching foie gras ice cream became synonymous with the restaurant, and an icon of Portland’s culinary world.
Est. 2005 | Buckman
Modern eatery with old-school Italian food
Portland has a lot of great Italian food, but Cathy Whims’ ode to country dining is pretty damn hard to beat. Whether it’s the crispy, uncut pizzas coming out of the massive stone oven, the deceptively simple tomato-butter sauce spaghetti, or rosemary-seasoned steaks, the dishes here transport diners from Southeast Portland to the Italian countryside. Thursdays are the best day to visit, when the pasta dishes are replaced by delicate housemade gnocchi, the best delivery system for that tomato-butter sauce. Recently, the lauded chef also opened Enoteca Nostrana right next door, a modern wine bar offering playful takes on Nostrana’s iconic Italian fare like a build-your-own pasta dish or a burrata with seasonal fruit. With the one-two punch, Whims has basically turned her little corner of Buckman into Little Italy.
Est. 1944 | Nob Hill
Portland's most traditional, venerable steakhouse
Portland’s historic steakhouse is still one of its best, a sliver of old-school, fine-dining charm in a constantly evolving food scene. The dark, warm interior still boasts white tablecloths and formally dressed servers, the latter of which present the thick, juicy steaks with well-practiced aplomb. The in-house, dry-aged steaks are the star here, but their ridiculously affordable happy hour menus mean anyone can come in for a bite; there’s also a $35 three-course prime rib dinner on Monday evenings. The steakhouse also quietly carries one of the best vintage wine collections in the city, if not the country.
Established 1907 | Downtown
Fried oysters and other seafood in what feels like a ship
A family-owned restaurant dating back to 1919, Dan and Louis Oyster Bar is, unsurprisingly, a seafood restaurant housed in a room that looks like the interior of a wooden ship. Essentially a fish and chips shop, it distinguishes itself by serving crispy, golden shellfish. Shrimp, oysters, and clams all get breaded and deep-fried, though more traditional diners can opt for the classic cod fish & chips. For those skipping fried food, the other signature dish is the oyster stew, a warm, rich, buttery stew that’s perfect in winter time.
Est. 1892 | Downtown
An acclaimed seafood restaurant, bar, and institution
Not much younger than Huber’s, Jake’s Famous Crawfish wears its age proudly. Servers are decked out in white jackets -- a rarity in a city that usually sees more tattoos on its servers than dress shirts. A long wooden bar with brass railings dominates the room, and the high walls are lined with vintage paintings. The food hasn’t changed much in the 100-plus years of its business either: Enjoy cedar-roasted salmon, whole dungeness crab, seafood pasta, bouillabaisse, and, of course, prominent crawfish.
Established 1879 | Downtown
Historic home to roast turkey dinners and pyrotechnic bartending
Allegedly Portland’s oldest restaurant and birthplace of the Spanish Coffee (ALLEGEDLY), Huber’s has been serving its coffee and roasted turkey since 1879, and has remained primarily owned by the Louie family, originally Chinese immigrants, for most of its lauded history. There’s even a story of Jim Louie, the patriarch of the family, serving guests from his rowboat after the restaurant was flooded in the late 19th century. Today, the arched, wood-paneled dining hall remains an institution. Order some perfectly roasted turkey, either as a sandwich or a full turkey dinner, and don’t miss the famous Spanish coffee, which is made tableside with plenty of pyrotechnics.