We take you through Portland’s best food cart parks, distilleries, weird donuts, and more.
Bold, stunningly vivid Indonesian cuisine in low-key digs
Housed in an unassuming stripmall in the Hollywood district, and decked out in bright pastels and tiles, the pop-up turned brick and mortar Gado Gado serves up plates of Indonesian cuisine absolutely packed with flavor. Spicy, summer-focused melon salads; dumplings covered in fried onions and fresh herbs; silky, rich noodles with crab and aromatic meatballs; and flaky, buttery roti flatbread are perfect for sharing. That, or diners can go all in with the Rice Table experience and try just about everything the restaurant has to offer for around $60 a head. Cocktails are fun and creative, often with an Idonesian or Chinese touch.
Sleek, modern, and all about the vegetables
G-Love, the new, spacious and modern restaurant in Slabtown from chef Garrett Benedict -- whose resume includes the Michelin star-winning Al’s Place in SF -- brands itself as a “reverse steakhouse.” What that really means is that mains tend to be larger vegetable-focused dishes, like the ensalada bomba, with mixed baby lettuce, avocado, and grilled peach relish; the tomato crudo with fresh tomato and ricotta; or the bucatini with boquerones and pancetta. Meanwhile, smaller sides are where the meat can be found, like a charred hanger steak or fried pork belly. Everything is bright, fresh, and fun, including the playful cocktails. Try their delicious mezcal drink with carrot and bell pepper.
Indonesian dishes rooted in tradition
This summer blessed Portland with not one, but two new Indonesian restaurants. Wajan is embedded in traditional Indonesian cooking, with dishes like gado gado (a steamed vegetable salad with peanut dressing), rendang sapi (a spicy beef stew with egg), and ayam goreng kalasan, a bone-in Indonesian fried chicken dish served with rice and a cabbage salad, plus shrimp paste chili sauce. There’s also always a curry available, as well as a noodle soup, and a selection of snacks like meat skewers and deep fried fritters. The space itself is as striking and eclectic as the dishes, with painted walls depicting a train station in Jakarta and images of Javanese mythology.
Familiar Mexican haunt in a new neighborhood
The new, Northwest extension of Xico, one of Portland’s finest Mexican restaurants, Xica Cantina offers a similar menu in a more casual space, one that includes an extra long bar packed with mezcal. Dishes are mostly served as small, medium, and large plates of Mexican comfort food made with seasonal, local ingredients, like a juicy pollo asado served with beans, rice, and housemade tortillas, or the excellent vegetarian tamales. Agave fans will find one of the largest collections of mezcal in the city, as well as a broad assortment of margaritas and other drinks.
The long awaited Filipino restaurant with flair
There may have been some doubt that Magna was ever truly going to open; the Filipino restaurant from chef Carlo Lamagna was years in the making, teased by pop-up dinners under the name of Twisted Filipino (and the occasional dishes served at events). But now, it’s finally here, and well worth the wait. The cozy space is appropriate for the Filipino home cooking served here, from the iconic, crispy pork lumpia to the rich adobo and decadent crab fat noodles. While it’s perfectly fine to go in alone for a meal, it’s best to go in with a large group, order everything on the menu, and share.
Korean staples in a bright, casual setting
Bringing some excitement to the food desert that is the Lloyd District, Hak serves classic Korean staples, including chicken, beef and pork bulgogi, bibimbap, kimchi stew, and brisket noodle soups. Kimchi pancakes, seafood scallion pancakes, fried stuffed peppers, dumplings, and beef croquettes are great to snack on with some drinks (or to start up your meal), and bulgogi meats can be added as a side to any dish -- including the bulgogi, for those who want to double down. The space is minimalist with great open warehouse doors during the warmer days, and the restaurant would be worth a visit during lunch even if it weren’t the only good place around for blocks.
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.
Est. 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 | Downtown and 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, then to restaurant work, and then a food cart where she served Thai chicken and rice: Khao Man Gai. Today she has two brick-and-mortars. One Downtown, and one in close-in Southeast. At both of them, the dish is a delicious 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.
Est. 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.
Est. 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.
Est. 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.
A very thoughtful, whimsical, and playful Northwest tasting menu
Boasting one of the city’s most beloved tasting menus, Castagna always has something exciting and new based on the season, ingredients, and chef Justin Woodward’s whims. Dishes vary in complexity, but always come with a sense of playfulness and elegance -- a simple vegetable grilled and seasoned to perfection, or a raw oyster touched with oil, might be followed by black brioche topped with chicken liver and malt, all of which will be evocative of the Pacific Northwest. For those that imbibe, the wine pairing with the tasting menu is essential. It’s as eclectic as the food and often rooted in old world wines (but occasionally something like a saké or Oregon riesling will show up). At $165 for the tasting menu and $85 for wine pairings, it’s not the cheapest restaurant in town, but it’s well worth the splurge for a memorable dinner
Modern Korean with a party atmosphere and killer dumplings
Peter Cho’s not-so-traditional Korean restaurant is always buzzing, especially in the summer months when the seats spill out of the industrial interior and into the enclosed courtyard. Start with kimchi snacks before moving on to a fantastic array of dumplings, then get down on some of the ssam dishes like a whole grilled mackerel. Or just let the restaurant pick, with the $59 chef’s choice dinner, that’ll have you seeing plate after plate of Korean dishes brought to the table for everyone to share.