This Pizza Has Fried Chicken for Crust
While we've been given every rendition of a burger possible, we're in want of a reprieve from all the beefiness with a zesty non-fast food chicken sandwich. Basilisk made this possible, and we are so very grateful for it. For the full experience, order up some Dan Dan fries, covered in peanut sauce, and chili oil, then top it all off with Kool-Aid flavored soft serve ice cream.
From the proprietors of Boke Bowl comes a brand new food cart offering more quality fried chicken. This time, it’s not over Korean-style rice bowls, rather stuffing it in a bun, the all-American way. If you’re lucky, you might it next year at a Timbers match, slinging the sandos at the Providence Park guest food cart.
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.
Holdfast is a prix fixe reservation-only experiment in the limits of dining. Here, the line between chef and server is blurred, as the chefs present and discuss each course with the diners. They revel in describing their often odd but inventive preparation processes, sometimes confessing they haven’t even been able to taste-test the final product that’s now plated before you. Holdfast is an expensive night out, but it will definitely be a memorable one. For a more casual time, check out Deadshot every Monday evening. No reservations required for this more accessible iteration in the same space as Holdfast.
Newcomer Jacqueline has started off strong, often filling up its eclectic yet homey space on weeknights. There’s a visceral buzz around this seafood spot, and it’s well-deserved, if only for the $1 happy hour oysters. The scallops, seared and succulent, are served over blackened cabbage with a bacon dashi broth. If you’re dining with a group, don’t fool around and go for the whole trout roasted on a cedar plank.
Formerly a pop-up prix fixe restaurant at KitchenCru, Nomad is moving into its own spot around the New Year. Executive Chef Ryan Fox honed his skills at respected establishments around the country, including Portland’s own Castagna, and he shows his expertise in wild yet refined techniques with each dish. If you attended one of Nomad's dinners or late-night tasting menus at KitchenCru, then pay attention: this next adventurous phase will include an eight to 10 course dinner in the dining room, a 20 course tasting menu in the kitchen, and à la carte options in the bar. Whichever way you choose to eat with Nomad, you’ll be surprised, challenged, and satisfied.
After a fire nearly destroyed it, Pizza Jerk are back. (It’s entirely fitting that a GIF of Rodney Dangerfield currently graces its website.) These delectable pies come to us from Bunk Sandwiches owner Tommy Habetz, a master of combining breads, meats, sauces, and cheeses to great effect. Go welcome the Jerks back, and invite your less incendiary friends to join you. Portland doesn’t need another establishment going up in a fireball.
Poke Mon opened right around the time of the Pokemon Go craze, and undoubtedly benefitted from it. Whether or not it was a gym, we can’t say, but we do know the poke, a traditional Hawaiian raw fish dish that's been having its culinary moment, is damn good. Fresh bigeye ahi, salmon, or albacore atop rice or mixed greens with various toppings and shoyu sauces is the main dish, and you don’t need anything else.
For their first foray into the Portland scene, James Beard nominees Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi of Seattle brought us elevated Korean street food-inspired dishes in sleek digs. A collage of '80s and '90s boom boxes grace the wall and play the soundtrack to match. From short rib rice bowls to jackfruit curry pancakes, you'll want to try the entirety of the compact menu. The highlight is the seaweed noodle with Dungeness crab, red curry, and crème fraiche. With DJs spinning on the weekends, Revelry is open late night, providing a curated menu until as late as 2am.
Pollo Norte does one thing, and it does it well: Mexican-style rotisserie chicken. This tender, juicy meat is slow-cooked and seasoned with achiote, sea salt, lime, and chili, and comes with just a few choices of sides, including rice, beans, and potatoes. While the original location on 42nd closed in the summer of 2017, the newer Glisan Street location remains, and is 100% worth the drive.
Tiffin Asha started its life as an Indian food cart before launching a brick and mortar in early 2017 (the now-classic Portland restaurant story). Unlike other Indian spots though, don’t expect plates of Tandoori chicken or flatbread -- Tiffin Ash specializes in dosa, a fermented crepe made of rice and lentils, filled with tasty bits like chutney, cheeses, or chicken. “Gun powders,” a dried mix of spices and lentils, are eaten as flavorful sides, or topping for the dosa and other dishes. Don’t miss out on our favorite time to go: the Sunday brunch.
It’s been open for less than a year, but Gabriel Pascuzzi’s Stacked Sandwiches has quickly defined itself as one of the best sandwich shops in the city. It helps that the sandwiches are, well, different. Rather than the classic sub style found at many other spots, Stacked offers an array of sandwich types, including a fantastic turkey reuben and what’s arguably the best French dip in town. Stacked also goes beyond sandwiches, with great happy hour food items, sides, and cocktails. All meats are smoked, cured, roasted, or brined in-house, and only the breads are made elsewhere, at Pearl Bakery.
PSU, Downtown, & Buckman
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 multiple food carts, a brick and mortar, and another restaurant set to open. 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, and the PSU location offers pork simmered in Coca-Cola and herbs, but the original reigns supreme. It’s not only a defining dish for Nong, but one for the city.
It took some years, but Portland breweries have finally embraced lagers as a legitimate beer. Wayfinder Beer still makes ales, but it leans heavily towards lagers, pilsners, and saisons. It serves these alongside craft cocktails and pub food in its massive brewpub in the East Side Industrial District, with a 2,000-square-foot patio and seating inside for 120 guests. The operation is a collaboration between Charlie Devereux of Double Mountain Brewery, Matthew Jacobson of Sizzle Pie, and Rodney Muirhead of Podnah's Pit, which means it’s got some serious prestige behind it.
This North Portland-based BBQ food truck is open Wednesday through Sunday until 7pm (or until it sells out of its Texas-style smoked meats, and it always sells out). 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.
Don’t worry, Scottie Rivera of Scottie’s Pizza is from Brooklyn, so you know he knows what makes a good pie. And while he does, indeed, bake some great pizza, it’s his and his wife/business partner Amy Coplen’s labor ethos that sets the spot apart from the rest of the city’s pizza joints, as they pay their workers a living wage of $15 an hour. You can also pay it forward and help someone else out with a slice. Swing by during happy hour for $2 plain slices, or on the first Friday of the month after 10pm, when they make giant, 28” pies with huge slices for $5 each. Oh, and in spring of 2017 they set a world record by baking a 100 cheese pizza.
“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. And be sure to sample the drinks. Even the most anti-clear-spirits whiskey drinker will be trying to pronounce a Russian toast while ordering another flight of chilled vodka to go with their Zakuski (drinking snacks).
Another story of a food cart moving to brick and mortar, Güero is the Mexican tortas restaurant the city was waiting for. The ahogada sees carnitas topped with habanero slaw and drenched in spicy achiote tomato sauce, and is too messy to leave the shop as takeout, while the hamburguesa is a twist on a classic Mexican street burger, with American cheese, tamarind tomato, habanero slaw, guacamole, and more, all on a beef patty. Vegetarians have options with a refried beans sandwich or fried masa and potato pancake, and the new space allows for a nice drink list with mezcal and tequila, as well as agave-based cocktails.
1. Basilisk820 NE 27th Avenue, Portland
2. Boke Dokie2880 SE Division St, Portland
3. Hat Yai1605 NE Killingsworth St., Portland
4. Holdfast537 SE Ash St Ste 102, Portland
5. Jacqueline2039 Southeast Clinton Street, Portland
6. Nomad PDX335 NW Broadway, Portland
7. Pizza Jerk5028 NE 42nd Ave, Portland
8. Poke Mon1485 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland
9. Revelry210 Southeast Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard, Portland
10. Pollo Norte5427 NE 42nd Ave, Portland
11. Tiffin Asha1670 NE Killingsworth St, Portland
12. Stacked Sandwiches1643 SE 3rd Ave, Portland
13. Nongs Khao Man Gai609 SE Ankeny St, Portland
14. Wayfinder Beer304 SE 2nd Ave, Portland
15. Matts BBQ4709 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Portland
16. Scottie's Pizza Parlor2126-2138 SE Division St, Portland
17. Kachka720 SE Grand Ave, Portland
18. Güero200 NE 28th Ave, Portland
With all of the exceptional burgers around here, why is it so hard to find a killer fried chicken sandwich? Basilisk finally renders that question obsolete with a spicy, crunchy chicken thigh piled high over slaw. Where some chicken sandwiches turn out dry and bland, Basilisk’s simple creation jabs you in the face with juiciness and zest.
Sparked by high demand for the add-on fried chicken ramen topping at Boke Bowl, Boke Dokie is the Asian-inspired, Southern-fried chicken food cart from the team behind the popular ramen joint. Located Downtown in the Tidbit cart pod, its limited menu serves only a fried chicken sandwich, a tofu sandwich, veggies, fries, and honey salt pie. The fried chicken is the star, hand-cut and buttermilk-fried to order, and served with pickles, kimchi slaw, and gochujang on an Asian brioche bun. Best enjoyed with a Boke Ginger Limeade to wash it down.
From Earl Nimson of PaaDee and Langbaan, Hat Yai serves exciting Southern Thai food in a casual, counter-serve space. Though the spicy street food is enough of a lure, the Thai fried chicken here is a game-changer in itself, served not with biscuits or French fries but a scoop of sticky rice. There's other noteworthy stuff on the menu, like the scorchingly hot Southern Thai ground pork and the house chicken curry with handmade roti (for dipping, of course).
Comfort foods get remodeled into avant garde works of culinary art by chef Will Preisch at Holdfast, a chef’s counter experience from the former pop-up-menu master. The nook of a restaurant lives in the front section of wine bar Fausse Piste, where 16 lucky diners (hold fast to your reservations) are treated to the young chef’s changing Nordic-inflected dishes that are plate reliably attractively: cauliflower and caper puree acts as a bed for a chunk of moist cod with a hat of crisped skin. Meals always begin with a piece of oven-steamed rye-pumpernickel and are punctuated with a hot towel, an old-fashioned touch after a modern meal.
A portrait of Bill Murray, as he appears in Life Aquatic, hangs above the wood-baked bar at Jacqueline, because, well, this is Portland and Wes Anderson makes great films. Seafood is taken seriously (couldn't you tell by the quicky fish mural?), and six kinds of oysters, raw and cured bites, and fried or seared shellfish await diners. Actual cooks will emerge from the kitchen to deliver a dramatic family-syle trout roasted on a cedar plank. The vegetable dishes are no afterthoughts, either, with cilatro-tangled Brussels sprouts tossed with fish sauce and crispy shallots, and honied yams served with watercress and smoked feta. French wines pair nicely with the plates, while complex cocktails like the red herring offer intriguing finishes (tequila blanco, chili liqueur, creme de cacao, coffee bean, mole bitters, whole egg).
There's something playful about the exacting precision that Ryan Fox and Ali Matteis bring to their offbeat and experimental 15-course tasting menu experiences. Nomad doesn't label itself a restaurant, but rather a "artistic think-tank" bent on reimagining fine dining. It's not as if they're too far off with that assignation: the intricate plates, often requiring tweezers assemble, feature inventions like almond ice cream shaped perfectly into an egg filled with jam on a nest of crisp pastry strips woven with flower petals. When dishes are delivered by the chefs themselves, with liberal sides of chatter, to any of the four tables in the space space, a meal at Nomad is all the more memorable.
There's no way to describe the pizzas at Tommy Habetz's Cully restaurant other than eclectic. The pies loosely adhere to the New Haven school, but they come with a crazy array of toppings that puts them in a class of their own. The menu is subject to change, however the Sunday Sauce pie, which is essentially pepperoni, sausage, meatball, and ribs on top of a pizza, is a hit, as is the dan dan noodle pie. The menu also includes thick-crust cast-iron pizza and a build-your-own option, plus pasta and beer.
This friendly, light-filled Hawthorne spot coincidentally opened the same week as Pokmémon Go exploded onto the world stage -- and its poke bowls are just as addictive as the game. The trendy Hawaiian dish -- a bowl of raw fish, rice, seaweed, vegetables, and sauce -- comes in a handful of signature varieties here, or can be customized with all your favorite fish and toppings. If you've got your eye on the signature menu, consider trying the Hawaiian Ahi Poke, full of fresh ahi, sweet onion, inamona, ogo, and a Hawaiian-style sauce with shoyu, ginger, sesame oil, and chili.
Simplicity shines at this small and minimalist East Portland hangout. Born in 2016 of two top-notch Seattle chefs, Revelry offers a simple menu of Korean staples -- mostly kimchi pancakes, rice bowls, and noodles topped with a choice of meat like seared pork or short ribs. They're pretty much just the lead-up to the main event: the drinks. They've got a solid selection of beers form Portland's favorite breweries and a handful of Asian brews, but most come here to photograph their delicate and beautifully garnished cocktails.
Pollo Norte took Portland by storm with its focused and simple menu featuring Mexico City-inspired rotisserie chicken, with people clamoring to get one of the limited birds on offer each day. What could be so great about just chicken? For starters, the poultry here is local and free-range (everything tastes better when it didn't live exclusively in a cage). Secondly, they brine the birds in lime and achiote chile, Mexican sea salt, and cane sugar. Thirdly, it's just beautifully simple. The birds, sold by the half and whole, come with fresh tortillas and cabbage, and can be paired with a limited selection of sides including roasted potatoes, bacon-spiked pinto beans, and two kinds of salsa. This second location, with more room and an outdoor patio for pecking at chicken bones, has helped ease some of the demand.
Beer drinkers know how to find their way to Wayfinder Beer, housed in an 8,9000-square-foot warehouse in Central Eastside. The 110-seat space is a modern beer hall with an emphasis on local beers, and a large wood-lined deck with communal tables and gas-fire pits provides plenty of space for sloshing pints. That doesn’t mean the food is an afterthought: yes, there are expected items like smoked beer nuts and cheeseburgers, but some elevated sandwiches (duck confit bahn mi) and wood-fired grill offerings (steak frites, Jamaican jerk ribs) graduate Wayfinder above many beer pub competitors.
This Russian eatery is brought to you by the team behind Oven & Shaker. Lots of knickknacks litter the area while lace curtains allow just enough natural light in to not feel dark. The menu has plenty of hearty fare, and of course, vodka.