Food & Drink

The 17 Most Important Restaurants in Portland

Published On 05/18/2015 Published On 05/18/2015

Portland has some of the best restaurants... well, anywhere, but what are it's most important restaurants? Which places, whether it's because they're beloved institutions or because they're uniquely "Portland," have had the greatest impact on PDX's culinary community? Not to put too fine a point on it, but they are these 17 sweet eat spots... which you're totally free to disagree with us about in the comments below:

Little Big Burger

Old Town/Chinatown (& Other Locations) 
Now that Micah Camden’s brand of fast-casual has become an international sensation, it’s only a matter of time before a majority of his concepts seep out of our fair city. And this polished miniature burger joint is bound to be the next.

Flickr/Robyn Lee

Pok Pok

Multiple locations
The first Portland restaurant with a legitimate claim to a Michelin star, Pok Pok is fast becoming a national sensation for more than its wings. Andy Ricker’s authentic Thai food is a revelatory addition to America’s tastebuds.
 

Paley’s Place

Alphabet District
Established in 1995, Paley’s Place has been the French restaurant in Portland for 20 years (it seems like longer!). Chef Vitaly Paley has trained a legion of successful local chefs and continues to enrich our culinary scene through enthusiastic support and delicious ideas.
 

Flickr/Anne Jacko

Castagna

Ladd’s Addition
What started with Chef Matthew Lightner, who found further success in New York City, has blossomed into something special under James Beard nominated Chef Justin Woodward at this modern leaning restaurant unassumingly located on Hawthorne at the edge of Ladd’s Addition.

DAVID REAMER

Le Pigeon

Buckman
James Beard Award-winning Chef Gabriel Rucker’s recipe of northwest-influenced French dining transcends city limits and has a case to be one of the West Coast’s best restaurants.

Thrillist

Apizza Scholls

East Tabor
When a Pacific Northwest pizzeria becomes one of the best in America you take note. It’s no surprise that it’s a daily race to get in before they run out of dough.

DREW TYSON/Thrillist

Nong’s Khao Man Gai

Multiple locations
Nong Poonsukwattana’s American dream story is well document and a testament to her skill and determination. Most importantly, her simple chicken dish is addictively good.
 

Huber’s Cafe

Downtown
Portland’s oldest restaurant features a classic bar setting and damn good turkey sandwiches. Not to mention the folks here invented the Spanish Coffee.

Clyde Common

Clyde Common

Downtown
It’s not the food that sets Clyde Common apart from the rest, but Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s award winning bar that pioneered barrel-aged cocktails and directed eyes towards Portland’s cocktail scene.

Nostrana

Nostrana

Southeast Portland
An Italian staple helmed by Chef Cathy Whims who has six James Beard nominations under her belt. Plus its pizza is unbeatable. Except maybe by Apizza Scholls, but whatever.

Bamboo Sushi

Bamboo Sushi

Kerns
Bamboo is important not only for being some of the best, most forward thinking sushi in the city, but also for pushing the needle on sustainable fishing and how a seafood-centric restaurant should go about its business.
 

Ken's Artisan Bakery

Alphabet District
Amid the recent pizza frenzy you might have forgotten that master baker Ken Forkish began with a modest bakery in a quiet northwest neighborhood. This bakery has earned him two nominations for the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef while his book won the award in 2013.

Flickr/Ron Dollete

Ha & VL 

Southeast Portland
Quite possibly Portland’s best, most authentic noodle shop, an obsession for local chefs, and proof that you can find quality without pomp and circumstance.

Flickr/George Kelly

Screen Door

Kerns
Arguably the punchline to most Portland brunch jokes, Screen Door got there by embracing queue culture and serving food that’s worth the wait.

DAVID L. REAMER

Toro Bravo

Eliot
John Gorham’s noisy tapas restaurant is nestled next to the Wonder Ballroom, and while another legendary line may be off putting, this is the place that launched the Gorham rmpire -- and now has its own cookbook.

Besaw's

Besaw’s

Alphabet District
One of our absolute favorite places for breakfast is also really solid for lunch and dinner. Unfortunately recent legal battles threaten this century old institution -- perhaps a glimpse of something that will become more common as Portland grows.

DREW TYSON/THRILLIST

Lardo

Multiple locations
Classic Portland storyline, cart turned brick-and-mortar turned chain. It's ahead of the curve collaborating with chefs for the monthly Chefwich, plus it has one of our favorite sandwiches.

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1. Pok Pok 3226 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202 (Clintondivision)

The original Pok Pok, from Chef Andy Ricker, slings super-authentic and beyond-tasty Thai eats -- most notably, the famous chicken wings that are a must-order.

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2. 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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3. Le Pigeon 738 E Burnside St, Portland, OR 97214 (Buckman)

Yes, it's named after a pigeon, but their amazing upscale fare draws no comparison a common bird. They specialize in French food and they always have market-fresh fish and seafood, as well.

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4. Nong's Khao Man Gai 1003 SW Alder St., Portland, OR 97205

A food cart success story, this catering businesses (plus their line of namesake sauce, Nong) boasts a brick and mortar on Alder. The menu is mostly their classics, but there are still surprises in store, like the peanut sauce that compliments both a vegetarian and a pork dish.

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5. Huber's Cafe 411 SW 3rd Ave, Portland, OR 97204 (Sw Portland)

Located in Historic Oregon Pioneer Building, Huber's -- Portland's oldest restaurant, founded in 1879 -- really takes the cake for old-school flare and modern-American cuisine. Here, guests can enjoy a traditional turkey dinner, fresh seafood, pasta, and Huber's signature Spanish Coffee, which is prepared tableside with a bit of pyrotechnics.

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6. Apizza Scholls 4741 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97215 (Montavilla)

This Hawthorne pizza shop is so focused on making you the perfect pie that if they run out of dough, they'll close early if they have to, to preserve the quality of their ingredients. Serving up quality pies rooted in Neapolitan tradition, Apizza goes heavy on the cheese, generous with the sauce, and hearty on the toppings.

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7. Clyde Common 1014 SW Stark St, Portland, OR 97205 (Downtown)

Clyde Common's rocking Prohibition era-themed cocktails are crafted by top-notch mixologists, plus this spot also offers European-inspired eats in its casual space Downtown. The trendsetting tavern has communal tables and small plates. Snack on truffle popcorn while you wait for your Heavy Petting cocktail, made with vodka, quinine syrup, lemon peel and grapefruit.

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8. Nostrana 1401 SE Morrison St, Portland, OR 97214 (Buckman)

Nostrana is an Italian restaurant in residential South East Portland that features classic Italian food made with simple ingredients from long-standing recipes. It's also a quality spot for their wine list, dessert menu, and special happy hour deals. Plus, it's the birthplace of the Negroni Social, an industry costumed gala, which inspired the creation of Negroni Week, Nostrana is Portland’s capital of the negroni.

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9. Bamboo Sushi NW 836 NW 23rd Ave, Portland, OR 97210 (Nw Portland)

This place is all about sustainable sushi, using responsibly-sourced ingredients while also supporting marine stewardship organizations such as Salmon Nation, Monterey Bay Aquarium and Blue Ocean Institute. But, as important as wildlife conservancy is, Bamboo Sushi's green initiative extends beyond sourcing and advocacy to include close monitoring of power and water use, as well as the use of biodegradable containers. This commitment has garnered Bamboo Sushi "Certified Green Restaurant" status with the Green Restaurant Association, which is pretty darn impressive in our book.

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10. Ken's Artisan Pizza 304 SE 28th Ave, Portland, OR 97124 (Buckman)

KAP in Southeast Portland serves thin-in-the-middle, thick-on-the-outside masterpieces topped with high-end meats (like soppressata, prosciutto, fennel sausage, etc.), tangy sauces, and the freshest cheeses imaginable. Ken Forkish wrote the book on pizza. (No, for real. It’s called Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza.) With locally sourced ingredients fired up in the rustic pizzeria’s centerpiece wood-powered oven, each pie packs an explosion of flavor. Whatever you order, drop an extra $2 for a pile of fresh arugula up top— the nutty, bitter, salt-sprinkled greens transport the simple pie into a complex flavor symphony.

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11. Ha VL 2738 SE 82nd Ave, Portland, OR 97266

Ha & VL has quietly usurped Portland’s soup mantle. Now their daily specials often sell out and hungry people grumble about having to settle for their almost equally delicious banh mis. So if you’re going in around lunchtime, make sure to call ahead.

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12. Screen Door 2337 E Burnside St, Portland, OR 97214 (Kerns)

Screen Door knows Southern cookin', modeling their menu off of such spots as South Carolina Lowcountry and Cajun flavors from New Orleans. What's more, their meals are made with local organic produce and meats to ensure you appreciate the food as much as they do.

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13. Toro Bravo 120 NE Russell St, Portland, OR 97212 (Ne Portland)

A perpetually packed spot in Eliot, this Spanish-inspired restaurant serves up small, shareable plates of succulent beef, pork, lam, and duck with vegetables made every which way to make their way around the table. With rustic red-brown walls and polished wood floors, the unpretentious vibe here makes you feel like you're in the home a good friends, unlike most upscale tapas restaurants.

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14. Besaw's 2301 NW Savier St, Portland, OR 97210

Besaw’s has been a Portland institution since 1903. It’s almost always busy, especially on the weekends, and for good reason. It has a simple breakfast menu with appropriate specials and quick, friendly service. The Wild Salmon Scramble is always a good bet but it’s hard to avoid a good Croque Madame.

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15. Lardo 1212 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97205 (Downtown)

Lardo is a cool low-key pork-centered sandwich shop, with a charming outdoor patio, a offers bunch of draft beer options as well. The star on the menu is the LPB Sandwich, which comes with lamb/pork/beef sausage, labneh, zaatar, cucumbers, fennel slaw, and pickled peppers. Whatever you order though, the fries here are an absolute must. The Lardo Fries, thin and crispy, topped with Parmesan and fried herbs, are a showstopper.

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