Welcome to Portland: A Newcomer's Eating Tour
If you're traveling to Portland, Oregon, for the first time, it's important to arrive hungry.
Photo By: Pok Pok and David Reamer
Photo By: Evan Sung
Photo By: Carly Diaz
Photo By: Lindsay Strannigan
Photo By: Jenni Kupelian
Photo By: A.J. Meeker
Photo By: A.J. Meeker
Photo By: Leela Cyd
Photo By: Joshua Chang
Photo By: Jeremy Fenske
Photo By: Alan Weiner courtesy of Olympia
Photo By: Carly Diaz
Welcome to Portland
From indulgent Thai chicken wings to Spanish tapas, Portland will satisfy any type of food craving. Here, locally owned establishments are abundant and are often distinguished by high-quality Pacific Northwest ingredients. The food scene in Portland is a working body of restaurateurs, chefs, bakers, farmers and brewers all coming together to create a cutting-edge dining experience
There are a ton of good Thai restaurants in Portland, but Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok is the only one known for its fish-sauce wings and its drinking vinegars, sweet-tart syrups you can add to cocktails or cut with soda water. Also a standout: the khao soi, a mild curry noodle soup made with fresh coconut milk and served with pickled mustard greens. During the inevitable wait for a table, head across the street to Ricker’s Whiskey Soda Lounge for a yuzu daiquiri on the covered patio.
Go to: Pok Pok
It’s technically a seasonal-pie bakery, but Lauretta Jean (owner Kate McMillen’s grandmother) also excelled at biscuits, as does the cozy café named for her. You can order them eight ways, including with breakfast sausage, cheddar, tomato jam, and mayo. The brunch menu also includes soup, salads, sandwiches, a couple of egg dishes and yogurt layered with house-made granola. And, of course, cream pies, fruit pies and chocolate pies served with whipped cream or à la mode.
The Country Cat
Breakfast is a force here, impressing Guy and countless locals with hearty house-butchered meat dishes. Take, for example, the whole hog plate featuring a little taste from head to tail of a heritage hog; the plate comes with brined and grilled loin, roasted belly, braised shoulder, and a golden fried croquette of head cheese on top. Sappington’s great-grandmother’s recipe for Cast-Iron Skillet Fried Chicken is another noteworthy staple in the restaurant. For brunch it’s served with Toasted Pecan-Bacon Spoonbread and drizzled with warm maple syrup.
Go to: The Country Cat
This Northeast Portland tapas mecca serves a Spanish-inspired menu complete with small plates, an optional tasting menu and housemade charcuteria (chorizo, sobrasada and other Spanish meats). There’s also an extensive sherry menu with a few sherry cocktails, as well as a wine list of Cavas, Riojas and a few Northwest sips. There’s typically a line waiting for the restaurant to open for dinner, but the food is worth the wait.
Go to: Toro Bravo
There’s Italian food, and then there’s hyperseasonal (as in, the chef just came out with a cookbook dividing the year into six seasons), locally sourced Italian food. At Ava Gene’s, the grains for the pasta are house-milled, the gelato comes from a shop down the street, and the bread is made next door at sister bakery Roman Candle. The menu changes daily, but regardless of what’s on it, the family-style salads are a must-try.
Go to: Ava Gene's
Salt & Straw
This ice cream chainlet has attracted international press and a sizable investment from Danny Meyer, but it still feels like a neighborhood parlor. There’s a monthly themed menu — creative flavors inspired by cheese, cocktails or “rescued food,” such as day-old bread and celery leaves — plus a dozen standbys that lean a little more traditional (if you consider strawberry balsamic with black pepper traditional). Follow the smell of fresh waffle cones to the line that’s always snaking out the door, and comfort yourself with the knowledge that a generous sampling policy awaits you once you get to the front.
Go to: Salt & Straw
Pine Street Market
A historic former livery stable, this food hall is the place to check off your greatest-hits list in one fell swoop. Among the nine purveyors are Trifecta Annex, a bakery/pizzeria helmed by James Beard Foundation Award-winning Ken Forkish; Tokyo’s famed Marukin Ramen, which opened its first stateside locations in Portland; and OP Wurst, the frankfurter outpost of award-winning salumeria Olympia Provisions. There’s also a coffee bar, juice bar, soft serve bar and actual bar bar.
Go to: Pine Street Market
The infamous wait lines at Screen Door might seem intimidating, but one bite of fried chicken will tell you why this Southern-inspired restaurant is so popular. For brunch, three large pieces of fried chicken come dogpiled on a sweet potato waffle, and the knife stuck through the chicken keeps it from toppling over. For dinner, the generous portion of fried chicken is served with tasso ham gravy, mashed potatoes and collards.
Go to: Screen Door
Clarklewis is a former warehouse turned sleek restaurant, with Northwest cuisine at its core. The daily changing menu features fresh pastas and wood-fired entrees with an optional tasting menu as well.
Go to: Clarklewis
Tasty n Sons
Tasty n Sons could be single-handedly responsible for the rise in popularity of Portland brunching. Known for an exceptional morning menu, Tasty n Sons takes inspiration from all over the world and adds an egg on top. The Breakfast Board is a smorgasbord of a boiled egg, chicken liver mousse, housemade bacon and beef jerky, pickled beets, and a yogurt cheese drizzled with olive oil. The Steak n Eggs are served in a cast-iron skillet atop a slightly sweet cornmeal pancake, and the whole thing is topped with a melty dollop of jalapeno butter.
Go to: Tasty n Sons
One of the most-esteemed restaurants in Portland is Paley’s Place, a restaurant credited with bringing the food scene to life in the Pacific Northwest when it opened in 1995. Set in a restored Victorian house with a large, inviting white porch, the restaurant showcases the best Northwest ingredients. One of the most-iconic dishes is the Escargot a la Bordelaise comprised of roasted bone marrow in a rich garlic sauce.
Go to: Paley’s Place
For visitors to Portland, nothing beats the view from Noble Rot, a wine bar and restaurant with a fourth-floor view overlooking the hills and skyline of downtown Portland. The best part is the 3,000-square-foot rooftop garden, which supplies the restaurant’s evolving seasonal menu. Try the salad, featuring the freshest mix of seasonal greens from the garden, enjoy a glass of wine from the 300+ wine selection, and appreciate the scenic vision of the City of Roses.
Go to: Noble Rot
With artful and imaginative precision, each captivating dish of the oft-changing prix fixe menu is made with pride. From roasted beets with cured beef, tarragon powder and pickled onions to elegantly plated yellowfoot chanterelles with pork and hop infusion, the awe-inspiring dishes are like edible paintings on the plate.
Go to: Castagna
Named after a love song, this cafe oozes charm, with pickled produce lining the walls, along with mismatched coffee mugs and fresh flowers on each table. The food is delicious and simple, with ingredients sourced as locally as possible. Go here for breakfast, lunch, or coffee and a slice of homemade pie (they are known for their salted honey pie and their fresh Oregon berry pies). For breakfast, order the Sweedeedee Breakfast Plate, complete with an egg, bacon, farm greens, homemade bread with preserves and a thick wedge of Grafton cheddar.
Go to: Sweedeedee