Despite being a relatively small city, Portland has earned a reputation for being one of the best places in the country to eat. Long before everyone was experimenting with fermentation, foraging, and whole animal butchery, Portland had already been there and done that. Even high commercial rents couldn’t keep ambitious cooks down: they began to skip storefronts altogether and, over the past few decades, food carts became an important part of eating here.
In a place so spoiled by great options, deciding where to splurge for a nice dinner or grab a quick lunch can be tough, even for longtime locals. This guide is here to help. These aren’t only our favorite spots for Pacific Northwest-influenced Haitian and vegan Vietnamese dishes, these restaurants are also guaranteed to linger in your mind long after you get back home.
THE NEW-ISH SPOTS
photo credit: Zack Lewis
Fueled by smoked meats, live-fire cooking with Haitian accents, and a former Top Chef contestant in the kitchen, Kann is by far the biggest Portland opening of 2022. It’s tough to get a reservation, but the small space often, filled with a jungle’s worth of greenery, feels like a party. Bring a few friends and start with fruity cocktails and salt cod pate, followed by a large sharable dish from the hearth like the coffee-rubbed smoked beef ribs, served with charred green beans and Haitian creole hot sauce.
Phuket Cafe excels at what Portland does best: interesting takes on traditional dishes, with an emphasis on local, seasonal ingredients. This Northwest restaurant comes from the chef behind excellent Thai spots Langbaan and Eem, so you know you’re going to be in good hands. Visit for snacks like chartreuse pandan cheese roti and share the whole crisp-fried pampano fish, showered in herbs and tart dressing. While the airy, plant-filled dining room is perfect for a first date, if you’re here for brunch and the weather is nice, grab a seat outside in the pink and green structure that sort of resembles a Thai train car.
photo credit: Christine Dong
Portland has a lot of restaurants serving wild mash-ups that seemed like a good idea at 2am (and still are at 2pm). Oma’s Hideaway takes that energy and channels it into Chinese-Malaysian dishes inspired by the chef’s grandmother, and somehow it just works. Cool wallpaper, disco balls, and ‘70s light fixtures set the scene for catching up with friends and sharing things like char siu and longan chimichurri, curry fries with salted egg yolk aioli, and Fruity Pebbles Rice Krispie treats kissed with lime leaf and lemongrass.
You’ll never have to suffer through forgettable veggie burgers or sad hummus plates in Portland, especially when you can come to Mama Dut for chick’n fried oyster mushroom bánh mì, and pork belly buns instead. This pandemic pop-up opened a counter-service spot in Buckman in early 2021, and it’s a great place for a quick or casual meal. Make sure to order a Death by Ube whoopie pie for dessert and a bottle of butterfly pea flower limeade to sip on as you explore the neighborhood.
photo credit: Carly Diaz
There’s nothing else quite like Berlu in Portland. This minimalist Inner Southeast spot gives off Nordic vibes with concrete floors and blonde wood accents, serves an artfully plated modern Vietnamese tasting menu, and is one of the best places to spend a few hours eating mind-blowing dishes. Reservations are a must for a regularly changing dinner of plates like pink shrimp with lychee and fermented flowers or black cod with durian. On Saturday and Sunday mornings Berlu transforms into a bakery that turns out Vietnamese sweets like the grass green bánh bò nướng, a naturally gluten-free Vietnamese pastry with a chewy honeycomb interior that can be ordered through a takeout window.
It’s worth heading to the Pearl District to experience Republica’s five-course tasting menu at dinner. Not just for the small bites showcasing Mexican and indigenous ingredients like flying ants, but also for the history lessons that come with each course. For example, you'll see dishes that draw from ancient Mayan times, like ha' sikil p'ak dip (made from water, pepitas, and tomatoes) that's used as a sauce to highlight tender octopus. Come here for a special occasion and add on a wine pairing that features pours exclusively from BIPOC, female, and LGBTQ winemakers, with a focus on Mexican and Mexican-American producers. If you’re looking for a more casual meal or some tacos and quesadillas, they have a great sister restaurant La Fondita right down the street.
photo credit: Caitlin Cooper
Nong’s Khao Man Gai
Nong’s Khao Man Gai started as a food truck in 2003, and the local legend has since expanded to a couple of brick-and-mortar locations on both sides of the river. They mainly serve their namesake dish: deceptively simple sliced chicken poached with ginger, garlic, and pandan, served with jasmine rice cooked in aromatic chicken stock and a spicy-tart sauce that’s sold by the bottle. Stop in for a casual lunch while exploring Inner Southeast, and make sure you order some crispy fried chicken skins on the side if they aren’t sold out yet.
photo credit: Carly Diaz
There are a few things you can count on when you eat at Kachka: the room will be lively, a silly amount of vodka will get passed around, and you’ll be wowed by the Belarusian food. This southeast spot is a great place for dinner before a night out, where you can fill up on stuffed dumplings with farmer’s cheese or pelmeni with three different types of meat. They also have a wide variety of infused vodkas, including birch, sea buckthorn, and Hood strawberry when in season, perfect for taking shots with the table next to you.
photo credit: Carly Diaz
If you want to splurge a bit on dinner, go to Le Pigeon. This East Burnside restaurant serves some of the best French food in the city, in a space that has bare brick walls, communal tables, and a tiny open kitchen. The tasting menu (with a vegetarian option) changes daily, so you might see things like halibut with kimchi glazed pork belly or beef tartare with saffron pickled potatoes. The iconic foie gras profiteroles with caramel are always served as a meal-ender and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
photo credit: Leela Cydross
Salt & Straw
Even though Salt and Straw is now in a ton of cities and available for nationwide shipping, this ice cream spot started in Portland and is still worth the lines. While you can find the usual chocolate and vanilla, the more unusual and seasonal flavors—like rose petals and molé or pear and blue cheese—are where the real action is. They have three locations around the city, but we like the original on Alberta since you can walk around the nearby Arts District while you enjoy a scoop or two.
photo credit: Stu Mullenberg
Rose VL Deli
Portland has no shortage of spots to grab a steamy bowl of phở, but Rose VL Deli, a Vietnamese spot in Foster-Powell, is a destination for their two soups of the day. Regulars plan ahead based on the day of the week since the changing roster of regional specialties might include Bún Riêu with shrimp cake and sliced pork on a Thursday, while Bún Thang, featuring shredded chicken and shredded fried egg, could be on the menu for Friday. Go early if you have your heart set on a particular soup because they will sell out by lunch.
photo credit: Emily Joan Greene
Tortilleria Y Tienda De Leon
Tortilleria Y Tienda De Leon is not a place you'll likely be just walking past, but it is a place you should make the effort to get to. Located in Wilkes, a 20-minute drive from downtown Portland, the space does triple-duty as a supermarket, tortilla factory, and counter-service restaurant where you can have an incredible casual meal at one of the few tables. Their specialty is guisados, deeply flavored stews like fiery pork and nopales or chicken mole, that you can get in tacos, combo plates, and even buy by the pound. Scan the counter case and see what looks good that day, and if you happen to need a fresh tub of salsa or a laughing emoji pinata, they’ve got that, too.
GOOD FOR GROUPS
photo credit: Carter Hiyama
Magna Kusina, a boisterous space punctuated with reds, blues, and yellows borrowed from the Philippines’ flag, is a great place for modern takes on Filipino food. While you can find pork-stuffed lumpia served with spiced vinegar and vegetarian pancit bihon, you should focus on dishes like Mom’s Crab Fat Noodles made from squid ink and local Dungeness crab or kaldereta stew with braised lamb neck. Whatever you do, start off with a few grilled skewers to share—we like the diver scallops, duck sausage, and shishitos. The restaurant is pretty casual, but reservations are recommended if you want to avoid eating takeout in your hotel room.
photo credit: @highproofpreacher
If you only have one night in town, this North Portland Thai barbecue spot is worth the (inevitable) wait. They don’t take reservations, but put your name on the list before heading to nearby Migration Brewing or The Box Social while you wait it out. The menu is full of dishes like burnt-end brisket white curry, sweet & sour fried chicken, and cocktails that arrive garnished with mini-umbrellas.
Portland doesn’t really have strong pizza traditions, which means you’ll never be subjected to a Chicago deep-dish vs. NYC slice debate (though everybody here seems to love eating pizza with ranch). If anything could stand as Portland-style pizza though, that’d be Lovely’s Fifty Fifty on N. Mississippi, an ideal place for taking a lunch break in one of the big wooden booths. Expect tangy sourdough crust, no sauce, and seasonal toppings like cherry tomato confit, summer squash, and orange-infused olive oil. Don’t be surprised to see a rainbow of edible flowers sprinkled on top, which is prettier than sliced basil anyways.
WHERE TO TAKE A DATE
This small spot just up the street from Le Pigeon (and from the same team) reminds us of a Parisian wine bar because of their incredible small plates. You’ll eat things like the duck stack—pancakes topped with a duck egg, smothered with gravy, and topped with an optional slice of foie gras—and the delicious mini steam burgers, Portland’s answer to White Castle. Canard is small on space but big on charm, so it’s perfect for solo diners who want to hang out on a window-facing bar stool or couples kicking off their evening at one of the banquettes that line the wall.
Despite Portland being located near multiple bodies of water, the city hasn’t always been known for its seafood or high-end sushi. That was before Nimblefish. Between imported ingredients like saba mackerel that’s cured in-house, the use of local shellfish, and the perfectly cooked and seasoned rice, this Hawthorne spot serves some truly excellent sushi. They’re only serving an omakase for $85, and it’s worth snagging one of the 12 seats at the minimalist sushi counter for a special night where you want something a little more lively than a formal fine dining spot.
photo credit: Stu Mullenberg
Some might miss Langbaan’s former spot hidden in another Thai restaurant’s backroom, but the new incarnation that takes over Phuket Cafe on weekend nights is more fun and makes for the perfect big night out dinner or special occasion. The themed tasting menu starts with a parade of sweet, spicy, and funky one-bite dishes then moves on to traditional Thai dishes like gaeng luang, a soupy curry, incorporating King salmon, roe, wood sorrel, and other local ingredients. Just know that there are only eight open slots per week so reservations go fast.
photo credit: Stu Mullenberg
If we had to nominate one dish to represent the Pacific Northwest, it’d have to be jojos. These fried potato wedges are usually served with ranch on the side and often with fried chicken, and nobody does them better than this Creston-Kenilworth food cart. If you’re someone who loves fried potatoes merely as a vehicle for sauce, there are ten to choose from, including jojo sauce (a blend of Duke’s mayo and Heinz ketchup), hot honey, and ranch that’s made in-house. Their chicken sandwiches and burgers are also worth checking out, if for some reason you don’t want a meal consisting of only potatoes.
Portland can’t really compete with cities in Texas when it comes to BBQ, even though some people like to compare us to Austin. That said, the smoked brisket that comes on a butcher paper-topped tray with pickles, red pickled onions, and white bread at Matt’s BBQ wouldn’t upset a Lone Star state transplant. Lines can be long and the cart does sell out, so if you have your heart set on a pile of burnt ends or spare ribs, order ahead online. The best part about this truck’s location in the Prost Marketplace pod is that you can stage a mini-food crawl that includes breakfast sandwiches from Fried Egg I’m In Love and a pho’rench dip at White Elephant Asian Fusion without leaving the block.
photo credit: Stu Mullenberg
Birrieria La Plaza
If for some reason your city didn’t experience the birria boom, Birrieria La Plaza is your chance to try this dish of chile-braised beef. This Mexican food truck is the place to find birria quesatacos served with consomme for dipping, but the tostadas with a toasty layer of cheese topped with birria, chopped onion, and cilantro are also worth trying. The truck is located in a grocery liquidator parking lot, a bit far from traditional tourist attractions, but if you have a car, head here for a Birrieria La Plaza and Tortilleria y Tienda de Leon taco doubleheader.
This 81-room motor lodge was given a mid-century makeover and is ideally located for exploring Inner Southeast or walking over the Burnside bridge to downtown. Grab a drink or see a show at the on-site Doug Fir Lounge or cross the street to Jupiter NEXT (the upscale sister property) for a fun vegan-friendly weekend brunch at Hey Love.
photo credit: The Hoxton Portland
A 119-room British import in Old Town, The Hoxton is a newer and more upscale place to stay. The rooms are walnut paneled with pink marble accents and showcase local ceramics on the shelves. Rooftop bar Tope is ideal for a nightcap, while Lovely Rita serves seasonal Pacific Northwest dishes on the ground floor.
McMenamins Kennedy School
Situated in a former elementary school in the Concordia neighborhood, McMenamins Kennedy School has 57 guest rooms with chalkboards, original artwork, and teachers’ names on the doors. There are multiple bars and restaurants to choose from, plus a brewery and movie theater, and we recommend having a drink at the whiskey-centric Detention Bar.
photo credit: Ace Hotel Portland
Ace Hotel Portland
Known for its fun touches like in-room record players and local amenities like Portland elk blankets, the Ace Hotel offers both budget and luxury rooms. The hotel is well situated downtown with easy access to newer restaurants like Toki and classics like Jake’s Grill.