Long before much of the rest of the country cared about where their meat, vegetables, or beer came from, there was Portland, Oregon. This city has long supported everything from global food carts to gourmet donut shops, but the food scene here has become much more than just a novelty and Portland is now one of the most interesting places in the country to eat.
With so many options though, deciding where to pay up for a nice dinner or even grab a quick lunch can be quite the dilemma, even for longtime locals. So for our first Portland guide, we’ve compiled our favorite spots in all five quadrants, from where to go for a nice date on East Burnside to some of the best spots for pizza, pasta, and vegetarian food. We’ve only scratched the surface here, but this is a great start for the next time you’re in Portland.
All restaurants featured on The Infatuation are selected by our editorial team. The Portland City Guide is presented by the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express. Click here to learn more about the benefits you get from paying with a Premier Rewards Gold Card while dining out.
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Very rarely do you eat dinner out and think, “Wow, I can’t believe how light and refreshed I feel.” But that’s exactly what happens when you go to Tusk. This Middle Eastern/Mediterranean spot on East Burnside serves technicolor plates of seasonal vegetables, fruits, and grains, along with really great hummus and other dips you’ll want to eat with their homemade flatbread. If you need some extra protein, you can add some grilled chicken or lamb and pork skewers to round things out. Besides the great food, Tusk also serves interesting cocktails, and those two things combined make this the first place you should check out during your next visit.
There are a few things you can count on when you eat at Kachka: the room will be lively, plenty of vodka will get passed around, and you’ll be amazed at how good the Belarusian food is. The menu at this Southeast spot comes from the chef’s mother’s recipes and some of our favorites include the pan fried dumplings, borsch, and Herring Under a Fur Coat, a very colorful seven-layer salad. They also have a wide variety of infused vodkas, which you can get in a cocktail or just take shots of with the table next to you. This is one of our favorite spots in Portland right now and if you’re looking for a place to start a night out with some interesting food and strong drinks, definitely come here.
Located in a hidden courtyard off Sandy Boulevard, Han Oak serves upscale Korean food inside a beautifully refurbished, open garage. All of the seating is at large communal tables, which - along with the backyard - gives this place a very cool, indoor-outdoor dinner party feel that we like. The whole menu is great, but make sure to order the crispy fried chicken wings and pork and kimchi dumplings to start. Han Oak is super popular and reservations fill up more than a month in advance. However, if you want to test your luck, they do save a few seats for walk-ins each night.
Renata is a super popular Eastside Italian restaurant that serves handmade pasta and wood fired pizza, and has one of the largest wine lists in the city. If you come with a group, definitely make a reservation and try to sit outside on the patio, where you can drink an Aperol spritz and be reminded of how nice Portland is when it’s sunny out. If you’re eating solo or on a date though, head to the bar instead. You can still order a few different pizzas, along with cacio e pepe and spaghetti bolognese. Plus, no wait, which means more time to try more wines.
No city in the US is home to more great and weird donut shops than Portland, but Blue Star stands above the rest. This local chain has seven locations around town, so you’re never too far from a donut break when you need one. They also serve classic flavors, like PB and J, alongside their more unique combinations, like horchata glazed and blueberry bourbon basil, so there’s something for everyone. Stop by the Hawthorne or Northwest 23rd locations when you need a shopping break or a mid-day sugar boost. There will definitely be a line, but trust us, it’s worth it.
This Division Street Italian restaurant, which is owned by the same team as Tusk, mills their own flour on-site for their five daily pastas, each of which are great and worth trying if you eat here with a group. Along with a few pastas, make sure to get some giardini and antipasti to start. If you go to Ava Gene’s on a date, which you totally should, and want to try even more of the menu, go for the family-style option instead, which includes a customized menu for $75 per person. Also, if you’re into wine, Ava Gene’s has one of the longest lists in Portland, and if you’re not, they have great cocktails too.
If you want a spot to splurge a bit, whether it’s for an anniversary dinner or to celebrate finally throwing a proper vase in pottery class, go to Le Pigeon. This East Burnside restaurant serves some of the best French food in the city, but with bare brick walls, communal tables, and a tiny open kitchen, it never feels overly fancy. Along with classics like beef cheek bourguignon and duck à l’orange, make sure to order the foie gras profiteroles with caramel for dessert.
Since opening in 2007, Toro Bravo has had a wait for dinner every night of the week. This small, Inner Northeast Spanish restaurant serves a long list of traditional dishes, from single bites of bacon wrapped dates to larger dishes like lamb chops a la plancha. We’d strongly recommend the chef’s tasting menu, which includes upwards of 10 courses and is only $50 per person.
Beast is a tiny, 24-seat spot that feels more like a high-end dinner party than an actual restaurant. They serve a six-course, prix-fixe menu twice nightly, four days a week that changes every two weeks based on what’s available and in season. Don’t feel like you have to memorize that, just plan to come and eat some incredible food. The variety of dishes and the experience of eating at large communal tables with strangers make eating at this North Portland restaurant such a unique experience.
The first thing you notice when you walk into Ox is the smell of grilled meat coming from the huge wood-fired grill. This Inner Northeast Argentinian restaurant is definitely protein heavy, but you can balance out your meat intake with some ceviche and baked house ricotta if need be. This place also serves both small and large portions of many of their most popular grilled dishes, meaning that Ox is just as great for a date as it is a group dinner.
Nostrana has been around for more than a decade, which makes this Southeast spot the wise elder of Portland’s Italian restaurants. While you might not learn any lessons through parables during your next Nostrana visit, they do serve great pasta and Neapolitan pizza so thin that you have to cut it with scissors. They also have an extensive wine list with rare bottles from around Italy and the Northwest. However, if you’re more in the “I like wine, but don’t know much about it” camp, their super friendly staff will be happy to suggest a glass or bottle to try. If you can’t make it to Nostrana for dinner, stop by for their nightly Happy Hour at 9pm instead, with pizzas under $10 and $6 house wine.
People routinely line up in January, in the rain, to eat Salt & Straw’s ice cream and yes, it really is that good. They make the most popular ice cream in the city and work with local candy makers and bakers on seasonal flavors that will make you wonder if ingredients like rose petals and molé go together (yes, they definitely do). However, their classic flavors, like pear and blue cheese, are just as interesting and are definitely worth trying too. 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.
Since 2006, Pok Pok has grown from a grilled chicken stand into a small empire of Thai restaurants, with four locations in Portland and another in New York. The original spot on Division is still our favorite though, both because the food is consistently great and because you can go to Salt & Straw next door for dessert. There’s always a wait, but grab a cocktail across the street at Whiskey Soda Lounge and use that time to plan your order, which should definitely include the fish sauce wings and khao soi. While Pok Pok isn’t the new spot on the block anymore, it’s still a can’t miss for anyone’s first trip to Portland.
Bollywood Theater in Alberta is an excellent Indian restaurant that serves a mix of classic curries that you know and love, along with regional street food dishes and thali meals. The entire menu is great, but we like to start with some of the street food dishes, like the kati roll and dahi papri chaat, before splitting some small plates and one of the thali sets. Combined with the Indian-influenced cocktails and laid back feel, this is a great spot for a casual dinner or to start a night out exploring the Alberta Arts District.
Monday night pizza at Ken’s Artisan Bakery, the most beloved bakery in Portland, became so popular that Ken was forced to open a new restaurant devoted entirely to the wood-fired, thin-crust pies. The result is Ken’s Artisan Pizza in Southeast, which serves a rotating menu of 10-15 classic and seasonal pizzas, along with some excellent desserts. It’s always busy, but there’s usually somewhere to sit down outside and have a glass of wine while you wait, which is our preferred way to prepare for pizza anyway.
There are endless brunch options in Portland, but when you’re looking for Southern classics and a cocktail, head to Screen Door on East Burnside. The entire menu is great, from the shrimp and grits to the praline bacon, but they’re best known for their huge orders of fried chicken and sweet potato waffles. There’s always a wait, but just get a Bloody Mary in the meantime, or grab a coffee at Heart Roasters down the street, depending on what kind of morning you’re after.
Nong’s Khao Man Gai started off as a simple food truck that served Thai-style chicken and rice, which very quickly became a local lunch favorite. The original cart is still around downtown, but the Southeast brick-and-mortar location serves fun cocktails and additional dishes, like pork and rice and tofu in peanut sauce, along with the classic. If this is your first time though, just order the khao man gai, and make sure to add crispy fried chicken skins if they aren’t sold out yet.
About as close as you can get to Barcelona in Portland, Ataula is a great Northwest spot to start a night out, with a wide range of tapas and entrées, cocktails, and wine. You can grab a seat at the bar and split some paella with a date or sit at one of the communal tables and cover your table with tapas plates. The boquerones and beef tartare with house potato chips are two of our favorites, but it’s really impossible to go wrong.
Unlike a lot of weekend brunch spots, this Nordic-inspired restaurant serves breakfast seven days a week, which is great for when you want to make your Tuesday morning feel slightly more special. Start with an order of aebleskiver - Danish pancakes served with lemon curd and lingonberry jam - for the table and add on something savory, like the Swedish baked eggs and smoked trout hash. If you can’t make it to their North location, Broder has additional spots in Southeast and Southwest Portland too.
An export from Tokyo, Marukin Ramen serves a rotating menu of ramen options, depending on which day of the week you go. Regardless, their classic Tonkotsu ramen is always available, along with fried chicken, dumplings, and plenty of beer and sake. The Pine Street Market location is great for a quick weekday lunch or before a night out downtown, but there’s a larger spot on East Burnside you can check out before or after having a few beers at nearby Burnside Brewing Company.
If you’re in need of a mid-afternoon snack, head to Olympia Provisions in Southeast for homemade charcuterie and a cheese board. This spot was the first of their many locations around Portland, with another restaurant and a few sausage shops scattered across the city. As soon as you walk in and see the pork cuts and sausages hanging from the ceiling, you know you’re about to eat very well. They have a wide range of boards available throughout the day, along with great sandwiches like their beef tongue pastrami reuben and The Randy, with blue cheese, apples, and ham, for when you want to turn your afternoon snack into a proper meal.
Located in Southeast’s Cartopia food cart park, Chicken and Guns serves two things: wood-grilled chicken and crispy potatoes. Dry-rubbed and nicely charred, the chicken comes with fresh chimichurri or a Peruvian style jalapeño-vinegar sauce. You can also add a fried egg on top, which we highly recommend. The cart always has a bonfire going out front when it’s cool out, which is great for the occasions when you’d rather just grab a beer and eat your chicken outside, aka always.
Lardo is a downtown sandwich spot that serves excellent sandwiches and has a constantly rotating selection of regional and local beers. Their pork meatball banh mi is the most popular choice on the menu, but we’re also big fans of the griddled mortadella and the Pho’rench Dip, along with their Dirty Fries. If you have any room left and need something sweet afterward, grab a donut at Blue Star next door.
While there’s no Pacific Northwest-style of barbecue, there are still plenty of places to eat it around Portland. Our personal favorite, however, is Podnah’s Pit on Killingsworth, which serves everything from smoked brisket to spicy vinegar pulled pork and chargrilled pork ribs. They keep it classic with the sides, from coleslaw and collard greens to potato salad and black-eyed peas, plus lots of cornbread. If you want to try a bit of everything, just order The Pitboss, which comes with all three meats, plus a sausage link, two sides and cornbread.