Welcome to our 2019 Portland Food Guide which features 40 of the best restaurants in Portland in as many categories as could reasonably fit into a post for readers with an above-average attention span. As any visitor, native or person of interest with interest in the Portland dining scene knows, culling to 40 best Portland restaurants from about 4,000 is no easy task.
This guide has short highlighted information for each restaurant and includes high-end Portland restaurants as well as a smattering of casual Portland restaurants. We kept my parameters limited to locally owned restaurants in the Portland area. What’s not included: ice cream, pie, donuts and food carts.
40. Diner: John’s
John’s is a true old-school diner, run by Greek couple John and his wife. Cash only. John serves basic diner menu favorites including chicken fried steak, eggs and toast, pancakes and sausage. The food is fresh, good, plentiful and priced reasonably. Open at 6 a.m. in on Broadway in downtown Portland.
39. Upscale Mexican: Xico
Xico is a wonderful Mexican restaurant on Division Street in Southeast Portland with delicious, thick homemade tortillas, juicy and amply stuffed tacos, and inventive options including ceviche, burritos and a nice spicy mexi-dog. They are open for lunch and dinner, as well as brunch on the weekend. Highlights: those deliciously thick tortillas, Salad Tacos, Sopa de Lima.
38. Chinese: Danwei Canting
Danwei Canting has an amazing menu full of dumplings, burgers (tofu, lamb), skewers, bings, noodles, jiaozi, and fun snacks like peanuts and fries. While not a traditional Chinese restaurant, it’s still a fun visit if you’re in the mood for Chinese but more in the form of Beijing snack-ey and street foods.
37. Spanish: Bar Casa Vale
Bar Casa Vale is a fun Spanish restaurant with excellent snacks such as Valencia Almonds, Marinated Olives, Anchovy, Bread with Tomato Oil, King Spot Prawns with Shrimp Paste and a Trout Skewer; Boards including Charcuteri, Seafood and Cheese; and an impossible-to-choose-from list of Small and Large plages including Clams, Ocotopus, Paella, Salt Cod Fritters and Roasted Iberico Pork. Be bold and go for the $50 Chef’s Choice Family Style Feast, with tastes of all the best choices.
36. BBQ: The People’s Pig
The People’s Pig has a small but very legitimate BBQ menu that includes ribs, brisket, chicken, sandwiches, sides and dessert. Be prepared to make a mess and be full. Highlights: Smoked fried Chicken Sandwich.
35. Portland Establishment: Tasty & Daughters
Tasty & Daughters has that Classic Portland vibe of Southern Comfort / New Diner / New American and Farm-to-Table food with Spanish accents here and there. Try Potatoes Brava or Polenta with House Sausage and Pork Ragu, Chicken Fried Pork Cutlets, or Burmese Pork Stew for brunch. Tasty & Daughters has a rambling good menu and is the perfect place to go with friends and/or family so you can order and therefore try lots of different dishes. Highlights: Griddled Ingrid’s Rum Cake with Griddled Banana, Toasted Pecans, and Bacon; Boudin Blanc Sausage Omelette with Asparagus, Dijon and Truffle Cheese; and, Moroccan Chicken Hash with Harissa Cream and Over Easy Egg.
34. New, Cool and Fun: Deadshot
Deadshot is the brand new bar-with-snacks (not only snacks but also an amazing plate of pork steak with mashed potatoes), the friendly and casual relative to red-haute pop-up turned fine-dining restaurant Holfdfast, and is serving up the best ham this side of Tennessee. Adam Robinson, Will Preisch, and Joel Stocks are reinventing bar food and their drinking accompaniments and if you, like most of the rest of Portland, cannot secure a reservation at the reservation-only 3 night per week Holdfast, you can bask in it’s physical nearness at Deadshot. Highlight: Ham sampler with Pineapple Butter and Aleppo Pepper and Cornmeal Madeleines with Lardo, Parmesan and Honeycomb.
33. Hotel Dining: Headwaters
Headwaters is the restaurant of famed Portland chef Vitaly Paley (also of Paley’s) in the gorgeous and historic Heathman Hotel and serves up seasonal local ingredients in perfect Northwest context. Wonderful sea bar, seafood tower, smoked fish platter, clams and oyster, as well as seafood entrees. Highlight: Russian tea experience.
32. Over the Bridge: Nonavo Pizza
Our choice for the restaurant to hit if you’re heading over the bridge, away from the crowds and traffic, is Nonavo in Vancouver. Nonavo is king of the farmer’s market / farm-to-table pizza, and has the best salads in the Pacific Northwest, and is a personal once weekly (at least) stop.
31. Indian: Bollywood Theater
Bollywood Theater is a fun, casual and always bustling Indian restaurant with two locations in Portland offering lesser-known dishes and popular street foods. Highlight: Kati Roll and Goan-Style Shrimp.
30. Sandwiches: Sammich
Sammich PDX is Chef and owner Melissa “Cubby” McMillan’s newest addition to her empire that began with Sammich Ashland (2013); took on Cully and North Portland with Pastrami Zombie (home of my personal favorite burger) in 2016, and in 2017 arrived on E. Burnside to bring killer sandwiches including her signature Montreal-style Pastrami to the masses. All of Sammich’s meats are roasted, smoked and cured in-house. Besides a sublime Pastrami sando, you can also get a “Timbo” which is a Chicago version of a Cheesesteak — sliced beef stuffed into a toasted baguette with mayo, cheese, lettuce and onion; the “Da Burg” which is a first class double patty burger that can be tricked up a number of levels (add pastrami, jalapeno, giardiniera, bacon); a Cubbie Cubano with ham, swiss, bacon, pickles, mustard and giardiniera; an Chicago Italian Beef with giardiniera and sweet peppers then dipped; a couple of nice Turkey sandos; a Grilled Cheese (Cheddar and Swiss and served with Tomato Soup); an Albacore Tuna option and finally, why not try a salad such as a Cubbie Cobb or Wrigley Salads. If you’ve picked up on the baseball references then you know the other reason I love this place which is that there’s a die-hardedness to the fan/owner that is in perfect sync with all of me, discounting the particular team affiliation difference.
29. Hot Dogs: Roake’s
Roake’s is the original old-school Portland hot dog joint with one location conveniently situated for visitors just moments away from the Portland airport. The original location is in Milwaukee. A true hole-in-the-wall dive with outstanding long dogs, shakes an fries.
28. Happy Hour: Expatriate
Expatriate is Beast Chef Naomi Pomeroy’s ode to fun drinking snacks. Try the James Beard Onion Sandwiches, Shrimp Toast, Zombie Roll of chopped pastrami (zombie), Caraway Sauerkraut, and Emmental Cheese with Russian Dressing or even the “Who the F*** is David Chang with Pork Belly, Korean Chili Flake, Ginger, Basil, Lime Leaf, Crab Baste, Sambal and Black Vinegar served on a steamed bun. Also serves one of the best brunches in town with an unusual and creative small menu.
27. Burger: Trifecta Tavern
Master Pizzaiolo, Pastry Chef and Doughmaster Ken Artisan, besides feeding Portlanders some of the best pizza, croissants and bread at Checkerboard Pizza and Ken’s Artisan Bakery, also has a wonderful restaurant with one of my favorite all-around menus in town. Go for the burger, and bring a crowd so you can also sample the “Big Ass Steak”, Smashed and Fried Potatoes, the Oysters, Ham, Clams, Pork Shank and Housemade Sausage.
26. Pizza: Scottie’s Pizza Parlor
Here is a category where it was nearly impossible for this writer to narrow down to one top recommendation (see 34 other choices right here). Scottie’s is a cozy neighborhood spot dishing up classic Neapolitan pizzas, by the pie or slice on that wonderful eating street, SE Division Ave. There are so many reasons to love Scottie’s including that they pay workers a living wage and offer a pay-it-forward system to ensure no one leaves hungry, partnering with Liberation Literacy and Sisters of the Road in their work to empower, feed and dignify the local community. The vibe at Scottie’s is friendly with a sincere and capital F, kind of like a pizza version of Cheers where everybody seems acquainted as well as caring. But let’s also talk about the pizza flavor at Scottie’s, starting with the crust which is made from a naturally leavened dough made from locally grown wheat and fired in a screaming hot electric deck oven. It’s crisp, light and airy, with a slight sourdough flavor. The pies are HUGE but you can also eat by the slice. Be sure to try the Defino pie which is Scottie’s signature Nonna-style giant square pan pie.
25. Lunch Deal: Luce
Grab a table at this simple neighborhood Italian spot, with its black & white checkered floor and shelves filled with imported goodies, for some deceptively simple Italian home cooking and at lunchtime, the best deal in down that includes choices from the appetizers, salads, pasta and/or steak sections. This is unfussy Italian food at its best. You an also order a la carte from the seasonal menu with choices like roasted beets, arancini, lemon-scented cappelletti in brodo, octopus and potato salad with parsley and olives, and don’t forget the wonderful fresh focaccia. Highlight: Olive Oil Cake.
24. Light Lunch: Maurice
This tiny Portland luncheonette/daytime pastry cafe has a casual Parisian feeling — it’s tiny, charming and a bit delicate. Chef Kristen Murray serves up wonderful French and Nordic fare and upscale pastries at this quaint spot in downtown Portland. Highlights: Lemon Souffle Pudding Cake, Birdseed Tea Cake.
23. Civilized Downtown Lunch: Little Bird (CLOSED)
Little Bird is where you go for a relaxed yet sophisticated downtown lunch. It’s one of Chef Gabriel Rucker’s three wonderful modern French restaurants and serves a seasonal, farm-to-table driven menu with options such as Beef Burgundy Carpaccio, Confit Duck Leg and Grilled Carrot Sandwich. Highlight: Foie Gras Torchon and Double Brie Burger.
22. Weekday Breakfast: Canard
Canard is the very new and very popular café by day and a wine restaurant with great cocktail food by night brought to you by spirited and James Beard award-winning chef Gabriel Rucker of Little Bird and Le Piegon. It is one of the few non-hotel restaurants in Portland where you can get an outstanding weekday breakfast. Try: Duck Stack (Pancakes with Duck Egg, Duck Gravy and why not add Foie Gras?) or Kid’s Funfetti Pancakes for breakfast, and Steamburger sliders or Oeufs en Mayonnaise with Trout Roe, Bacon, Roasted Garlic and Smoky Maple for a midday snack.
21. Ramen: Marukin
Marukin Ramen serves a rotating menu of traditional Tonkotsu, Paitan, Shoyu, Tonyu and Miso ramen and vegan ramens, as well as curry and other snacks, in Pine Street Market and at their Ankeny St. location. Highlight: The summer only Hiyashi vegan cold ramen dressed with house made pickled cabbage, fried tofu, spicy mushrooms and crisp snap peas.
20. Thai: Pok Pok
Pok Pok is another of Portland’s best restaurants that is certain to turn up on the list of “must-visit” spots if you consult a local or media member. James Beard award winning Chef and owner Andy Rucker, who now owns five Pok Pok Portland outposts and one New York restaurant, led Anthony Bourdain through the streets of Chiang Mai (raw blood soup anyone?) for glimpses of his street-food inspiration. Home to the famous “Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings,” Pok Pok also offers a rousing Herbal Salad, Green Papaya Salad, Broken Crepes, Curries and the monumentally funky smelling Da Chom’s Laap Meuang (pictured above), a spicy hand-minced pork “salad” with aromatics, spice mixture, herbs, offal, racklings and crispy fried garlic. Da Chom is the father of Andy’s friend Lakhana who first taught the Chef how to make this dish decades ago and this dish is featured in his honor.
19. Thai: Paa Dee
Truth be told my favorite Thai spot in Portland is Paa Dee. Chef Earl Ninsom (Hat Yai) serves up your favorite familiar Thai dishes such as Pad Kee Mao and Tom Yum soup, as well as Thai comfort food curries, vigorously flavored snacks and appetizers and a standout Fried Whole Trout. Highlight: lunch’s Fried Soft Boiled Egg with Dried Chili, Shallot, Scallion, Tamarind Sauce and the Pan Fried Tapioca based Chinese Chive Cakes served with Sour Soy Sauce.
18. Fried Chicken: Hat Yai
Hat Yai is the iconic tiny Thai spot on N. Killingsworth where you’ll feast on the most delicious fried chicken of your Portland life. Fried Chicken Wing, Leg Quarter, Half Chicken and Whole Chicken option comes with Sticky Rice, and Fried Chicken Curry Roti Set is a Leg Quarter served alongside Curry and Roti. Be sure to go with friends so one of you can order the other curry options as well as the dessert Roti.
17. Modern French: Le Pigeon
Ah, Le Pigeon, the James Beard award winning Chef Gabriel Rucker’s playful take on French food and the place to go for all-out indulgence, serving not only the finest modern French cuisine in Portland, but also one of the best burgers of my life. Also had the luck of visiting last summer for a Whole Lobster menu surprise. Highlight: sit at the counter and watch the team cook your Beef Cheek Bourguignon, Seared Foie Gras, Spaghetti alla Pastrami, or your burger.
16. Classic French: Bistro Agnes
Bistro Agnes is the chic reincarnation of Greg and Gabrielle Denton’s Superbite (RIP) in a wonderfully convenient location if you are staying or spending a day walking about downtown Portland. Bistro Agnes has everything you want from a classic French menu: Onion Soup au Gratinee, Endive Salad, Chicken Liver Mousse, Salad Lyonnaise, Mussles Mariniere and Steak Frites. Highlights: Onion Soup, and proximity to other wonderful places such as Blue Star Donuts, Bamboo Sushi and Lardo.
15. Vietnamese: Rose VL
If you love a good bowl of Pho or other traditional Vietnamese soup, this is the one place you have to go. Rose is a hole-in-the-wall family with a capital “F” Mom and Pop joint with a sparse menu (2 soups per day) on Foster Avenue in Southeast Portland and is not really near anything else, but you won’t care. You’re there for the soup. The soup at Rose VL is easily one of Portland’s Top 10 dishes, it’s so flavorful, fresh and authentic and it’s also a great deal. Pop will likely take your order and Mom (or daughters) will make your soup. Highlights: Crab Flake Soup, Turmeric Noodle Soup.
14. Eastern European: Kachka
Undoubtedly one of the best restaurants in Portland, Kachka is the place I was implored I “must” go to by my Los Angeles restaurant-owning friends who’d just set up a vacation digs in Portland and sent me their “must go to” list when I moved here two years ago. I love the food and the decor at Kachka. Whether or not you drink vodka, you’ll enjoy yourself at this playful yet sophisticated restaurant in the Industrial district. Lots of dumplings including a Siberian Beef and Pork Pelmeni and a local Sour Cherry Vareniki, Charcuterie, Smoked Fishies, and inventive seasonal dishes. Be sure to try the famous “Herring Under a Fur Coat,” (herring, potatoes, beets) pictured above.
13. Italian: Ava Gene’s
Ava Gene’s is Tusk’s older Roman-influenced, also vegetable-centric, Division Street sister restaurant. Ava Gene’s bills itself as “aggressively seasonal” and it is. It’s one of Portland’s best restaurants to eat a ton of vegetables. Same owners as Tusk, same wonderful hospitality and chic brand, and same guarantee of a very good meal as well as good people watching. Highlights: The menu changes monthly, but generally anything from the “Giardini” or “Primi” section.
Also: Luce, Firehouse, D.O.C., Nonna, Il Solito, Cibo, Nostrana, Piazza, Renata, Grassa, Gabagool, Mucca
12. Mediterranean: Tusk
Tusk has a very California vibe, at least to this eater, and is serving some wonderful mediterranean food for dinner and for brunch on the weekends. You’ll eat plant strong at Joshua McFadden and Luke Dirk’s very popular and very pretty place on E. Burnside, for the menu is replete with vegetables in every stage of cookedness, beginning with raw. Highlights: Hummus, Mujadra, or a “Let Us Choose” chef’s menu, a sampler of small bites of nearly everything on the menu. Another place I’d hit if I only had a handful of hours or meals in Portland.
11. Korean: Han Oak
Han Oak is unquestionably one of the best Portland restaurants and here’s why: (1) It’s a restaurant inside the chef’s home but it still feels like a restaurant . . . an indoor/outdoor open kitchen concept/patio and patio-extension restaurant, that is; (2) the rollicking spicy Korean fried chicken, which converted this anti-wing eater; (3) a tasting menu option; and, (4) legendary pork dumplings – not a mandu dumpling, not a soup dumpling, but somehow with elements of both — they’re giant and served in a spoon, with a little bit of broth. A “non-traditional” Korean restaurant according to Han Oak’s website, it is definitely one of the places you’d have to go if you only had a few hours or meals to spend in Portland. Caution: reservations are necessary, even for a solo non-drinking diner seated at the bar.
10. Farm Forward (and Vegan): Farm Spirit
Farm Spirit is an absolutely unique and unforgettable fixed multi-course dining experience, using vegetable ingredients sourced from within 100 miles ONLY (no coffee is served but rather, recently, a basil “broth”). Opt for the “temperance” drink pairings for a heady and fragrant dose of kefirs and sparkling fruit-and-herb centric refreshments.
9. Salads and Vegetables: Quaintrelle
Located on another restaurant-centric street in Northeast Portland (Mississippi), Quaintrelle is named for “A woman who emphasizes a life of passion expressed through personal style, leisurely pastimes, charm, and a cultivation of life’s pleasures,” and it’s the place you’ll want to go for a big plate of gorgeous vegetables. Of course there are many other options on Quaintrelle’s menu, such as a Ribeye, but even that steak is vegetable laden and served with Cauliflower, Pickled Ramps, Radishes and Ramp Butter. Do go vedge at Quaintrelle and try such recent offerings as Beets, Strawberries, Sheep Cheese, Hazlenuts, Mint and Gazpacho, or Little Gems with Tarragon, Radishes, Sunflower Seeds and Cured Egg Yolk.
8. Brunch: Verdigris
Brunch is another topic that could exhaust multiple posts (make sure to see our list of 25 best brunch spots in Portland). A favorite for a refined French-inspired mid-morning meal is Verdigris, where you can score an order of 60 Minute Eggs, Smithfield Ham and Duck Fried Hash Browns with Brown Butter Hollandaise. Bonus points for being in one of Portland’s most beautiful Irvington neighborhood, so be certain to stroll after your fill.
Also: Milk Glass Market, for Nordic fare: Broder, for the hottest brunch in Portland right now: Proud Mary, for Southernish: Trinket, for amazing biscuits and lines: Pine State Biscuits, pop-up: Hunnymilk, for a great brunch burger: Southfork, downtown: Irving Street Kitchen; Cuban: Pambiche
7. Steak and Meat: Ox
Ox is the Argentinian meat-centric restaurant on MLK Blvd belonging to husband and wife chefstars Greg and Gabrielle Denton. There are many options for steak including an Uruguayan Ribeye, and the Clam Chowder with Marrow Bone and Jalapenos is one of Portland’s most photographed and coveted bowls.
Also: for butcher-in-house steaks and chops: Laurelhurst Market, for an old-school experience: Ringside Steakhouse; another great butcher shop and restaurant in Cully neighborhood: Old Salt Marketplace
6. Seafood: Roe
Roe is a somewhat secret and hard-to-find sophisticated tasting-menu seafood restaurant tucked into Morgan’s Alley downtown. Wait in the spa-like darkened welcome room and proceed to the dining room for two tasting menu options, as well as three caviar choices. The seafood dishes are complex with multi-layered yet distinct and pristine flavors. Beyond wonderful.
5. Sushi: Nimblefish
Nimblefish is the place to go for the best sushi in Portland, with options from a la carte to omakase. No gimmicks or weird sushi-bar appetizers here, just fresh, diverse and premium sushi. Best for a date or intimate dinner, the place is tiny but chic and modern. Highlights: Handroll of Chopped Amberjack, Green Onion, Cucumber and Yuzu.
4. Modernist/Molecular: Castagna
Castagna has long held the highest esteemed position in Portland’s fine dining scene and is definitely one of the places you must visit if you are craving a molecular fix and many small tastes of next-level delicious and exquisite food art. Castagna is a hushed, tasting-menu-only restaurant with a highly pedigreed chef cooking modern style food for a well-healed patronage, and if Michelin stars were conferred in Portland Castagna would certainly earn at least one. I had one of the best meals of my entire life at Castagna and was astounded at the level of artistry, technical skill, and sophistication as well as the elevated and layered tastes plated up course after course in this meal. You won’t watch the chef at this restaurant but rather, and perhaps better, sit in a beautiful, minimalist, quiet dining room. Highlights: Lamb Belly and Loin, Beef Tartare hiding under Beet Cup, Carmelized Potato Skin Ice Cream.
3. Tacos: Robo Taco
Woe is the writer tasked with writing on Portland tacos. There are so many good ones. From trucks to tiendas to sit down restaurants, everything is possible in Portland. My favorite go-to taco joint is a small dive-joint in the Industrial district that serves an excellent Lengua, Carnitas, Chorizo and al Pastor Taco. Kudos for offering Soyrizo and faux meats for the vegans.
Also: Tortilleria y Tienda de Leon, La Sirenita, La Bonita, Por Que No, Tienda y Panaderia Santa Cruz, Tight Tacos, Mi Mero Mole, Stella Taco, T9, Quesabrosa for killer hard shell tacos, El Nutri Taco for vegan Tamale Boy . . . and so many more.
2. Price Fixe: Beast
Beast is the Price-Fixe restaurant you want to visit for portions that are not pinky-sized, so that you won’t leave wanting for tacos or cheeseburgers. Also known as Portland’s most marked contribution to fine dining in the U.S., dinner at Beast conjures up feelings of a chic yet friendly dinner party, and has been recognized everywhere from the New Yorker to popular television shows (Gossip Girl). Born of a pop-up turned restaurant (Ripe), this is the original restaurant that according to Chef and James Beard award winner Naomi Pomeroy, sought to “kill the restaurant.” Service is polished, and guests sit at two communal tables. Highlights: Duck Confit and Pici Pasta with Lobster and Porcini Mushroom.
Coquine is a wonderful, warm-hearted French-inspired neighborhood restaurant nestled into a corner in Portland’s Mt. Tabor region that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I love Coquine because it is in my favorite neighborhood in Portland and sits quietly and unassumingly on a corner street with nothing but a yoga studio, beautiful homes, and Mt. Tabor Park for blocks. Also the food is consistently perfect. The dishes are creative, the ingredients impeccably sourced and the vibe is a nice cross between modern and rustic. Bonus points for being open on the weekends for breakfast, brunch, between and dinner, with a small but killer pastry case. Sit for the four course “Chef’s Choice” Menu or the seven course “Tasting Menu” (both with optional wine pairings). Highlights include Chicken Liver Mousse with Persimmon Jam, Orechiette with Peas, Almond, Breadcrumbs and Lemon, and Chickpea Socca. You can also order la carte. For breakfast, try the house-made pastries, Rye Pancakes, Buckwheat Biscuits or Homemade Granola and Yogurt with Fruit.