Food // Portland

Restaurants

NE Portland

Gumba (Alberta Arts @ 23rd & NE Alberta) – My current top spot in Portland, Gumba doles out generous and flavor-packed pasta dishes from an inconspicuous food cart in a pod on the corner of NE 23rd and Alberta. Hours favor the dinner-seeking crowds so check to make sure it’s open (closed on Monday and Tuesday) but the pasta is undoubtedly the best I’ve ever had in the United States and second only to a few dishes from Italy. The tagliatte carboanara with melt-in-your-mouth burrata (for $12) forced me to put down my fork because I was so blown away with the flavor and immediately knew it was something special. I ate it for dinner on Thursday and came back for Friday lunch and took another dish to go for Friday dinner. It’s that good. Absolute must if you come to Portland. Menu changes somewhat often but picture of menu is from July. Flavor per capita ranking is out of this world. Recommendation: Tagliatelle (or any of the pastas)

Guero (200 NE 28th Ave, Portland, OR 97232) – Located in the food zip code of your dreams near the corner of NE 28th Ave and Burnside (a 5-minute walk from Wolf & Bears, Egyptian Bros, Fifty Licks, etc.), Guero can make a credible claim to the best sandwich in town. Hailed by OregonLive, Guero’s tortas have hit the mainstream in the last year or two (opening a brick and mortar in 2017 after a few successful years in a trailer several blocks away) and for good reason. The ahogada is my recommended sandwich here, packing equal amounts of spice and flavor into the achiote-tomato sauce-drenched sandwich with mouth-watering carnitas. Per Portland standards, Guero also offers a respectable vegetarian menu with no drop-off in flavor with the refried beans sandwich or masa y papa pancake sandwich. Recommendation: Ahogada for carnivores, masa y papa for vegetarians

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Ahogada

Bollywood Theater (2039 NE Alberta St, Portland, OR 97211) – One of two locations of the popular Indian street food location, the NE Alberta Bollywood Theater brick & mortar is one of a dozen top-notch restaurants on the food-dense street. Faced with a plethora of excellent options, Bollywood Theater is still a great choice. It has a nice vibe and a diverse menu of Indian street food snacks and meals. Great selection of meat and vegetarian options. Sit outside if it’s a nice day! Recommendation: Paneer kati roll – the Indian burrito is substantial and can easily serve as a full meal. Delicious.

P’s & Q’s Market (1301 NE Dekum St, Portland, OR 97211) – Amazing restaurant and can’t recommend enough! My family loves P’s & Q’s Market so much that we hired them to cater my sister’s wedding. Their brisket is mouth-wateringly irresistable and never fails to thrill my taste buds. I’d recommend the platter over the sandwich because you get more meat. Other items on their menu often changes and you can check their Instagram and website for the latest options. Vegetarian options (classic eggplant or fried polenta) are usually creative and delicious – would recommend! Recommendation: Smoke brisket platter // Classic eggplant sandwich

Killer Burger (4644 NE Sandy Blvd, Portland, OR 97213 || Multiple locations) – One of my favorite spots in high school, the quality has decreased slightly since then (four or five years ago) but burgers are still solid. I’d recommend going during Crazy Hour (3-6pm usually) for better prices $6-7 rather than $10 The Peanut Butter Pickle Bacon burger will always have a special place in my heart and stomach and yes, I promise you it’s better than it sounds. The sweet peanut butter sauce contrasts nicely with the crunchy pickle and savory bacon for a unique and delicious Portland culinary experience. Other spots might serve a better overall burger but until someone tops the PBPB burger, I’ll return here consistently, as I’m a fiend for Peanut Butter. Bottomless fries are also a plus but I usually tap out after the first order anyways. Recommendation: Peanut Butter Pickle Bacon Burger

Pine State Biscuits (2204 NE Alberta St, Portland, OR 97211 ||125 NE Schuyler St, Portland, OR 97212) – A delicious brunch spot famous for biscuits and fried chicken with several locations across Portland. The Reggie (fried chicken, bacon & cheese topped with gravy) biscuit sandwich is my go-to when I’m grabbing lunch but it’s heavy. Split with someone else if you don’t want to be KOed for the rest of the afternoon. If you want something lighter, the biscuits with jam or apple butter are exceptional. Always freshly baked and warm, they’re a true steal at under $2. An additional bonus? If you pass the shop around 3pm when they close, there’s a good chance you’ll get a free bag of leftover biscuits shoved into your arms. It’s happened twice to me and I’ve never been happier. Vegetarians can have the Veggie Reggie (but I haven’t had it yet so not sure if I’d recommend) and if not, the biscuits alone are worth the trip. Recommendation: Reggie for a meal, biscuits and apple butter for a snack.

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The Reggie

Basilisk (820 NE 27th Ave, Portland, OR 97232) – A fried chicken spot in the Zipper (a pocket of top-notch restaurants with a shared dining space, similar to Pine Street Market or a food hall) throws its hat into the ring in an attempt to claim the increasingly competitive title of Best Fried Chicken in Portland. With nothing north of $10, I was pleased with the prices of Basilisk for this quality of meat. Order the Fried Chicken Sandwich for a traditional lunch or the Hot Chicken Plate to satisfy your masochistic spicy cravings. They also offer a Fried Tofu Sandwich for vegetarians but vegetarians might be better off checking out ChickPeaPDX in the Zipper for options beyond the dreaded Token Tofu menu option. For me, the chicken didn’t win any awards (that’s not saying much, my standards for good fried chicken are high) but if you’re in the area and craving a food-baby impregnating sandwich, this will do the trick. No complaints here. The Dan Dan fries are also a unique take (fries covered in Szechuan peanut sauce, chili oil, baby dill pickles, crushed peanuts, green onion, cilantro, and lime) on fries in a city that thrives on diverse French fry options and even with all the garnishes, it’s still vegan! Recommendation: Fried Chicken Sandwich – classic but goodie.

Hat Yai (1605 NE Killingsworth St, Portland, OR 97211) – One of several great Thai restaurants in the city, Hat Yai is located a stone’s throw from the NE Alberta hub of eateries. Prices are usually well above $10 but flavors are good. Fried chicken wings were solid but I still prefer Pok Pok for this kind of wing. Fried chicken and roti curry is a popular combination. Recommendation: Fried Chicken Quarter Curry Set

Taste Tickler (1704 NE 14th Ave, Portland, OR 97212) – Quietly hidden off Broadway, Taste Tickler is a local favorite for its flavorful and large sandwiches and bento boxes. With 14 inch sandwiches for $10.50, the value is hard to beat. Teriyaki plates are usually under of $8 and are pretty filling too. If you’re looking to fill up at a classic staple in NE, Taste Tickler is your spot. Recommendation: 10″ Honey Chicken – $7.95 & Chicken Potstickers – 5 for $2.75.

ChickPeaPDX (2707 NE Sandy Blvd, Portland, OR 97232) – Located in the Zipper not far from Wolf & Bear’s, ChickPea PDX is the other top falafel place in the city. While Wolf & Bear’s is a more general Middle-Eastern spot, ChickPea PDX specializes in the falafel, with three different forms of consumption between a wrap, salad bowl and rice bowl. Extras can get pricey but for a healthy and flavorful option in the Zipper, you can’t go wrong. Recommendation: Falafel wrap

Spielman Bagels & Coffee Roasters (2200 NE Broadway St, Portland, OR 97232) – NE Portland installment of Spielman Bagels. Check out the SW Portland section for more deets.

SE Portland

Wolf & Bear’s (113 SE 28th Ave, Portland, OR 97214) – This is one of my top three favorite spots in Portland, hands down. I tried it for the first time this summer (despite driving by the cart everyday for four years in high school) and I was absolutely blown away. Around since 2009, the menu is Middle Eastern-inspired vegetarian fare from scratch. With an emphasis on local and organic ingredients and an uncompromising dedication to freshness, their desire to produce excellent food absolutely succeeds. It’s also super accommodating to vegans and gluten-free-ers. With three spots around Portland (SE 28th, N. Mississippi, SW 12th Ave), you have no excuse for checking it out. You can’t go wrong on the menu but whatever you get, add the grilled eggplant and be generous with the free sauces on the side. For even the most hard-core meat eater, this spot is worth. MUST GO. Like check out how beautiful this wrap looks. Definitely one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in Portland. This spot is in the same food cart pod as Egyptian Bros, FOMO Fried Chicken, Saint Burrito, among others. Tough to ignore those options but I promise this is the best of the bunch. Recommendation: Olea (Wolf’s kalamata tapenade, labneh, grilled eggplant, roasted red peppers, grilled red onions, gorgonzola crumbles, caramelized walnuts, cracked pepper & olive oil) w/ two extra falafel balls – $10.50

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FOMO Fried Chicken (113 SE 28th Ave, Portland, OR 97214) – A fried chicken cart that has also jumped into the fray to determine the best fried chicken in Portland, FOMO employs a Korean twist to arrive at its version of Southern fried chicken. You can order a bowl with one of three chicken options (Sweet Soy Korean Fried Chicken, Spicy Korean Fried Chicken, Gluten Free Southern Fried Chicken), a whole or a half chicken. I chose the Sweet Soy Korean Fried Chicken and it was good. It did not blow me away or prompt me to anoint it on the spot as the top fried chicken spot in the city but it was solid. I might have expected slightly more chicken for the price of $10 but not complaining. Another note is the spicy option was not too spicy, which was fine but when compared to Nashville style spicy fried chicken, there would be no contest. So people with low spice tolerances – you should be fine with the Spicy Korean Fried Chicken. A solid choice for fried chicken on the east side but I’ll choose other carts over it in the SE 28th Avenue pod.

 

Egyptian Bros (113 SE 28th Ave, Portland, OR 97214) – Before I discovered Wolf & Bear’s (located in the same SE 28th Avenue cart pod), Egyptian Bros was my favorite wrap in the city. The lamb shawarma or the gyro are juicy, tender hunks of meat wrapped with perfectly balanced sauces and extras. Truly excellent and mouth-wateringly good when you smell it. Wolf & Bear’s surpassed it for me (I did a taste test to be sure) but that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Both are stellar. If you love meat, hit up Egyptian Bros. If you want a vegetarian wrap, go next door to Wolf & Bear’s. You can’t go wrong. But other than W&B, I’d still say Egyptian Bros has my second favorite wrap in the city and I’d recommend it if you’re trying to find some dank shawarma. Recommendation: Lamb shawarma

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Lamb Shawarma

Teote House Cafe (1615 SE 12th Ave, Portland, OR 97214) – Wow! This one slipped under my radar until my sister brought me here just before I left Portland for the year and oh man – I’m bummed I didn’t hear about it before. Serving Latin American food in what might be my favorite restaurant space in the city, Teote is firing on ALL cylinders. Offering an impressive menu of arepas, generous meat/rice plates, and bowls with your choice of stomach-growlin’ meats, I could go here everyday for a month and not get tired of it. Even better? The space is amazing, with a great shaded outdoor patio with water misters to cool you down during a hot summer day and no hurried frenzy trying to push you out and the next customer into your seat. I loved it. I want to come back and try more of the meats but wow I was pleased. The bowls and plates are pretty much the same thing, just different amounts so order according to your hunger. Vegetarian options aren’t plentiful but they do look really good. Recommendation: Teote Bowl w/ El Diablo

Apizza Scholls (4741 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97215) – Frequently named as one of the top two pizza spots in Portland (if not the best), Apizza Scholls has a sterling reputation in Portland. I needed to check it out for myself and the verdict? Hype is REAL. I made reservations a week in advance and when I arrived, it had a much more laidback atmosphere than I was expecting. Arcade games and baseball hats were the norm, which isn’t usually the case for a place serving some of the city’s best pies. We ordered a pizza with half Amatriciana (w/o meat) and half Tartufo2 The Electric Boogaloo. The pizzas, priced in the mid 20 dollar range, are enormous and a single pizza is enough for two people so it ended up being more reasonable than I expected in terms of price as well. As for the food – the Tartufo was excellent. Very good pizza and it balanced the truffle oil and mushrooms as expected. I was happy. But the Amatriciana? Blew my mind. I’ve eaten a lot of pizza in my life and I’ve had the opportunity to eat my fair share in Venice, Florence, and Rome. Gusta Pizza in Florence and Dar Poeta in Rome will always have the allegiance of my stomach as the best pizzas I’ve ever had. But this? This easily captures the #3 spot and the top spot in the United States. It was SO good. I 10/10 recommend making a reservation here if you live in Portland or are visiting for a few days. It’s worth one of your precious dinner meals. The crust was also killer. Can’t say enough good things about it. When compared to Ken’s Artisan Pizza (one of its top competitors and a pizza which I tried the next week), I had to give it to Apizza Scholls, hands down. Ken’s is good but Apizza Scholls is in its own league. I’d get an entire Amatriciana next time but other than that, no regrets. Ever. Recommendation: Amatriciana pizza -Whole milk mozzarella, grana padano, lite sauce/chili flake/herbs/garlic, House cured Bacon & red onions – $26

Ken’s Artisan Pizza (304 SE 28th Ave, Portland, OR 97214) – Also usually mentioned in the same breath as Apizza Scholls, Ken’s Artisan Pizza is among the best pizza in the city for sure. Ken’s offers smaller pies (one person could easily finish their own) more digestible for both the gut and the wallet (priced around $12-16). I was able to walk in around 5pm without a reservation and snag a table for two on a Wednesday. The smell of the freshly baked pizza crust wafts outside the shop on SE 28th Ave (a stone’s throw from the heavenly set of carts with Wolf & Bears & Company – SO much good food in that hub) and entices walkers in the neighboorhood to change their plans if they were not already headed to Ken’s for dinner. Anyways, we got a Fennel Sausage & Onion pizza and a Margherita. Both were quite good. Would recommend. Did not change my life but good for date night. Happy hour from 5-6pm has some decent deals too! Recommendation: Arrabiata or Margherita

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Pok Pok (3226 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202) – Pok Pok is a bustling and ground-breaking Thai spot on the culinary powerhouse SE Division corridor and one of the most famous restaurants in Portland for good reason. Their Fish Sauce Wings are one of the top dishes in the city. I had them for the first time this summer and they did not disappoint. While there’s frequently a long wait, we arrived around 5:30pm to try and avoid the dinner rush and succeeded in getting a table for two with only a 10 minute wait. The ambience is nice and the AC inside the dining room was well-received on a brutally hot summer day. Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings have been featured on shows and lists across the country and while they’re a hefty $15 for six of them, I’d say they’re worth it. The Papaya Salad is also a popular dish but that brings up one downside – this isn’t a spot I would take my vegetarian friends. While there are options, the best dishes are meat-based and there are better vegetarian spots in the city. Overall, I recommend ordering a few dishes and sharing them, prepare to spend a bit more than usual, and order a drinking vinegar. With that recipe for success, your meal at Pok Pok will be bomb.com/delicious. If you can make it work, I highly recommend this spot for a visit to Portland. Recommendation: Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings – Half dozen fresh whole natural chicken wings marinated in fish sauce and sugar, deep fried, tossed in caramelized Vietnamese fish sauce and garlic – $15

Screen Door (2337 E Burnside St, Portland, OR 97214) – This popular brunch spot on E. Burnside frequently has long lines, especially for the fried chicken and waffles. When I finally went, I wasn’t disappointed but I wasn’t overwhelmed. More meh but I’ve also only tried the Chicken and Waffle so I don’t want to pass judgement on other dishes. Overall, people really like Screen Door and portions are massive. If you’re looking for a good brunch on the east side, this is a popular spot. Recommendation: Buttermilk biscuits & gravy (my choice) or the Chicken & Waffles (their famous dish)

Kati Portland (2932 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202) – A vegetarian/vegan Thai restaurant on a loaded SE Division street block (near Pok Pok, Bollywood Theater, Salt & Straw among others), Kati Portland is a solid option. For vegetarians and vegans, there’s a lot of variety and the vibe is nice (sign inside is a bit tacky). Unsure if I’d recommend a meat-eater to forgo other equally good Thai options but it’s definitely still a good spot. I loved the Nam Kao Tod (Crispy rice with fresh herbs green onion, red onions, cilantro, carrot and glass noodle, peanut and twist of lime served with lettuce) and wish I had tried one of the curries or noodle dishes as my second option so I’ll reserve final judgment until I get it. But solid choice overall. Recommendation: Nam Kao Tod – basicalyl wraps with crispy rice and it’s so good. $10.50

Grand Central Bakery (2230 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214 || Multiple locations) – This is one of my favorite they-can-do-anything spots. Need a freshly baked loaf of bread? This is your spot. Need a delicious sandwich (vegetarian or meat-lovin’)? This is your spot. With a solid food menu and a values-driven company that’s spread to Seattle, GCB is a spot worth supporting and absolutely worth your business. Such good sandwiches. Recommendation: Turkey Chutney (House roasted Champoeg Farm turkey breast, Havarti cheese, lettuce, mayonnaise and Grand Central cranberry chutney on Como) – $9.25

Maruti (1925 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214) – One of the top Indian restaurants in the city, Maruti offers a 100% vegetarian (and mostly vegan) menu with a strong emphasis on local and non-GMO ingredients. With an inventive menu of nine different varieites of naan, creative takes on paneer, and multiple delicious-sounding entrees, Maruti is another great spot on SE Hawthorne that’s worth a stop for Indian food or if you’re looking for an example of Portland’s strong vegetarian/vegan scene. Recommendation: Vegan tikka masala – $15 & vegan spicy naan – $6.50 (even for non-vegans)

Bollywood Theater (3010 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202) – See the review in the NE Portland section.

Pine State Biscuit (1100 SE Division St #100, Portland, OR 97202) – See the review in the NE Portland section.

Spielman Bagels & Coffee Roasters (2111 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202) – See the review in the NW Portland section.

Shalom Y’all (117 SE Taylor St #101, Portland, OR 97214) – The SE installment of Shalom Y’all is located near Water Ave, home of Boke Bowl and Water Avenue Coffee, a burgeoning food hotspot in a formely industrial area. Sound familiar? To like all food area stories.. Anyways, the menu at the SE Taylor location is much bigger than the SW Alder one, offering brunch, lunch, happy hour, dinner and everything in between. Try either the Royale (fire roasted tomatoes & peppers, baked eggs) or Ta’ Roc (braised greens, turmeric, radish & herb salad, baked eggs) Shakshukas because they’re both unique to this location. I’d also try one of the hummus combinations if you haven’t had them before but if you’re a Shalom Y’all veteran, hit up one of the plates or sandwiches. The olive oil roasted eggplant or Chard & Feta Safayech for vegetarians & Israeli lamb carnitas or Nazareth kebab for carnivores would be my recommendation (haven’t had any yet but that’s what I’m drooling over on my keyboard right now).

NW Portland

Little Big Burger (930 NW 23rd Ave, Portland, OR 97210 || Multiple locations) – One of many locations throughout Portland and Oregon, Little Big Burger takes a different approach to a high-end burger – a small version. Rather than heap slabs of bacon and chili onto a 1/2 pound hunk of meat in a race to the title of Biggest Burger, Little Big Burger lives up to its name with a simpler but equally delicious 1/4 lb hamburger. The menu is simple (offering a hamburger, cheeseburger, veggie burger and truffle fries) but with that simplicity comes an attention to flavors that’s necessary in a burger unladen with toppings. In short, the burgers impress with subtler, rather than more and louder, flavors. The burgers are affordably priced in the neighborhood of $5 and pack a lot of juicy tastes in a moderate package. Truffle fries are also rich and excellent. Worth a stop for a cheap and simple burger. Recommendation: Cheeseburger with truffle fries

Spielman Bagels & Coffee Roasters (2314 NW Lovejoy St, Portland, OR 97210) – One of several locations in Portland, Spielman Bagels & Coffee Roasters offers some of the best kettle-boiled bagels in Portland and a wide array of schmears. My personal favorite is the Everything Bagel with butter or cream cheese but I’m a simple lad. Spielman also offers a diverse menu of bagel sandwiches for a heartier meal. Spielman Bagels might steal the show but the spot was originally opened in 2011 on SE Division by a father and son as a coffee roastery with the aim of elucidating the environmental benefits of shade-grown coffee. So you could say their coffee is also quite good. In short, stop here for a bagel, sandwich or coffee if you’re near any of their four locations across town. Delicious. Recommendation: Everything Bagel w/ cream cheese // black coffee.

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Bamboo Sushi (836 NW 23rd Ave, Portland, OR 97210 || Locations in NE, SE, SW) – The most popular sushi spot in Portland, Bamboo Sushi has expanded rapidly in recent years and for good reason – they offer affordable and sustainable sushi that tastes really, really good. While I don’t think it would knock any of my favorite Los Angeles spots off their perch, I don’t think that’s a fair standard by which to judge Portland sushi. In typical Portland fashion, Bamboo Sushi emphasizes a food philosophy of “sustainably caught, humanely raised, naturally grown” and the food benefits as a result. Dishes are on the expensive end, averaging around $15, which is to be expected of a place trumpeting the quality of its ingredients, but you can cut down on price with the happy hour menu. You can get anything from vegetables to a Wagyu burger to signature sushi rolls. Reservations are also recommended, as waits can be up to an hour.  Recommendation: The Green Machine

Kim Jong Smokehouse (413 NW 21st Ave, Portland, OR 97209) – A Korean-style street food restaurant employing Southern-style BBQ smoking techniques, Kim Jong Smokehouse focuses on just two dishes – steamed buns and bibimbap (a saliva-inducing mix of rice, sweet potato noodles, seasoned vegetables and your choice of galbi short ribs, salmon, pork, chicken or mushrooms). You can get yo fix at their NW 21st Avenue location or their stand at Pine Street Market on SW 2nd. Prices and selections differ slightly between location but buns are $3.50 and bibimbap bowls range from $10-15 (any of the proteins pushes bowl to $15). Recommendation: Bibimbap bowl w/ galbi short rib.

Thai Bloom (333 NW 23rd Ave, Portland, OR 97210) – A great Thai spot on NW 23rd Avenue with friendly owners, good vegetarian owners and a large menu. Recommendation: Panang Curry // Drunken Noodles

SW Portland

Shalom Y’all (1128 SW Alder St, Portland, OR 97205) – One of the countless restaurants that popped up during the four years I was at college in Los Angeles (which provided for delicious winter breaks), Shalom Y’all quickly establishd itself as a vegetarian power (a worthy honor in Portland) with top-notch Israeli // Mediterranean street food. The SW location is cozy and within walking distance of Powell’s Books and many coffee shops in the SW Alder area, which is great for killing time if there’s a lengthy wait. The menu at the SW Alder location is smaller but ranges from mouth-watering mezze to stomach-pleasing shakshuka (baked eggs, tomatoes, peppers, sourdough bread). The optimal (and highly encouraged style) is to share with your fellow diners and even though you’ll want all the dishes to yourself, I promise it’s the right way to go. Their meat is also prepared well here but with vegetarian fare this good, who needs meat? Recommendation: Shakshuka plate ($12) & smoked eggplant hummus/pita ($10)

Sizzle Pie (926 W Burnside St, Portland, OR 97205) – A solid pizza spot serving full pies or pizza by the slice across Portland, Sizzle Pie’s menu caters to both carnivores, vegetarians and vegans, with ample opportunities to chow down for all. Grab a slice of ‘za before you get lost in Powell’s Books or wander downtown. Recommendation: Napalm Breath (carnivore), The Ripper (vegan), The Gold Ring (vegetarian)

Ichiza Kitchen & Tea House (1628 SW Jefferson St, Portland, OR 97201) – Vegan pan-Asian cuisine. Another one of the top vegan spots in the city with enough flavors to entice even the meatiest of eaters, Ichiza Kitchen prides itself on its pan-Asian vegan fare with a strong offering of tea and tisane (non-caffeinated herbal tea-ish stuff). A lunch menu highlighted by chili oil wontons for $6 (delicate wontons filled with vegan pork* belly and beef*, tossed in a mixture of house chili oil, garlic, sesame oil, and garnished with cilantro and chive) & kimchi gyoza for $7 (grilled dumplings filled with our house kimchi and carrot, served with a Tokyo negi, wasabi, sesame sauce) and a mapo dofu bowl. Dinner menu is even more salivating with the adobo or bibim dangmyeon big bowls for $13-16. If you choose carefully, you can keep it an affordable meal but with some of the bigger ticket items, it might be worth a splurge night. Recommendation: Chili oil wontons – $6 || Adobo bowl $13

Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen (835 SW 2nd Ave, Portland, OR 97204) – This popular vegan-friendly Vietnamese spot near the river frequently has a line out the door and down the block so make sure you time it correctly. I went there around 11:30AM on Sunday shortly after it opened for the day and had no wait but when I left, I would have waited an hour. It was delicious but I wouldn’t wait longer than twenty minutes. I was a big fan of the garlic green beans and the chicken vermicelli bowl was decent but I was disappointed by the spring rolls. I’d recommend getting the beef pho or banh mi because that’s what they were known for. Or maybe a curry. Lots of vegetarian options! Great happy hour too. Recommendation: Coconut curry w/ chicken or tofu ($8), beef pho ($9) or grilled pork banh mi ($8)

Alder St Cart Pod (639 SW 10th Ave, Portland, OR 97205) – This is an awe-inspiring cart pod on SW 10th Ave and SW Alder but I heard it might be moving soon due to a recent property purchase. If it sticks around, it’s one of the biggest food hubs in the city with hundreds of food carts in a few blocks, with many excellent options. Some of my favorites are below.

  • Wolf & Bear’s (522 SW 10th Ave, Portland, OR 97205) – The SW Portland outpost of Wolf & Bear’s but only open for lunch 11am-3pm (compared to the 11am-9pm schedule of the N. Mississippi and SE 28th locations).
  • Nong’s Khao Man Gai (1003 SW Alder St, Portland, OR 97205) – Often named among one of the best food carts in the city, Nong’s Khao Man Gai lives up to the hype by confidently offering only a single dish – the signature chicken and rice. You can get the normal chicken and rice for $11 or a larger portion for $16. The price has increased in recent years, which is why I don’t go as often, as I think you can get more food or better food for that price but it’s still worth it once in a while. Anyways – the chicken is poached and simmered in chicken stock and Thai herbs with a delicious sauce and served with jasmine rice. Seriously simple and seriously flavorful even if it looks quite plain. The flavor is nuanced and suprisingly potent for a dish that sounds as bland as this but it was one of my favorite food carts in high school for good reason. Recommendation: Literally their only dish – chicken and rice. Normal size, not the big portion. $11.

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Pine Street Market (126 SW 2nd Ave, Portland, OR 97204) – A food hall located near the river in downtown Portland with an incredible concentration of Portland’s top restaurants. From ice cream to pizza to ramen, the Market has pretty much any kind of food you’d want and it’s all delicious.

  • Wiz Bang Bar – The soft-serve experiment of local ice cream giant Salt & Straw, Wiz Bang Bar is a unique dessert spot in the city and arguably the highlight of Pine Street Market. You can get a soft-serve cone or sundae with lots of combinations. Flavors are simpler than the Salt & Straw ice cream shops, ranging from vanilla custard to Blue Star Old Fashioned Donut and a vegan sorbet of Strawberry Coconut. You can dip the cones as well with a a chocolate, coffee or black raspberry shell. Perfect for a summer day but also great in the winter. Must-hit when you’re in Portland! Recommendation: Vanilla custard with Coava Coffee & Bourbon shell or Strawberry Coconut with Single Origin Chocolate Shell.
  • Checkerboard Pizza – A delicious pizza spot with slice or whole-pie options. Good happy hour prices. The owner is Ken Forkish (what a last name for a chef), a James Beard Award Winner. They have plenty of vegetarian options and a delicious crust. Really affordable with $3 slices on the menu in the New York style. Recommendation: The Brooklyn or the Pepperoni.
  • Marukin Ramen – Armed with both vegan and tonkotsu broths, Marukin Ramen dishes up warm bowls of ramen in PSM daily with a rotating menu (SMWF has one menu, other days have a different one). Bowls are affordable but not cheap at $11. Didn’t blow me out of the water compared to Los Angeles ramen but still very solid and worth a stop. Recommendation: Tonkotsu red (very manageable spice) $11

N. Portland

Matt’s BBQ (4233 N Mississippi Ave Portland OR) – Consistently hailed as one of the top carts, if not restaurants, in the city, Matt’s BBQ slings jaw-droppingly good barbecue out of an unassuming trailer in North Portland. You need to go early because the meat goes fast but it’s worth it. Menu options vary from traditional barbecue staples such as brisket and ribs to pork belly tacos to the Cow Pig Stacker sandwich (¼ lb chopped brisket, ¼ lb pulled pork, slaw & pickles on a 3 layer bun) and range from $3.50 for tacos to $12-15 for a barbecue plate, which is entirely reasonable. Come early and often. Recommendation: The Whole Shebang (Brisket, pork, 1 rib, 1 sausage, coleslaw, potato salad & pinto beans) $22

Homegrown Smoker (8638 N Lombard Portland OR 97203) – Similar to Matt’s BBQ, Homegrown Smoker is a popular barbecue spot located in North Portland. Unlike Matt’s BBQ, Homegrown Smoker contains not only zero meat but zero animal products – entirely vegan barbecue. Whaaaat?! Relying heavily on meat substitutes like soy curls or tempeh, the Homegrown Smoker menu is a classic Portland (i.e. vegan) take on an American classic but the dishes range from “traditional” BBQ plates to burritos, salads, and burgers to avoid any neat categorical assignment. For vegans visiting Portland, it’s a must try. For meat-eaters, worth a peep to see if the hype is worth it. Recommendation: Macnocheeto Burrito (Smoked soy curls, BBQ Beans, MacNocheese, grilled peppers and onions, and HGS BBQ sauce) – $10

Wolf & Bear’s (3925 N Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR 97227) – The N. Mississippi outpost of Wolf & Bear’s (along with SE 28th and SW 10th) – see the SE 28th Wolf & Bears post for full description.

 

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