Dining Out in Portland, Oregon

The Pine Street Market in downtown Portland features nine of Portland’s best chefs and purveyors, all under one roof. Photo by Andrea Damewood courtesy of Portland Mercury.

The Pacific Northwest climate is a food grower’s paradise.  Lots of hot weather in the summer and cool damp springs and falls.  Seafood is fresh since Portland is 60 miles from the Pacific Ocean and Oregon has thousands of acres of ranches devoted to beef and lamb. The 100 mile long Willamette Valley grows vegetables and fruits and the west foothills of the valley have over a 100 vineyards.

For the first time in the 20-year history of the James Beard Foundation Awards, Portland chefs dominated the competition for Best Chef Northwest honors, taking three of the five finalist slots that were announced in March 2010 in New York City. Naomi Pomeroy of Beast, Cathy Whims of Nostrana, Andy Ricker of Pok Pok are contenders in the category, along with two Seattle chefs, Ethan Stowell of Union and Jason Wilson of Crush. Pomeroy, whose restaurant has a meat-centric menu, was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs . Ricker, whose Thai restaurant celebrates Southeast Asian street food, got a spread in last June’s Food & Wine.  The Best Chef Northwest category traditionally has been dominated by Seattle chefs.

This excerpt from a story in the Willamette Week annual 2016 Restaurant Guide sums up the changing scene about restaurants in Portland.

At some point, a small, cheap, livable city becomes so desirable everyone decides to move there. So the city becomes larger, more expensive and less accessible.

You’ve likely heard all this before—only not in a restaurant guide. This year, though, it’s the backstory of any clear-eyed look at Portland’s food scene.

In the past decade, our city has became a gastronomic hot spot punching far above its weight—boosted in part by the nearness of farms and the sea, and a temperate climate that lets us grow a wide range of seasonal produce. But we’ve also lured some of the nation’s most talented chefs with our reputation as a low-rent paradise where ambitious first-time restaurateurs can experiment without taking on huge debts or risk-averse investors.

Online Dining Guides

Below you will find the local publications that have online dining guides:

  • The Oregonian  The state largest newspaper has extensive coverage of Portland restaurants.
  • Willamette Week   Their annual restaurant guide is something you will hang onto for months as you cycle through their picks.  Their annual Cheap Eats Guide will save you money and give you some enjoyable dining.
  • Portland Monthly  The monthly magazine online ‘Food and Drink’ has a selection guide for restaurants and for bars.  Their annual print edition of The Food Lovers’ Guide will keep you full for the entire year.
  • Gluten Free Portland   This blog was started because although it seems like there are a lot of places to find information on things to eat when you’re celiac or gluten intolerant, there’s no way to know whether or not any of it is good. The site lists a number of gluten free restaurants in the Portland area.

Food Halls

Portland is looking back in time for the latest trend in eating out: food halls. Portland has three full-fledged food halls — the preferred term for these 21st Century food courts — including groundbreaking project The Zipper, cart-focused Cart Lab and downtown tourist draw Pine Street Market. A fourth, Portland Food Hall, will open in late spring 2017.

Food halls are different from food courts with sleek design and mini restaurants hand-picked by food-industry insiders. Pine Street Market, which opened in the spring of  2016, t took a different approach to gathering tenants. The project, from Siteworks developers Jean-Pierre Veillet, David Davies and Rob Brewster, worked with Feast Portland co-founder Thelin to land some of the best-known members of Portland’s food industry, including John Gorham (Tasty N Sons), Kim Malek (Salt & Straw) and Ken Forkish (Ken’s Artisan Bakery).

  • The Zipper: Portland’s best pound-for-pound food hall, this pioneer features the city’s best fried-chicken sandwiches, its top falafel and coolest nail salon alongside a bourbon-focused bar. 2705 N.E. Sandy Blvd.
  • Pine Street Market: What happens when some of the city’s best-known chefs are asked to create novel, streamlined food stalls? You get Portland’s purest expression of the modern food hall. 126 S.W. Second Avenue.
  • Cart Lab: A cart-focused South Waterfront food hall with Korean fried chicken, tacos and sushi burritos in a former Lil’ Cooperstown sports bar. 1831 S.W. River Drive.
  • Portland Food Hall (opening summer 2017): This upcoming Portland food hall, four years in the making, will have ramen, schwarma and a full bar. 827 S.W. Second Avenue.

Eating Downtown

  • Andina  Andina’s massive menu charts the course of contemporary Peruvian cuisine. It starts somewhere in Madrid’s basement taverns then heads to the crowded markets of Lima, where sticky fingers grab for fried yucca and empanadas that cost less than a dollar. 
  • Huber’s Cafe   Portland’s oldest restaurant since 1879. Known for its turkey dinners and Spanish coffees, pour right at your table.  Location: 411 SW 3rd Avenue, inside the Historic Oregon Pioneer Building.
  • Kenny & Zuke’s Deli  They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Their pastrami sandwiches are famous along with Grandma Zukin’s goulash.  Kenny Gordon grew up in Queens, graduated from La Varenne cooking school in France and cooked French food for 30 years before he opened the restaurant in 2008. Kenny smokes 2,500 pounds of pastrami a week.
  • Portland City Grill  This expensive, lavish restaurant has been made into one of the most romantic spots in Portland. If you arelucky enough to get a table or smart to reserve a table next to a window, you can enjoy your meal overlooking the city of Portland. The menu offers steak and seafood and you get as good as you pay. Lunch is not expensive and offers the same view and good food. Happy Hour is even cheaper (budget range; 4:30pm to 6:30pm) for the same good food, but much more crowded than lunchtime.   Address:  111 SW Fifth Avenue on the 30th floor of the Unico/US Bancorp Tower.
  • Tabor  This cart made its name with its schnitzelwich a breaded cutlet tucked between a ciabatta roll and smeared with horseradish and a red pepper/eggplant spread.  Located at SW Fifth Avenue and Stark Street.

Eating in the Pearl/Old Town

  • Andina   A Peruvian restaurant with a good selection of platas (like Spanish tapas) as well as contemporary and traditional Peruvian entrees. Live music is performed most evenings in the lounge, a popular date destination.  Address: 1314 NW Glisan Street.
  • Park Kitchen  Chef-owner Scott Dolich is so dedicated to locally grown food that he’s on the board of directors for the Portland Farmers’ Market. His passion for all things local continues at his restaurant, in the chic Pearl District, where the menu changes daily based on ingredients procured from as few miles away as possible.

Eating in Northwest/Nob Hill

  • Papa Haydn  If you like dessert, this is the place to go. Although the entrees aren’t all that impressive, sometimes there are four different lemon desserts, not to mention a wide selection of chocolates of every kind. Address: 701 NW 23rd Avenue. Also in the Sellwood-Moreland neighborhood at 5829 SE Milwaukie Avenue.
  • Paley’s Place  This eating establishment helped define early on what Portland’s restaurants would eventually be known for—local, fresh, seasonal food, attentive to each individual ingredient, served in a Continental style adventurously adapted to its surroundings. Address: 1204 NW 21st Avenue. 
  • Ringside  Portland’s original steakhouse. Autographs from famous musicians, athletes and movie stars line the walls. Great steak, dim lighting and excellent service. Address: 2165 W Burnside.

Eating in Southwest Portland

  • Corbett Fish House  Separate gluten-free menu available plus gluten-free beer. Address: 5901 SW Corbett Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97239.
  • Seasons and Regions  Specializing in fresh northwest seafood & shellfish.  Their special menu ($2.95) is served from 3:00 to 5:30 p.m. and late night 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. and it is a bargain. Entire gluten-free section on dinner menu. Address: 6660 SW Capitol Highway, Portland, Oregon 97219.

Eating in Southeast Portland

  • 3 Doors Down Café  Located at 429 SE 37th Street (Hawthorne neighborhood) serving American/Mediterranean cuisine.
  • Bamboo Sushi   Southeast Portland’s Bamboo Sushi, the first Marine Stewardship Council-certified independent sushi restaurant in the United States, is tackling the question of whether sushi can still wow and delight using seasonal and sustainable ingredients. The answer is a resounding yes.   Address: 310 SE 28th Avenue.
  • ClarkLewisThe Oregonian’s 2004 Restaurant of the year.  Order their three course $30 meal and be surprised.  Located at 1001 SE Water Avenue in the eastside industrial area.  Telephone: (503) 235-2294.
  • Delta Cafe and Bar   Southern food (chicken fried steak, jambalaya, grits, etc.) on the cheap. The food is excellent and in large portions.   Address:  46th & SE Woodstock Street.
  • The Farm Cafe  What a bargain!  You can get two entrees, share a salad and dessert, and enjoy a decent bottle of French wine for about $50. It’s in a gingerbread house just one block off East Burnside Street.  Reservations for parties of six or more. Located at 10 SE 7th Avenue.  Dinner and Saturday/Sunday brunch. Telephone: (503) 736-3276.
  • Esparza’s Tex Mex Cafe  An upscale Mexican with a festive atmosphere. The tequila list rivals some wine lists. Located at 2725 SE Ankeny Street.
  • Lauro Kitchen  Sitting at a bar stool, beneath the chalkboard scrawled with daily specials, splitting a dish of olives and a half-carafe of something red, Spanish and spicy until a table opens up—that’s how one ought to start a meal at Lauro.  Address:  3377 SE Division.
  • Le Pigeon   The NY Times called Le Pigeon “an informal slightly manic spot with seasonally changing, nonconformist dishes like braised port belly with creamed corn.”  The dining area is small, seating about 40 patrons. Located at 738 East Burnside Street, just across the river from downtown.
  • Nostrana     Chef Whims was nominated for Best Chef Northwest last year, and her Italian kitchen Nostrana, known for its wood-fired ovens and pasta dishes, is the most-mainstream of the Portland nominees.   Address: 1401 SE Morrison.
  • Pok Pok   Its menu and aesthetic sit a tier above your average travel poster-adorned pad Thai purveyor—as does its price point.  Address: 3226 SE Division.

Eating in North and Northeast Portland

  • The Beast  The food at Beast, one of The Oregonian’s two Restaurants of the Year 2008, is inspired by France.  Located at 5425 NE 30th − just off the corner of NE 30th and Killingsworth to the South.
  • Laurelhurst Market Willamette Week’srunner up for “Restaurant of the Year.” During the day − a butcher shop offering the finest fresh, all natural meats, sausages made in house and artisanal charcuterie. At night − the restaurant. Think steakhouse. Address: 3155 E. Burnside.
  • Laurelwood Public house & Brewery  1728 NE 40th Street.  Solid pub fare to include burgers, sandwiches, salads, and appetizers.  Plus a play area for kids and large beer tanks behind glass walls to entertain them.
  • Mississippi Pizza    The reason we include this restaurant is because they serve gluten-free pizza and gluten-free beer.   Plus they have musical entertainment every night. Address: 3552 N. Mississippi.
  • Navarre  Located at 10 NE 28th Avenue.  Phone:  (503) 232-3555.  The Navarre serves farm-fresh, European-style meals.  It wasThe Oregonian’s Restaurant of the Year in 2009.

Fun Places to Eat

budclarkLunch with former Portland mayor Bud Clark at the Goose Hollow Inn. As mayor, “Bud” Clark created the nationally recognized 12-Point Homeless Plan, supported the growth of mass transit, including the MAX Light Rail line to Hillsboro, Oregon, aided downtown development, and initiated and led the campaign to build the Oregon Convention Center. Clark also sanctioned The Mayor’s Ball, an annual charity event featuring independent musicians from all over the Northwest. It could be argued that The Mayor’s Ball was instrumental in building a music scene that helped to fuel the Nineties’ grunge movement. The tavern owner served eight years (1985 – 1992) and now has returned to running his tavern.  It has a pleasant deck where you can drink away your frustrations with the rest of the City Hall roustabouts.  The Hollow Reuben sandwich is always a winner. The Goose Hollow is located at 1927 SW Jefferson Street, telephone 503-228-7010.

kathy_docksideDockside Saloon  Located at 2047 NW Front Avenue (industrial area), you can get a good lunch or breakfast (they open at 5 AM).  Try their hash browns! The Dockside gave 63 interviews to various newspapers, magazines, and TV shows in January 1994.  All because of their garbage. On January 30, 1994, Kathy Peterson (waitress, dishwasher, bookkeeper, and owner along with her husband Terry Peterson) was emptying the garbage when she came upon several bags of trash that somebody had left in the dumpster.  Kathy examined the garbage and among the items found was an envelope with information concerning Nancy Kerrigan’s practice schedule at her home rink (Tony Kent Arena).  The handwriting was that of Portland’s Olympic skater Tonya Harding. She had earlier denied any involvement in the “club” incident when her husband (now former) and a friend did the ‘knee-cap’ job on Nancy.  The Dockside garbage proved otherwise.  Neither Tonya Harding nor any of her cohorts had ever visited the Dockside  they most likely found the dumpster convenient as they drove by and unloaded the evidence.

To quote from the backside of the menu at the Dockside, “Please remember this… be careful where you dump your trash, you never know who will find it.”

burgerStanich’s  This is the place to eat if you dying for a burger. You can repent tomorrow.  Billed as the “The World’s Greatest Hamburger,” the Special has beef, cheese, egg, ham, bacon, lettuce, and tomatoes.  As you savor every bite, cast your eyes on the walls plastered with old newspaper clippings and the pennants of bygone sporting seasons.  Stanich’s is located at 4915 NE Fremont Street and at 5627 SW Kelly Avenue.

Farm Dinners

Portland is big on farm to table—but what if that distance between the farm and the table is only about 30 feet? That’s the idea behind the growing popularity of the area’s farm dinners, where you eat at the location where the night’s food was grown, often in the middle of a field or vineyard. 

The scenery is epic, and you sit at long tables decorated with flowers and candles, getting to know your neighbors. There are several courses, lots of Oregon wine, and no rush—so you can stay until the stars come out. The prices are also reasonable, especially considering the location and that they include all courses, beverages, and gratuity.

There are two organizations that offer farm dinners in the Portland area: Dinner in the Field and Plate & Pitchfork.

FieldVineAt each Dinner in the Field, leisurely stroll through the vineyard or farm, with warm earth underfoot and the sweet scent of the season lingering in the air, feeling all the hustle and bustle melt away. With glass in hand and wine tickling your taste buds, let the winemaker or farmer regale you with tales from the vine and root. Find your way back to the long community tables, amidst the vineyard, barn or farmland and as the candles and wine glasses glimmer in the late evening sun, savor each of the seven courses, expertly prepared by Field & Vine chefs and guest chefs while sipping the stunning wines of Oregon. You’ll enjoy native ingredients of the Northwest, sourced as often as possible straight from the host farm or surrounding farms. From the dinner to the wines, and everything in between, this event is in true farm to table style.

For dinners hosted in the early spring or winter, the event will be held in a tented area, barn, or covered area, rain or shine. Casual attire recommended–leave the high heels at home. Straw hats encouraged. Menus are subject to change based on seasonal availability of the best ingredients.

PlatePitchforkPlate & Pitchfork is an adventurous evening that celebrates and supports local farms. In fact every Plate & Pitchfork dinner begins with a farm tour. They want to make sure that you have a chance to meet your farmer and get to know a little bit about them and how they run their business. Host farms range from 10 to 110 acres and their business models and produce are varied, but they all have one thing in common and that’s a commitment to using sustainable farming and business practices.

Plate & Pitchfork has been getting to the root of good taste since 2003.

Each summer we turn farms into dining rooms, setting the stage for an evening of food, wine, conversation and education. Upon arriving at your destination you’ll have a glass of wine & an appetizer before setting out for an amazing tour of the farm led by your host. Your tour will end in in an al fresco dining room where teams of remarkable chefs will present you with a four – five course meal, each course is paired with wine. Throughout the meal you’ll hear from the people who have grown, caught, raised and crafted the items on the table.