For years, the Portland International Airport had claimed the top spot in Travel and Leisure’s survey for Best Domestic Airports, as well as top honors from Time and Conde Nast. While the spa, express care clinic, distillery tasting room, local musicians, and movie theater all impact its reputation as a cushy layover, food and drink played no small part in its acquisition of accolades.
Of course, however, things have changed since COVID-19 landed in Portland. Suddenly, tourism has dropped off, Oregon travelers are staying home, and PDX doesn’t quite feel like the playground it was back in 2019. Still, as some travelers continue to prepare to fly home, the airport has upped its COVID-19 protocols: Face masks are required, the PDX team has added 35 additional hand sanitizer stations to its original 50, and surfaces are being cleaned more frequently throughout the day. And while some of the airport’s heavy hitters are currently closed — Tamale Boy, Kenny & Zuke’s — there are many places where customers can still find a bite to eat.
PDX’s panoply of restaurants, bars, and cafes include ample options for vegetarians, vegans, and the gluten-free, with prices comparable to their off-airport counterparts; plus, many of those options are outposts of local businesses. When the concourse connector hallway reopens — soon, hopefully — it will be easy for visitors to explore the whole shebang and avoid going through security again.
Seven Standouts That Are Still Open
The Country Cat, just past security in the North Lobby, is probably the most compelling reason to come to the airport early, thanks to its cast-iron-skillet-fried chicken. For a quick bite, the house-smoked ham and pimento cheese sandwich is hard to beat.
Café Yumm is a distinct option in Concourse C, specifically because its signature dish is only available in the Pacific Northwest: The Yumm Bowl looks like just-your-average rice bowl with salsa, veggies, and cheese, but its eponymous Yumm sauce — tangy and a little salty — makes it a unique Made in Oregon staple.
Tillamook Market: One of Oregon’s most famous brands, this dairy company serves cheesy comfort foods like fried cheese curds, Tillamook cheddar cheeseburgers, and penne-based mac and cheese out of the new expansion in Concourse E. Plus, the shop scoops pre-flight ice cream for those in need of a sugar hit.
Flying Elephant’s Delicatessen: The airport outposts of this longstanding Portland deli — one upstairs at the south end of ticketing and a grab-and-go location at the north end of baggage claim — offers many of the other locations’ knockouts, from chile con queso breakfast burritos to its legendary Mama Leone’s soup. It’s hard to beat the cozy vibes of its chicken pot pie, however.
Deschutes Brewery, also in Concourse D, is where you can drink from 15 taps of Oregon craft brews but also find house beers integrated into dishes — think: salads with Fresh Squeezed IPA Vinaigrette or mac and cheese in an Obsidian Stout cream sauce.
Stumptown: Another famous Oregon name, Stumptown’s coffee stand is a regularly frequented stop before early morning flights. The stand has a full espresso bar, single-origin roasts, and nitro cold brew on tap.
Westward Whiskey: This Southeast-Portland-based single-malt whiskey distillery has a grab-and-go kiosk in Concourse D and a full-blown tasting room in Concourse C. A bottle of Westward’s Pinot Noir Cask, which spends two years in pinot noir barrels from various Willamette Valley wineries, isn’t a bad idea as a last-minute holiday or homecoming gift.
- For those seeking a pre-flight coffee, Portland Coffee Roasters has a small spot to pick up a latte or cup of drip. Portland Coffee Roasters can be found all over PDX — the roaster operates two more kiosks on the other side of security.
South Lobby (between Concourse A & B, and C)
- The popular family-owned Capers Cafe offers a huge menu and multiple daily changing specials. Visit for the wine bar, stocked with Oregon and Washington wines.
- Stumptown Coffee Roasters is likely the airport’s best option for a pre-flight cold brew, as well as artfully made coffee drinks.
Currently closed: Kenny & Zuke’s Delicatessen and Market.
- Henry’s Tavern is known for its 32 taps, the house-seasoned waffle fries with Gorgonzola sauce, and its juicy burgers.
In a food court with seats and tables in a shared center, travelers will find:
• Café Yumm is an Oregon-based chain offering healthy rice bowls or wraps with its signature Yumm! sauces: creamy and tangy garbanzo-bean-based spreads the texture of hollandaise.
• Mo’s Seafood & Chowder, a family-owned Oregon institution since 1946, brings the Oregon coast to the PDX airport with its famous clam chowder, fried seafood baskets, and seafood sandwiches.
• Westward Whiskey, offering a number of single-malt whiskeys with locally malted barley, operates a tasting room and retail shop for those looking to take home something special.
• Bambuza Vietnam Kitchen is a local chainlet that offers banh mi sandwiches, vermicelli bowls, and pho.
• Build your own pizza at national pizza chain MOD Pizza, or select from the menu’s pizza list including breakfast pizzas.
• Potbelly Sandwich Shop is a national chain known for toasted submarine sandwiches and malts.
North Lobby (after Security between Concourse D and E)
- The Capers Market offers a handful of breakfast and lunch entrees, and serves as a market thoughtfully stocked with local products and you can easily assemble your own Pacific Northwest cheese and charcuterie plate.
- Portland Coffee Roasters is all over the airport: in the pre-security area, at the end of Concourse C, and here, with a selection of Portland-roasted blends and grab-and-go breakfast options. Those looking for more elaborate coffee drinks — pumpkin spice lattes, peppermint mochas — will find what they’re looking for here.
- Deschutes Brewery brewpub has an impressive bar overlooking the airplane action while pouring more than a dozen of its beers, including a reserve library beer and a PDX Pub exclusive. The breakfast options include the belly-busting “Sleeping on the Plane” Bowl.
In an area that has seats and tables in the center, travelers will find:
• Hissho Sushi is a national sushi chain that also offers bento boxes, ramen, steamed buns, and makirrito. Grab-and-go boxes of pre-made rolls are available, as well.
• Burgerville, an Oregon fast food chain that regularly sources from Pacific Northwestern farmers, offers a slate of burgers, breakfast sandwiches, and fries, but the real move at Burgerville is to get one of their milkshakes — especially ones made with Oregon strawberries.
Currently closed: Tamale Boy
- Tillamook’s cheese-centric cafe is slinging cheeseburgers, breakfast sandwiches, and grilled cheeses alongside the obligatory mac and cheese. The real move here is to get the fried cheese curds with a dilly ranch dipping sauce, available as a side with a number of the shop’s sandwiches.
- Local eco-brewpub Hopworks Urban Brewery is pouring eight taps of its certified organic beers alongside its pizzas, salads, burgers, and quinoa bowls. Its reclaimed wood bar highlighted with bicycle wheels is a good place to linger over their Brewer’s Poutine with beer gravy and a Northwest hop IPA.
- A Pacific Northwestern salad bar chain, Evergreens just opened a new location in PDX. This location offers build-your-own salads, as well as tweaked standards like a cobb known as the Cobb Your Enthusiasm and a jalapeño-kale caesar.