For years, the Portland International Airport — PDX — has been voted one of, if not the, best domestic airports in the United States by Travel and Leisure readers, as well as earning top honors and accolades from other leading travel outlets including Conde Nast Traveler. While amenities like the movie theater, live music from local musicians, and boozy tasting rooms all contribute to its reputation as a cushy layover, part of PDX’s charm is that it strives to be a true reflection of the quirky, craft-driven city it represents, especially when it comes to dining.
Currently, PDX’s plethora of dining options include outposts of many heavy-hitter names from the local dining scene, including Lardo, Screen Door, and Good Coffee, along with cafes, bars, and grab-and-go markets. In true Portland fashion, menus feature inclusive options for vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free travelers, as well as a host of new non-alcoholic craft beverage options at the Country Cat.
PDX is also in a state of flux at the moment, undergoing a major renovation of the main terminal that’s slated for completion in 2024 or 2025. Not only does that mean a beautiful new terminal for travelers to shop, dine, and unwind in, but there will be up to 14 new concession spaces. Until then, travelers have more than enough options for a bite to eat or a relaxed meal during a long layover. Something to note: the concourse connector hallway, which usually makes it easy for visitors to explore the whole airport without going through security again, is currently under construction, so it’s best to look within your side of the airport when considering a meal.
Lardo is a Portland legend, a sandwich cart-turned-local chain that is known for its hardcore sandwiches and dirty fries. Situated in the corner of the South Lobby with access to Concourses B and C, Corner Store by Lardo keeps travelers satiated with bacon-egg-and-cheeses, thick Italian subs, and salads available to-go or to-stay at the sit-down countertop bar area.
The Country Cat, just past security in the North Lobby, is probably the most compelling reason to come to the airport early for travelers departing out of D and E gates, thanks to its house-made granola and potato-filled three-egg omelet. For a quick bite, the house-smoked turkey sandwich from the grab-and-go menu is an option.
Flying Elephant’s Delicatessen: The two airport outposts of this longstanding Portland deli offer 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.
Café Yumm! is a smart option in Concourse C, specifically because its namesake 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 distinctive Made in Oregon staple. Plus, it’s also one of travelers’ best options for plant-based PDX meals, from gluten-free to vegan.
Tillamook Market: One of Oregon’s most famous brands, this dairy company’s cafe serves cheesy comfort foods like fried cheese curds, Tillamook cheddar cheeseburgers, and sourdough-pretzel-topped 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.
Deschutes Brewery, also in Concourse D, offers on-tap pours of Oregon craft brews with hearty pub grub including elk burgers, cheesy flatbreads, and fast-and-easy garlic fries with orange rosemary aioli.
Blue Star Donuts, available in Concourse E, is Portland’s other big-name doughnut shop, with flavors like blueberry bourbon basil and passionfruit cacao nib. These brioche-dough wonders will make any early morning flight bearable.
Screen Door, a fresh-faced vision in pink and white in the new, light-filled Concourse B, brings its beloved Southern fare like chicken and waffles to weary travelers. Both brunch and dinner classics from the East Portland staple make appearances on the menu here, as well as brunch cocktails.
Juliett, the new women-in-aviation-themed bar from Lightning Bar Collective and Chefstable, sits at at the far end of Concourse E. The space harkens back to the golden-age glamour of air travel, with its elegant Art Deco-esque design and a slew of craft cocktails from Adam Ohlsson; alternatively, the bar also serves Oregon-made wine and beer from Coopers Hall and Fracture Brewing, respectively. On days when she’s out, the views of Mount Hood further enhance the atmosphere.
• Flying Elephant’s Delicatessen, a Portland deli and cafe chain, offers classic and grilled sandwiches, soups, deli salads, and frittata by the pound. Elephant’s now has two locations in the airport: One upstairs on the south side of ticketing, as well as a grab-and-go location downstairs by baggage claim.
- 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 in the North Lobby and Concourse C.
- With the current lack of pre-security food and drink options for travelers and employees due to ongoing renovations, PDX has started bringing in a rotation of three food trucks, which set up shop in the departures drop-off area right outside ticketing. Typically open Monday through Friday around lunchtime, options range from burritos and tortas at Taqueria La Merced, sandwiches from Alchemy Sandwich Co., and bowls and subs from Pidgin Hole.
- Down the escalators at the baggage claim level, travelers in search of a post-flight pick-me-up while waiting for baggage can grab a coffee from national chain Peet’s Coffee.
South Lobby (between Concourse B and C)
- The popular family-owned Capers Cafe offers a huge menu and multiple daily changing specials, including breakfast omelets, sandwiches, and salads. The restaurant’s bar is a nice spot to try Oregon and Washington wines during a long layover.
- Stumptown Coffee Roasters is likely the airport’s best option for a pre-flight cold brew, as well as artfully made coffee drinks.
- Lardo slings its sandwiches in the South Lobby, with a selection of breakfast sandwiches and Italian subs for dine-in or grab-and-go, as well as a beer or glass of wine.
- Screen Door serves its famous chicken and waffles and all-day brunch and dinner favorites at its recently opened outpost in the new Concourse B. Travelers can cozy up to the bar for an accompanying cocktail, or dine in the balcony area overlooking the concourse below.
- Good Coffee keeps travelers caffeinated with drip coffee, lattes, cappuccinos, and seasonal drinks made with house-roasted beans, as well as a selection of teas. The neutral-toned, plant-bedecked coffee bar area, separated from the rest of the concourse by a slat wall, is a quiet respite from airport hustle and bustle.
- Henry’s Tavern is known for its 32 taps, the house-seasoned waffle fries with Gorgonzola sauce, and its juicy burgers.
- Starbucks is... technically a Pacific Northwestern-founded chain of coffee shops. There’s a location near the entrance to the concourse.
In a food court with seats and tables in a shared center, travelers will find:
• Bambuza Vietnam Kitchen, a local chainlet that offers banh mi sandwiches, vermicelli bowls, and pho. The restaurant’s beef pho comes stocked with slices of rib-eye, best paired with one of the restaurant’s interesting juices.
• Café Yumm!, an Oregon-based chain offering rice bowls or wraps with Yumm! sauce — creamy and tangy chickpea-based spreads the texture of hollandaise.
• Mo’s Seafood & Chowder, a family-owned Oregon institution since 1946, beloved for its famous clam chowder, fried seafood baskets, and seafood sandwiches.
• Westward Whiskey, offering a number of single-malt whiskeys with locally malted barley, available for both retail and tasting.
• National pizza chain MOD Pizza, known for its build-your-own pizzas.
• Potbelly Sandwich Shop, a national sandwich chain.
Toward the end of the concourse, you’ll find:
• Vino Volo, an airport wine bar pouring a selection of local Oregon wines as well as national and international offerings.
- The aforementioned Portland Coffee Roasters.
• McDonald’s — you know McDonald’s, right?
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; you can easily assemble your own Pacific Northwest cheese and charcuterie plate here.
- The Country Cat closed its original location in Montavilla, making the airport location the last standing remnant of Adam and Jackie Sappington’s down-home institution. The quintessential Portland restaurant offers several sandwiches and Southern comfort food, as well as breakfast, burgers, salads, and grab-and-go sandwiches.
- Portland Coffee Roasters also operates a location here, for those seeking a quick coffee before a flight.
- Deschutes Brewery brewpub has an impressive bar overlooking the airplane action while pouring a number of its craft beers. When it comes to food, lunch or dinner options include stout mac and cheese, burgers, salads, and flatbreads. When stopping by for breakfast, visitors inhale porter French toast with blueberry compote or hearty breakfast burritos.
In an area that has seats and tables in the center, travelers will find:
• Hissho Sushi, 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. Expect a slate of burgers, breakfast sandwiches, and fries, but the real move at Burgerville is to get one of the milkshakes — especially ones made with Oregon strawberries.
- Tillamook’s cheese-centric cafe slings cheeseburgers, breakfast sandwiches, and grilled cheeses alongside the obligatory mac and cheese. The real move here is to get the fried cheese curds with your choice of sharp cheddar ranch, spicy cheddar ranch, or Northwest apple barbecue dipping sauce. Creamy scoops of Tillamook ice cream are also a sure-fire hit, especially with kids on the verge of a travel tantrum.
- Bambuza, mentioned above, also operates a shiny new location in Concourse E — more of a restaurant with a chef’s counter as opposed to food court stall. This is the spot to get a hearty vermicelli bowl or banh mi before heading to the gate.
- Women-in-aviation-themed bar Juliett is likely the strongest airport bar choice for those seeking a fancy cocktail with a view of the planes. The bar is a collaboration between two big-deal Portland restaurant groups: Chefstable and Lightning Bar Collective.
- Local eco-brewpub Hopworks Urban Brewery has on-tap pours of some of its certified organic beers. Its reclaimed wood bar, adorned with bicycle wheels, is a good place to linger over a Northwest hop IPA.
- A Pacific Northwestern salad bar chain, Evergreens opened a new location in PDX. This location offers build-your-own salads, as well as tweaked standards like a Cobb called the Cobb Your Enthusiasm and a jalapeño-kale caesar.
- Stumptown’s second PDX location revives travelers with coffee drinks made from its signature roasts, with light grab-and-go breakfast options and plenty of merch.
- Grab a pre-flight doughnut from the Blue Star Donuts food cart stall en-route to your gate.
- Westward Whiskey also has a kiosk in this concourse, selling full bottles and merch for souvenirs.
And when it comes to non-local chains:
- Jamba Juice is a national smoothie bar chain, also located in Concourse E.
- Starbucks also operates a location in Concourse E.
Correction November 23, 2022 at 9:17 a.m.: This story has been corrected to show there will be 14 new concession spaces after the renovation, not 24.