Welcome to Dining Confidential, a monthly column in which local chefs talk about their favorite places in Portland, highlighting their own restaurant’s ethos, sharing fun personal takes, and fostering a community spirit. Know of a chef you’d like to see featured? Let us know via our tip line.
Nikeisah Newton’s Meals 4 Heels is known to Portlanders as a food stall and late-night delivery service for sex workers and dancers. Her (mostly) vegan and vegetarian menu, with items named after industry phrases like “Gettin That Paper” and “The Verbal Tipper,” is both functional and emotional.
“If you’re working late, you may not get time to sit and eat. Massaged kale and collards will hold up and be easy on your belly at 1 a.m. It’s not gonna get spoiled, and it’s not gonna have you sluggish,” says Newton. “And I like to include things that are found very rarely on Portland menus,” such as Ethiopian-spiced mushrooms with berbere and cardamom.
“The food’s a reflection of where I’ve traveled, where I’ve lived, and what I like. My dad was in the Air Force for twenty years, so I grew up in Portugal, Japan, Arizona, California, North Dakota, and North Carolina,” she says. Those connections to where Nikeisah has traveled are also reflected in the variety of restaurants she frequents.
“I’m willing to get out there and try stuff. The world’s our oyster, you know? Shuck it up.”
Cameo Cafe East. It’s nice to get the fusion: noodles and bacon and amazing hot sauces. You see the same faces that have been there for years. I love seeing the chefs do what they do without a lot of talking. It’s like an orchestra.
For a quick lunch:
We have Come Thru, the BIPOC farmer’s market here in the parking lot and it’s usually a slammin’ day for me and we sell out of food, so I go over to MidCity SmashBurger and get 2 smashburgers and fries and a soda.
For date night dinner:
I don’t eat fancy food a lot. I tend to save it for a nice little sit-down like Bar Casa Vale. The anchovy and jamon appetizers are so good and the paella is on point – spicy, good quality seafood, and the rice is crispy.
Wheat Bay Chinese Restaurant, that’s a new Chinese place my girl and I have been going to. They have beef pancakes with garlic chives that blew us away. The flavors are so strong and delicious. They also have popcorn chicken with a little spice dust on it and I fuckin’ love it.
For that thing she craves:
I always want fried chicken. I wanna do a shoutout to LoRell’s Chicken Shack. It’s crunchy chicken and he puts some magic dust, some kind of spice powder on there. It’s an amazing place.
Toki’s delicious fried chicken wing flight. The cheeseburger bao. The noodles. I think it’s just a fun take on food. The staff provides good service, too, they’re very comforting.
For a meal in her neighborhood:
I like Cedo’s Falafel and Gyros. Delicious Lebanese food owned by a husband and wife – Cedo was the grandfather. After a workout, I always get the gyro plate. That’s my neighborhood, and I get stuck in my quadrant.
Yaad Style Jamaican Cuisine is also good when I wanna slow down. The oxtails, the beans and rice, and I always get a beef patty. It’s all amazing.
For a meal that reminds her of home:
One of my favorites I gotta shout out is Erica’s Soul Food. Get the fried catfish and a couple extra wings, some grits, collard greens, cornbread. It’s still hot and fresh when you take it home.
Kee’s #Loaded Kitchen when you’re trying to feed the fam. You get so much food, you can feast on it for two or three days. It reminds me of home, of my mom’s cooking, a lot.
For her sweet tooth:
I like little jelly squiggly things. Bubble tea and juicy lychee and mochi and halo halo. I like the matcha and the shave ice at Premium Matcha Cafe Maiko on Cesar Chavez.
Sweedeedee recently had this amazing apricot-carrot cake. The baker over there [pastry chef Mason Suda] is doin’ a damn good job.
For those one-of-a-kind bites:
Tamales at Tienda Santa Cruz. The masa is seasoned well, it’s soft and smooth, and the ratio to meat is on point. Huaraches, kind of like a sope, it’s fried masa and I get it supreme with sour cream and avocado and tomatoes. When you go there, you know it’s going to be consistently good. Mexican-American delight here in Portland.
The cold clear noodle salad with chicken at Master Kong. The cucumber and carrots are crunchy, the noodles have a bit of a bite, and the sauce… It’s a go-to summertime umami bomb. I’ve never had anything like it anywhere else.