In the rough-and-tumble city of foraged dining, vegan soul food, whole-animal butchery, and bacon-topped maple bars, there are a lot of opinions around what to eat. This guide slices through the designer flannel to help tourists find the best Portland food and drink out there.
Welcome to the Land of Craftsman Cuisine
Straight up, Portland has something most other cities do not: the natural bounty of the Willamette Valley, somewhat unblemished by pollution. This gives Portland chefs a huge arsenal of ingredients to play with — whether the cuisine of choice is regional Thai or Andean. The city is known for its inventive and daring food cart culture, which span more than 25 distinct “pods;” standing in parking lots or seated at outdoor fire pits, people dine on Texas smoked brisket and duck-stuffed jianbing. That food cart scene is just as reliant on Oregon grown produce, whether it’s the neighborhood-grown vegetables on a Tuscan sandwich or the blue corn masa used for tetelas.
Where to Start: Eater Portland's Top Maps
Eater publishes and updates a rather massive database of maps — each focusing on classic foods or dining trends, from dumplings to fried chicken. For those who want to get to Portland’s culinary heart through its ribcage, we’ve compiled the crème de la crème, the top listings, from each of these maps here:
Eater Portland’s map of essential restaurants and carts includes a number of exceptional restaurants, cafes, and carts in most of the city’s neighborhoods. Spend a day eating your way through the map’s greatest hits. For brunch, sit down in one of the sunny window booths at Maurice for pots of tea, rosemary scones, fluffy quiche, and black pepper cheesecake. For lunch, Rose VL Deli is a treasure trove of layered, fragrant Vietnamese noodles — Saturday provides the restaurant’s best selection of noodles and soups, including its breathtaking cao lau, combining thick, udon-esque noodles with herbs, a pristine and garlicky broth, and a handful of torn herbs and vegetables. For dinner, splurge on a tasting menu at the regional Thai spot Langbaan, the eclectic pseudo-wine bar Arden, or the kaleidoscopic French-ish stalwart Le Pigeon.
The restaurant on everybody’s lips right now is Xiao Ye, a deeply personal culinary exploration of what owners Louis Lin and Jolyn Chen call “first generation American food.” Any given meal may involve masa-mochiko madeleines with a flavor akin to jalapeño cornbread, a variation on the Korean tartare dish yukhoe with Mt. Hood-grown pears, or glazed pork coppa ssam with toum and ssamjang. For a pretty date night spot, the second-floor charmer L’Orange is a wine nerd’s dream, with a killer list and dishes like Parisian gnocchi and bay shrimp crepes.
Portland’s cart culture is perhaps the most iconic element of the local food scene, from the braised-beef-topped, potato-stuffed taquitos at Tito’s Taquitos to the hangover-cure-worthy bibim boxes at Kim Jong Grillin’. In terms of efficiency, it’s best to visit a food cart pod with a large number of noteworthy carts. In North Portland, that’s Prost Marketplace, home to icons like Matt’s BBQ and Desi; in Southeast Portland, it might be the Portland Mercado, home to a number of Latin American carts — including Oaxacan spot Tierra del Sol and Yucatecan cart Principe Maya.
Portland’s identity as a specialty coffee haven has not dissipated in the last decade. Stumptown remains tried and true, even after the corporate switcheroos, but lovers of fine coffee need to make the effort to visit Push X Pull or Proud Mary. Deadstock is the place to be for bright roasts well-suited to iced drinks and espresso, while Portland Cà Phê showcases the brooding flavor profile of Vietnamese-grown beans.
This city’s top sandwich shops excel at the artisan sandwich, and while the longtime ruling king is definitively Lardo, now there are a number of viable contenders: Sammich’s Italian beef, Pasture’s pastrami, Jojo’s fried chicken sandwiches, Demarco’s Italian hero, An Xuyen’s banh mi — the options are relatively endless.
There’s no getting around it now — Portland is one of the country’s great pizza cities, whether you like it or not. The city’s access to fresh, whole-grain flours, its penchant for sourdough and baking, and its passion for Oregon-grown produce makes the city’s pies worth a second look. For a taste of what we could call “Portland pizza,” Lovely’s Fifty-Fifty should be stop one, thanks to its sturdy and flavorful crusts topped with truly of-the-moment toppings (Chef’s Table agrees). The city is also home to a cool range of cultural crossover pizzerias — pop by Hapa Pizza for toppings inspired by banh mi and pho, or Reeva for the “pizzaleada,” a pizza version of the Honduran baleada. For something square, Ranch Pizza tops towering Sicilian-esque squares with dense layers of pepperoni or dollops of ricotta. Other common pizza crawl stops include Ken’s Artisan, Scottie’s, Apizza Scholls, and Red Sauce.
With a wild number of breweries, Portland-based brewers come close to perfecting the art of craft beer. Brett and farmhouse fans adore Little Beast, Cascade Brewing, or Upright Brewing, while German-style beer aficionados may prefer Zoiglhaus or Occidental. But the brewpub beer snobs absolutely cannot miss, both for its food and its beer, is Breakside Brewery.
Brunch here is a blood sport. While many restaurants offer the standard array of Benedicts and scrambles, some Portland restaurants and food carts have become true innovators in the art of breakfast: Toki tucks koji-cured pork belly into bao topped with everything bagel seasoning; Astral at Duality Brewing layers chorizo verde, seared queso Oaxaca, and a buttery omelet between a sliced concha. For more recommendations, check out our one-stop shop for breakfast maps, recommendations, and news.
Portland is a national hotspot for Southeast Asian cuisine, from Thai to Vietnamese; it is absolutely essential to visit Hat Yai and Rose VL Deli while in town. Portland fares rather well for ramen and for burgers, and Eater has those guides covered. Oh, and of course, those who abstain from meat will be well-fed in Portland, with several vegan options for dinner or even brunch. For another quick-and-dirty guide to the must-visits in Portland, check out our Portland dining starter pack.
Portland Food Neighborhoods to Know
Portland is broken up into six general “quadrants” (yes, we’re in on the joke) — North, South, Northeast, Northwest, Southwest, and Southeast — but the city is defined by its many small neighborhoods within these six larger regions. Here are the key food ‘hoods of Portland:
North Portland, colloquially known as the “fifth quadrant,” consists of everything above Burnside, from North Williams to the east and the Willamette River to the west. There are several noteworthy neighborhoods within North Portland — we’ve focused on North Mississippi into its own section below — but for a rough primer, here’s a good way to eat through North Portland: Start on Williams with coffee at Either/Or and a croissant from Jinju Patisserie. From there, you can either head south to Kayo’s Ramen Bar or Eem for lunch, or head north to St. Johns for Mexican food (Tienda Santa Cruz for caldos or burritos; El Coyote for carnitas tacos). For dinner, either eat sourdough pizza and house-made ice cream at Gracie’s, or enjoy the ceviches at Peruvian stunner Casa Zoraya. North Portland is also home to arguably the city’s best bagel, found at Bernstein’s.
North Mississippi and Albina
A local favorite, North Mississippi is a pseudo-bohemian wonderland of food carts, whiskey, and pizza. Visitors should start the day with breakfast at Sweedeedee on Albina for custardy French toast, a breakfast sandwich with hot pickle mayo, and as many of the deli case’s exceptional salads as possible. After shopping through Mississippi’s numerous boutiques, pop by Prost Marketplace for a lunch of Portland’s best brisket, found glistening with fat at the humble Matt’s BBQ cart, or chai-cardamom chicken at Desi PDX. For a taste of Oregon pinot, stop by Stem for a flight; or, for something less boozy, sit down to a pot of rose tea at Tea Chai Té. Stop by Lovely’s Fifty-Fifty for morel-topped pizzas and peach leaf ice cream, or house some Thai noodle soups at Mee Sen across the street. And for post-dinner drinks, the back porches at Bar Bar, Interurban, and the Rambler provide a true taste of rustic Portland homeyness.
Portland’s downtown is primarily dominated by food carts and hotels, which is where to find some of the neighborhood’s best meals. However, many hotels are currently out of commission — which includes their restaurants. Nonetheless, Bullard and its sibling bar Abigail Hall are still kicking, from the guajillo-rubbed chicken and smoked beef rib at the former to the martinis and shrimp cocktail at the latter. For lunch or dinner prix fixe, the deeply European and blissfully understated Maurice is essential eating, and the deeply flavorful Caribbean chicken and rice at Love Belizean is in the lunch rotation for downtown locals. And for pho, it’s hard to beat Luc Lac.
Southeast Division and Clinton
The restaurants ruling Division and Clinton are not the same as the ones who ran the street even ten years ago, with a few exceptions. Relative newcomers have turned heads in that neighborhood: Palomar, a Cuban cocktail bar with a nationally celebrated bartender and shockingly meticulous frozen daiquiris; Oma’s Hideaway, a freewheeling bar and restaurant with boozy slushies and a to-die-for game hen; Magna, an exciting Filipino spot with charcoal-grilled skewers and seasonal fare; Quaintrelle, with its colorful tasting menu and top-notch bar. However, there are some tried-and-true favorites that remain in the culinary canon, like quintessential dive bar and nationally significant fried chicken destination Reel M Inn. Wherever you go, end your day with some Pinolo Gelato or a slice of pie at Lauretta Jean’s.
The tree-and-boutique-lined streets of Northwest are in the midst of a shake-up: Suddenly, several new restaurants, bars, and cafes are all eyeing Portland’s upper left neighborhood for expansions and openings. In recent years, Northwest Portland has accrued a number of destination-worthy spots, including the casual Kashmiri cafe Bhuna and acclaimed Mexican tasting menu restaurant República. The longtime standby is the dazzling French restaurant St. Jack, with its breezy take on brasserie staples. For a funky wine list and unforgettable gnocchi, hit up Arden Wine Bar.
Buckman and Central Eastside
The Central Eastside neighborhood is spread out, so don’t expect to walk between these dining hotspots. Don’t miss the game-changing charcuterie producer Olympia Provisions, French chef’s counter Le Pigeon, Slavic dinner hall Kachka and its adjoining market, and wine bar and bistro Ok Omens. For a classic (borderline cliche) Portland experience, Central Eastside is home to food cart pods Cartopia and its neighbor, Hawthorne Asylum; nab peanut-butter-and-jelly fries at Potato Champion at the former and creamy rosé tteokbokki at Mukja within the latter.
Northeast Alberta and Killingsworth
The Northeast Alberta and Killingsworth neighborhoods have their own artsy style and dining scene to match. In many ways, this Northeast Portland area is a kingmaker: Some of the city’s most nationally recognizable names began on the two streets. Killingsworth, farther north, is home to no-joke cocktail bar Expatriate and the original Hat Yai location; farther south on Alberta, Australian brunch and coffee icon Proud Mary sits among homegrown favorites like Basque pintxo and tapas bar Urdaneta, standout deli and butcher shop Pasture, sushi destination Zilla Sake, Hawaiian sensation GrindWitTryz, and pasta hotspot Gumba. Alberta’s food carts are also particularly special — we love pizza cart Paladin Pie, Filipino cart Baon Kainan, and Mexican cart Mole Mole, specifically.
82nd is a sprawling thoroughfare stretching up to Highway 30 and down into Clackamas. It’s also home to some of the city’s exemplary Chinese and Vietnamese food, either directly on the street or right off of it. Starting to the north, you can have breakfast at the diner Cameo Cafe, which serves kimchi alongside eggs and bacon and lists mung bean pancakes next to the buttermilks. Lunch could be spent at Pho Oregon, a true Portland institution. The CORE food cart pod and food hall is home to carts and stalls serving everything from mochi flour doughnuts to Burmese mohinga. Happy Dragon is a smart choice for those craving roast duck, and Tèo Bun Bo Hue is the place to be for the namesake soup — within the same strip mall, Jin Jin Deli serves a knockout Vietnamese sate. For dim sum, H.K. Cafe or Excellent Cuisine will serve nicely. Whatever you do, however, be sure to grab a soup or two from Ha VL, the predecessor to Rose VL.
East Portland, the Numbers, and Gresham
“The Numbers” refers to the neighborhoods and suburbs east of 82nd, one of the most diverse communities in Portland. It’s home to some of the city’s best Mexican food, from the quesabirria served at Birrieria La Plaza or Birrieria PDX to the tacos gobernador at La Tía Juana. Outside the world of Mexican cuisine, East Portland is home to standbys like Sayler’s, as well as Southeast Asian carts and markets like Kasoy & Co and Lily Market, respectively.
Reservations to Make in Advance
This new Haitian restaurant can sell out of reservations for the following month minutes after they drop, so set your alarm. Reservations drop on the first of each month at noon Pacific Time — but that’s for the following month. For example, December reservations will be released on November 1. Really, the move is to keep an eye on Instagram for cancelations. Reservations are available on Resy.
This nationally celebrated omakase is back in business, though it may be even harder to get a seat here than it was back in 2019. It’s hard to tell when the restaurant will release reservations, but typically, reservations for the month would drop around five or six weeks in advance; for example, all reservations for the month of January will be released in late November. Watch Instagram like a hawk to snag one; if you miss it, however, you’re not completely out of options. The website posts cancelation seats online, and those with a particular date in mind can add themselves to the waiting list.
Langbaan serves historic regional Thai dishes—some from ancient royalty’s cookbooks—and is perhaps the hardest Portland restaurant to get into. The hidden restaurant inside of Phuket Cafe books out a month in advance.
Gabriel Rucker’s free-wheeling French fare has earned him a few James Beard Awards, plus a loyal group of local devotees. It doesn’t take too much planning to make a reservation at Le Pigeon, though reservations tend to book up a few weeks ahead of time.
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- Interested in upcoming restaurant openings? Follow our Coming Attractions tag to see what’s in the works from the city’s restaurateurs.
Get in Touch
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