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A takeout container from Baon Kainan in Portland Oregon, filled with two pieces of chicken in a light brown sauce, topped with pickled daikon and carrots and steamed bok choy.
Chicken adobo from Baon Kainan.
Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland

The 38 Essential Restaurants and Food Carts in Portland

The city’s most astounding restaurants, food carts, bars, and more

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Chicken adobo from Baon Kainan.
| Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland

With its tangle of rivers, bevy of urban farms, and surplus of talented chefs, Portland is a dining city to its core. At food carts, subterranean bars, and white-tablecloth restaurants, chefs gather some of the region’s finest ingredients to transform into immaculate sushi, handmade pastas, and imaginative pintxos. For a city its size, Portland’s restaurant scene is impressively multifaceted — traditional and offbeat, covering hundreds of cuisines from various countries and regions around the world. The through-line comes from the city’s collaborative nature, a desire to work with other farmers, producers, and even competitors to make something fun and new.

Each quarter, Eater Portland updates the Eater 38, a list of exceptional restaurants, food carts, and markets that define what it means to eat here. The list sticks to businesses that have been open in Portland for at least a year, and that add something distinct and invaluable to the dining scene at large. In particular, the restaurants and bars that this map celebrates are those who have gone above and beyond in a period when doing the bare minimum is herculean.

This update, we’ve added Pearl District restaurant Arden, as well as the food carts Mole Mole and Eater Award-winner Baon Kainan. Langbaan also returns to the map in its new location. Erica’s Soul Food has left the map while the cart hibernates, alongside Southeast Clinton’s Quaintrelle, St Johns pizzeria Gracie’s Apizza (which will close in November and December before opening in a new location), and multi-location Oaxacan spot Tierra del Sol. For some of the most exciting new restaurants and carts in Portland, check out the Eater Portland heatmap.

Note: Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

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Bing Mi Food Cart

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In the time since Jacky Ren took over this longstanding Portland food cart, it has reached new heights: The team at this Northwest Portland Chinese cart has mastered the formula for impeccable jianbing, suede-smooth crepes wrapped around slices of duck and sausage with the crunch of cucumber and cracker. The cart’s house-made “bing sauce” gives each bite a nice salty-sweetness, while the addition of zha cai provides a burst of tang to bring things together.

Langbaan

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Akkapong Earl Ninsom is the restaurateur behind several stars in Portland’s culinary constellation, but Langbaan — his supper club within Northwest Portland’s Phuket Cafe — is the brightest. Here, tasting menus pull inspiration from regions, time periods, and styles of dining throughout Thailand’s culinary history, though a few dishes remain as constants as menus change: Jewels of cara cara orange mingle with plump shrimp and peanuts, cradled in a betel leaf with fish sauce caramel, while a crispy rice cup supports Hokkaido scallop, coated in a sweet coconut cream. Every meal ends with a dessert from pastry chef Maya Erickson, one of the city’s finest.

St. Jack

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Nothing feels as celebratory as a meal at St. Jack, where diners marvel at beautiful plates in a humming dining room, glasses of Champagne bubbling on tables. The simple classics are done astoundingly well here: The restaurant’s knockout chicken liver mousse is velveteen and has a sweetness reminiscent of rich ice cream, and a simple plate of steak frites comes with an on-point shallot-red wine demi-glace and tangy bearnaise. But distinctive dishes like mushroom vol-au-vent topped with a bouquet of lettuces and nasturtium, or beef tartare with pickled beets and rye crumbs, are the ones that keep St. Jack at top-of-mind when thinking about special occasion restaurants.

Ringside Steakhouse

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West-side institution Ringside is Portland’s essential steakhouse, serving slabs of beef and James Beard’s beloved onion rings since 1944. Its cozy dining room — replete with fireplaces, burgundy booths, and white tablecloths — screams steakhouse, and the menu echoes the same: Diners start with prawn cocktail or an iceberg wedge, maybe a bowl of French onion soup encrusted with Gruyere. Dry-aged rib-eyes or buttery filet mignon sit next to a gargantuan pile of garlic mashed potatoes, drenched in bearnaise or lavish foie gras butter. Prime rib comes with the customary Yorkshire pudding and fresh horseradish, perhaps with a decadent addition of lobster mashed potatoes. But the real draw of Ringside is likely its roster of career servers — the restaurant is home to the city’s finest service, from the first Old Fashioned to the last glass of pinot.

Toki Restaurant

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When the Han Oak team opened Toki on Portland’s west side, they started small, with a few fun, casual snacks: variations on Korean fried chicken, a dry-aged beef cheeseburger sealed inside a steamed bun, breakfast sandwiches stacked with pork belly. Past its first anniversary, however, Toki has grown into a restaurant that shows off the wide range of talent found within the kitchen. All of the aforementioned dishes remain on the menu, but they’re joined by elegant house-made noodle dishes and seasonal seafood crudos perked up with yuzu. Toki has taken the magic of Han Oak and transformed it into something fitting the current dining climate — you can pop in for takeout fried chicken, or sit down to a lavish brunch.

Mucca Osteria

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Mucca harkens back to an era of dining — and a caliber of service — hard to find in contemporary Portland, where servers in ties and vests refill water glasses after a sip or two, where dishes meant to be shared are split and plated per person without a second thought, where a bowl of warm focaccia lands on the table just a few moments after diners place their orders. But service is nothing if the food can’t deliver, and Mucca delivers in spades: Ribbons of 500-day prosciutto di Parma snugly encase a mound of burrata, a wild-tasting quail leans on a crisp polenta cake and a sprinkle of smoked paprika olive oil powder, a seared scallop sitting on a swipe of Parmesan fondue plays pedestal to a dollop of caramelized shallots and garlic blossoms.

A very yellow pasta comes with garlic blossoms, olive oil powder, veal bolognese, and sundried tomatoes on a gray plate at Mucca
Yolk-yellow pasta tossed with sundried tomatoes and veal bolognese at Mucca
Brooke Jackson-Glidden/Eater Portland

Arden Restaurant Portland

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Once home to Top Chef contestant Sara Hauman, this stylish Pearl District restaurant is now the turf of longstanding Portland chef Erik Van Kley, a talent with a singular perspective on classic Pacific Northwestern ingredients. A plate of artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, and albacore sit in a puree of artichoke and urfa biber — the fish plays off the sweet brininess of the hearts of palm, while the hearts of palm and artichoke share a similar vegetal twang that lends itself to an acidic complement. Pierogies hide under a thicket of Burgundian truffles and parsley leaves, Fresno and fennel hot sauce adding pops of orange to a creme fraiche; the flavor is immediately recognizable, the truffle adding a fun air of froofiness to the herbed creme fraiche. Simple, unembellished duck is meant to highlight the natural variance of flavors in the poultry — the sweetness, the richness — juxtaposed with a flavorful vol-au-vent of miso creamed kale and maitakes. All of the food works well with the exceptionally detailed wine list, which includes a few long-cellared options hailing from the Willamette Valley.

Republica

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What started as a cafe and casual restaurant has turned into a nationally acclaimed tasting menu destination, tucked into a sliver of a brick building within Portland’s Pearl District. República’s tasting menu involves ingenious dishes like chanterelle adobo risotto with refried and nixtamalized beans, dropped at tables where servers explain the ideation, culinary lineage, and historical context for each dish. República truly feels like a team effort, creative culinary minds coming up with a full meal’s worth of excellence — from the first memelita to desserts of sourdough ice cream with roasted peaches.

Murata Restaurant

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When identifying Portland’s “essential” restaurants, it seems only fitting to include Murata, the stalwart Japanese restaurant downtown. Since 1988, Portlanders have stepped into its tatami room for dinners of miso soup, tonkatsu, and broiled mackerel, pots of soothing zosui filled with ribbons of egg, chirashi sporting generous slices of salmon and sweet scallop. Murata is old-school in the best way, a style of Japanese restaurant becoming rarer and rarer with time; sitting in its dining room, mulling over crispy tempura or chicken teriyaki, induces a reinvigorating nostalgia hard to find elsewhere.

Lovely's Fifty Fifty

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In a North Mississippi pizza cafe that feels casual but intimate, pizzaiola Sarah Minnick embraces paradoxes beautifully: She took something brimming with childhood charm — pizza and ice cream — and gave it a high-end twist. Ever-changing pizzas are a garden of edible flowers and mushrooms, atop an airy-but-sturdy pizza dough made with Oregon whole grains; they’re accompanied by salads and soups made with peak-season produce. While the menu changes on an almost weekly basis, Minnick’s culinary creativity and attention to detail remains constant. If someone is defining Portland’s distinct pizza style, it’s Minnick.

Casa Zoraya

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Since Zoraya Zambrano and her children, Gary and Gloria Marmanillo, opened Casa Zoraya back in 2018, this Peruvian spot has been Piedmont’s under-the-radar gem: Ceviches land at the table like a work of art, fried calamari adding crunch to a bed of fresh seasonal seafood tossed with a summery leche de tigre. Arroz Chaufa, a Peruvian fried rice dish, gets an upgrade with a passionfruit reduction, which adds dose of acid and sweetness. And the pisco sours feel like they’re shipped straight from Lima, best sipped on Casa Zoraya’s back patio.

Kabba’s Kitchen

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In a nondescript lot off Albina, Kabba Saidikhan quietly serves exceptional Senegalese and Gambian dishes out of a black-and-silver food cart. Flaky fataya (meat pies) stretch and tear apart to reveal a core of intricately spiced ground beef, while acid-laden, whole-fish yassa derives balance from a bed of yellow rice. The cart’s mafe yapp, a creamy tomato-peanut stew with tender hunks of beef, is particularly well complemented by the shop’s bissap. The cart is open for takeout and delivery, with a few tables onsite.

Eem is a restaurant born out of collaboration, an amalgamation of Matt Vicedomini’s smoked meats, Earl Ninsom’s curries and salads, Colin Yoshimoto’s snacks and fried chicken, and Eric Nelson’s lively drinks. The resulting menu feels like it truly and cohesively shares those voices, with burnt ends simmering in a sweet coconut milk curry and barbecue fried rice combining brisket with shishito peppers. But beyond the menu, Eem feels like a place that treats every employee and customer with respect, a warm spot in a cold city that still feels relaxed when nothing feels relaxing. Visitors can grab a corner spot in the depths of the restaurant, or huddle in one of the restaurant’s cozy outdoor cabanas.

Kee’s Loaded Kitchen

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This red food cart and its massive “#Loaded” sign attracts hordes of customers as soon as it opens each day. Owner Kiauna Nelson and her staff load up gargantuan containers of saucy-and-smoky pot roast and garlicky macaroni and cheese. Nelson’s food evokes shouts for how flavorful it is, from the fried chicken tossed in a seasoning reminiscent of Buffalo Bleu potato chips to her slices of cake, thrown in with the order for good measure. One meal is enough to feed four, and make no mistake: This is some of Portland’s finest soul food.

Tame Impala plays on the speakers at this Central Eastside tasting menu restaurant; little pillows hide in the nooks of the banquette. Here, chef Vince Nguyen explores Vietnamese ingredients and dishes through the lens of his several years in fine dining, resulting in a meal that is hard to find anywhere else. Menus change often, but any meal may involve dishes like silken tofu custard studded with pieces of fresh durian, geoduck, and little caramelized petals of lychee, or tiny lobster meatballs, peppery and juicy, in a sweet broth, surrounded by luscious tendon and orange balls of squash. For dessert, diners dunk charcoal-grilled bánh bò nướng, springy and almost savory, in a pandan-steeped coconut milk with a decadent dollop of caviar and fig leaf oil floating on top. Berlu is open for tasting menu service indoors with proof of vaccination, and also offers bakery service on Sundays.

Nong's Khao Man Gai

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The original carts are gone, but Nong's Khao Man Gai’s restaurant space on Southeast Ankeny is still kicking, serving chef Nong Poonsukwattana’s signature dish: a deceptively simple take on Hainanese chicken. Ask five acolytes their favorite part of the dish and each will offer a different answer: the soul-satisfying broth, the truly perfect rice, Nong's ginger-heavy sauce, or the chicken itself, skins or no. Poonsukwattana’s story is one of dogged perseverance; that has not changed.

Le Pigeon

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Gabriel Rucker, in his years at Le Pigeon (and, on occasion, Canard and the now-closed Little Bird), often molds the casual or unexpected into a fine dining format, from fried chicken to coconut shrimp; it made him uniquely prepared for the “pandemic pivot,” with his “bird boxes” of takeout and meal kits. Now, the restaurant sticks to a tasting menu, as inventive as ever. A recent dinner started with hamachi in a creamy dressing, adorned with the most delightful cantaloupe popping boba, shaved late summer melon adding crunch akin to celery. Nectarines pickled with aji amarillo and purple sorrel invigorate a braised goat sope, while a panko-breaded veal sausage paired with halibut appears at the center of a shallow pool of sauerkraut broth, sweetened with kernels of corn and evoking the Oregon Coast. And, while Le Pigeon’s tasting menus have always shape-shifted over the years, the finale — a foie gras profiterole — remains, a testament to Rucker’s cheeky culinary style. Tasting menus are available vegetarian, as well, for indoor dining by reservation only.

Matta chef Richard Le refers to his food cart as a Việt Kiều experience: Việt Kiều, a term that refers to ethnically Vietnamese people living outside the country, is how Le identifies, a first-generation Vietnamese American chef from California. His food is a representation of that identity: He recreates fast food classics like Filet-O-Fish with Thai chili tartar sauce and burgers served on pandan milk buns, often incorporating culinary techniques and inspiration he inherited from his mom, aunt, and grandmother. Brunch is often a busy time at the cart, when Le serves gratifyingly messy, well-balanced breakfast sandwiches, layered with smashed pork patties and the cart’s “dac biet sauce.” Le is a deeply casual, instantly likable chef, and his dishes reflect his creativity, charm, and honesty.

Baon Kainan

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Ethan and Geri Leung went from popping up in Seattle to opening this casual food cart next to Vietnamese American mainstay Matta, which offers a simultaneously inventive and accessible take on Filipino staples. Every dish has an incredible depth of flavor, whether it’s the lingering note of seafood and floral acidity in a shrimp-topped arroz caldo, or the tamari-rich adobo, which hits the grill for a touch of char and smoke. Brunches include sticky-sweet tocino and satisfyingly simple garlic rice, each dish popping with acid and salt.

Scotch Lodge

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Scotch Lodge, when it opened in 2019, was easily one of the most exciting new bars in Portland — not just for the hard-to-find whisky selection and creative cocktails, but for its menu of inventive bar snacks. The menu has retained some of those standouts: A soft shell crab sandwich gets its energy from a white kimchi slaw, the mushroom fettuccine comes coated in fiore sardo and a house Fresno spice, and fried Brie sticks rolled in pumpernickel crumbs will rule over any mozzarella stick you’ve ever eaten. The bar menu is, of course, an exceptional compatriot to the kitchen’s offerings.

Normandie

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Twenty-somethings in T-shirts and jeans sit at teal tables in this airy, cool dining room, surrounded by stormy blue walls printed with seahorses. The decor reflects the restaurant’s vaguely oceanic theme, which the kitchen enforces with dishes like Pacific Northwestern oysters with horseradish granita, or seared albacore swimming in an aromatic coconut leche de tigre. Surprisingly, some of Normandie’s most memorable dishes rely on land-locked ingredients, like a miso deviled egg with a filling whipped smooth and dusted with furikake. Then again, those eggs come with just a few dots of tobiko — a little briny touch never hurt anyone, after all.

It’s hard to understate how influential this Buckman Russian restaurant is: When Bonnie and Israel Morales opened Kachka in 2014, it ushered in the great Slavic American culinary renaissance, as restaurants around the country popped up celebrating Eastern European cuisines under-represented in the United States restaurant scene. Today, the restaurant is stronger than ever: The restaurant’s zakuski cover tables, caviar and roe scattered between plates of multi-colored pickles and fish-topped toasts. Bowls of juicy Siberian pelmeni bathe in butter and vinegar, a dollop of smetana sour cream on top for good measure. Tender rabbit swims in a braising liquid of cherries, porcinis, and garlic, perhaps served alongside cabbage rolls filled with beef, pork, and lamb. Drinkers should opt for a few pours of the restaurant’s fun house-infused vodkas, available in flights or single pours.

Hat Yai

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Akkapong Earl Ninsom did it again: After treating Portland to deftly executed Thai cooking at Langbaan and Paadee, the chef and restaurateur created a casual southern Thai compatriot on Northeast Killingsworth with hardcore devotees. Hat Yai’s shallot-fried chicken, salty and fragrant and crunchy, pairs beautifully with Malayu-style curry and crispy roti, all available in the popular combo No. 1. However, diners will be rewarded for straying from the top billing: The restaurant’s searingly spicy kua gling ground pork is abundant with aromatics and alliums, and the dtom som shrimp combines seafood with meaty oyster mushrooms in a broth pleasingly sour with tamarind and ginger.

Nimblefish

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Cody Auger’s Southeast Hawthorne sushi counter has become nationally acclaimed for Edomae-style sushi: delicate, cured slivers of fish, potent and pristine in flavor and texture. The chefs here introduce so many nuances of each fish that are often lost: cold-smoked, salt-and-pepper-cured saba is salty and sweet and smoky in individual acts. Hotate from Northwestern Japan gets a spritz of yuzu, its perfume-y citrus complementing the creaminess of the scallop. And, outside the world of seafood, A5 wagyu is hit with a hand torch so the fat renders silken, but doesn’t cook; the result is a delicate, decadent bite of beef that’s hard to forget. Reservations for the restaurant’s omakase are available via Resy.

Jacqueline

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When Jacqueline opened on Southeast Clinton, it slowly became known as a Pacific Northwestern seafood restaurant, a place for $1 oysters and Dungeness crab toast. Both are still available at Jacqueline today — the former during happy hour, the latter on the dinner menu. However, this restaurant is far more than just its blockbusters. Meals here should start with a flurry of raw dishes, some that feel like Jewish deli standards reimagined: Juniper-cured salmon with green tomatoes and pickled mustard seeds, miso-glazed black cod with fingerlings and onion cream. A hamachi crudo, salty and bathing in mam nem, gets a six-foot lift from a chiffonade of lime leaf. The restaurant’s family-style tasting menu, at $90 per person, is worth every cent.

Mole Mole Mexican Cuisine

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Each day, during lunch hours, Alberta locals line up at this orange-and-green cart in pursuit of chiles en nogada stuffed with ground pork and bowls of lipstick-red pozole, accompanied by prickly pear agua fresca and horchata. The cart’s menu is extensive, with everything from soy curl burritos to cochinita pibil, but it should be no surprise that this cart’s particular specialty is its moles: A sweet and nutty mole negra, an herbaceous and vegetal mole verde. The cart’s fuchsia mole rosa, a rarity at Portland Mexican restaurants made with earthy beets and hibiscus flowers, is available as a coating for tender enchiladas or simply paired with fresh salmon, a smart choice of protein for the sweet-earthy beet sauce. The artful plating — colorful ceramic bowls, garnished with flowers — sets each dish over the top, making this one of the city’s finest Mexican carts.

Mirisata

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There is so much that feels revolutionary about Mirisata: It’s one of Portland’s few collectively owned restaurants, serving vegan Sri Lankan food; Sri Lankan food is already an under-represented cuisine in Portland, let alone a version that is animal-product-free. The restaurant’s soft string hoppers (essentially pucks made of noodles) sop up sweet, caramelized seeni sambol, as well as a soothing red lentil dal and an earthy potato curry. The restaurant’s string kottu, a sort of stir-fry noodle with veggies and vegan egg, is comforting and well-suited to the restaurant’s jackfruit curry. And the parippu vada, crispy fritters filled with split pigeon peas, are absolutely dreamy when dunked in the accompanying green chile sauce. Weekend visitors who can order off the rice-and-curry menu are in for a real treat: banana leaves sporting oyster mushroom curry and deviled sweet potatoes.

Magna Kusina

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When the highly anticipated Filipino restaurant Magna opened in 2019, it was a great restaurant, one that got better every visit with silky squid ink noodles slick in crab fat, homey bowls of pancit bihon, and a sweet charred biko, or coconut sticky rice. But it seems that chef and owner Carlo Lamagna reaches a new level each time his restaurant passes an anniversary, not just as a chef but as a leader. When the pandemic hit, he sold takeout containers of porky lechon and purple ube cookies with neon-green pandan frosting, setting aside a portion of his takeout profits every week to give back to the community. After a hiatus, Magna reopened with a new menu format that holds space for both the supremely casual and the festive, whether it’s a skewer of charcoal-grilled duck tocino or calamansi-scented sisig with silken egg. Every meal must finish with a slice of char-marked biko.

Carlo Lamagna’s adobo uses his father’s recipe
Chef Carlo Lamagna cooking in the kitchen at Magna.
Celeste Noche / EPDX

Ripe Cooperative

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When Beast, Naomi Pomeroy’s influential tasting menu restaurant, was open, it was a destination for tourists and locals — a quintessential celebration spot. Across the street, Pomeroy and Kyle Linden Webster ran Expatriate, a casual cocktail bar counterpart, with burgers and wonton nachos. Ripe Cooperative lands somewhere in between: On a leisurely weekend afternoon, Portlanders sip briny white wine on a plant-lined patio, daintily biting into shokupan rolls filled with Dungeness crab. In the evenings, bowls of hearty, house-made campanelle tossed in a rich vodka sauce land at tables next to Hokkaido scallop crudo in a chilled melon broth. Salads walk the line between intricate and chaste, well-executed vinaigrettes coating in-season produce with a few deliberate adornments. It is one of those any-time, dress-it-up or dress-it-down restaurants, with a freezer and refrigerator case full of take-home treats.

Urdaneta

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At this intimate pintxo bar, Javier and Jael Canteras have developed a reputation for straight-up goofy dishes winking at Northern Spanish flavors, like the toasted brioche bikini combining jamon serrano and American cheese. Still, the traditional Spanish dishes on the menu remain true to the originals, whether it’s crispy-on-the-outside, gooey-on-the-inside croquetas de jamon, or a blackened slice of Basque cheesecake. The restaurant’s selection of vermouth and sherry would make any Iberian proud.

Oma's Hideaway

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Going to this Southeast Division Southeast Asian restaurant always feels like a party, from the first popping boba Jell-O shot to the Fruity Pebble rice crispy treat eaten on the way out. In a funky dining room decked out in marine wallpaper, diners dunk impossibly flaky roti canai in an earthy squash curry, swipe pillowy sweet potato dumplings through a base of green curry, and bite down into beef tongue sandwiches. However, the true move here is to order anything out of the charcoal oven, in particular the succulent, lacquered game hen served alongside a jammy coconut sambal.

Cafe Rowan

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Think of Cafe Rowan as the platonic ideal of a brunch place. The light eaters will find gorgeous avocado toasts, layered with watermelon radish and meyer lemon tahini. Folks on the go can order hearty breakfast sandwiches and burritos, ones stuffed with house-made breakfast sausage and roasted garlic potatoes, respectively. And those looking for luxury can order Benedicts topped with Dungeness crab, drenched in white truffle hollandaise and a sprinkling of edible flowers. Every dish is shockingly intricate — huevos rancheros balance birria de res with the brightness of aji amarillo aioli and salsa verde, with a rich and silky foundation of refried beans. French toast laced with brulee char gets a pile of Mount Rainier huckleberries and coffee-infused maple syrup, finished — in true Pacific Northwestern fashion — with hazelnut crumble. Plus, the restaurant has even gotten into dinner territory, offering prix fixe winemaker dinners and special events.

Kim Jong Grillin

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Kim Jong Grillin, a Korean cart that has probably earned its spot in the city’s hall of food cart fame, still nails every “bibim box” it sells, from the lightly charred japchae to the lipstick-red kimchi. The sleeper hit, however, is its KJG hot dog, topped with sesame sprouts, spicy daikon, kimchi mayo, and pickled mango. Han Ly Hwang, the cart’s owner, has been slinging bulgogi and kimchi fried rice for free on and off throughout the pandemic, feeding food insecure and unemployed restaurant workers.

Dirty Lettuce

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Alkebulan Moroski is exacting with the meat-free proteins at their vegan restaurant, Dirty Lettuce: The chef goes down to the very foundations of the protein structure, mimicking the balance of fat and muscle that gives chicken its juiciness or pork ribs that “fall off the bone” quality. But at the core of Dirty Lettuce is an allegiance to the true Southern classics, be it a Cajun mac and cheese that boggles the mind with its faux sausage, or a fried “chicken” with a crackly skin indistinguishable from the real thing. The mission is to make vegan comfort food that feels true to the original, in an effort to get people more interested in eating less meat — non-judgmental, but still intent on excellence. And trust us: Eating those sour cream and onion mashed potatoes won’t feel like any sort of sacrifice, even without the dairy.

Rose VL Deli

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Tucked into a mini strip mall on Southeast Powell, Rose VL is the cheerful sister restaurant to Ha VL, serving those famous traditional Vietnamese soups with unending depth. Two to three different soups or noodles are served daily, along with brace-yourself strong Vietnamese iced coffee. Portlanders often flock on Saturday for cao lầu, a regional Vietnamese noodle dish with herbs and a tangy, savory sauce. However, it is simply impossible to go wrong, regardless of the soups available any given day.

Jin Jin Deli

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In a neighborhood littered with exceptional Vietnamese and Chinese food, Jin Jin has consistently churned out fine tuned versions of both for decades. Here, visitors grab takeout containers of salted fish fried rice or bánh bột chiên, fried rice flour cakes, from an unassuming cafe space in a Montavilla strip mall. Many of the dishes on the menu are reliably delicious, but Jin Jin’s hủ tiếu sa tế bò — spicy sate beef noodle soup — is what really earns Jin Jin a spot on this map. It is a masterpiece: Ribbons of thinly-shaved beef and wide rice noodles peek out of the depths of a nutty broth scented with five spice, supporting fresh herbs, bean sprouts, and greens.

Birrieria La Plaza - Birria de Res | Mexican Food Truck & Taqueria

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Tijuana-style quesabirria, a cheesy take on the braised beef dish birria de res, is a national sensation for a reason: Melty, gooey, and sometimes crispy cheese is objectively delicious when paired with a slow-braised beef. But Birrieria La Plaza, the truck serving crisp and cheesy vampiros, takeaway cups of steamy consomé, and plates of snug tacos topped with scattered cilantro and onions, is so much more than a cart capitalizing on a trend; the tacos coming out of this cart are some of the city’s best.

Tortilleria Y Tienda De Leon’s

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Under a ceiling of piñatas, this Mexican market and deli remains one of the Portland area’s top spots for guisados. Pros know to order at least one of the beefy birria de res tacos, which come on the market’s house tortillas, though the pork in chile verde is no slouch either. For those uninterested in tacos, the deli’s chile relleno serves as a worthy vehicle for the various guisados. Taking home a few pints of each, plus some tortillas and cactus salad, is the move.

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Bing Mi Food Cart

In the time since Jacky Ren took over this longstanding Portland food cart, it has reached new heights: The team at this Northwest Portland Chinese cart has mastered the formula for impeccable jianbing, suede-smooth crepes wrapped around slices of duck and sausage with the crunch of cucumber and cracker. The cart’s house-made “bing sauce” gives each bite a nice salty-sweetness, while the addition of zha cai provides a burst of tang to bring things together.

Langbaan

Akkapong Earl Ninsom is the restaurateur behind several stars in Portland’s culinary constellation, but Langbaan — his supper club within Northwest Portland’s Phuket Cafe — is the brightest. Here, tasting menus pull inspiration from regions, time periods, and styles of dining throughout Thailand’s culinary history, though a few dishes remain as constants as menus change: Jewels of cara cara orange mingle with plump shrimp and peanuts, cradled in a betel leaf with fish sauce caramel, while a crispy rice cup supports Hokkaido scallop, coated in a sweet coconut cream. Every meal ends with a dessert from pastry chef Maya Erickson, one of the city’s finest.

St. Jack

Nothing feels as celebratory as a meal at St. Jack, where diners marvel at beautiful plates in a humming dining room, glasses of Champagne bubbling on tables. The simple classics are done astoundingly well here: The restaurant’s knockout chicken liver mousse is velveteen and has a sweetness reminiscent of rich ice cream, and a simple plate of steak frites comes with an on-point shallot-red wine demi-glace and tangy bearnaise. But distinctive dishes like mushroom vol-au-vent topped with a bouquet of lettuces and nasturtium, or beef tartare with pickled beets and rye crumbs, are the ones that keep St. Jack at top-of-mind when thinking about special occasion restaurants.

Ringside Steakhouse

West-side institution Ringside is Portland’s essential steakhouse, serving slabs of beef and James Beard’s beloved onion rings since 1944. Its cozy dining room — replete with fireplaces, burgundy booths, and white tablecloths — screams steakhouse, and the menu echoes the same: Diners start with prawn cocktail or an iceberg wedge, maybe a bowl of French onion soup encrusted with Gruyere. Dry-aged rib-eyes or buttery filet mignon sit next to a gargantuan pile of garlic mashed potatoes, drenched in bearnaise or lavish foie gras butter. Prime rib comes with the customary Yorkshire pudding and fresh horseradish, perhaps with a decadent addition of lobster mashed potatoes. But the real draw of Ringside is likely its roster of career servers — the restaurant is home to the city’s finest service, from the first Old Fashioned to the last glass of pinot.

Toki Restaurant

When the Han Oak team opened Toki on Portland’s west side, they started small, with a few fun, casual snacks: variations on Korean fried chicken, a dry-aged beef cheeseburger sealed inside a steamed bun, breakfast sandwiches stacked with pork belly. Past its first anniversary, however, Toki has grown into a restaurant that shows off the wide range of talent found within the kitchen. All of the aforementioned dishes remain on the menu, but they’re joined by elegant house-made noodle dishes and seasonal seafood crudos perked up with yuzu. Toki has taken the magic of Han Oak and transformed it into something fitting the current dining climate — you can pop in for takeout fried chicken, or sit down to a lavish brunch.

Mucca Osteria

Mucca harkens back to an era of dining — and a caliber of service — hard to find in contemporary Portland, where servers in ties and vests refill water glasses after a sip or two, where dishes meant to be shared are split and plated per person without a second thought, where a bowl of warm focaccia lands on the table just a few moments after diners place their orders. But service is nothing if the food can’t deliver, and Mucca delivers in spades: Ribbons of 500-day prosciutto di Parma snugly encase a mound of burrata, a wild-tasting quail leans on a crisp polenta cake and a sprinkle of smoked paprika olive oil powder, a seared scallop sitting on a swipe of Parmesan fondue plays pedestal to a dollop of caramelized shallots and garlic blossoms.

A very yellow pasta comes with garlic blossoms, olive oil powder, veal bolognese, and sundried tomatoes on a gray plate at Mucca
Yolk-yellow pasta tossed with sundried tomatoes and veal bolognese at Mucca
Brooke Jackson-Glidden/Eater Portland

Arden Restaurant Portland

Once home to Top Chef contestant Sara Hauman, this stylish Pearl District restaurant is now the turf of longstanding Portland chef Erik Van Kley, a talent with a singular perspective on classic Pacific Northwestern ingredients. A plate of artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, and albacore sit in a puree of artichoke and urfa biber — the fish plays off the sweet brininess of the hearts of palm, while the hearts of palm and artichoke share a similar vegetal twang that lends itself to an acidic complement. Pierogies hide under a thicket of Burgundian truffles and parsley leaves, Fresno and fennel hot sauce adding pops of orange to a creme fraiche; the flavor is immediately recognizable, the truffle adding a fun air of froofiness to the herbed creme fraiche. Simple, unembellished duck is meant to highlight the natural variance of flavors in the poultry — the sweetness, the richness — juxtaposed with a flavorful vol-au-vent of miso creamed kale and maitakes. All of the food works well with the exceptionally detailed wine list, which includes a few long-cellared options hailing from the Willamette Valley.

Republica

What started as a cafe and casual restaurant has turned into a nationally acclaimed tasting menu destination, tucked into a sliver of a brick building within Portland’s Pearl District. República’s tasting menu involves ingenious dishes like chanterelle adobo risotto with refried and nixtamalized beans, dropped at tables where servers explain the ideation, culinary lineage, and historical context for each dish. República truly feels like a team effort, creative culinary minds coming up with a full meal’s worth of excellence — from the first memelita to desserts of sourdough ice cream with roasted peaches.

Murata Restaurant

When identifying Portland’s “essential” restaurants, it seems only fitting to include Murata, the stalwart Japanese restaurant downtown. Since 1988, Portlanders have stepped into its tatami room for dinners of miso soup, tonkatsu, and broiled mackerel, pots of soothing zosui filled with ribbons of egg, chirashi sporting generous slices of salmon and sweet scallop. Murata is old-school in the best way, a style of Japanese restaurant becoming rarer and rarer with time; sitting in its dining room, mulling over crispy tempura or chicken teriyaki, induces a reinvigorating nostalgia hard to find elsewhere.

Lovely's Fifty Fifty

In a North Mississippi pizza cafe that feels casual but intimate, pizzaiola Sarah Minnick embraces paradoxes beautifully: She took something brimming with childhood charm — pizza and ice cream — and gave it a high-end twist. Ever-changing pizzas are a garden of edible flowers and mushrooms, atop an airy-but-sturdy pizza dough made with Oregon whole grains; they’re accompanied by salads and soups made with peak-season produce. While the menu changes on an almost weekly basis, Minnick’s culinary creativity and attention to detail remains constant. If someone is defining Portland’s distinct pizza style, it’s Minnick.

Casa Zoraya

Since Zoraya Zambrano and her children, Gary and Gloria Marmanillo, opened Casa Zoraya back in 2018, this Peruvian spot has been Piedmont’s under-the-radar gem: Ceviches land at the table like a work of art, fried calamari adding crunch to a bed of fresh seasonal seafood tossed with a summery leche de tigre. Arroz Chaufa, a Peruvian fried rice dish, gets an upgrade with a passionfruit reduction, which adds dose of acid and sweetness. And the pisco sours feel like they’re shipped straight from Lima, best sipped on Casa Zoraya’s back patio.

Kabba’s Kitchen

In a nondescript lot off Albina, Kabba Saidikhan quietly serves exceptional Senegalese and Gambian dishes out of a black-and-silver food cart. Flaky fataya (meat pies) stretch and tear apart to reveal a core of intricately spiced ground beef, while acid-laden, whole-fish yassa derives balance from a bed of yellow rice. The cart’s mafe yapp, a creamy tomato-peanut stew with tender hunks of beef, is particularly well complemented by the shop’s bissap. The cart is open for takeout and delivery, with a few tables onsite.

Eem

Eem is a restaurant born out of collaboration, an amalgamation of Matt Vicedomini’s smoked meats, Earl Ninsom’s curries and salads, Colin Yoshimoto’s snacks and fried chicken, and Eric Nelson’s lively drinks. The resulting menu feels like it truly and cohesively shares those voices, with burnt ends simmering in a sweet coconut milk curry and barbecue fried rice combining brisket with shishito peppers. But beyond the menu, Eem feels like a place that treats every employee and customer with respect, a warm spot in a cold city that still feels relaxed when nothing feels relaxing. Visitors can grab a corner spot in the depths of the restaurant, or huddle in one of the restaurant’s cozy outdoor cabanas.

Kee’s Loaded Kitchen

This red food cart and its massive “#Loaded” sign attracts hordes of customers as soon as it opens each day. Owner Kiauna Nelson and her staff load up gargantuan containers of saucy-and-smoky pot roast and garlicky macaroni and cheese. Nelson’s food evokes shouts for how flavorful it is, from the fried chicken tossed in a seasoning reminiscent of Buffalo Bleu potato chips to her slices of cake, thrown in with the order for good measure. One meal is enough to feed four, and make no mistake: This is some of Portland’s finest soul food.

Berlu

Tame Impala plays on the speakers at this Central Eastside tasting menu restaurant; little pillows hide in the nooks of the banquette. Here, chef Vince Nguyen explores Vietnamese ingredients and dishes through the lens of his several years in fine dining, resulting in a meal that is hard to find anywhere else. Menus change often, but any meal may involve dishes like silken tofu custard studded with pieces of fresh durian, geoduck, and little caramelized petals of lychee, or tiny lobster meatballs, peppery and juicy, in a sweet broth, surrounded by luscious tendon and orange balls of squash. For dessert, diners dunk charcoal-grilled bánh bò nướng, springy and almost savory, in a pandan-steeped coconut milk with a decadent dollop of caviar and fig leaf oil floating on top. Berlu is open for tasting menu service indoors with proof of vaccination, and also offers bakery service on Sundays.

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Nong's Khao Man Gai

The original carts are gone, but Nong's Khao Man Gai’s restaurant space on Southeast Ankeny is still kicking, serving chef Nong Poonsukwattana’s signature dish: a deceptively simple take on Hainanese chicken. Ask five acolytes their favorite part of the dish and each will offer a different answer: the soul-satisfying broth, the truly perfect rice, Nong's ginger-heavy sauce, or the chicken itself, skins or no. Poonsukwattana’s story is one of dogged perseverance; that has not changed.

Le Pigeon

Gabriel Rucker, in his years at Le Pigeon (and, on occasion, Canard and the now-closed Little Bird), often molds the casual or unexpected into a fine dining format, from fried chicken to coconut shrimp; it made him uniquely prepared for the “pandemic pivot,” with his “bird boxes” of takeout and meal kits. Now, the restaurant sticks to a tasting menu, as inventive as ever. A recent dinner started with hamachi in a creamy dressing, adorned with the most delightful cantaloupe popping boba, shaved late summer melon adding crunch akin to celery. Nectarines pickled with aji amarillo and purple sorrel invigorate a braised goat sope, while a panko-breaded veal sausage paired with halibut appears at the center of a shallow pool of sauerkraut broth, sweetened with kernels of corn and evoking the Oregon Coast. And, while Le Pigeon’s tasting menus have always shape-shifted over the years, the finale — a foie gras profiterole — remains, a testament to Rucker’s cheeky culinary style. Tasting menus are available vegetarian, as well, for indoor dining by reservation only.

Matta

Matta chef Richard Le refers to his food cart as a Việt Kiều experience: Việt Kiều, a term that refers to ethnically Vietnamese people living outside the country, is how Le identifies, a first-generation Vietnamese American chef from California. His food is a representation of that identity: He recreates fast food classics like Filet-O-Fish with Thai chili tartar sauce and burgers served on pandan milk buns, often incorporating culinary techniques and inspiration he inherited from his mom, aunt, and grandmother. Brunch is often a busy time at the cart, when Le serves gratifyingly messy, well-balanced breakfast sandwiches, layered with smashed pork patties and the cart’s “dac biet sauce.” Le is a deeply casual, instantly likable chef, and his dishes reflect his creativity, charm, and honesty.