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A picture of a margherita pizza at Life of Pie
A margherita pizza from Life of Pie, which clocks in at $7.
Brooke Jackson-Glidden

18 Knockout Spots for Affordable Dining in Portland

Find the city's best inexpensive meals around town, from fried chicken to banh mi

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A margherita pizza from Life of Pie, which clocks in at $7.
| Brooke Jackson-Glidden

In the not-too-distant past, Portland was famous for incredible food deals at bars, restaurants, and food carts. Today, various consequences of the pandemic have made it much harder to stretch a dollar. Restaurants have been accumulating massive amounts of debt just to stay afloat, inflation has spiked the cost of everything from takeout containers to canola oil, and restaurant workers have learned that they can’t work sustainably at the wages they were making before the pandemic. These factors have, understandably, raised the cost of a meal across the country, including Portland. Consumers should recognize that affordable food — whatever that means — is an extra level of service that restaurants can choose to provide, but shouldn’t always be expected to.

With that in mind, there are still a number of affordable dining options in the Portland area. Many chefs and owners believe in making food accessible to a larger population and recognize that the pandemic left many people financially struggling. Access to delicious, high-quality food should be available to all people, and many in the restaurant industry design their menus to make that possible.

This map showcases restaurants, food carts, and bars slinging filling meals like sandwiches, fried chicken, noodle soups, and more for under $12. If you’re looking for happy hours specifically, we have a map for that.

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.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Beto's Taqueria

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This St. Johns food cart is one of the more underrated Mexican spots in the neighborhood, stuffing burritos with tangy adobo-marinated pork and whole chiles rellenos. Burritos live in the $9 to $11 range, while tacos are $2; the cart even offers breakfast options like $11 chilaquiles and $11 huevos rancheros.

Bing Mi Food Cart

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This Nob Hill food cart stuffs delicate Chinese crepes with scrambled egg, chili bean sauce, wonton crackers, and smoked sausage, all for under $11. It’s a classic, filling lunch in Northwest Portland, best paired with a pint from the Pour House cart in the same pod.

Love Belizean

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This Belizean restaurant is a favorite among Portland State University kids, thanks to the combination of fall-off-the-bone chicken, rice, beans, salad, and habanero hot sauce for $11. Any of the above are available a la carte for about $4, and additional dishes like yellow coconut curry or stewed red beans that are priced in the single digits. It’s hard to think of a better, tastier deal in that part of town.

Los Gorditos

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The local Mexican restaurant group started as a food cart on 50th and Division, and now has five locations across Portland, including food carts and restaurants. Every Gorditos location is casual and counter-service, and none of them break the bank, serving dishes like a $10 tinga burrito stuffed with chicken and grilled onions. It’s not just for meat eaters, though — Los Gorditos also has a sizable vegan menu at each spot with a variety of protein options to satisfy all diets.

Life of Pie Pizza

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Outside of happy hour, a margherita pizza for one at the casually rustic Life of Pie costs $13, but during happy hour, that drops down to just $7 — with the optional add-on of a $6 beer or wine. The best part? Happy hour runs every day for seven whole hours, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. It’s best eaten on the patio of the restaurant, as the extra-thin crust doesn’t hold up to travel for long.

Bao Bao

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This Northeast Couch Chinese restaurant specializes, of course, in bao, fluffy steamed buns stuffed with curried chicken, sweetened red bean, and juicy pork. One is filling enough for a snack and only $3.50, but a steamer basket of three is only $10. For something even heartier, the zha jiang mian noodles, wonton soup, and congee all clock in under $10. For a little bit of both, a bao and a wonton soup is $11.

The Taste Tickler

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This classic old Portland shop on Broadway has been passed down from owner to owner for decades, largely without changing the simple and honest sandwich menu that has made the Taste Tickler a cult favorite among Portlanders. In its current form, the sandwich shop serves ten-inch subs laden with options ranging from ham and salami to BBQ chicken or bulgogi. Each ten-inch sub costs around $10, but for the truly thrifty, the move is to splurge for the fourteen-inch sub, which is massive enough to constitute two meals. The shop also offers filling bento boxes for $9 to $14.

Sushi Ohana

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The number of conveyor belt sushi restaurants in Portland is frustratingly small, especially in an era of COVID-influenced dining. Sushi Ohana, however, has maintained the integrity of this dine-in-centric style of cuisine, offering stacks of rotating California rolls, nigiri, and tempura. Thanks to the classic five-tier pricing style, it’s easy to spend less than $12 while dining in, since even the “priciest” plates of higher-quality fish remain less than $5. During the busier lunch and dinner rushes, the trays are loaded, making it possible to get a meal in less than 30 minutes.

PDX Sliders

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The sandwiches at these two laid-back counter-service locations in Southeast barely count as sliders — at around $6 or $7 each, they’re practically the size of an average fast food burger, especially with options like the Steel, a double cheeseburger that easily dwarves the average burger patty in town and comes in at $7.50. Those who want fries can add them for a few more dollars and stay around $12; the combo easily makes for a filling meal.

Basilisk

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This micro counter-service restaurant in the hip, industrial Zipper complex serves a mammoth fried-chicken sandwich for $11; the crispy behemoth may be the best version of the quintessential sandwich in Multnomah County. For those who want some spice in their lives, the Nashville-style hot chicken comes decently close to the real thing, served searingly hot on a thick slice of white bread with pickles, also for $11. Vegetarians will save a buck with the fried tofu sandwich, a honey brioche bun layered with crispy tofu, cabbage slaw, and buttermilk sauce.

Portland Cà Phê

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This Vietnamese coffee shop from roaster Kimberly Dam generated serious buzz when it opened in April 2021, slinging cà phê sữa đá, ube and cardamom-flavored lattes, and inventive pastries. Like other restaurants on this map, the move here is sandwiches, in this case bánh mì. Provided by Dam’s mother’s House of Bánh Mì, the sandwiches are just $7, with several grilled meat options and a tofu option available for vegetarians. The bánh mì come slathered with rich egg butter, pickled vegetables, cucumbers, and soy sauce — refreshing on a hot day. Add a cold brew, and you’ll only end up spending $12.

La Bonita

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Alberta’s burrito destination offers options as cheap as $6.50 with beans and rice, with carnitas and chicken burritos still under $10. For those willing to spring for the extra dollar, the restaurant’s tender suadero may be the best item on the menu. Other cash-conscious dishes include tacos with house-made tortillas, poblano tamales, and carnitas quesadillas.

An Xuyen Bakery

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This cramped, family-owned bakery packs its shelves with all sorts of baked goods, from Thai green tea cakes and Chinese almond cookies to steamed bao and fluffy wrapped hot dogs. The show-stealer is the bánh mì sandwich on fluffy house-baked bread, which is one of the city’s best. Options like pork belly, bbq pork, and pâté will satisfy those who eat meat, while a few vegetarian options round it out for those who don’t; none of them are over $5.

Bui Natural Tofu

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This Vietnamese tofu shop, cafe, and deli is a standby among families in the Portland area, who stop in for crispy fried tofu, salad rolls, and bánh cuốn. The menu is littered with stuff under $10, including filling portions of flavorful sticky rice, and bánh tiêu, or Vietnamese doughnuts. Offerings change often, but it’s hard to go wrong with what’s in the case.

Kenny's Noodle House

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A cozy, busy little diner just past 82nd Avenue on SE Powell, Kenny’s Noodle House is all about the soups — steaming bowls of wontons, noodles, pork bits, and bok choy, not to mention the dozens of other varieties of noodle soups. Basically everything here clocks in between $10 and $13, even the “large” size bowls which are more than enough for the average diner. There’s also customizable congee, dumplings, and vegetables, making it an easy meal to share. Orders can be placed over the phone or in person.

Pure Spice Chinese Restaurant

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There’s something about ducks hanging in windows that draws the immediate attention of Chinese food lovers, searching for comfort foods that remind them of Chinatowns across America. In which case, Pure Spice caters to this audience appropriately, serving slabs of roasted duck brushed with sweet five spice sauce, and presented on beds of white rice or topped over egg noodles. Apart from dim sum standbys and clay pot meals, Pure Spice’s lunch menu offers an array of classic Chinese American dishes like honey chicken wings and chow mein for less than $12. Lamb and bean curd sheets, salt and pepper squid, and dan dan noodles give patrons of all appetites a chance to find something they like, especially considering the menu offers a whopping 38 dishes for lunch.

Phở DaLat Restaurant

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A relaxed, spacious diner, Phở Dalat is a reliable stop for one of Portland’s most ubiquitous dishes, especially for those on their way to or from the airport. The bowls of beef broth, tender noodles, and accoutrements like tripe, round steak, and tendon are all around $11, including its signature Phở Dalat Dac Biet, with all sorts of beef bites includes steak, flank, and brisket.

Birrieria PDX

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It may be physically impossible to leave this Centennial birria cart hungry. With a foundation of tender, methodically spiced birria, the menu of this cart ranges from crunch wraps with hot cheetos, to traditional quesabirria oozing with cheese, to ramen made with the braised beef’s consomé. Three birria tacos is less than $10, a cheesy beef-filled burrito is under $11, and the gargantuan crunchwrap is under $12; however, it’s hard to beat the classic quesabirria, which clocks in at $10.50.

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Beto's Taqueria

This St. Johns food cart is one of the more underrated Mexican spots in the neighborhood, stuffing burritos with tangy adobo-marinated pork and whole chiles rellenos. Burritos live in the $9 to $11 range, while tacos are $2; the cart even offers breakfast options like $11 chilaquiles and $11 huevos rancheros.

Bing Mi Food Cart

This Nob Hill food cart stuffs delicate Chinese crepes with scrambled egg, chili bean sauce, wonton crackers, and smoked sausage, all for under $11. It’s a classic, filling lunch in Northwest Portland, best paired with a pint from the Pour House cart in the same pod.

Love Belizean

This Belizean restaurant is a favorite among Portland State University kids, thanks to the combination of fall-off-the-bone chicken, rice, beans, salad, and habanero hot sauce for $11. Any of the above are available a la carte for about $4, and additional dishes like yellow coconut curry or stewed red beans that are priced in the single digits. It’s hard to think of a better, tastier deal in that part of town.

Los Gorditos

The local Mexican restaurant group started as a food cart on 50th and Division, and now has five locations across Portland, including food carts and restaurants. Every Gorditos location is casual and counter-service, and none of them break the bank, serving dishes like a $10 tinga burrito stuffed with chicken and grilled onions. It’s not just for meat eaters, though — Los Gorditos also has a sizable vegan menu at each spot with a variety of protein options to satisfy all diets.

Life of Pie Pizza

Outside of happy hour, a margherita pizza for one at the casually rustic Life of Pie costs $13, but during happy hour, that drops down to just $7 — with the optional add-on of a $6 beer or wine. The best part? Happy hour runs every day for seven whole hours, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. It’s best eaten on the patio of the restaurant, as the extra-thin crust doesn’t hold up to travel for long.

Bao Bao

This Northeast Couch Chinese restaurant specializes, of course, in bao, fluffy steamed buns stuffed with curried chicken, sweetened red bean, and juicy pork. One is filling enough for a snack and only $3.50, but a steamer basket of three is only $10. For something even heartier, the zha jiang mian noodles, wonton soup, and congee all clock in under $10. For a little bit of both, a bao and a wonton soup is $11.

The Taste Tickler

This classic old Portland shop on Broadway has been passed down from owner to owner for decades, largely without changing the simple and honest sandwich menu that has made the Taste Tickler a cult favorite among Portlanders. In its current form, the sandwich shop serves ten-inch subs laden with options ranging from ham and salami to BBQ chicken or bulgogi. Each ten-inch sub costs around $10, but for the truly thrifty, the move is to splurge for the fourteen-inch sub, which is massive enough to constitute two meals. The shop also offers filling bento boxes for $9 to $14.

Sushi Ohana

The number of conveyor belt sushi restaurants in Portland is frustratingly small, especially in an era of COVID-influenced dining. Sushi Ohana, however, has maintained the integrity of this dine-in-centric style of cuisine, offering stacks of rotating California rolls, nigiri, and tempura. Thanks to the classic five-tier pricing style, it’s easy to spend less than $12 while dining in, since even the “priciest” plates of higher-quality fish remain less than $5. During the busier lunch and dinner rushes, the trays are loaded, making it possible to get a meal in less than 30 minutes.

PDX Sliders

The sandwiches at these two laid-back counter-service locations in Southeast barely count as sliders — at around $6 or $7 each, they’re practically the size of an average fast food burger, especially with options like the Steel, a double cheeseburger that easily dwarves the average burger patty in town and comes in at $7.50. Those who want fries can add them for a few more dollars and stay around $12; the combo easily makes for a filling meal.

Basilisk

This micro counter-service restaurant in the hip, industrial Zipper complex serves a mammoth fried-chicken sandwich for $11; the crispy behemoth may be the best version of the quintessential sandwich in Multnomah County. For those who want some spice in their lives, the Nashville-style hot chicken comes decently close to the real thing, served searingly hot on a thick slice of white bread with pickles, also for $11. Vegetarians will save a buck with the fried tofu sandwich, a honey brioche bun layered with crispy tofu, cabbage slaw, and buttermilk sauce.

Portland Cà Phê

This Vietnamese coffee shop from roaster Kimberly Dam generated serious buzz when it opened in April 2021, slinging cà phê sữa đá, ube and cardamom-flavored lattes, and inventive pastries. Like other restaurants on this map, the move here is sandwiches, in this case bánh mì. Provided by Dam’s mother’s House of Bánh Mì, the sandwiches are just $7, with several grilled meat options and a tofu option available for vegetarians. The bánh mì come slathered with rich egg butter, pickled vegetables, cucumbers, and soy sauce — refreshing on a hot day. Add a cold brew, and you’ll only end up spending $12.

La Bonita

Alberta’s burrito destination offers options as cheap as $6.50 with beans and rice, with carnitas and chicken burritos still under $10. For those willing to spring for the extra dollar, the restaurant’s tender suadero may be the best item on the menu. Other cash-conscious dishes include tacos with house-made tortillas, poblano tamales, and carnitas quesadillas.

An Xuyen Bakery

This cramped, family-owned bakery packs its shelves with all sorts of baked goods, from Thai green tea cakes and Chinese almond cookies to steamed bao and fluffy wrapped hot dogs. The show-stealer is the bánh mì sandwich on fluffy house-baked bread, which is one of the city’s best. Options like pork belly, bbq pork, and pâté will satisfy those who eat meat, while a few vegetarian options round it out for those who don’t; none of them are over $5.

Bui Natural Tofu

This Vietnamese tofu shop, cafe, and deli is a standby among families in the Portland area, who stop in for crispy fried tofu, salad rolls, and bánh cuốn. The menu is littered with stuff under $10, including filling portions of flavorful sticky rice, and bánh tiêu, or Vietnamese doughnuts. Offerings change often, but it’s hard to go wrong with what’s in the case.

Kenny's Noodle House

A cozy, busy little diner just past 82nd Avenue on SE Powell, Kenny’s Noodle House is all about the soups — steaming bowls of wontons, noodles, pork bits, and bok choy, not to mention the dozens of other varieties of noodle soups. Basically everything here clocks in between $10 and $13, even the “large” size bowls which are more than enough for the average diner. There’s also customizable congee, dumplings, and vegetables, making it an easy meal to share. Orders can be placed over the phone or in person.

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Pure Spice Chinese Restaurant

There’s something about ducks hanging in windows that draws the immediate attention of Chinese food lovers, searching for comfort foods that remind them of Chinatowns across America. In which case, Pure Spice caters to this audience appropriately, serving slabs of roasted duck brushed with sweet five spice sauce, and presented on beds of white rice or topped over egg noodles. Apart from dim sum standbys and clay pot meals, Pure Spice’s lunch menu offers an array of classic Chinese American dishes like honey chicken wings and chow mein for less than $12. Lamb and bean curd sheets, salt and pepper squid, and dan dan noodles give patrons of all appetites a chance to find something they like, especially considering the menu offers a whopping 38 dishes for lunch.

Phở DaLat Restaurant

A relaxed, spacious diner, Phở Dalat is a reliable stop for one of Portland’s most ubiquitous dishes, especially for those on their way to or from the airport. The bowls of beef broth, tender noodles, and accoutrements like tripe, round steak, and tendon are all around $11, including its signature Phở Dalat Dac Biet, with all sorts of beef bites includes steak, flank, and brisket.

Birrieria PDX

It may be physically impossible to leave this Centennial birria cart hungry. With a foundation of tender, methodically spiced birria, the menu of this cart ranges from crunch wraps with hot cheetos, to traditional quesabirria oozing with cheese, to ramen made with the braised beef’s consomé. Three birria tacos is less than $10, a cheesy beef-filled burrito is under $11, and the gargantuan crunchwrap is under $12; however, it’s hard to beat the classic quesabirria, which clocks in at $10.50.

Related Maps