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A bowl of shrimp topped with pumpkin seeds and fried curry leaves, over a bowl of thick grits, at Masala Lab. Brooke Jackson-Glidden/Eater Portland

The Hottest New Restaurants and Food Carts in Portland, August 2022

An Indian American brunch cafe serving fried chicken and pakora waffles, an unassuming Chinese restaurant with a killer mapo tofu, and other noteworthy new spots to try around town

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As a city rife with turnover and sitting comfortably on the culinary cutting edge, Portland sees restaurants open doors with regularity, hoping to make a splash in a town that’s overabundant with talent for its size. Some of those newcomers become the talk of the town quickly, among food writers or neighborhood regulars in search of something special.

The pandemic has been a particularly brutal for the restaurant industry: The lingering presence of COVID-19 has forced chefs and restaurant owners to think on their feet, creating brand-new business models with barely any capital. Some people, who had big restaurant plans in 2020, had to push back their opening dates. However, those that were able to open often created experiences and dishes that somehow remained creative during a morose, exhausting time.

Thus, we present the Eater Heatmap, which covers some of the exciting restaurants that have opened in the past six months. Know of a spot that should be on our radar? Send us a tip by emailing pdx@eater.com.

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.

Masala Lab PDX

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This Indian American brunch spot from the man behind food cart Desi PDX knocked it out of the park within its first days open. The MLK space gives off the vibe of an early 2000s breakfast cafe, with pops of orange and wooden booths. Plump shrimp swim in an earthy tikka mole, sitting on a thick-grained grit with a hint of savory coconut, alongside tart pickled radishes and stewed greens. Well-seasoned fried chicken comes with a dunk of green chutney on a crispy pakora waffle. Slices of sweet mango cake arrive with a drizzle of rhubarb syrup, best enjoyed alongside a cup of spiced coffee. If this is how things taste in its first week, things are only bound to get better.

Paladin Pie

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This Alberta pizza cart builds its pies on a foundation of soft, lightly tangy dough, spotted with tiny flecks of char; from there, pizzas range from the classics (pepperoni and cheese) to inventive twists. The Jazz Cabbage is a particular standout, the sour bite of the kimchi playing off the ferment of the dough, mellowed by cheddar and bacon.

Tartuca

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This brick-walled, intimate spot exudes mid-week date night energy. Italian orange wine flows while couples dip crostini into flaky branzino dip, subtly briny with a zing of lemon. Juicy harukei turnips sit on a jammy collection of melted alliums, before a soft-crusted pizza lands at the table, topped with mushrooms and coppa. The orecchiette, tossed in green garlic pesto, gets a sweet dose of preserved lemons chef Jamie Wilcox harvested from her partner’s parents’ property years ago. This place may feel casual and inviting, but it’s clear the team here is passionate about what they do.

A bowl of noodles is covered in green flecks and charred raab at Tartuca in Portland, Oregon.
Orecchiette with green garlic pesto and preserved lemon.
Brooke Jackson-Glidden/Eater Portland

Phuket Cafe

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The newest Akkapong Earl Ninsom restaurant has completely transformed the former Ataula space, with emerald green hues, an intimate feel, and leaves painted up the northern wall. The menu does not seem to borrow much from any of Ninsom’s other restaurants; instead, little quesadilla-esque triangles of pandan roti enjoy the sweetness of a coconut creme fraiche, plump mussels peek out of a pile of tom-yum-scented rice, and delicate slivers of striped bass curl under layers of fresh mint. In true Eric Nelson fashion, the cocktails head into fun, tropical territory, but the slate-dry, chilly martinis are particularly nice with the restaurant’s oysters. It would be a sin to leave without trying the various kakigori, petals of shaved ice piled on top of a dome of panna cotta.

La Fondita/Taqueria Los Ponchos

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These two businesses, which run side-by-side at a shared address, are the homes of two facets of República’s team. To the left, Doña Chapis, previously spotted flipping tortillas on República’s comal, runs La Fondita; she does the same here, grabbing handfuls of masa to press for tacotes and quesadillas. She passes the tortillas, wrapped warm in a cloth napkin, across the counter to diners, who sop up smoky-sweet mole the color of clay or a brick-red pozole topped with thin slices of watermelon radish. To the right, the Torres family runs Taqueria Los Ponchos; many Torreses have worked in the República kitchen. A projector plays black-and-white movies on the white cement walls next to a long bar, where bartenders shake Oregon strawberries with hibiscus and lemon verbena. This is, truly, a taco bar, where shots of mezcal arrive alongside thin multicolored masa tortillas, filled with rich, fall-apart pieces of cabeza or shavings of al pastor from the trompo (a rarity in Portland proper). The result: A full day’s worth of top-tier Mexican dining.

Dolly Olive

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The newest restaurant from the Sesame Collective group, Dolly Olive hews more Italian, serving handmade pastas tossed with pesto and spring peas alongside glasses of Sicilian white wine. Some of the restaurant’s finest dishes emerge from the grill, like a thick slab of cauliflower balanced on a pile of farro, zippy with sun-dried tomato citronette. Another stunner: A tentacle of octopus, with just the right touch of bite, complemented by a rosé salsa verde. Just be sure to save room for dessert, like a glass of amaro and a trio of pistachio, cherry, and chocolate vegan gelatos.

East Coasters know the value of a good, sloppy breakfast sandwich, a soft bun or roll stacked with a slab of meat, gooey cheese, and a fried egg. The first Portland restaurant from celebrity restaurateur Justin Sutherland, Big E brings those sorts of breakfast sandwiches to downtown Portland — ordering from a window off the Moxy hotel’s lobby, visitors bite into milk buns dripping with saucy yolks and aioli made with Cry Baby Craig’s hot sauce. It Was All a Dream, a breakfast sandwich named for the Notorious B.I.G. lyric, adds a swipe of Welch’s grape jelly to a steak-and-eggs sandwich, adding a touch of nostalgic sweetness. You can place orders online, or walk up to order.

Walking into Tanaka, you’re hit with the almost overwhelming smell of baking bread, buttery and toasty, while Motown plays over the speakers. Visitors pick from a case of pastries before landing at the counter, where they order hot sandwiches layered with a hunk of juicy katsu-fried meat. However, the sweets steal the show: The fruit and cream sandwiches exude the simple comfort of a strawberry shortcake, stiff vanilla chantilly cream suspending hunks of strawberry between two pieces of milk bread. For something a touch fussier, the yuzu tart is like the best lemon meringue pie you’ve ever had, with just a touch of perfume-y sweetness and the genius addition of micro-shiso for an herbal touch.

Old Pal

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Upon first glance, this Sunnyside restaurant reads as a casual, neighborhood spot for a glass of wine and some tinned fish — and it can be that, for those looking for a relaxed happy hour moment. But the kitchen produces some dishes that punch far above their weight. Here, fashionable Southeasters dunk the lightest, tiniest gougeres into green garlic aioli; they snack on savory, caraway-heavy kraut and citrusy pickled wax beans between sips of a skin contact pinot gris. Tall mounds of butter lettuce, tossed with sherry vinaigrette and tarragon, land at tables alongside plates of firm burrata surrounded by stone fruit and pickled blueberries. And for a grand finale, crisped pillows of ricotta gnocchi show off the season’s spoils, with burst sungold tomatoes and chunks of al dente summer squash. Sit outside on the sidewalk, or grab a seat the marble bar.

Rukdiew Cafe

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Out of the blue, Rukdiew Cafe landed on Belmont with some of the city’s finest khao soi: Salty-sweet, layered spice, with delightfully funky pickled greens and a hit of fried and fresh alliums. Rukdiew is the kind of place where you can find comforting staples like pad kee mow and pad Thai, as well as boat noodles overflowing with meatballs and braised beef. The kana moo krob, crispy hunks of pork belly with stir-fried gai lan, is another highlight.

Tasty Corner Chinese Restaurant

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This shiny, new, minimally adorned downtown Chinese restaurant opened relatively quietly, but it has already become popular among Portland State University students seeking chile oil wontons and General Tso’s. The restaurant’s Sichuan standards are the true draw here: Tasty Corner’s rendition of mapo tofu may be one of the city’s best, whole salted black beans mingling with Sichuan peppercorn and ginger. Tasty Corner’s Chongqing chicken is also superb, a lightly dredged chicken velveted within an inch of its life, tossed with whole chiles and dry-fried green beans. For something simpler, the restaurant’s pea tips, simply stir-fried with plenty of garlic, add a nice, lightly sweet counterbalance to some of the spiced dishes.

Dough Zone

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This Seattle chain of Chinese restaurants opened its first Portland location in April, and a few months in, it feels like the sprawling waterfront restaurant has found its stride. Soup dumplings are impeccably constructed and satisfyingly savory, filled with Berkshire-Duroc pork — a heritage breed that has a darker, richer flavor. Dan dan noodles are chewy and tossed in a sauce tingly with ma la. Dishes made with dough are, of course, the move here, but the accordion-cut cucumbers are a refreshing addition ideal for summer.

Rangoon Bistro

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Tucked in a corner of the Breathe Building, this farmers market standby turned bustling cafe specializes in a culinary cross-section of Myanmar and Oregon. Here, chefs David Sai, Alex Saw, and Nick Sherbo use seasonal Pacific Northwestern produce to create dazzlingly intricate dishes with countless components. Thinly sliced, suede-smooth chickpea tofu sits on a pile of nuts and cabbage, with a citrusy soy sauce dressing. Chicken danbauk blends toasty spices with tender chicken, with a super bright chile-laden yogurt. A saucy tofu nway is a Pollock painting of flavors and textures — the ground pork and nuts, the earthiness of the tofu, the bright pow of a pickled vegetable. Everything feels fresh and alive, loud and vibrant, except for a gorgeously simple salted coconut milk, the ideal accompaniment to any meal.

Siam Umami

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Hidden away from Naito Parkway on South Corbett, Siam Umami’s approach to Thai food — in a city like Portland, rife with regional and hyper-specific Thai restaurants — falls under the royal Thai category, serving little violet flower-shaped dumplings and bite-sized balls of shrimp and carrots in a yolk-yellow webbing. The standout dish is likely its coconut-water-braised pork belly, its umami-laden richness cut by the addition of zucchini pickles. Siam Umami is open for onsite dining, as well as delivery.

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Masala Lab PDX

This Indian American brunch spot from the man behind food cart Desi PDX knocked it out of the park within its first days open. The MLK space gives off the vibe of an early 2000s breakfast cafe, with pops of orange and wooden booths. Plump shrimp swim in an earthy tikka mole, sitting on a thick-grained grit with a hint of savory coconut, alongside tart pickled radishes and stewed greens. Well-seasoned fried chicken comes with a dunk of green chutney on a crispy pakora waffle. Slices of sweet mango cake arrive with a drizzle of rhubarb syrup, best enjoyed alongside a cup of spiced coffee. If this is how things taste in its first week, things are only bound to get better.

Paladin Pie

This Alberta pizza cart builds its pies on a foundation of soft, lightly tangy dough, spotted with tiny flecks of char; from there, pizzas range from the classics (pepperoni and cheese) to inventive twists. The Jazz Cabbage is a particular standout, the sour bite of the kimchi playing off the ferment of the dough, mellowed by cheddar and bacon.

Tartuca

A bowl of noodles is covered in green flecks and charred raab at Tartuca in Portland, Oregon.
Orecchiette with green garlic pesto and preserved lemon.
Brooke Jackson-Glidden/Eater Portland

This brick-walled, intimate spot exudes mid-week date night energy. Italian orange wine flows while couples dip crostini into flaky branzino dip, subtly briny with a zing of lemon. Juicy harukei turnips sit on a jammy collection of melted alliums, before a soft-crusted pizza lands at the table, topped with mushrooms and coppa. The orecchiette, tossed in green garlic pesto, gets a sweet dose of preserved lemons chef Jamie Wilcox harvested from her partner’s parents’ property years ago. This place may feel casual and inviting, but it’s clear the team here is passionate about what they do.

A bowl of noodles is covered in green flecks and charred raab at Tartuca in Portland, Oregon.
Orecchiette with green garlic pesto and preserved lemon.
Brooke Jackson-Glidden/Eater Portland

Phuket Cafe

The newest Akkapong Earl Ninsom restaurant has completely transformed the former Ataula space, with emerald green hues, an intimate feel, and leaves painted up the northern wall. The menu does not seem to borrow much from any of Ninsom’s other restaurants; instead, little quesadilla-esque triangles of pandan roti enjoy the sweetness of a coconut creme fraiche, plump mussels peek out of a pile of tom-yum-scented rice, and delicate slivers of striped bass curl under layers of fresh mint. In true Eric Nelson fashion, the cocktails head into fun, tropical territory, but the slate-dry, chilly martinis are particularly nice with the restaurant’s oysters. It would be a sin to leave without trying the various kakigori, petals of shaved ice piled on top of a dome of panna cotta.

La Fondita/Taqueria Los Ponchos

These two businesses, which run side-by-side at a shared address, are the homes of two facets of República’s team. To the left, Doña Chapis, previously spotted flipping tortillas on República’s comal, runs La Fondita; she does the same here, grabbing handfuls of masa to press for tacotes and quesadillas. She passes the tortillas, wrapped warm in a cloth napkin, across the counter to diners, who sop up smoky-sweet mole the color of clay or a brick-red pozole topped with thin slices of watermelon radish. To the right, the Torres family runs Taqueria Los Ponchos; many Torreses have worked in the República kitchen. A projector plays black-and-white movies on the white cement walls next to a long bar, where bartenders shake Oregon strawberries with hibiscus and lemon verbena. This is, truly, a taco bar, where shots of mezcal arrive alongside thin multicolored masa tortillas, filled with rich, fall-apart pieces of cabeza or shavings of al pastor from the trompo (a rarity in Portland proper). The result: A full day’s worth of top-tier Mexican dining.

Dolly Olive

The newest restaurant from the Sesame Collective group, Dolly Olive hews more Italian, serving handmade pastas tossed with pesto and spring peas alongside glasses of Sicilian white wine. Some of the restaurant’s finest dishes emerge from the grill, like a thick slab of cauliflower balanced on a pile of farro, zippy with sun-dried tomato citronette. Another stunner: A tentacle of octopus, with just the right touch of bite, complemented by a rosé salsa verde. Just be sure to save room for dessert, like a glass of amaro and a trio of pistachio, cherry, and chocolate vegan gelatos.

Big E

East Coasters know the value of a good, sloppy breakfast sandwich, a soft bun or roll stacked with a slab of meat, gooey cheese, and a fried egg. The first Portland restaurant from celebrity restaurateur Justin Sutherland, Big E brings those sorts of breakfast sandwiches to downtown Portland — ordering from a window off the Moxy hotel’s lobby, visitors bite into milk buns dripping with saucy yolks and aioli made with Cry Baby Craig’s hot sauce. It Was All a Dream, a breakfast sandwich named for the Notorious B.I.G. lyric, adds a swipe of Welch’s grape jelly to a steak-and-eggs sandwich, adding a touch of nostalgic sweetness. You can place orders online, or walk up to order.

Tanaka

Walking into Tanaka, you’re hit with the almost overwhelming smell of baking bread, buttery and toasty, while Motown plays over the speakers. Visitors pick from a case of pastries before landing at the counter, where they order hot sandwiches layered with a hunk of juicy katsu-fried meat. However, the sweets steal the show: The fruit and cream sandwiches exude the simple comfort of a strawberry shortcake, stiff vanilla chantilly cream suspending hunks of strawberry between two pieces of milk bread. For something a touch fussier, the yuzu tart is like the best lemon meringue pie you’ve ever had, with just a touch of perfume-y sweetness and the genius addition of micro-shiso for an herbal touch.

Old Pal

Upon first glance, this Sunnyside restaurant reads as a casual, neighborhood spot for a glass of wine and some tinned fish — and it can be that, for those looking for a relaxed happy hour moment. But the kitchen produces some dishes that punch far above their weight. Here, fashionable Southeasters dunk the lightest, tiniest gougeres into green garlic aioli; they snack on savory, caraway-heavy kraut and citrusy pickled wax beans between sips of a skin contact pinot gris. Tall mounds of butter lettuce, tossed with sherry vinaigrette and tarragon, land at tables alongside plates of firm burrata surrounded by stone fruit and pickled blueberries. And for a grand finale, crisped pillows of ricotta gnocchi show off the season’s spoils, with burst sungold tomatoes and chunks of al dente summer squash. Sit outside on the sidewalk, or grab a seat the marble bar.

Rukdiew Cafe

Out of the blue, Rukdiew Cafe landed on Belmont with some of the city’s finest khao soi: Salty-sweet, layered spice, with delightfully funky pickled greens and a hit of fried and fresh alliums. Rukdiew is the kind of place where you can find comforting staples like pad kee mow and pad Thai, as well as boat noodles overflowing with meatballs and braised beef. The kana moo krob, crispy hunks of pork belly with stir-fried gai lan, is another highlight.

Tasty Corner Chinese Restaurant

This shiny, new, minimally adorned downtown Chinese restaurant opened relatively quietly, but it has already become popular among Portland State University students seeking chile oil wontons and General Tso’s. The restaurant’s Sichuan standards are the true draw here: Tasty Corner’s rendition of mapo tofu may be one of the city’s best, whole salted black beans mingling with Sichuan peppercorn and ginger. Tasty Corner’s Chongqing chicken is also superb, a lightly dredged chicken velveted within an inch of its life, tossed with whole chiles and dry-fried green beans. For something simpler, the restaurant’s pea tips, simply stir-fried with plenty of garlic, add a nice, lightly sweet counterbalance to some of the spiced dishes.

Dough Zone

This Seattle chain of Chinese restaurants opened its first Portland location in April, and a few months in, it feels like the sprawling waterfront restaurant has found its stride. Soup dumplings are impeccably constructed and satisfyingly savory, filled with Berkshire-Duroc pork — a heritage breed that has a darker, richer flavor. Dan dan noodles are chewy and tossed in a sauce tingly with ma la. Dishes made with dough are, of course, the move here, but the accordion-cut cucumbers are a refreshing addition ideal for summer.

Rangoon Bistro

Tucked in a corner of the Breathe Building, this farmers market standby turned bustling cafe specializes in a culinary cross-section of Myanmar and Oregon. Here, chefs David Sai, Alex Saw, and Nick Sherbo use seasonal Pacific Northwestern produce to create dazzlingly intricate dishes with countless components. Thinly sliced, suede-smooth chickpea tofu sits on a pile of nuts and cabbage, with a citrusy soy sauce dressing. Chicken danbauk blends toasty spices with tender chicken, with a super bright chile-laden yogurt. A saucy tofu nway is a Pollock painting of flavors and textures — the ground pork and nuts, the earthiness of the tofu, the bright pow of a pickled vegetable. Everything feels fresh and alive, loud and vibrant, except for a gorgeously simple salted coconut milk, the ideal accompaniment to any meal.

Siam Umami

Hidden away from Naito Parkway on South Corbett, Siam Umami’s approach to Thai food — in a city like Portland, rife with regional and hyper-specific Thai restaurants — falls under the royal Thai category, serving little violet flower-shaped dumplings and bite-sized balls of shrimp and carrots in a yolk-yellow webbing. The standout dish is likely its coconut-water-braised pork belly, its umami-laden richness cut by the addition of zucchini pickles. Siam Umami is open for onsite dining, as well as delivery.

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