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A plate of corn ribs sits next to a bowl of salad at Lil Shalom in Portland, Oregon.
An assortment of dishes at Lil’ Shalom, the newest restaurant from Sesame Collective.
Austin Phelps

The Hottest New Restaurants and Food Carts in Portland, September 2021

Pepperoni-topped nonna pies, kare kare fries, and other noteworthy new dishes to try around town

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An assortment of dishes at Lil’ Shalom, the newest restaurant from Sesame Collective.
| Austin Phelps

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. However, some of those newcomers become the talk of the town quickly, among critics or neighborhood regulars in search of something exciting.

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 fun and creative during a morose, exhausting time.

But now that the state has fully reopened, Portland chefs are looking forward. 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.

The latest CDC guidance for vaccinated diners during the COVID-19 outbreak is here; dining out still carries risks for unvaccinated diners and workers. Please be aware of changing local rules, and check individual restaurant websites for any additional restrictions such as mask requirements. Find a local vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. YāYā

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1451 NE Alberta St Suite A
Portland, OR 97211
(503) 477-5555
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Chinese barbecue isn’t abundant in Portland, outside of some stellar spots along 82nd (for example, the roast duck at Happy Dragon or the char siu at Yang Kee), so seeing a counter-service spot open on NE Alberta — from someone with Cantonese barbecue in their lineage — is thrilling. The restaurant is brand-new and still dealing with some growing pains, but YaYa’s strengths lie in its poultry and the sauces that accompany them, from a roast duck with shimmering skin to the soya sauce chicken, with soy and ginger permeating every inch of the bird. Those who visit should be sure to order extra sides of the shop’s house-made sauces — in particular, the shop’s house chile oil, chunky-sweet plum sauce, and apple hoisin.

2. Baon Kainan

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4311 NE Prescott St
Portland, OR 97218

Seattle expats Ethan and Geri Leung just opened their new Filipino cart in August, smothering fries in beefy kare kare and topping jackfruit-and-mushroom sisig with a plump soft-boiled egg. But the restaurant’s simplest dish — its chicken adobo — may be the city’s finest version of the Pinoy staple: The Leung’s tender, juicy chicken comes coated in a tamari-vinegar sauce, best paired with the cart’s garlic rice. Those seeking something to sip will find things like black tea sweetened with calamansi simple syrup.

3. Lúa

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3971 N Williams Ave Suite 103
Portland, OR 97227
(503) 954-3600
Visit Website

First nights open can be shaky: Cooks are still figuring out the menu, CMS and ordering systems are not quite second-nature, and customers waltz in expecting a ready-to-go spot. All of that being said, Lúa’s first night open on North Williams showed incredible promise. The restaurant’s rice noodles shined, whether they were woven into little nests served with sweet and tender grilled pork or serving as a bed for house-made garlicky beef meatballs. The restaurant’s chicken wings were shockingly crispy for how much tamarind glaze clung to each crag and corner; they’re complemented by a glass of fresh passionfruit juice. And the shop’s banh mi may be the finest in North Portland, the right balance of saucy and fresh to complement crispy roast pork belly.

4. Pizza Thief

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2610 NW Vaughn St
Portland, OR 97210
(503) 719-7778
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Portland’s pizza scene is more competitive than it’s ever been, and yet, a new entrant has swiftly risen to the top. Pizza Thief, from Tony Pasquale and Darby Aldaco, serves a pie that most closely resembles a New York slice, and it could be the best version of that pie in town: A crisp, sourdough crust stays dry on its base, polka-dotted with char, supporting a layer of tomato and cheese judiciously seasoned with Italian herbs. Its slices crack just slightly when folded, sauce dripping just so, which anyone in their right mind will happily swab with the remnants of the crust. For dessert, the shop’s rye hand pies, filled with high-summer fruit, are a flaky finish to an exceptional meal. Pizza Thief is open for indoor and outdoor dining.

5. Precious Pizza

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6035 NE Halsey St
Portland, OR 97213

Alejandro Preciado started making pizzas as a part of a Salem-area pop-up, an homage to his time at the now-closed Portland Tuscan restaurant Burrasca. Preciado has returned to Portland on his own with Precious Pizza, a nonna pizza cart that tops a soft, lightly chewy pie with a cheesy-crunchy edge and toppings like tocino. Preciado is unafraid of heading into sweet territory with his Spicy Pineapple Papi, which pairs pineapple with his own habanero hot honey; the result is distinct and delightful. However, simplicity may be the move here: His pomodoro is a fantastic expression of pure tomato, and earns its time in the spotlight. Precious Pizza is located within the Barley Pod.

6. Friendship Kitchen

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2333 NE Glisan St
Portland, OR 97232

It’s easy to be charmed by the gregarious Trang Nguyen, who owns this emerald-hued Vietnamese restaurant sandwiched between Tropicale and Rollin Fresh. She says things like “What can we manifest for you today?” while you order at the counter, treating customers like college roommates — she’s more likely to call you “bestie” than “hon.” Her restaurant’s food and drink are comforting and fun, with cheeky names and ingenious twists on Vietnamese standards: The restaurant’s bo luc lac, also known as shaking beef, douses buttery cuts of steak in a seriously garlicky sauce, with a hint of fragrant sweetness provided by a splash of fresh pineapple juice. The dish is particularly well-matched by the Sexy Tiger, a Thai tea cocktail with passionfruit and tequila, or a young coconut cracked to order.

7. Smith Teamaker

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500 NW 23rd Ave
Portland, OR 97210
(503) 206-7451
Visit Website

Let’s be honest: We would probably be on board with anything chef Karl Holl did after leaving Park Avenue Fine Wines, but the fact the chef’s next gig was designing the menu for a tea cafe — from one of the city’s finest tea brands, in fact — is a blessing. Holl uses the shop’s teas as spices, rolling a dust of chai into a morning bun, rippling layers of soft pastry encased in a crackling shell. Noodles made with turmeric used in the shop’s Golden Light tea come alongside a kimchi with just a murmur of sencha. Eaten alongside a tall glass of peach ginger iced tea, or a pu-erh gaiwan service, the food at Smith’s tea cafe shines in a culinarily abundant neighborhood.

8. Chicha

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1314 NW Glisan St
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 953-1933
Visit Website

Out on the patio once occupied by Andina, Chicha serves cool and bright bowls of ceviche, crispy papa rellenas concealing an intricately spiced lamb center, and wild-tasting cuts of steak in a saucy lomo saltado. Chicha, executive chef Alexander Diestra’s more casual pop-up out of the Peruvian stalwart, feels like it was born for a hot Portland summer, with well-executed classics straight out of Lima and plenty of brisk pisco sours to sip over a leisurely dinner. Then again, when seeking a quick snack while shopping in the Pearl, Chicha’s cumin-laced lamb empanadas are spotted with bubbles from a recent fry, best eaten with salsa criolla poured over each bite, dripping with each step down NW 13th.

9. Lil' Shalom

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1128 SW Alder St
Portland, OR 97205
(503) 333-6123
Visit Website

The latest spot from restaurant group Sesame Collective, Lil’ Shalom is one of the more casual takes on the restaurant group’s brand of Southwestern Asian and Northern African cuisine, with the greatest hits from its siblings — impeccably smooth hummus topped with smoked hunks of beef, crunchy falafel with a mint green core — represented. But the dishes specific to Lil’ Shalom separate it from the rest of its siblings: the shop’s “Lil Shalomie,” something between a burger and a lamb hot pocket, is deceptively intricate, with zhug blending with melted cheddar and meat, and a watermelon salad with urfa whipped feta and sumac is shockingly savory-toned for a summery fruit salad. The shop is open for takeout, delivery, and onsite dining.

10. Feel Good PDX

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1120 SE Belmont St
Portland, OR 97214
(503) 719-6511
Visit Website

If his grilled chicken restaurant has shown us anything, it’s that Gabe Pascuzzi has a singular ability to take something simple and make it feel special. Grain bowls are generally pretty tired, often sacrificing finesse in favor of a low calorie count. However, at Feel Good, Pascuzzi’s latest shop, salads are so deeply flavorful and methodically constructed, it’s hard to compare them to what you’d find at a Sweetgreen. Charred pineapple ties the earthiness of roasted sweet potato to a sliver of raw grapefruit; meaty smoked beets come with a touch of fresh dill, almost like a slice of lox. Whatever those salads land on — quinoa, greens, even the abomination that is cauliflower rice — ends up being exciting. Feel Good is open for takeout.

11. Meals 4 Heels

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831 SE Salmon St Suite 50
Portland, OR 97214
(971) 279-2483
Visit Website

Nikeisah Newton, the founder of sex worker meal delivery service Meals 4 Heels, is one of those people with contagious enthusiasm. She sings along to the music in her tiny stall outside the Redd on Salmon, where she massages kale for bowls and mixes up cherry-lime sodas. Her food is similarly exuberant: The long-popular GTP (Gettin’ That Paper) comes with roasted cauliflower tossed in tom kha base, sweet potato noodles, tomatoes popping with truffle salt, and rice-vinegar-pickled cucumbers. It’s a combination of flavors that seems like it may clash, but instead, it is vibrant and lively, just like Newton.

A takeout container is filled with red-hued cauliflower, sliced grape tomatoes, and cucumbers covered in furikake at Meals 4 Heels.
The Getting That Paper (GTP) bowl at Meals 4 Heels, which comes with truffled tomatoes, cucumbers, kale, sweet potato noodles, and cauliflower.
Brooke Jackson-Glidden / EPDX

12. Oma's Hideaway

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3131 SE Division St
Portland, OR 97202
(971) 754-4923
Visit Website

Oma’s Takeaway is now in its third iteration, now known as Oma’s Hideaway. But for people who know Thomas and Mariah Pisha-Duffly, the owners of Gado Gado and Oma’s, this should be no surprise: The two are constantly switching up menus at their restaurants, experimenting with new drinks or dishes or music. Many of the new menu’s hits rely on the shop’s charcoal oven, from lacquered ducks to the char siu served alongside wonton mee. But it’s hard to beat some of the restaurant’s poultry dishes: The charcoal-roasted game hen can only be described as succulent, with that dark honey skin and a green sambal on the side, and on a hot day, the chicken salad is a godsend, the dried shrimp funk only a whisper in a sunshine-y blend of coconut and herbs.

13. Moore Food & Co.

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3576 SE Division St
Portland, OR 97202

Stepping into the alleyway home of this food cart, with its chess set, mismatched furniture, and living wall full of strawberry plants, feels like something out of early-aughts Portland in the best way, but the food at this tucked-away cart is straight out of Philly, with pork roll and cheesesteak egg rolls. Tom Amick’s cheesesteak is the real deal: thinly shaved steak bound together with molten cheese, served on a super-soft Amoroso roll. With Oregon beers by the pint and a strong slate of regulars, it’s hard to not fall in love with this true hidden gem.

14. Jerry’s Pizza

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Bear Paw Inn in Portland, OR, 3237 SE Milwaukie Ave, Portland
OR 97202, USA

Those who can actually get their hands on one of Jerry Benedetto’s pizzas, pre-ordered online to be picked up inside the Bear Paw Inn, won’t be disappointed: These Chicago tavern-style pizzas, crispy and cornmeal-studded, come with fennel-heavy sausage, a generous layer of cheese fricco’d at the edges, and his “Grandma Pat’s” tomato sauce. Hot tip: the bar does seem to be selling Benedetto’s fried calzones for walk-ins; it’s a way to try Benedetto’s food without grappling with the hoards attempting to snag one of the coveted pre-order pizza slots. Bear Paw offers seating inside and out, or customers can carry out their pies in a traditional paper bag.

15. Portland Cà Phê

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2815 SE Holgate Blvd
Portland, OR 97202
(503) 841-5787
Visit Website

Kim Dam’s Southeast Portland cafe specializes in Vietnamese coffee, beans sourced from the central highlands of Vietnam and roasted by Dam in Portland. Those beans go into cardamom lattes and ube mochas, but Dam’s cà phê sữa đá — Vietnamese iced coffee — is a standout. The coffee comes with either espresso or traditional phin-made coffee, with an elegant sweetness. Dam’s mother supplies the banh mi, slathered with egg butter and lively pickled vegetables. The cafe is open for takeout, with little red tables outside to sit and sip coffee.

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1. YāYā

1451 NE Alberta St Suite A, Portland, OR 97211

Chinese barbecue isn’t abundant in Portland, outside of some stellar spots along 82nd (for example, the roast duck at Happy Dragon or the char siu at Yang Kee), so seeing a counter-service spot open on NE Alberta — from someone with Cantonese barbecue in their lineage — is thrilling. The restaurant is brand-new and still dealing with some growing pains, but YaYa’s strengths lie in its poultry and the sauces that accompany them, from a roast duck with shimmering skin to the soya sauce chicken, with soy and ginger permeating every inch of the bird. Those who visit should be sure to order extra sides of the shop’s house-made sauces — in particular, the shop’s house chile oil, chunky-sweet plum sauce, and apple hoisin.

1451 NE Alberta St Suite A
Portland, OR 97211

2. Baon Kainan

4311 NE Prescott St, Portland, OR 97218

Seattle expats Ethan and Geri Leung just opened their new Filipino cart in August, smothering fries in beefy kare kare and topping jackfruit-and-mushroom sisig with a plump soft-boiled egg. But the restaurant’s simplest dish — its chicken adobo — may be the city’s finest version of the Pinoy staple: The Leung’s tender, juicy chicken comes coated in a tamari-vinegar sauce, best paired with the cart’s garlic rice. Those seeking something to sip will find things like black tea sweetened with calamansi simple syrup.

4311 NE Prescott St
Portland, OR 97218

3. Lúa

3971 N Williams Ave Suite 103, Portland, OR 97227

First nights open can be shaky: Cooks are still figuring out the menu, CMS and ordering systems are not quite second-nature, and customers waltz in expecting a ready-to-go spot. All of that being said, Lúa’s first night open on North Williams showed incredible promise. The restaurant’s rice noodles shined, whether they were woven into little nests served with sweet and tender grilled pork or serving as a bed for house-made garlicky beef meatballs. The restaurant’s chicken wings were shockingly crispy for how much tamarind glaze clung to each crag and corner; they’re complemented by a glass of fresh passionfruit juice. And the shop’s banh mi may be the finest in North Portland, the right balance of saucy and fresh to complement crispy roast pork belly.

3971 N Williams Ave Suite 103
Portland, OR 97227

4. Pizza Thief

2610 NW Vaughn St, Portland, OR 97210

Portland’s pizza scene is more competitive than it’s ever been, and yet, a new entrant has swiftly risen to the top. Pizza Thief, from Tony Pasquale and Darby Aldaco, serves a pie that most closely resembles a New York slice, and it could be the best version of that pie in town: A crisp, sourdough crust stays dry on its base, polka-dotted with char, supporting a layer of tomato and cheese judiciously seasoned with Italian herbs. Its slices crack just slightly when folded, sauce dripping just so, which anyone in their right mind will happily swab with the remnants of the crust. For dessert, the shop’s rye hand pies, filled with high-summer fruit, are a flaky finish to an exceptional meal. Pizza Thief is open for indoor and outdoor dining.

2610 NW Vaughn St
Portland, OR 97210

5. Precious Pizza

6035 NE Halsey St, Portland, OR 97213

Alejandro Preciado started making pizzas as a part of a Salem-area pop-up, an homage to his time at the now-closed Portland Tuscan restaurant Burrasca. Preciado has returned to Portland on his own with Precious Pizza, a nonna pizza cart that tops a soft, lightly chewy pie with a cheesy-crunchy edge and toppings like tocino. Preciado is unafraid of heading into sweet territory with his Spicy Pineapple Papi, which pairs pineapple with his own habanero hot honey; the result is distinct and delightful. However, simplicity may be the move here: His pomodoro is a fantastic expression of pure tomato, and earns its time in the spotlight. Precious Pizza is located within the Barley Pod.

6035 NE Halsey St
Portland, OR 97213

6. Friendship Kitchen

2333 NE Glisan St, Portland, OR 97232

It’s easy to be charmed by the gregarious Trang Nguyen, who owns this emerald-hued Vietnamese restaurant sandwiched between Tropicale and Rollin Fresh. She says things like “What can we manifest for you today?” while you order at the counter, treating customers like college roommates — she’s more likely to call you “bestie” than “hon.” Her restaurant’s food and drink are comforting and fun, with cheeky names and ingenious twists on Vietnamese standards: The restaurant’s bo luc lac, also known as shaking beef, douses buttery cuts of steak in a seriously garlicky sauce, with a hint of fragrant sweetness provided by a splash of fresh pineapple juice. The dish is particularly well-matched by the Sexy Tiger, a Thai tea cocktail with passionfruit and tequila, or a young coconut cracked to order.

2333 NE Glisan St
Portland, OR 97232

7. Smith Teamaker

500 NW 23rd Ave, Portland, OR 97210

Let’s be honest: We would probably be on board with anything chef Karl Holl did after leaving Park Avenue Fine Wines, but the fact the chef’s next gig was designing the menu for a tea cafe — from one of the city’s finest tea brands, in fact — is a blessing. Holl uses the shop’s teas as spices, rolling a dust of chai into a morning bun, rippling layers of soft pastry encased in a crackling shell. Noodles made with turmeric used in the shop’s Golden Light tea come alongside a kimchi with just a murmur of sencha. Eaten alongside a tall glass of peach ginger iced tea, or a pu-erh gaiwan service, the food at Smith’s tea cafe shines in a culinarily abundant neighborhood.

500 NW 23rd Ave
Portland, OR 97210

8. Chicha

1314 NW Glisan St, Portland, OR 97209

Out on the patio once occupied by Andina, Chicha serves cool and bright bowls of ceviche, crispy papa rellenas concealing an intricately spiced lamb center, and wild-tasting cuts of steak in a saucy lomo saltado. Chicha, executive chef Alexander Diestra’s more casual pop-up out of the Peruvian stalwart, feels like it was born for a hot Portland summer, with well-executed classics straight out of Lima and plenty of brisk pisco sours to sip over a leisurely dinner. Then again, when seeking a quick snack while shopping in the Pearl, Chicha’s cumin-laced lamb empanadas are spotted with bubbles from a recent fry, best eaten with salsa criolla poured over each bite, dripping with each step down NW 13th.

1314 NW Glisan St
Portland, OR 97209

9. Lil' Shalom

1128 SW Alder St, Portland, OR 97205

The latest spot from restaurant group Sesame Collective, Lil’ Shalom is one of the more casual takes on the restaurant group’s brand of Southwestern Asian and Northern African cuisine, with the greatest hits from its siblings — impeccably smooth hummus topped with smoked hunks of beef, crunchy falafel with a mint green core — represented. But the dishes specific to Lil’ Shalom separate it from the rest of its siblings: the shop’s “Lil Shalomie,” something between a burger and a lamb hot pocket, is deceptively intricate, with zhug blending with melted cheddar and meat, and a watermelon salad with urfa whipped feta and sumac is shockingly savory-toned for a summery fruit salad. The shop is open for takeout, delivery, and onsite dining.

1128 SW Alder St
Portland, OR 97205

10. Feel Good PDX

1120 SE Belmont St, Portland, OR 97214

If his grilled chicken restaurant has shown us anything, it’s that Gabe Pascuzzi has a singular ability to take something simple and make it feel special. Grain bowls are generally pretty tired, often sacrificing finesse in favor of a low calorie count. However, at Feel Good, Pascuzzi’s latest shop, salads are so deeply flavorful and methodically constructed, it’s hard to compare them to what you’d find at a Sweetgreen. Charred pineapple ties the earthiness of roasted sweet potato to a sliver of raw grapefruit; meaty smoked beets come with a touch of fresh dill, almost like a slice of lox. Whatever those salads land on — quinoa, greens, even the abomination that is cauliflower rice — ends up being exciting. Feel Good is open for takeout.

1120 SE Belmont St
Portland, OR 97214

11. Meals 4 Heels

831 SE Salmon St Suite 50, Portland, OR 97214
A takeout container is filled with red-hued cauliflower, sliced grape tomatoes, and cucumbers covered in furikake at Meals 4 Heels.
The Getting That Paper (GTP) bowl at Meals 4 Heels, which comes with truffled tomatoes, cucumbers, kale, sweet potato noodles, and cauliflower.
Brooke Jackson-Glidden / EPDX

Nikeisah Newton, the founder of sex worker meal delivery service Meals 4 Heels, is one of those people with contagious enthusiasm. She sings along to the music in her tiny stall outside the Redd on Salmon, where she massages kale for bowls and mixes up cherry-lime sodas. Her food is similarly exuberant: The long-popular GTP (Gettin’ That Paper) comes with roasted cauliflower tossed in tom kha base, sweet potato noodles, tomatoes popping with truffle salt, and rice-vinegar-pickled cucumbers. It’s a combination of flavors that seems like it may clash, but instead, it is vibrant and lively, just like Newton.

831 SE Salmon St Suite 50
Portland, OR 97214

12. Oma's Hideaway

3131 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202

Oma’s Takeaway is now in its third iteration, now known as Oma’s Hideaway. But for people who know Thomas and Mariah Pisha-Duffly, the owners of Gado Gado and Oma’s, this should be no surprise: The two are constantly switching up menus at their restaurants, experimenting with new drinks or dishes or music. Many of the new menu’s hits rely on the shop’s charcoal oven, from lacquered ducks to the char siu served alongside wonton mee. But it’s hard to beat some of the restaurant’s poultry dishes: The charcoal-roasted game hen can only be described as succulent, with that dark honey skin and a green sambal on the side, and on a hot day, the chicken salad is a godsend, the dried shrimp funk only a whisper in a sunshine-y blend of coconut and herbs.

3131 SE Division St
Portland, OR 97202

13. Moore Food & Co.

3576 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202

Stepping into the alleyway home of this food cart, with its chess set, mismatched furniture, and living wall full of strawberry plants, feels like something out of early-aughts Portland in the best way, but the food at this tucked-away cart is straight out of Philly, with pork roll and cheesesteak egg rolls. Tom Amick’s cheesesteak is the real deal: thinly shaved steak bound together with molten cheese, served on a super-soft Amoroso roll. With Oregon beers by the pint and a strong slate of regulars, it’s hard to not fall in love with this true hidden gem.

3576 SE Division St
Portland, OR 97202

14. Jerry’s Pizza

Bear Paw Inn in Portland, OR, 3237 SE Milwaukie Ave, Portland, OR 97202, USA

Those who can actually get their hands on one of Jerry Benedetto’s pizzas, pre-ordered online to be picked up inside the Bear Paw Inn, won’t be disappointed: These Chicago tavern-style pizzas, crispy and cornmeal-studded, come with fennel-heavy sausage, a generous layer of cheese fricco’d at the edges, and his “Grandma Pat’s” tomato sauce. Hot tip: the bar does seem to be selling Benedetto’s fried calzones for walk-ins; it’s a way to try Benedetto’s food without grappling with the hoards attempting to snag one of the coveted pre-order pizza slots. Bear Paw offers seating inside and out, or customers can carry out their pies in a traditional paper bag.

Bear Paw Inn in Portland, OR, 3237 SE Milwaukie Ave, Portland
OR 97202, USA

15. Portland Cà Phê

2815 SE Holgate Blvd, Portland, OR 97202

Kim Dam’s Southeast Portland cafe specializes in Vietnamese coffee, beans sourced from the central highlands of Vietnam and roasted by Dam in Portland. Those beans go into cardamom lattes and ube mochas, but Dam’s cà phê sữa đá — Vietnamese iced coffee — is a standout. The coffee comes with either espresso or traditional phin-made coffee, with an elegant sweetness. Dam’s mother supplies the banh mi, slathered with egg butter and lively pickled vegetables. The cafe is open for takeout, with little red tables outside to sit and sip coffee.

2815 SE Holgate Blvd
Portland, OR 97202

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