clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
A picture of a cheese-and-egg bread boat, cut so the yolk drips, at Dediko
Khachapuri at Dediko in Vancouver, Washington.
Sue O’Bryan/EPDX

Where to Find the Cheesiest Dishes in Portland and Beyond

From mac and cheese to quesabirria

View as Map
Khachapuri at Dediko in Vancouver, Washington.
| Sue O’Bryan/EPDX

It was Wallace of the famous claymation pair Wallace & Gromit who said it best: “We’ll go somewhere where there’s cheese.” And Portland’s restaurants and food carts have cheese dishes aplenty to satisfy cheese lovers of every bent. From innovative takes on Korean classics to fancy charcuterie to variations on childhood throwbacks like mac and cheese, cheese’s worldwide popularity is reflected in the cheesiest creations found at Portland restaurants and food carts.

Of course, pizza and mac and cheese are among the most abundant cheesy options out there, and you can find even more amazing pizza and mac and cheese spots on these other Eater Portland guides. This map, on the other hand, delves into a wider range of cheesy meals and snacks, including fondue, fried cheese curds, and quesabirria. With rainy fall and winter weather on the way, there’s no better time to cozy up with a bowl, slice, or plate of gooey cheese-based goodness.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; the latest data about the delta variant indicates that it may pose a low-to-moderate risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

Read More
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Corn Cheese at One Korean Restaurant

Copy Link

Corn cheese is basically exactly what it sounds like: Corn kernels and bubbly mozzarella, saucy with a toss of mayo and add-ins like onion or tteokbokki. It’s deceptively hard to get right — sometimes the cheese breaks, or it’s not gooey enough, or there’s not enough going on. This Beaverton restaurant’s version, however, is just right: Melty and stirrable, blanketed with a layer of melty cheese that’s just begun to brown.

Mac and Cheese at Grassa

Copy Link

At any of its three locations around Portland, Grassa draws you in with its refined modern aesthetic, eclectic background music played from old vinyl, and the irresistible smell of pasta that’s made fresh daily. Every one of the local chain’s Italian pasta dishes are delicious, but mac and cheese lovers will instantly gravitate to the pork belly mac and cheese. Made with shell-shaped conchiglie pasta and a secret white cheese blend, owner and chef Rick Gencarelli adds jalapenos, red onions, and cornbread crumbs for some spice and texture alongside the silky cheese. Then, cubes of tender barbecue pork belly land on top, adding salt and smoky barbecue flavor to the mix. It’s like the adult version of Kraft Mac with cut-up hotdogs, but so, so much better. 

Fondue at Urban Fondue

Copy Link

Fondue is fancy enough, but fondue with black truffles from the Willamette Valley? Or what about an uber-creamy Gorgonzola and brie blend? Experiment with different fondue flavors and creations at this cozy Nob Hill spot. Of the restaurant’s five standing fondue variants, standouts include the Ruby Port made with Swiss and Gruyère cheeses, caramelized sweet onions, and port, as well as the pesto caprese with mozzarella cheese, basil pesto, cherry tomatoes, and balsamic. For dipping sides, the restaurant offers bread chunks, vegetables, and sausage. 

Mac and Cheese Sandwich at Vtopia All Vegan Restaurant & Cheese Shop

Copy Link

Don’t worry, vegans: local cheesemongers haven’t forgotten about you. Vtopia in Southwest Portland’s Goose Hollow neighborhood specializes in house-made, aged vegan cheese. You can buy a block of cheese to take home yourself, with options like cashew-based cheddar, soy-based brie, soy-and-coconut-based muenster, and soy-based mozzarella. The shop also offers a menu of comfort foods, like vegan mac and cheese made with cashew-based cheese sauce and mozzarella. But for the ultimate cheesy treat, pursue the shop’s grilled mac and cheese sandwich, made with the shop’s classic mac with extra melty cheese on vegan Grand Central Bakery Como bread.

Buldak-ra-Bboki at Toki Restaurant

Copy Link

A new-ish addition to the downtown dining landscape, Toki is helmed by Peter Cho and Sun Young Park, the beloved team behind Han Oak. Their Buldak-ra-Bboki, Korean fried hot chicken and spicy rice cake ramen, is a creative mashup of tteokbokki and buldak, two popular Korean dishes. A quarter thigh of Cho and Park’s signature chili oil-dusted and dipped Korean fried chicken is placed atop a sizzling bed of melted mozzarella cheese. Under the cheese sits the tteokbokki — rice cakes — and ramyun noodles in spicy gochujang sauce. Dive in with your chopsticks to pull up some noodles or a rice cake for an epic cheese pull.

Quesadilla Oaxaquena at Republica

Copy Link

The simplicity of Republica’s quesadilla makes it the city’s finest: Fresh masa, often in a variety of colors, gets a quick touch of heat from the comal, while a heaping mound of Don Froylan queso oaxaca melts at its center. The flavor of the masa plays off the accompanying nutty salsa macha, but really, this dish shows off the salty-creamy stretch of the Salem-made cheese. Diners will often find it as a part of the restaurant’s tasting menu, but casual diners can simply pop in at lunch to order it a la carte.

Khachapuri at Dediko

Copy Link

Georgian spot Kargi Gogo was one of the many sad restaurant closures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The loss was most keenly felt by fans of the restaurant’s cheesy khachapuri bread boats, a traditional Georgian filled bread. Luckily, the Vancouver-based Dediko is still baking several varieties of khachapuri hailing from different parts of Georgia. The adjaruli comes filled with fresh cheese, butter, and an egg with a sunny yolk. The imeruli takes a flat, round pizza-esque shape with fresh cheese melted on top. The rachuli and penovani use flaky, buttery puff pastry with cheese and other ingredients sandwiched in the middle. While you can eat it with utensils, the adjaruli is best enjoyed by ripping off parts of the crust and using it to stir the egg and cheese together and dipping the cheesy mixture. 

Mozzarella Corn Dog at Ko Sisters Seoul Food

Copy Link

This trendy Korean street food —  a crispy corn dog filled with both sausage and melty mozzarella — is ubiquitous on the streets of Seoul, and they’re becoming increasingly popular in the United States; unfortunately, Portland’s been a little behind on this front. Luckily, this North Williams food cart slings plenty of panko-encrusted, melty-mozzarella-filled hot dogs on a stick, dressed and ready to be devoured on a walk through North Portland.

Pizza at Pop Pizza

Copy Link

The debate over which type of pizza reigns supreme will never be over, but one thing is for sure: Detroit-style square pizzas are having a moment. Pop Pizza opened up last year to join Ranch, Assembly Brewing, Ex Novo, and more as purveyors of these thick slabs of dough and cheese. Located in a lofty, industrial-chic dining area on SE Morrison, Pop Pizza’s aesthetics are as good as the pizzas. The sturdy squares are supported by a crunchy cheese crust, with the interior packed to the brim with a blend of cheddar, Wisconsin Brick, and mozzarella cheese. Toppings include classics like pepperoni and spicy Italian sausage, or more divisive ones like ham and pineapple. Keep an eye on the restaurant’s Instagram page for periodic collaborations with other restaurants and chefs; for example, the restaurant’s collaboration with Han Oak owners Sun Young Park and Peter Cho — a cheesy pie laden with kimchi, pickles, and pepperoni — was inspired by Park’s pregnancy cravings.

Fried Brie at Scotch Lodge

Copy Link

Imagine a fried mozzarella stick, but swap the mozz for brie. Then, roll it in pumpernickel crumbs and crushed pistachios. Then, drizzle a little bit of verjus syrup on top, to add just a little hit of sweetness. Scotch Lodge’s fried brie is, arguably, the best version of fried cheese in the city of Portland — melty and gooey, with a nice crisp crust, and just a few genius twists to make it feel completely original. They’re served in a low-lit, ritzy, subterranean Scotch bar, so be sure to eat them with a fancy cocktail or a dram of something special.

Fried Cheese Curds at Rogue Eastside Pub & Pilot Brewery

Copy Link

What’s better than fried cheese? Fried cheese with some cold, refreshing beer on the side. Originally hailing from Newport, Rogue Ales Eastside Pub and Pilot Brewery serves up the brand’s line of house-made beers like the Maibock-style Dead Guy Ale along with a distinct take on classic pub grub. Rogue uses a base of white cheddar curds, fried into gooey single-serving balls and served with a jalapeno jelly. 

Poutine at Potato Champion

Copy Link

Cheese and potatoes are a match made in heaven, as SE Hawthorne food cart Potato Champion’s Poutine shows. The fresh, double-fried french fries are heaped with cheddar cheese curds and slathered with a choice of vegetarian, vegan, or beef gravy. Canadian comfort food at its finest, and perfect for a chilly, rainy fall day.

Mac and Cheese, Mac and Cheese Balls at The MAC'D Window

Copy Link

This build-your-own mac and cheese fast-casual spot is a dream come true for mac lovers, with tons of different toppings like crab, bacon, shrimp, hot dog, tomatoes, and more to add to the mac and cheese of your choice. The standard base comes with a  jack-cheddar blend, but Mac’d also offers more distinct flavor combos like a tangy buffalo sauce version, or a version stacked  with Korean-braised short rib and slow-roasted barbecue pulled pork. Mix it up and order fried mac and cheese balls as well for a more inventive option.

Cheese Pizza at Scottie's Pizza Parlor

Copy Link

A major fixture of Portland’s nationally renowned pizza scene, this SE Division staple uses simple-but-high-quality components, like naturally leavened pizza dough made from Pacific Northwestern-grown wheat, to create classic 18-inch round and 16-inch square pies. With the right ingredients and skill, even the most basic pie becomes a thing of beauty, which is true of the classic plain cheese pizza. Robust tomato sauce is topped with aged mozzarella and pecorino romano and baked in the shop’s electric deck oven until the melted cheese resembles the mottled surface of the sun. 

Sampler Plate at Cheese & Crack Snack Shop

Copy Link

Of course this Southeast Portland spot is going to have some amazing cheese-based dishes: Cheese is right there in the name. But willing cheese aficionados and charcuterie fans will find a great showing of cheese excellence with the shop’s sampler plate, which comes with house-made rustic butter crackers, baguette slices, marionberry jam, dijon mustard, honey, olive, and cornichons. But the board’s cheese samples steal the show: Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar from Seattle, Hook’s Bleu cheese, and cana de oveja cheese made from Spanish sheep milk. Then there’s the Brie brûlée, whose triangular slices caramelized to create a crunchy, brûlée-like crust have gone viral online.

Queso at Matt's BBQ Tacos

Copy Link

Portland is rightfully proud of Matt Vicedomini’s SE Hawthorne food cart: Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn declared Portland to be the best place to find Texas-style barbecue outside of the Lone Star State, and this food cart is a big reason why. Alongside tacos, you’ll also find Matt’s rendition of the beloved Texan staple, queso. This zesty bowl of a secret queso cheese blend is topped with smoked beef, sour cream, pico de gallo, and guacamole. You can get the Queso Supremo either with chips for a nacho party, or have it added to the taco of your choice. 

Olympia Provisions Public House — fondue neuchatel

Copy Link

The first USDA-approved salumeria in the U.S. blends European charcuterie and Alpine cuisine and culture with local Pacific Northwestern flair and ingredients. At the Public House restaurant on SE Division, owner Elias Cairo’s love for Alpine pub grub is apparent in the fondue Neuchatel. Inspired by the classic Swiss dish, the restaurant’s gooey, bubbling concoction blends Gruyere and Emmental cheese with white wine. For fixings, the Public House provides an entire kielbasa sausage, bread cubes, house-made soft pretzel bits, apple slices, and fingerling potatoes. Diners can also  add extra meat like bratwurst or frankfurters for dipping. The whole affair feeds between two to four people.

Mac and Cheese at Nacheaux

Copy Link

Despite navigating the difficulties of opening during a pandemic, Nacheaux was a breakout star of 2020, transiting quickly from food truck to brick-and-mortar restaurant. From fried chicken burritos to crawfish tacos, chef Anthony Brown’s inventive and flavor-packed creations blend elements of Southern and Mexican cooking. Brown’s mac and cheese come coated in a creamy five-cheese blend, with  the fiery and earthy kick of Cajun seasoning. The topping options are wild, including crispy fried chicken, five-hour braised pork carnitas, cornmeal-fried catfish, and more. For his final flourish, Brown finishes each bowl with a sprinkling of cotija cheese and drizzle of the restaurant’s spicy-tangy Nacheaux crema.

Pão de Queijo at Favela Brazilian Cafe

Copy Link

This Foster-Powell Brazilian cafe serves a dauntingly large list of coffee drinks, smoothies, and juices, but the tiny snack menu includes an absolute gem: pão de queijo, or Brazilian cheese bread. Toasty, freshly-baked balls almost always arrive warm and dotted with color, with a springy, soft, cheesy center. Those looking to double-down on dairy can add one of the cafe’s many cheesy sandwiches, whether it’s the melty queijo quente with tomato and oregano or the melty ham-and-cheese misto quente.

Quesadilla at Birrieria La Plaza

Copy Link

There are a number of exceptional carts in Portland selling quesabirria, the Tijuana-style beefy, cheesy dish and all of its relatives. Quesabirria carts generally sell a few standards: The namesake dish, something like a thick, beef quesadilla; crispy-tortilla’d vampiros, smaller quesatacos, and, in certain places, dishes like birria ramen. The quesadilla at Birrieria La Plaza — essentially quesabirria — comes stuffed with melty quesillo and braised beef, best dunked in a side of the beef’s braising liquid.

Birria Crunch Wrap at Birrieria PDX Division

Copy Link

Another fantastic birria cart, Birrieria’s menu is a touch more extensive than others, with things like ramen, birria fries, and “keto tacos” — birria in a crispy cheese “tortilla.” But those looking for a true cheese overload should go for the cart’s crunch wrap: A UFO-shaped tortilla parcel filled with tender beef, plenty of cheese, two tostadas for crunch, rice and beans, and, for an added cheesy element, Hot Cheetos. Then again, those intimidated by a dish quite this hypebeast can stick to the cart’s exceptional quesabirria.

Waffle Grilled Cheese at Sugarpine Drive-In

Copy Link

The classic grilled cheese gets a breakfast-y upgrade at this charming drive-thru in Troutdale. Cheddar, muenster, and fontina form the ideal cheesy trio, sandwiched between two thick slices of Texas toast that’s grilled in a waffle iron. The diagonal cut and waffle checkerboard pattern screams childhood nostalgia. Sugarpine’s tomato soup is a required accompaniment for dipping.

Corn Cheese at One Korean Restaurant

Corn cheese is basically exactly what it sounds like: Corn kernels and bubbly mozzarella, saucy with a toss of mayo and add-ins like onion or tteokbokki. It’s deceptively hard to get right — sometimes the cheese breaks, or it’s not gooey enough, or there’s not enough going on. This Beaverton restaurant’s version, however, is just right: Melty and stirrable, blanketed with a layer of melty cheese that’s just begun to brown.

Mac and Cheese at Grassa

At any of its three locations around Portland, Grassa draws you in with its refined modern aesthetic, eclectic background music played from old vinyl, and the irresistible smell of pasta that’s made fresh daily. Every one of the local chain’s Italian pasta dishes are delicious, but mac and cheese lovers will instantly gravitate to the pork belly mac and cheese. Made with shell-shaped conchiglie pasta and a secret white cheese blend, owner and chef Rick Gencarelli adds jalapenos, red onions, and cornbread crumbs for some spice and texture alongside the silky cheese. Then, cubes of tender barbecue pork belly land on top, adding salt and smoky barbecue flavor to the mix. It’s like the adult version of Kraft Mac with cut-up hotdogs, but so, so much better. 

Fondue at Urban Fondue

Fondue is fancy enough, but fondue with black truffles from the Willamette Valley? Or what about an uber-creamy Gorgonzola and brie blend? Experiment with different fondue flavors and creations at this cozy Nob Hill spot. Of the restaurant’s five standing fondue variants, standouts include the Ruby Port made with Swiss and Gruyère cheeses, caramelized sweet onions, and port, as well as the pesto caprese with mozzarella cheese, basil pesto, cherry tomatoes, and balsamic. For dipping sides, the restaurant offers bread chunks, vegetables, and sausage. 

Mac and Cheese Sandwich at Vtopia All Vegan Restaurant & Cheese Shop

Don’t worry, vegans: local cheesemongers haven’t forgotten about you. Vtopia in Southwest Portland’s Goose Hollow neighborhood specializes in house-made, aged vegan cheese. You can buy a block of cheese to take home yourself, with options like cashew-based cheddar, soy-based brie, soy-and-coconut-based muenster, and soy-based mozzarella. The shop also offers a menu of comfort foods, like vegan mac and cheese made with cashew-based cheese sauce and mozzarella. But for the ultimate cheesy treat, pursue the shop’s grilled mac and cheese sandwich, made with the shop’s classic mac with extra melty cheese on vegan Grand Central Bakery Como bread.

Buldak-ra-Bboki at Toki Restaurant

A new-ish addition to the downtown dining landscape, Toki is helmed by Peter Cho and Sun Young Park, the beloved team behind Han Oak. Their Buldak-ra-Bboki, Korean fried hot chicken and spicy rice cake ramen, is a creative mashup of tteokbokki and buldak, two popular Korean dishes. A quarter thigh of Cho and Park’s signature chili oil-dusted and dipped Korean fried chicken is placed atop a sizzling bed of melted mozzarella cheese. Under the cheese sits the tteokbokki — rice cakes — and ramyun noodles in spicy gochujang sauce. Dive in with your chopsticks to pull up some noodles or a rice cake for an epic cheese pull.

Quesadilla Oaxaquena at Republica

The simplicity of Republica’s quesadilla makes it the city’s finest: Fresh masa, often in a variety of colors, gets a quick touch of heat from the comal, while a heaping mound of Don Froylan queso oaxaca melts at its center. The flavor of the masa plays off the accompanying nutty salsa macha, but really, this dish shows off the salty-creamy stretch of the Salem-made cheese. Diners will often find it as a part of the restaurant’s tasting menu, but casual diners can simply pop in at lunch to order it a la carte.

Khachapuri at Dediko

Georgian spot Kargi Gogo was one of the many sad restaurant closures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The loss was most keenly felt by fans of the restaurant’s cheesy khachapuri bread boats, a traditional Georgian filled bread. Luckily, the Vancouver-based Dediko is still baking several varieties of khachapuri hailing from different parts of Georgia. The adjaruli comes filled with fresh cheese, butter, and an egg with a sunny yolk. The imeruli takes a flat, round pizza-esque shape with fresh cheese melted on top. The rachuli and penovani use flaky, buttery puff pastry with cheese and other ingredients sandwiched in the middle. While you can eat it with utensils, the adjaruli is best enjoyed by ripping off parts of the crust and using it to stir the egg and cheese together and dipping the cheesy mixture. 

Mozzarella Corn Dog at Ko Sisters Seoul Food

This trendy Korean street food —  a crispy corn dog filled with both sausage and melty mozzarella — is ubiquitous on the streets of Seoul, and they’re becoming increasingly popular in the United States; unfortunately, Portland’s been a little behind on this front. Luckily, this North Williams food cart slings plenty of panko-encrusted, melty-mozzarella-filled hot dogs on a stick, dressed and ready to be devoured on a walk through North Portland.

Pizza at Pop Pizza

The debate over which type of pizza reigns supreme will never be over, but one thing is for sure: Detroit-style square pizzas are having a moment. Pop Pizza opened up last year to join Ranch, Assembly Brewing, Ex Novo, and more as purveyors of these thick slabs of dough and cheese. Located in a lofty, industrial-chic dining area on SE Morrison, Pop Pizza’s aesthetics are as good as the pizzas. The sturdy squares are supported by a crunchy cheese crust, with the interior packed to the brim with a blend of cheddar, Wisconsin Brick, and mozzarella cheese. Toppings include classics like pepperoni and spicy Italian sausage, or more divisive ones like ham and pineapple. Keep an eye on the restaurant’s Instagram page for periodic collaborations with other restaurants and chefs; for example, the restaurant’s collaboration with Han Oak owners Sun Young Park and Peter Cho — a cheesy pie laden with kimchi, pickles, and pepperoni — was inspired by Park’s pregnancy cravings.

Fried Brie at Scotch Lodge

Imagine a fried mozzarella stick, but swap the mozz for brie. Then, roll it in pumpernickel crumbs and crushed pistachios. Then, drizzle a little bit of verjus syrup on top, to add just a little hit of sweetness. Scotch Lodge’s fried brie is, arguably, the best version of fried cheese in the city of Portland — melty and gooey, with a nice crisp crust, and just a few genius twists to make it feel completely original. They’re served in a low-lit, ritzy, subterranean Scotch bar, so be sure to eat them with a fancy cocktail or a dram of something special.

Fried Cheese Curds at Rogue Eastside Pub & Pilot Brewery

What’s better than fried cheese? Fried cheese with some cold, refreshing beer on the side. Originally hailing from Newport, Rogue Ales Eastside Pub and Pilot Brewery serves up the brand’s line of house-made beers like the Maibock-style Dead Guy Ale along with a distinct take on classic pub grub. Rogue uses a base of white cheddar curds, fried into gooey single-serving balls and served with a jalapeno jelly. 

Poutine at Potato Champion

Cheese and potatoes are a match made in heaven, as SE Hawthorne food cart Potato Champion’s Poutine shows. The fresh, double-fried french fries are heaped with cheddar cheese curds and slathered with a choice of vegetarian, vegan, or beef gravy. Canadian comfort food at its finest, and perfect for a chilly, rainy fall day.

Mac and Cheese, Mac and Cheese Balls at The MAC'D Window

This build-your-own mac and cheese fast-casual spot is a dream come true for mac lovers, with tons of different toppings like crab, bacon, shrimp, hot dog, tomatoes, and more to add to the mac and cheese of your choice. The standard base comes with a  jack-cheddar blend, but Mac’d also offers more distinct flavor combos like a tangy buffalo sauce version, or a version stacked  with Korean-braised short rib and slow-roasted barbecue pulled pork. Mix it up and order fried mac and cheese balls as well for a more inventive option.

Cheese Pizza at Scottie's Pizza Parlor

A major fixture of Portland’s nationally renowned pizza scene, this SE Division staple uses simple-but-high-quality components, like naturally leavened pizza dough made from Pacific Northwestern-grown wheat, to create classic 18-inch round and 16-inch square pies. With the right ingredients and skill, even the most basic pie becomes a thing of beauty, which is true of the classic plain cheese pizza. Robust tomato sauce is topped with aged mozzarella and pecorino romano and baked in the shop’s electric deck oven until the melted cheese resembles the mottled surface of the sun. 

Sampler Plate at Cheese & Crack Snack Shop

Of course this Southeast Portland spot is going to have some amazing cheese-based dishes: Cheese is right there in the name. But willing cheese aficionados and charcuterie fans will find a great showing of cheese excellence with the shop’s sampler plate, which comes with house-made rustic butter crackers, baguette slices, marionberry jam, dijon mustard, honey, olive, and cornichons. But the board’s cheese samples steal the show: Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar from Seattle, Hook’s Bleu cheese, and cana de oveja cheese made from Spanish sheep milk. Then there’s the Brie brûlée, whose triangular slices caramelized to create a crunchy, brûlée-like crust have gone viral online.

Related Maps

Queso at Matt's BBQ Tacos

Portland is rightfully proud of Matt Vicedomini’s SE Hawthorne food cart: Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn declared Portland to be the best place to find Texas-style barbecue outside of the Lone Star State, and this food cart is a big reason why. Alongside tacos, you’ll also find Matt’s rendition of the beloved Texan staple, queso. This zesty bowl of a secret queso cheese blend is topped with smoked beef, sour cream, pico de gallo, and guacamole. You can get the Queso Supremo either with chips for a nacho party, or have it added to the taco of your choice. 

Olympia Provisions Public House — fondue neuchatel

The first USDA-approved salumeria in the U.S. blends European charcuterie and Alpine cuisine and culture with local Pacific Northwestern flair and ingredients. At the Public House restaurant on SE Division, owner Elias Cairo’s love for Alpine pub grub is apparent in the fondue Neuchatel. Inspired by the classic Swiss dish, the restaurant’s gooey, bubbling concoction blends Gruyere and Emmental cheese with white wine. For fixings, the Public House provides an entire kielbasa sausage, bread cubes, house-made soft pretzel bits, apple slices, and fingerling potatoes. Diners can also  add extra meat like bratwurst or frankfurters for dipping. The whole affair feeds between two to four people.

Mac and Cheese at Nacheaux

Despite navigating the difficulties of opening during a pandemic, Nacheaux was a breakout star of 2020, transiting quickly from food truck to brick-and-mortar restaurant. From fried chicken burritos to crawfish tacos, chef Anthony Brown’s inventive and flavor-packed creations blend elements of Southern and Mexican cooking. Brown’s mac and cheese come coated in a creamy five-cheese blend, with  the fiery and earthy kick of Cajun seasoning. The topping options are wild, including crispy fried chicken, five-hour braised pork carnitas, cornmeal-fried catfish, and more. For his final flourish, Brown finishes each bowl with a sprinkling of cotija cheese and drizzle of the restaurant’s spicy-tangy Nacheaux crema.

Pão de Queijo at Favela Brazilian Cafe

This Foster-Powell Brazilian cafe serves a dauntingly large list of coffee drinks, smoothies, and juices, but the tiny snack menu includes an absolute gem: pão de queijo, or Brazilian cheese bread. Toasty, freshly-baked balls almost always arrive warm and dotted with color, with a springy, soft, cheesy center. Those looking to double-down on dairy can add one of the cafe’s many cheesy sandwiches, whether it’s the melty queijo quente with tomato and oregano or the melty ham-and-cheese misto quente.

Quesadilla at Birrieria La Plaza

There are a number of exceptional carts in Portland selling quesabirria, the Tijuana-style beefy, cheesy dish and all of its relatives. Quesabirria carts generally sell a few standards: The namesake dish, something like a thick, beef quesadilla; crispy-tortilla’d vampiros, smaller quesatacos, and, in certain places, dishes like birria ramen. The quesadilla at Birrieria La Plaza — essentially quesabirria — comes stuffed with melty quesillo and braised beef, best dunked in a side of the beef’s braising liquid.

Birria Crunch Wrap at Birrieria PDX Division

Another fantastic birria cart, Birrieria’s menu is a touch more extensive than others, with things like ramen, birria fries, and “keto tacos” — birria in a crispy cheese “tortilla.” But those looking for a true cheese overload should go for the cart’s crunch wrap: A UFO-shaped tortilla parcel filled with tender beef, plenty of cheese, two tostadas for crunch, rice and beans, and, for an added cheesy element, Hot Cheetos. Then again, those intimidated by a dish quite this hypebeast can stick to the cart’s exceptional quesabirria.

Waffle Grilled Cheese at Sugarpine Drive-In

The classic grilled cheese gets a breakfast-y upgrade at this charming drive-thru in Troutdale. Cheddar, muenster, and fontina form the ideal cheesy trio, sandwiched between two thick slices of Texas toast that’s grilled in a waffle iron. The diagonal cut and waffle checkerboard pattern screams childhood nostalgia. Sugarpine’s tomato soup is a required accompaniment for dipping.

Related Maps