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Nine Tourist Trap Restaurants in Portland That Are Actually Good

We may roll our eyes, but let’s face it: They’re worth the hype.

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Portlanders love to complain about our tourists (especially Californians) and the restaurants on their bucket lists — even if those restaurants actually knock it out of the park. Food-loving locals often have a gripe or groan about Pok Pok or Salt & Straw, and God forbid someone suggests a meet-up at Departure for happy hour. So let’s all take a moment to appreciate the restaurants that are worth the hype: All of these tourist-filled dining rooms, cafes, dessert shops, and bars are good for entertaining out-of-town guests, and they should be on your bucket list if you’ve never been. Per usual, this map is not ranked, but rather organized geographically.

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Salt & Straw

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Tyler Malek’s ice creamery, with its several locations and out-there flavors like pear & blue cheese, is often the subject of local contrarians who can’t stand the lines. But the ice cream itself holds up: Creamy, rich, with a fascinating depth of flavor; even the scoops that raise eyebrows the highest always work out on the palate. If you’re too nervous to commit to a cone of blood pudding ice cream, the scoopers behind the colorful counters are happy to give you plenty of samples.

Blue Star Donuts

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Voodoo Doughnut is actively missing from this list, but the other reigning doughnut in town, Blue Star, is certainly worth the hype. Its airy brioche base is far from the generic Dunkin, and its sticky glazes, from blueberry bourbon basil to passionfruit cacao nib, are captivating enough to warrant multiple visits. Order a dozen from the white counter-service, with its wares laid out like bracelets in a jewelry case.

Doughnuts from Blue Star
Blue Star Donuts/Facebook

Multnomah Whiskey Library

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This mahogany-scented temple of all things bourbon and rye is a destination within Portland for a reason — for whiskey lovers, its cocktails and myriad bottles are something to behold. Go for the old-school cocktail cart service alone.

A picture of the Multnomah Whiskey Library. The Multnomah Whiskey Library/Facebook

Clyde Common

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Star cocktail artist Jeffrey Morgenthaler is a household name for booze geeks, and his palace of barrel-aged cocktails attracts spirit nerds from across the country. But really, that barrel-aged negroni rarely disappoints, especially enjoyed at its sleek, bustling bar.

Jeffrey Morgenthaler
Jeffrey Morgenthaler
Dina Avila/EPDX

Departure Restaurant + Lounge

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Portlanders whine about the out-of-towners who flock to this clubby and spaceship-esque restaurant atop the Nines Hotel, but chef Gregory Gourdet climbed the ranks at Top Chef for a reason. Departure’s mastery of layered aromatics and exceptional sashimis and crudos are far from scoff-worthy, and its vegan salads get the same stellar treatment as its sustainably sourced seafood.

A raw seafood salad at Departure with rolls of cucumber, strawberries, shiso, and fresh fish Brooke Jackson-Glidden/EPDX

Pine State Biscuits | Schuyler

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Portland loves its biscuits, and while lines often wrap around the various Pine State Biscuits locations, with their rustic vibe and gravy-smothered sandwiches, this Pacific-Northwestern-meets-Southern-fried breakfast spot isn’t playing around. Biscuits are small but plenty filling, and the fried-chicken-stacked Reggie sandwich, always better with an egg, gets its star power from tender, juicy poultry.

Lardo is arguably the supreme sandwich shop in Portland, with good reason: Its dirty fries, piquant with plenty of peppers, only get better as juicy burgers and banh mi drip over them, falling apart in a bacchanal of bread-or-bun-bookended delight. Plus, its chefwich collaborations always keep things interesting, easy to enjoy out on the Hawthorne patio.

Screen Door

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The rookie mistake made by the flocks of newbies is to go to Screen Door for brunch: The lines are always atrocious, and Portland is just littered with amazing brunch spots. But for dinner, the cheery, yellow-and-blue Burnside haunt delivers heaping piles of fried chicken that will make you moan, not to mention a dang-good pimento cheese and seasonal specials that almost always outshine the classics.

Shrimp and grits
Screen Door/Faceboook

Pok Pok

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Portland has plenty of breathtaking Thai restaurants, from any of Earl Ninsom’s spots to Nong’s, but Portland’s Thai food scene just wouldn’t be the same without Andy Ricker’s exceedingly important, open-air, homey Thai restaurant on SE Division. Its lightly fragrant and soothing khao soi gets its oomph from a house curry paste, and gnawing on Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings is a bucket list item for all of Portland’s meat eaters. And for those unwilling to weather the queue, there are plenty of other locations that rarely require a wait.

Naam Yaa Plaa Kati
Pok Pok/Facebook

Salt & Straw

Tyler Malek’s ice creamery, with its several locations and out-there flavors like pear & blue cheese, is often the subject of local contrarians who can’t stand the lines. But the ice cream itself holds up: Creamy, rich, with a fascinating depth of flavor; even the scoops that raise eyebrows the highest always work out on the palate. If you’re too nervous to commit to a cone of blood pudding ice cream, the scoopers behind the colorful counters are happy to give you plenty of samples.

Blue Star Donuts

Voodoo Doughnut is actively missing from this list, but the other reigning doughnut in town, Blue Star, is certainly worth the hype. Its airy brioche base is far from the generic Dunkin, and its sticky glazes, from blueberry bourbon basil to passionfruit cacao nib, are captivating enough to warrant multiple visits. Order a dozen from the white counter-service, with its wares laid out like bracelets in a jewelry case.

Doughnuts from Blue Star
Blue Star Donuts/Facebook

Multnomah Whiskey Library

This mahogany-scented temple of all things bourbon and rye is a destination within Portland for a reason — for whiskey lovers, its cocktails and myriad bottles are something to behold. Go for the old-school cocktail cart service alone.

A picture of the Multnomah Whiskey Library. The Multnomah Whiskey Library/Facebook

Clyde Common

Star cocktail artist Jeffrey Morgenthaler is a household name for booze geeks, and his palace of barrel-aged cocktails attracts spirit nerds from across the country. But really, that barrel-aged negroni rarely disappoints, especially enjoyed at its sleek, bustling bar.

Jeffrey Morgenthaler
Jeffrey Morgenthaler
Dina Avila/EPDX

Departure Restaurant + Lounge

Portlanders whine about the out-of-towners who flock to this clubby and spaceship-esque restaurant atop the Nines Hotel, but chef Gregory Gourdet climbed the ranks at Top Chef for a reason. Departure’s mastery of layered aromatics and exceptional sashimis and crudos are far from scoff-worthy, and its vegan salads get the same stellar treatment as its sustainably sourced seafood.

A raw seafood salad at Departure with rolls of cucumber, strawberries, shiso, and fresh fish Brooke Jackson-Glidden/EPDX

Pine State Biscuits | Schuyler

Portland loves its biscuits, and while lines often wrap around the various Pine State Biscuits locations, with their rustic vibe and gravy-smothered sandwiches, this Pacific-Northwestern-meets-Southern-fried breakfast spot isn’t playing around. Biscuits are small but plenty filling, and the fried-chicken-stacked Reggie sandwich, always better with an egg, gets its star power from tender, juicy poultry.

Lardo

Lardo is arguably the supreme sandwich shop in Portland, with good reason: Its dirty fries, piquant with plenty of peppers, only get better as juicy burgers and banh mi drip over them, falling apart in a bacchanal of bread-or-bun-bookended delight. Plus, its chefwich collaborations always keep things interesting, easy to enjoy out on the Hawthorne patio.

Screen Door

The rookie mistake made by the flocks of newbies is to go to Screen Door for brunch: The lines are always atrocious, and Portland is just littered with amazing brunch spots. But for dinner, the cheery, yellow-and-blue Burnside haunt delivers heaping piles of fried chicken that will make you moan, not to mention a dang-good pimento cheese and seasonal specials that almost always outshine the classics.

Shrimp and grits
Screen Door/Faceboook

Pok Pok

Portland has plenty of breathtaking Thai restaurants, from any of Earl Ninsom’s spots to Nong’s, but Portland’s Thai food scene just wouldn’t be the same without Andy Ricker’s exceedingly important, open-air, homey Thai restaurant on SE Division. Its lightly fragrant and soothing khao soi gets its oomph from a house curry paste, and gnawing on Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings is a bucket list item for all of Portland’s meat eaters. And for those unwilling to weather the queue, there are plenty of other locations that rarely require a wait.

Naam Yaa Plaa Kati
Pok Pok/Facebook

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