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Restaurant Underdogs: Portland's Hidden Gems

Find Portland's best under-the-radar restaurants

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With severe weather forcing many restaurants to close for multiple dates this winter, it's time to pay tribute to, and support, Portland's restaurant underdogs — the hidden-gem restaurants that get plenty of love from regulars but not enough attention from the media. The restaurant underdogs map gives these time-tested and hard-working establishments their due. The only rules for cracking the list? The restaurants must receive little recognition, have zero PR presence, and be worthy of your cash.

It's extremely likely that one of your favorite under-recognized restaurants isn't on this map. Now's the time to show the love in the comments below and on social media. Portland has creative and quality-driven chefs and restaurant owners bursting from its seams, from St. Johns to Oregon City, and from Beaverton to Troutdale. If there were ever a place to give them a shoutout, this is it.

To see which restaurants used to be on the map, visit the Restaurant Underdog archive. (Note: The points on this map are not ranked; rather, they're organized geographically.)

Carrie Uffindell and Chad Walsh

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. 3 Doors Down Cafe

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1429 SE 37th Ave
Portland, OR 97214
(503) 236-6886
Visit Website
In a town that has Italian spots in spades, 3 Doors Down is the one that seems to get the least amount of love. Regulars love it, though, and have given it their loyalty since it opened more than a decade ago. It has a stellar wine list and fresh batches of pastas made daily. See what the fuss is about by becoming a regular yourself.  

[Photo: Facebook/3 Doors Down Cafe]

2. The Fish and Chip Shoppe

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1218 N Killingsworth St.
Portland, OR 97217
(503) 232-3344
Visit Website
You no doubt remember that the fries at McDonald’s were once a thing of beauty, thanks to being deep-fried in tallow. Well, thanks to British expat Mick Shillingford, you can now get fries—and battered fish—fried in tallow. The only thing you have to figure out is what kind of fish you want: halibut, haddock, red snapper, or cod. And don’t forget to peek inside Shillingford’s neighboring Tardis Room bar, which hosts musical performances and Dr. Who screenings.  

[Photo: Yelp/David B.]

3. Saraveza

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1004 N Killingsworth St
Portland, OR 97217
(503) 206-4252
Visit Website
Saraveza is Portland’s unapologetic Packers bar, but even those who don't care for football should check it out. Think hearty savory pasties (including a classic braised beef, potato, and carrot version), smoked sausages, and, naturally, squeaky cheese curds.  

[Photo: Yelp/Lisa D.]

4. Chameleon Restaurant and Bar

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2000 NE 40th Ave
Portland, OR 97212
(503) 460-2682
Visit Website
Chameleon will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year, but it seldom gets media attention—although if you strolled past it on any given night you wouldn’t know it from the busy dining room. The menu’s all over the map—literally, as there are dishes from Italy, Thailand, Mexico, and France—with highlights like chimichurri’d pork loin with rice and green beans and a seared cod served with mushrooms, asparagus, carrots, mango, and a ginger-garlic sauce. It gets bonus points, too, for having one fantastically large patio.  

[Photo: Facebook/Chameleon Restaurant & Bar]

5. Bipartisan Cafe

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7901 SE Stark St
Portland, OR 97215
(503) 253-1051
Visit Website
Back in 2004, when those on the left and those on the right thought their discourse had reached an impasse (remember those halcyon days?), this little cafe opened its doors to provide Montavilla neighbors and their friends with a safe space to exchange political ideas among respectful listeners. Twelve years later, Portlanders are still dropping by, as much for the seasonal pies as they are for the political discourse, because they know what Bipartisan’s owners do: That every conversation is sweetened with pie. Bagels, bagel sandwiches, and regular sandwiches are also available.  

[Photo: Bipartisan Cafe]

6. El Pato Feliz

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5824 SE 92nd Ave
Portland, OR 97266
(503) 772-1037
It’s true: Fluorescent lighting has never made anything look good—including (and especially) your Instagram food shots—but you’re not going to El Pato Feliz for glamor. Rather you’re going for quick and super affordable Mexican cuisine served by friendly people in a comfortable dining room. Order yourself one large comforting bowl of steaming pasole, and if you have room, spring for some truly terrific tamales.  

[Photo: Yelp/Cora P.]

7. Fonda Rosa

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108 NE 28th Ave
Portland, OR 97232
(503) 235-3828
28th Avenue is one of the most bustling food streets in the city, with some of the hottest restaurants where it crosses East Burnside. Fonda Rosa might be easy to miss, but know what its regulars already know: It's the real deal. Ask yourself when was the last time you had salmon asado, and then ask yourself why aren’t you having it tonight.  

[Photo: Yelp/Jayme R.]

8. Marrakesh Moroccan Restaurant

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1201 NW 21st Ave
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 248-9442
Visit Website
Years before Paley’s Place opened its doors, Marrakesh was anchoring the Nob Hill neighborhood. Since 1989, the ornate restaurant’s been serving up Moroccan fare, including a host of tagines, royal feasts for four, and whole fire-roasted lambs for parties of eight. Wednesdays and Sundays bring live belly dancing, too.  

[Photo: Facebook/Marrakesh]

9. Otto & Anita's Schnitzel's Haus

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3025 SW Canby St
Portland, OR 97219
(503) 452-1411
Visit Website
When it’s time to eat, Multnomah Villagers head to this Bavarian schnitzelhaus for some hearty Alpine eats. In all, Otto’s and Anita’s serves seven different kinds of schnitzel, including a veal version, as well as sides like baked-to-order pretzels, escargot, and three different kinds of spätzle. (Pro-tip: order all three and share with your tablemates.)  

[Photo: Yelp/Carol H.]

10. La Panza Cafe

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2425 SE 26th Ave
Portland, OR 97214
(503) 236-5005
Visit Website
This New Mexican restaurant, tucked into a corner building just off SE Division Street, is easy to miss. But you can remedy that by dropping in for breakfast (think huevos rancheros and blue corn piñon pancakes) for lunch or dinner. Fill up on pasole, tacos, green chile cheeseburgers, and—because why not—green chile french fries. And don’t forget: Tuesdays at La Panza are tamale Tuesdays.  

[Photo: Facebook/La Panza]

11. Behind The Museum Café

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1229 SW 10th Ave
Portland, OR 97205
(503) 477-6625
Visit Website
The conversations in this sleek little cafe near the Portland Art Museum are hushed, making it an ideal place to start that novel you’ve been meaning to get at while enjoying snacks like matcha brownies and green tea ice cream. Find heartier, healthier plates, too, like the delightful ham, brie, and pear sandwich. Everything runs between $2 and $12, and the cafe's cooks do not skim on the presentation of their plates.  

[Photo: Facebook/Behind the Museum Cafe]

12. John's Coffee Shop

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301 NW Broadway
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 227-4611
The first thing you notice when you step inside John’s is the silence. There’s no music to greet you and many of the diners are eating solo, lost in their books or their fried eggs. And the couple that runs it is sweet, cool, and industrious. He does the cooking; she pours the coffee and demands that you finish any bacon you’ve left on your plate. It’s cash-only, but don’t worry because you’re not going to spend a lot of it: The prices are so reasonable that they seem almost unreasonable. Blink and you’ll miss it, because John’s closes at noon, and, frankly, if it’s empty at 11:30, the couple will probably just lock up and go home. But after more than 40 years of running the place, they’ve earned it.  

[Photo: Yelp/Robert G.]

13. EaT: An Oyster Bar

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3808 N Williams Ave
Portland, OR 97227
(503) 281-1222
Visit Website
Inspired by neighborhood eateries in New Orleans’s French Quarter and chef Ethan Powell’s Southern roots, EaT serves Spanish-style jambalaya studded with house-made Andouille sausage, a spicy-rich shrimp étouffeé, and oysters (served raw or baked) from the Oregon and Washington coasts. If that’s not enough to tempt your palate, EaT also offers a variety of small plates ($4-12) such as pork rinds, collard greens, and turtle soup.

[Photo: Facebook/EaT: An Oyster Bar]

14. Swiss Hibiscus

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4950 NE 14th Ave
Portland, OR 97211
(503) 477-9224
Visit Website
Swiss Hibiscus ended Portland's drought of Swiss-Hawaiian restaurants, when it opened in the Alberta Arts District in 2010. Amidst the aloha vibe and island décor, you’ll find classic Swiss dishes like cheese fondue, schnitzel, goulash, wienerschnitzel, and rösti, a Swiss-style hash brown. Menu prices are very reasonable, with entrées topping out at $16.50. It's open for lunch and dinner.

[Photo: Swiss Hibiscus]

15. Old Salt Marketplace

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5027 NE 42nd Ave
Portland, OR 97218
(971) 255-0167
Visit Website
Deli, meat shop, restaurant, bar, classroom – this marketplace wears many hats. But at its core are some of the freshest meats in Portland, all butchered in-house using whole animals from Oregon farms and ranches. And the prices often seem too good to be true. In the supperhouse, you’ll find Old Salt’s meats served alongside seasonal produce. For inexpensive bites, there’s also a Happy Hour and a late night menu featuring $2 to $15 plates and $6 cocktails.

[Photo: Old Salt]

16. Le Happy

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1011 NW 16th Ave
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 226-1258
Visit Website
Portland’s original French-style crêperie, Le Happy has been making savory and sweet crêpes since 2000. Long-time favorite savory dishes include the Salad Crêpe and the Faux Vegan. The aptly named Spectac is a sweet crêpe filled with Grand Marnier liqueur, Nutella, and banana flambé. (Yes, it’s as good as it sounds.) Add half a steak and maison salad to any crêpe for $9. Or create your own masterpiece from over a dozen ingredients. Vegetarian and gluten-free options are available.

[Photo: Yelp]

17. Industrial Cafe & Saloon

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2572 NW Vaughn St
Portland, OR 97210
(503) 227-7002
Visit Website
How many Portland restaurants can claim to raise their own 100% grass-fed beef within 30 miles of the city? This industrial-chic café can, and has, since opening its doors in 2004 to serve up breakfast and lunch. Burgers and sandwiches are made with in-house cured and smoked meats, including its pastrami, turkey, chipped beef, and house smoked turkey. Then finish off your meal with a made-from-scratch dessert.

[Photo: Industrial Cafe]

18. Seasons & Regions Seafood Grill

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6660 SW Capitol Hwy
Portland, OR 97219
(503) 244-6400
Visit Website
This Portland staple is a rare bird: It's welcoming to everyone from grandparents to kids, and serves Northwest seafood and classic American dishes with heirloom vegetables, fruits, and herbs grown on its 13-acre farm in Estacada. And the prices can be rather absurdly low. Expect things like smoked-salmon tater tots, Willapa Bay fried oysters, fried chicken dinner, and "Old Fashion Meat Loaf." Seasons & Regions also has a year-round outdoor patio (heated in winter) and a cheap eats menu ($4-$6) that changes monthly. Lunch brings a number of humble but nourishing dishes for $8.50 to $10.50, as well.

[Photo: Yelp]

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1. 3 Doors Down Cafe

1429 SE 37th Ave, Portland, OR 97214
In a town that has Italian spots in spades, 3 Doors Down is the one that seems to get the least amount of love. Regulars love it, though, and have given it their loyalty since it opened more than a decade ago. It has a stellar wine list and fresh batches of pastas made daily. See what the fuss is about by becoming a regular yourself.  

[Photo: Facebook/3 Doors Down Cafe]

1429 SE 37th Ave
Portland, OR 97214

2. The Fish and Chip Shoppe

1218 N Killingsworth St., Portland, OR 97217
You no doubt remember that the fries at McDonald’s were once a thing of beauty, thanks to being deep-fried in tallow. Well, thanks to British expat Mick Shillingford, you can now get fries—and battered fish—fried in tallow. The only thing you have to figure out is what kind of fish you want: halibut, haddock, red snapper, or cod. And don’t forget to peek inside Shillingford’s neighboring Tardis Room bar, which hosts musical performances and Dr. Who screenings.  

[Photo: Yelp/David B.]

1218 N Killingsworth St.
Portland, OR 97217

3. Saraveza

1004 N Killingsworth St, Portland, OR 97217
Saraveza is Portland’s unapologetic Packers bar, but even those who don't care for football should check it out. Think hearty savory pasties (including a classic braised beef, potato, and carrot version), smoked sausages, and, naturally, squeaky cheese curds.  

[Photo: Yelp/Lisa D.]

1004 N Killingsworth St
Portland, OR 97217

4. Chameleon Restaurant and Bar

2000 NE 40th Ave, Portland, OR 97212
Chameleon will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year, but it seldom gets media attention—although if you strolled past it on any given night you wouldn’t know it from the busy dining room. The menu’s all over the map—literally, as there are dishes from Italy, Thailand, Mexico, and France—with highlights like chimichurri’d pork loin with rice and green beans and a seared cod served with mushrooms, asparagus, carrots, mango, and a ginger-garlic sauce. It gets bonus points, too, for having one fantastically large patio.  

[Photo: Facebook/Chameleon Restaurant & Bar]

2000 NE 40th Ave
Portland, OR 97212

5. Bipartisan Cafe

7901 SE Stark St, Portland, OR 97215
Back in 2004, when those on the left and those on the right thought their discourse had reached an impasse (remember those halcyon days?), this little cafe opened its doors to provide Montavilla neighbors and their friends with a safe space to exchange political ideas among respectful listeners. Twelve years later, Portlanders are still dropping by, as much for the seasonal pies as they are for the political discourse, because they know what Bipartisan’s owners do: That every conversation is sweetened with pie. Bagels, bagel sandwiches, and regular sandwiches are also available.  

[Photo: Bipartisan Cafe]

7901 SE Stark St
Portland, OR 97215

6. El Pato Feliz

5824 SE 92nd Ave, Portland, OR 97266
It’s true: Fluorescent lighting has never made anything look good—including (and especially) your Instagram food shots—but you’re not going to El Pato Feliz for glamor. Rather you’re going for quick and super affordable Mexican cuisine served by friendly people in a comfortable dining room. Order yourself one large comforting bowl of steaming pasole, and if you have room, spring for some truly terrific tamales.  

[Photo: Yelp/Cora P.]

5824 SE 92nd Ave
Portland, OR 97266

7. Fonda Rosa

108 NE 28th Ave, Portland, OR 97232
28th Avenue is one of the most bustling food streets in the city, with some of the hottest restaurants where it crosses East Burnside. Fonda Rosa might be easy to miss, but know what its regulars already know: It's the real deal. Ask yourself when was the last time you had salmon asado, and then ask yourself why aren’t you having it tonight.  

[Photo: Yelp/Jayme R.]

108 NE 28th Ave
Portland, OR 97232

8. Marrakesh Moroccan Restaurant

1201 NW 21st Ave, Portland, OR 97209
Years before Paley’s Place opened its doors, Marrakesh was anchoring the Nob Hill neighborhood. Since 1989, the ornate restaurant’s been serving up Moroccan fare, including a host of tagines, royal feasts for four, and whole fire-roasted lambs for parties of eight. Wednesdays and Sundays bring live belly dancing, too.  

[Photo: Facebook/Marrakesh]

1201 NW 21st Ave
Portland, OR 97209

9. Otto & Anita's Schnitzel's Haus

3025 SW Canby St, Portland, OR 97219
When it’s time to eat, Multnomah Villagers head to this Bavarian schnitzelhaus for some hearty Alpine eats. In all, Otto’s and Anita’s serves seven different kinds of schnitzel, including a veal version, as well as sides like baked-to-order pretzels, escargot, and three different kinds of spätzle. (Pro-tip: order all three and share with your tablemates.)  

[Photo: Yelp/Carol H.]

3025 SW Canby St
Portland, OR 97219

10. La Panza Cafe

2425 SE 26th Ave, Portland, OR 97214
This New Mexican restaurant, tucked into a corner building just off SE Division Street, is easy to miss. But you can remedy that by dropping in for breakfast (think huevos rancheros and blue corn piñon pancakes) for lunch or dinner. Fill up on pasole, tacos, green chile cheeseburgers, and—because why not—green chile french fries. And don’t forget: Tuesdays at La Panza are tamale Tuesdays.  

[Photo: Facebook/La Panza]

2425 SE 26th Ave
Portland, OR 97214

11. Behind The Museum Café

1229 SW 10th Ave, Portland, OR 97205
The conversations in this sleek little cafe near the Portland Art Museum are hushed, making it an ideal place to start that novel you’ve been meaning to get at while enjoying snacks like matcha brownies and green tea ice cream. Find heartier, healthier plates, too, like the delightful ham, brie, and pear sandwich. Everything runs between $2 and $12, and the cafe's cooks do not skim on the presentation of their plates.  

[Photo: Facebook/Behind the Museum Cafe]

1229 SW 10th Ave
Portland, OR 97205

12. John's Coffee Shop

301 NW Broadway, Portland, OR 97209
The first thing you notice when you step inside John’s is the silence. There’s no music to greet you and many of the diners are eating solo, lost in their books or their fried eggs. And the couple that runs it is sweet, cool, and industrious. He does the cooking; she pours the coffee and demands that you finish any bacon you’ve left on your plate. It’s cash-only, but don’t worry because you’re not going to spend a lot of it: The prices are so reasonable that they seem almost unreasonable. Blink and you’ll miss it, because John’s closes at noon, and, frankly, if it’s empty at 11:30, the couple will probably just lock up and go home. But after more than 40 years of running the place, they’ve earned it.  

[Photo: Yelp/Robert G.]

301 NW Broadway
Portland, OR 97209

13. EaT: An Oyster Bar

3808 N Williams Ave, Portland, OR 97227
Inspired by neighborhood eateries in New Orleans’s French Quarter and chef Ethan Powell’s Southern roots, EaT serves Spanish-style jambalaya studded with house-made Andouille sausage, a spicy-rich shrimp étouffeé, and oysters (served raw or baked) from the Oregon and Washington coasts. If that’s not enough to tempt your palate, EaT also offers a variety of small plates ($4-12) such as pork rinds, collard greens, and turtle soup.

[Photo: Facebook/EaT: An Oyster Bar]

3808 N Williams Ave
Portland, OR 97227

14. Swiss Hibiscus

4950 NE 14th Ave, Portland, OR 97211
Swiss Hibiscus ended Portland's drought of Swiss-Hawaiian restaurants, when it opened in the Alberta Arts District in 2010. Amidst the aloha vibe and island décor, you’ll find classic Swiss dishes like cheese fondue, schnitzel, goulash, wienerschnitzel, and rösti, a Swiss-style hash brown. Menu prices are very reasonable, with entrées topping out at $16.50. It's open for lunch and dinner.

[Photo: Swiss Hibiscus]

4950 NE 14th Ave
Portland, OR 97211

15. Old Salt Marketplace

5027 NE 42nd Ave, Portland, OR 97218
Deli, meat shop, restaurant, bar, classroom – this marketplace wears many hats. But at its core are some of the freshest meats in Portland, all butchered in-house using whole animals from Oregon farms and ranches. And the prices often seem too good to be true. In the supperhouse, you’ll find Old Salt’s meats served alongside seasonal produce. For inexpensive bites, there’s also a Happy Hour and a late night menu featuring $2 to $15 plates and $6 cocktails.

[Photo: Old Salt]

5027 NE 42nd Ave
Portland, OR 97218

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16. Le Happy

1011 NW 16th Ave, Portland, OR 97209
Portland’s original French-style crêperie, Le Happy has been making savory and sweet crêpes since 2000. Long-time favorite savory dishes include the Salad Crêpe and the Faux Vegan. The aptly named Spectac is a sweet crêpe filled with Grand Marnier liqueur, Nutella, and banana flambé. (Yes, it’s as good as it sounds.) Add half a steak and maison salad to any crêpe for $9. Or create your own masterpiece from over a dozen ingredients. Vegetarian and gluten-free options are available.

[Photo: Yelp]

1011 NW 16th Ave
Portland, OR 97209

17. Industrial Cafe & Saloon

2572 NW Vaughn St, Portland, OR 97210
How many Portland restaurants can claim to raise their own 100% grass-fed beef within 30 miles of the city? This industrial-chic café can, and has, since opening its doors in 2004 to serve up breakfast and lunch. Burgers and sandwiches are made with in-house cured and smoked meats, including its pastrami, turkey, chipped beef, and house smoked turkey. Then finish off your meal with a made-from-scratch dessert.

[Photo: Industrial Cafe]

2572 NW Vaughn St
Portland, OR 97210

18. Seasons & Regions Seafood Grill

6660 SW Capitol Hwy, Portland, OR 97219
This Portland staple is a rare bird: It's welcoming to everyone from grandparents to kids, and serves Northwest seafood and classic American dishes with heirloom vegetables, fruits, and herbs grown on its 13-acre farm in Estacada. And the prices can be rather absurdly low. Expect things like smoked-salmon tater tots, Willapa Bay fried oysters, fried chicken dinner, and "Old Fashion Meat Loaf." Seasons & Regions also has a year-round outdoor patio (heated in winter) and a cheap eats menu ($4-$6) that changes monthly. Lunch brings a number of humble but nourishing dishes for $8.50 to $10.50, as well.

[Photo: Yelp]

6660 SW Capitol Hwy
Portland, OR 97219

Related Maps