PORTLAND | Portland, Oregon has become a hot spot for visitors seeking out good food in recent years and there’s not shortage of excellent places to eat in the city. The food scene is constantly evolving and it seems that every other week there’s a new “must try” place opening up. Indeed when we visited there were several places of interested that were opening soon. Trying to list down every single place worth eating in Portland would be impossible, as there’s simply not enough time as a visitor to get through all of the good stuff that the city has to offer. What we can do however, is make life easier for you by telling you about some of the best places to eat in Portland.
First thing in the morning, and you’ll want to be getting the day kick-started with a good cup of coffee. Part of the Third Wave Coffee movement, Stumptown Coffee Roasters opened in Portland in 1999 and is considered a pioneer in the coffee scene in the USA. They are well known for their ethical business practices, focus on quality and relationships with coffee growers. Stumptown beans are used in many of Portland’s best cafes, and they run 4 cafes of their own where you can get coffee brewed using every type of brewing method imaginable. If you see that a place serves Stumptown Coffee, there’s a good chance that they care about the brew they’re serving you.
Water Avenue Coffee is another great place for coffee – beans are roasted on site 6 days a week and the smell of freshly roasted coffee beans permeates the air of this 3,000sq ft warehouse. The team at Water Avenue care about their coffee, and are involved in every step of the process from visiting farms and building relationships with coffee growers, through to the final cup of coffee that is served to you. They offer a range of single origin beans and blends, brewed however you like.
Blue Bottle Coffee, an excellent Oakland based coffee company doesn’t have a Portland outlet but supplies beans to many of Portland’s top cafes – it’s another name to look out for when seeking out good coffee in Portland.
The restaurant scene is where Portland’s best chefs really spread their wings and show what they’re capable of. Cuisines from all over the globe can be found in this city, with a constant theme being the use of local, seasonal produce. This has led to the development of a kind of cuisine unique to this part of the world “Pacific Northwest Cuisine”. This type of cuisine is highlighted by the use of fresh ingredients, drawing upon traditions of region’s Asian and Native American ethnic groups. Seafood such as salmon and shellfish are common, as are game meats like moose and elk. Smoking fish and grilling seafood is common, as is the fusion of varied culinary styles.
For some of the best examples of Pacific Northwest cuisine in Portland, check out Ox Restaurant and Taylor Railworks. Tasty N Alder and Imperial are particularly good for breakfast and brunch, while Aviary puts a decidedly Asian spin on its cooking, with Japanese, Chinese and Korean influences all present. For fantastic non-traditional French inspired food with American and other creative influences, try Little Bird Bistro. Le Pigeon (Little Bird Bistro owner/chef Gabriel Rucker’s other restaurant) is also fantastic and veers more towards the more traditional French end of the scale with a Pacific Northwestern sensibility. Nedd Ludd meanwhile puts a different twist on Pacific Northwest cuisine by cooking everything, even the desserts, in a wood-fired oven. For high-end, modernist Pacific Northwestern, try Castagna, or Castagna Cafe for something a bit more casual.
If it’s a burger you crave, check out Portland’s worst kept secret, check out Biwa. It’s one of Portland’s best ramen shops, but on the late night menu you can also find one of Portland’s best burgers, the Biwa Burger which contains a perfectly seasoned beef patty and addictive kimchi mayo. While not offering the burger (yet), Biwa’s spin-off restaurant Noraneko also serves up fantastic ramen – also check out Boxer Ramen and Kizuki Ramen. If you can’t make it to Biwa for a burger, you can visit Foster Burger and grab a Double Foster, or a legendary Yakuza Burger from Yakuza Lounge. Oh and Little Big Burger is always a good choice too.
For some of the best sandwiches in town check out Bunk, and while Portland might not be known for it’s BBQ scene, the Texas-style BBQ at Podnah’s Pit does a very good job at satisfying those BBQ cravings.
We couldn’t finish off this section without mentioning Pok Pok. This Thai restaurant that serves hawker style dishes is one of Portland’s most famous restaurants – even Anthony Bourdain has eaten here. It was on our original list of places to visit but further research revealed a general consensus that it’s not as good as it used to be. It’s not that you won’t have a good feed here, but by all accounts it’s not the “must visit” place that it once was.
There’s no missing the hundreds of food carts in Portland – they’re all over the place and diners are all the better for it. Being served out of these carts is some of the best food you’ll find in town and, let’s be honest, food carts are fun. The largest collection of food trucks in one spot in Portland is the Alder Street Food Cart Pod, which is guaranteed to have something to satisfy your hunger. Check out Ryan Ostler’s Asian/Texas fusion truck Jook Joint, try some of the best mac & cheese you’ve ever eaten at Mac & Trees, or the famous Thai take on Hanianese chicken rice at Nong’s Khao Man Gai.
Other fantastic food carts are The Grilled Cheese Grill, who sell some of the best grilled cheese sandwiches you’ve ever tried, Tiffin Asha for its pakora-fried chicken wrapped in a dosa and served with yoghurt, Gonzo Falafel and Hummus for the indulgent schwarma fries (think poutine, Israeli-style), or Southern Food from Miss Kate’s Southern Kitchen.
For a live map on what carts are where, Food Carts Portland is an invaluable resource.
Those with a sweet tooth will have no trouble finding treats to satisfy their cravings. Beyond the excellent desserts at the city’s various restaurants and cafes are places who do one thing well. For Portland’s best donuts, check out the innovative flavours at Blue Star Donuts, the classic donuts at Pip’s Original Doughnuts, the wacky creations at Voodoo Doughnut or any of the other places listed in our guide to Portland’s Best Donuts.
If it’s chocolate you crave, you can’t go past the chocolate mecca of Cacao, which offers a selection of house made chocolates, along with a range of chocolate goodies from some of the best chocolatiers in the USA and around the world, with a particular focus on Oregon based producers. If it’s cakes and pastries you’re after, check out Little T Baker (they also do excellent bread), or visit Pix Patisserie and try their famous macarons, or grab a creatively delicious cupcake from The Sugar Cube. For ice-cream, you can’t go past the creamy and delicious options at Salt & Straw – the Pear & Blue Cheese flavour is just one of the many fantastic flavours.
For a city that prides itself on the quality of its produce, it should come as no surprise that Portland has several top quality farmers markets. Whether it’s to grab a feed or to sample some of the brilliant produce and products on offer in this part of the world, a visit to a farmers market is a must. The Portland Farmers Market run 8 markets across the city, but the one you want to go to is the Flagship at PSU. It’s open on Saturdays throughout the year and features 140 stalls of farmers and artisan food producers. There’s even chef demonstrations, food education events and live music.
Oregon is home to some of the best breweries in the USA – there are almost 200 craft brewers in the state and the Portland metropolitan area has more craft brewers per capita than anywhere else in the USA. Many of these breweries have brewpubs in Portland, and craft beer drinkers also have a large number of bars that have an extensive range of craft beers on tap. Popular breweries like Deschutes and Rogue offer an extensive range of beers to try at their brewpubs, and you can also visit lesser known brewers such as Cascade, who specialise in sour beers. For a full list of our favourite craft beer spots in Portland check out our Portland Craft Beer Guide.
Are you from, or have you been to Portland? What are your top picks for food in this city? Let us know in the comments section below – we’d love to know your tips.