Portland's Most Kid-Friendly Restaurants
With a reception as warm as a warden greeting a recidivist, Apizza wins no atmosphere awards. Still, for pizza theologists, it’s a temple. Owner Brian Spangler channels New York’s Italian-American coal-oven shops through an Oregon baker’s avid heart. Spangler makes dough daily and uses an infrared thermometer to suss out prime spots in his electric oven. The result: muscular pies with char-speckled bottoms that make East Coast devotees swoon, from a “New York White” to a sausage and spicy peppers, all ginormous.
Inside the small storefront, piped-in mariachi tunes and terra-cotta walls bathe the room in a warm glow. Go simple with some fine tacos al pastor (marinated pork), a classic ceviche, or, for the table, queso fundido—stretchy, hot white cheese, mottled with fiery chorizo crumbles, all scooped up with fresh, fist-size corn tortillas. Or delve into chef-owner Oswaldo Bibiano’s Guerrero-style chicken mole, jumping with more than 30 ingredients.
Baker & Spice
The coconut cream pie here is worth the trip alone: a mountain of creamy custard, just sweet enough, under a blizzard of toasted coconut in a wondrous, buttery crust. Cakes are old-fashioned magical, and while some pastries are better than others the standouts are from the sweet shop of heaven, including the addictive chocolate shortbread cookies and the Katie Bun, a hybrid of a croissant and a cinnamon bun. With a big counter up front and café tables for lounging, Baker & Spice doubles as Hillsdale’s unofficial community center and nursery school.
Boke Bowl embodies the best of Portland’s restaurant scene—a design-savvy, unpretentious, affordable celebration of the art of eating. Ramen honcho Patrick Fleming is more concerned with quality and creativity than textbook authenticity. But his democratic playbook glimpses the future of dining with artistic choices for carnivores, vegans, and gluten-phobes alike. Nothing quite matches the hedonism of Boke’s signature ramen, teeming with pulled pork and fried chicken. But there’s plenty here to love: addictive grilled eggplant buns, the joyful brussels sprouts salad, colorful pickles to roll in gingered rice and seaweed sheets, and pears fried to fruit-leather intensity.
kids love: The Central Eastside Industrial District’s unofficial kid-food hangout is always a hit, with fried chicken ramen, lidded cups and animal-themed plastic chopsticks.
In winter 2013 an east-side food cart stole our hearts with authentic Florentine comfort food, serving thick stews of wine-braised squid and gossamer ribbons of handmade pappardelle with wild boar. Now, Burrasca has a brick-and-mortar home, with the same Big Night charm as its previous incarnation—an airy Clinton neighborhood space filled with personal touches from owners Paolo Calamai and his partner, Elizabeth Petrosian. Burrasca’s greatest strengths are its pasta, best demonstrated by the tender ricotta gnudi, soaking up a pool of sage butter, and the velvety cuts of tagliatelle in thick beef ragù. Equally great: Calamai’s garlicky, slow-cooked dishes, like the dark, braised squid, and the palombo, a dish of thresher shark cloaked in rich tomato sauce and a melted pile of Swiss chard.
Chongqing Huo Guo
The bubbling tabletop cauldrons of DIY Chinese soup at this SE 82nd Avenue kitchen double as fragrant, flu-fighting steam treatments for your face. Grab some friends and order the half and half pot: rich “secret” broth bobs with pleasantly bitter, smoky medicinal nuts and goji berries on one side and the lip-searingly hot, chile oil–slicked house spicy base on the other. Then, pick and choose your soup ingredients from a laundry list of savory proteins and veggies, plus springy house-made fish balls hiding pork centers, ribbony Shanxi knife-cut noodles, and delicate pork dumplings. Everything comes on the side, so you can flavor your pot exactly to your tastes. Just dip and dunk your way to full-belly happiness.
Country Cat Dinnerhouse & Bar
Missouri native Adam Sappington is evangelical in matters of meat and a master of American vernacular cooking—somewhere between a nose-to-tail preacher and a Southern granny. That translates to three meals a day in a family-friendly neighborhood eatery perfumed with hickory smoke, grits, and barbecue essence. Catch the Sappington mode in Portland’s landmark fried chicken, the squeal-worthy “whole hog plate,” or a custom-made burger on a fresh-baked onion bun elevated by a mountain of mighty onion rings.
East Glisan Pizza Lounge
East Glisan’s self-proclaimed “pizza commander,” Vallery Markel, is so obsessed with pizza that in her spare time she cohosts her own podcast, Pie Talk, in the vein of NPR’s Car Talk. The crust on her pizza, a cracker-thin sourdough stratum that most closely resembles her native melting-pot Midwest style, comes loaded with farm-fresh bitter rapini, chile flake, and provolone along with a winter-appropriate kale, bacon, potato, and smoked mozzarella number set in a slick of cream. It helps that Markel trained under Italian-food matriarch Cathy Whims, who taught her the secrets to the perfect meatball pie, crowned with excellent, golfball-size pork rounds bound in garlic, thyme, and leftover pizza sourdough crumbs.
Eb & Bean
The dye-free sprinkles have landed. So have organic gummi bears, gluten-free animal crackers, Pinkleton’s Curious Caramel Corn, and crushed chocolate-gobbed cookies from Portland’s lauded Bakeshop. Carefully curated toppings star at Eb & Bean, an artisan, soft-serve frozen yogurt pioneer that features the milk of happy, co-op cows, one table (communal), and blackboard shout-outs to local purveyors. Dessert fiends are already hooked on the aptly named “Tart” fro-yo, squiggled beneath a brisk blast of marionberry compote and the wild crunch of oat streusel.
Fire on the Mountain Buffalo Wings
At this cheery, family-friendly “Original Buffalo Wing Joint,” the wings are served crispy and the dozen house-made sauces range from sweet to four-alarm spicy. Like any savvy wing establishment, Fire on the Mountain offers both blue cheese and creamy ranch dressing with your meat—but like a true Portland wingding, it’s also concocted meatless alternatives (although we can’t figure out why anyone would order them). Salads and sandwiches will fill you up here, as will the beers, but why waste valuable stomach space?
Kids love: The NE Fremont location is especially fun, with chalkboards in the bathroom, free sauces and celery sticks for dares, and a big fireplace on the covered patio.
A multisensory clamor of grinning maneki-neko cats, extended Asian families, and carts that leave pork- and ginger-perfume contrails in their wake, this east-side strip-mall hall has quietly usurped Portland’s dim sum crown with its massive roster of flavor bombs. Nibble plump, pork-and-shrimp-popping siu mai dumplings and sautéed green beans heady with tiny fermented shrimp. Sample translucent, sesame- and chile-slicked jellyfish salad, roasted meats, and snack innards. You could graze at this hectic Chinese brunch utopia for hours and never get bored. Flag down a server and demand an egg yolk bun—a yeasty mind-scrambler hiding a drippy trove of hot, sweet golden goo inside. They are round, sugar-crusted, and usually in the bottom left-hand corner of the glass-doored carts. Find them.
Kids love: The hubbub of rolling carts should mask whatever noise your child is making. While you wait for a table, kids can run around the courtyard, get hot cocoa at nearby Starbucks, and explore the dollar store.
The kids won’t care that Huber’s, with its dark wood, art deco tile work, and a distant aroma of mustache wax that lingers like ghostly potpourri, is the oldest bar in town. But they might appreciate the house specialty of turkey dinner, served in abundance year-round, and are sure to be impressed by the roving mixologists who whip up flaming Spanish coffees with the flourish of magicians performing sleight of hand. A round of applause won’t embarrass anyone.
Kenny & Zuke’s
This Jewish-inspired delicatessen is about as close as you can get to a consummate New York pastrami on rye. Sure, the authenticity of the unusually thick-cut meat is one for the Talmud scholars to debate, but there’s no doubting the East Coast pastrami mode: cured, smoked, and steamed, then hand-carved to serve on house-made rye, straight up or with traditional over-the-top accessories like chopped liver. The epic-length menu offers everything from bagels and bialys to challah French toast, latkes, and blintzes to satisfy the most insatiable fressers.
Think wood-fired California designer pizza, by way of fine Oregon farmers: beautifully bronzed and constructed, light on cheese and sauce. Pies arrive dressed for the weather—perhaps wild nettles with crispy pancetta or slivers of black trumpet mushrooms boosted by parsley, citrus, and garlic. Sure, you can knock off a Tolstoy chapter before your order arrives, but that allows more time to contemplate the inventive salads and luscious ice creams.
Cookbook author and comfort-food matriarch Lisa Schroeder serves all the classics Mom used to make—that is, if your mom put smoked salmon and caramelized onions in the mac and cheese. She even shares her motherly love with a “Mother of the Month” menu, with special dishes from cooks who earned their stripes the hard way: raising kids. The raucous Sunday brunch is known for its rich portobello mushroom scramble and cornflake-crusted challah French toast—made for the kiddies, but sophisticated enough for adults.
Nong’s Khao Man Gai
Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably already heard of Nong, Portland’s food-cart queen, and creator of the best chicken and rice you can imagine, bundled old-school-style in butcher paper bound with a rubber band. Each packet holds perfect grains of rice simmered with great hunks of galangal root, poached chicken, a cilantro bouquet, and Nong’s addictive, nose-tingling sauce. Additional Nong’s outposts, including a SE Ankeny Street brick-and-mortar restaurant, have grown around the city, but the flagship downtown cart is still the beacon.
No worthwhile dim sum experience is complete without the following: a parade of push-carts squeezing through tightly packed chairs; house specials not found elsewhere; and the joyful noise of entire Asian clans gathered around massive, lazy Susan–topped tables spinning a feast of barbecued pork buns, pinched dumplings, chicken feet, and all kinds of baked, leaf-wrapped, and steamed wonders. Ocean City delivers, and the selection is biggest and best on weekends (up to 100 options). Come with a group and order wildly.
Original Pancake House
The panels are wood, the decorative ceramics collectible, and the skirt-and-tennis-shoe-wearing waitresses chipper in a 1950s way. The collection of pancakes, waffles, crêpes, omelets, and “assorted dry cereal with pure whipping cream” is epic Americana, somewhere between IHOP and James Beard for lumberjack appetites. This ancient anchor of a national chain also produces the Dutch Baby, a golden, imperial crown of eggy dough and powdered sugar. Whetting your appetite is some of the city’s worst coffee, and some of its best orange juice.
Crisp, fried-to-order mini doughnuts make Pip’s a cult favorite for sweets-craving locals. The little, lava-hot treats are perversely good, whether sprinkled with cinnamon sugar or slathered with Nutella. But the café’s sleeper hit is its quartet of heady, deftly spiced chai teas. Co-owner Jamie Snell trundles in cartloads of cinnamon sticks, chamomile buds, and tobacco-sweet black cardamom pods to marry with Indian, Chinese, and Thai teas and steamed milk. Her bold creations are a love match with sea salt and honey-drizzled doughnuts.
Kids love: An entire shelf full of kids’ books and multiple opportunities for adorable child-centric Instagrams in front of Pip's Oregon state flag await. Tiny hands love tiny doughnuts.
In a former neighborhood bar on the edge of Cully, Bunk Sandwiches’ Tommy Habetz has remixed the family pizza parlor for a new generation—punk rock, Sichuan chile oil, and a vintage Japanese Space Invaders arcade game included. The menu runs irreverent to homey, pizza to spaghetti. You can order a first-rate pepperoni here, or bliss out on a Hawaiian pie reborn with fresh-pickled pineapple and candied pork. Don’t miss the Dan Dan pie, a welcome mat of chile paste hot enough to Jheri-curl your hair, sweet char siu pork shreds, and bitter, crackling mustard greens.
KIDS LOVE: In the winter, kids can sit down at a four-player Ms. Pac-Man. Come summer, they'll be running around the backyard garden and taking down Dairy Queen–style soft serve, twirled with Flavor Burst syrups.
The doors had barely cracked open when the whispers started: “Italy just dropped into Portland.” That’s the perfect summation of Pinolo Gelato, a Tuscan-style gelateria that traffics in handmade rigor, each icy batch made fresh in the morning with just the right balance of fluff, creaminess, and concentrated flavor. It’s already well worth a detour for the deep pistachio, delicate Piedmont hazelnut, or potent cioccolato (chocolate).
Fry your own pancakes on a tabletop grill? With kids? Sounds like a lawsuit in the making. Slappy Cakes, however, adds a smart dose of Portland cool to the DIY concept, resulting in slam-packed weekend crowds. Think Stumptown coffee, local Foxfire tea, a surprisingly ambitious bar (a Pimm’s cup with house-grown muddled thyme!), and an all-day breakfast menu that stretches beyond flapjacks. But most folks are here for the Easy-Bake–meets–performance art family show: pick a batter, choose your sweet or savory fixins, and flip the switch on your table’s built-in griddle.
KIDS LOVE: Most adults go into Slappy Cakes as cynics. But you, too, will be seduced by the tabletop griddles, squeezy bottles of batter, and booze. Stick to school days to avoid hellish crowds.
Tasty 'n Sons
At renowned Toro Bravo chef John Gorham’s all-day brunch spot, the food is inspired, and so is the mood. Dishes are served family-style, allowing diners to split, share, and compare. You won’t find eggs to order, but they turn up everywhere—fried with a cheddar biscuit or over-easy atop spicy North African sausage and couscous. The French toast, served with fruit-infused maple syrup and whipped cream, bids for the best in Portland. A light frittata packed with farm-fresh vegetables arrives still sizzling in a cast-iron skillet. A communal vibe will tempt you to try new things—a valuable habit at Tasty n Sons, or its downtown sister spot Tasty n Alder.
Aromatic cornmeal arepas, flavor-packed grilled meats, and an upstairs bar dispensing mezcals and chocolates form a new haven of vibrant Latin American flavors at the reincarnation of food cart Fuego de Lotus. Ten varieties of arepas—perfectly golden, with a crackling exterior and fluffy masa center—anchor the menu, alongside a cast of grilled chops and ribs, fried snacks, and family-style dinners for large parties. Out back, an 80-seat patio fans out from a giant fire pit, set aflame for fireside snacking.