Dining Guide

These Are Portland’s Essential Sit-Down Restaurants Right Now

Hungry? Here are top picks from Portland Monthly editors.

By Eat Beat Team October 12, 2017 Published in the November 2017 issue of Portland Monthly

Afuri Ramen

This Tokyo hot spot passed up London and Dubai to settle in Portland—on account of our pure, ramen-worthy Bull Run water. One slurp of the signature yuzu shio bowl, all springy noodles whispering with Japanese citrus, and you get what the fuss is about. A big, sleek room, robata grilled skewers, and the prettiest gyoza in town make Afuri a spendy, stateside shrine to Japanese food culture.

Apizza Scholls

Owner Brian Spangler channels New York’s Italian-American coal-oven shops through an Oregon baker’s avid heart. 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 (Mama Lil’s, natch), all ginormous. 


Chef José Chesa’s brand of tapas in a nutshell: stupid-good but incredibly smart, informed by modernist know-how but as accessible as a Tater Tot. Behold: big and little snacks, detailed salads, toasted squid ink noodles, well-chosen Spanish wines, and a rocking, seafood-laden black rice paella for two. Across the river, Ataula’s sister xurro café, 180 (2218 NE Broadway), fries up Spain’s long, skinny doughnuts all day—hot, super-crisp and weightless, perfect for dunking into a rich cup of xocolata. 

→  Ataula co-owner Cristina Baéz recently launched The Nightwood in the space last home to the couple’s Chesa restaurant. It’s a private event hall, community class hub, and “creative wonderland“ staffed entirely by women.

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Ava Gene's

Ava Gene’s 

A rush of indie glamour greets you at the door: marble, grandma curtains, and banquettes as soft as Italian bomber jackets. It’s a great room, with food flashed through the imagination of chef-owner Joshua McFadden, a rising star on the national scene, with his own cabinet of ingredients and a major crush on salads and pasta. 


Chef Sarah Pliner’s approach unfolds slowly on a seemingly random list of dishes, each its own constellation of cuisines and visual juxtapositions. France winks at Chinatown; Japan dances with India, and chicken skin takes center stage in a salad of watermelon, bitter greens, and a carpet of baba ghanoush. The drinks served in this cinder-block bunker’s attached bar are equally inventive.

Bar Casa Vale

One of our 2017 Restaurants of the Year. Read more here.

Bar Mingo

Mingo’s ace veteran Jerry Huisinga is a master of old-school Italian, and you don’t want to miss his soulful lasagna, homemade sausage, or weekly risotto, made in two fresh batches with surgical concentration. Next door: big sister Caffe Mingo is a place to linger over good Italian wines and pasta.

Bollywood Theater

Chef Troy MacLarty directs an edible journey through India complete with Gandhi shrines and real-deal flavors. The kitchen excels at Mumbai street snacks (bhel puri, dahi papri chaat), seasonal vegetable sides, and Goan-style pork vindaloo that tastes like barbecue from another planet.

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Broder's signature aebleskiver

Image: Kelly Clarke


Local brunchers have a long-running love affair with this trio of Scandinavian cafés, which lure with cozy hygge grub (years before we knew hygge was a thing). Come for aebleskivers, golf ball–size pancake puffs with house lemon curd; stay for meatballs in a creamy sherry sauce.


One of the country’s best young chefs, Justin Woodward soars above most farm-to-tablers in nightly tasting menus. This is where celery root struts like Rihanna, slow-roasted carrots look like magic Lincoln Logs, and potato skins become Michelin-caliber desserts, backed by good wines and cocktails. 


Two words best define this neighborhood spot: Everyman’s Michelin. From morning rye pancakes to a nightly parade of pasta intrigues, elegant vegetables, and beautifully seared fish, every dish embodies the essence of simple, drilled-down, rigorous cooking, backed by an adventurous wine list.

Crown Pizza

One of our 2017 Restaurants of the Year. Read more here.


Portland’s best eat and drink two-fer: Revered chef Kevin Gibson holds down the kitchen, doing his Euro village-meets-Portland thing for a menu of awesome pâtés, beautiful soups, braises and seafood finds. Behind the bar, Kurt Heilemann makes this low-key spot a wine nerd’s paradise, complete with hand-blown Zalto glasses normally reserved for high-rollers. 


One of our 2017 Restaurants of the Year. Read more here.

Duck House

One of our 2017 Restaurants of the Year. Read more here.

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Expatriate's congee and coffee flip


Candlelight spotlights what matters here: two turntables spinning retro vinyl, lip-smacking cocktails (eight per night), heat-seeking Asian “drinking snacks” from James Beard medalist Naomi Pomeroy, and yes, nachos teeming with fried wonton-skin chips and spicy Velveeta-like cheese. Brunch is one of the city’s best, from golden waffles to bad-ass Bloody Marys. 

→  Pomeroy and husband/co-owner Kyle Webster got into the flower business this year, launching Colibri, a floral studio, with Portland-based visual artist Morgan Rosskopf.

Farm Spirit

Chef Aaron Adams’s self-assured Buckman dining room boasts whimsical modernist vegan tasting menus and grand, self-imposed sourcing limits. (Nearly everything on the menu comes from within 100 miles.) It isn’t just “great for a vegan restaurant.” It’s great. Period.


One of our 2017 Restaurants of the Year. Read more here.

Han Oak

Our 2017 Restaurant of the Year. Read more here.

Hà VL and Rose VL

Portland’s famed Vuong clan doesn’t just make soups—they conjure liquid poems straight from Vietnam. They sell out early at Hà VL on 82nd and Rose VL on SE Powell, where the  “Special Noodle Soup”—teeming with aromas, pork exuberance, and herbs—will rocket you out of your pho rut. 

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The spread at Hat Yai, with Thai fried chicken, roti, and red curry

Hat Yai

Hat Yai, a spin-off of celebrated Langbaan, introduces Southern Thai fried chicken with fried shallots and whole coriander seeds to NE Killingsworth. It comes alongside an impressive trio of the Malaysian-influenced accoutrement: chile-vinegar sauce for dipping; flaky, panfried roti bread; and a heady vat of red curry deep in chiles and coconut fat. 


One of our 2017 Restaurants of the Year. Read more here.

HK Café

A multisensory clamor of grinning maneki-neko cats, babbling families, and rattling carts, this east-side strip mall hall is Portland’s dim sum ground zero—plump, pork-and-shrimp-popping siu mai dumplings to roasted meats, oozy egg yolk buns, and snack innards. 


One of the first farm-to-table restaurants to open in Portland in the early 1990s, Higgins is timeless: impressive house-cured charcuterie, seasonal risottos, and a walloping whole-pig plate. Regulars often skip the white-tablecloth dining room and settle in at the homey, wood-worn back bar, with its formidable beer list, uptown lunch menu, and some of the city’s best soups, changing daily. 

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$1 happy hour oysters at Jacqueline


At this seafood cove, beneath a painted portrait of Bill Murray, one can slurp down $1 happy hour oysters, dig into whole roasted trout, or devour hyperseasonal creations lavished with morels and sea beans. It all goes down smooth with a small, carefully curated wine list and potent quality drinks. 


Russia: Kachka’s boisterous take on the country’s traditional cuisine—as reimagined by talented chef Bonnie Morales and her husband, Israel—centers on house horseradish vodka and all the requisite cured fish, tender dumplings, and cabbage-wrapped meat that come with the territory. It’s a party, comrade. 

→  Check out Kachka’s new cookbook here.

Kayo's Ramen Bar

One of our 2017 Restaurants of the Year. Read more here.


PoMo’s 2014 Restaurant of the Year is still on a winning streak, unlocking the interactive, herb-zinging secrets of regional Thai cooking in choreographed evenings—each month trekking to a different region. Start looking for reservations now—it can take a while to get in.

Laurelhurst Market

When Laurelhurst Market opened in 2009, it veered as far from Morton’s as you could get: affordable cuts, next-level sides, and a butcher counter to rival any in the city. Now in its middle age, the indie steak house is still pure Laurelhurst comfort, with rotating à la carte steaks, classic wedge salad, and rich, land-meets-ocean riffs, like craggy fried oysters perched over celery root and salty carpaccio. 

→  Laurelhurst spin-off Big’s Chicken may have burned down, but keep an eye out for its smoked, fried chicken at pop-ups around town while it hunts for a new space (or make it yourself—we've got the recipe).

Le Pigeon

Gabriel Rucker is a Portland original, possessed by French bistro cooking and Americana. Salads can be as brilliant as the grilled pigeon with beef tongue, and the French-focused wine list is deep, smart, and personal. You never know what you’ll find, but you’re not likely to forget it. 

Little Bird

At this downtown bistro, it’s as if Gabriel Rucker (see Le Pigeon, above) turned his culinary wit down from an 11 to a 10 and fell through a Francophile rabbit hole. We’re talking bold but still-recognizable fried chicken coq au vin, or foie gras torchon with blueberry compote. But you still might still find some chile-braised octopus hanging out in your roasted marrow bone now and again. 

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Hyperseasonal pizza at Lovely’s Fifty-Fifty

Lovely’s Fifty-Fifty

Purists, don’t bother. Sarah Minnick is the bold auteur of the Portland pie, deeply connected to adventurous local farmers and Northwest cheeses. (They’re terrific.) For dessert, consider one of the last reminders of what real ice cream tastes like, with seasonal flavors so ripe they could have fallen from a tree. 


At tiny oak tables, an understated menu kicks off with a carnival of $2 antipasti bites and might end with double-decker sponge cake billowing pastry cream and pistachios. In between come a fine stuffed trout, a dandy plate of spaghetti and clams, and the best bowl of soup to be found: cappelletti in brodo (stuffed pasta in broth). 


Kristen Murray’s French-Scandinavian “pastry luncheonette” is a quirky, beautiful, gutsy spot—580 square feet of baking skill, refined palate, and tunnel vision fervor. You won’t find a better, more quintessential lunch in Portland, first-rate quiche to spot-on mussels to world-class brioche pastry plumped with fat berries of the moment.

Milk Glass Mrkt

This cute daylight café thrums like an indie girl band, with fresh ideas, retro-mod baking, and shelves of curated groceries. Expect a solid core of breakfast coziness, inventive biscuit stacks, composed snack plates, a slate of baking goodness, and a love of international spices.

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Muscadine’s Nashville Hot fried chicken with collard greens, corn bread, and grits

Navarre and Angel Face

In 2002, John Taboada conceived a restaurant with the feel of a park bench, diners side by side at teeny tables, with a kind of lawlessness in the air. There’s still nothing quite like it; the dim sum-like Euro menu, the wine passion, the wonderful “yes, we have no biscuits” brunch. Far from local dive culture, next door soulmate Angel Face is a Paris-meets-Portland cocktail bar jewel. 


Talented chef Ryan Roadhouse flips the script on formal Japanese cuisine and sushi art with a dinner-party vibe, wild fish from Japan, freestyle pop-culture themes, and Michelin-caliber tasting menus. True believers come for “Supahardcore” dinners, a portal into talented chef Roadhouse’s sushi world and food obsessions in 21 courses. 

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Chicken and rice at Nong’s Khao Man Gai

Image: Jess Johnson

Nong’s Khao Man Gai

The food-cart queen hawks the best chicken and rice you can imagine, each butcher’s paper packet holding perfect grains of rice simmered with great hunks of galangal root, poached chicken, a cilantro bouquet, and addictive, nose-tingling sauce. Scarf it down at Nong’s brick-and-mortar, or the flagship downtown or the PSU cart. 


Local food legend Cathy Whims presents Italian home cooking as it should be—stripped down, honest, and powered by wood fire. No place in Portland is better suited to please a diverse crowd: foodies, kids, wine-lovers, and your adventure-fearing relatives. The Caesar-esque insalata Nostrana is mandatory, followed by house-made pastas, and hot-from-the-oven fruit crisps so good they might make you gasp.

Olympia Provisions SE and NW

Since 2009, salumist Elias Cairo has been forging the resurgence of American charcuterie, spreading his pork-proud gospel to the country’s epicurean edges. Behind the meat display in SE, chef Alex Yoder transforms Cairo’s masterful meat-craft into a rotating feast of Spanish and Mediterranean small plates. In NW Industrial, chef Eric Joppie works his own seasonal magic, anchored by an antique, fire-engine-red rotisserie turning plump chickens with crackling golden skin.

→  Sample Olympia’s meat-craft on a budget at one of the three OP Wurst locations around Portland and Oregon City.


Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton’s meaty love story is told over flames erupting from a hand-cranked grill. Don’t miss their Uruguayan beef rib eye or the clam chowder, served with smoked bone marrow shouldering some fierce jalapeños. 


Paadee's spicy Thai laabs are our 2017 Dish of the Year. Read more here.

Paley’s Place

Kimberly and Vitaly Paley have won a coveted James Beard Award, penned a coffee-table cookbook, taught a generation of young cooks, and refused to rest on their laurels. The kitchen juggles French-Northwest house classics—salmon to roasted bone marrow and escargot—while busting out serious charcuterie and Russian dumplings.

→  At last count, the Northwest pioneers are running two hotel restaurants, one pizza spot, and a stellar Russian tearoom.


Surfer/modern Peruvian chef Jose Luis de Cossio pulled the plug on his celebrated, high-end ceviche spot to live the life he believed in: healthy, affordable, vegan, and gluten-free, with Peru as muse and a very small-batch approach (that includes hours). Where else can you find out-of-the-box empanadas, eye-popping potato causas, and vegetable ceviche ... for breakfast? 

People’s Pig

Smoked pork shoulder and lamb summon Austin, Texas. Juicy baby backs, upholstered in sticky, crackly bark, vie for PDX’s barbecue crown. But the smoked fried chicken sandwich is the real star: thighs, skins on, smoked to smithereens, baptized in hot oil for crispy ruffles, then glazed in jalapeño jelly and captured in a monumental, char-blistered sourdough bun. 

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The Haole pie at Pizza Jerk

Pizza Jerk

Bunk Sandwiches’ Tommy Habetz remixes the family pizza parlor for a new generation—punk rock, Sichuan chile oil, and a vintage Japanese Space Invaders arcade game included. Don’t miss textbook pepperoni, the cast-iron deep-dish option, or the Dan Dan pie, a welcome mat of sweet char siu pork shreds and bitter, crackling mustard greens.

Pok Pok

From its bare-bones beginning as a takeout shack, Pok Pok has grown into a full-on eating experience, while owner Andy Ricker has earned a reputation as the country’s foremost Thai food expert. Charcoal-roasted whole chicken, green papaya salad, and the signature fish-sauce chicken wings are a must, but don’t miss the blackboard specials, or the unusual dishes like grilled boar collar. 

Portland Mercado

The east side’s vibrant Latino marketplace is 7,000 square feet of authentic street food and south-of-the-border shopping. Hunker on the patio with one of Tierra del Sol’s massive Oaxacan tlayuda, a pizza-like crispy corn round layered with black beans, queso, avocado, and chicharron, or standout mifongo topped with tender fried chicken niblets at Puerto Rican cart Carlito’s Cocina. Steps away, Kaah Market brims with Latin American finds, from fresh epazote to flash-fried blue and white corn tortillas. 

→  Now you can get food from one of Mercado’s diverse stable of food carts delivered on Grubhub. Jouk Li Jou oxtail stew, anyone?

Proud Mary

One of our 2017 Restaurants of the Year. Read more here.


One of our 2017 Restaurants of the Year. Read more here.


One of our 2017 Restaurants of the Year. Read more here.

St. Jack

We’ll never forget the original, unquestionably quaint St. Jack on SE Clinton Street. But three years after moving across the Willamette to NW 23rd Avenue, the gutsy bouchon is all grown up. Chef Aaron Barnett tackles luxurious nautical finds like briny-sweet whorl-shelled bulot (giant snails) while paying homage to Lyon’s proud tradition of gluttony, blood sausage and all.

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Tasty’s faithful rendition of Israeli shakshuka

Tasty n Sons and Tasty n Alder

At John Gorham’s globe-trotting, all-day brunch spot, you’ll find new ways to love eggs: fried with a cheddar biscuit, over-easy atop spicy North African sausage and couscous, or buried in pepper-sauced shakshuka. The restaurant’s downtown sister spot Tasty n Alder carves out its own niche with a famous radicchio lunch salad and family-style dinners—bone marrow boards to
apple-brined pork chops. 


Tanuki is a cave of debauchery, with unbeatable izakaya (Japanese bar food) and a knockout drink list. Order omakase: you name the price, and chef-owner Janis Martin will unleash a parade of spicy, salty, and sometimes unidentifiable plates for the whole table, from cinnamon-spiked, tea-stained quail eggs to Netarts oysters under an avalanche of shaved kimchi ice.


Tusk's Joshua McFadden and Sam Smith are our 2017 Chefs of the Year. Read more here.


Oaxaca is represented at Xico—but so is Oregon: playful notes, purist notions, and fresh-ground masa fill out a room that feels like a beach hut with pearls. Don’t miss a crispy, smoldering mass of chile-glazed chips with cotija cheese or slow-roasted goat barbacoa. It’s a natural match for Xico’s mezcal flights, which range from educational to life-changing. 

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