Restaurant Guide

12 Portland Restaurants Every Newcomer Must Visit

From PDX classics to new faves, these spots will give you a crash course in deliciousness. Welcome.

Edited by Benjamin Tepler By Eat Beat Team August 3, 2018 Published in the Newcomer's Guide: 2018 issue of Portland Monthly


The first thing you’ll notice about Portland: There’s no fluoride in the water, but pearly white Jacobsen Sea Salt, extracted from Oregon’s coastline, is in everything, ice cream to coffee. This is a place where bartenders make not just drinks, but their own spirits, and chefs invite you into personal worlds and oddball preoccupations, adhering only to our unofficial food motto: “no idea is forbidden.” So, adjust your dial. Other food cities flaunt architectural statements and star chef temples, but Portland places its bets on passion and people hell-bent on making every bite count. If you’re looking for the French Laundry, we can’t help you. But it you’re looking for root vegetables that strut to the table like Beyoncé, Vietnamese soups that taste like liquid poetry, and pizza that doubles as a locavore think tank, Portland is your home. Dig in and dig deep. —Karen Brooks


The mode is spiritually Middle Eastern, freethinking in form, and deep in Oregon farm connections. The kitchen’s daily-changing salads, lamb tartares, and rose-petaled feta plates are the antidote to Portland’s former gout aesthetic. It’s a breezy, glass-walled, feel-good-rocking California dream even a shaggy-sweatered Portlander could embrace. 2448 E Burnside St

Han Oak

Han Oak

Hidden behind a door off of NE Sandy Boulevard, Han Oak calls itself a “non-traditional Korean restaurant.” Consider those words a mere starting point for an experience: landmark dumplings, spicy wings, and joyful chaos. Peter Cho, Han Oak’s center of gravity, holds court with Korean moms, seemingly every off-duty cook in town, and anyone else who wanders in for an evening of chill magic. 511 NE 24th Ave



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 gets sultry, slow-roasted carrots look like magic Lincoln Logs, and potato skins become world-class desserts, backed by good wine and cocktails. 1752 SE Hawthorne Blvd


At the heart of this James Beard Award–winning Portland steak house sits an Argentine grill, commanding racks to rise or plunge over punishing wood-fired heat, charring a parade of chops, rib eyes, and chorizo glazed in “black gold” juice drippings. Clam chowder is the perennial favorite: with smoked bone marrow and ear-warming jalapeõs jutting bravely from its creamy depths. 2225 NE MLK Jr. Blvd

Katy Millard at Coquine


Talented young Katy Millard is a beast in the kitchen, crafting thoughtful, everyday food and drink, day and night. She ponders finds from up to 12 farms for the day’s menu—perhaps coffee-roasted beets or buzzsaw cuts of green cauliflower roasted to the heavens to pair with spot-on pastas and heavenly chicken liver mousse. It’s high-end homey cuisine: Michelin around the corner. 6839 SE Belmont St

Güero’s ahogada torta

Image: Michael Novak


At this beloved neighborhood torta spot, owners Megan Sanchez and Alec Morrison serve up seven tortas (like the Jaliscan-inspired, tomato-sauced ahogada), with bowls, salads, and one helluva burger. The small, agave-centric cocktail list has all the greatest hits, with a tidy, curated list of mezcal (served with orange and worm salt, of course) and tequila by the glass or carafe. 200 NE 28th Ave


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. 10 NE 28th Ave



Chef José Chesa’s brand of Spanish tapas in a nutshell: stupid-good but incredibly smart, informed by modernist know-how but as accessible as a Tater Tot. From a guy hiding a small galaxy of Michelin-star experience under his apron come big and little snacks, detailed salads, toasted squid-ink noodles, well-chosen Spanish wines, and a rocking, seafood-laden black rice paella for two, all in a bustling, casual space. 1818 NW 23rd Pl

Sarah Minnick of Lovely's Fifty-Fifty

Lovely’s Fifty-Fifty

Sarah Minnick is the bold auteur of Portland pizza, deeply connected to adventurous local farmers, Northwest cheeses, and free-thinking. A pie of roasted apricots, fresh fenugreek greens, and pink echinacea flowers? You bet. For dessert, don’t miss one of the last reminders of what real ice cream tastes like, with seasonal flavors so ripe they could have fallen from a tree.
4039 N Mississippi Ave

Rose VL Deli

Portland’s famed Vuong clan doesn’t just make soups—they conjure liquid extracts from the soul of Vietnam, both here and at Hà VL on SE 82nd. Rose VL’s “Special Noodle Soup”—teeming with aromas, pork exuberance, and herbs—will rocket you out of your pho rut. 6424 SE Powell Blvd

Pok Pok

The city’s most famous food name (now with several locations in Portland and beyond) is synonymous with addictive, sweet-sticky fish-sauce wings. But don’t let that stop you from trying the obsessively researched menu of Thai street food, khao man som tam—shredded pork over coconut rice and green papaya salad to grilled boar collar. And those wings, of course. Multiple locations



This cozy, cramped kitchen hidden in the back room of Thai restaurant PaaDee turns out a foodie’s vision of a Bangkok night market: a two-hour tasting menu of traditional Thai snacks, coconut-chunked soups, raw dishes, chile relishes, grilled pig parts, and delightful desserts buried in salty coconut cream or infused with Thai candle smoke. Start looking for reservations now—it can take a while to score seats. 6 SE 28th Ave

Show Comments