Food Listings

Put These New Portland Food Spots on Your Radar

Where to find fab fish 'n chips, wild New Haven pizza, creative conchas, and other pandemic-era comforts.

By Karen Brooks, Katherine Chew Hamilton, and Marty Patail October 10, 2020 Published in the October 2020 issue of Portland Monthly

Festive fare at Tropical

Image: Marty Patail


A lasting image from this summer: warm summer rain drenching the patrons outside Tropicale’s little white NE Glisan truck, live music blasting, crinkled eyes betraying grins beneath face masks, patrons too busy salsa dancing to notice the downpour. Yep. Slurping piña coladas straight from hollowed-out pineapples will do that. Owner and Oaxaca native Alfredo Climaco is determined to keep the Caribbean vacation vibes going here. The menu is small and ocean-forward—tacos with camarones are a standout. As of press time, the al fresco spot’s future, once the temp cools, is unclear. Yes to dancing in the rain, though. 2337 NE Glisan St —Marty Patail

Lazy Susan's grilled paprika sausage and white beans


One surefire way to find the best restaurants: eat where local cooks eat. Right now, it’s Lazy Susan, the perfect neighborhood spot conjured (prepandemic) by young industry vets, including power food couple Andrew and Nora Mace, restaurateur Earl Ninsom (Eem, Hat Yai), and savory cocktail ace Michelle Ruocco (Han Oak). The Montavilla dining room never properly opened. But the group’s takeout/patio game is as imagined, simple food, done right—rib eyes kissed with hardwood coals, chilled seafood, fresh crescent rolls, banana splits. New weekend brunches celebrate diner pancake stacks, potato donuts, and steak ’n’ eggs, from righteous farm beef. Best of times, worst of times, classics are eternal. 7937 SE Stark St —Karen Brooks

The taco sampler at Taquería Los Puñales

Image: Marty Patail


Come for the hand-pressed tortillas and Mexican guisados, stay for the portraits of queer icons lining the walls of this brand-new SE Belmont taco shop. The name—which can mean “the daggers”—is a homophobic slur that owners Brain Aster and David Madrigal are very consciously reclaiming. Drawing from Madrigal’s Guadalajara heritage, the tacos are worth return visits. On a recent visit, standouts included El Choripapa, an addictive, grilled chorizo-potato number, and the classic carnitas. ¡Venid! ¡Venid todos! 3312 SE Belmont St —MP

Bananas Foster French toast


Named for chef-owner Spencer Ivankoe’s black Lab and featuring a dog-friendly patio, Café Rowan opened in July in the Creston-Kenilworth neighborhood with a fine dining–inspired brunch. Try the toast topped with beet-cured lox and house-made tzatziki; the namesake breakfast sandwich, with blueberry jam, bacon, smoked cheddar, and a fried egg; or the heirloom carrot and farro salad with carrot top pesto, cashew cheese, and za’atar. Weekends promise heartier fare: pork belly kimchi eggs Benedict or Bananas Foster French toast. Treat yourself to plant-based pastries from Orange & Blossom—think sourdough chocolate chip cookies and matcha sticky buns. 4437 SE César E. Chávez Blvd 
—Katherine Chew Hamilton

Kimura Toast Bar's caramel apple créme brûlée


Sourdough starter madness? So pandemic yesterday. Kayoko Kaye, the driven cook behind Kayo’s Ramen Bar, has moved on to other pursuits, the next wave in bread-baking: shokupan, a.k.a. Japanese milk bread, prized for its cotton-soft, sink-your-teeth-in texture. In short, the better Wonder Bread. Kaye and her husband, Matt, even built a shrine to it: shokupan is the menu at their new Kimura, toasted up with dozens of toppings. Categories include toast and butter (yuzu to cinnamon), avocado toast (five ways), pancake-house-like “signatures” (chocolate cream banana pie to carrot cake jam), and, not least, hot dogs on toast, a food obsession in Japan. A good place to start: warm, creamy beef curry and cheese toast. Or, go rogue with matcha-milked, chia-mottled “overnight oatmeal.” Takeaway or patio seating. 3808 N Williams Ave —KB

A spread of offerings at Piggins


Meet Piggins, a junk food–loving pig from a children’s book. He’s also the namesake of farm-to-table pioneer Greg Higgins’s new food cart and 16-table outdoor bistro. Over the summer, while Higgins Restaurant was closed for indoor dining, Piggins set up shop on the plaza of the Oregon Historical Society, offering a “history” of Higgins Restaurant’s greatest hits—three-cheese ravioli, hanger steak, and tameya (fava bean cakes), and a lunch menu boasting Piggins-exclusive sandwiches and a burger. The patio dining area is still open, but with the impending arrival of rainy weather, call ahead before planning a visit. Higgins, meanwhile, reopened for dine-in service this October. 1200 SW Park Ave —KCH

Conchas in unconventional flavors from La Reinita


Más pan, por favor. The slogan is emblazoned on La Reinita’s canvas tote bags, and Cortney Morentin Selbiger makes the case with pan dulce, empanadas, cookies, and tortillas made from ancient grains and naturally leavened dough. Conchas come in eye-catching flavors—brown butter vanilla bean maíz, raspberry cardamom, funfetti. Buckwheat polvorones cookies are infused with black sesame, and spelt-floured empanadas get stuffed with poblano corn and rice. For Selbiger, it’s a celebration and exploration of her Mexican and Colombian heritage. For now, this panadería urbana operates via pop-ups at La Perlita, People’s Co-Op Farmers Market, and weekly home delivery, with hopes to open a standalone bakery or incubator space for Latinx businesses. People’s: 3029 SE 21st Ave; La Perlita: 721 NW Ninth Ave; home delivery —KCH

Pickle fries at Oui Chippy


Among the hardest hit in the food-world hurricane: liquor-centric bars, which, unlike restaurants and brewpubs, couldn’t sell their main items to go. Scotch Lodge was 10 months into its run as the next big whiskey bar when the lights went out in March, literally and metaphorically. Owner Tommy Klus was left with a sink-or-swim decision. Which is how we get to the city’s best new fish and chips, via the Lodge’s spin-off project Oui Chippy. Behind the fryer: chef Tim Artale, who morphed from haute-rustic bar food creative to the perfecter of shatter-good, beer-battered lovelies sided by fine onion rings, pickle-scented fries, duck confit poutine, or seasonal salads. Outside, in a boozy Garden of Eden, Klus’s dialed cocktails and powerhouse collection of scotch and bourbon, priced for all budgets, are just a contact-free smartphone order away. 215 SE Ninth Ave, Suite 102 —KB 

Pizza at Dimo's Apizza


For many a year, there was just one real option for hunters of New Haven–style pizza: Apizza Scholls, whose legendary electric oven still draws eager crowds on SE Hawthorne. Then it was joined by Gracie’s Apizza in St. Johns, and now another makes it a-trinity: Connecticut native Doug Miriello (via LA bakery and restaurant Gjelina and Gjusta) threw open the doors on Dimo’s this July, reaching deep into childhood memories of cooking with his grandmother. Mirello’s blazing wood-fired oven spits out gorgeous thin-crusted pies with pitch-perfect char. Eggplant parm and classic Italian grinders—that’s just the bonus. Is it a replacement for the AS faithful? This does not need to be a zero sum game. 710 E Burnside St —MP

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