Have you ever felt seen by a restaurant? Are there places that somehow just get you? For me, there’s a certain burger that scratches a certain itch, and a bowl of pho that regularly leaves me spellbound; these are the places that “live rent free in my mind.” It’s not for their particular news-worthiness, or their outlandish takes, but for their consistently craveable staples, and their true-to-themselves vibes.
The best-in-class burger is the sun that specials like “snowgronis,” mom tacos, and fried bologna sandwiches orbit around. There’s nothing fussy about bar food here, but with just enough attention to details, classics like generously battered, doughnut-size onion rings reach their full potential without being ruined by fanciful touches. 825 N Killingsworth St
Someday is now every day: the pipe dream of bartender couple Jessica Baesler and Graham Files feels more like a curated dinner party than a business. Crudités, natural wine, a house vermouth blend, tinned fish, and occasionally a more substantial entrée are on offer, whether you’re sitting at the cozy-chic indoor bar or on the patio out back that feels like an upscale cookout. 3634 SE Division St
A bona fide classic. Sitting at the foot of the towering 200 Market building makes Murata feel rightfully important. Rub elbows with suits at the sushi counter, or call ahead to reserve one of the private tatami rooms. Ordering the specials is good practice everywhere, but it’s an absolute must here—the autumn-only matsutake mushroom soup might be the most soul-warming dish in town. 200 SW Market St
My rule is the smaller the menu, the better the food. As one of just four menu items, Thom’s beef pho gets the love and attention it deserves, and it shows in the snappy meatballs, tender-braised brisket, and delicately poached, razor-thin steak. 3039 NE
Sorbu’s house-baked sourdough ciabatta and focaccia alone are enough to run a business on. But paninoteca means sandwich shop, so they load them with porchetta, tender-braised octopus with potatoes, or the Tuscan specialty torta di ceci (chickpea flatbread) with marinated eggplant. All of this—plus espresso to keep your buzz going post-sandwich—happens in a tiny food cart. 5011-B NE 42nd Ave