Portland’s Essential Outdoor Dining Spots
Who has an outdoor table? For years, the question seemed down-right Biblical every summer, as sun-deprived Portlanders hunted for open-air tables like Indiana Jones tracking down the Holy Grail. Now, we have an answer: everyone. Outdoor tables, once a special find, are now a way of life, year-round.
Some are bare-bones operations built by the Dude School of Architecture. But a new group of outdoor dining auteurs are rethinking food and mood, the Portland way—full of personal touches, unexpected and fun. Consider, if you will: oysters, pasta, and fernet chocolate-sauced beer floats on Coquine's dead-end street patio while gazing at Mt. Tabor park. Or your own private A-frame, with one table only, as the setting for Gado Gado's adventurous "Rice Table" feast.
My current crushes:
Coquine and Coquine Market
The most Portland of Portland outdoor dining spaces occupies the corner of a dead-end street on SE Belmont, sitting at the base of Mt Tabor park and smack in the middle of picket-fenced homes. Coquine's wood-tabled, tree-entwined patio feels like a hidden treasure, which it is. I already regret telling you about it. Tasting menu dinners are inside only. The patio is where customers repair after snagging coffee and baked goods at next-door Coquine Market, one of our favorite shopping haunts, with its dedicated pastry counter and barista. The epic chocolate chip cookie is a staple, but new pastry chef Laura Content is shaking up the weekly collection with brown butter brownies topped with peanut nougat crumbles and savory scones flashing blue cheese and fresh cherries. Meanwhile, Thursday-Saturday evenings, the patio (and market) host Portland's best-kept secret: fresh oyster hour, with optional fanciful flights and spirit pairings, plus a crack a la carte menu of that screams Coquine's commitment to local farms, the joys of seasons, and good taste. Watch for perfect pasta, umeboshi-laced beef tartare, hand-cut fries, and a neo-beer float of house ice cream, Fernet chocolate sauce, and dark porter, served in a rocks glass. Walk-ins only. 6839 SE Belmont St
A handful of cozy, four-seat cabanas equipped with mini fire pits. A few light-strung, colorful patio huts. And everywhere, diners hoisting luscious drinks sporting paper umbrellas and purple orchids. All together, it's little more than some wood and imagination. But the outdoor vibe at Eem, the beloved Thai-Texas BBQ-cocktail joint, feels more like a beach in Thailand than a corner in North Portland. The rewards are evident: each cabana feels private but right in the street action. Inside, the kitchen delivers four dialed curries (including an underrated vegan version), irresistible BBQ fried rice, smile-inducing sweet-sour fried chicken nuggets, and hair-raising hot cauliflower. Good luck parking and battling the lines. 3808 N Williams Ave
This rocking house of Indonesian-Chinese food knows how to bring the fun to a strip-mall parking lot: not just one, but three discreet eating nooks, two of them tricked out like souk vendors, all colorful floor rugs, floral oil tablecloths, and curtains, with speakers beaming disco and reggae. Standing between them: a private little pink A-frame with one table only, first come, first serve. Since opening in 2019, Thomas and Mariah Pisha-Duffly have tickled our brains with a singular blend of family traditions and boundary-shredding ideas. Every dish boasts its own spice cabinet, chutney, or euphoric sambal. Divinely flaky roti (Malaysian flatbread) is plunged in a blistered tomato curry that sends eyes rolling in back of heads. Beef rendang tastes like carnitas that fell into a vat of coconut cream and candied anchovies. Or just let the kitchen cook up an adventurous family-style “Rice Table” feast. Beer is perfect with this food but house cocktails are swell, the rich, succulent Immunity Idol to tropical Jello shots eaten with a spoon from a tiny cup. 1801 NE Cesar E Chavez Blvd
Les Caves, Portland's terrific underground wine cave, feels like a bohemian rock club. Outside, no words quite describe Le Clos, its enclosed patio room, which is carpeted, hilariously, in Astroturf, floor to bar. You lounge here on couches or church pews or chairs the color of a Smiley face. Your server dons an Elvis tee. In this wine lover's paradise, sweatshirts and Champagne are one at last. The list is worldly and knowing, unconventional to the core, built for discovery and spilled into chic, curvy glasses. Owner and winemaker Jeff Vejr is a dogged explorer of grapes from unheralded centers like the Republic of Georgia. He always has some new intrigue on the list. Recent obsessions: a new batch of curated picks from Croatia and a sparkling, cold-brewed tea from Enroot, which has a Filipina backstory and, according to the Internet, funding from Brad Pitt. Golden grilled cheese, the only food in house, comes in multiple guises, gloriously panini-pressed. The best is the Alsatian, piled with Munster and ham, but all are good, and happily cut for sharing. The brilliance lies in their eternal truth: grilled cheese is the perfect food. 1719 NE Alberta St
Bless Monique Siu, OG Portland restaurateur and co-founder of the legendary Zefiro. Even at the height of the pandemic, she fretted over the aesthetics of a proper meal in a food world driven outdoors. No homely he-man picnic tables (the Portland default) for Sui. The spacious, tree-lined patio of OK Omens, her wine-centric gastro-bar, looks like a forgotten civilization:a sea of classy private gazebos, tables shaded by big tilted umbrellas, and potted olive trees. A major wine list expansion from esteemed house somm Brent Braun straddles elegant classics and funky naturals, while the menu is a casual dive into the musings of Michelin-caliber chef Justin Woodward, dialed pastas to intricate seasonal vegetables to a towering burger etched in smoked beef fat remoulade. 1758 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Outdoor tables, spread with vibrant, floral oil cloths, line the sidewalk at Gado Gado's sister restaurant, with casual, spirited Malaysian-Chinese-ish food to match. Eclectic? This is where lusty pork ribs, soaked in fish sauce caramel, share space with a yogurt-marinated steak dispatched with pistachio zhoug and shoestring curry fries. Save room for dessert, perhaps a black sticky rice pudding, mingled with salted coconut cream, peach jam, and crispy shallots. More tables abound out back, along with rugs, twinkling lights, and always something interesting on the sound system. A new backyard bar adds to the party vibe, gleaming with rhinestone tile. It even has its own bartender to shake up house cocktails and inventive slushies, with booze or without, one boasting a lime leaf-sumac-chili salt rim. 3131 SE Division St
On a quiet street, in a natty, residential Northwest hood, the minds behind the new Phuket Cafe have boldly reimagined the dining car on a Thai train. You can't miss it: the bold red and pink trim, the big open windows, the compact pistachio-colored booths. Steps away, more outdoor seating options: a string of window counter seats that peek into the cafe's bustling inside bar, one of the city's best. You want the Coffin Maker, a mind-expanding mezcal-cucumber elixir crowned with fried shallots. Dinner and weekend brunch take inspiration from Bangkok's new energy and Phuket's seafood. Jump in with ceviche garnished with peanut brittle, curry puffs in artful pastry, and whole fried pompano, its meat scooped out, fried, then returned to the center, all dressed in sweet-tangy syrup, toasted peanuts, limes, and chiles, with leafy wrappers on the side. 1818 NW 23rd Place
Remember pivots? That was Ripe in 2020, the boutique food market that replaced the legendary Beast when reality set in: how are you going to social distance in a restaurant with only two communal tables? But owner Naomi Pomeroy, a James Beard Northwest chef and pioneer of Portland's scrappy food scene, never lost the urge for stylish meals, Beast-style. So she envisioned a new dining room … on the sidewalk, outside of the market. It's one of the best restaurants in town. You might find a fancy burrata plate or a landmark Dungeness crab roll tucked inside of a loaf of toasted house shokupan. Evenings and weekends get more ambitious: multiple pastas; rabbit pate with carrot marmalade; or perhaps a pastrami short rib sided by ramp relish. Come just for the daily desserts, affogatos, and frozen custards by longtime Pomeroy collaborator Mike Paredes, with flavors like devil's food and strawberry shortcake. 5425 NE 30th Ave
This DIY gem defines the Portland food zeitgeist—homey, jeweled with farm goods and conviction, mug coffee. Nothing special about the outside digs, per se. Yet sitting in this cozy shack, day or night, digging into a custard bun or the perfect breakfast sandwich feels like one of life's simple joys. Breakfast, served until 3 p.m., veers from scrambled eggs with black beans to holy schnikes French toast—custard-soaked, thunderously griddled, and lavished with house jam and Okinawan sugar beads. The pastry case holds the secrets to a happy day. Lunch and dinner taste like a backyard summer party: good pastas, salads that are more than their simplicity suggests, a roast chicken sided by spicy mayo. 5202 N Albina Ave
An oasis of sashimi, serious cocktails, happy chatter, and high-tech camping tables hide on the patio of Takibi—an upscale izakaya with next-level drinks and an outdoor area that evokes urban glamping. The restaurant’s interior, designed by the inventive Sky-lab Architecture and swanky by izakaya standards, is hidden in the back of Snow Peak, the cult Japa-nese outdoor gear store famed for its titanium camping gear. The pride of the kitchen is sashimi, in-cluding some rare cuts from Japan, expertly cut and cured and cut by chef Cody Auger, an old-school sushi purist (Nimblefish). From the extensive menu, dishes can be subtly refined or underwhelming. Gems include: fried morels lavished in a sweet-tangy slaw of pickled carrots and onions; killer-rich pork belly; and a seared hambagu patty that pays hom-age to Japanese moms everywhere. Bar stars Jim Meehan and Lydia McLuen are the kind of people who infuse rum with two sheets of nori for 75 seconds just to get just a hint of sea umami. For me, the salty-juicy Japanese Plum cocktail, blending cognac and umeboshi paste, is the face of God. 2275 NW Flanders St