Dining Picks

Beyond Barbecue: Portland's Ultimate Grilled Meat Spots

Chen’s Good Taste, Jamaica House, Magna Kusina, and others offer their own takes on char-kissed barbecue chicken, pork, seafood, and more.

By Katherine Chew Hamilton

Sparks fly while making charcoal-grilled skewers at Magna Kusina.

Meat, meet fire. While winter calls for cozy braises, soups, and stews at home, summer is all about breaking out the grill and gathering your friends and family for some grilling. Beyond classic Southern-style barbecue ribs, brisket, and chicken, tons of cultures represented right here in Portland have their own style of cooking meat over flame, whether using charcoal, wood, or gas. Here’s how to sample all of them right at home.

Chen’s Good Taste

Old Town

Chen's Good Taste makes top-tier roast duck.

This old-school Cantonese restaurant makes the finest roast duck we've tried in Portland, along with a strong selection of other meats. The duck takes first place with its crisp skin, the layer of fat below melted into the meat for maximum juiciness; the meat is silky and tender, and every order comes with its fatty juices, perfect for drizzling over rice. The roast pork boasts crackly skin with a whisper of five spice, and the cuts we received had just enough fat to keep the meat succulent without being overwhelming. The barbecue pork is solid, but not the real draw here—we wouldn’t mind more char, and the meat was a bit dry, though we did (perhaps foolishly) choose a lean piece over a fatty cut. Take it home and serve it with steamed rice, or get it with an excellent bowl of won ton noodle soup. 18 NW Fourth Ave

Chochu Local

Rose City Park

Two fiesta plates, kelaguen, and lumpia from Chochu Local

The Rose City Food Park is lucky to have this CHamoru food cart from couple Michael and Joy San Nicolas serving fire-grilled chicken, ribs, and pork belly like you’d find on the Mariana Islands. The ribs are our top pick, juicy with plenty of char, and plates come with smoky, clingy-grained red rice, salad, and vinegary, garlicky finna’denne dipping sauce. We pair the ribs with an order of chicken kelaguen, lumpia, and an empanada for a true barbecue feast. Note: Chochu Local is temporarily closed due to a family emergency. 5235 NE Sandy Blvd

El Pollo Feliz


El Pollo Feliz owners Francisco Velasquez and Veronica Rivera

Hidden in a parking lot off industrial NE Columbia Boulevard, couple Francisco Velasquez and Veronica Rivera have been serving pollo asado out of a cart for the past eight years after Velasquez decided to quit his career as a mechanic to do something different. Velasquez was inspired by the pollo asado he ate growing up in Mexico City, while the marinade, made with a combination of chile California, garlic, and cumin, is inspired by Rivera’s home state of Zacatecas. Chickens are cooked on massive gas grills for about an hour and a half. Results seem to vary depending on when you visit, and the chicken breasts can be a bit dry, but if you catch the chicken thighs or drumsticks at peak juiciness, they’re a treat. The most treasured part? The bits of chicken skin that soak up extra marinade and get crunchy and charred. A combo plate comes with bright, tangy green salsa, cheesy refried beans, salad, and a stack of corn tortillas. 1422 NE Columbia Blvd

Jamaica House

St. Johns

Outdoor grills waft fragrant, meaty jerk chicken smoke like a siren song drawing customers toward this cheery, bright Craftsman house-turned-restaurant, complete with a picnic table-filled backyard. Get the peppery, spice-laden chicken with rice and beans or with coco bread; vegetarians can even grab plates of jerk tofu. 8307 N Ivanhoe St

K-Town BBQ

Various locations

When the need to feast on barbecue strikes—but you don’t have a grill—look no further than K-Town’s all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue. For around $30 per person, stuff yourself on as much meat as you can grill and eat, with dozens of different meat choices available. Our must-orders are the sweet, garlicky-marinated LA galbi, the thinly sliced brisket, and wine-marinated and miso-marinated pork belly. Pair them with included sides like pineapple and green onions (tossed on the grill, of course) and corn cheese with shredded mozzarella that melts before your eyes, plus plenty of Korean beer. 5450 SE 82nd Ave, Portland; 4570 SW Lombard Ave, Beaverton; 8723 NE Hwy 99, Vancouver



At his restaurant championing Filipino cuisine and culture, Carlo Lamagna creates an homage to Filipino street food with charcoal-grilled skewers. A rotating selection of skewers meet Lazzari mesquite charcoal—right now, the menu includes diver scallops, duck tocino, beef tongue, pork intestine, king oyster mushrooms, and more. 2525 SE Clinton St