Best restaurants in Portland, Oregon: An essential foodie tour
By Alyson Sheppard, Jun 2020
The best restaurants in Portland, Oregon, translate the city's spirit, by turns silly and refined, to the plate (or the ramen bowl). Portland's eccentric characters, indie bookstores and gluten-free food are lovingly skewered in TV shows such as "Portlandia," and the city takes it in stride. And why wouldn't it, seeing as Portland still drives the dining conversation in the Pacific Northwest, influencing sourcing practices and spurring creative use of local ingredients up and down the West Coast.
Here are six must-visit foodie destinations for the next time you're in PDX.
The Grilled Cheese Grill
Feed your inner child at The Grilled Cheese Grill, a tomato soup and cheese sandwich shop in a converted school bus. Nostalgia reigns here, but there are plenty of options for sophisticated palates and picky eaters. Start with a cup of classic tomato soup for dipping, then pick from one of their herbivore or carnivore sandwiches, which include fun combos like The Hot Brie (melted brie, roasted red peppers, fresh tomato and spicy brown mustard on sourdough) and The Moondog (provolone, hard salami, pepperoni, sliced tomato and green olive tapenade on sourdough). Everything comes with a bag of chips and a pickle spear, and there are vegan and gluten-free options available.
Savor succulent sour cherry dumplings for a taste of Russia in Portland.
Russian cuisine is having a moment in Portland, and much of its popularity can be credited to Kachka. Founded by a chef born to Soviet immigrants, Kachka celebrates the dishes of the region. The full Ruskie Zakuski Experience fills your table with a selection of cold zakuski (small-plate hors d'oeuvres), such as a Herring "Under a Fur Coat" (a seven-layer dip with herring), caviar and beet-cured salmon. Then warm up with short rib borsch, sour cherry vareniki (dumplings) and golubtsi (sweet and sour pork cabbage rolls). Of course, you'll want to pair your meal with a flight of vodkas.
Pine State Biscuits
Expect to wait in line at Pine Street Biscuits to get a taste of its iconic biscuit sandwich: the Reggie, a giant piece of fried chicken topped with bacon, cheese and gravy and smooshed into a flaky Southern biscuit. Add a fried egg to make it a Reggie Deluxe, or try the heart-healthier Veggie Reggie, which swaps out the fried chicken for a vegan sausage patty, tofu bacon and shiitake mushroom gravy.
Though it's named after the traditional Korean homes first built in the 14th century, Han Oak is anything but traditional. Here, a feast of banchan (small plates) and other delights is served family-style with an American influence played up in fun ways. Think Nashville hot ramen (buldak myun) and Korean-fried cauliflower, in which the veggie is slathered with a gochujang and tamarind glaze, fried extra crispy and served with bread-and-butter daikon pickles. Don't miss the tender pork and chive dumplings, which are filled with a ginger broth.
Try PDX's many variations of ramen, such as the salt-based shio variety.
The Tokyo ramen restaurant Afuri chose Portland as the location for its first restaurant outside Japan because the city's water, which comes from the Bull Run Watershed, has the ideal pH for Afuri's delicate noodle bowls. Housed in a cavernous warehouse space, the trendy restaurant incorporates refreshing yuzu citrus into its shio and ratan ramens and even makes a version of its tantanmen noodles with a vegan hazelnut base. Seasonal bowls incorporate Oregon clams and other local ingredients, and you can swap gluten-free tofu noodles into any bowl.
Just as you would reserve a ticket to hear the orchestra at the local concert hall, you have to claim a ticket to eat the artistic creations on the menu at Farm Spirit, Portland's premier destination for refined vegan dining (and one of the city's best restaurants, period). At this prix fixe-only spot, the chefs source most of their ingredients from within 105 miles of the restaurant.
They change the menu frequently and use techniques to create meatless wonders: Chefs ferment sunflower milk as a substitute for cheesy broths, smoke artichokes to give them a meaty texture and dehydrate carrots to turn them into jerky. Gluten-free and nut-free menus are also available. The chef's counter is communal, and the walls are decorated with tanglewood and moss, so it's almost like you're dining inside a magical forest.
With world-renowned dining options and cuisine rooted in the Pacific Northwest, it's easy to see why Portland, Oregon, is a foodie's dream travel destination.
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