The Rose City is a home to strong supporters of sustainable living and creative thinking, which has fostered a brilliant culinary environment. Why has the food scene in Portland boomed in recent years? The city’s somewhat underground nature allowed foryoung passionate chiefs to start up restaurants with lower financial risk than in larger cities such as San Francisco and Seattle. This influx of creative minds mixed with the local expectations of sustainable agriculture to influence many of the restaurants we appreciate today. There is always a new hip café, eatery, or even the ubiquitous food cart in this town. However, in order to enjoy the benefit of living in Portland one must know how to fully take advantage of its food scene. This guide to the local food movements and the tastiest eats in town will start anyone on their way to becoming a connoisseur of Portland cuisine.
I Like Thai Food Cart (Photo credit: Anaka Morris)
I Like Thai Food drunken noodles (Photo credit: Anaka Morris)
I Like Thai Food
Location: SW Alder St & SW 10th Ave
Food served: Thai
Price range (per person): $5-6
Operating hours: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
A food cart in the downtown pods, I Like Thai Food will have you saying just that. With reasonable prices and heaping amounts of food it is surprising that the quality of the food is not forgotten either. They have the best drunken noodles in town, but they are spicy. I recommend buying a drink or two to wash it all down. Eat here when you have time to spare afterwards as the sizzling inside your stomach might last for a while. A down side to eating at this cart is that there is not a designated area to sit. The closest place to go for a table is Director Park, about three blocks away.
Location: At the corner of SE 9th and Ash – two blocks south of East Burnside at 9th Ave.
Food served: Japanese izakaya or tavern food, ramen, and udon.
Price range (per person): $12-15
Operating hours: All days 5 p.m.-midnight
This small restaurant has an open kitchen and a casual modern feel. The food is attractive, simple, and extremely tasty. The menu is based on a Japanese tavern-style restaurant; there are many small plates that can be shared among friends. Biwa has a multitude of offerings from the grill as well as traditional Japanese dishes such as pickled plum stuffed rice balls and hand made pork dumplings. The true star of the menu, however, is the ramen, which rivals that found on the streets of Kyoto. The steaming orange pork and chicken broth creates a salty base for the tender miso pork, delicious shoyu egg, and crispy seaweed. I suggest filling up on these slurp-worthy noodles on a rainy Portland night.
Tasty n Sons
Location: 3733-3807 N Williams Ave
Food served: Miscellaneous
Price range (per person): $7-11.
Operating hours: All days 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
This breakfast hotspot is always packed on weekend mornings. Although lines can be frustrating, most people agree that it is worth the wait. This is a tapas-style restaurant, so it is best to order family style. With the variety of menu items you cannot go wrong. They serve everything from Moroccan hash to chocolate potato doughnuts. Multiple visits are required to taste all the appealing dishes. Just be wary of the crowds and show up before opening time to avoid a wait.
Location: NW 20th and Kearney
Food served: American
Price range (per person): $8-15.
Operating hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m Monday through Friday. 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday. 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday.
On a quiet street in NW it is easy to find an outside table and enjoy a relaxed meal in the morning or afternoon. Nell produces satisfying meals without the waits that accompany some of the other highlighted restaurants. The fare includes BLT and E (for egg), catfish poboys, various salads, burgers, and huevos rancheros. If you are looking for a place to read the recent issue of CatlinSpeak over an extended brunch, then come here.
Location: 3226 SE Division Street
Food served: Asian fusion
Price range (per person): $12-15.
Operating hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m all days
Once people experience Ike’s Vietnamese fish sauce wings, they will never regard Vietnamese food the same way again. This type of deep flavor and unique style is the usual at Pok Pok. With surprisingly refreshing homemade drinking vinegars, and dishes that carry distinct aromas of combined spices such as whisky and soy-marinated ribs, the people in the kitchen make running a nationally renowned restaurant look easy. The world music and pictures depicting the crowded streets and bustling markets of Vietnam, China, and Thailand remind customers that the masterminds behind their meal put in a lot of time traveling and eating to perfect the elements of Asian cooking.
Le Bistro Montage
Location: 301 SE Morrison Street
Food served: Southern
Price range (per person): $8-15
Operating hours: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. for lunch, and 6 p.m.-2 a.m. for dinner (opens earlier and closes later on weekends). Closed on Mondays for lunch.
Montage’s website claims that it is a Portland icon that preexisted the creation of the Pearl as a “rich urbanites’ paradise” and the establishment of Portland as “the food cart capital of the universe.” Located under a bridge, it certainly does seem as if the city has grown around the restaurant. Inside is dark and full of chatty people sitting side by side with strangers. When the paper menus are brought to the table, it becomes clear that the restaurant has strong Southern roots. Country gravy, oysters of all kinds, frog legs, jambalaya, gumbo, and the most delicious mac and cheese await. The most exciting part of the meal is at the end of the meal when the waiter will gladly wrap your leftovers up in tin foil and adeptly sculpt the foil into an animal, sword, or flower.