Portland is weird…and rad! Over 3 days we ate at 15 of the best restaurants in Portland and one farmers market – we could have kept going if we had more time, Portland is a great city for food lovers.
Check out the video of food in Portland we made, you won’t believe all the places we visited:
Table of Contents
This is a very long post. If you’re planning a trip to Portland we’ve created a FREE PDF with links to the best restaurants in Portland and other details you should know.
Portland is the kind of city you need to see to believe. Don’t be surprised to see that the absurd characters from Portlandia are based on real-life residents.
The dream of the 90s is alive in Portland, which makes it a great weekend getaway. A typical liberal West Coast city, Portland has great food, drink and enough people watching to keep you busy.
Bike courier punks, coffee-drinking hipsters and craft beer drinking tree huggers. Buying local and recycling is a serious topic here.
Cheap Eats – Portland’s Food Carts
If you’re on a budget or just want great food the food cart scene in Portland is unbelievable. With over 600 food carts in pods all over the city there is no need to ever step inside a brick and mortar kitchen.
Many of the most popular restaurants in Portland once started as food carts and we can see why. We loved People’s Pig porchetta. I previously wrote about Portland food carts in this post and still recommend. Nong’s Khao Man Gai (now also a restaurant), Koi Fusion tacos, The Whole Bowl vegetarian.
The Best Restaurants in Portland
Pok Pok Noi
Our first night we met Dave’s mentor Francois de Melogue, who he hadn’t seen in nearly ten years. Little did we know that Francois and his wife Lisa had planned 3 dinners in one night.
The first at the original location of Pok Pok, which lives up to the hype. We would have eaten the entire menu if we hadn’t plans to eat two more dinners.
Ken’s Artisan Pizza
We LOVE pizza. We eat frozen pizza and dirty street slices when we’re on a budget, and we ADORE really good pizza.
The key to great pizza is really the fundamentals – great tomato sauce and crust that isn’t soggy in the center. Sounds easy but it’s hard to find.
Ken’s Pizzeria is the best pizza we’ve had in ages and it’s the real deal. A handful of guys work in the open kitchen with a large wood fired oven and they pump out so much delicious pizza.
This was the only mandatory on our list and we knew it would be one of the best restaurants in Portland. Dave had been following Chef Gabriel Rucker for years on instagram and wanted to try his food.
It was the highlight of our trip and well worth it. Get a seat at the bar where all the action is.
We haven’t been to India…yet so we can’t vouch if this joint truly serves authentic Indian street food but it’s popular enough to have two locations.
Bollywood Theatre is pretty straightforward, order at the counter and have a seat. We loved the gobi Manchurian, which I swore was chicken; it was so good Dave learned how to make it so we could eat it at home.
When ramen was new Biwa was king, dominating an unsaturated market. Now there are plenty of ramen spots but that hasn’t hampered Biwa’s reign.
Come for the ramen and stay for the innovative cocktails. The vibe is a dangerous kind of cozy because you’ll want to stay here all night.
Little Bird Bistro
The sister restaurant of Le Pigeon, Little Bird quickly won us over with its roasted marrow bones, beef tongue, mushrooms and rosemary flathead.
It satisfied Dave’s sweet tooth with the peanut butter chocolate terrine.
Tasty n Alder
From the family of restaurants that include Toro Bravo, Tasty n Alder is open all day but people flock for brunch.
We loved the cowboy baked beans with cotija cheese above, housemade cottage cheese with pineapple jam and the chocolate potato doughnut. If you’re not up for brunch the charcuterie board is solid.
Another food cart that was able to transition into not one but three successful locations. The menu features great porky sandwiches, hand cut fries bathed in more pork.
We were so full we couldn’t make room for a sandwich but stopped in before dinner for lardo fries and craft beer.
We didn’t have time to eat here on this trip but I visited Ned Ludd a few years ago and it remains on my mind. Local, seasonal fare cooked in a wood oven, you’ll need a car to visit but it’s worth the drive.
Salt & Straw
Friends nagged us to go for ice cream at Salt & Straw and with so much hype we wondered how good could ice cream be? Pretty damn good.
We tried the sampler and the Pok Pok Drinking Vinegar Shake, which was amazing. So now we’re on the bandwagon, you MUST try Salt & Straw, it lives up to the hype.
Blue Star Donuts
This is no ordinary donut shop. With flavours like blueberry bourbon basil, Blue Star Donuts truly are donuts for grownups.
Disappointments of Restaurants in Portland
Despite proclaiming to have the best macarons, we found them soft. The deep fried macaroon was cooked at too low a temp and came out soggy and oily.
My biggest disappointment as I loved it years ago. Now the charcuterie and plated dishes are decent but nothing to write home about.
Falsely advertised, written on the front window it read “bread at 4pm.” We arrived on time for what we heard was great bread and butter.
Sadly we were greeted rudely by a server who didn’t know what “bread at 4pm” was so we left.
Waiting in line for any kind of food seems ridiculous in Portland, where there’s delicious food on every corner. But waiting in line for an okay doughnut is lunacy.
The doughnuts aren’t bad, they’re pretty good. But they aren’t worth standing in line. If you really want a doughnut go to Blue Star and get the blueberry bourbon basil.
Best Restaurants in Portland We Missed
One of Bon Appetits picks for Best Restaurants in 2014, we tried to make it to this pastry luncheonette but just ran out of time.
Acropolis Steakhouse and Gentleman’s Club
While Portland is also (oddly) known for its stripclubs we weren’t as curious about the all nude dance club as we were with $6 steak, which everyone raves about.
We’re not fans of hoppy beer and so we didn’t seek out any of the 8 locals.
Get to the Market
There are farmers markets every day of the week in Portland but the best is on Saturday. If you’re wondering what to do in Portland, start here.
The Portland State Farmers Market is several blocks with local farmers, food producers and foragers.
While you may not be picking up groceries for the week there are plenty of food stands and people to keep you amused.
Walk it Off
We spent most of our time walking, primarily to make room for more food:
Powell’s Books ( 1005 W Burnside St) has over 1 million books It’s easy to lose hours there.
2nd Avenue Records (400 SW 2nd Ave) is a crazy mess of boxes and surly staff but the vinyl selection is amazing.
Church of Robotron at the Diode Gallery for electronic art (514 NW Couch), strange and hard to explain but go play Atari games on the street
Where We Stayed
The Westin Portland hosted us for the long weekend and we loved the stay, right next to a food cart pod and walking distance to everything.
Pet friendly, they have dog treats at the front desk and if you forget your gym clothes they’ve partnered with New Balance to provide a gear lending program for $5 per stay.
Don’t forget if you found this post about restaurants in Portland helpful and you want a PDF copy just click here for the 48 Hour Guide to Portland