Salt bagel at Bundy's Bagels, $2.50
Joel Bundy will make you a sandwich. The owner of the Bundy's Bagels, maker of the best bagel in town, according to a 2017 blind taste test—a result backed up with rigorous and continual confirmation by our staff—has a menu that includes all sorts of breakfast sandwiches. As of press time, he'll also have lox. But you don't need any of that. The bagels at this Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard cart stand alone. The salt bagel, in particular, ends up with a pleasantly crisp exterior, a soft and chewy interior, and a perfect combination of salt and tang. Bundy smothers them in cream cheese and serves them sandwich-style, as you'd find in New York. That's the sandwich you want—nothing but cream cheese on Portland's best bagel. MARTIN CIZMAR.
No. 4 Combo Sandwich at An Xuyen, $3.75
The secret to great banh mi is always fresh-baked bread, and An Xuyen is the granddaddy of Portland Vietnamese bakeries—a 22-year tradition of salted caramel macarons, baked flan, peanut parfait and, of course, French baguettes as structured as a Bach concerto. An Xuyen bakes those baguettes many times a day for its impossibly cheap banh mi stacked with cukes, carrot, daikon, cilantro, jalapeños and mayonnaise. Don't be fooled by the fancy lemongrass pork option, though it is good: Get the ham, smoked ham and pâté, a parade of cured fat balanced perfectly by the crispy veg. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Three tacos at Tienda Santa Cruz, $4.50
8630 N Lombard St., 503-286-7302. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
At Tienda Santa Cruz, the magic is in the back. At the rear of a near-windowless St. Johns grocery lies a little ordering counter serving some of the finest street-style tacos in Portland, plus an aguacate salsa so addictive a little sign warns you not to run away with it. Santa Cruz suffered while the family opened a raft of locations across East Portland, but those lengua and asada tacos are deliciously back in form, dressed simply with cilantro and onions and wrapped in a double layer of grill-kissed corn tortilla. Still, the best protein these days is the moaningly rich carnitas, their meat stacked generously, with pork flavor deep as any French confit. Oh, and to sugar the pot? Santa Cruz has margaritas now. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Happy-hour margherita pizza at Life of Pie, $5
All pizza is relative. The best Neapolitan pie anywhere can be a disappointment when you're craving a greasy late-night slice, and that same greasy slice can ruin a promising date. Life of Pie has made the perfect lunchtime pie for the typical Portlander. Till 6 pm every day, you can get its basic margherita pizza for just $5. That pie is much better than anyone could reasonably expect for the price, with a tangy and crisp crust that has a fluffy edge, sweet marinara, rough-chopped basil and a few dollops of milky melted mozzarella. Service is brisk, and you can get a glass of wine or a draft beer for another $4. If there's a better way to spend $9 on lunch in Portland, it's a well-kept secret. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Tuesday fried chicken and Rainier at Revelry, $5
210 SE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 971-339-3693. Tuesdays only till late.
With loud hip-hop and a wall of vintage ghetto blasters, acclaimed Seattle chef Rachel Yang's home to artfully plated Korean drinking snacks feels more New York than Little Beirut, with meals and cocktails that easily climb to $50 a person. But every Tuesday hip-hop night, it's home to one of the best deals in Portland. Ms. Yang's spicy fried chicken, tossed with crumbled peanut brittle, tastes like See's Candy in your favorite Chinese takeout—fried, salty, sweet and savory all at once. It usually costs $14. But each Tuesday, you can get a Rainier tallboy and a take-out container brimming with four big chicken pieces for $5. It has become a Tuesday ritual, and it feels like stealing every time I order. Want a meal both heartier and healthier? For $6 more, have yourself a generously heaping plate of charred greens drenched in enough garlic you'll lose friends in the morning. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Happy-hour dog at OP Wurst, $5
As a concept, OP Wurst is pretty much a no-brainer. Restaurant and salumeria Olympia Provisions makes sausages and hot dogs that could hold their own against any in the country. But until Elias Cairo and his sister, Michelle, opened their original fast-casual OP Wurst in Pine Street Market last year, you had to go to one of their two upscale restaurants to mow down on a frank. The new Division Street sausage bar—a white-on-white shack once home to Honky Tonk Taco and Andy Ricker's Sen Yai noodle house—will be OP Wurst's flagship. There are stacked novelty dogs available—whether blue-cheese hazelnut or mac and cheese —but the classic OP dog ($7) is still the Portland Platonic ideal of frankfurter, the one God would grill in heaven's backyard while cranking up the bass on Pachelbel. That meaty, smoky depth and sulfurous grill char is laid into a Franz bun and topped with the Heinz-French's-relish-onion combo that fuels the beating heart of America. And at two happy hours every single day, it's only $5. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Primo breakfast taco at Pepper Box Cafe, $5.25
Don't be fooled by the word "taco." Pepper Box's two $5.25 New Mexican-style breakfast tacos are no street-taco food pellets: At this miniature fast-casual spot, the tacos are big, pillowy, and the size of Bluto's fist. While the Farmer is like a green-chile New Mexican diner hash wrapped up pleasantly in a big-ass flour tortilla, the real prize is the Primo. A tortilla bloom of eggs, pastrami, peppers, onions, cheese and chipotle crema, this massive taco is like an adrenaline shot to a Monday. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Currywurst at Stammtisch, $6
Like the Philly cheesesteak or New York slice, the currywurst is a magical street food—so bound to place that all imitation seems foolish. It's a relic of colonized postwar Berlin, a north German sausage sliced and sauced with British ketchup and curry and Worcestershire flown in by John Kennedy himself, then served atop a bed of fries. But until now, every version served in Portland was a sad and cruel shadow of the original. But at Kerns' weirdly meticulous German bar Stammtisch, the pork-and-veal currywurst ($6) is a meticulously crafted portal to Berlin—the snap of casing, the light fennel spice, and just the right blend of warm spice, anchovy burst and pure umami. Eat it with German beer often unseen in this country, whether rebel brewers Freigeist or seasonals from centuries-old Ayinger. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Cheeseburger at Bless Your Heart, $6.95
At Carolina-style burger joint Bless Your Heart, deep in the bowels of Pine Street Market, chef John Gorham of Toro Bravo and former employee Drew Sprouse have made perfect Carolina-style burgers with a patty that's one-third each of short rib, chuck and brisket. That beef is caramelized to juicy perfection, showing a steaky character you'd expect from a burger cooked on an older, more well-seasoned grill. Then, it gets an incredible bun—Martin's potato rolls purchased in bulk from the Pennsylvania company and frozen until needed. When that bun is heated on the steam-powered griddle, it becomes delightfully crisp with a great snap. The specialty of the house might be a chili-topped Carolina-style, but that burger doesn't need garnishing except maybe with a $2.50 order of fries. Still, the cheeseburgers are our favorite. The single cheeseburger with American is a mere $6.95, and you can amp it up to a double at $9.25. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Dry oyster and pork congee at Kenny's Noodle House, $7.25
8305 SE Powell Blvd., 503-771-6868. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
The sign says "Noodles" on the Powell Boulevard pink house that's home to Kenny's, and the Hong Kong-style noodle house serves subtle thin-noodle soups by the boatload, in pages and pages of variations. The restaurant, packed every single morning with native Chinese, also serves a heavenly tender brisket and just-so bok choy. But what we come here craving most is the deep comfort of savory rice congee, the porridge of China. In your savory cream of rice whose comfort seeps deep into the primal reptile brain, you have an unholy world of options for proteins: rock cod, brisket, pork, mushrooms, you name it. But somehow the pork and dried oysters, always the pork and dry oysters, adds the perfect blend of savory and salty, tender and chewy, good and even better. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Half-sandwich and chips at Grant's Philly Cheesesteaks, $7.75
1203 NW 23rd Ave., 503-477-7133. Lunch and early dinner Sunday-Friday.
Grant's lives in two places: an A-frame house on Sandy Boulevard way out near the airport and a nigh-unmarked basement in Nob Hill. The counter service offers few frills, and neither does the little box of a space on 23rd Avenue across from the hospital. They've never attracted the attention of trend-hopping tastemakers or Instagram influencers, and they've never quite needed it: Good is good is good, and for a decade in a row Grant and Diane Schuler have been making the best damn Philly cheesesteaks in Portland—in part by not really caring if they taste like the ones in Philly. You get fresh-made potato chips with every sturdy roll of a sandwich made with magical, thin-sliced sirloin, Italian bread, sweet and hot peppers and—if you order like us—provolone cheese. A half-sandwich is a fine lunch, and a full $14 cheesesteak is an experience that will leave you glutted, big-gutted, happy and unable to walk. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Falafel at Wolf and Bear's, $8
Amid the sprawl of greasy downtown lunch carts, Wolf and Bear's falafel is a beautiful respite. It's satisfyingly carby and creamy, but isn't a gut bomb. Cradled in pillowy grilled pita are rich tahini, super-smooth hummus, greens and bell peppers that are roasted so thoroughly they practically melt in your mouth. Even the crispy fried falafel tastes fresh, thanks to a generous amount of parsley blended into the batter. But the eggplant might be the wrap's most addicting component. It's hard to cook eggplant that meaty yet buttery out of a full kitchen, let alone a food cart. SHANNON GORMLEY.
Five cevapi plate at Two Brothers, $8
829 SE César E. Chávez Blvd., 503-232-3424. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.
It's a long story, but my wife and I ended up spending part of our honeymoon in Bosnia. Sarajevo is more romantic than you might expect, so long as you don't get hung up on sniper positions or the few remaining bombed-out buildings—and so long as you like sausage. Everywhere you go, there will be cevapi, the national dish of Bosnia and one thing the Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks can agree on. The finger-sized, skinless and heavily spiced beef sausage is served with chopped white onions, sour cream and a little red pepper sauce. They're such a part of the national mindset that when you order a hamburger it may well just be a giant cevap. The best in Portland is at Two Brothers, where you'll find cevapi that come fresh off the grill with a light crust of caramelization and plated with a little pile of onions and two neat scoops of sour cream and pepper sauce, plus a round of hot, soft bread. For all the lovers out there, a sharable plate of 10 is just $13. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Lamb gyro at Gastro Mania, $8
Portland is not a gyro town, but the best gyros I've eaten have been in Portland. Bulgarian-born Alex Nenchev's tiny blue-collar Slabtown cafe eschews the spit—which he says is bad for freshness—using instead fresh-cut meat on a flat-top grill. Each of Gastro Mania's gyros—whether lamb, chicken, salmon or tuna—is cooked fresh to order, and the herbs and spices that flavor them are equally fresh. And yet they still cost only $8 with a generous Greek side salad. Though the burger comes with tender foie, and the salads may come with tender-cooked octopus or swordfish, somehow it is always the gyro I've ordered, at least once a week, every week, for two straight years. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Two poke tacos at Afuri, $8
Tokyo ramen chain Afuri's new Old Town dumpling bar and "noodle lab," which opened in November, hits what may be the sweet spot between minimalism and bursting ambition. The fast-casual restaurant is a low-key rumpus room with balanced shrimp-broth ramen, aggressive cocktails and goofball circus-food innovations. The poke tacos (two for $8) are like the technicolor dream of the San Gabriel Valley—a Latin-Asian mashup that also manages to be as intuitive as ceviche on a cracker. The homestyle crisp taco shell is filled to overflowing with citric albacore, smothered in avocado sauce and lanced through with ginger and spice. Each bite is a tender fish bomb bursting with impossible flavor. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Pulled-pork nachos at Bark City BBQ, $8
Portland pulled pork is often a crime. But at North Killingsworth's Bark City BBQ cart—home also to good ribs, brisket and links—that pork is often the best thing on the menu, a barky, gently smoky shoulder set off with just the right edge of vinegar. It's even better when piled onto a heaping $8 tray of house-baked nachos slathered in queso and augmented with beans, jalapeños, onions and pickled avocados. It has all the promise of a great queso nacho, touched up with hints of smoky meat. Want it with brisket instead? Add $2 to the price and it's yours. But whatever you do, always order a banana pudding milkshake ($7), complete with Nilla wafers and a slice of brûléed banana. That thick, generous cup is perhaps the best milkshake I've had in the city of Portland—and if you ask nicely, pitmaster Michael Keskin will split it into two cups to share. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Chicken shawarma at Moonlight Mediterranean Food, $8
232 SW Stark St., 503-208-0019. Lunch, dinner and late-night daily.
Saad Alameri, a friendly and chatty Baghdad native who runs the Moonlight Mediterranean Food cart downtown, is proud of the halal food, particularly his chicken shawarma and the spicy red sauce he adds upon request, which he says was a game-changer when he opened here in 2010. "I brought this from my country and it was very popular, so other people started doing it," he says. There's a cone of lamb pictured on the side of the cart, but Alameri gave it up because of the hassle, instead tossing a few thin slices of frozen lamb on the flat-top then topping the gyro with two cream sauces and a little spice. It's a hulking pile of food for just $8, but the main draw here is the chicken, which is fresh and well-seasoned. It gets even better with the hot sauce and creamy white sauces. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Poquito nachos at Conquistador, $8.50
2045 SE Belmont St., 503-232-3227. Dinner and late-night nightly.
This stylish dive bar on Belmont is known for three things. First, for all the scenesters smoking on the front patio. Second, for its décor, which includes deep, dark booths, a homey upstairs den, and velvet paintings of murderous Spaniards. Third, for its nachos, which come piled high and round like a haystack and cost $6.50 at happy hour till 7 pm. Those nachos do everything right, and without need of meat. The chips are house-crisped and coated with cotija, and the salsa selection is varied and flavorful. They're not stingy with the guac or the cilantro, making this platter into a symphony of bright flavors and contrasting textures. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Summer Breeze acai bowl at Kiva, $9.75
Kiva's Summer Breeze bowl is a light, nutritious meal that actually tastes like a luxurious treat. Served in Kiva's airy, counter-service Slabtown cafe, the bowl is a violet-colored tower of whipped berry perfume—with acai, mango, banana, and lime juice all blended into the texture of creamy sorbet. But the orange blossom water is what allows the Summer Breeze bowl to live up to its name: a light floral flavor mixed in with the tart fruit. Still, acai bowls are only as good as their toppings, and Kiva doesn't skimp. The bowl comes coated in a shell of coconut oil and topped with strawberries, banana, clusters of cinnamon granola and a dainty sprig of mint. At the bottom of the bowl, you'll end up with a crust of salty granola coated in hardened coconut oil. It's worth scraping all of it from the bottom of your bowl—it's pretty much a candy bar without the guilt. SHANNON GORMLEY.
Green chile cheese fries at La Panza, $9.95
Since opening tiny strip-mall spot La Panza four years ago just off one of the last sleepy stretches of Southeast Division, chef-owner Andy Razatos has been flying in chiles from his home state of New Mexico—sourcing them from the famed chile town of Hatch. A choice between red or green chiles—ordered together as "Christmas style"—is a requirement at any New Mexican joint, and Razatos offers them on a menu of satisfying standards, including enchiladas, burritos, huevos rancheros and a monstrously good cheeseburger. But there is also an extra-hot version of the green sauce, made from a puree of the evil, delicious Lumbre pepper. This is the sauce you want, ordered over french fries and mixed with cheese sauce ($9.95). The fries are made in-house—they're starchy, big, almost yuccalike in their textural heft and absorption. That sauce—so hot, so vibrantly green!—is tempered by the warm, smooth white cheese sauce, raging and quelling its way up and down the Scoville scale. The result is transportive. JORDAN MICHELMAN.
Pork nopales combo at Tienda de Leon, $9.99
For nearly 20 years, Tienda de Leon has been one of Portland's most essential excursions. Located at the exact border of Portland and Gresham, in a Glisan strip mall next to CSL Plasma, the de Leon family taqueria and store sells their corn tortillas and heavenly guisados—Mexican meat stews bubbling in little cauldrons in the deli case. They are a subject of cultish devotion, a mouth-melting magic trick Portlanders can pull out of their hat when former Angelenos declare there are no good tacos or even good Mexican food in Portland. The carnitas are some of the most consistently wonderful in town, the chipotle-spiked tinga chicken earthy, the beef birria de res a school in depth and heat. But always, always, we come back to the trademark pork nopales, slow-braised pork with lightly spicy and acidic cactus that hits more flavor notes in a single bite than a Thai restaurant. Ease into a platter with a healthy supply of the house tortillas, and the feeling of well-being will last you the rest of the week. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Chicken mine frire at Chez Dodo, $10
Mauritius, an island 2,000 miles east of Africa, is best known as home of the now-extinct dodo—a forever emblem of human cruelty. But if you let him, Mauritian chef Shyam Dausoa can be just as cruel. Mauritian food claims influences from France, Africa, India and everything in between, and his delicate mine frire yakisoba or mee foon rice noodle plates are spiced with a warm, earthy mix that feels like all the world's comforts have been pok pok'd in a pestle. But ask him to make that mine frire "very spicy," and he'll spike the addictive cilantro chutney with a dose of habanero and ghost pepper, two of the hottest substances on earth. The combination of the heat and your own compulsion to taste more noodles will quickly make your taste buds extinct. But like any addict, all you'll want is more. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Black Widow sushi burrito at Teppanyaki Hut, $10
4233 N Mississippi Ave., 503-383-4705. Lunch daily.
Yea, and tho' the Lord thy God hath said, "All Asian fusion creations are an abomination unto Me, and thou shalt never place thy chopsticks next to a ravioli and call it 'cheese gyoza' or face my wrath," He probably never tried the Black Widow burrito at Teppanyaki. It is an unholy amalgam of all the crisp, savory, and sweet tastes and textures available in sushi, all neatly wrapped up in a piece of brown paper. The crisp tempura crumbs on top of the sweet sticky rice, the hot, crunchy soft shell crab against the cool smoothness of the crab salad, all laid next to just enough fresh veggies to fill you up without making you feel disgusting, and garnished with just a faint dusting of black tobiko. Think less "overstuffed sushi roll" and more "perfectly proportioned bundle of delight." ADRIENNE SO.
Grilled ham and cheese at Tails and Trotters, $10
Portland's best ham spent a year in the cold. In February, the delicate, sweet walnut-fed pork of Kerns butcher Tails and Trotters went up in literal smoke—victim to a fire that had started in a vacant space next door. Its 18-month-aged prosciutto, 10 years in the making, was gone in a night. As of March 14, Tails and Trotters is both back and maybe even better, with a newly expanded seating area in front of the ham display that might persuade you to eat the excellent porkstrami Reuben or deep ham-stock soups inside. There's no need to get fancy here: T&T's basic ham is the best in Portland—we confirmed this in a blind taste test—salty, just a touch sweet, impossibly rich in flavor. It is ham-flavored ham. The grilled ham and cheese melts four cheeses onto a half-inch of ham served inside rustic levain bread and kissed with a touch of dijon. It will be the best ham and cheese sandwich you've ever had. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Kelaguen mannok and titiyas at PDX 671, $10
At least once a month, at his Food of Guam pop-up, Guam-born chef Ed Sablan cooks an unholy feast of Chamorran cuisine from ribs to fiery ceviche—a wild mix of foods of flavors at the confluence of Asian and Latin cultures. But at his food cart in the Rose City pod on Northeast Sandy, Sablan quietly serves some of the most delicious food in Portland five days a week. His kelaguen mannok ($6.50) is simple: grill-kissed chicken touched up with a citric blast of lemon, chopped scallion, bits of red chili, and a Guamanian hallmark: grated coconut. The flavor is an explosion, like ceviche made of grilled chicken. Eat it with Sablan's coconut-milk titiya flatbread ($3.50) for one of the most ecstatic meals in Portland for $10—deeply fragrant with coconut and chili-spicy, grounded by the satisfaction of chewy, lightly charred bread as a base. It's like an island gordita. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Fried kale at Wares, $10
Whenever out-of-town friends get lightly peckish at 9 pm, I always bring them here, to Johanna Ware's "inauthentic Asian" counter-service spot at Sandy's Zipper food court, brimming with noodles and rice bowls. Those friends invariably orders the ramen or kimchi stew, maybe a nice octopus side. They never want the kale: How boring! And then, from Paydirt whiskey bar where the food is delivered, I slide my bowl their way, watching their face slacken and their eyes fill with the bright surprise of epiphany. "Holy shit," they say. "That's amazing." Six years after I first had those wilted and lightly tempura'd shreds of kale at Ware's finer-dining Smallwares restaurant—doused in fish sauce and pelted with house-cured lardons the size of Illinois hailstones—this dish remains amazing. Where other greens whisper, this dish shouts from inside your mouth until the pressure of the feeling is too much to bear. And then you say, as you always do, "Holy shit." MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Cochinita pibil at Taqueria La Mestiza, $10
8525 NE Fremont St., 503-572-8595. Lunch and dinner Thursday-Tuesday.
In a hole-in-the-wall counter spot behind a decrepit mini-mart in a mostly residential Fremont Street neighborhood, Patirica del Soccorro Lavadores serves relleno negro soup, a lightly citric poc-chuc pork plate and also the finest cochinita pibil I've ever had in Portland. From its origins as a pit barbecue, this Caribbean-influenced pork dish from Yucatan has evolved stateside (cont. from page 17) into a slow oven roast that too often comes out dry, or saucy in a way that does not penetrate the meat. But here at Taqueria La Mestiza, it is a deep and full-throated revelation beneath lightly pickled onion—a true marriage of protein and spice. Eat that stewy, spicy pork on corn tortillas served almost painfully hot, and taste the deep earthiness of a dish that began underground. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Snail soup at Ha VL, $10
2738 SE 82nd Ave., 503-772-0103. Served Thursday only for breakfast and lunch.
Ha VL is the Vietnamese soup shop that shipped a thousand articles in the food press. The family makes just two soups a day, every day but Tuesday, forever. Each is prepared daily, from only fresh ingredients. Most of the soups can also be found at founders Christina Ha Luu and William Truong's Rose VL on Southeast Powell Boulevard, from complex turmeric-laden mi quang to peppery pork ball noodles (for an itinerary, see mrgan.com/havl). But when son Peter Vuong inherited the original Ha VL on 82nd Avenue, he introduced an innovative take on bun cha oc snail noodle soup. Traditionally, this pork-bone-broth soup contains whole snails, but Vuong boosted the flavor with an invention of his own: a lemongrass-scented snail meatball. The hearty soup is deepened further with pork loin and pillowy fried tofu, with the acidic bite of tomato. It is a marvel of soupcraft. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Bunk Burger at Bunk Bar Wonder, $10
Not all Bunks are created equal. Any time anyone complains the Bunk sandwich chain isn't what it was when Tommy Habetz personally made each Cubano and muffaletta, I tell them they are correct. And then I send them to Bunk Bar Wonder, the best Bunk in the empire. For five years, chef Josh Luebke has made the best classic Bunk Cubanos, the best smoked and brined turkey, the best offbeat sandwich specials made with pulled pork or eggplant. But best of all, he makes this burger. Only a dozen Bunk Burgers are made each day from Thursday to Sunday, starting at noon opening time. Perhaps this is clever marketing, or perhaps it's a loss leader. The $10 behemoth is a thick double cheeseburger patty layered with a classic pickle-lettuce-mustard-mayo combo, which is then amplified by 110-decibel onion: The beef patty is umami'd up with onion powder, and then the bun gets slathered with garlicky guajillo-pepper onion jam made with both pork stock and pork-fried onions. It's a big, beefy monster made of bad breath and good feelings. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Macnocheeto burrito at Homegrown Smoker, $10
For eight long days, there was no Macnocheeto burrito in Portland. In June 2017, North Mississippi Avenue vegan comfort-food cart Homegrown Smoker burned down—damaged so badly it never reopened. But almost immediately, the Smoker finished work on its fluorescent-lit brick-and-mortar in St. Johns, in an otherwise homey room filled with mismatched flower vases. The expanded menu there features newfangled gluten-based Buffalo "thwings," along with tofu fish and chips. But the Macnocheeto burrito remains the greatest display of chef Jeff Ridabock's abilities: sweet baked beans, gooey mac and cheese, and barbecue soy curls all wrapped in a monstrous tortilla. The housemade cashew cheese is slightly sharp, and the soy curls miraculously have that thick, saucy crust that would otherwise seem as if it could only belong to slow-smoked ribs. SHANNON GORMLEY.
Beer, burrito and shot at Mi Mero Mole, $10-$12
Sometimes you have to work after lunch. But sometimes you want to spend the second part of your day half asleep. On those days, Old Town's Mi Mero Mole is the place to go for one of Portland's most delightful and improbably inexpensive soporifics: a 12-ounce beer—your choice of Negra Modelo, Tecate or session cerveza—a steely shot of Pueblo Viejo blanco tequila and a massive MMM burrito. Mole forgoes the usual rice and bean burrito fillers for luxuriantly stewlike guisados (think spicy pot roast) and a sometimes disturbing amount of cheese, each bite as good the best bite of most other burritos. Most meal-deal options are $10, but it's worth shelling out another two bucks for the Mole Negro, rich with smoky bites of lamb shoulder in a glossy Oaxacan mole. Available at all hours of the day, it's good as a Friday-ending lunch or a Saturday-starting sponge for more booze downtown. WALKER MACMURDO.
Reggie Deluxe at Pine State Biscuits, $10.50
In 2006, three friends from North Carolina wanted to bring the perfect biscuit to Portland. Opening and closing and opening countless locations, they've turned this idea into empire. They take that flaky, buttery, golden-brown biscuit and serve it in the form of the gooey, sloppy Reggie Deluxe. For $10.50, you get a piece of fried chicken, bacon, cheddar, fried egg…all topped with their delicious peppery gravy. Though a mere biscuit sandwich, it is one of the heartiest breakfasts in town. CHRISTINE HEELEY.
Black bean noodles at Frank's Noodle House, $10.95
Inner Portland's Chinese noodle game has improved in the past few years, with a host of new restaurants that have their own twist on hand-pulled and chewy dough. This old two-story house on Broadway has its up days and down days, but thick, twisty, rugged noodles bathed in a rich black bean sauce remain one of the city's purest comforts. The sauce is sticky but not sweet, an umami-dense and tangy bath that pairs so perfectly with the dough under it. This is comfort food in every sense, and if you want some spice, you'll have to ask for the chili oil. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Sundubu at Spring Restaurant, $10.95
3975 SW 114th Ave., Beaverton, 503-641-3670. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.
Hidden away above a ramshackle G-Mart that looks as if it might have housed a bowling alley in a previous life, accessible via some easily missable backstairs, bare-bones Spring feels like a secret—an exclusive club that requires a password to enter. The novelty would be reason enough to come. But then you tuck into a steaming bowl of its sujebi (hand-torn noodle soup. $10.95) and realize it's also some of the finest Korean food anywhere near Portland, and well worth the trek. But beyond the starchy comforts of the rough-edged noodles and potatoes of that dish, Spring sports the cleanest-tasting sundubu broth I've encountered. It's practically spa food, pure and wholly vegetable-based—you can almost feel your skin clearing while you eat it. BRIAN PANGANIBAN.
Xiao Long Bao soup dumplings at XLB, $11
XLB is Portland's first serious soup dumpling house, home to the city's best xiao long bao—those little dough pockets filled with broth and meat. Chef Jasper Shen spent years practicing the deft twist of the wrist required to make the dumplings before opening last January. After early inconsistency, they now burst with savory, herbal, warming broth, accented with an on-point vinegar-shallot dipping sauce. Other entrees have been successful from the start, in particular a light-battered five-spice popcorn chicken that was sweetly clove- and cinnamon-heavy with a slight afterglow of numbing Sichuan pepper. A ho fun noodle stir-fry was upgraded with steaky beef strips. From slightly dim beginnings, XLB has turned the lights on: It's now a powerhouse. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Desayuno torta at Güero, $11
The new Kerns restaurant from ridiculously beloved torta cart Güero—decorated with pottery from Jalisco, and with so many plants and flowers the place feels like a sunroom—is pretty much a poster child for how to do everything right. Güero still serves those mammoth carnitas and pollo pibil tortas, which come on telera bread slathered with lime-chili mayo and laden with fresh avocado, lettuce and pink pickled onions. The bright space distills the cart's sunny essence with very little fat, and a Mezcal-happy cocktail list makes the place buzz. But co-owners Alec Morrison and Megan Sanchez have also thrown in some new dishes, and the best is their desayuno torta in a hoagie-style bolillo bun—with eggs and a fried cheese slice bolstering beef slow-braised to just-so salty perfection.
Cheesy corn with ribs at Kim Jong Smokehouse, $11
Sometimes Frankenstein can be beautiful. At this casual lunchbox Korean spot, Kim Jong Smokehouse merges the grill traditions of Korea with the American Southern-inflected smoked meats from Southeast Belmont Street's Smokehouse Tavern. So your sweet-spicy honey-gochujang spareribs might get a rainbow of kimchi and quick-pickled daikon as sides, or arrive perched atop a scorched-rice bibimbap in a steaming cast-iron pan. But at the 21st Avenue location, Han Ly Hwang has also been throwing down a menu of anju—late-night Korean drinking food you can otherwise get only in the 'Tron. The cheese corn plate is like soul food with even more fatty soul, with a cheesy "roux" of mayo, butter and mozzarella cheese, plus a world of scallions on top. Throw those sweet-spicy spareribs or some smoked galbi short ribs on top, and you'll swear the War of Southern Aggression was won by Korea. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Tonkotsu shoyu ramen at Marukin, $11
609 SE Ankeny St., Suite A, marukinramen.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
In Tokyo, Marukin ramen spots are like Xanax for the salaryman, so old school they're almost nostalgic. Though Marukin's 2-year-old east- and westside Portland locations are a bit sleeker and streamlined, they already fill much the same role. Every broth served at Marukin is excellent—spicy, miso, shio, whatever— and each bowl contains a stew of garnish, from deep-green spinach to kikurage mushrooms, bamboo shoots, a molten-centered egg and tender chashu pork. But it's all about that deep, hazy, porky tonkotsu shoyu bone broth. Light for its style, it remains buttery in its depths, a rich cradle for gently springy noodles. It feels impossible in both its delicacy and its depth, digging deep into the marrow of comfort. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
La zi ji chicken at Danwei Canting, $11
In a slick, light-filled box across from the smoking tables at Stark Street dive the Slammer, Beijing-style counter-service spot Danwei Canting serves lovely dumplings, a near-plummy black bean jja jiang mian noodle dish and one of Szechuan province's most fiery trademarks. La zi ji chicken, aka hot pepper chicken bath, buries delectable nuggets of fried chicken thigh under a firewall of red-hot peppers. Though it started out mild when the restaurant opened a year ago, Danwei chef Kyo Koo turned up the dish's heat by chopping up the fiery red chilies amid the scallion- and spice-crusted chicken, releasing the capsaicin that makes for pepper heat and toasting the seeds into warm smokiness. Now it's an exploding grenade of numbing sichuan peppercorn and chili-pepper spice, by far the best version anywhere in town: Between the tingling of your cheeks and the heat crackling from your chin to your scalp, you won't know whether you feel aroused or ashamed. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Khao man gai at Nong's, $11
Nong's khao man gai is the chicken that crossed the road, the river, the country and the ocean. From a humble cart on Southwest Alder Street—soon to close—Nong Poonsukwattana parlayed her family chicken-and-rice recipe into one of Portland's iconic foods, making her eastside eatery a Thai food destination every bit as vaunted as Andy Ricker's Pok Pok, where she got her first big-time gig. The dish is as simple as it gets: tender chicken, rice and sauce blooming with soy, garlic, chili and ginger. And whatever else gets added to the menu—including coconut soft serve—that's always what you'll get. Crunch it up with $2 chicken skins if you can, but it needs nothing else. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Large battered cod fish and chips at the Frying Scotsman, $11.50
Southwest 9th Avenue and Alder Street, 503-06-3841, thefryingscotsmanpdx.com. Lunch Monday-Saturday.
Fish and chips is not difficult to prepare, but Americans tend to underachieve when it comes to the quintessentially British dish. This is for a simple reason: Though the international community's broad idea of an average American as a morbidly obese man spilling a double cheeseburger all over his cargo shorts in an F-250, our junk food is not nearly as unctuous as that of our forebears across the pond. The ideal fish and chips should be so laden with fat as to have a wee squish of fryer oil emerge after each bite. The cart's eponymous Scotsman, James King, understands the fatty heart and soul of fish and chips. This is reflected in every rich bite of pillowy, crunch-shrouded cod and thick, starchy wedge of potato. The small ($9) is enough to feed an adult for a day. Nevertheless, order the large and drench it in more salt and malt vinegar than you think you'll need. You aren't doing it right if you can walk afterward. WALKER MACMURDO.
Pho ga at Teo Bun Bo Hue, $11.50
8220 SE Harrison St., No. 230, 503-208-3532. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
Almost no one alive makes soup with the love, delicacy, meticulousness and beauty Teo Bun Bo Hue applies to the two soups it serves. Both are the best of their kind in Portland, a town already known nationwide for Vietnamese soup. The namesake Hue beef noodle soup—a swirl of pork blood and chili oil—is a lip-smacking flavor wallop backed by a tour of textures from blood cake to trotter. But it's the delicate take on pho ga—pho with chicken stock and bone-in chicken—that is a marvel of modern Portland, eschewing the anise-filled southern sweetness for light floral delicacy and a relentless purity of chicken flavor. It's as if someone had injected chicken with chicken, fed the result to a chicken and then cooked it into broth. The flat pho noodles are thinner than usual, and the sides are idiosyncratic: ginger sauce, rau ram, frisee. Teo's pho ga is its own world of pho—a world that will soon expand when Teo adds beef pho to its menu this spring. But for now, take one sip of the rich chicken broth and say "Fuuuu…." MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Pork and beef at Du's Grill, $11.50
From its little shack on Sandy, Du's Grill has burned itself so deep into the soul of Portland that most who grew up here probably believe teriyaki is actually Korean food, and that it is best prepared to the soundtrack of Mexican polka. Hip-hop star Aminé fondly remembers "friends used to do pills and only eat at Du's Grill." One of our writers ate at every Korean teriyaki spot in the Pacific Northwest only to declare Du's the best in the known universe. But in principle, Du's is simple. It is char-tipped pork, chicken, beef or a combo of two thereof, grilled up on the flat top and slathered volitionally with sweet-sticky soy, next to poppy seed-dressed salad that is its own version of opiate. Du's is not always perfect—avoid the late-night hours, when the meat dries out in the kitchen. But when it is perfect, nothing else in the world will do. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Veggie sando at Milk Glass Mrkt, $11.50
The veggie sando at Milk Glass Mrkt is one of the most delicious lunch items in the entire city, full stop. I feel conflicted telling anyone this. Nancye Benson's charming little spot on Northeast Killingsworth is already plenty busy, especially at weekend brunch, when the Overlook neighborhood spills out onto the sidewalk for cheddar biscuit sandwiches, fish plates or a take-home jar of the house granola. But the hero is that sando: salty homemade focaccia slathered in almond butter and piled high with beets, spicy pickled carrots and peppers, fresh greens, and spreadable sheep's-milk MitiCrema. It is a symphony of sandwich: the acid from the pickles, the crunch of the greens, the creaminess of almond butter and cheese, and that fluffy, perfect bread, topped with just a little bit of crunchy salt. Who puts almond butter on focaccia? What planet are we on? I dream of the veggie sandwich at Milk Glass. JORDAN MICHELMAN.
Four-piece chicken and jojos at Reel M Inn, $11.50
2430 SE Division St., 503-231-3880. Lunch, dinner and late-night daily.
The best pressure-fried chicken, the best jojos, the hardest-working bartenders and the beating heart and soul of Division are all at a 20-year-old hole in the wall called Reel M Inn. It is a place of stunning consistency: At this always-packed dive bar the chicken takes 30 minutes to cook, and you will wait for it far longer than that in a room bearing 20 years of graffiti, photos of friends, softball after-hours chicken parties and simple good-and-bad living. The chicken is always perfect. It is achingly moist within and crisp outside, the Platonic ideal of broaster chicken as handed down by the flavor gods of Flavor-Crisp. It always comes at a lower price than you think it should, and it always takes a little longer than you want it to. In this regard, it is the opposite of sex. But the feeling is the same. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Garlic salmon poke at Poke Mon, $11.75
Opened in the Great Summer of Pokémon Go, Poke Mon may have ridden in on several fads, but it transcends them in large part due to ex-Nodoguro cook Colin Yoshimoto, who brings sushi-chef precision (and Japanese-inspired sauces) to what is essentially a quickie lunch counter serving fish bowls. Poke originated in Hawaii centuries ago as an improvised snack for fishermen, who'd cut off and season chunks of their catch while on the job. It arrived at its current form as a raw-fish salad after reaching the mainland and getting thrown into a bowl with rice, avocado and other fixings. Poke Mon has shown itself to be one of the very finest casual restaurants in this city, a reliable source of excellent fish carefully prepared and served at Old Portland prices. You really can't go wrong with any of the six standard bowls, though the Pikachu of the bunch is the garlic salmon poke, which plays Yoshimoto's salty ponzu sauce off sweet bites of grapefruit for an especially enlivened combination. MATTHEW SINGER.
Porchetta sandwich at People's Pig, $12
Two years after taking over the former Tropicana soul-food shack on Williams, pitmaster Cliff Allen's pork loin has slipped a bit from its original earnest perfections. But at the new East Burnside Street location in a former Subway, Allen has a new piece of transcendent pork to play with: a porchetta sandwich made with a combo of roast pork loin and pork belly, massaged with a fennel-garlic rub that might as well be the flavor of my childhood. That meat is both pepper-spicy and deeply herbal, unctuously rich and crisp but not too crisp. Served on house sourdough and set off with a bit of citrus and the bitter charge of arugula, that porchetta might as well be a tunnel to the still-smooth parts of my brain that know only comfort. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Two-meat combo at Love Belizean, $12
1503 SW Broadway, 503-421-5599. Lunch Monday-Friday.
In a sea of fast food and carb bombs, Love Belizean supplies hungry downtown workers what truly feels like a home-cooked, Caribbean comfort meal. For $8, Tiffany Love will cook you the restaurant's delicious namesake: her tender and spice-rubbed Belizean chicken. But spring the extra $4 to get the two-meat combo, and explore the other outstanding options, such as the tri-tip stewed with peppers in a sweet and savory sauce. All meals are served with a fresh salad topped with a signature lime vinaigrette, seasoned coconut rice and beans, and your choice of eight different housemade habanero pepper sauces. Be sure to get there early, however. Love's lovely chicken is known to sell out. CHRISTINE HEELEY.
Barbacoa lamb plate at Mis Abuelos, $12
8145 SE 82nd Ave., 503-358-0393. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday, lunch Sunday.
True friends of Mexican expats in Portland take their Spanish-speaking friends for barbacoa, slow-cooked verdadero weekend brunch south of the border. Originally made with pit-roasted pork, the offerings have expanded to include lamb and beef. While carne asada and al pastor in Portland are lacking, our city's barbacoa could compete with roadside stands and trendy restaurants in the homeland. Mis Abuelos is one of the best, with an owner from the heralded state of Hidalgo. He just gives a damn, and it shows in his delicious barbacoa. The lamb and its consomé soup—made from drippings from the meat—are simply prepared, no chili or spices, letting the flavor of the meat and the maguey take center stage. The lamb has a nice fattiness chopped into the rest of the meat, the way they do it in Hidalgo. The balance and seasoning are near-perfect. The meat even receives a last sprinkling of salt. NICK ZUKIN.
Mysore masala dosa at Dil Se, $12
In a little Indian spot in the strange, church-filled blocks of Southwest Portland near the art museum, husband-and-wife team Ramesh Rajendran and Shamla Puthuparambil make by far my favorite dosas in Portland—wafer-thin South Indian lentil and rice crepes rolled up and stuffed with meat or potatoes or both. Alongside spice-crusted Chicken 65 ($9)—an appetizer of deep-fried chicken nuggets—get any dosa with masala filling and you'll be equally transported, especially the style made famous in the southwestern city of Mysore that once presided over its own separate kingdom. In that dosa, the masala-gunpowder potatoes are bolstered by a hearty lentil stew, doubling down on comfort like a blanket over a Snuggie. The plate is both a riot of layered flavor and a warm luxury—curry as aromatherapy. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Alambre at Los Alambres, $12
Mexico is a hotbed of Arabic culture, from shawarma-descended pork al pastor to a mixed grill of meats and peppers called alambre, which evolved from Arab-style skewers into a flat-top-grilled stew: First, the poblanos or bell peppers are cooked up with bacon and spice, then they're augmented by a mixed grill of meats—anything from beef to chorizo to al pastor to seafood. The result is a cheesy, meaty, spicy, goopy mess that seems almost Tex-Mex, served up with little corn or flour tortillas to eat it with. Consider it a fajitas speedball, amped with bacon and cheese—and it's pretty much amazing. The best can be had at the cart that bears its name, Los Alambres on 82nd, from father-and-son natives of Mexico City. Next to a little panaderia, you'll find rarely seen spit-cooked al pastor Thursday through Saturday, plus an alambre that mixes up carne asada, pork, chorizo, ham, bell peppers, onion, avocado and cheese. It's served spiced with deep red chili salsa and then capped with so much cheese it's halfway to queso fundido. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Detroit pizza at East Glisan Pizza, $12
The Detroit-style pizza broke nationally in 2017. Not only is Michigan-based Buddy's planning a national expansion, but a half-dozen Portland spots are making their own variations of the square, thick-crust pies. Well, I'd put East Glisan's Detroit red-top—which is only available on Tuesday and Saturday evenings—up against anything in the Motor City. Owner Kristen Martha Brown learned about the style from the national pizza expo in Las Vegas and set about retro-engineering a small, square pie with a pillowy, crushable dough, ultra-bright marinara and firm, salty cheese. There are no other Detroit-style pies I crave enough to plan my week around. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Scallion pancake at Nak Won, $12
4600 Watson Ave., Beaverton, 503-646-9382. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.
Nak Won has been consistently putting out some of the best food in town since it opened in 1993. All the classic dishes are solid at Tae Ok Lee's downtown Beaverton restaurant, but often it's the little details that set it above everyone else. Seafood kimchijeon pancake, for instance, is a staple in Korea, and Nak Won's is as good as they come. But its lower-price, oft-ignored green onion-only cousin is revelatory here. The lack of extra moisture from seafood allows it to retain its crusty crunch longer, and coupled with a few splashes of the super-salty dipping sauce that accompanies it makes for some phenomenal mouthfuls. They also sport the only gamja (mashed-potato salad) banchan really worth eating in town: tangy, sweet and salty. BRIAN PANGANIBAN.
Eight wings at Clay's Smokehouse, $12
On bougie Division, Clay's Smokehouse is old-school, soul food-inspired 'cue—the sort of place that serves fried catfish alongside its sweet, saucy ribs and smoked hot link. The restaurant had lived on Division for decades before closing two years back, only to be reborn last December with a cash infusion from new owners, not to mention a renewed spirit and much-improved attention to detail. Grandma Jean Slyman's pineapple upside-down cake is unparalleled, but always start with the wings. I'm ambivalent about smoked wings, because of the often soggy texture. But the ones at Clay's manage to thread the needle, with taut flesh that's rich in smoke and slides off the bone. They're lavished in a deeply earthy and spicy sauce and might be my new favorite wings in town. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Italian beef at Sammich, $12
Sammich is all about the house giardiniera. That spicy, pickled mix of chilies, pepper, celery and carrots is the flavor of Chicago, available everywhere from hot dog shops to Potbelly to Subway franchises. At her East Burnside sandwich spot—plastered with Cubbies and 'Hawks wall art and fronted by a smoker full of beef and bacon—Texan-Chicagoan Melissa McMillan's housemade mix is the light, bright, quick-pickled and thin-sliced North Chicago variety. That giardiniera adds crunch, spice, and acid to everything from her "Cubbie Cubano" to the burger, albacore sandwich and Italian beef. That Italian beef is our favorite version in town. Her jus—pronounced "juice," in open defiance of the French—is deep, rich, fresh daily and well-seasoned, a balance difficult to achieve and especially to maintain. The beef, roasted and sliced in-house, is tender and just a bit on the fatty side. And the hoagie buns have the right amount of rubber in them to stand up to the jus without dissolving into fluff: McMillan worked with a baker at Philippe's Bread and Lardo to get just the right texture, rolling through countless attempts to get just the right elasticity. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Kalbi ribs at 808 Grinds, $12
10100 SW Park Way, 503-477-9976, 808grinds.com. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.
In the wilds of urban unincorporated Washington County, two friends from Maui serve delicious Korean-influenced Hawaiian in a brick-and-mortar spot that also serves as a commissary for their downtown cart. Nonetheless, the drive is worth it for the house-specialty kalbi ribs. The Korean-style shortribs are tender enough to slip gently off the bone, served with rice and the city's best mac salad. Pair them with one of five housemade signature sauces so popular that Grinds also sells them to take home. An in-house baker churns out fresh desserts daily, including poi mochi for a true island experience. CHRISTINE HEELEY.
Sushi at Sushi Ichiban, $1.50-$4.50 a plate (about $12 for the sane)
24 NW Broadway, 503-224-3417. Lunch Tuesday-Friday, dinner nightly.
At Sushi Ichiban, the train is always on time. A lunch counter surrounds a central station where chefs prepare sushi, hand rolls, nigiri and assorted Japanese snacks and desserts. Each is placed on one of six colors of saucer-sized plates from white ($1.50) to green ($4.50), then set atop a flatcar pulled by a toy locomotive that tirelessly circumnavigates the counter. This little engine delivers mayo- and chili sauce-laced delights to diners, who wolf them down with a slurry of wasabi and soy sauce, supplementing the train's cargo with individual plates ordered from a dozens-deep menu. In Portland, "cheap sushi" usually means a flaccid $8 roll that'll leave you two-thirds full and longingly eyeing a second. Here, you'll be hard-pressed to make it out for more than $12, stuffed full with five plates under your belt. WALKER MACMURDO.
The 2fer at Grain & Gristle, $12.50 a person, includes beer ($25 total)
Prescott Street gastropub Grain & Gristle is a dream of farm-to-table come to humble life, with near-exclusive access to some of the best ingredients in the city: meat from Cully butchery Old Salt, beer from co-owner Alex Ganum of Upright. Our 2018 Beer of the Year, Upright's complex Pathways farmhouse, is on permatap, and chef Greg Smith makes a truly great hamburger, elegant in its concision. But every single day until it runs out, the gastropub also offers one of the most unbelievable deals in Portland: a hearty $25 homestyle meal for two that includes two 10-ounce beers from Upright Brewing. Recent plates have included a deep-brined lamb, flank steak and even a cut of rib-eye. Each plate has a fresh vegetable accent sourced from local farmers, and a starchy side that runs from polenta to rosemary-spiked roasted potatoes. The meal is a marvel, and every time I eat it, I feel like I'm stealing. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
The Whole Shebang for 2 at Matt's BBQ, $12.50 a person ($25 total)
Fact: Matt's BBQ has the best smoked brisket and ribs in Portland. There is no second place. At Matt Vicedomini's dual-smoker barbecue cart—currently smoking buddies with Kee's Loaded in the H&B parking lot, but scheduled to move next to North Mississippi Avenue beer bar Prost in April—only the pulled pork can be found better elsewhere. The sliced brisket is the showstopper, with thick, smoky black bark and a texture that usually perfectly straddles the line between moist and sloppy. The ribs are taut, with a peppery crust that yields to the tooth in the most satisfying way. Then there's the sausage. The links are made in-house, and in a town with a lot of good sausage, the smoky heat of the jalapeño cheddar is peerless. And with "The Whole Shebang for 2," you can try everything with sides for just $25. That's insane. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Veggie combo at Enat, $12.99
300 N Killingsworth St., 503-285-4867. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.
Enat Kitchen feels like eating in someone's home. The food is served on wide, ceramic platters, and a TV in a corner plays Ethiopian music videos at low volume. And yet the food at Portland's best Ethiopian restaurant is opulent. A family-style platter feeds five and is yours for $40 (the couple's platter paradoxically feeds three for $29.99). But even for singletons, the veggie platter is unbelievable in its generosity, gorgeous and overflowing, with five colorful piles of stewy vegetables on a sheet of spongy injera so silky it's tempting to just bite straight into a roll instead of pinching it around the slow-cooked vegetables. The berbere sauce on the dinch wot potatoes is warmly spicy and earthy, the kik wot split peas creamy and deeply comforting, the refreshing ground chickpeas so fluffy they're almost the texture of scrambled eggs. SHANNON GORMLEY.
Leg quarter roti set at Hat Yai, $13
1605 NE Killingsworth St., 503-764-9701, hatyaipdx.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Maybe it's no surprise that some of the best fried chicken in Portland is inspired by the South. But at Northeast Killingsworth's fast-casual Hat Yai, in a neighborhood that's suddenly the fastest-growing restaurant district in town, the inspiration is the south of Thailand. Earl Ninsom and Alan Akwai's crispy-skinned, tender Hat Yai fried chicken, named after the food-rich metropolis in Thailand's southern tip near Malaysia, is served with a sweet chili sauce that adds just enough juicy spice to complement the floral notes of the coriander without overpowering it. It's like Tennessee heat gone subtle and aromatic—more gain than pain. Add Hat Yai's deep, spicy earthy curry and Indonesian roti bread, and this is one of the best plates in Portland. CRYSTAL CONTRERAS.
Trout plate at Sweedeedee, $13
Love to hate it, hate to love it: If you are one of the five people in Portland who haven't yet feasted your eyes on Sweedeedee's honeyed wood counters and glasses sparkling merrily against the window, just know that it is a frequent source of twee-induced rage strokes (or maybe people are just hangry from waiting in line, who knows?). But the trout plate is worth the wait. At $13, it is a bargain for two breakfasts in one—a large, succulent piece of pink house-smoked trout and a salad, which lies on top of an egg and potato frittata that takes up almost the entire plate. Salty, tangy accents dot the sheer expanse of savory deliciousness, like fragments of crispy black Niçoise olives and a schmear of piquant horseradish cream. ADRIENNE SO.
Veggie tlayuda at Tierra del Sol, $13
Tlayuda is a flat circle. This Oaxacan specialty, the highlight of the sky-blue cart that bookends the Portland Mercado's lineup of food trucks, can be considered either a Mexican pizza or a mutant tostada, depending on your perspective. Visually, it looks like a Jackson Pollock painting on a manhole cover—a savory splatter-art collage of bright-green avocados, red tomatoes, light-pink radishes, purple onions and a $2 option of chicharrons, held together by a sedimentary layer of spicy black beans all piled atop a crispy corn tortilla measuring 14 inches in diameter. It's meant for communal consumption and makes for playfully messy date food: Your instinct might be to cut the pie into slices, but you'll soon find yourself wanting to rip off sections by hand and cram them into your face. Go with that feeling. MATTHEW SINGER.
Oxtail pho at Hem 23, $13
Here's a secret about Portland: The best bowl of pho changes seemingly every six months, a victim of roller-coaster changes at spots like Pho An and Pho Oregon. A reputable source recently informed me that Sandy Boulevard dive Yen Ha is suddenly making some of the best in town, and Teo Bun Bo Hue will make some soon. But the best beef pho broth I've had in Portland this year is this bowl at this somewhat upscale new 23rd Avenue "street food" spot, Hem 23, outfitted with a parked motorcycle and a mock tangle of wires to mimic a Saigon back alley. But the pho is no gimmick; though the noodles might come still tangled from their packaging, the broth is deep, richly blooming with anise, sweet but not oversweet. Floating within are the bones from two cow butts—tender oxtail whose meat must be teased from their marrow-rich housing. Though Tuan Lam's restaurant has been open little more than a month, this bowl is already a fond addiction. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Cheeseburger, tots and lemonade at Bottle Rocket, $13
1207 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 971-279-4663. Lunch, dinner and late-night daily.
Modeled loosely after a fireworks stand, the Bottle Rocket food cart is like a parallel-world imagining of a burger joint in East Asia, except at the Hawthorne Cartopia pod. The burgers aren't cheffy. They also aren't fancy, and they're definitely not stupid. They are, quite simply, some of the best damn burgers in Portland: The basic burger ($9) is 5 ounces of salt- and pepper-seasoned, hand-formed chuck from Nicky Farms down the street—the same people who serve up bison, boar and elk to restaurants all over the city. The lettuce is green lettuce, the pickles are kosher, and the onions come both raw and grilled to mix crunch and depth. The mayo is mixed with Sriracha for a little bit of spice and tang, a secret sauce that's really no secret at all. Add a buck and you get cheese, and at $3 more you get a nice house lemonade and a small piece of genius: crispy fried tater tots brimming with chili spice and the sticky-sweet brine of fish sauce. They're trashy and delicious. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Yu-shiang pork-stuffed eggplant at Chin's Kitchen, $13.95
At nearly 70 years old, Chin's Kitchen is a gaudy neon monument tucked away on a side street in the Hollywood District. It's one of the oldest Chinese restaurants in Portland—and since July of last year, when Wendy Li bought the restaurant, it's also one of the best. Now serving the Dongbei cuisine of Harbin on China's far northeastern edge, Chin's is home to a symphony of pork plates and some of the loveliest dumplings and hand-cut noodles in Portland. But Harbin is also the birthplace of authentic suan tian sweet and sour—the real kind, without the syrup and ketchup—and Chin's new sweet-sour-spicy yu-shiang eggplant dish is a genuine marvel of both texture and flavor, rich without being oversweet. Chinese eggplants are stuffed with pork, deep-fried to crispiness, and then softened in the wok for a melting tenderness with just a paper-thin edge of crackle on the teeth. Then they are slathered in scallions and that heavenly sauce—there's nothing like this dish anywhere else in Portland. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Half chicken at FOMO Chicken, $14
Who knew Southern and Korean food were made for each other? Sure, they both make good use of grills and pickled things, but it maybe seems a bit of a forced mashup—maybe even the "Accidental Racist" by Brad Paisley featuring LL Cool J of fusion cuisine. Then we got the mixed barbecue of Kim Jong Smokehouse and Sun Kim's FOMO Chicken, serving Korean fried chicken, katsu and Southern sides. I'd advise you to get a half bird, half spicy and half sweet garlic, big enough to feed two. The chicken is dredged in a Korean blend of corn and potato starches, and both sauces are sticky and mildly sweet with a tiny prickle of heat. Both come coated in sesame seeds, adding a little nuttiness and umami to the juicy flesh and sticky sauce. For $2 more, get some of the best mashed potatoes in town: red-skin potatoes made rich with a healthy dose of butter and milk. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Pork slider plate at Grand Army Tavern, $14
Woodlawn's Grand Army Tavern is an elegant wood-slatted hall of refreshing, citrusy cocktails and nose-to-tail, whole-pig butchery, with a rear wall fashionably papered in decorative flamingos whose necks overlap in lovingly baroque abundance. The $9 Paloma—often degraded in Portland to acrid grapefruit soda and tequila—is here a silky, refined quaff gussied up with Campari and agave. The spicy ranch-flavored pork rinds ($4)—a detente between hot and cool in the Dorito world—are served warm and still a little chewy, with the savory richness of skin fat still present. But the nose-to-tail sliders are what will fill you up. They're decadent and terrific, from a truly excellent spicy kielbasa to trashy fried baloney to deep-flavored butt roast, all served with fatty butter, house pickles and live lettuce. Those sliders are a porky cornucopia, spilling over with wonders—and the platter drops to the happy-hour price of $12 all day Monday. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Oxtail stew at Mathilde's Kitchen, $14
7238 SE Foster Road, 503-957-6184. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.
Opened as Jouk Li Jou in 2016, Mathilde's Kitchen was Portland's first Haitian-focused eatery, and as far as anyone can tell, it remains the only one. Co-owner Mathilde Aurelien-Wilson, who runs the cart with her husband, grew up in the Beaumont region of Haiti, and from her cart at Foster Road's Portland Mercado serves the island nation's uniquely multicultural dishes the way her mother used to make them. The oxtail stew is perhaps not the rarest item on a menu that also features griot-style pork loin and tongue-incinerating pikliz coleslaw, but it is divine—thick, tender chunks of meat that practically drip off the bone, delivered in a flavorful tomato-based sauce over basmati rice. It makes clear why there are no other Haitian carts in town: How can they hope to compete? MATTHEW SINGER.
Calzones at Red Sauce Pizza, $14
Portland is not a calzone town. That's not surprising—we've only recently gotten good at pizza. But happily, one of our city's brightest pizza minds, Shardell Dues, is now offering up an exemplary calzone option at Cully's Red Sauce Pizza. Each 'zone at Red Sauce is impressively textured and satisfyingly enormous, pre-stocked with good red sauce and four kinds of cheese, including ooey-gooey mozzarella and fresh, lemony ricotta. From there you can pick your favorites—house options include a combo of Canadian bacon, pineapple, red onion and jalapeño, or sausage, spinach, and pickled peppers. For $14, you get a gloriously grown-up knife-and-fork pizza pocket, capable of happily feeding two or gluttonously stuffing one. I like mine with mushrooms, roasted garlic and olives, a troika of savory vegetal flavors playing off fluffy ricotta, and a generous coating of salty grated pecorino on top. JORDAN MICHELMAN.
Five dim sum trays at Pure Spice, $14.25
At Pure Spice, a little piece of heaven costs $2.85. At the Division Street Chinese spot's dim sum brunch, that's the price of delicate hand-pulled rice noodles as layered as filo, doused in vinegar-savory sauce and folded in with a garden of barbecue pork or shrimp or simple chives and scallions. It is also the price of three ha gow dumplings—delicate rice-noodle purses bursting with shrimp and chive flavor—and of four impossibly pork-packed pockets of shiu mai. The rice noodle dumplings may contain mushroom and shrimp, or they may contain scallops. And all are among the city's greatest achievements in ricecraft, fairy wing-thin and delicate, elastic without ever being overly glutenous. To mix it up, throw in some fun, spicy cold beef tendons ($2.85), a rib over a thick Korean-style rice cake ($2.85) or wet sticky rice steamed in a lotus leaf ($2.85). The back side of the dim sum menu contains treats like a heaping plate of XO-topped Chinese broccoli ($6.95) and chicken wings ($.6.95). But here on the menu's front page, all is $2.85, and all is heaven. Split 10 trays as a pair, and you might never leave. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.