Here's a crazy-good deal: The Observatory (8115 SE Stark St., 445-6284, theobservatorypdx.com) will sell you a good eight ounces of creamy pâté, with crackers, bread and a lot of good mustard—enough to make a satisfying appetizer for a half-dozen—for seven smackers.
The best fried meat in town is at Red Onion (1123 NW 23rd Ave., 208-2634): little deep-fried party favors of moist chicken wrapped in padunus leaf with brown-sugar fish sauce dip.
Sometimes good things come in plastic containers. The Curry Rice at Bonnie's Burger (1111 NW 21st Ave., 224-8438), a Northwest Portland institution that serves burgers and teriyaki chicken out of what both looks and feels like a gas station convenience store, is a hearty, stick-to-your-guts stew that serves two normal appetites or one really hungry lumberjack.
This filling starch bomb from ¿Por Qué No? (4635 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 954-3138, porquenotacos.com) has beans, rice, sour cream, salsa, guacamole, your choice of meat or just veggies, queso fresco and a choice of either freshly made chips or three tortillas. Sweet, sweet goodness.
The crisp yet tender chicken wings at Mee Sen (3924 N Mississippi Ave., 445-1909, meesenpdx.com) are shellacked in sweet, hot sauce and frizzled basil bits. They're must-have poultry crack—the only contender in town to challenge Pok Pok's fish-sauce wing supremacy.
The fatty fish James King serves at The Frying Scotsman (2219 NW Raleigh St., 706-3841, thefryingscotsmanpdx.com) is just as good as the stuff you'd find on the street in Glasgow. Actually, it's better; King fries everything to order, so there's no heat lamp involved.
Our favorite Japanese bistro/dive bar, Tanuki (413 NW 21st Ave., 241-7667), makes a mean bowl of bacon, oysters and soft tofu stewed in kimchi broth with sticky rice.
Sometimes we dream about the crunchy hot wings at Portland's only native wing joint, Fire on the Mountain (1706 E Burnside St. 230-9464, portlandwings.com). Get them with bourbon-chipotle sauce.
Say what? Believe it or not, this decidedly non-kosher concoction from the fevered minds at Super Torta (5640 SE Woodstock Blvd., 788-3650) really works. The smoke and salt from the pastrami complement the sharpness of the green chile and tomatoes, and avocado and cheese make everything better.
Our favorite lunch these days is a Red Hot Chicago hotdog with a big scoop of scalding hot chili from The Fried Onion (SE 3rd and Alder, 961-2534, thefriedonion.com). Throw on some cheese and onions at no extra charge for a real heartburn special.
This hulking two-mealer from La Sirenita (2817 NE Alberta St., 335-8283) is not for the faint of heart, but oh, is it good. Pick a meat to be rolled up with rice, pico de gallo, the eggy crunch of petite rellenos and refried beans that in some indescribable way are responsible for the alchemy that occurs inside the tortilla.
The only purple Okinawan sweet-potato pie in town, served at Ohana Hawaiian Cafe (6320 NE Sandy Blvd., 335-5800, ohanahawaiiancafe.com), tastes like a cross between pumpkin and coconut cream pies—only stranger, colder and better.
Our favorite happy hour by far is at Carafe (200 SW Market St., 248-0004, carafebistro.com), where the wonderful bistro's burger—a juicy fist of beef on a mayonnaise-slathered mini ciabatta from Ken's Artisan Bakery—costs less than a Colossal Cheeseburger Basket at Burgerville.
Of the few really excellent New Mexico-style breakfast burritos in town, the one at Meat Cheese Bread (1406 SE Stark St., 234-1700, meatcheesebread.com) is our favorite. Subbing hashbrowns for the traditional cubed potatoes is genius.
You think you're hungry, huh? Try downing three fluffy pancakes, each as big as the plate on which they rest, from Stepping Stone Cafe (2390 NW Quimby St., 222-1132, steppingstonecafe.com). We're guessing a stack is around 1,500 calories of flour, butter and egg. Are you (wo)man enough?
The best doughnut shop in town is Delicious Donuts (12 SE Grand Ave., 233-1833), and you can get half a dozen of their truly delicious doughnuts for a fistful of quarters. Try the blueberry!
Baker Adam Kennedy has a new line of pastries under the name "Broken Frame" available at Coffeehouse NW (1951 W Burnside St., 248-2133, coffeehousenorthwest.com). But his best treat isn't sweet; it's just prosciutto, butter and salt on a baguette. It's exquisite.
A bacon, Brie and basil delight from The Waffle Window (3610 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 239-4756, wafflewindow.com). Add a fresh cran-apple cider for another two bucks. Those Brie slabs are like three-quarters of an inch thick.
It's not the best banh mi around, but Pho Sam (Southwest 9th Avenue and Alder Street) definitely serves the best one you'll find downtown.
The juicy, sweetly smoky birds at El Inka (48 NE Division St., Gresham, 491-0323), spiced with a secret rub and slowly cooked in the dining room's brick oven, are freakishly good.
Why would anyone order chili cheese fries at El Burrito Loco (3126 NE 82nd Ave., 252-1343)? Because, instead of standard chili, these fries are slathered in smoky, spicy red enchilada sauce. They're then dusted in cheese and melted into a heart-stopping delight.
We love dumplings, and these are tops. Best Taste (8350 SE Division St., Suite 102, 771-0812) mixes in a healthy amount of mushroom with the pork in these wonderful steamed bits of meat, lending them a pleasing gamyness.
The best of these Central American tortillas in the metro area are sold at La Guanaquita (2401 NE Cornell Road, Suite P, Hillsboro, 844-6884). They're freshly made and ungreasy with well-seasoned fillings and flavorful cheese (minimum order of two).
A finalist for Portland's best taco, El Burrito Loco's (3126 NE 82nd Ave., 252-1343) signature model is a portrait of simplicity: a pair of corn tortillas laden with shredded beef, onion, cilantro and a dash of ruddy chile sauce. These petite beauties will have you jonesin' like the junkies skulking along the street outside. And at just $1.25 each, El Loco tacos make for an affordable addiction.
Brand-new Nob Hill candy shop Northwest Sweets (740 NW 23rd Ave., 360-1350) makes amazing, chewy caramels the size of a baby's fist. Our favorite is the smoked salt.