St. Johns: John Street Cafe

Between the pastel walls and abundance of chicken breast, blue cheese and artichoke hearts on the menu, you'd be forgiven for feeling like you'd hitched a ride back to 1993 upon entering the John Street Cafe. But since most of St. Johns is stuck in the late 1970s, this brunch joint feels practically modern. Fresh vegetables abound on both the breakfast and lunch menus, and the sizable lunch sandwiches are accompanied by either roasted potatoes or a sweet-and-vinegary cucumber salad. You can't go wrong with the TAB—turkey breast, avocado and bacon on whole wheat. KAT MERCK.

8338 N Lombard St., 247-1066.

Kenton: Po'Shines

Po'Shines diverts most of its profits into training and counseling for young adults, and everyone from the chef to your server is volunteering his or her time to the cause. Which would, as far as your palate is concerned, amount to a hill of red beans and rice if this altruistic enterprise wasn't also serving some of Portland's best soul food. The barbecue rib platter, a four-napkin meal for two, is a peerless showcase, and the three crackling chicken wings and pound of juicy pork ribs are only the beginning. You get sweet hush puppies as well as two sides; be sure to request the greens. CHRIS STAMM.

8139 N Denver Ave., 978-9000,

Sellwood: Jade Teahouse

Lucy and April Eklund's airy Sellwood cafe offers dozens of teas from around the world and enormous platters of Thai and Vietnamese standards. The restaurant is unusual for the neighborhood in that it's cheap, reliably enjoyable and actually a pleasant place to be, and so is usually packed. Always good are the minced chicken with mint and cilantro, steamed hum bao with barbecued pork or curried vegetables, sweet and spicy chili noodles and sour, crispy salt-and-pepper squid. The Eklunds are no slouches when it comes to pastry, either. Try the carrot cake. BEN WATERHOUSE.

7912 SE 13th Ave., 477-8985,

Montavilla: The Observatory

No place better encapsulates Montavilla's allegiance to both good booze and babies like the Observatory, where a boisterous rabble of families crowds in nearly every day of the week—Mama gets an Amnesia IPA and Auntie sips a spicy Tom Kah cocktail made with Thai bird chili-infused vodka while the toddlers gnaw on the addictive oregano fry bread, served with both crème fraîche and tomato dunking sauces. But the Observatory's got more up its sleeve than bar food: Try the giant chicken pâté, smoked trout salad and cheap but very well prepared steak. KELLY CLARKE.

8115 SE Stark St., 445-6284,

Hollywood: Shandong

The site of this new Chinese restaurant in the Hollywood district has had multiple incarnations, probably because there's little parking and the location is not pedestrian-friendly. Fortunately, the latest tenant's northern Chinese cuisine has proved enough of an attraction that Shandong appears quite capable of outlasting its more short-lived predecessors. The service is friendly and brisk even on a busy night. The spring rolls are the tastiest starter on a strong list. Must-try entrees include the spicy dry-fried calamari and black-bean chicken. HENRY STERN.

3724 NE Broadway, 287-0331,

82nd Avenue: Beijing Hot Pot

Beijing Hot Pot is a communal affair: A bowl of broth is placed in the center of the table over a gas burner, and diners order various bits of raw meat, fish and vegetables to cook in it. It's a slow, luxurious way to eat, and the broth grows richer with each addition. Order the spicy broth, which isn't all that spicy, and the combination for two (it comes with beef, pork, veggies, chicken meatballs and handmade noodles). If you're feeling flush, add on the shrimp balls, which are made to order and taste astonishingly fresh, with a nice chewy-then-crunchy texture. BEN WATERHOUSE.

2768 SE 82nd Ave., 774-2525,

Woodstock: Tani's

Truth be told, Tani's is no great shakes when it comes to sushi. The fish is good, but it comes on top of too much rice; maybe stick to sashimi or anything with eel over the too-large rolls. Where the place excels is in the hot portion of the menu: The grilled salmon cheek, marinated in miso, is a fatty, savory treat; those gyoza are juicy and scaldingly hot; tempura is crisp and not too oily; and the tonkatsu (deep-fried pork cutlet) is exactly like what you'd get at a Tokyo lunch counter, all crispy salty chew. Don't skip the very good cucumber salad. BEN WATERHOUSE.

4807 SE Woodstock Blvd., 595-3500.

Milwaukie: Casa de Tamales

If there's a little more focus on asparagus than you'd expect from a tamale joint, there's a good reason: Casa de Tamales is a side project of the Canby Asparagus Farm. That means a lot of emphasis on sourcing, from  asparagus to roasted Oregon plums and raisins in the fantastic Nicaraguan nacatamal. In specials rotation, the Casa boasts 40 tamale varieties; last time I was in, halibut was on the menu. Equal variety adorns the jam-packed walls, from Alvin Ailey and Elvis posters to marlin corpses and bull horns. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

10605 SE Main St., Milwaukie, 654-4423,

Multnomah Village: Fryer Tuck

It really says something when you order a two-piece "snack box" and receive a 2-pound plate loaded with a fried breast the size of a Pomeranian, three potatoes' worth of breaded jojos and nary a speck of color aside from brown. Ah, but that's the beauty of this cavernous oasis that looks like a small-town Midwestern hunting lodge and declares all-out war on your left ventricle. Also tasty is the Pull This, a pulled-chicken slop stuffed into a hoagie full of coleslaw and sweet barbecue sauce. AP KRYZA.

6712 SW Capitol Highway, 246-7737,

Gresham: Pollos a la Brasa El Inka

The long trek out to Gresham to this tiny Peruvian restaurant is worth it, especially if you arrive later in the day when they are pulling the intensely flavored marinated chicken out of the wood-fired rotisserie oven that dominates the room. Moist with a hint of smokiness, the chicken elevates anything else it is served with. A prime candidate for this honor would be El Inka's simple but oh-so-good tacu-tacu, creamy tender pintos over white rice. BRIAN PANGANIBAN.

48 NE Division St., Gresham, 491-0323.