1800 NW 16th Ave., 841-6359, brekenkitchen.com. Breakfast and Monday-Friday.
It’s hard to imagine a neighborhood cafe where the specialty of the house is—wait for it—lasagna. But a generous square of the “lasagna of the day” ($8.95, $7 during happy hour, 3-5 pm) at Breken (Dutch for “break”) is good reason to make this a lunchtime destination. Makes sense to learn the proprietor formerly co-owned Justa Pasta, a mere noodle-stretch away. There are plenty of soup, salad and sandwich options too, with nothing topping the $9 mark. During morning hours, Montessori mommies sip lattes crafted with Ristretto Roasters coffee after dropping off the spawn across the street. A solid selection of cookies and pastries is another lure. Breken occupies an airy, comfortable space at the point of an old brick flat-iron building. Take a break and check it out. MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN.
John Street Cafe
8338 N Lombard St., 247-1066. Breakfast and lunch Wednesday-Sunday.
Live in Portland long enough, and you’re sure to come down with BTSD: Brunch Traumatic Stress Disorder. We all know the drill—an hour wait (hangover optional) for some overhyped joint that makes a decent scramble. Enter St. Johns’ John Street Cafe, a neighborhood spot with friendly wait staff and little to no wait, even at 10 am on a Sunday. The bavcado omelette ($10.50), with bacon, avocado, Monterey Jack and a spot of blue cheese on top makes you regret ever waiting 45 minutes on Mississippi Avenue. Breakfast not your bag? Awesome-sized lunch salads and sandwiches reward late sleepers. ANDREA DAMEWOOD.
Pause Kitchen and Bar
5101 N Interstate Ave., 971-230-0705. Lunch and dinner daily.
Pause is the kind of neighborhood joint you wish was around the corner from your house. Yeah, there’s a diaper-load of kids, but Pause’s above-average execution of brewpub favorites at below-market prices make it worth braving the Huggies set. Two sliders with Tillamook cheddar and Pause’s housemade pickles hit all the right notes for $6, and the “Runners”—confit chicken legs deep-fried and served with fermented chili sauce ($7.50)—start things off right. There’s a kids’ menu for the Angry Birds clan, while the Cuban sandwich with roast pork, ham and more house pickles plus fries or salad ($9)—not to mention the decent cocktail and microbrew choices—will leave Ma and Pa happy. ANDREA DAMEWOOD.
Stepping Stone Cafe
2390 NW Quimby St., 222-1132, steppingstonecafe.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, late-night Friday-Saturday.
“You eat here because we let you.”© Yes, Stepping Stone Cafe really has copyrighted their catchphrase, but it’s entirely at odds with the place’s efficient staff. The waiter threw an eye-catching chicken scramble ($9) onto the counter only minutes after it was ordered, studded with delicious bits of sun-dried tomato basil chicken sausage. Gooey cinnamon French toast ($6.50 for three) and massive Mancakes ($3.50 each) are sure to bust the buttons off any carb-lovin’ jeans, for prices otherwise unthinkable in Nob Hill. Stepping Stone is no mere cafe—this is a verified, Portland-fried diner, folks. MITCH LILLIE.
Yaw’s Top Notch
11340 NE Halsey St., 408-9297, yawstopnotch.com. Lunch and Dinner daily.Despite a menu that seems crafted almost exclusively for teenagers with iron stomachs (the Captain’s Cheesiest Burger is served with two patties and four cheeses), the clientele at the neon-lined ’50s-style diner on Northeast 113th Avenue and Halsey Street is largely of retirement age. Yaw’s is genuinely charming, but you have to know how to order: The manageable Original Cheeseburger ($7.95), swimming in grease and chopped iceberg lettuce, is superior to its tricked-out “steaksize” cousins. Douse everything in the housemade brown gravy (75 cents). That stuff is truly classic, and memorable enough to convince you that the good old days are back and gooder than ever—even if beer guts are the new barrel chests and the president is a foreign-born socialist. CASEY JARMAN
413 NW 21st Ave., 373-8990, smokehouse21.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Smokehouse 21 is bougie-cue: meat like what the Civil War’s losing side eats while watching stock-car races and MMA bouts, sides that incorporate slightly more vegetable matter and less cheese, proper napkins, show-quality taxidermy, and the Black Keys. The juicy, rich pulled pork is the reason to come to this Alphabet District bistro. Get a sandwich ($10) on a brioche bun from Ken’s, pick your favorite sauce and have at it. The sides are equally impressive. The greens ($3) are sharp with vinegar, but their perfect consistency—crisp yet fully cooked—makes up for it. Baked beans and macaroni and cheese, both topped with a cornbread crust and infused with leftover meat, are pleasantly rich smoke. Oh, and they sell a quarter pound of pulled pork for a mere $3.50. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Arleta Library Bakery Cafe
5513 SE 72nd Ave., 774-4470, arletalibrary.com. Breakfast and lunch Monday-Friday, brunch Saturday-Sunday.
Think you’ve got the best of any particular dish in the city? Might as well call it that. Such is the way at Arleta Library Bakery Cafe with its “Portland’s Best Biscuits-n-Gravy” ($10.50). The dish can indeed be considered among the best biscuit and gravy dishes in Portland, though not the best. It’s a familiar dish served with sausage gravy and two dense, buttery biscuits, yet the twist here is the juicy, thin-sliced pork loin that manages to stand out on its own in a sea of savory breakfast flavors. Lighter fare such as the Portlander ($8.50) or the Hawthorne ($9) scrambles will satiate the familiar urge for eggs and cheese—Tillamook cheddar, natch—without overstuffing you. MICHAEL LOPEZ.
2935 NE Glisan St., 477-7779, bakerybar.com. Breakfast and lunch daily.
The tucked-away Bakery Bar finds a nice middle ground between a simple cafe and a proper breakfast spot. With a walk-up ordering system, the atmosphere feels friendly, laid-back and suitable for morning-goers looking for a place to either sip coffee and read the paper or fuel up on a hearty scramble. If you’re hungry, the pastrami hash ($12) with mustard cream and roasted peppers topped with two fried eggs is one of the more substantial items on the menu. For in-between appetites, the Northeast joint serves a list of egg sandwiches with fillings such as turkey apple sausage or roasted seasonal vegetables on your choice of housemade English muffins, biscuits or gluten-free rolls ($4.75-$7). EMILEE BOOHER.
3035 SE Division St., 234-7499, detourcafe.com. Breakfast and lunch daily.
Although it serves only about five main breakfast items, you might still get lost looking at Detour Cafe’s menu. The frittatas ($9) and potato skillets ($8) offer options on a dauntingly vast choose-your-own adventure of 26 ingredients, from pico de gallo to spicy cream and manchego cheese to smoked salmon. Note: Cherry peppers, Italian sausage, goat cheese and avocado make for one hell of an omelet ($10). But if such unbridled freedom makes you all existential and cross-eyed, order everything at once instead: The Don sandwich ($9.25) puts a fluffy portabello-onion-feta egg frittata between two sheets of thick potato focaccia, then adds fresh avocado and basil leaves and the coup de grâce, a bisected array of fennel-rich Italian sausage links. Its excess is exhilarating. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Fried Egg I’m in Love
3209 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 610-3447, friedegglove.com. Breakfast and lunch Tuesday-Sunday.
Fried Egg has put together a simple menu that’s impressive in quality, if not variety. Everything at the cart is a sandwich served on lightly toasted sourdough bread. All but the peanut butter and jelly ($4) and a vegan-friendly black bean and veggie blend ($5) are built around eggs, which are just like a dream, lightly fried with an orange-colored spice they call “magic egg dust.” The Yolko Ono ($6), topped with pesto, Parmesan and hand-pressed sausage, is one of the best breakfast sandwiches in town. The OK Commuter ($5.50)—bacon, cheddar and an over-hard egg that’s just a little runny in the middle—is a great, quick, clean-fingered breakfast on the go. It’s also notable that service is shockingly fast—important and sadly rare in a breakfast-sandwich game where too many carts make it feel like you’ve waited hours. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Fuller’s Coffee Shop
136 NW 9th Ave., 222-5608. Breakfast and lunch daily. Cash only.
Fuller’s—a ’40s greasy spoon so well-preserved it might as well have a museum plaque—is precisely where Edward Hopper would have set up his easel if he could have found enough room at its crowded, sinuous diner counter. But the customers are always elbow to elbow at Fuller’s, home of the $3.95 hamburger and the $4.25 pancake, bacon and egg special. The food is utilitarian and old school—trust in the massive omelets ($8.75-$9.75) and Reuben ($7.50 with salad)—as is most of the staff. Even the newer servers just out of their teens seem hard-boiled, as if on the sunny side of a noir flick. A secret to Fuller’s longevity? They get the little things right, right down to the house bread and the homemade berry jam gracing the counter every third seat. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
1538 NE Alberta St., 281-1477, helsersonalberta.com. Breakfast and lunch daily.
Restaurants like this are a godsend for penny-pinching parents who still head out for brunch with their little ones. This Northeast mainstay’s menu for kids is simple—a selection of pancakes, oatmeal, french toast, or a scrambled egg with bacon—and nothing on it is more than $3. That means more money to spend on the crumbly and delectable Scotch eggs ($2.95) or to put toward the traditional eggs Benedict ($10.95), which has one of the best hollandaise sauces around. Just steer clear of the Russet potato pancakes ($7.50), which somehow manage the rare feat of being both mushy and dry at the same time. ROBERT HAM.
Jam on Hawthorne
2239 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 234-4790, jamonhawthorne.com. Breakfast daily, lunch Monday-Friday, dinner Wednesday-Saturday.
You’re forgiven for thinking Jam on Hawthorne is just another overcrowded Portland brunch spot. It’s that, too, but if there’s anything at this airy, wide-open cafe worth waiting in line for, it’s the happy hour. (Luckily, after breakfast hours, most people seem unaware the place exists.) Between 3-6 pm Wednesday through Saturday, a measly $15 will nab you a hummus plate, lustfully gooey potato skins, a tall boy of Olympia and a huge, above-par burger, distinguished by its use of crispy cheese that’ll ruin you for the regular melted kind. MS.
537 SE Ash St., 230-0463, jandmcafepdx.com. Breakfast and lunch daily. Cash only.
It’s hard to see just how good J&M Cafe can be from its menu. It’s got the same basics as every Portland brunch spot—tofu scramble ($8.95), French toast ($7.25), breakfast burrito ($7.95)—but they are done better than most, with superior coffee, in a room that doesn’t get obnoxiously crowded. I recommend the daily special, whatever it may be. I was recently treated to the best egg dish I’ve had in ages: roasted chanterelle, hedgehog and yellowfoot mushrooms, pieces of fried tortilla chip, and jack cheese mixed into three scrambled eggs and topped with a spicy slaw of green pumpkin seeds ($10.95 with lightly toasted bread and chunky homefries). Add zucchini pecan bread ($1.75), and you won’t envy any other breakfast in town. MARTIN CIZMAR.
1742 SE 12th Ave., 467-4971. Breakfast/brunch daily.
Gleaming with sparkly gold booths, ornately framed golden mirrors and baroque-style gold-and-white wallpaper, the small diner feels like a mixture of Grandpa’s favorite breakfast spot and Portland’s mockery of extravagance. While the portions stay true to an ideal hangover meal, the food—mainly offered as various stylings of eggs and potatoes—tastes a step up from your average diner plate. The Pans ($9) combines a hefty helping of pesto, spinach, red peppers and cheese into a delightfully green scramble. In the mood for something more tantalizing? The Spicy’s ($7.50) heaping pile of potatoes, green chilies, jalapeños, jack cheese, sour cream and salsa is sure to give you that good kind of post-brunch heartburn. EMILEE BOOHER.
Pine State Biscuits
3640 SE Belmont St., 236-3346; 2204 NE Alberta St., 477-6605. pinestatebiscuits.com. Breakfast and lunch daily. Dinner and late-night Fridays-Saturdays at Alberta location.
Built upon the legacy of the down-home buttermilk biscuits that North Carolina natives Walt, Kevin and Brian used to sling at the Portland Farmer’s Market, this joint is pure Southern charm right down to the Texas Pete hot sauce on every table. One perfect, butter-yellow biscuit is just $1.50, or $3 with your choice of jam, butter and honey or pimento cheese. Our advice? Spring for one of their beastly biscuit sandwiches, like the Chatfield ($7), whose fat, juicy hunk of fried chicken comes topped with thick-cut bacon, melted cheddar and rivulets of dark-golden apple butter oozing down the sides. If this sandwich kills you, it will be exactly the way you wanted to go. EMILY JENSEN.
5202 N Albina Ave., 946-8087, sweedeedeepdx.tumblr.com. Breakfast and lunch Monday, Wednesday-Sunday.
Classic country tunes on vinyl, rows of canned veggies and earthenware mugs full of Extracto coffee; the vibe at this twee-rific North Portland cafe is so Portland it hurts. But it’s all just adorable window dressing for some seriously special brunch fare, from hearty corn cakes with bacon-y stewed mustard greens ($10) and house-baked breads and pies to quite possibly the best bowl of oatmeal ($5) ever—toothsome steel-cut oats plumped up with honey, butter and house strawberry preserves. Order at the counter and munch a not-too-sweet pecan sticky roll ($3) while you wait for a seat. The absence of a wait list makes for a delicious social experiment in Portland politesse: “Why don’t you take the next table?” “Oh, no, you take it.” KELLY CLARKE.
Southeast 48th Avenue and Woodstock Boulevard, 568-0787, facebook.com/yolkpdx. Breakfast and lunch Wednesday-Sunday.
In a city where vegan and gluten-free cuisines reign supreme, it’s good that breakfast-cart Yolk refuses to coddle to über-specific dietary requirements with its Happy Accidents sandwich ($9). Labeled as being free of any “options, substitutions, allergies or diets,” the sandwich is a baguette stuffed with a fried egg, greens and a varying assortment of ingredients that run the gamut from smoked fish to sauteed parsnips. Other offerings include the Brother Bad Ass ($8), an enormous maple-glazed pork belly sandwich on a sweet pretzel roll, and the Simple Sandwich ($4), scrambled eggs on an English muffin with either ham or braised greens. MICHAEL LOPEZ.
Burgers and Hot Dogs
5339 SE Foster Road, 775-2077, fosterburger.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Foster Burger derives its name from the street on which it resides and not for the comfort and warmth that its creatively topped burgers inspire in its patrons—although the latter might as well be the truth. With its walls adorned with concert posters of Portland’s punk and grunge past, Foster Burger offers an impressive bevy of burgers that branch out beyond the expected beef—the TurkeyBacon burger ($6) offers a ground turkey and bacon patty while the Kiwi burger ($9) features a ground lamb patty. All of the burgers feature buns made by next-door neighbors An Xuyen Bakery that, when coupled with the housemade pickles and Foster sauce, helps the titular Foster burger ($5.50) promote those aforementioned warm and fuzzy feelings. MICHAEL LOPEZ.
4644 NE Sandy Blvd., 971-544-7521; 8728 SE 17th Ave., 841-5906. killerburger.biz. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.
Killer Burger could very well kill you. Probably not quickly—but consuming peanut butter, bacon and pickle hamburgers on a regular basis is a bad idea. And yet. These delicious burgers have a crust of char to seal in every drop of sweet, beefy juice, and are all topped with bacon. You can opt out of crispy pencil-thin fries, but you’ve already paid for them. The peanut butter ($7.95) is my go-to burger, but I force myself to branch out from time to time, also enjoying the chile pepper and jack-topped Jose Mendoza ($8.95) and the Barnyard ($9.95), which essentially has an Egg McMuffin stuffed on it. There’s also a burger called the Marine ($13.95), with an assortment of chiles rumored to include the famed ghost pepper. Like I said, this place could kill you. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Little Big Burger
122 NW 10th Ave.; 3747 N Mississippi Ave.; 3810 SE Division St.; 930 NW 23rd Ave. 274-9008, littlebigburger.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
In the Portland foodie world’s eternal battle of top-notch burgers, Little Big’s has emerged as the Tyrion Lannister: What it lacks in size, it makes up for in substance. The top-heavy tower of brioche bun, juicy beef, housemade Sriracha ketchup, and fresh veggies ($3.25) packs a wallop no sandwich of its stature—or price—rightfully should. Add cheddar, blue, chevre or Swiss cheese (50 cents), a hefty paper sack of crisp truffle-oil fries ($2.75), and a brewski from their dazzling lineup of tall boys ($2-$4) for maximum satisfaction. And don’t forget to ask for a few tubs of basic but decadent fry sauce (free) to slather over everything. EMILY JENSEN.
2329 NE Glisan St., 477-5779. Lunch and dinner daily.
Because Portlanders just won’t shut up about Slow Bar’s famous “Slowburger,” the folks behind the beloved Southeast Portland watering hole opened a farm team. Like every joint on the “micro-restaurant” concept block at Northeast 24th Avenue and Glisan Street, Slowburger does one thing and does it well: The place is a one-stop shop for dangerously large and juicy cheeseburgers. Perhaps it should be called Tallburger, considering the epic architecture of its namesake meal. With two greasy onion rings piled on, it’s nearly impossible to fit a full-sized Slowburger ($8) into your mouth—especially after the meat juice soaks through the sweet brioche bun—making two $3.50 sliders a conservative (and slightly cheaper) alternative to one full-sized burger. Whatever you order, be sure to get a $4 side of sea salt-speckled fries with stinky cheese. (I didn’t think the cheese stunk, really, but that’s the name.) A bit of warning, though: The less bloodthirsty among us might want to consider ordering the burger patty well-done, or even opting for the excellent Mexican-style black bean burger ($7.50) instead. And this is coming from a guy who likes to get his hands greasy. CASEY JARMAN.
8200 NE Siskiyou St., 265-8972. Lunch and dinner daily.
The only hints of the bizarre on Mekong Bistro’s 72-item menu are holdovers from owner Saron Khut’s former Cambodian menu at the now-shuttered Good Call Sports Bar & Grill: bacon-wrapped shrimp and surprisingly light avocado-cheese puffs. Khut’s sports fixation continues on several large TVs in the bar as well. There’s also plenty of Thai and Vietnamese, but stick to Khmer specialties. Our favorites are somlaw maju kreoung ($12), a pea-green soup of watercress and beef floating in a kaffir- and tamarind-scented broth, and nyum ($9), a delightful salad of shredded chicken, shrimp, glass noodles, cucumber, mint and basil leaves. BEN WATERHOUSE.
Sok Sab Bai
See soksabbai.com for location, 730-3333. Lunch Monday-Friday.
In Khmer, “sok sab bai?” means “how are you?” After dining several times at this Cambodian food cart, I can confidently say I’m full, happy and in no state to return to the office. There’s a small covered seating area, and the menu, posted on a computer monitor, changes daily and sometimes hourly. Generally, you can find a banh mi-like baguette sandwich with braised pork and pickles ($5), ginger fried tofu ($7) and grilled meat served with rice and salad. To accompany the meat, owner Nyno Thol makes his own Da sauce, blending lime juice, Thai chilies, fish sauce and spices—it’s delicious and available by the bottle ($5). The best dish I tried, though, was the beef curry noodle soup, a massive bowl of tender brisket, vegetables, herbs and peanuts ($8). Cilantro and red cabbage contributed nice sharpness, the curry cleared my sinuses, and the mint and crunchy cucumber slices cooled my mouth back down. I would eat this all winter. REBECCA JACOBSON.
8350 SE Divison St., 771-8012. Lunch and dinner daily.
Best Taste employs three layers of optical cloaking. First, there’s the generic name in tiny Western letters above giant hanzi, which betrays very little about the nature of this dim sum and noodle bowl shop. Second, there’s the discreet location wedged between two Asian groceries. Third, there’s the case of roasted meats facing the door, which suggests you’ve stumbled into a back door to Shun Fa Market. Slip past all three and you’ll find yourself slurping beef fun noodle soup ($7.50) while your server thwacks a duck into tiny bits with a cleaver behind the counter. Try the “I’ll have what that guy’s having” trick, but if you’re around for lunch get an order of the gooey sticky rice with crumbled pork and slices of sausage ($2). MARTIN CIZMAR.
6411 SE 82nd Ave., 775-2598. Lunch and dinner daily.
It might be disguised as a humble Chinese restaurant—hell, that’s what the name suggests—but the best stuff here all leans more toward the Korean peninsula than the mainland. If nothing on the menu gives this away, the presence of several Korean patrons might. First, ignore anything that sounds Americanized, because it probably is. Next, ask about the specials written in Chinese on the color-changing whiteboard and check what’s in the nearby refrigerator. Then, order whopping, large portions of some of these dishes: beef dumplings (18 for $7.95), seafood with spicy soup noodles or black bean noodles (each $8.50), or “Mandarin” chicken wings ($9.95). A taste of the cabbage kimchi is a must, and the carton of shredded pig’s ear I saw in the refrigerator (too late!) sure looked delicious. MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN.
6335 SE 82nd Ave., 788-6306, eckitchenllc.com. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday, lunch Sunday.
There is, of course, no shortage of authentic Chinese food in East Portland, especially along 82nd Avenue. EC Kitchen stands out because it’s also a purveyor of fine Chinese and Taiwanese sausages, available in a freezer case, that the owners tell us cannot be found elsewhere in Portland. Those great sausages—and some incredible barbecue pork—are what take the EC from serviceable to remarkable. The brightly colored eatery’s black pepper chicken ($7.49), slippery and reminiscent of classed-up mall food, is on the serviceable side. But the excellent house special fried rice ($6.49, try it with the aforementioned pork) and pretty much anything with a sausage in it (we liked the $7.49 house special fried noodle with sweet and spicy Taiwanese sausage) make EC worth the lengthy drive. Not a wiener expert? The sweet lady behind the counter can answer all of your sausage-related questions, so don’t be shy! CASEY JARMAN.
Frank’s Noodle House
822 NE Broadway, 288-1007, franksnoodlehouse.com. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.
Frank, to be blunt, is Portland’s Willy Wonka of noodles. Sure, instead of a chocolate river, diners are greeted by chairs with neon tennis balls over their legs to protect the floor. But we don’t need an eccentric in a velvet coat to show us pure carb-filled imagination. Don’t noodle over the menu: We’re all here for those magic chewy, thick (but not too thick!) hand-stretched strands of gluten. Get them in the chicken soup ($10.95) or stir-fried with veggies and beef for a weekday lunch special ($7.95). Throw in handmade pork dumplings ($4.25) and scarf the free banchan of kimchi and pickled vegetables—and just try not to leave feeling like everyone’s favorite fat kid, Augustus Gloop. ANDREA DAMEWOOD.
18 NW 4th Ave., 223-3838; 8220 SE Harrison St., 788-6909. Lunch and dinner daily.Duck soup cures colds. None of that “it won’t do any good, but it can’t hurt” equivocation long associated with chicken soup: Duck soup is a virus eradicator. Granted, I am speaking only from personal experience, and yes, the Super Bowl ($9.50) contains more than the roasted duck from the Chinatown window—there’s roasted pork, barbecued pork, pork-and-shrimp wontons, noodles and a thin broth with a flavor that can only be described as “meat.” But I walked in with a sore throat and chill, and then sallied forth feeling ensconced from illness by a protective coating of fat. AARON MESH.
3016 SE 82nd Ave., 771-2299, oceancityportland.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
There are many things to be confused by while eating dim sum at this always crowded, enormous 82nd Avenue Chinese restaurant. For one, what is the hooked mystery meat slowly dripping fat under the heat lamp by the register in between the whole fried duck and pork belly? It’s barbecued pork—now you don’t have to ask. Carts of steamy, mostly savory dumplings, noodles, buns, stir fries, short ribs, boiled chicken feet, congee (Asian rice porridge) and more roll through the dining room during daily dim sum. Boldly try the unknown or settle for the easy-to-read shrimp dumplings, which, alone, are worth the trip. Go with your gut and a large group. LIZ CRAIN.
Powell Seafood Restaurant
6633 SE Powell Blvd., 775-3901. Lunch and dinner daily.
Powell Seafood, housed in a junker of a building that seems to have gone pink the way a shirt might be stained when washed with red stockings, quietly serves some of the most pleasant family-style, lazy-Susan Chinese food in Portland. The server, if you don’t look familiar or Asian, may ask whether you prefer your dishes Chinese- or American-style: Say Chinese to be spared extraneous oils, and then avoid the mostly perfunctory Szechuan/Mandarin standbys and order mainly from the seafood and specialty menu, in particular the egg tofu with seafood ($12.95); the tofu’s exterior is crispy and sweet as a beignet, while inside remaining soft as custard. Meanwhile, the $6 wonton soups could feed two, and the massive tureen of fish maw soup ($11) slides gently into a comfort zone generally occupied only by old memories. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
2446 SE 87th Ave., 772-1808, purespicerestaurant.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Pure Spice’s maddeningly well-lit fish tank of a restaurant looks far from promising from the outside. But it is a world of eclectic, oft-unfamiliar splendors, all reasonably priced. The housemade cilantro-onion rice noodle appetizers ($2.50) look like soft baklava and are delicate to the point of ethereality. Pure Spice’s likewise housemade free kimchi is beautifully spicy, while its tan tan noodle sauce is a mild, sweet magma flow of pork and peanut. The hot pots may as well be homestyle European stews, coddled by the juices of the meat, and slow-cooked to tenderness. While you eat, an eternal flat-screen slide show on two walls flips through pictures of the menu’s dishes, a constant reminder of everything you’re missing and everything you still want. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
707 NE 82nd Ave., 261-1689. Lunch and dinner daily.
The excellent Shenzhen is well-camouflaged in its 82nd Avenue neighborhood, with a building shaped like a franchisee and the Oregon Lottery advertised almost as prominently as its food; its interior is similarly bare bones. Promisingly, it seems to have devoted more money to the menu, which sports so many pictures it reads like a food-porn comic book. As always among Portland’s better Chinese options, stick to the house specialties: in this case, Northern cuisine. The chilled, shredded bok choi ($3.95) is a delightful snack, a salad both light and lightly pickled into addictive slaw. Also order the mildly spiced green onion with lamb meat ($7.95) and the moist, fatty double-cooked fish maw ($10.95). MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
5331 SW Macadam Ave., 227-3136, szechuanchefportland.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Deep in the mountains of central China, there’s a town called Chongqing that supposedly has a whole street of restaurants serving the dish known variously as “Chong Qing chicken,” “chicken with a thousand peppers” or “la zi ji.” Someday, I hope to run down that street like Leonardo DiCaprio in The Basketball Diaries poppy field, eating fried chicken bits buried in massive piles of intoxicatingly spicy chilies until my innards betray me. Until then, I will go to the new outpost of Seattle-based Szechuan Chef in Southwest Portland (and to Lucky Strike and Beaverton’s Sichuan Chef), where I will enjoy those crunchy fried peppers and the prickly flavor they impart to the chicken ($11.95), along with mapo dofu slurred with greasy fried pork and twice-cooked pork ($8.95). MARTIN CIZMAR.
Taste of Sichuan
16261 NW Cornell Road, Beaverton, 629-7001, tasteofsichuan.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
You can go here for your everyday Chinese fare—your sweet-and-sour pork or moo goo gai pan (each $6.95)—and be absolutely satisfied. But for more adventurous eaters, this bustling spot situated near an on-ramp for Highway 26 is like an entire season of A Cook’s Tour writ large. Where else will you be greeted with a mound of thinly sliced pig ear served in a tongue-singeing chili oil ($7.95), or the salty and savory taste of a dish known simply as “The Other Parts of a Pig” ($11.95) that features pork intestines and pig-blood cubes? Keep in mind, nothing is served in one-person portions; bring adventurous friends and an appetite. ROBERT HAM.
1101 NW 16th Ave., 226-1258, lehappy.com. Dinner and late night Monday-Saturday.
Despite its garish yellow paint job and 12 years in the same spot, Le Happy has the feel of a secret neighborhood hangout that regulars aren’t too keen to share. Turns out this is where Portland’s serious crepe fanciers go for a casual sit-down. The menu is a compendium of sweet and savory, priced on average at under $8. The décor is simple, functional furniture, with a ruby-red disco ball hanging from the low ceiling. Savory crepes are properly presented in a shell of nutty, earthy buckwheat; sweet ones rely on a white-flour batter. Order a set menu item—I love the “Fudge Brownie” ($8)—or use the ingredient list for gastronomic experimentation. The big reveal: Le Happy is open late; until midnight on weeknights, 1:30 am on Fridays and Saturdays. MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN.
300 N Killingsworth St., 285-4867, enatguada.com. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.
Portland teff-heads know the cornerstone of a good Ethiopian restaurant is the quality of its injera bread, and Enat Kitchen, an oddly configured but inviting space, has perfected its version. Enat’s rendition of the multipurpose serving vessel/eating utensil/stomach-engorger is springy and elastic, with a nice tang from a sourdough base. It’s the perfect showcase for the staple stews of the cuisine, like a fiery alicha wot ($10), its beefy gravy turning the injera underneath into a savory pudding you’ll want to gather up with even more injera. Ordering couldn’t be easier, since getting either of the sampler plates ($11 vegetarian, $13 with beef) gives you a nice cross section of the menu. BP.
Queen of Sheba
2413 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 287-6302, queenofsheba.biz. Dinner nightly, lunch Thursday-Saturday.
When I was growing up in the ’80s, geopolitical realities made me think, upon first learning of it, that Ethiopian cuisine was an oxymoron. It is not. It is a revelation. And among the numerous joints dishing injera on MLK, Queen of Sheba rules them all. One can splurge on the fiery yebeg tibs lamb ($15), but the real value and verve are in the veggies. Pick between the mellow, yellow alicha-spiced dishes and the bold berbere-sauced options, and grab two vegetarian dishes and injera for $8.50. Or, go monarch style: A tour of all 10 meat-free dishes for two runs just $23. ANDREA DAMEWOOD.
3833 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 971-222-4324, sengaterarestaurant.com. Dinner Monday-Wednesday,
lunch and dinner Thursday-Sunday.
With at least three other choices for quality Ethiopian food in the general area, it’s easy to walk straight past Sengatera and never give it a second look. But this small, unassuming African eatery is one of the better-kept secrets on MLK. First-timer? Settle into one of the polished wood tables and order the veggie combo platter ($9.95), which arranges all six of the menu’s non-meat options—including the ye’abesha gomen, a sub-Saharan take on collard greens, and the shiro wat, chickpeas drenched in spicy berbere sauce—on a slab of injera the diameter of a truck tire. On the carnivorous side of things, the yebeg wat simmers lamb tenders and onions in a sauce with a uniquely hot bite. MATTHEW SINGER.
6014 SE Foster Road, 777-4217, tambayancuisine.com. Lunch and dinner Wednesday-Sunday.
As a Filipino, I sometimes have a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of a Filipino restaurant. What adobo-blooded Pinoy could ever admit to going out to get something they should have learned how to make themselves when they were no taller than the wooden fork and spoon ornaments on his parent’s wall? That said, for those without the skills or wherewithal, Tambayan does a good chicken adobo ($7.49), with the requisite tang and saltiness. But the real magic for those of us whose wives frown on grease fires at home is the crispy pata ($9.49), a whole deep-fried pig hock that is all crispy rind on the outside, tender meat and luscious melted collagen on the inside. While the included dipping sauce is a nice accompaniment, applying it would take away precious seconds that could be spent cleaning every bit of fat and protein off the bone. BP.
Fire On The Mountain
3443 NE 57th St. and other locations, 894-8973, portlandwings.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
The menu at Fire on the Mountain’s huge Fremont restaurant and brewery is like the ultimate special edition disc of your favorite flick: Yes, it’s great to have the thing you originally loved—Portland’s best fried chicken wings in a variety of rich sauces—but it’s those Easter eggs that make you want to finally go Blu-Ray. The menu’s stocked with great extras, starting with the seriously legit New Haven-style pizzas ($11-$26) with a little char and zesty marinara. There are also calzones ($12) and some great beer coming out of the tanks poking up behind the bar. And, wait, horchata? Fried oreos and maple bacon knots for dessert? Craziest of all: At least one nutty bastard apparently drinks Pernod absinthe with buffalo wings. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Fryer Tuck Chicken
6712 SW Capitol Highway, 246-7737, fryertuckchicken.com. Lunch and dinner daily, breakfast weekends.
Why is all the best fried chicken in Portland found in bars? It makes sense, when you think about it: The birds typically take about 20 minutes to fry and, considering the often-mighty portions, about two hours to eat if you’re dedicated to leaving no leftovers, allowing plenty of downtime for drinking. Conjoined with longstanding watering hole the Cider Mill, Fryer Tuck offers meal deals averaging about four PBR tall boys per completion. The most expensive Snack Box combo is $8.95 and includes three pieces, a pile of jojos, dubbed “Little John Spuds,” and creamy dip. It’s not the greatest in town—Southeast Division’s Reel M’Inn is still the reigning champ (listed annually in our Drink Guide), but if you’re stuck up in the West Hills, there are worse ways to kill a few hours. MATTHEW SINGER.
The Frying Scotsman
Southwest 9th Avenue and Alder Street, 706-3841, thefryingscotsmanpdx.com. Lunch daily.
You’ll know the fillets at this downtown fish-’n’-chips cart are prepared by someone actually from the Revolution’s losing side when you encounter often-dour chef James King. The Scotsman knows his trade, though, serving our town’s best and biggest plates at a bargain price, with huge planks of tender, flaky white cod ($8, $9.25 with chips) in a light batter that’s golden like the sun and gets better with vinegar. The cart’s chips seal the deal; they’re large, jojo-style spears that taste even better covered in curry sauce. MARTIN CIZMAR.
George’s Corner Sports Bar
5501 N Interstate Ave., 289-0307. Lunch and dinner daily. Breakfast Saturday-Sunday.
Just like new moms learn, when it comes to fried chicken, breast is best. Dark meat rules the day in almost every situation, but George’s fried breast pieces deliver the perfect ratio of crispy to meaty that we’ll never be weaned from. Eating mass quantities of deep-fried poultry is best done in a nonjudgmental environment, and since $14 scores an eight-piece bucket, 12 dino-sized jojos and ranch, this dive’s corner booths are a great place to get greasy in a good way. Three-piece meals with six jojos range from $6.75 to $7.50. This is slow chicken—it’s a half-hour minimum—but slowly salivate over $1 PBRs during happy hour while you people-watch the oddball regulars, and you’ll hardly notice the wait. ANDREA DAMEWOOD.
3001 SE Belmont St., 445-0231, happysparrowcafe.com. Breakfast and lunch Thursday-Monday.
Every culture has its stuffed bun. The Japanese have their baos, the Russians have their pirozhkis and New Yorkers like to wrap all kinds of shit inside of bagels. The Czechs—and more recently, Texans, like the ones who opened Happy Sparrow—have the kolache, a compact and chewy bun-pastry that can be stuffed to fit any occasion. Picking out kolaches at Happy Sparrow is only a tad less visually stimulating than a trip to Voodoo Doughnut—the display racks are packed with fresh-baked treats for breakfast (the gooey egg and cheese kolache, $2.50), lunch (the Texas hot link, which stretches the very definition of the kolache) and even daytime dessert (the gooey custard-filled kolache basically is a doughnut). They are pretty in a minimal sort of way, and they taste chewy and amazing. I am personally less likely to mess with Texas now that I can get one of the state’s finest culinary delights in Portland. CASEY JARMAN.
2039 NE Alberta St., 971-200-4711, bollywoodtheaterpdx.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Though its food’s origins are in Kolkata, Bollywood Theater is pure Portland: upscale street food amid mismatched tables, variegated artisanal knickknackery and deeply ironized shrines to foreign film. The menu is full of India’s “poor man’s burgers” and millworker favorites, chutney beef kati rolls, and Goan-Portuguese bastard foods made with buttered rolls—the food of streetside carts and home skillets. The excellent kati rolls ($6.50) are a Mughlai hybrid food—hence the beef option—essentially kebab wrapped in Indian flatbread. Most of the food is gently spiced. The pav bhaji ($5.50), a potato-vegetable stew served on dinner rolls, wouldn’t offend the palate of a provincial uplands Englishman, nor would the vada pav ($3), a savory potato-chickpea dumpling served as a sandwich with a mild chutney sauce. This is comfort food in every sense: carb-laden and savory, not overly challenging but wonderfully satisfying. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Bombay Chaat House
804 SW 12th Ave., 241-7944, bombaychaathouse.org. Lunch and early dinner Monday-Saturday. Cash only.
“This is not just a food cart,” reads a sticker plastered to the side of Avtar Kaur’s downtown lunchtime destination. “It’s where food is made with love.” Funny, considering the Bombay Chaat House was born from divorce and resentment—long story—but if love is measured in the number of expertly prepared combinations of vegetables and Indian spices on the menu, then this House is certainly a home. (A mobile home, but still.) Try the alu gobee ($6.50), a potato and cauliflower dish that’s filling without being heavy. No meal here, though, is complete without an order of pani puri ($4.50), brittle pastry shells filled with spiced mashed potatoes and meant to be eaten in a single bite. MATTHEW SINGER.
2088 NW Stucki Ave., Hillsboro, 531-9500, chennaimasala.net. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.
Outside of employment at one of the megacorps in the area, there are scant few reasons for your average Portlander to make the lengthy trek to Hillsboro. This is one of them, even if it’s just to get a masala dosa ($10), a massive potato curry-stuffed crepe. Don’t stop there, though, as the experience would be incomplete without sweating through a Scoville-laden lamb vindaloo ($16), spicy enough to assert itself but not enough to deaden the tongue to all that flavor. Regardless of time of day, don’t succumb to the siren song of the buffet, as Chennai’s best work usually comes right out of the kitchen. Stick with the menu and you’ll be well-rewarded. BRIAN PANGANIBAN.
Dwaraka Indian Cuisine
3962 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 230-1120, dwarakapdx.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
The lunch buffet has to be one of the smartest innovations by Indian restaurant owners. Not only do you get one hell of a bang for your buck (in this case, $8.95), but you also get a good sense of what to head back for if you want to make your chosen spot a dinner destination. In the case of this sparsely decorated and eerily quiet space, the buttery and delectable chicken makhani ($10.95), rich keema curry ($11.95) and dahl curry ($8.95) will have you scurrying back to the chow line for thirds. ROBERT HAM.
24th & Meatballs
2341 NE Glisan St., 282-2557, 24thandmeatballs.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Despite a prominently displayed 50-EAT-BALLS phone number and a website exhorting visitors to “put our balls in your mouth,” Tabla owner Adam Berger’s 24th & Meatballs’ biggest successes are subtle, and they have nothing to do with meatballs. 24th & Meatballs boasts a fine winter salad, a $4 plate of fresh kale greens, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries and a perfectly attuned sherry vinaigrette. Likewise, the polenta ($8 with meatballs) is a revelation: creamy, rich and satisfying, with a buttery touch of Julia Child. As for the balls? The pork piccante are far less interesting—texturally monotone and perhaps underspiced—than the classic Italian’s holy trinity of veal, pork and beef. The surprise is the chicken Parmesan: moist and leavened with thyme, a near-perfect comfort food. Go figure: In a world of balls, lightness wins the day. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
1936 N Killingsworth St., 283-5936, diprimadolci.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
This charmingly quaint, yellow-walled Italian bakery added “trattoria” to its name not long ago, but the pasta dinners and panini lunches are still just the opening acts to the desserts. The ricotta cookie ($2.50), topped with a luscious layer of cream-cheese icing, is a rich pleasure for which there’s no need to feel guilty; the black-and-white chocolate cookie ($2.50)—Jerry Seinfeld’s favorite symbol of racial harmony—is sweetly satisfying; and if you’re going order the soft, divinely almond-y tricolores, you might as well grab a pound for $20, because one or two or five isn’t going to be enough. MATTHEW SINGER.
1028 SE Water Ave., 719-5698, bokebowl.com. Lunch Monday-Wednesday, lunch and dinner Thursday-Saturday.
Boke Bowl is the iPad of Portland ramen houses: a coolly pragmatic American gloss on Asian aesthetics and cuisine, and a place where convenience comes in the form of high-priced, minimalist efficiency. You choose your dashi (broth) from pork ($10), caramelized fennel ($9) or seafood miso ($10) and then bring in somewhat eccentric add-ons to taste, with options including buttermilk-fried chicken ($3) and cornmeal-crusted oysters ($3). The vegetarian ginger-spiked fennel dashi is, however, one of my favorite broths in town, especially with pork belly ($2), if that’s your thing. Among the other offerings, the steamed buns ($8 for three) are pleasant but are a small meal without sides, and so are recommended with the green-onion ginger rice ($1) or the fried pears ($2.50). MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
5365 SE Sandy Blvd., 284-1773, dusgrill.com. Lunch and dinner Monday-Friday.
Teriyaki is a simple food. It’s meat, rice, sauce and maybe a few veggies. Nothing can hide: one sickly sweet sauce or hunk of gristly beef, and it’s game over. So, it’s not surprising this stalwart shack is on the to-Du list of any serious teriyaki fan. The moist chicken ($7.50) is the classic—and cheapest—pick, achieving a char that half the barbecue spots in town can’t touch. Pork, beef or any combination of meats ($8.25-$8.75) come with a garlic-ginger sauce and salad with a poppy-seed dressing that’s so good, they sell bottles to go. The inevitable line out the door marches forward with military precision; use the time to savor the lovely smell Du’s sends out over Sandy Boulevard. ANDREA DAMEWOOD.
900 SW Morrison St., 227-5253, kalepdx.com. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.
Are you indecisive? Not sure how to answer that? Need more time to make up your mind? If you answered yes to any of those questions (or are still mulling them over), Kalé is for you. The restaurant features only three items—and they’re all variations on a single theme. The definitive dish is a comfortingly spiced, stewlike curry with beef and rice. You can ditch the meat or opt for cheese melted on top—making it something like an amorphous yet delicious mass of Japanese lasagna—but the options don’t extend much further. The utilitarian and cavernous space beneath a Smart Park lot is often library-quiet, allowing you peace while you slurp your stew and browse Kalé’s curious collection of manga novels and Chopin CDs. REBECCA JACOBSON.
4057 N Interstate Ave., 719-6152, mihopdx.com. Dinner daily.
There are Japanese-themed drink and food spots that offer a more robust experience than Miho Izakaya: more elaborate decorations, more drink options, springier ramen noodles. But no one comes close to doing an izakaya this well at the same price. This simply appointed, converted house on Interstate has $2 edamame, $4 plates of fried tofu and slightly blackened shishito peppers and $6 crunchy fried chicken that’ll cause you to cast a leery eye at every other izakaya menu. Also notable is the briskness of the kitchen, which will have another plate out almost as fast as you can thank your server for taking the order. Advice: Avoid the $2 Rainier tall boys and allow the place to glean a little profit off the sake or $6 Jinro. Not because it’ll better the meal, but because it’ll assuage your conscience. MARTIN CIZMAR.
4233 N Mississippi Ave., shigezo-pdx.com. Lunch Tuesday-Sunday.
Shigezo food cart Minizo’s redone menu is very impressive and its service still whip-quick. The gyudon ($7) is a simple dish, just thin shaves of marinated beef and soft onions over grains of puffy rice and a bright ginger garnish, but it offers an umami fix that’ll leave your tongue hanging. Minizo’s abu ramen ($6) is rich with kaeshi (soy sauce with sugar and mirin), freshened by green onions and bean sprouts and hearty from pork and a soft-boiled egg that goes runny with a chopstick prick. It’s a filling and flavorful bowl, pleasantly brackish and deeply satisfying. (There’s also a vegetarian version, $6.) MARTIN CIZMAR.
2333 NE Glisan St., 971-271-8260, basabasachicken.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Korean chickens are tiny birds, deep-fried whole before being chopped up and sauced. The best way to make a version here, it seems, is to use only the wings, which is what you’ll find at Basa Basa, the sparsely appointed new micro-restaurant in the Ocean pod. These thickly battered fried-chicken wings are best at their freshest, tossed in the sweet and spicy original sauce. Actually, they’re even better when they’re not wings at all, but tofu chunks prepared in the same three sauces, which also include a thin teriyaki and a Thai-inspired sauce with lime and cilantro. Boxes with six ($10) or 10 ($14) wings or tofu chunks come with rice and macaroni salad, making them a lot like Hawaiian plate lunches. Skip all that and order the anise-heavy ramen fries ($2.75). MARTIN CIZMAR.
Du Kuh Bee
12590 SW 1st St., Beaverton, 643-5388. Dinner Monday-Saturday.
Exposed kitchens are a dime a dozen in Portland, but exposed dishwashing areas, not so much. You get both at the tiny, loud and always busy Korean restaurant Du Kuh Bee in Beaverton. Sit at the bar and you can learn how to wash dishes, grill bulgogi and hand pull noodles all at the same time. Although a little past its heyday since Frank Fong (currently at Frank’s Noodle House) sold it in 2009, there is still plenty of tasty Korean grub to be had. The banchan is on the slight side—you get a small dish of spicy house kimchi and cubed, pickled daikon. The grilled meats ($8-$10), hand-pulled noodles ($8-$14) and stews ($7-$10) are all packed with big, salty, savory flavor. LIZ CRAIN.
Jang Choong Dong Wang Jok Bal (JCD)
3492 SW Cedar Hills Blvd., Beaverton, 644-7378. Dinner daily.
Here’s the thing about JCD: It’s a bar with the casual service, peeling wallpaper and noisy clients you’d expect to find at any other bar in the area. The banchan lacks variety, and the beer list is all macro. If you want anything fancier than plastic dishes, counter service and Hite pounders, drive back to Portland and eat at Toji. But there’s much to love. There is, for starters, the scallion-seafood pancake ($9.95), which melds eggs, green onion and ocean critters in a crisp fried shell with all the appeal of a really good spring roll. The grilled-meat classics are all good here, but it’s worth branching out for less popular dishes like the cold buckwheat noodles with fish cake, perfect for a day spent pounding the hot pavement, or the bibimbap ($10). Feeling adventurous? Go for the soup of dried pollack and soft tofu. BEN WATERHOUSE.
Jin Jin Teriyaki & Oriental Food
8220 SE Harrison St., No. 138A; 774-8899. Lunch through early dinner Tuesday-Sunday.
Referring to Asian cuisines collectively as “Oriental Food” might seem archaic, but who cares when the value quotient tips so sharply in your favor? Simple Americanized dishes from China and Japan are the central focus at Jin Jin. The portions are large, the prices diminutive and the quality solid. An order of General Tso’s chicken goes for $5, teriyaki plates in various configurations ring in at $6 to $6.50, as do several yakisoba combinations. The menu toppers, though, are made-on-premises sweet Vietnamese cakes—3-inch pucks of flaky pastries filled with mung bean or coconut-durian paste—that run $2.50 a pop. The digs are purely utilitarian, in a mini mall along busy 82nd Avenue. Stay in and watch the traffic or take your meal to go. MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN.
9955 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, Suite 235, Beaverton, 746-5609. Dinner and late night daily.
KimSatGot is a Korean version of the Japanese izakaya, a late-night pub serving food intended to pair with booze. The menu in this dim, windowless room is matched to the drinks, and caters to expats and service-industry types looking for late-night eats. It’s good food, but the sort of simple salty and sweet fare best enjoyed with drinks. The spicy rice cake ($5) is a highlight, a plate of thick, pleasantly gummy rice noodles in a salty orange sauce on a bed of translucent sweet-potato noodles. The spicy pork bulgogi ($7) is decadent, with thin slices of meat marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil and a variety of spices, then grilled Korean-style. It’s served in a big, sloppy pile, large enough to be shared by two and spicy enough to keep the Hite flowing. MARTIN CIZMAR.
So Kong Dong Tofu & BBQ
2850 SE 82nd Ave., Suite 11, 808-9990. Lunch and dinner daily.
Were most of the menu at stake, SKDTB wouldn’t belong in our Cheap Eats guide, with meaty barbecue dishes routinely topping $15 (or at least flirting shamelessly with it). But here’s a neat trick: This eatery’s most delectable item is also its cheapest. What you do is, you flip to the menu page with the generous variety of soon tofu stews ($8.95)—with tofu so soft it’s feathery, the tofu equivalent of an over-easy egg or creamy custard—served in steaming cast-iron hot pots with kimchi, seafood, pork or none of the above. Close your eyes, point to any of the tofu dishes at random and enjoy thereafter a bitter-salty-spicy tomato-inclusive stew, fattened by egg drop, that imprints itself forever on your reptile brain. Say it with us: Sooo-ooon. Soon. The name of the dish is also when you’ll return. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
3975 SW 114th Ave., Beaverton, 641-3670. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.
The little Korean restaurant tucked in the upper floor of an Asian grocery in Beaverton feels like a secret. The signs advertising its existence at G Mart are easy to miss, as is the wooden staircase that takes you to it. Once you find it, though, you won’t want to leave. The menu sticks to standard Korean fare, but everything is cooked with heart. For a quick, filling lunch to power you through the rest of your day, grab the bi bim bap ($8.95), a sizzling bowl of tangy beef, veggies and rice topped with a fried egg. If it’s date night, share the slightly sweet and fully satisfying haemul pajeon ($13.95), their traditional pancake stuffed with green onions and extremely fresh seafood. ROBERT HAM.
Southeast Division Street and 158th Avenue, 750-1253. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday. Cash only.
On a gritty stretch of East County roadway, a faded-yellow panel truck with a smoke-belching steel grill alongside occupies the side parking lot of, ahem, a “pipes and accessories” store. Not exactly French Polynesia, but the prize worth the drive is juicy, smoky, perfectly seasoned grilled chicken (pollo al carbon) that’s practically paradise. Order a bird whole or by the half or quarter ($18, $10 or $6) with obligatory sides of pinto beans and rice. And don’t forget the special onion- and cilantro-flecked chili sauce that complements your barbecued bird. The chicken meat also comes shredded in a taco ($1.50), one among a good-sized slate of Mexican food-truck standards and more. Think warm thoughts of the South Pacific while you wait, then grab your goodies and go. MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN.
Casa de Tamales
10605 SE Main St., Milwaukie, 654-4423, canbyasparagusfarm.com. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday, brunch Sunday.
Milwaukie’s pint-sized Casa de Tamales’ walls are packed with gewgaws and the paraphernalia of a life lived in beautiful inconsistency, from marlin to framed Elvis posters to Pee-wee Herman riding a lion. The menu sports omelets and an asparagus plate with shrimp and spears ($12), but the tamales are the show. The menu has five massive options for $6.75—permutations of chicken, pork and asparagus—but the specials board draws from scores more, and almost all of the ingredients are grown at either the local Canby Asparagus Farm or Winters Farm. The owner’s friendly dad, Charles Maes (who grew up nearby), is almost always there and happy to explain anything on the wall or menu, with full biography attached. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
El Gallo Taqueria
4804 SE Woodstock Blvd., 481-7537, elgallopdx.com. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday. Cash only.
The paradox of El Gallo: If you drive a long distance to eat at this taco cart, you’re likely to be deeply disappointed. But if you happen to be in the Woodstock neighborhood and hungry, you could hardly do better. It’s a veteran cart with three years tenure—that’s 21 in brick-and-mortar time—and chef/owner Jake Brown has mastered every detail on his simple menu of tacos ($2) and burritos ($6). Among the meats, carnitas is the standout, with the fish ($3) being very fishy. Vegetables are high quality and mostly local, the tortillas are made fresh, and the bright-orange hot salsa will scorch you good. And this for about the same price as TacoTime. MARTIN CIZMAR.
2710 N Killingsworth St., 278-3050; 2839 NE Alberta St., 281-3662. labonitarestaurant.net. Lunch and dinner daily.
Did Portland need another La Bonita? Well, this city could always use more sturdy, satisfying Mexican joints, so the answer is yes. Perhaps to distinguish their business from La Sirenita—the greasy cuchara it competes with on Alberta—the owners opened a second location in the Kenton area, a part of town considerably more starved for plate-filling enchilada platters ($10.95) and monstrous chimichangas ($7.50-$9.95). Neither restaurant is much to look at, and the burritos are generic, but for those who want a middle option between high-priced gourmet and lowbrow street food, La Bonita walks the line expertly. MATTHEW SINGER.
Southwest 5th Avenue and Oak Street, 421-9898. Breakfast, lunch and early dinner Monday-Saturday.
This downtown cart has a devout following for its $3 huaraches. The sandwiches—cheese, avocado and your choice of meat in an oblong masa wrapping—suggest a soft taco expanded to the size of a footlong hoagie. It is a merciful surprise that Subway hasn’t thought to declare a month “Huarache March” or something equally awful. (Dear Subway, please don’t read this.) But everything on the menu is extravagantly tasty, from the basic egg breakfast burrito ($4.99) to the decadent mole burrito ($5.99) dripping with cinnamon-spiced sauce. It is silly to judge a food cart by its clientele, but La Jarochita’s splashy menu was complemented nicely by a Saturday afternoon patron who arrived at the window carrying a cane and a chihuahua in a pink knit sweater. AARON MESH.
Various locations, laughingplanetcafe.com.
Laughing Planet is a pilates restaurant in a CrossFit world. The local chain’s main draw is a brand of whole-food-heavy hippie burritos that came to exist in college towns a decade ago, and have mostly been brushed aside as Portlanders seek authentically rich and fatty Mexican fare. If you’re looking for juicy roasted carnitas, you won’t find them here. But if you want an East Indian-inspired burrito with lentils cooked so some texture remains, topped with a bright lime salsa, you’re in luck. The menu has been freshened up during the last year, with weekly specials that add flavorful sauces to all that organic brown rice and unfried pinto beans, but fresh veggies and whole grains remain the Planet’s spelt bread and Earth Balance vegan baking stick. MARTIN CIZMAR.
212 Mollala Ave., Oregon City, 655-7197, sites.google.com/site/loncheriamitzil. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday.
Luz Martinez’s Loncheria Mitzil, though doubly hidden by its location in Oregon City’s hilltop outskirts and equally obscure parking-lot entrance, becomes immediately welcoming once you finally make your way inside. The lunchtime menu is low-priced, simple and prepared with care—get the potato guisado molotes ($8.95)—but Martinez’s Guadalajaran roots are best showcased in the rotating dinner menus, with beautifully charred chile relleno ($12.95), rich albondigas ($10.95) and especially the chicken with rich pumpkin mole verde ($12.95). For those of us who never had the good fortune of growing up with a doting Mexican grandmother, Mitzil offers—for the brief span of a meal—the comforting illusion that we are nonetheless at home with Abuela. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Mi Mero Mole
5026 SE Division St., 232-8226, mmmtacospdx.com. Dinner Monday-Friday, lunch and dinner Saturday-Sunday.
In the immortal words of Carl Weathers: “Baby, you’ve got a stew going.” That’s not a dish gringos commonly associate with Mexican cuisine, though an obligatory mole can usually be found somewhere in the upper reaches of any cantina menu. But pastrami-slinger Nick Zukin has produced an astonishing array of stews; some 63 guisados, the simmered slurpables he learned from Mexico City carts, rotate through the chalkboard menu in this still-shiny two-room schoolhouse of slop. The most astonishing is a vegetarian item, the rajas con crema: Slices of mild green chilies are engulfed in a sour cream and cheese sauce, the Mexican equivalent of an Alfredo. Like all the stews (including moles, meatballs and a bevy of recipes with cactus), it’s available in a taco ($2.75), burrito ($5.50), quesadilla ($5.75) or on a platter with corn tortillas ($8.50-$14.50). We would, frankly, consume this cream out of a bottle, like a desperate, ever-fattening hamster. AARON MESH.
943 SE Oak St., Hillsboro, 640-4755. Lunch and dinner daily.
Authenticity in Mexican food is generally a sucker’s game in this town, a gringo exercise in bottom-denominator tail-chasing, but know this: Ochoa’s is the real deal among Portland-area taquerias. And if it weren’t the real thing, the real thing would aspire to become it. The corn tortillas are flavorful, solid and not overly thick; the salsas complement the meats; and all is blessedly cheap, with tacos a mere dollar, whether tripas or moist al pastor. But while it may be difficult to stray from the excellent tacos, I suggest you do so for the pleasure of their baked whole tilapia ($8): fluffy, juicy, gently garlicked and hardly in need of the lime that’s served with it. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
¿Por Qué No?
3524 N Mississippi Ave., 467-4149; 4635 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 954-3138. porquenotacos.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
A curated Technicolor shrine to the hole-in-the-wall joints that owner Bryan Steelman stumbled upon in Mexico, ¿Por Qué No? doesn’t believe in subtlety when it comes to its décor or its decked-out eats. While a shout-out is owed to the super-thick tortilla chips ($3 with salsa fresca) and the giant, open-topped jars of aguas frescas ($3 a glass), tacos are the main event. They’re $3 to $4 each, unless it’s happy hour (50 cents off 3-6 pm) or Taco Tuesday (50 cents off 3 pm-close). The carnitas ($3) and pollo asado ($3) are standouts, but the camarones ($4)—stuffed with plump, jubilant shrimp; crunchy purple cabbage; and juicy pineapple cubes—is the showstopper. EMILY JENSEN.
607 SE Morrison St., 232-3707. Lunch and dinner daily, late-night Thursday-Saturday.
The cold light of day can be hard on so many of our late-night favorites. But Robo Taco does not disappoint, even stone-cold sober on a Sunday afternoon. There is no meaningful robot presence, but there are tacos ($2.25) and burritos ($3.75-$7.75)—the ones filled with juicy barbacoa or salty al pastor are the best. There are also plates ($7.75) that allow you to pick a meat along with generous scoops of black beans, rice and fresh guacamole. I tend to go totally nuts with the squeeze bottle of cilantro-intense green salsa at either 2 am or 2 pm. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Tienda Santa Cruz
8630 N Lombard St., 286-7302. Lunch and dinner daily.
Burritos are the perfect human food pellet: protein, dairy and veggies rolled into one ginormous tortilla. This St. Johns bakery, butcher shop and Mexican grocery with a restaurant in back has perfected this science of deliciousness delivery, with forearm-sized burritos ($4-$5) filled with grilled and spiced meats. An $8 al pastor plate served with beans, rice, tortillas and avocado is another favorite, and be sure to hit the salsa bar and pickled veggies to top tacos ($1-$2) that spotlight Tienda’s stellar lengua and cabeza. ANDREA DAMEWOOD.
Tortilleria Y Tienda de Leon
16223 NE Glisan St, 255-4356. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
This market and restaurant is the big burrito among East County Mexican food outlets. It serves 15 or so guisados (stewed meats) to fill tacos ($1.99), sopes ($2.49) and guaraches ($4.99). Tamales ($1.50) and gorditas ($1.99) that look like mini-pitas stuffed plump with pork or chicken and black beans are on the bill, too. Then there are the chiles rellenos the size of your forearm ($3.99), along with other dine-in or takeout alternatives. And the eatery makes its own tortillas and tortilla chips. MSZ.
3901 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 719-7344. Lunch and Dinner Tuesday-Saturday.
Cedo’s makes the best falafel in town: hot, craggy, golf-ball-sized orbs of chickpea goodness that crunch as you bite into them, revealing a moist, intensely herby center tinted light green. The not-so-secret secret, according to the owner, is fresh chopped garlic and parsley and toasted whole coriander seeds put through a coffee grinder before being mixed in. This is standard practice at Cedo’s, which uses fresh lemons for the nutty tahini sauce and makes its own yogurt for the puckery tzatziki. There’s other stuff on the menu—a very large, respectable lamb-and-beef gyro and some very tasty, twice-fried spicy potato rounds—but it’s all about the falafel. A giant falafel sandwich with a side of spuds is $9, and you will have leftovers. KELLY CLARKE.
Hush Hush Cafe
433 SW 4th Ave., 274-1888, hushhushcafe.com. Lunch and early dinner Monday-Saturday.
Shawarma suffered an undignified novelty when it was used as a punch line in last year’s Avengers movie, but the dish remains a reliable lunch: rotisserie lamb, beef or chicken shaved off a vertical spit for customers on the go. The chicken shawarma served at the unexpectedly vast hole-in-the-wall Hush Hush Cafe is served in a pita ($6.50) or over basmati rice ($7.99). We recommend the latter, partly because the rice is richly seasoned with an herb medley heavy on cinnamon, and partly because it means spending a few minutes in one of downtown’s strangest buildings—a Kubrickian spaceship that landed in Portland to become a perpetual temptation to banned skateboarders. AARON MESH.
3223 NE Broadway, 445-4700; 318 SE Grand Ave., 235-5123. nicholasrestaurant.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Good luck leaving Nicholas empty-handed. From the giant, pizza-sized complimentary pita bread to the selection of hefty dinner portions, this Lebanese establishment seems to find amusement in making customers gasp over humorously enormous plates. The Stephen’s Beef ($11.75), a popular dish of flavorful jasmine rice covered in thin slices of marinated beef, could easily feed a small family. For the hungry and indecisive, the mezza platters ($10.75 for meat, vegetarian or vegan) offer a combination of Middle Eastern staples, including hummus, tabouli salad, crispy falafel balls and meat or spinach pies, to name a few. With one Gresham and two Portland locations, the family-friendly hot spots often fill up during dinner hours, but the satisfying food coma that always ensues after a Nicholas visit is worth the wait. EMILEE BOOHER.
3257 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 235-3277, tarboushbistro.com. Lunch and dinner daily. No hookah on Mondays.
When I tell you that TarBoush feels like home, it’s important to know what kind of home. This Lebanese joint’s innards, all dark wood and soft lighting, were once the living room of a Victorian-era mini-mansion. Some of the restaurant’s refined good looks come courtesy of the building’s old tenant (RIP, Belly Timber), but the vibe at TarBoush is more family than fancy. While kids and picky types might not be crazy about the house-recommended sawda (a $7.50, slightly chalky chicken-liver appetizer best eaten with the excellent house-baked pita bread), the bamyeh ($13 and loaded with succulent okra and garlic) tastes like a second cousin of spaghetti. The excellent signature mezza plate ($17.50) showcases TarBoush’s fine hummus and baba ghanoush and two meats of your choice (the beef, which is really thick-cut steak chunks, is perfect). Just save room, because we’re all taking hits from a TarBoush hookah for dessert. CASEY JARMAN.
Wolf and Bear’s
3925 N. Mississippi Ave.; 113 SE 28th Ave. eatwolfandbears.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
These twin Israeli food carts have earned their reputation on their sprouted chickpea falafel ($6.50)—and those fist-size, herb-packed balls are certainly marvels—but in my book, it’s all about the olea ($7). In that wrap, an earthy kalamata tapenade meets zippy labneh cheese amid a mess of vegetables, tahini and Gorgonzola, all barely contained in chewy and warm pita. But it’s the olea’s caramelized walnuts that really slay me, providing the perfect crunch in each bite. If you must branch out, the sabich ($7) is a breakfast-y wrap featuring a hard-boiled egg, pureed pickled mango and cucumber, and there are a couple of satisfying salads as well, including the gomasio, with mixed greens, shredded beets and carrots and the titular seaweed-sesame salt ($6). Before you leave, pick up a jar of the zingy zhug sauce (made from jalapeños, cilantro and lemon): It’ll improve anything that comes out of your kitchen. REBECCA JACOBSON.
8005 SE Stark St., 256-4484, yahalarestaurant.com. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.
You’re going to need a box. Blame the veggie mezza sampler ($10.75). The Montavilla Lebanese restaurant’s most popular item includes tub-sized servings of tahini-heavy hummus, smoky baba ghanoush and tabbouleh portioned along with two big, green falafel footballs and puffy, triple-thick pita. Meanwhile, the lamb kebabs ($15.75), two skewers of sirloin that were pleasantly pink in the center and surprisingly smoky, if also a bit tough, come with about four servings of basmati rice. The cruelest twist? Incredible cookies, like mamoule, little empanadas of dates and walnuts, and shortbread doughnuts called ghouriebe. Couples should split the veggie mezza sampler and one entree. At lunch, the prices dip under $7 for sandwiches, and sfeeha—Lebanese flatbread pizza—stays under $6 for dinner. MARTIN CIZMAR.
8307 N Ivanhoe St., 285-4839, baowrypdx.com. Dinner and late night daily.
The Baowry, a charmingly domestic former hovel in St. Johns, recalls a vacationer’s eatery in a picturesque riverfront town—which, of course, St. Johns very much is. The tables are decorated with a collage of Californian-Japanese newspapers, from hair-removal ads to immigrant news. Beer is available in tall novelty giraffes. The Baowry’s Asian-eclectic food seems similarly determined to pack everything in. Each $5 happy-hour banh mi is stacked higher than a tire fire, and the trademark bao—steamed bun sandwiches ($4 apiece, three for $10)—are jammed with flavors and textures: the yeasty sugar dough still dusty with flour; the hoisin-heavy pork loin, duck confit or shiitake mushroom; and then the acidic crispness of lightly pickled cucumber and daikon. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
108 SW 3rd Ave., 957-2410. Lunch Tuesday-Thursday, late night Friday-Saturday.
The La Sangucheria food cart takes the Peruvian kitchen-sink sanguche straight to Portland’s downtown streets. La Sangucheria’s massive pachamama sandwich ($8) is protein-loaded to absurdity with fries, bacon, breaded chicken breast, sweet-smoked ham, egg and cheddar, then smothered in a mayo tartar of onion, egg and parsley. Like, say, a Dario Argento horror-porn sequence, the whole unmanageable, dripping mess adds up to well-balanced craft. Each texture and layer can be appreciated, and yet they manage to work together rather than clash into cacophony. The generously appointed saltado sandwich ($8)—beef tenderloin marinated with onions in soy, vinegar and spice—is an equally impossible meal for those cursed with only two hands, but it is also one of the best street-level steak sandwiches in town, shaming even a good Philly sub with its juicy intensity. High art it is not. But I can think of little better to eat while high. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Pollos a la Brasa el Inka
48 NE Division St., Gresham, 491-0323, elinkarestaurant.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Peruvian joint El Inka builds from the basics—the signature dish is roasted chicken with an iceberg lettuce salad and big, square french fries—but the meal brought to your blanket-covered table isn’t in any way typical. The chicken, which comes by the quarter, half or whole bird ($7.99, $12.49, $19.49), takes a whirl of chilies and Andean herbs before spending hours in the oven. Then you spike it with a rainbow of pepper sauces, alternating between red, yellow and orange squeeze bottles. The aji de gallina ($8.49) is shredded chicken breast in a white, milky gravy that, spooned over rice, is something like a South American curry. A side of fried plantains ($4.50) can double as dessert. Even the golden Inca Kola sold by the can here is unique and excellent. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Al Forno Ferruzza
2738 NE Alberta St., 253-6766, 503alforno.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
With lilac fabric and mismatched chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and murals of purple mountains and lush, green forests, Al Forno Ferruzza is the sort of place that invites you to throw off your hemp sandals, ignite some patchouli (or something stronger) and down some kombucha. But no—while you might order one of the “elixirs” (fermented herbal tea infused with maple syrup, $5-$8), the main highlights here are the wood-fired Sicilian dishes. The hand-thrown pies are well-crisped and offer a range of nice toppings, including a variety of sausages, wild clams and roasted black olives, but the stromboli is like a Hot Pocket actually worth eating, studded with sesame seeds and packed with flavorful toppings. Try the verdura ($10)—with fresh mozzarella, farmy sheep’s-milk feta, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted Florina peppers and greens—served alongside a small bowl of fresh San Marzano tomato sauce. REBECCA JACOBSON.
2727 NE Glisan St., 239-4444, dovevivipizza.com. Dinner nightly.
As blessed as we are in this city to have a variety of shops slinging good, traditional pizza, a little variety is always welcome. Dove Vivi’s 12-inch pies are thick, substantial affairs, with cornmeal crust adding heft and sweetness. Toppings are Portland orthodox—locally sourced and/or organic—and diners can choose from the regular menu items or see what’s available as a special. Is your dining partner vegetarian? Not a problem, as half-pies are not only available but highly recommended. A pepperoni and mushroom ($12) and half-pesto ($12) construction, along with a crunchy-tart kale salad ($7.25), should provide you with a slice or two to munch cold the next morning, which strangely enough tastes even better than right out of the oven. BP.
Flying Pie Pizzeria
7804 SE Stark St., 254-2016, flying-pie.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Owner Ty Dupuis has managed this Montavilla mainstay since 1988, and its pizzas have remained consistently old-guard: breadstick-doughy, family-style pies with an overgenerous heart attack of cheese and toppings. They stand out for their willingness to cook single slices to order, rather than reheat stale cheese. At lunchtime, $6.50 will net a slice the size of your head (toppings 25-50 cents each), a trip to the salad bar and a soda. My lunchtime favorite—red onion, pineapple, jalapeño and bacon—hits a terrifically sweet-bitter-salty-savory flavor profile and still leaves enough quarters behind on a $10 bill to play delightfully regressive video games in the pizzeria’s back room until the slice arrives fresh and steaming hot. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
2730 N Killingsworth St., 247-7499, handsomepizza.com. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday.
Formerly Pizza Depokos, Handsome Pizza lives up to its recent rebranding. Perfectionist pizzaiolo Will Fain’s converted service station features overhead lights decoupaged with comic book pages, Sam Cooke on the speakers and one wall stacked high with chopped wood ready for the oven. That oven pops out some mighty fine Neapolitan-style pies, both in terms of appearance and taste (prices range from $8 to $30, with cheese slices available for $3). The crust is pliable with just enough puff and char, and the simple sauce features big hunks of tomato and a nice tang. Beyond the regular menu—try the Rico Suave, a white pie with pyramid-shaped mounds of creamy ricotta and plenty of aged mozzarella—don’t miss the specials board, which recently featured a nearly too-handsome-to-eat prosciutto and fennel-marsala cherry pizza. REBECCA JACOBSON.
350 W Burnside St., 234-0114, lonesomespizza.com. Lunch, dinner and late night daily.
The Lonesome’s owners have moved to prime real estate, the pizza window at Dante’s on West Burnside Street, behind the hallowed “Keep Portland Weird” wall. The shop seems to be breaking the barrier between being Portland’s most Portlandy pizzeria and a formidable force for good in our pizzasphere, with pies as memorable as the boxes. The $21 Burt Reynolds—names change, but it’s always No. 6—will make you a believer. Like all of Lonesome’s pies, it begins with a moderately thick crust that’s double the heft of the Nostrana pies you snip with shears, yet still crispy and charred. Like the best Lonesome’s pies, its soul is the best pizza sauce in town, a bright and very herbal marinara. Pools of milky mozzarella, hot salami, banana pepper rings and crumbles of fried shallot finish it off. MARTIN CIZMAR.
8218 N Lombard St., 935-4375, pizzacontadino.com. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.
Why are pizzerias so stingy with the sourdough? Sourdough crust is usually reserved for thin, crispy, charred New York- and New Haven-style pizzas, while the doughy version preferred by most Americans west of the Alleghenies gets flattened Italian bread. Way up in St. Johns, there’s a pizza with dough that has all the character of lactic, long-fermented rolls in a much larger portion than you’re used to. Cover the entire surface with big slivers of oversize pepperoni and gooey mozzarella (or, on occasion, chevre, as always unpredictable daily specials involve more exotic ingredients), and you’ve got a great pie. Even greater now that you can enjoy it in the Fixin’ To bar, which has stiff mixed drinks along with craft beer, PBR and the little-seen PBR Light. MC.
624 E Burnside St., 926 W Burnside St., 234-7437, sizzlepie.com. Lunch, dinner and late-night daily.
There’s little controversy in saying Sizzle Pie is about 80 percent image and 20 percent pizza. Fact is, you can get a slice of pepperoni, jalapeño and mushroom at dozens of places in this town, but there’s only one joint you can stumble into after getting kicked out of Union Jacks, hear Slayer blaring on the stereo and order the South of Heaven ($15-$23) from a dude who’s got a tattoo of a pentagram on his arm. Or grab a can of Old German and the bacon-bits-laden Rabbits salad ($5-$8) and sit next to a member of the local punk band it’s named after. Rock ’n’ roll is a lifestyle, and pizza is the fuel that keeps it going. That’s what Sizzle Pie understands better than most. MATTHEW SINGER.
3131 SE 50th Ave., 701-5149, wyeastpizza.com. Dinner Thursday-Sunday.
If you need a hot, delicious pizza immediately after hand-weaving your own kitchen towel, Wy’east has you covered. Situated in the parking lot of a weaving studio, the cart offers 13 varieties of pizza, including a vegan option and rotating seasonal specials. Wy’east’s 12-inch pies offer subtle simplicity in a city rife with pizza options. The Hot Marmot ($16) features Mama Lil’s sweet and hot peppers and Otto’s pepperoni on a red-sauce base, while the Cloud Cap ($15) combines mushrooms, ricotta cheese and roasted garlic on a white base. What’s most remarkable about the pizza at Wy’east is how effortlessly the flavors weave together—which is fitting, given its location. MICHAEL LOPEZ.
3962 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 477-5266, bardobre.com. Dinner Monday-Saturday.
I fear saying good things about a still-obscure Polish spot. The last time WW brought attention to one (Grandpa’s Cafe), it made itself membership-only. But, fingers-crossed: The pierogi ($6.50) at Bar Dobre are perfectly serviceable, but this new Italian-Polish locale also sports quite simply the best kielbasa plate I’ve had this side of Chicago. The $12 plate will serve two, and includes spicy house-stuffed sausage, seared kale ensconced in plentiful bacon, a fluffy potato pancake and warmly brined sauerkraut. Luckily, the bar is a cozy place to slowly digest—whether Polish, pizza or a lovely roasted-beet salad ($7)—and rich in apéritifs, with a drink menu that takes its vodka extraordinarily seriously. With its deep-toned wood panels, framed mirrors and iron chandelier, the bar’s dim space is the front room of your alcoholic grandma’s house. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Cocina de Chepe
Southeast 102nd Avenue and Stark Street, 933-9483. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday.
Cocina de Chepe is a Salvadoran food cart that’s become a full-scale oasis in the culinary desert that surrounds Mall 205. Their once-basic awning is now a space-heated, Bedouin-style tent churning out delicious pupusas—thick corn-masa tortillas stuffed with cheese and beans, chicharrones, squash or loroco (a Central American flower). They start at $2.50 for the terrific basic model, and climb all the way to $4.50 for a gut-busting huevos rancheros version with two over-easy eggs, red sauce, cheese and avocado. Note that the cart’s a busy local favorite, and it’s not fast food. It makes the pupusas, thankfully, only to order. Your patience will be rewarded in any case, but the smartest customers know to take a picture of the menu and call ahead with their order. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
2401 NE Cornell Road, Hillsboro, 844-6884. Lunch and dinner daily.
Next to Hillsboro Airport, in a neighborhood dominated by mattress stores and local ethnic chain restaurants (Swagat, Thai Orchid, Yuki), La Guanaquita serves probably the best Salvadoran food in the metro area. The unassuming strip-mall diner is always filled with mostly Spanish-speaking families, even at 3 pm on a Saturday. Alongside $2 corn options, La Guanaquita offers the Portland area’s only rice pupusas for $2.25 to $2.50 apiece, and they are a wonder: crisp, light and gently sweet, filled with cheese and pork, loroco (a Salvadoran-Guatemalan herb) or squash. The tender beef-and-potato-stuffed pastelitos (Salvadoran empanadas, $3.99) have the texture almost of hush puppies. Neighborhood patrons, however, will most often be spotted filling up on soups and deep-flavored, spicy carne guizadas ($9.50). MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
1028 SE Water Ave., 894-9708, bunkbar.com. Lunch and dinner (late night) daily, brunch Saturday-Sunday.
Bunk Bar—the spacious, hip cousin to Bunk’s original Southeast Morrison Street location—serves beer, offers pinball and sometimes throws a concert. Oh, and it serves the same impressive lineup of lunchtime staples that endeared Bunk to so many in the first place. From the roast beef ($9), with its silky caramelized onions and tangy horseradish, to the saucy meatball parmigiano ($8), the sandwiches showcase unique flavors and meticulous attention to detail. While sandwiches are the name of Bunk’s game, sides like mole tater tots ($5) and fries with debris gravy and Bunk cheese ($5) are less expensive and just as filling. MICHAEL LOPEZ.
Grant’s Philly CheeseSteak
15350 NE Sandy Blvd., 252-8012. Lunch and dinner Monday-Friday.
Just east of Maywood Park is one of Portland’s better purveyors of all things brotherly love—Grant’s Philly Cheesesteak. The bare-bones menu at Grant’s is how it should be, with your choice of thinly sliced sirloin steak, chicken breast or vegetarian gluten steak. Grant’s also offers the very Northwest option of smothering your cheesesteak with Tillamook cheddar—something seen as sacrilege back East. A whole cheesesteak ($11) is more than plenty for one, especially with the crispy, housemade potato chips; the half sandwich ($6.25) would satisfy most. Salads ($8.25), burgers and hot dogs ($6.50 each) flesh out the menu, but c’mon: You didn’t drive all this way not to eat a cheesesteak. MICHAEL LOPEZ.
Ken’s Artisan Bakery
338 NW 21st Ave., 248-2202, kensartisan.com. Breakfast, lunch and early dinner daily. Pizza dinner Monday only.
Slipping into the late-morning hours—because, face it, Portland doesn’t wake up early—Ken’s Artisan Bakery buzzes with hungry patrons amped up on self-serve Stumptown coffee. While this sounds like a good number of cafes in this city, the delicious offerings of freshly baked pastries and airy loaves of bread set this window-lit Northwest corner spot apart. Between crafting savory goods like the ham, thyme and Gruyere croissant ($4.25) and sweet treats like the flaky morning bun with orange zest and a crisped turbinado-sugar coating ($3), the bakers behind this joint find a wonderful balance of flavors, textures and, most important, butter. Ken’s also offers a board of tasty sandwiches ranging from $6-$8, such as the pork terrine banh mi and the croque portobello, satisfying meat and veggie eaters alike. EMILEE BOOHER.
Kenny & Zuke’s
1038 SW Stark St., 222-3354, kennyandzukes.com; 2376 NW Thurman St., 954-1737, kzbagelworks.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
Best bagels in town? Yup. Best pastrami in town? Yup. Killer soups? Great latkes? Solid house-baked rye bread? Yes, yes, yes. If it seems like Kenny & Zuke’s does everything the hard way—it bakes, boils and smokes almost everything from scratch—in so doing, the downtown sit-down restaurant and its sandwich-focused outpost on Northwest Thurman Street refine the humble deli almost beyond recognition. Order the irresponsibly large Reuben sandwich ($14.25) to split, though, and you’ll know owner Ken Gordon hasn’t lost touch with his New York roots. Everything here is well-executed, but salt bagels (now available with a sea salt from the Meadow) and garlic bialys ($1.95-$2.25) are irresistible. MARTIN CIZMAR.
1205 SW Washington St., 241-2490; 1212 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 234-7786. lardopdx.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Wheel-less and ready for action, this former food cart has moved into two brick-and-mortar businesses on the east and west sides of the river. You know Lardo has gone big now that each location has merch at the counter—logo-emblazoned hoodies, T-shirts and growlers. The menu is still simple and all about crazy-good sandwiches. There also is a full bar at each location, with an impressive lineup of beers ($5) and house cocktails ($8), and the music is always loud enough that you have to lean in a little to talk. Two popular sandwiches that won’t disappoint—the griddled mortadella with layers of melted provolone, pickled peppers and thick-slathered aioli on a ciabatta bun ($8) and the cold fried chicken sandwich stacked high on a brioche bun ($9) with spicy blue cheese, bacon and pickles. LIZ CRAIN.
4611 E Burnside St., 548-6320, laurelhurstcafe.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
The Laurelhurst Cafe resides somewhere in the Twilight Zone of coffee shops and burger joints, and for that it is often overlooked. But the creative grilled sandwiches put most panini-pushers to shame (we recommend the Reuben), and despite the cardinal sin of naming a scramble the “Hipster,” Laurelhurst is particularly nice for leisurely breakfasts (the traditional-tasting, bacon-and-cheddar-loaded “North Tabor” three-egg scramble, $7.75, was a bit more my speed), especially in the summer when its homey patio opens up. Until then, maybe order a hot chocolate. CASEY JARMAN.
939 NW 10th Ave., 208-3113, lovejoybakers.com. Breakfast and lunch daily.
If you’re light on funds, the $2 bags of day-old breads and buns are your friend at this Northwest bakery cafe. Counter-service sandwiches, soups and salads come out lightning fast from the staff of PYTs, and if you’re looking for a killer breakfast sandwich (they are served all day), get the Lovejoy Deluxe ($6.50) with an oozy over-easy egg topped with frisée, thick-cut bacon and a mess of blue cheese tarragon butter on a light, chewy ciabatta bun. In addition to quick meals—pulled-pork sandwich with jalapeño aioli ($8.50), radicchio Caesar ($7.75)—there are 20-plus pastries in the dessert case, 10-plus loaves, and loads of tarts and cakes. Added bonus: The towering windows make this bakery cafe feel like a greenhouse so you can grow. LIZ CRAIN.
Meat Cheese Bread
1406 SE Stark St., 234-1700, meatcheesebread.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
It’s a cute name, but Meat Cheese Bread’s marquee gives short shrift to some of its most valuable ingredients. This inner Southeast sandwich shop derives some of its best flavors from crisp vegetables and decadent sauces. What would the roasted pulled pork ($9) be without fat stalks of grilled broccolini and a gooey aioli? Would the pink center of the sliced flank steak on the Park Kitchen ($8) still pop without the blue-cheese mayo? Would either sandwich be nearly as good without a side of leafy kale topped with hot bacon vinaigrette and shaved parmesan ($7)? Thankfully, we’re not forced to find out. Also, look for longer hours from Meat Cheese Bread now that the proprietor has a beer bar next door. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Shut Up & Eat
3848 SE Gladstone St., 577-5604, shutupandeatpdx.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
Shut Up and Eat is laid out like a classic lunch counter, with lots of two-seated tables and no patio, and the crowd here is always actively eating. The massive meatball sub ($8.50) has four balls—made of beef, veal and pork—as big as a grade-schooler’s fist, served on a bun from Pearl Bakery. A thick layer of melted cheese blends creamy provolone with sharp Asiago and Parmesan. The meatballs are lightly sauced, with dipping marinara providing a balancing zest. It’s two meals. We also enjoyed Shut Up’s mammoth cheesesteak ($8.50), topped with fried onions and hot peppers, and its two nice vegetarian sandwiches, including smoky charred yams and cream cheese ($8.50) with sauteed spinach, kale and fried red onions. Plus, it sells Olympia tall boys for $2.50 all day, every day. MARTIN CIZMAR.
5835 SE Powell Blvd., 788-7141, steakadelphia.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
As a name, Steakadelphia rings false. It sounds like a franchise’s desperate, ill-advised attempt to prove its cheesesteak bona fides by co-opting the name of the city that made the sandwich famous. The framed Allen Iverson jersey on the wall isn’t helping. Then again, I’ve never been to Philly, so what do I know about authenticity? All I know is $8.75 gets you a mass of thin-sliced steak, onions and the cheese of your choice—from provolone to pepper jack to Cheez Whiz—overloaded inside a footlong bun rapidly dissolving in special “Steakadelphia sauce” and whatever other topping your soon-to-be-bursting heart desires (mushrooms? hot peppers? A.1.?)—plus, for an additional $1.25, they’ll cram in even more meat. And that kind of excess can only be called “authentically Philadelphian,” right? At least, that’s what I gather from the crowd shots at Eagles games. MATTHEW SINGER.
4144 SE 60th Ave., 445-9966, tortalandia.com. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday, brunch Saturday-Sunday.
This casual place just off Southeast Foster Road probably isn’t the best for taking a first date, but it’s great for fueling up on deliciously messy ingredients and margaritas. Between the huge helping of battered fish, mango salsa, avocado salsa and coleslaw avalanching out the sides of my pescado torta ($10.50), eating at Torta-Landia necessitates a careful balance between napkins and giving in to gravity. To accompany the sizable sandwiches prepared on Grand Central Bakery bolo rolls, you can choose from a list of sides, including borracho beans, green rice and bocadillos (crispy potato fritters with queso fresco). So once you master the art of consuming the food, really, the next-hardest part about experiencing Torta-Landia is just getting over the name. EMILEE BOOHER.
The Woodsman Market
4529 SE Division St., 971-373-8267, woodsmantavern.com. Breakfast and lunch daily.
Upon first glance, the main trade of the Woodsman Market, the concern Duane Sorenson has situated in a vacant storefront between his successful tavern and coffee roastery, seems to be a random assortment of products with attractive packaging—and it is. But the market also sells sandwiches on hearty bread with fine meats and cheeses. The Italian sub ($8) with marbled sopressata and capocolla on crusty bread with shredded lettuce squirted with vinegar and oil is a faithful rendition of the Jersey standby, but a little timid. Opt instead for a breakfast sandwich on a crisped English muffin ($7) with sliced sausage links or smoked ham, a gooey over-easy egg and sharp cheddar—though I’d hold the ketchup and ask for hot peppers. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Christopher’s Gourmet Grill
3962 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 939-4643. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.
Funny thing about ribs: The more I eat, the more mine disappear in the mirror. Since moving not too far away from this King neighborhood Southern-style barbecue joint, I’m pretty sure my ribs have packed up and moved away for the winter. Smoky rib tips and bone baskets ($10.95-$13.95) come with super-tasty house sauce on the side. Burgers—including the spicy Louisiana, with melted cheese, a hot link and veggies on a beef patty—are meaty perfection between two buns. Christopher’s does Philly proud, with juicy cheesesteaks ($6.50) dripping with a secret cheese sauce and melted Swiss. Nothing to do but dig in and hope my girlish figure will send postcards. ANDREA DAMEWOOD.
Po’Shines Cafe de la Soul
8139 N Denver Ave., 978-9000, poshines.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday. Closed Sunday, natch.
One hesitates to accuse Kenton’s Po’Shines of garnering an unfair advantage by cooking soul food under the auspices of a church, but if it works, it works. The meals are generous in both portion and spirit. The blackened-catfish sandwich ($8.95) is charred without burn and fatty without grease, the kidney beans and rice hearty as a valentine and the hush puppies gently crisped on the outside—just enough to pop—and moist on the inside. The grits ($4.95) offer not only a stacked complement of bacon but a fourfold cloverleaf of cheeses. And while it takes a mighty hunger to handle the Po’Fish platter ($13.95, with catfish, fried wings and sides), I assure you, it can be done. If you’re on your knees thereafter, consider it prayer. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Blue Star Donuts
1237 SW Washington St., 265-8410. Open early-7 pm daily.
Fried chicken with fancy doughnuts is, apparently, a thing. But no one else is combining wings ’n’ rings quite like Little Big Burger boss Micah Camden. Blue Star Donuts’ standout doughnut in their stylishly minimalist shop is a glazed brioche ring with chunks of moist chicken breast in a dark bronze batter and a squeeze packet of Frank’s RedHot ($4.75). There’s more novelty, but no equal satisfaction, elsewhere on the constantly shifting (and, at about $30 a dozen, expensive) menu. The brioche works well with dulce de leche ($2.50) and a smoke-kissed bacon maple made with real syrup ($2.75), but not so well with sharply acidic passion fruit, overly bitter chocolate ganache or cloying blueberry, bourbon and basil. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Cool Moon Ice Cream
1105 NW Johnson St., 224-2021, coolmoonicecream.com. Noon-late daily.
The best reason to eat Cool Moon ice cream while the skies are still gray and drippy: no waiting in line. The fountain at Jamison Square, a mecca for kids in the summer, is empty this time of year, and the little scoop shop across the street is nearly so. Bring a cap and mittens to enjoy some of the best exotically flavored ice cream you’ll ever eat, presented promptly and without pretension at a very reasonable cost. I have personally verified that a cone of the tongue-tingling spicy Thai peanut ($3.80) is good enough to enjoy as you pedal a bicycle on a freezing winter night. In fact, you could do two scoops. Don’t worry: The second-best thing about eating ice cream this time of year is that it ain’t gonna melt. MARTIN CIZMAR.
3402 SE Division St., 235-3119, laurettajean.com. Breakfast, lunch and early dinner Sunday-Wednesday; breakfast, lunch and dinner Thursday-Saturday.
Pie: to my mind, the perfect dessert. Available in varied degrees of sweetness, fruitiness, creaminess and chocolateyness, pie can sit for a few hours before it loses its charm. It’s also a loyal companion to coffee that’s handily shareable and easily upgraded with ice cream. Lauretta Jean’s: a perfect pie shop. Classy but casual, laid out like a coffee shop with low light, a simple wood-and-glass counter and a poster advocating weed and Neil Young. Blackberry raspberry ($4): the perfect slice. The tart and pulpy filling is lick-your-fork good, with berries crushed so they offer up their nectar without losing their personality. The flaky crust, made with careful attention to an old family recipe, has the soft crunch of high-desert snow. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Nuvrei Patisserie & Cafe
404 NW 10th Ave., 972-1700, nuvrei.com. Breakfast and lunch daily.
Set above Northwest 10th Avenue a few blocks from Powell’s is one of Portland’s finest patisseries, which you’ll probably pass unnoticed if you haven’t been there before or at least talked to someone who’s already hooked on the berry brioche ($4), flourless chocolate walnut cookies ($2.50) and one of the tastiest croques monsieurs (breakfast $5, lunch $9.50) in town. Baker-owner Marius Pop was originally caged in the basement below the cafe, working primarily as a wholesaler with a little supplemental retail—and that’s still where his ovens crank out Parisian-plus delights. But now that there’s a 15-seat cafe, you don’t have to take your French macarons ($2, 10 flavors) to go. Nuvrei serves some of the best sandwiches in Portland—including a fantastic creation of smoked sockeye, dill, arugula, boiled egg and celery-basil dressing on house mauricette bread ($10.50)—in its small, beautifully designed space with bar-top orchids and typically a very long line at the counter. LIZ CRAIN.
Ruby Jewel Scoops
3713 N Missisippi Ave., 505-9314, rubyjewel.net. Noon-late daily.
One of the more age-old and comforting smells is the wafting aroma of sugar and cream in an ice-cream parlor. Ruby Jewel gives you a giddy contact high as soon as you open the door. With a variation of regular and seasonal offerings made from locally sourced ingredients, there’s an ice cream to satisfy both the traditional and adventurous palettes. The honey lavender ($3 for a single scoop) finds a refreshingly light balance between the two flavors, while the chevre with chocolate cherry stirs the taste buds with a combination of bold goatiness and rich chocolate. But honestly, screw the scoop and get a custom ice-cream sandwich with a flavor of your choice mashed between chewy double chocolate, chocolate chip or lemon cookies ($4). EMILEE BOOHER.
4950 NE 14th. Ave., 477-9224, martinsswissdressing.com. Lunch Wednesday-Saturday, dinner Tuesday-Saturday.
This loopy Alpine hideaway is the only Swiss cafe where you’ll find kalua pork on the specials board and Martin’s Swiss Dressing ($6) on the brain. Named for Hibiscus owner Jennie Wyss’ dad, Martin (a Swiss-born chef based in Hawaii), the tangy, creamy vinaigrette spiked with “secret Swiss spices” is in all the super-fresh Swiss “salats” (four-salad sampler, $8.75). Get cross-cultural and slather it atop that tender, tasty kalua pork. The engaging staff rightly boasts of its juicy, crisp, buttery-crusted Weiner schnitzel, too, served with a yodel-worthy side of bacon-laced rösti hash browns ($10). KELLY CLARKE.
3145 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 234-6192, chiangmaipdx.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Sure, Pok Pok’s great and all, but when you take into account the 90-minute wait, the deafening noise and the infuriatingly needy tourist crowd, it hardly seems worth the trouble. For my money, the city’s best Thai food is to be found at this unassuming little joint that specializes in dishes from the city of the same name in the northwestern corner of the country: whole trout with Thai eggplant and kaffir leaf ($14), sausage-and-crispy-rice lettuce wraps ($13), or pork belly and pineapple curry ($12.50). Stir fries and noodles range from $8.50 to $11. Don’t miss the roti mataba ($7), a savory pancake stuffed with potato curry that came to Thailand via India; its sweet equivalent, fried with sweetened condensed milk and egg, is like South Asian French toast. BEN WATERHOUSE.
7202 SE Milwaukie Ave., 236-0008, manaopdx.com. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.
Manao chef Ekkachai “Chew” Sakkayasukkalawong does not share his former boss’s headstrong commitment to Thai purity. After a year in Sellwood, Chew’s restaurant even added pad thai ($7-$10, depending on meat) on its lunch menu. So-called “signature dishes” are still the heart of the restaurant but tend to be priced higher (Pok Pok-style fish-sauce wings are $12) than old favorites like pad kee mao ($8.75-$11.50), wide rice noodles stir-fried with basil, peppers and onions; the red, green and yellow curries ($8.75-$11); or a variety of fresh, fragrant salads. Everything we tried was well-prepared enough to put this in probably the 90th percentile of Portland Thai food, though it won’t have anyone waiting in line. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Nong’s Khao Man Gai
609 SE Ankeny St., 740-2907; 411 SW College St., 432-3286; Southwest 10th Avenue & Alder Street, 971-255-3480. khaomangai.com. Lunch Monday-Friday.
When she opened her first location in the pod at Southwest 10th and Alder, Nong Poonsukwattana offered only one dish: khao man gai, a dish consisting of tender chicken served on a bed of sticky rice with a side of soybean sauce. It was a ballsy business plan, but the legend of that single item grew until a second cart, with an expanded menu, appeared near PSU. Now, Nong’s has moved into an actual building on Southeast Ankeny Street—a small room in which only a small counter separates the dining area from the kitchen—where it serves Sriracha-braised chicken wings ($6.50) and a pork variation of khao man gai ($6.50). But the original is still the star. By itself, the chicken and rice might make you shrug, but add the sauce, and the plate comes alive with hints of ginger, chili and garlic. MATTHEW SINGER.
6 SE 28th Ave., 360-1453, paadeepdx.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Though the reclaimed teak tables and birdcages-cum-light fixtures were made in Thailand, Portlanders will be at home with both the décor and satisfying fare at this year-old eatery. Among the heartier mains, the green curry noodle bowl ($11) lacks interest, but this is more than made up for with the gra prao muu grob ($12), crispy pork belly sauteed with basil, garlic, kicky chilies and perfectly cooked green beans. The best move, though, might be to focus on PaaDee’s enticing drinking snacks, like the Chinese chive cakes packed with herbs and pan-fried to a nice crisp ($7), the spicy Sriracha-glazed chicken wings ($7) or the grilled-squid skewer served with a punchy chili-lime sauce ($3 each). REBECCA JACOBSON.
Pad Thai Kitchen
2309 SE Belmont St., 232-8766. Lunch and dinner daily.
Long live the cozy and fittingly decorated Thai restaurants. Nestled on Southeast Belmont behind a small parking lot, Pad Thai Kitchen serves a long list of curries, noodle dishes and stir-fries—with a choice of meat, seafood or vegetarian option—that wholly satisfy a Thai craving without breaking your wallet or straying away from the classic Americanized favorites (hence the name of the place). Aside from the comfortingly large portions of dishes like pad thai and pad khee mao ($8.50-$11.50), entrees such as the flavorful duck curry ($12) drenched in a red curry sauce and the extra garlicky garlic-and-pepper stir-fry ($8.50-$11.50) never lack the delicious and oh-so-difficult-to-replicate Thai spices. Plus, when you’re feeling lazy and anti-social, this place makes for an excellent takeout spot. EMILEE BOOHER.
Red Onion Thai Cuisine
1123 NW 23rd Ave., 208-2634, redonionportland.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Nervously, I called in an order for Volcano Beef ($12). “Do you want that spicy?” the gentleman taking my order asks. I waffle. “Oh, no, never mind,” he says, “it only comes one way.” I shiver with worry. But it’s not the scalding, jet-fuel heat the name suggests. Actually, served with asparagus and perfectly fried tomato, the meat is sweet, crunchy and—though fried—light. Swimming in a savory cinnamon broth with egg noodles, the roasted duck ($12) was moist but not oily. A list of specials, rotating monthly, provides diners with more exotic Thai tastes accompanied by well-balanced, decidedly non-volcanic flavors. MITCH LILLIE.
Samui Thai Kitchen
3616 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 231-9898, samuithaikitchen.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Among Pok Pok, Khun Pic’s Bahn Thai and Chiang Mai, inner-Southeast Portland is quickly becoming a destination spot for Portland Thai food. Samui Thai Kitchen, though buried in a personality-free strip mall, is a worthy addition to this pantheon. Samui specializes in Southern Thai foods not often seen in Portland. The kitchen is a tad easygoing on that region’s famous lip-blistering spice, but its stewy broths and rich flavors—sour and sweet in turns—more than make up for it. Particular favorites are the muu haawng ($12), a five-spice pork-belly stew that comes with a hard-boiled egg, and the sweet, creamy chu chee prawns ($15). The lunch menu hews closer to old Thai-American standbys, but the curries ($7.50) are more complex and fresher than most, and the Phuket seafood noodle soup ($9) is a standout. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Tuk Tuk Thai
4239 NE Fremont St., 282-0456, tuktukthairestaurant.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
As with most major metropolitan areas, Portland is teeming with Thai restaurants, and sadly, the majority of them truck out fine but not necessarily noteworthy versions of old standards. There’s plenty of that to be had at Tuk Tuk, but it does provide a few moments of culinary joy amid the pad thai ($7.50) and massaman curry ($7.50) comfort food. Don’t order a meal without the crisp and surprisingly refreshing salad rolls ($4). And put your trust in the specialities menu, where the three-flavor fish ($13.50) allows sweet and spicy to gloriously coexist, and the flaming beef ($11.50) threatens to singe your eyelashes before getting to the delectable, garlicky meat bubbling underneath the fire. ROBERT HAM.
1713 NE 15th Ave., 228-0048, blpdx.com. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday, brunch and dinner Sunday.
Blossoming Lotus does lunch and dinner, as well as brunch (think vegan migas and sprouted buckwheat granola with hemp milk), but this tastefully simple, wood-walled vegan restaurant has one of the best happy hours (3-5 pm Monday-Saturday) in the city. Crispy artichoke fritters ($5), lightly breaded in crispy polenta, are playful, and the tacos ($3 apiece or 3 for $8) are creative and varied—the pesto comforts with white beans and avocado, while the Thai’s spicy soy curls and five-chili hot sauce will make your lips burn. Those fantastic soy curls (my dining companion thought she was eating beef) can also be found in the standout Crispy Thai Barbecue Wrap ($5), which is crammed with crispy rice sticks, super fresh veggies and a potent ginger dressing. Plus, the $6 persimmon chai toddy or rosemary-sage gimlet cocktails are guilt-free—they’re vegan. REBECCA JACOBSON.
925 NW Davis, 224-3993, prasadcuisine.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
It’s fitting to have this little vegan eatery located within Yoga Pearl; you need to tap into your reserves of zen to patiently deal with its clustered dining area and the many bodies that pack inside for its healthful fare. The wait for a table can be worth it, as long as you choose wisely. A sure-fire winner is the delightful garnet yam vegetable curry soup ($6.50 a bowl) that offers a welcome acidity along with the spice of the curry. Another good standby is the Dragon Bowl ($9), a super-filling mix of beans, quinoa (or rice) and vegetables. Just tread lightly with the accompanying sauces; the lemon ginger can overwhelm and the jalapeño-cashew cheese becomes thick and inedible if not consumed quickly. ROBERT HAM.
8308 SE Powell Blvd., 788-3098, thebestbaguette.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
You know what’s so great about a banh mi? “Pretty much everything” is an acceptable answer, but for the sake of specificity, “cheap and delicious” will have to do. Best Baguette provides what has to be one of the largest selections of banh mi sandwiches in the city, handcrafting 18 different varieties of the frugal lunchtime offering, ranging from such standard fare as the Best Baguette special ($3.25)—featuring pâté, ham, pork and head cheese—to meatball ($2.95), grilled chicken ($3.25) and barbecue pork ($3.15). Heck, they even have Vietnamese tacos ($1.95). MICHAEL LOPEZ.
Binh Minh Sandwiches
7821 SE Powell Blvd., 777-2245; 6812 NE Broadway, 257-3868. Lunch daily.
The Northeast outpost of this no-frills, banh mi-focused Vietnamese restaurant duo is nestled among several other Pan-Asian businesses in this apartment-ville stretch of Broadway just above I-84. When you leave the noise of the highway and step inside Binh Minh Sandwiches you get the noise of a couple refrigerators on the blink, a constantly beeping microwave and the buzz of overhead fluorescents in this seen-better-days, cheap-as-bleep restaurant ($2.50-$3 banh mi, $7 soups). Most get their goods to go (there are only two tables, and they might or might not be clean): quick fixes like pork and barbecue pork buns ($1.50) from the counter’s steam case. There’s no beer or wine, but there are a lot of unusual canned juices ($1.50), such as pennywort, basil seed and lychee, in addition to the crack-drink: iced and hot Vietnamese coffee. LIZ CRAIN.
Bun Bo Hue
7002 SE 82nd Ave., 771-1141. Lunch and dinner daily.
Bun Bo Hue has an appearance somewhere between a laundromat and a hole-in-the-wall Brooklyn restaurant. With sparsely decorated white walls, a handful of window booths and a couple of cheap center tables, this Vietnamese joint attracts customers mainly with its large, steaming helpings of sweet and spicy bun bo hue soup ($7.50). This signature dish that originates in central Vietnam consists of thick rice-vermicelli noodles in a flavorful beef broth and served with sides of hot chili sauce, cabbage, bean sprouts and herbs. And the extremely friendly staff won’t hesitate to show bun bo hue soup newbies the proper way to eat a traditional bowl of the warm, hearty goodness. EMILEE BOOHER.
Ha & VL
2738 SE 82nd Ave., No. 102, 772-0103. Breakfast and lunch Wednesday-Monday.
Pho is something of a religion in this town—the closest the People’s Republic will allow itself anyway. But in a room that looks like it just finished celebrating a month’s worth of birthday parties (there are paper streamers and knickknacks in every available space), the broth experts at Ha VL Bánh Mì Thit take Vietnamese soup to a higher plane, seemingly including every ingredient from nearby Fubonn Supermarket. Six days a week, with an inexplicable bias against Tuesdays, Ha & VL serves a rotation of two soups a day, $7.50 a bowl, driving people to eat snails for breakfast and obsessive food critics to return over and over to complete their bucket lists. Saturday is spicy beef noodle soup, a red-orange concoction with flank steak and pâté, which tastes (in the best possible way) like liquefied pad Thai. If this is the opiate of the foodie masses, I’m a believer. AARON MESH.
7925 NE Glisan St., 252-1300, hanoikitchen.com. Late breakfast, lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.
This quiet outer Eastside Vietnamese spot has a knack for crafting flavor-packed Asian dishes with or without body bits (there’s still tripe and tendon aplenty for purists). Its bun bo gio cua ($7.95) swaps bun bo hue’s traditional blood cakes for spongy crab patties, but it’s still spicy enough to set your lips atingle, with the aromatic broth packed with rice noodles, beef and pig shank. Nibble herby locus root salad ($7.50), and do not leave without a pretty plate of delicate steamed rice crepes ($7.50), stuffed with oniony sausage, shrimp and mushrooms. Service is scatterbrained and slow; taste your way through the self-service sauce cart’s oddball fish-based condiments while you wait. KELLY CLARKE.
7912 SE 13th Ave., 477-8985, jadeportland.com. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.
Light rail isn’t coming to Sellwood until 2015, but Jade Teahouse is already prepared for the promised bourgeoisie. The glossy, high-ceilinged dining room, with its prominent displays of purple macarons and silver tea jars, says Pearl District 2: Yuppie Boogaloo more than sleepy bedroom burg. The menu runs the length of Southeast Asia, with some delicious drinking vinegars to boot, but the counter server perpetually suggests the glass noodles or the burger. Take him up on the first offer: Tom’s Special stir-fried glass noodles ($10) are a bird’s nest of one dominant flavor—lemongrass—emanating through fresh veggies and tender chicken. Jade is, in short, a place you take your Midwestern aunt and uncle for a painless introduction to Asian food. That makes it a fine fit for Sellwood, a neighborhood of aspirant Midwestern aunts and uncles who like Asian food. AARON MESH.
1524 NW 23rd Ave., 719-4744, lelasbistro.com. Lunch and early dinner Tuesday-Saturday.
There are a lot of choices for banh mi in town, and most are pretty indistinguishable from one another (white-bread sandwiches, like white people, really do look all the same). But Lela’s stands out for its fresh and sometimes less typical takes on this French-Viet sandwich (e.g., grilled portobello with a ginger-garlic-sesame sauce, $6.50). The lemongrass chicken banh mi ($5.99) comes on the requisite chewy, delicious baguette stacked with moist, slightly sweet chicken pieces, sticks of lightly pickled carrot, cilantro, thinly sliced cucumber, and, if you want it X-rated, thinly raw jalapeño. Lela’s is located in a sweet spot with 20 seats on the first floor of an old Victorian on Northwest 23rd Avenue, and it feels like a coffeehouse where you just happen to be able to order steamy bowls of pho ($7.95), bowls of rice-noodle salad ($7.25), 10 different banh mi ($5-$7) and some booze. LIZ CRAIN.
835 SW 2nd Ave., 222-0047, luclackitchen.com. Lunch Monday-Friday, dinner and late night Monday-Saturday.
Luc Lac likes to sweeten the pot. The place, indeed, is beautiful. Surrounding a bar island at the room’s center, one wall is covered in metallic Victorian wallpaper, while the other includes a colossal ironized mural of a dragon. The Vietnamese bar cuisine is also a bit sweet, possibly even timid. It’s a place of mild-mannered culinary pleasantry, garbed in colonial chic. The bo tai chanh, with peanut-studded rare steak cooked in lime and pineapple, remains one of the menu’s highlights ($7), and the gently spiced, tripe-free pho ($6.50-$9) is a popular slurp for the happy-hour and late-night crowds. Word to the wise, though: Go cheap and boozy. Luc Lac has one of the best happy hours in the city (4-7 pm), with small-version menu items as cheap as $2. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
8200 NE Siskiyou St., 265-8972. Lunch and dinner daily.
The only hints of the bizarre on Mekong Bistro’s 72-item menu are holdovers from owner Saron Khut’s former Cambodian menu at the now-shuttered Good Call Sports Bar & Grill: bacon-wrapped shrimp and surprisingly light avocado-cheese puffs. Khut’s sports fixation continues on several large TVs in the bar as well. There’s also plenty of Thai and Vietnamese, but stick to Khmer specialties. Our favorites are somlaw maju kreoung ($12), a pea-green soup of watercress and beef floating in a kaffir- and tamarind-scented broth, and nyum ($9), a delightful salad of shredded chicken, shrimp, glass noodles, cucumber, mint and basil leaves. BEN WATERHOUSE.
Pho An Sandy
6236 NE Sandy Blvd., 281-2990, phoansandy.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
While pho joints abound in Portland, few of them offer a spread like Pho An Sandy’s banh hoi dac biet. The plate is basically a make-your-own-salad-rolls kit, with a plate containing a formidable pile of mint leaves, lettuce and veggies, plus just about every meat in the animal kingdom (shrimp paste isn’t an animal, I realize, but when peeled off the sugar-cane stick it’s served on, it becomes my very favorite animal). But that’s not all! The banh hoi dac biet also comes with a plate stacked with rice paper, a cup of water (in which to dip said rice paper) and fish sauce. The flank and brisket pho is served with nice lean meat, and the pork-skin rolls are packed with thin-cut skin noodles that sound gross to describe but are really more textural than anything else. So next time the Little Leaguers want root-beer floats, hook them up with soda chanh muois and weird meat instead. CASEY JARMAN.
2518 NE 82nd Ave., 262-8816. Lunch and dinner daily.
Service and atmosphere are far better at places like Pho Van and Pho Hung, but if you’re going for pho, don’t you want to go all the way? The bowls in this massive noodle warehouse—I would not be surprised to learn it’s the largest single dining room in the city—are superb, with shaves of pink beef cooked by the kiss of hot broth and a heaping pile of sprouts and herbs. You can complain the broth is a little too sweet, and I have, but the Vietnamese folk filling the place seem to disagree. Tofu-filled salad rolls and the bo la lot—beef wrapped in betel leaves, served atop mint sprigs, carrot and cucumber—are other strong bets, provided your order is correctly understood. That’s far from a sure thing, but at least there won’t be any delay. MARTIN CIZMAR.
2218 NE 82nd Ave., 208-3391. Lunch and dinner daily.
Simply Vietnamese’s menu has a small section devoted to your basic pho or bun tom thit nuong or bun cha gio vermicelli (each $7), but the real action is off-menu and in the specialty section, which includes sweetly honey-braised quail ($13) and some of the best fried wings in the city, a mound of fish-sauce-spiked canh ga-chien nuoc mam ($6). The sour notes come through less than the sweetness and salt, leading to savory, kettle-corny junk food. The tart tamarind-coated wings—canh ga ranh me ($6)—pop too sweetly on first taste, but once the sugar coats your mouth and overtakes your senses, it is difficult not to eat well past satiety. Pray, however, for goat: When it’s freshly slaughtered, you’ll get a five-spice tenderloin ($15) whose dipping sauce will assault your tongue with spice, then lime and salt the wound. That is, by the way, a good thing. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Tan Tan Cafe & Deli
12675 SW Broadway, Beaverton, 641-2700. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
Like most of the shops nearby, this cozy, brightly lit Vietnamese eatery looks like it was stuffed into the only shred of available space in Beaverton’s historic district. With buildings looming nearby, its sliver of a parking lot is an auto-insurance claim waiting to happen. But the navigational challenge rewards with some of the heartiest fare in the area. Pho options are abundant ($5.95-$9.95), but you can get away with something as simple as the crunchy and spicy banh mi special sandwich ($3.50) and find yourself stuffed on its mix of pork and headcheese. Just remember to bring some cash: The shop tacks on a 65-cent charge for credit-card orders under $10. ROBERT HAM.
6820 NE Sandy Blvd., 287-3698, yenhapdx.com. Lunch, dinner and late-night Monday and Wednesday-Sunday, dinner Tuesday.
A Vietnamese stalwart, Yen Ha is better known these days for its karaoke bar than its food, but this greasy chopstick can still deliver with careful ordering. The menu is prodigious (even excluding the untranslated Vietnamese menu for native speakers), but your focus should remain on traditional dishes rather than any borrowed from other Asian cuisines. A cool and crunchy bún cha giò ($6.95) offers up a vibrant array of veggies nestled within the rice vermicelli noodles, topped with a crispy spring roll and peanuts. Yen Ha could make a killing just selling the tôm càng đút lò ($3.75) out of a cart, but frankly, anything wrapped in seasoned ground pork and deep-fried is going to be delicious; the fact that here it’s a broiled shrimp is just gilding the lily. BRIAN PANGANIBAN.