Located in an upscale Pearl District strip mall with a dry cleaner, hardware store and tonsorial parlor, the always-busy Nancy's provides another sort of necessity: the kind of homey, diner-style food that's hard to find in many more "authentic" Portland neighborhoods. We're talking classic BLTs ($6.99), big, thick shakes ($4.29) and burgers ($7.59) that fill you up without sending you on a guilt trip. (NJ)
318 SE Grand Ave., 235-5123. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash or check only.
A perennial favorite for Southeast falafel-holics, the super-friendly service and energetic atmosphere make Nicholas a true gem. Plentiful Middle Eastern specialties include the essential mezza platter ($8.25)—a menagerie of hummus, falafel and tabbouleh served with a pita the size of a car tire. Chicken kebabs ($8.50) include juicy roasted tomatoes, flavored rice and a mesclun mixed salad. The menu says you've "gotta try it," and, sure enough, a visit isn't complete without the Riz bi Haleeb for dessert ($5.25), an overflowing glass of Lebanese-style rice pudding with sweet shredded coconut and layered pistachios on top. Yum. (LK)
Nick's Famous Coney Island
3746 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 235-4024. Lunch Tuesday-Saturday, early dinner Saturday. Cash only.
There's no left-coast beating around the bush at this lunchtime institution, where the server assumes you're there for the joint's namesake chili frank—and orders for you. A fiver gets you a Coney Island dog with cheese, onions and a generous helping of meaty chili. If that's not what you want, there are also chili burgers. Another buck gets you a macaroni salad, the closest thing you'll find here to a vegetable. If Nick's isn't straightforward, we don't know what is. (SC)
Nicola's Pizza and Pasta
4826 N Lombard St., 285-1119. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday.
The food at this NoPo institution is old-style American-Italian à la the much-missed Monte Carlo, to be enjoyed behind lace curtains with $5 glasses of Italian wines like Montepulciano D'Abruzzo and Pinot Grigio delle Venezie (bottles range from $15-$20). Expect thick-crusted pizzas ($5.99-$12.99, with extra toppings for 75 cents each for small, $2.25 for large); buttery, garlicky fettucine Alfredo ($10.99); and Nicola's lasagna, dripping ricotta cheese and deep-red meat sauce for $10.99 at night or $7.99 at lunch. Salads ($2.59-$7) sport lively greens. (AA)
*NEW* North 45
517 NW 21st Ave, 248-6317. Dinner (until late) nightly.
Owners Jim Hall and Josh Johnston have found their niche, serving gourmet pub grub—mostly mussels and French fries—to an easygoing crowd. Although the menu reflects a frou-frou flair, the portions don't. All eight mussel dishes ($13 each) are piled high in broth-filled bowls and come with a cone of frites. Fry flavors are matched to the mussel marinades: The ProvenÇal—diced tomato concassé, garlic and fresh lemon—is served with sea-salt fries, while the coconut lemongrass is plated with curry-spiced wedges. Fancy versions of greasy bar fare, like Alaskan rock fish and chips ($11) and an aged-cheddar bacon burger ($8), are offered for those frustrated by little forks and discarded shells. (JM)
*NEW*Nuvrei Fine Cakes & Pastries (cart)
404 NW 10th Ave., 546-3032. Breakfast Monday-Saturday.
Below street level in the Pearl, Nurvrei's commercial kitchen counter is tough to find, but payoffs are huge: perfectly crispy and not-too-sweet almond croissants ($2.50), dense and crumbly chocolate scones ($2.50), flour- and butterless chocolate cookies ($1.25) that'll make you believe you're eating an entire stick of butter, and other Euro-inspired treats. Pastries are sold straight from the cooling racks while white-coated men behind a makeshift counter dole out French press coffee by the cup ($1.50). (MT)
*NEW* Odessa's Cafe
288-3369, 3445 NE Broadway. Lunch and dinner daily.
Look for the grill out front and start sniffing. Ribs and chicken cook all day at this 35-seat soul-food find that serves tiny bowls of highly seasoned homemade chicken soup as a down-home amuse-bouche. Sibling owners Mary and Will Brock named the place for Mom, and honor her with such desserts as red velvet cake and sweet-potato pound cake. Big-plate lunches of barbecue ribs, brisket, chicken or gloriously fried bone-free catfish with two sides (collard greens, candied yams, baked beans, potato salad, slaw or mac 'n' cheese) go for $8.95, cornbread on the side. Meat-stuffed sandwiches with potato salad are $7.50. At night "the mains" plus three sides will cost you $12.95. A Veggie Delight of sauteed greens, stir-fry veggies, rice and cornbread costs the same as a meat or fish dish. How's that for veg equality (AA)
Ohana Hawaiian Cafe
6320 NE Sandy Blvd., 335-5800. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday.
The orange-hued paint job on Ohana's building is appropriately sunny and adorable, but it's nothing compared with the owners. Matthew and Sandy Ho, the young couple who run the cafe, engage visitors with a genuine friendliness that has nothing to do with aloha shtick. Their simple menu is built around satisfying Hawaiian-style barbecue, in Southern-style portions: The Ohana Plate ($13.50, with teriyaki short ribs, chicken, the standout slow-cooked kalua pork and lomi lomi salt-cured salmon) is enough for two—maybe three. (IG)
The Original Pancake House
8601 SW 24th Ave., 246-9007. Breakfast Wednesday-Sunday. Cash and checks only.
They say never eat anything bigger than your head. But when it comes to the Pancake House's signature Dutch Baby or apple-baked pancakes ($9.50-$10.25), you must make an exception. The fluffy, jumbo discs are surprisingly light and airy. A Portland tradition since 1953, this Barbur Boulevard mainstay boasts over 100 franchises nationwide. It uses 93-score butter and 36-percent whipping cream, so wear your expand-o-matic waistband pants for this meal. Waffles and traditional pancakes, from coconut to pecan to blueberry ($7.75-$9.25), can be had as well as the usual omelettes ($9.75-$11.75). Try the tart yet sweet cherry Kijafa crêpes, or the "Tahitian maiden's dream," filled with bananas and sour cream and tempered with Triple Sec, sherry and brandy ($8-$10). Be prepared for a 30-to-60-minute wait. But once you're in your seat, the Pepto-Bismol-pink-uniformed waitresses provide cheerful and speedy service. (SC)
Paradox Palace Cafe
3439 SE Belmont St., 232-7508. Breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday; breakfast and lunch Sunday.
Paradox is a modern take on the neighborhood diner: At worn Formica tables under blobby lamps and parquet walls, diners enjoy American comfort food, old and new. From the omnivore to the vegan, all dietary persuasions are honored here, with endless possibilities for substitutions in the breakfast and lunch entrees, many of them organic. For example, the No. Three ($6.95) lets you choose vegan French toast or a dairy-licious waffle, sausage or potatoes, and tofu or an egg. Like at any traditional diner, it's probably not the best meal in town, but it's easy, predictable, affordable, comforting and hard to beat after a night out. (SC)
Peanut Butter & Ellie's
4405 SW Vermont St., 282-1783. Lunch and dinner daily, breakfast Saturday-Sunday.
Stickiness comes with the territory at the kid-centric P.B. and Ellie's. But the pleas for more crayons and shrieks of "Yeah, chocolate milk!" can be overlooked for everything marionberry and homemade peanut butter, including cutesy shaped sandwiches—bacon or gummy worms optional ($5.25 for grown-up sizes, $3.50 for kiddies)—spicy chicken satay ($5.95) and tender glazed ribs with sweet-potato sticks ($12.95-$16.95). Healthy twists are disguised in dishes like the mac 'n' cheese with wheat noodles ($4.50, $6.95) and the spinachy green eggs and ham ($4.75, $6.95). And, if the noise still bothers you, they now serve beer and wine to calm your suburban soccer mom nerves. (JM)
102 NW 9th Ave., 827-0910. Breakfast and lunch daily.
Lunch is sandwiches only: Gorgonzola and pears on walnut levain ($5) or Sicilian salami, fontal and artichokes ($3.25)—even basic turkey gets duded up with mascarpone and cranberry chutney ($5), all on award-winning artisanal breads. Or, shoot your lunch-money wad on pastries: Chewy walnut-raisin oatmeal cookies ($1.25) provide ample protein. Add a slice of orange-glazed carrot cake ($2.75) and an asiago apple croissant ($3) for a properly "balanced" meal. There's a reason this bakery maintains elite status: Pecan rosemary panini ($1.50), brioche ($2), banana bread ($2.25), lemon tartlets ($1.25), hazelnut coffeecake—wait ($2.75), that's five reasons. Stop by to taste two dozen others. (JM)
*NEW* Petite Provence
4834 SE Division St., 233-1121. Breakfast, lunch and early dinner daily.
Quaint, rustic Petite Provence is home to a relaxed interpretation of the French cafe, where Americanized French offers a healthy dose of stateside excess. The offerings here are sprawling: The bakery counter overflows with frog fare like a pain aux raisins ($1.75) loaded with juicy raisins, or American favorites like Frisbee-sized chocolate chip cookies ($1.30). Artisanal bread includes a garlic-mushroom loaf ($3) so garlicky it's nearly toxic. For breakfast, nibble pesto-lathered tomato-mozzarella eggs ($7.95). Come noon, fill up on sandwiches served on massive wedges of fresh-baked crusty bread, such as an enormous, almost pornographic croque monsieur ($7.50) oozing with Gruyère, butter and creamy béchamel. (SC)
1919 SE 82nd Ave., 788-5244. 11651 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, 627-0822. 3404 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 230-1474. Lunch and dinner daily. (Hawthorne location closed Monday.)
Although the kitchen's clean and the furniture isn't secondhand, Pho Van maintains the authenticity of a mom-'n'-pop Viet cafe. Entrées like pork chops with grilled shrimp ($7.75) are glazed in the traditional lemongrass and honey marinades, while the lotus-root salad ($6.50) is heightened with just a touch of mint. Tripe, tendon and fatty brisket may sound frightening floating in a soup of cilantro, jalapeños and bean sprouts, but Van's tender cuts of meat don't overpower the signature pho bo cac biet ($6.95). Proof that quality can still come cheap—don't let the unchipped plates and teak lanterns fool you. (JM)
1115 McVey Ave., Lake Oswego, 699-0558. Dinner daily.
This Lake Oswego pizza shop only serves 'em by the whole pie ($14.25 cheese). Add that to the fact that Bella is takeout only (no delivery), and it's highly unlikely non-L.O. residents will frequent this joint. What makes this place worth the high price and long, pizza-cooling drive The menu boasts a gourmet selection—like the scrumptious scrambled eggs, spinach and bacon ($15.95 large)—but the straight-up cheese is to die for (even if you have to reheat it once you get back to the east side). You can also prep your palate with a classic Caesar salad topped with homemade croutons ($7 for a small). (NS)
*NEW* Pizza Fino
8225 N Denver Ave., 286-2100. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.
Alberta's Bella Faccia co-owner Linda Zumoff has struck out on her own in the unchartered wilds of Kenton with this hip, friendly pizza and pasta joint. Crisp, thin-crusted pies ($9-$14 12-inch, $16.50-$23 18-inch) are light on sauce but big on freshness, with a near-perfect cheese-to-topping ratio. Choose from 13 tasteful combinations, from simple pepperoni to clams and pecorino, or create your own. Start off with a "small" antipasti plate that would make a decent lunch for one ($6). For variety, there's a full menu of pastas and sandwiches. Now that's-a nice. (BW)
3240 N Williams Ave., 335-0300. Lunch and dinner daily.
Everything in the tiny pie joint is given a swingin' mod name, but the slices are old-fashioned hunks of cheesy goodness. Do It to It pepperoni ($18 for a pie, $2.75 for a slice) is slathered in meat, while the Pleaser Caesar salad ($4-$6.25) is fresher and larger than what you'd expect at a pizza place. Most slices are available on demand, but if your desire leans toward a specific recipe, like the Midnight Boogaloo (spinach, mushrooms, black olives, and onion with minced garlic, $20), you might want to call ahead (or wait 15 minutes for a very hot pie). (AM)
*NEW* Podnah's Pit
1469 NE Prescott St., 281-3700. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.
This small shotgun restaurant, spare as the ribs that define it, is almost always filled with finger-lickin' crowds. Owner Rodney Muirhead stokes his oak smoker every morning at 5 am. His Texas-style signature: quality meat, 100-percent oak smoke and minimal sauce and seasonings. As far as sides go, the pork-infused collards are everything they should be, and the cornbread is a moist slab of stone-ground cornmeal with bits of real corn throughout. Whether you order the soft and succulent brisket ($8.25 sandwich, $11.75 plate) or the juicy smoked chicken ($13.50)—or come in just for housemade pecan pie ($3.50)—Podnah's is sure to woo you without blowing too much smoke in your eyes. (LC)
¿Por QUé No
3524 N Mississippi Ave., 467-4149. Lunch and dinner daily, brunch Saturday-Sunday.
A gentrified taqueria for a gentrifying neighborhood. Quality and freshness shine here, featuring housemade tortillas, Cascade Natural beef, and local seasonal vegetables. Nine different kinds of tacos, from traditional braised pork ($2.50) to tender chile-sautéed calamari ($3.50), make this little storefront wildly popular, with accompanying lines out the door. Other items worth trying are ceviche ($7) and guacamole and chips ($4), as well as a plethora of revolving specials. "Taco Tuesdays" (50 cents off) and the midday discount menu from 3 until 6 pm are a bargain. (LC)
*NEW* Powell Seafood Restaurant
6633 SE Powell Blvd., 775-3901. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.
If you're in a hurry, call 10 minutes ahead and this authentic Cantonese kitchen will have your lunch waiting for you, sitting on a lotus leaf ($6.50). Not so rushed Drop by midday on Saturdays for the fabulous mushroom soup ($8.50) or the creamiest tofu in town (also $8.50). Wonderful seafood, of course, and sweet, sliced oranges after your meal. Great things wait for those who pay special attention to the specials menus. (RHM)
*NEW* Proper Eats
8638 N Lombard St., 445-2007. Lunch and dinner daily.
St. Johns was once a major stronghold of dive bars and truckers, but this dimly lit health-food store-cum-vegan restaurant proves that the granola-and-organic crowd has truly arrived—and looks like it's here to stay. And why not Large bowls of hearty soups ($2 cup, $3.75 bowl), rib-sticking sandwiches like the vegan Reuben ($6.25 with a side salad) and entrées like sesame-peanut noodles ($7) make giving up meat a joy, not a deprivation. That is, if you can see what you're eating (what's up with the lighting, anyway ). Decadent sweets such as chocolate pie and thick brownies are addictive and dairy free. (LC)
Queen of Sheba
2413 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 287-6302. Lunch Thursday-Saturday, dinner daily.
It's always nice to go somewhere where you don't have to worry about which fork to use, and that's the case in this Ethiopian eatery where the spongy injira bread doubles as a serving platter and utensil to grab a wide variety of tasty choices. Looking for which pair of combination choices ($8.80) to pair with that gooey injira Order the Atakilt Alicha (potatoes, carrots and green beans sauteed in Alicha sauce) and the Misr Wet (lentil stew with warm spices) for a little extra bite. Our overall take on this little gem tucked along MLK: Haile Selassie and highly satisfying. (HS)
Real Taste of India (cart)
Southwest 5th Avenue between Oak and Stark streets, 295-5564. Lunch and early dinner Monday-Friday.
Nothing is as restorative and comforting on a dreary workday as steaming, spicy Indian mush. Execs and bike messengers alike chow down at this lunch cart on favorites from samosas ($3) to chicken tikka masala ($5) scooped up with fresh naan ($1). If you're so hungry that everything looks good, the vegetarian or meat lunch special ($4.50 each) always pleases with heaping portions of four different dishes plus naan. A sweet mango shake ($2) caps off the meal and cools your palate. (SC)
615 SW Broadway, 227-4840. Lunch Monday-Friday. Cash only.
Downtown's red-booth-bedecked Red Coach luncheonette kicks it old school, offering sandwich standbys like an awesomely gooey grilled cheese and fries ($6), a BLT ($6) and tuna ($6). But you're really there for the burgers: Try the Karl's Special, a cheeseburger with the works, fries and a soda ($7), or make it a double ($8.25). Solo lunchers, fear not: Red Coach has magazines—everything from Vogue to Guns & Ammo—to peruse while you munch. (CM)
529 SW 4th Ave., 228-7605. Lunch, dinner and late-night daily.
Before its makeover, this downtown billiards hall was home to pool sharks and bathrooms that smelled like a dead man—but no more! The new Rialto boasts a wall of top-shelf liquor to wash down its fat Texas Burger ($8.50) and Cheez Whiz-ed Philly steak ($8), ginormous Cobb salad ($6) and such booze-worthy niblets as coconut shrimp ($7), oyster shooters (two for $2.50) and spicy Buffalo wings ($6). But newbies beware: Don't act surprised when one of the regulars talks you into betting away your paycheck. (MT)
512 SW 4th Ave., 224-9408. Lunch and dinner daily.
This downtown pizza parlor resembles what your local neighborhood dive bar might look like under fluorescent lighting—if your neighborhood dive had a Sharpie-marker mural of Rome on one of its walls. Order a 15-inch Maui Maui 'za ($17.95 for eight crispy slices) and you'll be so busy burying your face in whole-milk mozzarella cheese, Canadian bacon, pineapple, bell peppers and tomatoes you won't notice the decor. Check out Rovente's daily lunch special, where you can score a slice (often pepperoni) and medium soda for under $3. (PR)
Russell Street Bar.B.Que
325 NE Russell St., 528-8224. Lunch and dinner daily.
The war between the five barbecue sauces at this NoPo storefront just off MLK is an epic one indeed. It makes the battles between the entree options—the perfect, fall-off-the-bone baby-back pork ribs ($12.50 for a half-rack) and the light, tender, block-tofu-based No Meatapalooza ($9.50), to name two—seem like minor scuffles. The Derby mustard sauce, an almost hummuslike mash of mustard seeds, is a standout, but ask for tasters of the other four to experiment. Among the sides, the thick, dangerously heavy mac 'n' cheese is some of the best in Portland, and a bargain at $2.50 a portion. (MB)
2710 N Killingsworth St., 289-7557. Lunch and dinner Wednesday-Monday.
Well known for its cheery and semi-famous staff (Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks keyboard player Michael Clark owns it with his wife, Robin), this hubbubby NoPo cafe-cum-cocktail joint satiates those who want diner-style food—think burger, fries and other basics—with a heaping side of biting sarcasm. While the tables around you discuss the merits of global warming or whether or not bike messengers get a bum rap, you can scarf down sandwiches with assorted veggies and meats or load up on a healthy offering of curried chicken served, oddly enough, with pita bread ($9.95). In short: Think Stumptown, only nicer (and with killer cocktails). (BB)
407 NW 17th Ave., 473-8760. 3300 SE Belmont Ave., 235-0078. Breakfast and lunch Tuesday-Sunday.
Those pigs Hansel and Gretel would crumble at the vanilla extract and caramel buttercream smell filling Saint Cupcake's Pepto-pink Northwest storefront. Heads weave in and out of line, impatient for carrot cake and red velvet flavors ($1.25, $2.25), and yet the Saint's little helpers radiate more cheer than all the elves of Santa and Keebler combined. Their love is in the details—the hint of toffee in the toasted coconut cake and the rich, melt-on-your-tongue chocolate of the hot fudge icing. Even faux Oreos are baked into the vegan cookies and "cream." Thankfully, the love has spread over the river to the new Belmont location. (JM)
San Felipe Taqueria
6221 SE Milwaukie Ave., 235-8158. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.
The Christmas-light-adorned—and smallish—San Felipe keeps the fiesta vibe going all year round with an assortment of Mexican surf favorites. Try an asada, pastor or pollo burrito ($6.50), or make yours veggie ($5.50). If you're ravenous, try a tamale plate or enchiladas Mexicanas plate (both $9.99), or the huevos rancheros ($8.50). This Sellwood taqueria is rightly famous for its fish tacos ($3.95), so grab one and a cerveza ($3) or a Jarritos soda ($1.50), and the sound of the Milwaukie traffic might just sound like the ocean. (CM)
Sawasdee Thai Food (cart)
Southwest Alder Street between 9th and 10th avenues, 330-2037. 11 am-5 pm Monday-Saturday.
For you downtown dawgs on lunch break jonesing for Thai, Sawasdee is the place for you. Yes, it's just a shack on a downtown block among bento, coffee and sausage, but that doesn't stop it from serving up a wide variety (and large portions) of Thai offerings for only $5: curry, pad Thai, stir fry and fried rice. The curried fried rice is especially good, filling and delicious with spices, rice and yummy tidbits of egg and tofu. In addition to serving food, Sawasdee supports a company called Thaisoup.com, a site dedicated to sending gifts to Thailand. You can send a gift basket or cake to loved ones in Bangkok via BlackBerry while waiting for pad Thai. Now that's service. (LS)
Sellwood Public House
8132 SE 13th Ave., 736-0182. Dinner Tuesday-Sunday.
This second-story, spacious eatery, on one of the last blocks before the hinterlands of surburbia, is mildly sports-themed, but not oppressively so. Loyal neighborhood patrons can somehow watch a game on TV while others dine in dignity and still others enjoy live folk or bluegrass. The eternal divide between thick- and thin-crust pizzas is solved with Solomonic wisdom at the "house," which offers both thin-crust "New York-style" pies with old-school toppings ($15-$20) and "gourmet" pizzas with fluffy, herb-flecked crusts and more creative combinations ($15-$24). Both are made fresh with locally sourced ingredients. The good beer selection (several Off the Rails brews are offered) dovetails nicely with cavernous pub ambience and live music. (JS, MW)
*NEW* The Side Door
425 SE Washington St., 233-8553. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
The Side Door has the all-purpose ease of a neighborhood diner: it's an equally appropriate destination for a morning bagel, spaghetti dinner or afternoon latte-and-laptop session (yes, there's even free wi-fi). Mercifully low prices bring relief from the gentrifying east side's rising cost of living, just as the toasty-warm dining room offers respite from a cold, yucky day. For lunch and dinner, choose from a selection of hot and cold sandwiches, like the non-greasy Stark Dip ($6.50), loaded with roast beef, melty Swiss, horseradish aioli and sweet caramelized onions. Don't pass up the homestyle pasta dishes: The spaghetti with meatballs ($6.50) is decent, but the vegetarian lasagna ($6.25), bursting with succulent zucchini, red peppers and mushrooms, is the star. (SC)
1313 NW Skyline Blvd., 292-6727. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.
Skyline fits the bill when you're in the mood for a bite of old-timey Portland. To wit: the wood paneling and menus featuring local artwork by the children's-menu set. Some of Skyline's best bets are the split-pea soup ($2.50 cup, $3.50 bowl) and the namesake Skyline hamburger ($3.50). Try a side of crinkly fries ($1.25) or onion rings ($2.50). The sweet-tooth-possessed might opt for a s'mores shake ($3.95), but go easy on the fries and malts—those booths are tight! And don't forget cash; it's a long drive and they don't take credit cards. (CM)
2710 N Killingsworth St., 735-3446. Breakfast, lunch and early dinner daily.
Portlanders love their cafes, and this North Portland neighborhood spot is far above average. Along with great espresso Sohbet makes "world coffees," including Cuban, Vietnamese and New Orleans styles. Breakfasts run the gamut from bagels and spreads ($2.25) to egg scrambles ($6, weekends only), while lunches feature inspired sandwiches and grilled panini ($5.75-$6.25), as well as carefully prepared soups ($3.50-$5) and salads ($5.50-$6.25). A special "Baby Cafe" children's menu with things like Cheerios (50 cents) and PB&J ($2), as well as a well-designed playroom area, make this place super kid-friendly. (LC)
St. Honoré Boulangerie
2335 NW Thurman St., 445-4342. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Lake Oswego location opens in April.
Immediately upon walking into this rustic-yet-polished outer-Nob Hill bakery, the mingling smells of baking sweets and breads hit you like a warm blanket. Nearly everything here, save for the salads—the beet salad loaded with walnuts and blue cheese is a must-try ($8.50)—comes with a shot of carbs. On the savory side, the usual stock of panini and casse croûte (cold sandwiches) is boosted by a range of puff pastries ($5.50 or $6.75) and quiches (three kinds at $7.75 each). Go easy, though; the custard-based sweets are worth leaving a couple bites of room for. (MB)
4915 NE Fremont St., 281-2322. 5627 SW Kelly St., 246-5040. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday. Cash only.
This burger joint is cheap in the same way Darius Miles is a Blazer. There's a lot of hype around it, but as it turns out we might be getting more than we bargained for. Like Miles, Stanich's trademark burger, "The Special," is good—very good. But a greasy burger piled high with ham, bacon and egg isn't the most healthy addition to the team. And, after you consider that you paid $6 for only one part of your meal (fries are another $1.25) and waited what seems like the entire season for it to show up, you have to ask yourself, "Was it worth it " After one bite, though, you'll never ask that question again. (NS)
Stark Naked Pizza
2835 SE Stark St., 459-4450. Lunch and dinner daily.
Great name. That's because the beauty of this place is in its stark-naked simplicity. Nothing fancy, just a plain, old regular neighborhood pizza joint that puts a lot of hard work into providing its patrons with some of the best slices in town. 'Za ranges from a gloriously plain piping-hot cheese to the sausage-and-spinach-topped Popeye ($2.50). Salads sound dictatorial—like the garlicky Caesar or the chock-full Mao ($5)—but who cares They're damn good. As are the tasty sandwiches, including a barbecue chicken ($6) that'll have you clucking for more. (NS)
6800 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 247-7211. Lunch and dinner daily.
This no-frills, counter-seating joint appears pretty basic, but loads of options lie behind that red faÇade. Besides offering cheeses from American and provolone to cheddar and Whiz, sammies (starting at $3.99 for steak or chicken) can be doused in A-1, barbecue, pizza or even teriyaki sauce. Truth be told, there's nothing better than Steakadelphia's "Supremes" ($4.69 8-inch, $8.39 12-inch), which come loaded with standards—American cheese, onions, peppers, mushrooms—and not-so-standards: mayo, lettuce, tomato, jalapeños and "Philly sauce" (tangy ketchup) or Philly ranch sauce (yes!). Nontraditional, sure, but who cares about tradition when your steak sandwich is oozing ranch sauce (AM)
Stepping Stone Cafe
2390 NW Quimby St., 222-1132. Breakfast and lunch daily, late-night Thursday-Saturday.
The Stepping Stone's attitude is always intact (its motto is "You eat here because we let you"), even when the hash browns arrive a bit tired. Though innovative sweet-tooth breakfast options—french toast made from cinnamon rolls ($5.95) or banana bread ($6.25)—and yummy omelettes—the jalapeño ($7.75) is mostly cream cheese and peppers—litter the menu, the specials are where it's at. The Jack Scram, with bacon, Jack cheese and spinach ($7.50), might be the best egg-related option, and a hilariously tall Monte Cristo ($8.50) hits the sweet'n'salty spot like no other. Now serving dinner (really late), too! (AGM)
2601 SE Clinton St., 233-1955. Dinner Tuesday-Sunday.
A cute neighborhood Italian joint, SubRosa sometimes stretches the definition of the word "cheap." But, hell, at any price, this place is worth it. Pizzas are particularly good, like the Gorgonzola, pear and hazelnut ($14), which is big enough to share. Pastas are straightforward and understated. The ravioli of the day ($12) is served with delicious puttanesca, and there are always a few tasty house wines under $20 a bottle. Though a nice atmosphere for a date or friends, SubRosa is a tad small for larger parties. (IKW)
1438 SW Park Ave., 243-5045. Lunch and early dinner Monday-Saturday.
They call it "the ultimate sausage experience," but it's all about the bun. A tube-shaped meat mixture on a white bun is just a hot dog. Put a juicy gourmet sausage in a freshly baked, crusty roll and you've got yourself a Super Dog. For those of you mourning the loss of the downtown Good Dog/Bad Dog sausage house, skitter up the Park Blocks for one satisfying wiener. Offerings include Super Bird Dogs such as chicken with apple, tomato and habañero ($4.50), Super Dogs like bratwurst, Cajun, Italian or Polish ($4) or Super Special Dogs of Zenner's Double Smokie, Nathan's Famous or chili cheese ($3-$4). Dress your dog at the condiment bar, or let the chef do the honors with such combos as grilled peppers, onions, Parmesan and marinara sauce. Add a side of pasta, slaw or potato salad ($2), pair it up with a microbrew or glass of wine ($3.50-$5) and look for happy-hour beer specials for an après-work treat. (SC)
914 NE Broadway, 288-5149. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.
The menu at Sushi Mania (which has featured a taped-over logo since the small restaurant was forced to change its name twice by Beatles scion Julian Lennon, but's that another story) reads, "Actual food might looks different from the picture." This is good news, since the American hybrids here, like the cheesy Philly ($5.95) and the creamy Rosanne ($6.50), look downright bizarre in their photos. But if the pristine simplicity of a platter of maki and nigiri sushi seems old hat, Sushi Mania's inventive offerings will hit the spot. Several different tempura rolls ($4.95-$9.50) offer beguiling contrasts of cool, slippery fish, crispy batter and crisp veggies, while baked rolls ($5.50-$10.50) are hot, square meals masquerading as sushi. The light of wallet will want to explore the big bowls of ramen and udon ($4.95). Plenty of vegetarian offerings here, too. (JS, MW)
Tabor Authentic Czech Eatery (cart)
Southwest 5th Avenue and Stark Street, 997-5467. 10 am-3 pm Monday-Friday.
The art of the sandwich is alive and well at Tabor Authentic Czech Eatery, a food cart nestled into the Southwest 5th and Stark Street grouping. The Schnitzelwich ($5) starts with a pounded-thin pork loin (or chicken breast) breaded, fried and slipped into a toothsome ciabatta roll with lettuce and piquant condiments, including paprika spread and horseradish. The bold, complex flavors and fresh ingredients delight your taste buds, and vegetarians need not feel left out. Proprietors Karel and Monika Vitek also offer a breaded eggplant sandwich ($5.50) that's as delish as its meatier brethren, as well as an herbaceous, plate-sized potato pancake ($3). And—for those who are cavalier about their hearts—a pan-fried cheese sandwich ($5). (MW)
5703 SE 82nd Ave., 777-5896. Lunch and dinner daily.
This joint is best for when you need a hit of meaty, spicy pleasure and don't have a lot of pocket money. The atmosphere at Uruapan can best be described as fly-specked, and the menu is limited to tacos ($1.25), burritos ($5) and tortas ($5). Forget the surroundings and concentrate on the stellar meats and salsas. The al pastor taco features a stew of tender, moist chunks of pork studded with onion and pineapple, and, on weekends, you can get two tacos for $1.50. The carnitas is a bit bland, but the carne asada is chewy and beefy, a perfect backdrop for one of several housemade salsas at the serve-yourself salsa bar. (MW)
*NEW* Taqueria Lindo Michoacán (cart)
3360 SE Division St., 313-6864, Lunch and dinner Monday-Friday. Cash only.
Here's a quick Spanish lesson to prepare you for this Division Street taqueria experience: me duele el estómago. Don't worry, though. Your stomach will hurt only because the bean-and-meat burritos ($4), tamales ($2) and quesadillas with vegetables ($4) are so inexpensive and so tasty you'll buy and eat more than your gut can handle. There's no seating at the cart, but you can buy phone cards for calling Mexico. (BS)
2020 N Portland Blvd., 283-9731. Lunch and dinner daily.
A mini-mall hole-in-the-wall that crams a ton of atmosphere into a tiny spot, Thai Ginger is a handy North Portland outpost that feels fancier than it is. The subdued lighting, color scheme and wall hangings make it almost feel like an upscale restaurant, but the food is unpretentious. Tofu pad Thai ($6.50) avoids both of the traps that cheap Thai places fall into—it's neither overly sweet nor ketchupy—and the curries ($6.25) are complex and satisfying. (BO)
2635 NE Alberta St., 282-2021. Lunch and dinner daily.
Like a canary in a coal mine, the best sign of a gentrifying neighborhood is the opening of a good Thai place. Lucky that Alberta Street is gentri-rific with this yummy restaurant that offers plates groaning with grub. If you're into the $5.95 lunch special, Thai Noon's signature pad Thai is a suitably sticky and filling plate of rice noodles stir-fried with egg, bean sprouts, green onions and ground peanuts. You also can't go wrong with the yellow-curry mix of coconut milk, potatoes, carrots and onions. Now about that gentrification.... (HS)
*NEW* Thanh Thao
4005 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 238-6232. Lunch and dinner Wednesday-Monday.
This Hawthorne neighborhood institution has been serving up enormous helpings of Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese basics for years. Don't let the vinyl diner decor fool you—this joint is for real. The dining room is generally packed, but a well-stocked magazine rack makes the wait a breeze. Order carefully from the lengthy menu: Salads, especially the lotus ($6.50), are good, as are the soups and anything with fish or duck ($8-$12); stay away from standard noodle-and-veggie plates and eat adventurously to get some of the best Viet chow in inner Southeast. (BW)
Tin Shed Garden Cafe
1438 NE Alberta St., 288-6966. Breakfast and lunch daily, dinner Wednesday-Sunday.
The metal-sheathed shack gives this Alberta brunch magnet its name, but the coveted garden tables outside make it the place to be on a lazy Sunday in the summer. It's a good thing the adjacent waiting area is such a pleasant place to nurse a latte, as your group may languish an hour before scoring a table. But it's worth the wait: The menu is creative but unfussy, packed with gentle twists on breakfast standards such as crispy potato cakes (begone, soggy hash browns!) and a sweet-potato brioche french toast ($8.75) that's both light and substantial. (IG)
*NEW* Tour de Crepes
2921 NE Alberta St., tourdecrepes.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner Wednesday-Sunday.
Housed in the Airstream trailer and converted garage that once held Fold Crêperie, Brenda Drain's Tour de Crêpes is very Alberta: Eat your $7.50 prosciutto crêpe on old furniture rescued from landfill doom. For dessert, enjoy a chocolaty treat, but not too much—a large retail display of T-shirts condemning the ongoing tragedy in Darfur reminds us that in other parts of the world they don't have Grand Marnier and crème fraîche. Resist the urge to run home, donate your lunch money to charity and make a PB&J instead, because the crêpes here make the world a better place in their own small way. (SC)
Tuk Tuk Thai
4239 NE Fremont St., 282-0456. Lunch and dinner daily.
Don't let the busy colors and pop machine at the entrance of this Beaumont Thai outpost distract you from the bright bowl of Evil Jungle Noodles with velvety curry, grilled tofu and vegetables ($7.50), or the fresh salad rolls ($4). For the less adventerous American appetite, Tuk Tuk—whose menu goes on forever—has all the Thai basics here, everything from tom yum soup ($4.50 to $13.50) to curries, stir fries, noodle dishes and fried rice (most ranging from $6.50-$9.50). The wine-by-the-glass choice is an unexpected plus: King Estate Pinot Gris and Liberty School Cabernet are among the $6 choices. (AA)
*NEW* Two Brothers
829 SE 39th Ave., 232-3424. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.
An earnest family restaurant that appeals to both Balkan and American palates with meaty, stick-to-yer-ribs home cooking, the fare at Two Brothers includes wide-ranging Balkan comfort food as well as a basic grill menu that will appeal to anyone who eats meat. Start with Serbian-style cornbread ($4.50): Sour cream makes it dense and zingy. The Hungarian goulash ($11), a beef, tomato and onion stew, is like a space heater for your insides. The pork chop ($9.50), served with fries, is tender and simply dressed with garlic and parsley. Two Brothers is authentic enough for immigrants looking for a taste of home, but not too weird for average white-bread Americans in search of lunchtime carryout. (SC)
6516 N Denver Ave., 283-8770. Lunch and dinner Monday-Friday, dinner Saturday.
Japanese for "floating world," Ukiyoe is an oasis of uncompromising quality raising the profile of a once-lowly teriyaki joint into a top-notch sushi house. Located in the midst of a no-nonsense NoPo netherworld, spot-on combos of fish and rice abound here. Try the spicy Jumping Spider roll ($7.50) with soft-shell crab and fried jalapeño; it'll have you crawling back for more. The kitchen also cooks up Korean barbecue basics like kai bi ($10.95 lunch, $11.95 dinner). And the service is always first-rate. Every neighborhood should be so lucky. (BB)
3308 SE Belmont St., 235-7606. Breakfast and lunch Tuesday-Sunday.
Why does this charming Belmont breakfast nook fill to capacity six days a week Three good reasons: excellent coffee, topped off frequently; fluffy buttermilk pancakes ($4.95 for two) the size of your head; scrambles ($7.95) that could feed a Victorian workhouse of starving Oliver Twists for a week; and an unequivocal zero-tolerance policy for cell phones. The kitchen also offers a full lunch menu of salads and sandwiches, but the best Utopia has to offer is the mountainous, heart-stopping corned beef hash ($7.95). (BW)
412 SW 4th Ave., 226-3400. Breakfast, lunch and early dinner Monday-Saturday.
Ground zero for downtown vegan power lunches. With local art on the walls and local produce on the plates, Veganopolis excels at original sandwiches like the Canadian ($5.95) and its unparalleled Mediterranean ($6.95) complete with cashew ricotta, both with choice of chips or slaw. Some swear by the rotating dishes on the breakfast or lunch buffets ($6.95 a pound weekdays), but it's a hit-or-miss affair. Oh, in-house baked vegan chocolate-chip cookies ($1.65) and pastries, too. Occasionally understaffed but rarely outdone. (SMB)
1105 NW Marshall St., 225-9300. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
Located in one of the most torn-up, out-of-the-way section of the Pearl, Via Delizia remains a quiet, peaceful nook to munch on a standout breakfast panini ($6.50-$6.95), or a mix-and-match European breakfast plate of fruits, meats, cheeses and more (three items for $6.25). It also offers lunch panini to match, a trio of pasta selections ($7.50-$12) and 24 kinds of gelato. Delizia, indeed. (MB)
5204 NE Sacramento Blvd., 281-7933. Breakfast and lunch Thursday-Monday.
The mob of happy families toting sickeningly cute babies that wait patiently outside this brunch spot each weekend—just a Nerf football toss from busy Sandy Boulevard—doesn't lie. Violet's is a home away from home for hungry Northeast Portlanders (psst: Its lemon-yellow walls are also home to some of the most cheerfully bizarre wall art this side of Northeast 28th Avenue's Velveteria). Feast on proprietor Lisa Carkner's delish breakfast standards, from perfectly fluffy, not-too-big flapjacks ($6 for three) and salty smoked-salmon benedict (with creamy housemade hollandaise, of course, $10.25) to funky scrambles ($7.25-$9.75). Lunch features great Reubens and several housemade soups each day. On a recent blustery Thursday, Lisa's chicken stew fit the bill perfectly—the eggy bread accompanying it had been baked at Violet's that morning. (KC)
Vista Spring Cafe
2440 SW Vista Spring Ave., 222-2811. Lunch and dinner daily.
Located mere minutes from downtown, this West Hills eatery feels more like a small-town cafe. A neighborhood mainstay for over 20 years, the warm red walls and dark wood booths are snuggly on a rainy day. Our waitress patiently answered questions about the New Orleans-style ceiling fans (as if she hadn't explained them a million times). Burgers take a twist by adding blue cheese, or go French with a panini roll and au jus ($6.50- $7.50). The usual salads, such as Caesar, Thai and Cobb, are delectable ($8.95-$10.95), but it's most fun to build your own pizza. We went for the pizza purist's abomination: ham and pineapple. But you can go wild with smoked oysters, seven cheese choices and 11 kinds of meat, plus veggies or fruit. Go for gourmet pizzas off the menu with pesto or barbecue chicken ($6.95-$17.95). Daily specials include soups, salads, quiches, sandwiches and pastas of the day, such as Italian sausage lasagna, spinach or chicken ravioli, and baked macaroni ($7.75-$10.95). (SC)
3024 NE Alberta St., 335-8233. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, late-night Friday-Saturday.
A veggie/vegan institution on Alberta, Vita is the kind of place you recommend to visitors looking for the definitive "Portland" restaurant experience. Token burgers ($5-$6.50) allow omnivores to feast on meat, but the vegetarian fare is so rich there's no real need to go for the flesh. Instead, go for "fish" and chips ($7.25), or the mac 'n' "cheese" with added broccoli ($7.50). Breakfast scrambles and vegan Bloody Marys are a nice combo, too. Kids eat for just $1 every day, from 5 to 7 pm. (BO)
901-A SW Washington St., 595-5606. Breakfast, lunch and early dinner Monday-Friday.
Located in the hubbubby bowels of the City Club, this small corner cafe and deli moonlights as a gourmet catering company, creating inventive and seasonal fare like nobody's business. The joint makes up for its dull downtown digs with expert blends of unexpected yet tasteful combos: The weekly-rotating menu boasts specials like half a game hen with sweet-potato cornbread stuffing ($6.75) and spinach with pomegranate and orange-fennel vinaigrette ($4.50). Et voila! (EB)
22 SW 3rd Ave., 241-4704. Open 24 hours Monday-Saturday.
Endorsed by local drag queens and Mayor Potter, Voodoo's legendary doughy treats might be illicitly delicious, but at least they're legal—all doughnuts are now 100-percent trans-fat free. A few samples from the hundreds of options: Mango Tango ($1.50) features gooey mango innards and a Tang-dusted top; Triple Chocolate Penetration ($1) pairs perfectly with six Jäger shots. The downtown shop has sass to spare. Example: When asked the difference between a Boston and a Portland cream ($1.50) doughnut, the counter girl replied, "The Portland Cream has vision." Sweet. (SMB)
57420 Old Portland Road, Scappoose, 397-1170. Lunch Tuesday-Thursday, dinner Friday-Sunday.
Wayne's is decked out like a true Chicago hot-dog eatery: bright red and yellow paint, plus Cubs paraphernalia and photos of Wrigleyville. Names like Vienna Beef, Fontanini and Red Hot Chicago litter the menu. From the chopped onions, steamed poppyseed bun and yellow mustard right down to the neon, Jell-O-green relish, sport peppers, tomatoes, celery salt and dill pickle spear laid alongside the all-beef dog, Wayne's does a Chicago dog damn right. The Scappoose Bay Marina seems a long way to go for a good dog, but considering Wayne's also has live music, beer and a breathtaking view of Mount St. Helens, it's worth it. (AM)
128 NE Russell St., 493-0371. Dinner and late-night Tuesday-Saturday.
It's a given that Wonder Ballroom packs 'em in show after show, but there's more to this venue than music and stiff drinks. Cafe Wonder, located below the dance floor, is a subterranean eatery for bustling, late-night dining and other delights. For a more relaxed dining experience, stop by early in the evenings—when this place is calm and quiet—for a free-range burger (they'll even ask how you like it cooked, a rarity in small restaurants these days) and cripsy, seasoned fries ($8.50). Or bring your laptop and take advantage of the free wi-fi while chowing down on some spicy mac 'n' cheese ($9.50) with a bite-size green salad. (PR)
8005 SE Stark St., 256-4484. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.
If it's a satisfied belly you're after, Ya Hala's your jam. Any respectable foodie starts off with the labneh ($3.75), a traditional Lebanese creamy yogurt cheese, and the kibbeh ($10.50), doughy mini footballs filled with finely ground beef, seasoned onions and pine nuts, served sizzling from the oven. The shawarma plate ($9.95), a Middle Eastern staple, contains a satisfying heap of sliced lamb sirloin, but unfortunately, for all of Ya Hala's winners, the hummus is lackluster in taste and texture. Have no fear—try your hand at romancing the chickpeas and grab the essentials at the adjacent Middle Eastern grocery. (EB)
7339 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 978-9229. Lunch and dinner daily. Buffet 12:30-6 pm Sunday.
A pork rib sandwich ($8.50) at this semi-abandoned-looking, north-end-of-MLK diner flies in the face of our collective definition of "sandwich." The Wonder bread slices are on the side, and they're only offered to soak up the delicious barbecue sauce dripping from the five thick spareribs hogging the plate. This is pure Southern soul cooking, from the red beans and rice ($4) to the succulent fried catfish pieces ($2 each). And if you somehow still have room, try the sweet-potato pie ($3.50). (AM)
4611 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 971-235-9888. Lunch, dinner and late-night daily.
Amid Portland's monsoon of sushi, Thai and bento, sometimes all you want is a hot dog. Not a tofu dog, not a flaccid turkey dog covered in sprouts and plopped on a whole-wheat bun—we're talking the real thing: juicy, beefy and piled high with fixin's. Enter Zach's Shack, the Hawthorne hole-in-the-wall dedicated to the art of America's favorite sausage. Note: Non-purists may want to stay on the porch—aside from a few late-night-themed diversions like jalapeño poppers and mozzarella sticks ($4.75) (they're open till 3 am, after all), the menu is refreshingly free of distractions. (KH)
1300 SE Morrison St., 239-0196. Breakfast and lunch daily.
Portland might as well be called the City of Breakfast with all the hearty hangover cafes we have to choose from. If you can drag yourself out of bed before 2 pm and don't mind a wait, then unpretentious Zell's is guaranteed to be your new favorite morning rehab. Eggs Benedict ($8.50) and German pancakes ($6.25) will fill your belly while the Bloody Mary ($4.50) will ease your aching mind. Veggie lovers can substitute tofu for eggs or devour the delicious, cheese-covered Portland potatoes ($6.75). (KSC)
View all of our restaurant reviews in the Food Finder
Introduction: Cheap Eats 2007.
The Perfect Portland Takeout Place: Build your own four-star meal.
Hot Chefs, Cheap Eats: Where the pros eat cheap.
Breakfast and Brunch: Five faves with estimated wait times.
Pizza Places: The holy 'za on your terms.
Square Deals: Dirt cheap eats.
Free Eats: Partake of Portland's culinary cornucopia without dropping a cent.
Restaurant Listings: From A to M
Restaurant Listings: From N to Z