Where to Eat Cheap in North Portland

Grocery store tacos, soup dumplings and a Korean-soul food mashup.

(Christine Dong)

Burgers: Tilt

3449 N Anchor St., 503-285-8458, tiltup.com. 11 am-4 pm Monday-Friday. Other locations in Northwest and Northeast Portland.

(Jerek Hollender)

Tilt proudly proclaims it makes handcrafted food "built for the American workforce." Those laborers must be assembling a project the size of the Hoover Dam, developing an appetite just as large given the whopping portion sizes here. You can hardly get your mouth around all of the layers that make up a sandwich like the Woody Royale ($15), in which the patty's not particularly thick but piled high with the makings of a Texas barbecue: brisket, jalapeño coleslaw, and a sweet, deep-fried onion ring. The tots ($5, $8) are also super-sized—you could practically tee off with one of Tilt's. And though it sounds impossible to continue to stuff yourself with dessert, Tilt's old-fashioned pies ($5, $28) are a must-have, made-from-scratch dream. A slice of airy coconut cream is like riding a whipped, toasted cloud to heaven. ANDI PREWITT.

Pizza: Life of Pie

3632 N Williams Ave., 503-820-0083, lifeofpiepizza.com. 11 am-10 pm daily. Second location at 1765 NW 23rd Ave.

(Christine Dong)

The pizza is fine along Portland's most Portlandian boulevard. The red and black dining room at Life of Pie is ruled by a white-tiled wood-burning oven and accented by pizza peels mounted on the walls. When sunshine strikes, bicycles whir by in profusion alongside the usual cavalcade of Priuses and Subarus. The streetscape is best observed from sidewalk picnic tables or even inside when servers raise a streetside garage door. Toppings for the thin-crust, personal-sized pies starting at $11 range from traditional (sausage, mushroom, pepperoni) to kinda weird (kale, honey, roasted leeks). Try one of the house combos or roll your own. Add a small salad (mixed greens $4 or Caesar $5) or mozzerella-stuffed arancini ($7) to round out the meal. MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN.

Tacos: Tienda Santa Cruz

8630 N Lombard St., 503-286-7302. 7 am-10 pm daily.

At $1.50 a taco, the cost-to-value ratio at the surprisingly cavernous dining space tucked in the back of this Mexican grocery is off the charts—especially since it would only take a quartet of these cilantro- and onion-laden beauties to feel contentedly stuffed. Pay heed to the salsa limits posted on the sign above the condiment bar, as denying others guacamole sauce for the sake of your own greed is not cool. Such restraint, however, should be discarded when choosing your taco filling, as Santa Cruz boasts an expansive selection of proteins you may have never tried before. So while you could stick with the delicious and familiar carnitas or al pastor options, push the envelope of your comfort zone with a crispy tripe taco or chewy, unctuous buche (pig stomach). You may discover a new favorite. BRIAN PANGANIBAN.

Chinese: XLB

4090 N Williams Ave., 503-841-5373, xlbpdx.com. 11 am-3 pm and 5-10 pm daily.

(Joe Riedl)

Dumpling haven XLB bears no resemblance to anything in any Chinatown anywhere. The crowd is pure New Portland, and the venue is a deep narrow crevice along a notorious stretch of multimodal transportation chaos. The owner, Jasper Shen, is Chinese by heritage but cut his teeth in the New York City fine dining world and learned to make his signature Shanghainese soup dumplings watching YouTube videos. On a good day, these are probably the best xiao long bao in town, barring a certain Taiwanese megachain at Washington Square. Order at the counter and await your steamer basket ($11) along with customary condiments: bold black vinegar and filaments of fresh ginger. A handful of other worthy, sub-$15 dishes complement the XLB. MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN.

BBQ: Matt’s BBQ

4233 N Mississippi Ave., 503-504-0870, mattsbbqpdx.com. 11 am-7 pm daily.

(Christine Dong)

Last year, when Matt's BBQ got bounced from its original location—a pawn shop's parking lot on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard—there was little doubt it would resettle quickly, given the cart's widespread reputation for the best Texas barbecue in town. But landing on the patio at German beer bar Prost, it felt as if Matt's were finally where it always belonged. For one thing, the fact that you couldn't enjoy pitmaster Matt Vicedomini's impossibly tender brisket ($11) and smoky-hot jalapeño cheddar sausage ($4.50) with a giant boot of rare Kölsch for the first three years he was in business seems a terrible mistake in retrospect. And now, instead of scarfing down ribs in the front seat of your car during the rainy months, you can eat at a covered picnic table like a civilized adult. MATTHEW SINGER.

Wildcard (Korean Soul Food): Mama San Soul Shack

8037 N Lombard St., 503-719-4288, mamasansoulshack.com. 11 am-8 pm Monday-Friday, noon-9 pm Saturday-Sunday.

Kimchi and collard greens are the culinary mashup you didn't know you needed until now. Housed in a former auto-body shop, Mama San Soul Shack explores the culinary compatibility of Southern home cooking and pan-Asian fare. Keep in mind, if you arrive too late in the afternoon—especially on a sunny day—don't be too shocked to discover its stock of more signature items depleted. Runs on the catfish and coleslaw basket ($15 with fries) as well as the pork shoulder banh mi ($13) will probably only escalate as the weather warms and more customers jonesing for exotic yet homey grub will make good use of the outdoor seating. Consoling yourself with an order of Mama San's kaarage-esque "nubbins"—crispy marinated and deep fried chicken thighs ($8)—with a pool of creamy homemade green goddess dressing is always an effective salve for disappointment. BRIAN PANGANIBAN.

Bonus: Chef Zhao

4828 N Lombard St., 503-477-8072,11 am-9:30 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-10 pm Friday-Sunday.

Firing up on North Lombard in May 2018, Chef Zhao brought quality takes on mostly Chinese-American staples to a neighborhood otherwise starved for Chinese food. The trick is finding the housemade plates, which are not always clearly marked on the menu. The house special noodle ($13.95-$14.95) is a massive, refreshing dish filled with juicy mushrooms, wilted fresh spinach and your choice of pork, chicken, beef or shrimp.

Where to eat cheap: Central Eastside | Northwest Portland | Outer Northeast Inner Southeast | Inner Northeast | Lower Southeast | Downtown | North Portland | Southwest Portland Portland Suburbs |  Deep Southeast

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