A Few of Old Portland’s Most Beloved Restaurants

Decades and generations later, these staples (and dishes) remain.

Clyde's (Michael Raines)

Looking for an actual taste of Old Portland? These are the establishments that have weathered decades, been handed down through generations—where celebrities and lumber barons dined, where you’re bound to run into a family birthday party, or a house band that’s had the same slot for years. Fresh crawfish? Crusty crisp jojos? Prime rib aged 33 days? Look no further.


4703 NE Fremont St., 503-284-6747, amalfisrestaurant.com. 4–9 pm Wednesday–Thursday, 4–10 pm Friday–Saturday, 4–9 pm Sunday.

Stepping into Amalfi’s on a weeknight feels like the past and future. You seat yourself in the dining room where murmurs of Hall and Oates are moving through mounted speakers, then whip out your smartphone to fire up a QR code to place your own order. This isn’t an automated experience, though; it’s a family-owned legacy (three generations’ worth) celebrating Italian food in the Beaumont neighborhood. There’s the wall of history with the liquor license from ‘77, the wine menu from 1960, Grandpa’s handwritten meatball recipe from 1959, pencil cursive on crinkled paper. Then, of course, the food itself, dropped by a friendly staff—a Greek salad ($12.75) comes with thick red onion rings, big cucumber wedges, feta cubes and creamy balsamic. You’re given a generous pour of house Chianti that hangs on the sweet side, as does the cabernet marinara that fills the boat dish carrying the veggie lasagna ($23.75) bubbling at the handle’s edge. The cheese—a crucial player—is bountiful and stretchy in the star pasta dish, as it also is in the calzone ($24.75). A few stabs into the calzone as the sauce and cheese ooze and mingle, and it quickly looks like prodding around someone’s innards. But the taste? Like 65 years of family love. ROBIN BACIOR.

Cider Mill & Fryer Tuck Chicken

6712 SW Capitol Highway, 503-246-7737, fryertuckportlandfriedchicken.com. 10 am–1 am Monday–Saturday, 8 am–1 am Sunday.

“I remember going to a place in Southeast Portland called Fryer Tuck’s that had the best jojos around,” a Portlander sighed in the pages of WW. That was in 1993. (Like fryer grease, nostalgia is a reusable commodity.) Poultry farmer Jack Harsha opened a fried chicken joint on a tight curve of Capitol Highway in 1958; by the mid-’60s, franchises sprouted across the city. The flagship location is the all that’s left, but its takeout counter is the gateway to Cider Mill Lounge, a pristine specimen of the Pacific Northwest roadhouse: floor-to-ceiling wood paneling, pool table by a fireplace, 50-cent condom machine in the men’s room. This is a bar where, confronted with a pandemic, they simply moved Friday-night karaoke to the back patio. As for the chicken and jojos, called Little John Spuds, they are not the best in town (that’s either Reel M Inn or George’s Corner Tavern), but they are easily the largest: Three pieces and a small order of spuds ($15) arrive in a plastic boat big enough to paddle down the Willamette. AARON MESH.

Clyde’s Prime Rib

5474 NE Sandy Blvd., 503-281-9200, clydesprimerib.com. 11:30 am–10 pm Sunday–Thursday, 11:30 am–midnight Friday–Saturday.

This jazz castle presides over Portland’s most important street, Sandy Boulevard, broadcasting its signature entree—”PRIME RIB”—in red neon letters 3 feet tall. A smaller sign unpacks the nearly septuagenarian steakhouse’s philosophy: “Break bread / Share spirits / Cut a rug / Good living.” The restaurant wouldn’t look out of place in one of those throwback L.A. movies like Licorice Pizza or Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, thanks in part to a 2016 spruce-up by Alex Bond, a guardian angel for aging lounges (he performed the same trick at the Dockside Saloon and the Lighthouse in Linnton). The menu, headlined by that 33-day aged prime rib ($32 to $39), is available in both the dining room and the amber-lit lounge. Go with the latter, arrive late on a Saturday, and two well-balanced but slightly watered-down Manhattans ($12.50) will see you through to the 9 pm arrival of a band like Bridge City Soul to the stage. That’s when the party starts. AM.


3520 SE Powell Blvd., 503-239-5221, denicolasitaliandining.com. 4–9 pm Sunday–Thursday, 4–10 pm Friday–Saturday.

For several years, DeNicola’s has sponsored the oldies station 95.1 KISN-FM, and there’s never been a more fitting marriage, even if the restaurant’s own background music is provided by Frank Sinatra. This red-brick house of red-sauce pasta on Powell opened in 1978, but feels two decades older. Kin has primacy here—a portrait of adorable founders Giovanni and Rosina DeNicola graces the entrance latticework—and this is Portland’s established spot where the whole family takes a black-sheep uncle on his birthday. (If he wants a different kind of afterparty, Hawthorne Strip is next door.) Sadly, the Tuesday all-you-can-eat spaghetti special is a thing of the past, but the menu’s superstar has always been the garlic bread loaf ($9.99)—the best in town. AM.

Jake’s Famous Crawfish

401 SW 12th Ave., 503-226-1419, jakesfamous.com. 11:30 am–9 pm Sunday–Thursday, 11:30 am–10 pm Friday–Saturday.

There is a good chance you’ve driven by Jake’s Famous Crawfish downtown, the one with the wide forest green awning and neon sign. The very restaurant opened by Jake himself in 1892 is still an institution more than 130 years later. If you haven’t been in, here’s what you’re missing: room upon room of cozy tables and wooden booths, chandeliers overhead, decorative stained glass and oil paintings of Pacific Northwest landscapes in heavy golden frames. This is where Humphrey Bogart and Michael Jordan have eaten, where lumber barons dined, where plenty of family birthday parties have been held. The drink listings are ample, held in thick black leather tomes, with freshly printed paper menus for the rotating fare to accommodate the morning’s delivery of seafood and shellfish. Servers in button-downs and bow ties walk you through the offerings, drop tart sourdough bread while you wait, with whipped butter dolloped like a frosting flower. The Washington steelhead ($34.50) is a highlight, cooked to a medium-rare candied pink, covered in soft bay shrimp and basil butter. You’ve obviously got to have crawfish—plump little seafood bites that occasionally have almost the flavor of dark turkey meat. In the crawfish penne ($26), the flavor mingles with mushrooms and slight Cajun-spiced heat. It’s an elevated yet comforting affair—people gathered for a casual happy hour at the bar, parents out for early dinners with their teenagers. But Jake’s holds an air of an old, old Portland, one that hangs even as you step back out into downtown—along with the smell of the catch of the day. RB.

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