Maybe it's no surprise that the best fried chicken in Portland is inspired by the South. But at North Killingsworth Street's fast-casual Hat Yai, in a neighborhood that's suddenly the fastest-growing restaurant district in town, the inspiration is the south of Thailand. That crispy-skinned, tender Hat Yai fried chicken, named after the food-rich metropolis in Thailand's southern tip near Malaysia, is served with a sweet chili sauce that adds just enough juicy spice to complement the floral notes of the coriander without overpowering it. It's like Tennessee heat gone subtle and aromatic—more gain than pain. (READ THE FULL LISTING HERE.)
Grand Army Tavern
901 NE Oneonta St., 503-841-6195, grandarmytavern.com Lunch, dinner and late-night Monday-Friday, brunch weekends. $.
In the former Bushwhacker on Dekum, lovely new Grand Army Tavern serves excellent palomas spicy-ranch pork rinds and nose-to-tail-butchered pork sliders, from a truly excellent spicy kielbasa to a deep-flavored butt roast, served with fatty butter, house pickles and live lettuce.
5424 NE 30th Ave., expatriatepdx.com. 5 pm-midnight daily, brunch 10 am-2 pm Saturday-Sunday. $$$.
Dim, clubby cocktail bar Expatriate began as a jaunty side project to chef Naomi Pomeroy's high-brow Beast across the street. But if Beast is Blur, then Expatriate is Gorillaz, making hash of the world with a sly wink. In this colonial drinking den, it feels as if all the detritus of human culture has washed ashore and been made elegant. The waffle beneath your exquisite chili-butter fried chicken is made delicate with rice flour, while happy-hour fried-wonton nachos flatter your palate with lemongrass beef and a decadent "Thai chili cheese sauce" that pays homage to a world that never existed. (READ THE FULL LISTING HERE.)
2039 NE Alberta St., 971-200-4711, bollywoodtheaterpdx.com. Lunch and dinner daily. $$.
Fast-casual Bollywood has supernaturally good chutneys and achaar, and a terrific pork vindaloo. Our visits have been up and down—and prices can seem high on bar snacks like the excellent fried okra—but the highs at Troy MacLarty's fast-casual Indian spot are very high indeed.
5028 NE 42nd Ave., 503-284-9333, pizzajerkpdx.com. Lunch and dinner daily. $-$$$.
Bunk Sandwiches' Tommy Habetz now has an old-school Jersey-style pizza spot. We like the It's Always Sunny In Cully slice, which combines beef pepperoni from Old Salt across the street with house-pickled pineapple and local honey for a neighborhood potluck.
1465 NE Prescott St., 503-841-5576, muscadinepdx.com. Brunch Wednesday-Monday. $$.
The fried chicken gets national plaudits, and it's no slouch. But pay attention to the pastries: Beignets explode in a cloud of powdered sugar and steam, and the highlight of every Meat+Three platter is a biscuit served with butter and grape jelly.
5365 NE Sandy Blvd,, 503-284-1773, dusgrill.com. Lunch and dinner Monday-Friday. $.
Du's Grill is the finest Korean-owned, Mexican-staffed teriyaki joint on an I-5 corridor stacked with such places: a wonderland of perfectly grill-kissed beef, pork and chicken served with salad topped with lovely poppy-seed dressing. Du's is a Portland treasure.
1625 NE Killingsworth St., 971-888-5687, lataqpdx.com. Dinner daily, late-night Friday-Saturday. $.
The best way to get brisket from Podnah's Pit boss Rodney Muirhead is on a puffy taco at La Taq, his festive barroom ode to Texican excess. Get it paired with
great margaritas culled from a 30-deep tequila menu and kick-ass queso.
Angel Food and Fun
5135 NE 60th Ave., 503-287-7909. Lunch and dinner daily. $.
AF&F is a no-frills Mexican roadhouse run by a former fine-dining sous chef Manuel Lopez, formerly of Bluehour and a native of the Yucatán peninsula, who eschews gringo staples for Yucatecan specialities like an explosively flavorful pork platter called poc chuc and fried tostadas stuffed with black beans.
Pho An Sandy
6236 NE Sandy Blvd., 503-281-2990, phoansandy.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. $.
Portland's pho fortunes can rise and fall with the tides, but this year as last, the best bowls we had were at Sandy spot Pho An. Their special bowl is a lovely balance of sweetness, salt, herbal earthiness, floral star anise and a deep beefy fattiness.
5027 NE 42nd Ave., 971-255-0167, oldsaltpdx.com. 11 am-11 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-midnight Friday, 9 am-midnight Saturday, 9 am-11 pm Sunday. $$-$$$.
It might be named after a sailor, but Old Salt is more tied to the land than any other restaurant in Portland. In a Cully neighborhood evenly split between auto repair shops and urban farms, co-owner Ben Meyer has fashioned himself as Portland's version of a woodsman. Old Salt's butcher shop, bar and "supperhouse" is decorated with exposed beams, frontier pantry shelving and pictures of horses. Meyer spends weekend mornings chopping cords of firewood out back, for use in the restaurant's mammoth brick hearth, where Old Salt chef Ben Shade cooks pig, lamb and cow the restaurant butchers whole and sells in a case out front. The restaurant's ricotta cavatelli pasta is made from triticale wheat the restaurant's pig farmer uses as feed for its pigs, while the autumn delicata squash served with those pasta shells may come from any of four different Oregon farms. (READ FULL LISTING HERE.)
4126 NE Broadway, 503-281-1203. 11 am-9 pm Tuesday-Thursday & Sunday, 11 am-10 Friday-Saturday. $-$$.
At nearly 70 years old, Chin's Kitchen is a gaudy neon monument tucked away on a Hollywood District side street. It's one of the oldest Chinese restaurants in Portland, and since July 4 of this year, it's also one of the best. Quietly this spring, Chin's was bought by Chang Feng (Wendy) and Change (Cindy) Li, two sisters from the city of Harbin in China's far northeastern rust belt, known for the breads and soups and sweet-and-sour flavors of Dongbei cuisine. (READ THE FULL LISTING HERE.)
1806 NE Alberta St., 503-288-8372, zillasake.com. 4-10 pm Monday-Saturday, 4-9 pm Sunday. $$-$$$.
Amid the Portland hype cycle, newly expanded Zilla Sake is weird as all hell. Rather than make a huge splash and then coast on rep, this sushi spot slowly and surely picked up serious steam. Now, it's a tiny juggernaut punching well above its weight. (READ FULL LISTING HERE.)
Beast, 5425 NE 30th Ave., 503-841-6968, beastpdx.com. Dinner 6 pm and 8:45 pm Wednesday-Saturday, 7 pm Sunday; brunch 10, 11:30 am and 1 pm Sunday. $$$$. Six-course dinner is $117 per person with wine pairings available for $48. Three-course brunch is $35 per person with wine pairings available for $18.
Pacing is the most underrated part of the high-end dining experience. Most prix-fixe spots will deliver a few special bites. The ones that really stand out manage to elevate the experience with surprising and playful twists that build toward a thundering crescendo. Though Beast's menu changes every two weeks, Corvallis-born, self-taught chef Naomi Pomeroy has developed a distinctive style over the course of a decade—pick the chicken up at the farm, buy the beans at the farmers market, prepare the sauces for lots of braising and glazing. Pomeroy is a bold chef, and didn't always finesse things so that she could later awe with thumping decadence. (READ FULL LISTING HERE.)
Grain & Gristle
To understand Grain & Gristle, consider the burger. At this no-frills box of a blonde-wood gastropub on Northeast Prescott Street, the burger is simple. It's just bread, mayo, lettuce, pickle and meat. But the thick, half-pound patty comes from a line of Hereford cows cultivated since 1856 at Oregon's Hawley Ranch, butchered by sister restaurant Old Salt in Cully and fresh-ground each day by chef Greg Smith. The pickles are housemade, as is the garlic-lemon aioli, and the green lettuce is shocked in frigid water for crispness. The brioche bun is baked specially for the burger by Grano Breads' Ulises Alvarez, who got his start baking in Old Salt's back room. You could argue that other burgers are better, but none achieve such richness with this level of elegant concision and humility. (READ FULL LISTING HERE.)
Drawing from the cuisine of New Orleans, which is arguably the nation's richest, provides a lot of room for Acadia to shine. That starts with the cocktail list. America's oldest cocktail, the Sazerac, was invented in the Big Easy before the Civil War, and here it's served exactly as it should be—strong and sweet in a large rocks glass instead of a sweaty, trembling little cocktail glass. (READ FULL LISTING HERE.)