These two streets in the heart of Southeast Portland are an embarrassment of restaurant riches. You can hardly walk a block without running into a place that made our top 50 restaurants in the city. Here are our favorites.
Castagna can come off like a rebuke to every self-consciously inconvenient pop-up in town. Four nights a week, chef Justin Woodward offers meals as sophisticated, creative, varied and intimate as any monthly 10-person church could ever hope to attain in a spacious dining room whose hush lets you hear a rose-scented moscato d'Asti bloom in your glass. Each meal—whether the full four-hour $155 chef's tasting menu or a $98 dinner menu that may offer a mere 12 or 13 plates—begins with a succession of beautiful trifles. This may include a molded beet cracker whose underbelly hides a beet tartare stirred to fresh acidic brightness, or geoduck filleted into delicate layers finer than prosciutto. (READ FULL REVIEW HERE.)
1758 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 503-231-9959, castagnarestaurant.com. Dinner Tuesday-Sunday. $-$$$.
The casual cafe adjunct to one of the city's top prix-fixe meals, serves elegant fare like roasted half-chicken, panzanella and grilled pork chops. Their brioche-bun burger has been famous for a decade.
1485 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 503-894-9743, pokemonpdx.com. 11 am-9 pm daily. $.
When Poke Mon opened last year on the bottom floor of a sparkling new apartment building on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, it seemed like the ultimate New Portland nightmare. Here, on the hallowed ground of what was once a bad Ethiopian restaurant that also operated as a dingy party bar that hosted the occasional punk show, some seeming yupsters erected an eye-bleedingly bright little pop-in with a forehead-smacking pun for a name. The spot serves up a trendy (and maybe ecologically unsustainable!) foodstuff and has an encyclopedic collection of canned La Croix. (READ FULL LISTING HERE.)
6839 SE Belmont St., 503-384-2483, coquinepdx.com. Dinner 5-10 pm Wednesday-Sunday. $-$$$$.
Coquine offers very short staycations. At least, that's how I've always felt about a meal at Katy Millard's exceedingly gracious French restaurant, which sits in an unassuming corner space on a quiet stretch of Southeast Belmont Street up on the shady northern slope of Mount Tabor. The French-trained Millard and her partner, Ksandek Podbielski, have created the most nourishing dining experience in Portland, so far removed from the troubles in the city below as to be transportive. As soon as you begin perusing the drink menu, with its "rare and ancient" pre-phylloxera sherries and well-chosen aperitif vermouths, you've entered a protective bubble in which all will be effortlessly pleasant. (READ THE FULL LISTING HERE.)
3962 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 503-384-2564, shortroundpdx.com. Lunch to late night daily. $$.
Anyone remember Wafu? Trent Pierce brought pubby, clubby loosely Japanese drinking food to the whitebread Richmond neighborhood. Short Round finally brings back oil, heat and tunes at this new Vietnamese street food pub. Mark up the sushi-style menu to order fish jerky, pan-fried sticky rice cakes and lemongrass-heavy chicken banh mi then grab cocktails from their wide list.
Peruvian fast-casual spot La Leña opened on Hawthorne this July with a focus on simple rustic foods. It's worth a visit for beef-heart anticuchos, fried yucca and especially the chupe de camarones seafood chowder.
3257 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 503-235-3277, tarboushbistro.com. Lunch and dinner daily. $$.
If you want soundly solid Middle Eastern fare, you want to be inside this old house on Hawthorne. Tarboush stands out in a crowded field by doing almost everything right—puffy pitas fresh out of the oven, smooth hummus, crisp and salady tabouli, juicy kufta. The only thing to avoid is the dry chicken.
1925 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 503-236-0714, maruti-restaurant.com. Dinner Wednesday-Monday. $$.
Vegan Indian spot Maruti is devoted to ayurveda, the ancient Indian health practice that believes every meal should be sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent, and pungent. Well, apparently we do too: The garbanzo-bean chole here is the best we've had in town.
Roost offers perhaps Portland's most slept-on brunch, with stunningly toothsome rye pancakes, near-perfect home fries and some of the finest steak and eggs in town, with precisely cooked bites doused in creamy mushroom sauce.
1401 SE Morrison St., 503-234-2427, nostrana.com. 11:30-2 pm Monday-Friday, 5-10 pm Sunday-Thursday, 5-11 pm Friday-Saturday. $$$.
Nostrana's staff and menu make a point of letting you know which local farms supplied the food on your plates. That's important, because the plates themselves feel like they're straight out of the Piedmont region. After 12 years in business, Cathy Whims' busy Italian bistro inside a Buckman strip mall has won a lot of fans. Included among them are the people who get Beard Award ballots—Whims has been nominated for best chef in the region an astonishing six times.
2832 SE Belmont St., nodoguropdx.com. Reservations only, Wednesday-Sunday. $$$$.
Don't go to Nodoguro for the sushi. That's not because the nigiri aren't terrific at chef Ryan Roadhouse's Southeast Belmont Street church of Japanese prix-fixe, whose hardcore and superhardcore sushi nights sell out each month within hours of going online. Because, dear god, the sushi is tremendous: At Nodoguro's large-circumferenced, 13-seat horseshoe bar, Roadhouse presides with Buddhist calm over each plate, dressing each ethereal cut of fish from Hawaii or the Tsukiji fish market with bespoke care approaching obsessiveness. (READ FULL LISTING HERE.)
Ken's Artisan Pizza
Everything about Ken's Artisan Pizza is remarkably consistent. That starts with the line, which forms upon opening every night of the year. It continues with the pies that come out of the Le Panyol wood-fired oven master baker Ken Forkish had installed, which sits among tables built from the remains of the roller coaster that once clicked up a track at the now-disappeared Jantzen Beach amusement park. (READ FULL LISTING HERE.)
(Rachael Renee Levasseur)
Chicken and Guns
The little cart churns through up to 750 whole chickens in a week from Scratch Farms, a free-range chicken operation whose farmer owns part of Chicken and Guns and vice versa. And Guns uses that same Scratch chicken on their new smoked wings, seasoned and charred to perfection and smothered in a riotous lacto-fermented habanero sauce that rivals the green stuff on the potatoes. (READ FULL LISTING HERE.)
Two bites into a meal at Langbaan and you'll give up on everything you thought Thai food could be, and especially everything you thought it couldn't be. The first bite will always be miang som, the explosive, palate-cleansing burst of shrimp, citrus and bitter betel leaf that begins every meal at Earl Ninsom's tiny, reservation-only restaurant, which you enter by tripping a hidden latch on a bookshelf door at the back of Northeast 28th Avenue Thai spot PaaDee. (READ FULL LISTING HERE.)