1. Hem 23
Like fellow cocktail-happy westside Viet spots Fish Sauce and Luc Lac, Hem 23 is a design-happy ambassador to Southeast Asian flavor. The oxtail pho is among the best in town, with a broth that is unctuous without being oily, beefy and singing with an anise-filled Southern sweetness.
2. Bottle Rocket
1207 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 971-279-4663. $.
The burgers at this Cartopia cart aren't cheffy, fancy or stupid—they are, quite simply, some of the best damn burgers in Portland. Add $3 and you get a nice house lemonade and a small piece of genius: crispy fried tater tots brimming with chili spice and the sticky-sweet brine of fish sauce. They're trashy and delicious.
3. Nong's Khao Man Gai
Nong Poonsukwattana parlayed her family chicken-and-rice recipe into one of Portland's iconic foods, and just opened her second brick-and-mortar location downtown in the former home of Heart Pizza. The dish is as simple as it gets: tender chicken, rice and sauce blooming with soy, garlic, chili and ginger.
4. Kee's #Loaded Kitchen
Our 2018 Cart of the Year serves the biggest, baddest soul food plates in town. Consider it a homestyle take on prix-fixe: One day, Kee's might serve mac and cheese loaded to the gills with bacon and Dungeness crab, and the next it's smoked meatballs and spaghetti.
5. Flying Fish Oyster Bar
In honor of recently departed food and drink writer Matthew Korfhage—don't worry, he just moved to Virginia—grab an oyster you've never heard of before from Flying Fish's counter at Providore, and wash it down with a new kind of vermouth from the wine section in the back. It's what he would have wanted.