Over the past few years, I've encountered curious resistance from friends when suggesting Pok Pok for dinner. They cite the original Southeast location's tourist-thronged lines, the cramped, haphazard dining space, and overall din as insurmountable barriers to enjoying a good meal. They have a bit of a point, which is why it was so significant when Andy Ricker opened a Northwest branch of his Thai empire in the spring of 2017. A year and a half later, Pok Pok NW happily remains the best way to experience his cuisine.
There's no shame in ordering the fish sauce wings ($15.75). They remain the sticky, salty-sweet treats that you loved from the beginning before becoming an icon of Portland's food scene. But think of that deep-fried chicken as a life preserver—a way of hedging your bets if you decide to venture outside your comfort zone on the menu. And you should, since otherwise you might overlook the pleasure of something like the yam makheua yao ($14.75), a platter of long purple eggplant charred to a smoky-sweet custardlike consistency dressed in chilies, lime and fish sauce, and topped with essentially everything delicious, including shrimp two ways (dried and prawns), hard-boiled egg and shallots. Or you might lean into the volcanic heat in the vegetarian version of the naam tok ($15.25) salad, forgoing the flank steak for wild mushrooms. I've never successfully paced myself here to have the bandwidth for dessert, but frankly if I feel like ending a Pok Pok meal on a sweet note, I'll just set aside one of the wings.
Pro tip: If (when) you order the wings, don't be afraid to ask for more towelettes. Depending on how fastidious you are, you may blow through the handful you've been given in two wings.