Best for: Family-style French fare with a modern-American twist.
At their flagship restaurant Ox, chefs Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton consistently wow audiences with magnificent meat dishes prepared in the wood-fired grilling tradition of Argentina. After the duo swung and missed with the amuse-bouche concept Superbite, they've gracefully recovered by Frenchifying the fare and quadrupling the portions at what is now Bistro Agnes. Starters only qualify as such due to their size, but it's easy enough to assemble a meal from dishes like a cool and zesty dill-infused smoked salmon carpaccio ($15) or a rich and velvety foie gras torchon ($21). In the entree section you'll find the heavy hitters, like a creamy bowl of sautéed veal sweetbreads and truffled macaroni ($38), and the star of the show, a tall, juicy burger ($22) loaded with smoky aged cheddar, grilled onions and a decadent bordelaise sauce that sings with bold notes of red wine and truffles. PETE COTTELL.
Best for: Dishes using the farmers market ingredients you probably buy but can never transform this elegantly.
In a time when some farm-to-table restaurants want to tell you the name of the lamb's mother, the elements of the biodynamic fertilizer lovingly spooned on the baby lacinato kale, and other details that do nothing to make the food taste better, chef Kevin Gibson and his lieutenant—co-owner, wine guy and bartender Kurt Heilemann—turn out consistently excellent food, presented with admirable simplicity. If it's at the farmers market in the morning, it will be on Davenport's table that night, described plainly. Gibson says the menu changes constantly (sure, you've heard that before), but here it really does. Who else serves the rare coastal fish sand dabs ($16), which precisely matches its description on the menu—heavenly—or tees up an end-of-summer classic this tersely: "roasted chicory: anchovy, breadcrumbs, egg" ($14)? If you like food that's grown, foraged, caught or raised in Oregon, this is your place. Added bonus: Few other restaurants this fine serve $10 cocktails. NIGEL JAQUISS.
Best for: Impressively large hunks of meat from a wood-fired grill to satisfy your carnivore cravings.
Hotel Lucia's elegant lobby is just the first indicator you've stepped into one of the city's finest boutique hotels. But wood smoke and sizzling meat in Imperial, just off that lobby, transport your senses to a cookout at a high desert cattle ranch. Since chef Vitaly Paley began branching out from his Northwest Portland bistro and opening restaurants and bars downtown, starting with this one seven years ago, he's upped the standards for the city's hoteliers. Imperial's wood-fired grill produces magic, ranging from a succulent, smoky half-chicken ($25) to a rib-eye steak fit for a czar ($45) accompanied by a caramelized onion puree and roasted mushrooms. If you don't love land-based protein, Imperial does wonders with salmon and halibut. And that grill isn't just reserved for meat. A quartered cabbage roasted over the fire is a delight and comes covered in an Egyptian-style mixture of herbs, nuts and spices called dukkah, as well as grape molasses ($18). NIGEL JAQUISS.
Best for: Showing the Ron Swanson in your life that Portland isn't all vegan tweezer food.
A steakhouse that is neither aggressively brutish nor daintily refined, Laurelhurst Market is a thoroughly modern meat palace and a perennial Portland favorite. Like a hobbyist mechanic who prefers fixing old muscle cars to Cadillacs, chef Ben Bettinger eschews the likes of filet mignon, preferring to show what he can do with less common cuts like culotte and hanger—and he can do a lot. Each plate is a technical marvel, garnished with regional touches like chanterelle mushrooms and grilled broccolini, and most hover around $30—a steal for what you get, really. For all his meaty mastery, though, Bettinger brings an equally deft hand to the veggie-forward dishes, from the wonderfully balanced grilled radicchio Caesar ($13) to the fried Yukon potatoes in chorizo vinaigrette ($8). MATTHEW SINGER.
Best for: Watching the open kitchen rock your world with French funk.
One course into the Le Pigeon tasting menu, I thought the megaquake hit. The narrow brick dining room rumbled and shook; every patron seated around the open kitchen went rigid. The head server pointed to the ceiling—Red Fang was practicing in the Bossanova Ballroom above. The meal that followed was a series of aftershocks: delighted gasps and chuckles at the nervy symphony of bold flavors. Le Pigeon is foodie rock 'n' roll. Thirteen years after shifting the paradigm of Portland food in a space the size of a railroad apartment, chef Gabriel Rucker keeps flinging together ingredients you never knew you needed to taste in the same bite. Salmon mi-cuit ($25) is a decadently tender fillet of brined fish; who knew it required a garnish of peaches? Seared foie gras with escargot ($29)? Probably worth selling your soul. And the eponymous pigeon ($39)? Still a surprise after all these years, thanks to delicate grilling and the tart counterpoint of jelly made from a Japanese citrus called sudachi. It's the most glorious dinner in town, complete with a show: Watching to see what item the cooks grab next is like Cirque du Soleil in miniature. Brace yourself. AARON MESH.
Best for: Glammed-up pioneer food.
Ned Ludd has slipped on and off the local food-geek radar over the years, but that's less indicative of any changes in its kitchen than how the restaurant scene has changed in the decade-plus since it opened in Northeast Portland. Whenever you visit owner Jason French's rustic restaurant, where everything is butchered, fermented and cured in-house, you'll find something to rave about, often owing to the smoky flavors produced by the wood-fired oven displayed proudly amid the dining room's all-lumber décor. The menu is ever-rotating, but the uniting features are locally sourced ingredients, plenty of herbs and lots and lots of pickling. On a recent visit, the highlight was a Carlton Farms pork chop lightly coated in hazelnut mole and drizzled with a sweet and smoky charred corn and tomato salsa ($26). Make sure to start with the creamy, addictive roasted beet dip ($3), which might as well be called Pacific Northwest hummus. MATTHEW SINGER.
Best for: The kind of sausage party you actually want to attend.
Multiple locations; visit olympiaprovisions.com for addresses, phone numbers and hours. $-$$$.
The industrial blocks surrounding Olympia Provisions on the edge of Slabtown look like the kind of neighborhood where barrel-chested men break down animal carcasses with cleavers. The area brings back memories of the old meat locker in my hometown—a beige, concrete building I would stare at in awe when sides of beef the size of small cars would dangle on hooks before rotating out of view like sports coats spinning on a dry cleaner's conveyor. If the thought of coming within Rocky Balboa punching-bag proximity to a raw hunk of meat spoils your appetite, no need to worry—the closest you'll get to the salumi making here is the decorative pig parts suspended above the deli case. Whichever OP property you visit, bring a friend and a strategy. You'll get the most out of a meal by sharing everything, starting with a charcuterie board, and then loading up on family-style plates. There are solid selections of portions meant for one, too, like the "cheese dog." Sure, the English translation might sound as appetizing as a Big Bite languishing in a 7-Eleven hot case, but OP's is an Austrian delicacy with a much fancier name. The käsekrainer, a stout pork sausage oozing with melted Emmenthaler, can be ordered alone or in a dish with crispy round potatoes and earthy greens coated in a sheen of delicate mustard vinaigrette ($14). Though pre-cut, the buttons of meat still manage to provide that satisfying snap. It's a sensation so addicting, I couldn't help but dig through my vegetables in a panic to find more, only to realize I'd devoured all the protein. ANDI PREWITT.
Best for: A seductive integration of Argentine parrilla and elevated Northwest cuisine.
Ox has been one of Portland's top dining destinations since the day it opened in 2012. The reason is the quality and consistency of the menu's meaty and not-so-meaty offerings, testament to the skillful oversight of spousal co-chefs Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton and Greg Denton. The couple earned a 2017 James Beard best-chefs-in-region award along with countless other national and local accolades. The compelling grill section of the menu has remained mostly static. If limited to one choice, the simple but delicious beef skirt steak in 8- or 16-ounce portions ($32, $63) is the way to go. With a group, first-timers will want the Asado Argentino ($94), a sample platter that includes short rib, sausages (chorizo and morcilla), skirt steak, sweetbreads, plus fried potatoes and salad. The menu says this is for two, but it can accommodate more, especially if you try some other items, which you should. Winter temperatures call for the clam chowder with a giant marrow bone ($18), a dish that sets a high standard. And seasonally rotating salads and appetizers, including delightful maple-glazed heirloom carrots ($13, $25), help round out the perfect meal here. MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN.
Best for: A very special anniversary dinner, provided you're fine with collapsing into a meat coma before anything frisky happens.
St. Jack isn't for the light of heart, or the faint of stomach. Since 2010—when chef Aaron Barnett first set up shop in the Clinton neighborhood, before scaling up across the river on Northwest 23rd four years later—this candlelit, bouchon-inspired bistro has served Portland's truest French food, in all its rich, fatty glory. Appetites may vary with regard to the roasted bone marrow ($19), hilariously listed as an hors d'oeuvre despite resembling Flintstonian shin bone halves, but the steak frites are magnificent, whether you spring for the $100 rib-eye or go cheap with the 8-ounce bavette ($31), as are the mussels mouclade ($30), the titular bivalves soaking in an herby-creamy broth of saffron, trout roe and crème fraîche. It's all an extravagance suited for the most special of occasions, but the more casual barside menu includes a great burger ($17) and fried chicken sandwich ($14). MATTHEW SINGER.
Best for: Pretending you're glamping under the stars with gourmet food and craft beer.
Brandon and Amelia Hughes know their food cart, Wild North, isn't the easiest sell. A vendor boasting seasonal menus, unusual proteins and bold plating but no four walls enveloping diners or a waitstaff doesn't have much precedent in Portland. But the Hugheses spent their first year in business quietly pushing the boundaries of what can be considered "cart food." The dishes at Wild North are things you'd normally expect to dress up and make a reservation for—stuff like barbecue pork roulade, lamb tartare and the signature sourdough bread bowls, which are a vessel for everything from cucumber gazpacho to rabbit Bolognese. No matter the animal, Brandon Hughes is dedicated to using every part of it, whether it's rendering the fat or coming up with specials using internal organs. Moving to the Base Camp Brewing property not only brought the business closer to the heart of the city, it placed the cart in a more appropriate context. This is, after all, essentially gourmet camping food. MATTHEW SINGER.