Best for: Maybe Portland's best ramen bowls.
923 SE 7th Ave., 503-468-5001, afuri.us, 50 SW 3rd Ave., 971-288-5510, afuriramen.com. Southeast: 11:30 am-2:30 pm and 5-10 pm Monday-Thursday, 11:30 am-2:30 pm and 5-11 pm Friday, 11:30 am-11 pm Saturday, 11:30 am-10 pm Sunday. Southwest: 11 am-9 pm Sunday-Thursday, 11 am-11 pm Friday-Saturday. $-$$.
A stunning, spacious restaurant in an old warehouse space, Afuri comes directly from Tokyo, and the restaurant group selected Portland for its similarity in water quality. The outpost, which was the first outside of Japan, brought its inventive cocktails, beautifully fresh sushi and all manner of sides to inner Southeast, but the star of the show from start to finish is the ramen. Delicately chewy handmade noodles float in a variety of broths, and the sleeper hit is the vegan hazelnut tantanmen ($14). It's perfectly enjoyable as is, with the hazelnuts giving the miso broth a rich nuttiness, but even better when topped with egg and pork for an additional $3. Other options, like the rich tonkotsu ($14) or bright and aromatic shio ($14) are about as close to Tokyo as Portlanders can get without boarding a plane. Westsiders can now find their own Afuri just outside of Old Town, equally bright and stylish but slightly smaller. ALEX FRANE.
Best for: Knockout stews and dumplings from Northeast China rarely found in close-in Portland—or anywhere else in the city.
It took 70 years, but Chin's Kitchen finally landed on the Portland dining radar in 2017, when Chang Feng and Change Li became the Hollywood staple's third owners and proved, once and for all, that regional Chinese could succeed off Southeast 82nd Avenue. While previously notable only for its neon storefront, it's now known for serving rarely seen cuisine from China's Dongbei region, where the two sisters grew up. Its scratch-made dumplings, in particular, have earned raves and occupy an entire page of the menu, but hearty stews and braised meats factor heavily as well. A must-try is the casserole of uber-tender pork rib and translucent potato noodles ($12.95), which arrives at the table with its rich umami broth still bubbling. The straightforward noodle bowls ($7.95-$11.95) are less thrilling on the whole, but the actual noodles—hand-pulled by Li—justify an order on their own. MATTHEW SINGER.
Farmhouse Kitchen Thai Cuisine
Best for: Stunning, photogenic Thai food.
Farmhouse Kitchen is a Bay Area franchise that managed to find its way to Portland, but stands out in the city's saturated Thai scene thanks to the sheer quality and variety of dishes offered. All the staples are here, including pad thai ($14.50) and pad kee mao ($14.50), as well as Hat Yai fried chicken ($24), chicken wings ($11.50), Thai curries ($13.50-$14.50), and everything else that Portlanders love. Though the iconic volcano cup noodles didn't make it up initially from the San Francisco location, it will occasionally appear on the specials menu here, and you should immediately jump on the fiery concoction. Thin noodles come draped over a massive beef bone with a chunk of barbecue meat, all atop a Nissin Cup Noodles container filled with steamed vegetables and a sweet, spicy sauce. ALEX FRANE.
Frank’s Noodle House
Best for: Thick, chewy hand-pulled noodles inside a converted house
near Lloyd Center.
Laugh all you want at his human-sports-bar aesthetic, but at any restaurant with Guy Fieri's visage spray-painted on the wall, go ahead and order what the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives star gets every time. At Frank's Noodle House that would be a heaping plate of stir-fried, hand-pulled noodles, which come in four levels of spiciness and a choice of seven different proteins ($9.95-$14.95). If your worried about the searing your tongue might take with the hottest version, rest assured it is still mild enough not to wreak internal havoc on the legion of Irvington families who frequently pack the salmon-colored dining room of the converted house just blocks from Lloyd Center, and the flavor and texture of the thick, chewy noodles is just right every time. PETE COTTELL.
Best for: A rotating array of spectacular soups.
2738 SE 82nd, Suite 102, 503-772-0103. 8 am-4 pm Wednesday-Monday. $.
This tiny shop in outer Southeast is the worst-kept secret in town. Hà VL is so popular, if you show up after noon, the kitchen has probably run out of the soup you've set your heart on slurping down. It's worth checking the online menu before going to make sure any picky dining companions can avoid shrimp cakes or squid. A wonderful hu tieu nam vang ($12), pork and seafood noodle soup, was featured on a recent Friday. The broth was clear, light but packed with umami and brightened by spring onions and a squirt of lime. Toppings included perfectly fried fish balls, slices of barbecue pork, shrimp and tiny quail eggs that bobbed atop the bed of thin, soft rice noodles. It's served with accompaniments like lettuce and chile sauce, but you probably won't need them. ADRIENNE SO.
Kenny’s Noodle House
Best for: Impossibly smooth, silky congee, festooned with a variety of toppings.
8305 SE Powell Blvd., 503-771-6868. 9:30 am-9 pm daily. $.
Is rice a noodle? For my purposes, it is. Even at the improbable hour of 2 pm on a Monday, you have to wait in line behind two other parties to squeeze into this tiny bungalow. But it's worth it, because the congee with rockfish and bok choy ($6.25) is one of the best I've had in my life. It's simmered until the rice has just released its gluten, unspooling itself into a creamy porridge that suspends roasted peanuts and spring onions on its smooth white surface and conceals chunks of restorative fish and veggies underneath. A soup with plump wontons and thin noodles ($9.75) floating in a rich and admittedly somewhat pungent broth was also wonderful. But the congee—it's as beautiful as a unicorn at midnight. It would bring Keats, dying of tuberculosis, back to life. Get it. ADRIENNE SO.
Best for: Slurping yourself into a soupy stupor and chowing down on Japanese fried chicken.
You won't be carted away in broths of fatty bliss at Marukin, but you will leave full, content and on the edge of soupy stupor. The small Southeast ramen spot—part of a chain founded in Tokyo that now has two locations in Portland—is sleek, packing dark-stained family-style tables along the length of the building, which it splits with Thai chicken-and-rice phenom Nong's Khao Man Gai. The signature bowl is a pork bone broth-based tonkotsu shoyu ($11), which comes in a spicy variant and is piled high with fresh noodles, shredded scallion, tender pork and a soft-boiled egg. The broth is dense without being overly heavy, and the red spice mix offers a mild dose of heat. The ramen is plenty alone, but hungry diners should try the chicken karaage ($5, $8), very lightly fried morsels finished with a light squeeze of lemon and served with a mild, Japanese-style tartar sauce. ELISE HERRON.
Pho An Sandy
Best for: A steaming bowl of hangover-curing beef soup.
The epitome of a mom-and-pop noodle shop, Pho An Sandy serves massive bowls of steaming pho, along with vermicelli bowls, sides and other Vietnamese staples. The space is unassuming, with plastic-top tables and Top 40 radio playing in the background, but the noodles in broth that come with more than 20 variations of ingredients are exemplary, even in a city rife with pho. The pho dac biet, a combination bowl with round steak, flank, fatty brisket, tendon, tripe and beef meatballs, is the house special, but eaters who avoid tripe or tendon can find other options with the variety of beef cuts. ALEX FRANE.
Best for: Very good pho and the best non-pho offerings at a pho restaurant.
Many Portlanders consider Pho Oregon's broth the best in town. But every single one of those patrons awaiting a massive, beefy bowl of Vietnamese noodle soup ($10.45-$11.95) second guess their routine as the aromas of sizzling short ribs, chargrilled pork skewers and myriad other rice and noodle soups waft by. That doubt is erased with the first sip of the sweet-and-savory, hearty but never heavy broth. If you manage to venture into the vermicelli noodle dish section, chargrilled chicken skewers (bun ga nuong $12.95) are a good gateway: Marinated chicken thigh grilled to perfection, plain rice noodles and a crunchy salad of finely chopped cabbage, cucumber, carrot and cilantro are served with a light, salty rice wine dressing good enough to dip leftover veggie rolls in. The spacious dining room means you almost never need reservations, and the staff is twice as welcoming on a slow day, so it's no wonder many keep Pho Oregon in their brunch rotation for an extra-restorative Sunday morning. LAUREN YOSHIKO.
Best for: Low-stress dim sum on a weekend morning.
Pure Spice is often the one place in town where you can find a sense of calm while enjoying quality dim sum on the weekend. The primary thing you need to know is that the kitchen consistently puts out some of the best soy sauce lo mein ($9.25) around. No, really, a steaming platter of these noodles fresh out of the wok, with just the right amount of onions and bean sprouts sharing the smokiness of the vaporized oil, is a singular experience that is wholly satisfying. That said, if you instead want to partake of the rest of the menu, snag (in addition to the lo mein, naturally) the dry-fried string beans ($11.50), cooked to that razor-thin margin of still crispy, but tender enough to avoid squeaking, as well as the hand-pulled cilantro and onion rice noodles ($4.15, add an egg for 50 cents). BRIAN PANGANIBAN.
Teo Bun Bo Hue
Best for: Winter-weather Vietnamese chicken soup.
8220 SE Harrison St., No. 230, 503-208-3532. 10 am-9 pm daily. $.
Located in a nondescript strip mall off of Southeast 82nd Avenue, it's easy for those not in the know to overlook this Vietnamese soup shop. The casual, busy cafe lacks menus and serves only three things—its signature bun bo hue ($12.50), as well as chicken and beef pho ($12.50 each). The namesake soup is an enormous, steaming bowl of rich, savory soup, with thick, chewy rice noodles floating among chunks of beef, including blood cubes, flank steak, knuckles and tendon. And while chicken pho is less common than beef, the one here is reminiscent of American chicken noodle soup: a soothing, aromatic basin of noodles and chicken offered bone-in or boneless. ALEX FRANE.