1. Mama Bird

2145 NW Raleigh St., 503-384-2064, mamabirdpdx.com.

"Comfort food" means different things to different people, but few are likely to disagree on Mama Bird. At this new Etsy-chic Slabtown counter-service spot, a crackling fire provides ambience and heat, with one side devoted to pineapple-brined birds, and fresh vegetables and potatoes on the other. The brine gives the birds all the flavor they need to stand up on their own, but each of the six sauces on offer transforms the chicken from above average to downright addictive.

Top Burmese. IMAGE: Sage Brown.
Top Burmese. IMAGE: Sage Brown.

2. Top Burmese

413 NW 21st Ave., 503-477-5985, topburmese.com.

The booming Burmese takeout spot has since traded its tiny, rectangular room with a lone table for a slightly larger space inside the former Kim Jong's Smokehouse, and the menu has expanded in the process. But the dishes that wowed us the first time around remain the all-stars—like the fermented tea leaf salad and the incredible five-pack of golden-brown samosas.

(Rocky Burnside)
(Rocky Burnside)

3. Baes Fried Chicken

225 SW Ash St., baeschicken.com.

Four years after pulling the plug on his previous attempt at a fried chicken joint, fast-casual kingpin Micah Camden's newest project doles out fresh, juicy birds with ruthless efficiency and alarming consistency. The hot chicken, in particular, is destined to be the subject of citywide hype. The level of heat is tolerable for most, preserving the smoky, peppery flavor without scorching taste buds.

(Christine Dong)
(Christine Dong)

4. Vertical Diner

8124 SW Barbur Blvd., 503-206-6150, verticaldiner.com.

Housed inside a restored 5,500-square-foot space in Hillsdale originally built in 1969, Vertical Diner still feels like something out of the Mad Men era when you walk in, save for maybe the lack of ashtrays—and the entirely meatless menu. An entirely plant-based take on the classic American diner, everything on the menu is made in-house, from the seitan to the cheese sauce. Standouts include the Buffalo Tigers, perfect little golden-fried seitan nuggets coated in a zippy wing sauce. The pancakes, in particular, are perfect. If you didn't know they were vegan in advance, you could never guess.

(Rocky Burnside)
(Rocky Burnside)

5. Carne

2512 NE Broadway, 503-206-6075, carnepdx.com.

Carne is basically the budget version of Ox. That's meant as a major compliment. The small Irvington steakhouse and bar prepares its meats with a similar Latin touch, at prices that won't make your eyes cross when the bill arrives. Sixteen bucks gets you an 8-ounce tenderloin topped with verdant chimichurri sauce and a side of crispy potatoes bravas. It's not just good for the price, either—it far outstrips it.