The Portland food scene is down, but certainly not out. Rather, it's out for delivery.
That's not to minimize the damage the coronavirus has wrought on the restaurant industry. A report by the National Restaurant Association in late April found that 81 percent of Oregon service industry workers have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. The list of permanent closures grows every day, and many restaurateurs say the state's conditions for reopening do not guarantee survival.
It's a dark time. But signs of hope exist—and you can find them inside a to-go box.
While dining rooms in Multnomah County remain closed, many restaurants have pivoted to delivery and takeout models to stay alive. It was a quick transition for some, and a drastic shift for others.
In this issue, we highlight 20 of the most delicious meals in Portland you can either pick up or get brought straight to your doorstep. It's a broad and diverse list, running from doughnuts that eat like full meals to sorbettos that taste more like fruit than fruit itself. There are vegan salads and lobster rolls, shawarma fries and meaty Thai soups, do-it-yourself Russian dumplings and a hella good burrito.
Admittedly, the list does not represent everything out there worth ordering—we'd be riding out the rest of this pandemic in a collective food coma if it did—but each item illustrates the resiliency of the city's chefs and business owners, who in the face of an unprecedented crisis have resolved to keep feeding the city.
At the very least, it should give you an idea of what to order tonight. Please do, and remember to tip big.
Bernstein’s Bagels ($2, schmear and add-ons extra)
In little more than three years, Noah Bernstein went from former saxophonist for soft-R&B wunderkinds Shy Girls to one of Portland's best bagelmakers. The closure of Bernstein's Bagels' original shop last year sent waves of anguish through St. Johns, but the kitchen on North Russell Street remains operational during the pandemic. Any of its flavors of hand-rolled boiled bagels is worth ordering, and same with its creative schmears, but the Mama Lil's, made with the titular hot pepper, receives the highest recommendation. MATTHEW SINGER.
Takeout and delivery: bernsteinsbagels.com. 10 am-noon for pickup, delivery on 8:30 am-noon Saturday-Sunday within 5 miles of the shop. Begins accepting orders 9 am Tuesday.
HunnyMilk’s Monte Cristo-Nut ($10)
Brandon Weeks is a big fan of fried dough. Before opening his brunch restaurant HunnyMilk in downtown Portland, he planned to do an ice cream and doughnut shop. And now, in the wake of COVID-19, he's transitioned to a Sunday-only to-go menu of what you might call "composed doughnuts." The savory Monte Cristo-Nut is a pseudo-fritter topped with "manchego fondue," green pepper marmalade and smoky ham from Tails and Trotters, julienned and flash-fried. It's as over the top as you'd expect from someone who's also done a "wake and bake" brunch. JASON COHEN.
Takeout: instagram.com/hunnymilkpdx. 8 am-1 pm Friday-Sunday.
Flying Fish’s Fish Sandwich ($18)
Inspiration for Lyf Gildersleeve's hearty stack of steelhead and housemade slaw sprang from a collection of fish shacks on the opposite side of the country. The fish is prepped simply, with just a dash of salt before hitting the griddle. The result is a moist yet flaky center for the sandwich and a crispy, blackened exterior. It's topped with a green confetti of slightly sweet cabbage and earthy kale doused in a piquant marinade of lime, jalapeño, cilantro and Arbequina olive oil. The dressing's citrus is so bright it will leave you vibrating like the first sunny day in spring. ANDI PREWITT.
Takeout: flyingfishportland.com. 10 am-7 pm Wednesday-Monday.
Top Burmese’s Samosas ($7.50 for five)
Having launched with a takeout-or-delivery-only format, Top Burmese seemed well prepared to ride out the pandemic. But co-owner Kevin Myint couldn't help but wonder if the plump golden triangles of pastry would deflate into soggy piles of dough while boxed up for unknown periods of time in a delivery driver's car. He can rest easy. The samosas arrive light and fluffy and shatter into countless crispy shards in your mouth. The spring roll wrappers, which come so neatly folded it almost looks as if somebody accidentally dropped paper footballs into a fryer, are the perfect pouch for what's essentially a bite-sized vegan shepherd's pie. ANDI PREWITT.
Takeout and delivery: topburmese.com, Caviar, DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats. Lunch 11 am-2 pm, dinner 5-9 pm daily.
The Sudra’s Peacock Salad ($13)
Just about all of this popular vegan spot's Indian-influenced bowls make for ideal takeout, but this crisp, hearty salad is an ideal reprieve if you've been living out of your pantry during quarantine or in a rut of pizza and greasy noodles. It's more nourishing but just as satisfying: crunchy kale smothered in rich tahini dressing and topped with juicy soy curls. SHANNON GORMLEY.
Takeout and delivery: thesudra.com, Caviar, Grubhub, Cascadian Courier Collective. 11 am-9 pm Sunday-Friday.
St. Jack’s Burger & Fries ($14)
Aaron Barnett's baby gained acclaim for its rich and hearty French country-style classics as interpreted through the eyes of a Canadian living in the Pacific Northwest—but he always kept a bar burger on the menu. Now, it's the go-to offering on St. Jack's to-go menu. It's a big, sloppy, won't-fit-in-your-mouth, juice-running-down-your-arms kind of burger. Two thick beef patties, copious amounts of gooey American and cheddar, bacon, iceberg, onion and "St. Jack sauce"—a highbrow-lowbrow mashup of classic French gribiche and Alabama white BBQ sauce—on a brioche bun. Plus, the proverbial burger wingman: crunchy, creamy fries bolstered with a hit of gremolata, sided with aioli. (Please, no ketchup.) Not as good as at a table, but not bad at all from a box. MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN.
Takeout: stjackpdx.com. 3-8 pm daily.
Malka’s Important Helmet for Outer Space ($16)
Chef Jessie Aron opened one of Portland's wildest restaurants shortly before the shutdown, but her genre-defying creations translate well to takeout, particularly the rice bowls. The menu description speaks for itself: "Rice bowl with slow-roasted pork shoulder in apricot curry bbq sauce, coconut jasmine rice, stir-fried vegetables, pan roasted mushrooms, pineapple-tamarind slaw, crispy shallots, peanuts, avocado, herbs, pickled ginger and peppers, sesame, lime"—plus passion fruit-habanero hot sauce on request. Eat each part on its own or mix it all up and contemplate a dozen tastes all at once. MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN.
Takeout: 503-899-4245. Noon-9 pm Tuesday-Sunday. malkapdx.com.
Oma’s Takeaway’s Omazing Burger ($15)
Half the allure of Thomas and Mariah Pisha-Duffly's James Beard-nominated Indonesian spot Gado Gado is the scattershot nature of both its food and menu. Both are constantly evolving, and their transition to Oma's Takeaway—a heady parking lot pickup party that recalls its freewheeling early days as a pop-up—shows the duo hasn't missed a step since the Rona turned the Pisha-Dufflys' industry upside down. Keep a close eye on their Instagram page for the return of the Omazing Burger, which heaps a gooey pile of chile onion jam, American cheese and garlic mayo atop a juicy patty made from a blend of aged beef, rib and brisket to stunning results. If you've ever wondered what the Bar Bar burger would taste like if it quit its job and bummed around Southeast Asia for six months, this is the answer. PETE COTTELL.
Takeout: gadogadopdx.com. 5-10 pm daily, brunch 10 am-1 pm Saturday-Sunday.
Aviv’s Shawarma Fries ($13)
It's always the simple things you miss in times of crisis—like being able to go to any bar or restaurant and order a big plate of crispy, salty fries. Aviv's thick-cut shawarma version may be a little closer to home fries, but that's exactly why they can withstand a delivery run and the menagerie of creamy, spicy goodness they come topped with. Smothered with tahini, rich hummus, juicy soy curls and spicy, herbaceous zhoug, they're both comforting and indulgent, and almost seem better suited for the comforts of your couch than Aviv's softly lit, sit-down dining room. SHANNON GORMLEY.
Takeout: avivpdx.com. Delivery: Caviar, Grubhub, Doordash. 11 am-9 pm daily.
Scottie’s DeFino ($30 for an 18-inch pie)
Less bready than Sicilian and not as over-the-top cheesy as Detroit-style, Scottie's grandma-style pie—named, in fact, for owner Scottie Rivera's great-grandmother—is one of the best thick-crusts in town: a perfectly balanced pizza that allows the quality of the dough and toppings to shine equally. Due to the special pans and lower oven temperature needed to make it—plus the half-hour rest time before being boxed—it's also one of Portland's most labor-intensive pizzas, and is thus limited to 15 per day. But it can easily feed four people, and also reheats beautifully. (If the DeFino is sold out,the #1 as a similar flavor profile.) JASON COHEN.
Takeout: 971-544-7878 starting at 1 pm for pickup 3:30-7 pm Wednesday-Saturday. scottiespizzaparlor.com.
Stammtisch’s Jägerschnitzel ($17)
There isn't a single bad choice on the Stammtisch dinner menu, but the Jägerschnitzel is the way to go. It's a perfectly gossamer pork cutlet in a savory—yet surprisingly light—mushroom gravy, plus two side dishes (get the spätzle and red cabbage if you know what's good for you). Pro tip: If you prefer your schnitzel fried, you can get the jäger gravy on the Wienerschnitzel and have it both ways. HEATHER ARNDT ANDERSON.
Takeout: 503-206-7983. Delivery: Postmates. 4:30-8:30 pm daily. stammtischpdx.com.
Nong’s Khao Man Gai ($11)
It traveled well when you were just taking it from cart to office—remember the office?—and still travels well for contactless pickup. The original cart may have given way to an unfinished hotel, but Nong Poonsukwattana's eponymous Portland classic remains one of the city's most perfect, simplest dining pleasures: tender poached chicken atop sticky rice, drizzled in a sauce rich with flavors of chile and garlic, plus a side of basic, soothing soup. Get a large with more of everything, plus chicken livers for $16. JASON COHEN.
Takeout: khaomangai.com for 609 SE Ankeny St. (downtown location closed). 10:50 am-6 pm daily.
PaaDee’s Ba Mi Pitsanulok ($15)
There's more to noodle soup than ramen and pho. PaaDee's ba mi "pitsanulok" has everything: chewy wheat noodles, crispy cubes of fried pork belly, succulent slices of red Chinese-style barbecue pork, and meatballs, all in a rich pork broth. Back in the day, the only issue with this delicious bowl was that it came with just a splash of broth. That's since been remedied. HEATHER ARNDT ANDERSON.
Takeout: 503-360-1453, paadeepdx.com. Delivery: Postmates, Caviar, restaurant within 2-mile radius. Noon-8 pm Wednesday-Sunday.
Big’s Chicken’s Big Family Meal ($32.95 grilled, $33.95 fried)
When it comes to picnic-ready takeout, Big's Big Family Meal is one of the best deals in town. For under $35, you get a whole chicken (juicy and flavorful whether fried or grilled), two sides (make sure jojos are one of them), and a large, delightfully old-school salad-bar salad with wedges of tomatoes, thick slices of cucumber and egg, and creamy housemade ranch. HEATHER ARNDT ANDERSON.
Takeout: 971-255-0358 in Portland, 503-747-3190 in Beaverton. Delivery: Caviar. 11 am-9 pm daily.
Kachka’s Dumplings ($10.99)
Before lockdown orders forced pretty much everyone to adopt the role of home chef, Bonnie Morales' matriarchal ode to the hearty dishes of her parents' homeland, the former Soviet Union, was already working to meet diners' demand to cook some of her recipes themselves. Lavka, the adorably compact grocery store that opened above Kachka's dining room last year, began selling items like the frequently requested frozen dumplings to go. And happily for novice cooks, they're as simple to prepare as a box of fluorescent orange Kraft pasta, but taste much more sophisticated. The savory, quarter-sized Siberian pelmeni are delicately soft yet robust with their juicy knobs of beef, pork and veal, while the tvorog vareniki offer a gloriously supple center of mild farmer's cheese. Pretend you're at Kachka, serve the dumplings on your most intricately decorated China and wildly patterned tablecloth, then finish with a sizable dollop of sour cream and sprinkling of fresh herbs. ANDI PREWITT.
Takeout and delivery: kachkapdx.com. Delivery available within a 3-mile radius of the restaurant. Noon-8 pm daily for pickup, 1-7 pm daily for delivery.
Aviary’s Lobster Rolls ($15)
Everything chef-owner Sarah Pliner serves is thoughtfully delicious, and her takeout lobster roll and jojos are no exception. The rolls are of the warm, dressed variety: 2.5 ounces of lobster meat mixed with a mayo-based sauce enhanced by herb, cayenne, celery and lemon zest, served on a pillowy soft, browned-in-butter roll. The jojo wedges ($7) start with Yukon Golds prepared in multiple stages, concluding with a quick turn in the fryer until crispy. MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN.
Takeout: 503-287-2400. 4-8 pm Thursday-Saturday. aviarypdx.com.
Tight Tacos’ Hella(bur)Rito ($11)
A burrito is always a good call for takeout, and Tight Tacos is finally a contender for best in town. Its hand-pressed to order tortillas have a perfect elasticity, which is crucial in keeping the steamy pile of french fries, nacho cheese, cream and onions contained in handheld form. In terms of protein, go for the carnitas, which create a matrix of crispy nooks and crannies for the globs of cheese to sneak into while your burrito is en route to your house. PETE COTTELL.
Takeout: tighttacos.com. Delivery: PostMates, Grubhub, DoorDash. Noon-8 pm Tuesday-Saturday.
Coquine’s Chocolate Chip Cookies ($15 a half-dozen, $29 a dozen)
Coquine is famous for its roast chicken and peerless pastas, but the entrees have always been rivaled in-house by chef Katy Millard's chocolate chip cookies. Not too crunchy, not too cakey, punctuated by smoked almonds, salted caramel and brown butter. In better times, savvy diners have taken one at the table and a few more to go. Now, between your own baking projects, skip the pretense and grab a dozen curbside in a stylish brown box. MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN.
Takeout: coquinepdx.com. Order by noon Sunday for Wednesday pickup or noon Wednesday for Saturday-Sunday pickup.
Pinolo Gelateria’s Fresh Fruit Sorbetto ($6.50 a half-pint, $9.95 a pint)
Mirroring the carousel of seasons, the dairy-free sorbettos at this Southeast Division Street gelato shop are the highest, purest iteration of fresh fruit in frozen form. They can taste more like fruit than the fruit itself—it's uncanny. Though proprietor Sandro Paolini was a little slow to offer takeout, he has the rhythm down now, with a rotating selection of flavors, such as champagne mango and tangerine-elderflower. MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN.
Takeout: Walk-ins welcome. 3-8 pm Friday. pinologelato.com.
Pie Spot’s Marionberry Pie Spot ($4.50 each, $54 a baker’s dozen)
The magic of the Pie Spot is its tight ratio of crust to filling—it means you get plenty of flaky, golden brown, all-butter crust with each bite. The spots, which look like a hybrid of a mini-pie and a tart, are also easy to manage without utensils. Though everyone has a favorite, the sweet-tart, uniquely Oregon marionberry easily outshines any corporate candy. MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN.
Takeaway: pie-spot.com. Order by Thursday for "no contact," call-on-arrival pickup 11 am-4 pm Friday-Saturday.
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