5202 N Albina Ave., 503-201-7038, sweedeedee.com. 9 am-9 pm Wednesday-Saturday.
Sweedeedee’s cuisine has always been a little hard to define. The North Portland cafe’s menu is deeply seasonal and farm fresh. While not exclusively vegetarian, it’s certainly vegetable heavy. A sign of Sweedeedee’s style is obvious in its summer tomatoes, served in olive oil with padrón peppers, basil and salt. It’s an incredibly simple dish but somewhat jaw-dropping for its colorful beauty and bursting, herb flavors. When visiting Sweedeedee for dinner visitors are best served with an assemblage of items. Perhaps the roast chicken, a vegetable dish, some Grano sourdough to sop up the olive oil and then a bottle of wine for the table.
8220 Denver Ave., 503-719-7976, derbypdx.com. 9 am-midnight Wednesday-Sunday.
Judith Stokes’ Derby is both a work in progress and an act of imagination: an all-in-one restaurant, bar, cafe and market with a patio for outdoor dining and events like live music and drag bingo. For now, Derby is first and foremost a brunch restaurant offering up the classic paralyzing choice: sweet or savory. If you’re dining in a group of four, no problem: You can split the cardamom custard French toast, mini macadamia nut waffles, massive (20-ounce) breakfast burrito, and the white cheddar, arugula and mustard aioli breakfast sandwich.
You may also want some sides like pandesal sweet rolls—not unlike a Hawaiian sweet roll, but with a more substantial crust and crumb—and longanisa sausage, a nod to Stokes’ Filipino heritage.
3. Xinh Xinh Vietnamese Bistro
970 SE Morrison St., 971-229-1492, xinhxinhbistro.com. 11 am-8 pm Monday-Tuesday and Thursday, 11 am-9 pm Friday-Saturday, 11:30 am-8 pm Sunday.
Found in a small strip of businesses on Southeast Morrison, Xinh Xinh is best known for its banh mi and soups, but the real ones know that the move is the crunchy salad. Served with a slightly sweetened fish sauce dressing, you’ll find yourself slurping down the grated cabbage, onion and carrots. Peanuts add even more crunch, while basil adds depth. It is an epic salad.
4. Buddy’s Steaks
5235 NE Sandy Blvd, 215-694-8095, buddyssteaks.com. noon-8 pm Friday-Monday or until sold out.
What’s a cheesesteak without cheese or steak? Vegan cheesesteaks are all over Philadelphia, but Buddy’s exists because co-owners Buddy Richter and Angela D’Occhio hadn’t found any meatless cheesesteaks that lived up to their own pre-vegan, Philly native memories. The “steak” is made in-house by Richter, and the cashew- and coconut-based whiz is available as either “provolone” or “cheddar,” which is an especially radioactive-looking orange.
5. YāYā PDX
1451 NE Alberta St., 503-477-5555, yayapdx.com.
Chef Steven Chin calls Cantonese barbecue his soul food, and you really feel that. The streamlined menu focuses on serving meat over rice with hot mustard, dipping sauce and pickled cucumber and carrot. It’s simple and it’s great. YāYā particularly nails the duck and char siu pork. Of all the duck I’ve sampled (and it’s been many; sorry to my avian friends), Chin’s is the most five-spice forward. The ducks he selects also have more meat on the bone than many others, leading to luscious full bites of bird. As Cantonese duck is served chopped and bone-in, this means a bigger and better pay off as you nibble.