1. Flying Fish Co.
3004 E Burnside St., 971-806-6747, flyingfishportland.com. 10 am-8 pm Wednesday-Monday.
For a city bisected by a river, Portland has a shocking scarcity of fish sandwiches on its restaurant menus. Stop searching and head straight for Flying Fish Company. The 6-ounce fillet of steelhead is prepped simply and 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, 70-degree day in spring.
2. Tulip Shop Tavern
825 N Killingsworth St.,503-206-8483, tulipshoptavern.com. Noon-midnight Sunday-Thursday, noon-1 am Friday-Saturday.
Tulip Shop believed in its fried fish sandwich so much that it put out a call to review it on its social media: “We’re still waiting on the #fishwich articles to come out.” So here we are. Tulip serves up an impressively large, crispy 4-ounce rectangle of panko-breaded, perfectly flaky, Blue North wild Alaskan cod, served on a Dos Hermanos milk bun with tartar sauce, shredded lettuce and pickle. Pro tip from the bar: Add two slices of American cheese for $1.
3582 SE Powell Blvd., 971-331-4284, jojopdx.com. 11 am-9 pm daily.
Jojo’s signature Southern fried chicken sandwich was a classic the second the inaugural batch came out of the fryer two years ago: equal parts crispy and juicy; topped with vinegary coleslaw and a not so secret sauce of ketchup and Duke’s Mayo; big enough to bulge the eyes without forcing you to unhinge your jaw. Get yours today from the sky-blue cart tucked in the back of a parking lot next to John’s Marketplace. Few trips are as essential.
7119 SE Milwaukie Ave., 971-200-1391, hollerpdx.com. 11 am-9 pm Monday-Friday, 10 am-9 pm Saturday-Sunday.
Holler was built on fried chicken, and the restaurant’s fish sandwich is “chicken-fried” so it essentially goes through the same process as the birds: buttermilk with a little Crystal hot sauce, then seasoned flour. Served on Texas toast with dill-and-fennel ranch, jalapeño jelly, butter lettuce and “Holler pickles,” the overall flavor profile of the jelly and pickles can strike some as too sweet. But the fillet itself—Riverence farmed steelhead—is both seriously crunchy and impeccably cooked.
4636 NE 42nd Ave., 503-444-7947, yonderpdx.com. 4-9 pm Wednesday-Sunday.
At Yonder, you can get your catfish dusted Nashville hot or with lemon pepper. Breaded in both rice flour and cornmeal, the wild koji-cured Tennessee catfish comes on America’s best fast food sandwich bun, the Martin’s potato roll, with a pile of iceberg lettuce and what Yonder has dubbed “tartar slaw”—julienned bread-and-butter pickles, chives, dill and Duke’s Mayo. The fish is tasty, tender and crispy, but what really makes this sandwich memorable is the cheese. This is no slice of American à la Mickey D’s nor something implausibly exotic but, rather, grated Tillamook white cheddar cooked into a lacy frico. It adds both extra crunch and a piquant note that hits you in the nose before you can even taste it.