1. The Soop
1902 W Burnside St., 971-710-1483, thesoopportland.com. 10 am-8 pm Monday-Friday, 11 am-8 pm Saturday.
The Soop has certainly been mistaken for a kitschy soup spot more than once. However, soop is a Korean word for forest, and when you visit, you’ll see why the name fits so well. Especially in the evening, the cozy restaurant glows with shades of warm magenta emanating from lamps that hang over microgreen planters in the kitchen. It’s strange to imagine fresh lettuce could make such a difference, but everything on Ann Lee’s somewhat eccentric menu—dishes as dissimilar as bibimbap, chicken and microgreen nachos, and even a BLT— benefits from the microgreens treatment.
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.
3. Baon Kainan
4311 NE Prescott St., baonkainan.com. 5-8 pm Thursday-Monday, 11 am-3 pm Saturday-Sunday.
The biggest standout dish at this hot new Filipino food cart located in the Metalwood Salvage lot is its kare kare fries. The classic braised beef peanut stew is thickened and poured over fries, aided by a dollop of shrimp paste and bright red pickled Fresno chiles. The result puts poutine to shame, but be sure to eat them as soon as they come out of the cart’s window—the fries hold up, but they’re best when eaten hyperfresh.
4. YāYā PDX
1451 NE Alberta St., 503-477-5555, yayapdx.com. 4-9 pm Wednesday-Sunday.
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 we’ve sampled (and it’s been many; sorry to our 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 payoff as you nibble.
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 Hawaiian sweet rolls, but with a more substantial crust and crumb—and longanisa sausage, a nod to Stokes’ Filipino heritage.