1. Cafe Olli
3925 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 503-206-8604, cafeolli.com. 9 am-2 pm Tuesday, 9 am-9 pm Wednesday-Sunday.
Cafe Olli is a lot of restaurants. By day, it’s a casual counter-service spot, with your pick of pastries, sandwiches and square Roman-style “pizza alla pala” by the slice. At night, the room darkens. There’s wait staff on the floor, and the cooks get busy with the wood-fired oven, which remains from the space’s previous occupant, Ned Ludd. No matter when you visit, the menus have a choose-your-own-adventure feel, suitable for anyone in need of a quick meal, or a customer looking to sample every dish. Pro tip: Get there early for dinner to guarantee yourself a slice of classic chocolate fudge cake.
2. Ripe Cooperative
5425 NE 30th Ave., 503-841-6968, ripecooperative.com. Noon-8 pm Thursday-Saturday, noon-5 pm Sunday.
The lasagna at Naomi Pomeroy’s cafe-market is richness upon richness, with what is currently a duck Bolognese, ricotta and, per the website description, “lots of mozzarella and Parmesan.” That’s no lie: This is more or less a white lasagna, and something of a dairy bomb, with a big layer of ricotta, béchamel and a three-cheese blend, plus mozzarella. You won’t need bread for sopping at the end, but you could probably fry a few potatoes in the slick of duck fat that’s left over.
3. The Sports Bra
2512 NE Broadway, 503-327-8401, thesportsbrapdx.com. 11 am-11 pm Wednesday-Sunday.
Billed as the first and only bar whose screens feature only women’s athletics, the Sports Bra is a unique concept that has generated excitement on a national scale. But the pub also promises to distinguish itself by serving food all made from scratch that will please carnivores, vegans, gluten-free patrons and everyone in between. We’re most excited to try owner-chef Jenny Nguyen’s family recipes for dishes like Mom’s Baby Back Ribs—Vietnamese-style pork caramelized with coconut milk—and Aunt Tina’s Vietna-Wings, fried-and-glazed chicken on a bed of cabbage slaw.
721 NW 9th Ave., 541-900-5836, republicapdx.square.site. À la carte menu served 9 am-3 pm, chef’s tasting menu served 5-9 pm daily.
República has introduced Portland to another thread of Mexico’s complex gastronomic tapestry: the modernist-leaning tasting menu, which the Pearl District restaurant began serving in 2021. Packaging indigenous Mexican ingredients with sophisticated technique in a town known for its disdain of pretension was bold as hell. But it has been pulling it off with aplomb. And the idea of simultaneously serving each twosome one vegetarian-leaning tasting menu and one with a meatier bent is brilliant, especially for good eaters who share.
5411 NE 30th Ave., 503-719-4373, gabbianospdx.com. 4-10 pm Wednesday-Sunday.
Certain restaurants are just like certain people: You know you’re gonna like them from the first moment you lay eyes on them. We clicked with Gabbiano’s right away thanks to its warm, bustling interior with hand-painted Italian fresco walls and a “When you’re here, you’re family” vibe that Olive Garden can only fake. The classics (chicken Parm, chitarra, calamari, the Caesar) are all dialed in. But you must order the mozzarella cups—breaded and fried cheese served as a molded shot glass and then filled with marinara.