1. Mercato at Caffe Mingo
807 NW 21st Ave., 503-226-4646, caffemingonw.com. 11 am-9 pm Tuesday-Friday, 2-9 pm Saturday-Sunday.
Mercato’s Jerry Lasagna is named after Mingo chef Jerry Huisinga, who’s been feeding Portland pasta for three decades. This is a petite and classic white lasagna, with a strongly nutmegged béchamel sauce playing the starring role in every bite. The noodles and the pork-and-beef Bolognese add texture as much as flavor, with one cheese, grana Padano, capping it off. Add a salad and some bread and you’ll definitely get two servings from one order.
2. 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.
3. Phuket Cafe
1818 NW 23rd Place, 503-781-2997, phuketcafepdx.com. 5-10 pm Monday-Friday, 10 am-2 pm and 5-10 pm Saturday-Sunday.
Rocketship Earl has catapulted skyward again. Phuket Cafe, located inside the compact former Ataula space in Northwest Portland, is Akkapong “Earl” Ninsom’s newest restaurant and co-venture with bartender Eric Nelson. After barely a month, waits can run long for Ninsom’s new, twisted take on Thai cuisine, a niche he owns. It’s a challenge to describe the menu, but it reflects the pair’s recent travels in Thailand, and includes everything from oysters on the half shell to bacon bites to paella to a glorious pork chop—a massive 18-ounce Tails & Trotters cut, sliced from the bone for service.
2838 SE Belmont St., 971-383-1619, blutospdx.com. 11 am-10 pm daily.
Bluto’s, named after John Belushi’s hard-partying character in Animal House, comes from Lardo and Grassa mastermind Rick Gencarelli and the ChefStable restaurant group. Like Lardo and Grassa, it aims for that fancy, fast-casual niche, with counter service and midrange prices belying some seriously tasty cooking. Bluto’s portion sizes are perfect for sharing, so covering a table in a variety of dishes and allowing the flavors to mingle is the right way to eat here. The zippy citrus and sour labneh in the chicory salad should be eaten in between bites of the savory skewers and hummus scooped up with pita bread.
5. King Tide Fish & Shell
1510 S Harbor Way, 503-295-6166, kingtidefishandshell.com. 7 am-1 pm and 4-9 pm Monday-Thursday, 7 am-1 pm and 4-10 pm Friday, 8 am-1 pm and 4-10 pm Saturday, 8 am-1 pm and 4-9 pm Sunday.
One of Portland’s rare downtown riverfront restaurants has a new chef helming the kitchen. Alexander Diestra is a familiar name to anyone who pays attention to the city’s culinary scene, boasting more than 18 years of experience at places like Saucebox, Clarklewis and Andina. The Peruvian native is now shaking up the menu at King Tide by introducing new items such as bluefin tuna tartare, kanpachi crudo, ono ceviche, Wagyu coulotte and a seafood risotto with prawns and scallops—lively dishes that are a mashup of the flavors of his home country and Japan.