The phrase “best restaurants in Portland” is purely subjective. After all everyone has their own idea of what makes a great restaurant. For some its a combination of ambiance, service and food quality.
While others will settle for a hole in the wall if they have good tater tots! (Tater tots are huge in Portland by the way). This list is compiled from my own personal opinion after living in Portland for nearly eight years.
So, if you find yourself visiting Portland, you should check out one of these restaurants in between tasting the best coffee the city has to offer, exploring all the cool spots to get that instagram worthy photo and embracing the unique and weird things that make Portland hip.
1. Pok Pok
Pok Pok is a must try when visiting Portland. This restaurant consistently ranks on Portlander’s top recommended restaurants to visitors.
The late reality TV travel and food connoisseur Anthony Bourdain has even made a stop to visit Pok Pok. He tasted the the most popular dish on the menu, fish sauce wings. I know it sounds, well, not very good, but I can assure they are delicious.
The Pok Pok wings have become so popular that owner and chef Andy Ricker has even opened up a few Pok Pok Wing restaurants catered to serving up the wings to-go style, along with a few other signature dishes.
When visiting I recommend venturing to Pok Pok’s original location on SE Division Street so that you can soak up the small, cozy and dimly lit space. On weekends, lines can form at this location because it is so popular. So, if lines aren’t your thing, you can venture to the NW Portland location which only reserves half of their seats to allow for plenty of walk-ins.
2. Departures: One of the best restaurants in Portland, for sure!
Departures makes my best restaurants in Portland list for three reasons. First it has a stunning view. The restaurant is located in Portland’s central downtown pioneer square neighborhood and Departures is on the top floor of the Nines hotel. In warmer weather there is patio seating outside so you can dine with a view.
The second reason Departures is one of the best restaurants in Portland is the food quality. If you are a fan of the Bravo Top Chef reality TV Cooking show than you are sure to recognize the head chef, Gregory Gourdet.
Chef Gourdet is the head of culinary cuisine here and he has some fun signature dishes. My recommendation is to order the ishiyaki steak that comes sizzling atop a warm stone. It’s a pretty cool dish. Small, but well done, and in my opinion a must try.
The third reason I recommend Departures restaurant is because it has a noteworthy happy hour. If you come during happy hour you can get to try some wonderful food, with a stunning view for literally half the price.
For the ultimate big splurge and an evening you will not forget, I recommend Nodoguro. Located on SE Belmont Street in Portland, this multi-course Japanese farm to table dinner is perfect for special occasions.
In true Portland hipster fashion, this restaurant has some novelty to arranging a reservation. Here is what I mean:
First off, in order to get a seat at the table you must sign up for Nodoguro’s newsletter. A newsletter will be sent once a month informing interested patron’s of the exact moment when reservations will open.
The newsletter will give very specific instructions such as “on May 25th at 4:17pm PST reservations will open up for next month.”
Once you have been given the special time, you need to act fast to sign up for a reservation.
This in my opinion is part of the fun of arranging for a fun night of prix-fixed food. But if you are visiting from out of town and want a reservation the key is to plan ahead.
I say this is a splurge because the 15 course tasting menu runs $125 per person. That is also excluding any drinks that you may want to accompany your meal.
I know that is very high, and that’s why I say this is a splurge, and a fun thing to do for a special occasion.
My husband and I went through all of this rigmarole to get a reservation last year, and honestly it exceeded expectations.
We ate all of the courses. Now, did I LOVE everything? No, of course not. There are going to be somethings that you just try for the experience.
But maybe you will like everything?
4. Tasty N’ Alder
Without a doubt Tasty n’ Alder is one of the best restaurants in Portland and also one of my favorite places to go to brunch.
Tasty n’ Alder is the idealistic picture of a Portland hipster cool brunch spot. A 9:00AM opening means get in line at 8:30…8:45AM if your pushing it.
Once inside the cheerful, airy and light filled space provides the perfect start to your weekend brunch. I should also mention that you can come here for lunch and dinner, but brunch is king.
A few of my favorite things to get at Tasty n’ Alder are the chocolate potato donuts and the biscuit breakfast sandwich. Honestly you can’t go wrong. One of the most popular brunch items on the menu is the bim bop bacon and eggs.
One thing you should know about Tasty n’ Alder is that fare is served up family style, which means that all items are meant to be shared, and will come out on a first serve basis.
However, I have been plenty of times and have ordered the traditional way, planning to consume everything I ordered on my own. Which is fine too.
Andina is a Peruvian restaurant located in Portland’s NW Pearl district neighborhood on the very cool 13th Street. This area has a lot of shops and restaurants housed in old industrial warehouse buildings that have since been converted for commercial use.
Andina is a classic white tablecloth elegant dining experience, but without stuffiness. A few nights during the week, usually Friday and Saturdays, live music is known to light up the dinner hour.
Classic Peruvian dishes and imported beers can be found on the menu. I have been here a handful of times and it never disappoints. It is fairly easy to get a reservation as well.
For a true taste of pacific northwest fare look no further than Jacqueline. A true hidden gem located on SE Clinton St. on Portland’s east side, just a block away from the ever so popular restaurant mecca of Portland, Division Street.
But if you just wander over to SE Clinton Street on the corner of SE 21st and Clinton lies Jacqueline. The first time I had dinner here it was a typical pacific northwest rainy evening.
After parking my husband and I parked our car we ran through the rain drops and were delighted at the respite we found at Jacqueline.
Ambiance here is on point. Dimly lit for dinner with candles on each table with a backdrop of an oyster shucker behind the bar serving up the ever so popular happy hour oysters.
If you come with a group for the happy hour, please know that the rule is only one dozen of oysters per table at a time. Why? I have no idea. But I think it is so people don’t go overboard on oysters before ordering their main dishes.
I recommend this spot for an authentic Portland seafood experience. The charm of the interior decor is ocean meets film.
I say that because behind the bar is a painted portrait of Bill Murray’s character from the Wes Anderson film Life Aquatic. In addition to the ode to Bill Murray the walls are adorned with oyster shuckers and framed fish.
For one of the best brunches in Portland, head to Beast located in the northeast section of Portland.
Now I know you are probably thinking that you don’t want to wait in a long line for some cool Portland brunch spot…and here you don’t have to. Beast is a prix fix french restaurant that only takes reservations.
The weekend brunch option is super reasonable at $40 dollars for a three course meal experience.
My mom and I came here a few years ago and absolutely loved it. Dinning here is family style, which means everyone sits together among two big tables. This was fun! We met a woman traveling solo from Australia that was really nice to talk to.
The chefs prepare all courses before your eyes while Whitney Houston’s I wanna dance with somebody plays in the background.
I highly recommend the brunch experience, and I am sure the dinner is just as good!
8. Ava Genes
If you are in the mood for Italian fare, look no further than Ava Genes restaurant located on SE Division Street in downtown Portland.
My husband and I came here for my birthday about four years ago and really enjoyed the entire evening.
Head chef Joshua McFadden guides the menu to perfection and does not disappoint with pastas created with locally sourced fours.
Portland’s Willamette Week news outlet has even reported that they mill some of their flour in house. I think that is pretty cool if you ask me.
One thing I really remember is how good it smelled inside. The open air wood fire grill made the whole restaurant feel so warm. On a fall day in late September this was the coziest place to be.
The pasta dishes exceeded expectations. The wait staff was professional and so kind. For those reasons Ava Genes makes my list of best restaurants in Portland.
9. Speilman Bagels
Although the west coast is not known for its bagels like New York, I believe I have found one of the best spots in the city, Speilman Bagels.
Speilman is a local spot with a handful of locations scattered across Portland. What began as a father son coffee and bagel spot back in 2011 grew a name for itself while patrons couldn’t get enough of the unique sourdough, kettle boiled bagels.
My favorite location is the one on Lovejoy St. in northwest Portland near the bustling NW 23rd Avenue.
10. McCormick & Schmick’s
Number 10 on my list is a chain, admittedly, however it originated in Portland. For that reason it makes the best restaurants in Portland list.
The restaurant location stands on the edge of the Willamette river. Which provides glorious views of the boat harbor. In the summer time patio tables are arranged on the walkway with umbrella’s to shade you.
My husband and I have gone to McCormick & Schmick’s so many times I can’t even count. We are actually Landry club card members! We have come here to celebrate special occasions, go to happy hour, watch sports games, have a nice meal on Christmas day and even Valentines day.
I hope you have enjoyed this round-up of the best restaurants in Portland to try the next time your in town. Bon appetite!