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Portland’s Ace Hotel: A Superior Dining Program

Portland’s Ace Hotel: A Superior Dining Program

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The Ace Hotel chain is one of the hippest hotel chains in the country right now. Its new Los Angeles location has received a ton of buzz and Time magazine even proclaimed the company as part of the “next wave” of hoteliers. After staying at the Portland location, I can only hope that the Time’s crystal ball is accurate.

Situated right in downtown Portland, the Ace Hotel oozes cool. From the classic bikes you can rent in the lobby (it is Portland, after all) to the impossibly hip lobby complete with old couches, a beat-up wooden table, and even a vintage photo booth, you’ll appreciate everything this place has to offer. I loved everything about this sparse, but well thought-out hotel. No detail is too small here. Its location is also right by many top spots—including the Pearl District, the Wonder Ballroom, and Powell’s Bookstore—and I delighted in watching the city slowly come to life outside my window every day. “'In Portland, the food culture is so strong that we try to foster what is already good and what ‘could be’ and then get out of the way of ideas that are great.'"

But what’s really impressive about this hotel is its phenomenal dining program. Ace is currently home to Stumptown Coffee, underground bar Pépé le Moko, and a full-service restaurant Clyde Common, each with its own distinct identity, by design of course.

“We consider them part of the whole hotel experience,” said General Manager of the Ace Hotel Donald Kenney in an email to The Daily Meal. “The idea with Clyde Common was straightforward, a convivial gathering place that was unpretentious and had a great bar. The main idea was in the interplay between the public spaces of the restaurant/lobby/coffee shop—they feel connected in a way that elevates all parts while still maintaining a sense of separate environments.”

Portland’s notable Stumptown Coffee is connected to the hotel via a hallway in the lobby where hotel guests and coffee shop patrons are free to mingle. And man, how I wish getting a cup was as easy as walking down the stairs and out of the lobby. If you’re not familiar with the Portland-based company, Stumptown churns out impossibly smooth and delicious concoctions and is a key player in the nation’s current third-wave coffee movement. You’ll instantly fall in love with the shop’s lattes, regular coffee, and be sure to try its Coffee Milk too—it’s like chocolate milk without the typical overabundance of sugar. It’s worth noting that the baristas here are very dedicated to their work, too. At the Pine Street location in Portland, one of their employees made me a latte and then re-made me another one after he felt the espresso art of the first cup he created wasn’t up to par. The first cup was fine, but little details like that make the coffee lover inside of me swoon.

And the relationship between Stumptown and the Ace was born out of a mutual admiration, says Kenney.

“When [Stumptown founder Duane Sorenson] was expanding Stumptown, he recognized the need to showcase his company's passion for coffee on a larger scale, one that can be found by appealing to savvy hotel travelers,” Kenney said. “The serendipitous thing about it is the original intent was, in part, to showcase this great coffee to a larger audience, and in turn it solidified the sense of community that Ace has become synonymous with designing by bringing locals in to the hotel lobby to interact with guests.”

But forget about the (truly) excellent coffee for a moment. The Ace is also home to one incredible restaurant. Clyde Common impresses with casual fare that’s well executed and plated beautifully. I’m a seafood lover, and I had the best halibut of my life at this restaurant. The smooth, buttery fish was tender and something I’m sure I’ll think about for years to come. I also fell head-over-heels for the crisp and tender sweetbreads. The asparagus crab salad, with mustard curry, cucumber, and fingerling chips, was quite possibly one of the most beautiful, tasty, and texture-filled dishes I’ve ever consumed. As with Stumptown, the restaurant seamlessly transitions from the hotel via a hallway, but still feels like a distinct location. Grab a spot up top to people watch, or sit on the ground level and enjoy window views of the city.

If you still have any room left after Clyde Common, it’s worth grabbing a drink at the literally underground Pépé le Moko. It’s around the corner and down a set of steep stairs in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it location, making the dark bar feel almost like a secret place. The atmosphere is what patrons will probably fall in love with most. It’s dark, cozy, and mysterious. The menu is small, but tasty and specialty cocktails dominate. If ice cream is your thing, don’t leave without trying The Grasshopper. It tastes like a Girl Scout Thin Mint in liquid form with a dash of booze. Skip dessert at Clyde Common and opt for this instead if you prefer a nightcap after your meal.

With three outstanding but distinctly different spots, the dining program at the Ace Hotel is a wonderful component of Portland’s vibrant culinary scene.

“In Portland, the food culture is so strong that we try to foster what is already good and what ‘could be’ and then get out of the way of ideas that are great,” Kenney says. “We think of ourselves more as a hub that things happen around rather than a proper restaurant group.”

Teresa Tobat is a travel writer based out of the Washington, D.C. area. View her website at Follow her tweets @ttobat88.

Famous Restaurants You Can Never Dine In Again

The restaurant industry has suffered tremendous losses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. And sadly, no matter how well-known or beloved, or how big the chef name attached to them, some restaurants did not reopen after the coronavirus stay-at-home orders lifted. Here's a look at some of the most popular restaurants across the United States that have been shut down permanently as a result of the pandemic. (Related: 9 Restaurant Chains That Closed Hundreds of Locations This Summer)

And after, be sure to sign up for our newsletter to get the latest food news delivered straight to your inbox.

Tips4theTrip: Low tide in Baja

San Felipe, Baja California, sits on the peninsula’s east coast, facing the Gulf of California.

When the tide goes out along the Baja coast at San Felipe, it really goes out.

The result is a big, broad beach, dotted with mud-bound little fishing boats and the occasional meandering happy couple. If you catch that low tide when the sun is low too, the mountains seem to loom larger and the whole scene feels a bit more powerful.

I shot this in 2008, having driven across the border for a story comparing San Felipe (on the Baja peninsula, about 250 miles southeast of San Diego) with its mainland cousin across the Gulf of California, Puerto Peñasco. (More recently, we’ve had news of porpoise preservation efforts in the area.)

Lessons from the road. And the sky. And the sea.

Guide Raymond Chee stands at Upper Antelope Canyon, Ariz., on a cloudy day. Photo taken in 2013.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Because pandas have unusually inefficient digestive systems, they eat enormous amounts of bamboo, and eliminate enormous amounts, too. Photo shot in 2013.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park. Photo taken in July 2015.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Faneuil Hall, Boston. Photo shot in July 2015.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Lake George, N.Y. Photo taken in July 2015.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Photo shot in July 2015.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Somewhere over Arizona. Photo shot in July 2015.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Yellowstone National Park. Photo shot in July 2015.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Providence, R.I. Photo shot in July 2015.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Mesquite Dunes, Death Valley National Park.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Wizard Island, Crater Lake, Oregon. Photo shot in May 2015.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

A lone biker pedals up Avenue of the Giants, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, near Myers Flat.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Late-afternoon sunbeams on San Francisco Street highlight the texture of downtown Santa Fe’s adobe-style architecture.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Surfboard House, a B&B in Hanalei, Kauai.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

This is the ceiling of the 16th century Museo Ex Convento and Parroquia Nuestra Senora de la Natividad, Tepoztlan, Mexico.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

You can tell the locals in Monument Valley -- they’re the ones hauling hay and water for their animals.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

This is Mt. Rundle, as seen from Vermilion Lakes, Banff National Park. The photo was shot early on Nov. 18, 2014.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Low tide, San Felipe, Baja California.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

The view from the Encore Hotel, 2008, in Las Vegas.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Portland’s Ace Hotel, shown here in 2013, opened in 2007.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

You can always count on travel to teach you something -- but what? Travel is the substitute teacher who didn’t get the lesson plan, the adjunct lecturer who goes off on Bukowski, the grad assistant who trashes your poetry, then hands out red velvet cupcakes. If only you’d had a clue what was coming, right?

I’m building this gallery from new and old adventures in the West and the world beyond. The photos are all mine. As for the attempted wisdom, it’s all dead serious, except for that which isn’t.

Restaurants with Secret Late-Night Menus You Need to Check Out

At April Bloomfield’s restaurant The Breslin, located inside New York’s Ace Hotel, there's a secret for diners with midnight munchies. From closing time until 2 a.m. every day, there’s a special menu with foods early birds will never see, including “thrice-cooked chips” with cumin mayo, a grilled three-cheese sandwich, burgers, lamb bacon, and more.

To dine from one of these after-dark menus is to be part of a special club—no secret knocks or passwords required. The only necessity is that eaters show up with empty stomachs after normal dinner guests have gone home. Instead of sitting next to a table having a date night, midnight neighbors might include chefs, bartenders, and other industry employees who want to wind down (or up) after a long shift. The best menus reward those who have stayed awake—with ramen from a restaurant that doesn’t otherwise serve it, burgers that run out during the dinner rush every night, comfort foods from childhood, and other surprises.

If brunch, breakfast, and lunch all get separate menus, why shouldn’t the after-midnight crowd have the same? From 10:30 p.m. until 1 or 2 a.m., Duke’s Grocery in Washington D.C. whips up a special Vietnamese fried rice with mouthwatering bird’s eye chilies, peanut, mint, and more. Seattle’s Revelry gives night-owl diners a good deal with a late-night lineup that’s the same as dinner—only cheaper. Since restaurant industry workers are known to like a shift meal and a drink, some restaurants like Tosca Café in San Francisco gear their's toward comfort food with a “pasta and a beer” deal and special cocktails that tend to involve coffee and hard alcohol.

The after-hours cheeseburger with thick-cut bacon at Marcel. Just the kind of thing you crave at midnight.

Photo by Mary Caroline Russell

Marcel is one of Atlanta’s priciest restaurants. The 8-ounce “filet madame” costs $47.95 a sweet shrimp scampi appetizer is $16.95. Owner and restaurateur Ford Fry describes it as “an expensive, European-style, heavier steakhouse” complete with oxblood leather banquets and ornate décor. Marcel opened in 2015—the eighth of Fry’s restaurants—and he knew from the beginning that he wanted to do something different with the offerings: While they’d serve the regular dinner menu from 5 until 10 p.m. (and 11 on the weekends), on Friday and Saturday nights there would be a special “late-night only” menu, too.

Atlanta doesn’t have much of a night owl dining scene, Fry explains. “There’s a ton of musicians coming after their shows and they couldn’t eat anywhere fun.” Neither, for that matter, could the city’s restaurant industry workers, many of whom work until late. “We work the opposite of the hours normal people work.”

Items on that menu don’t cost more than $10, including a steak frites that normally goes for $29.95 earlier in the night. “Where else can you go to get a good steak frites for $10? We figured, we’d just do it,” Fry says. There are grilled cheeses, hamburgers, an omelet—but for many people who can’t afford Marcel’s regular prices, it’s a chance to eat out in a swanky atmosphere without the dollar signs to match.

James Beard Award finalist Hari Cameron has a late-night menu at his Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, restaurant a(MUSE). “We wanted to accommodate our friends in the industry and people looking for good food later at night.” In more practical terms, it also gives the restaurant a way to make money while cutting down on staff. Cameron explains that they usually still have staff on the floor while the cooks are cleaning the kitchen. “It allows us to optimize labor and increase alcohol sales.”

Though the menu changes frequently, the dishes are always things that are “easy to turn out,” Cameron says. There’s a not-your-suburban-barbecue “baked beans” dish served with duck confit, rabbit, bacon, and a garlic crumb and a grown-up bologna sandwich that’s fried and made with mortadella and a house-made mustard. It also gives them a chance to experiment with foods that might not be a fit for dinner, like chicken wings.

Wings and burgers aren’t the only way to soak up what ails you after a night out. If you want a bowl of ramen from New York City’s Takashi, a Korean-Japanese restaurant featuring beef—and a lot of it—you’ll have to wait until the early birds have gone home. The only ramen they serve appears on their late-night menu. It’s an umami overload of beef broth, seaweed, crispy intestines, and a soft-boiled egg. If that’s not enough, diners can also add extra toppings like a “foie gras sensation.”

Pickled corn pancakes at Alden & Harlow.

Growing up in Portland, Oregon, where there was an incredible late-night dining scene, it was important for chef Michael Scelfo of Cambridge, Massachusetts, restaurant Alden & Harlow to make a post-dinner menu that was more than an afterthought. “I wanted to stay committed to serving fully-executed dishes instead of just snacks,” he says. One of the most popular after-hours orders is the burger. It’s a specialty of the restaurant and frequently sells out by 6 p.m. “We re-up the burgers at 11 o’clock and that draws people in. It’s a cool little secret,” he says. It’s the kind of information that make people feel special when they walk in the door. I know something you don’t know.

So go ahead, get a 7 o’clock dinner reservation and be in bed before midnight. You’re just leaving more food for the rest of us.

Tips4theTrip: In Portland, a room with some ‘tude

Portland’s Ace Hotel, shown here in 2013, opened in 2007.

It’s usually a healthy cycle. A maverick hotelier rises up and wins over followers because his places seem quirkier and more fun than Hilton, Hyatt, Holiday Inn and the other familiar big corporate brands, most of which depend heavily on business travelers.

Pretty soon, the maverick hotelier starts building a string of these boutique inns, each edgy in its own way. If he or she is lucky, the string grows into a little chain and begins to benefit from national branding, economies of scale and so on. Eventually, business travelers start showing up, and the brand begins to settle into the established lodging landscape.

And then, of course, another maverick hotelier shows up, and the cycle begins all over again. Consider Kimpton Hotels and Joie de Vivre Hotels.

Are the Ace Hotels part of this continuum? We’ll see. In the 2013 photo above is the cheeky, quirky Ace Hotel in Portland. (Rooms also feature turntables and vintage vinyl.) When it opened in 2007, it was the second property for a brand that was born in Seattle in 1999.

The entrepreneurs behind the company included Alex Calderwood, who cut a dashing figure with his casual clothes, hard partying and mop of curly dark hair. (In his 20s, Calderwood built a chain of trendy Rudy’s barbershops). Pretty soon, Ace was known for reviving old buildings in offbeat ways. The hotels even inspired a “Portlandia” episode — the one featuring a “Deuce Hotel” that offers typewriters with room keys.

But Calderwood died at age 47 in London in 2013, just as the Ace brand was accelerating into several new markets. Fast Company magazine said the cause of death was “a lethal combination of alcohol and cocaine.” Brad Wilson is now president of Ace Hotel Group.

There are now Aces in downtown Los Angeles (opened 2014), Palm Springs, New York, Pittsburgh and London, with New Orleans scheduled to open in March. The company also runs the American Trade Hotel in Panama City. The Ace website says the hotels are “a collection of individuals — multiple and inclusive, held together by an affinity for the soulful.”

You can always count on travel to teach you somethingbut what? Travel is the substitute teacher who didn’t get the lesson plan, the adjunct lecturer who goes off on Bukowski, the grad assistant who trashes your poetry, then hands out red velvet cupcakes. If only you’d had a clue what was coming, right?

I’m building this gallery from new and old adventures in the West and the world beyond. The photos are all mine. As for the attempted wisdom, it’s all dead serious, except for that which isn’t.

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Portland's 101 best restaurants of 2016

Welcome to the most comprehensive guide to Portland's best restaurants, highlighting new endeavors while celebrating old favorites that remain at the top of their game.

() = last year's position on the 101

This Murray Crossing Korean restaurant is really two in one. The first, downstairs, keeps regular hours and serves a straightforward menu of bibimbap, bulgogi and other well-known Korean dishes. The second, upstairs, has a separate menu and name - Ddonggojib, roughly translating to "stubborn as a mule." It's the reason you're here. The food is like some Seoul University student's 1:30 a.m. fantasy: fried chicken, sweet corn tucked under broiled mozzarella and a "military stew" of SPAM, bacon and ramen noodles topped with a pair of slowly melting American cheese singles. Skip the wings, which have a too-puffy crust, but order that stew, which has enough umami to short circuit your internal appetite suppressant.

Order: Mozzarella corn, spicy octopus with rice noodle coils, budae jjigae (military stew)

1220 S.W. First Ave.
Dinner, daily lunch, Monday-Friday late night, daily weekend brunch.


When the 45-year-old Veritable Quandary closes this fall, making way for a new Multnomah County courthouse, the city will lose more than a handsome brick building. Owner Dennis King opened Veritable Quandary - the VQ to regulars - at the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge in 1971. Four-and-a-half decades later, the restaurant remains a keystone of downtown Portland's dining scene, its dark-wood bar and art-deco dining room filled with office workers sipping soup by day, martini drinkers snacking on confit duck spring rolls by night. Dinner in the back could include burrata with shaved asparagus and fennel, roast wild mushrooms, a solid bistro burger or the cioppino-esque seafood stew, which will be missed.

Order: Duck cracklings, house-made fettucine, seafood stew.

2126 S.W. Halsey St., Troutdale
Breakfast, daily lunch, weekdays dinner, daily weekend brunch.


In an empire built on tater tots and Captain Neon burgers, the restaurant at McMenamins' flagship Edgefield hotel stands out as a legitimately good Northwest bistro. With a wood-lined dining room and a kitchen that knows its Belgian endive from its curly, The Black Rabbit is probably the best restaurant in East County. A recent meal included spring chinook with English peas and asparagus in a saffron sauce and seared albacore with bamboo fried rice and spicy red miso. The surprisingly global menu includes Korean-style kalbi short ribs as an appetizer and jerk-spiced boar as a main. There might be a half-dozen other safe suburban restaurants that can cook like The Black Rabbit, but this is the only one that makes its own beer, wine and spirits, that has its own little farm, and that lets you take your postprandial Scotch with you for a walk on the grounds.

Order: Salads, seared tuna, jerk-spiced boar, McMenamins' wine or beer.

This Mexico City-style rotisserie chicken spot, once plagued by nightly sell-outs and pushy crowds, has expanded its capacity and now seems ripe for growth. For now, Concordia and Cully neighborhood residents are the only lucky ones, with some of Portland's most in-demand takeout in their backyards. This year, Pollo Norte started using free-range chickens from Scratch Farms in Canby, soaking each bird in a lime juice, achiote, sugar and sea salt brine, rubbing them in a trio of powdered chiles and skewering them on the imported rotisserie. Chickens come with fresh tortillas, sides (frijoles negros and the tomato rice are my current go-tos), a trio of neon-bright salsas, and cabbage cooked in drippings, which is somehow the best thing on the menu.

Order: Two people can split a half order of chicken. You'll want extra cabbage, and you won't get it.

1603 N.E. Killingsworth St.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner, Wednesday-Monday (pizza starts at noon weekdays, 1 p.m. weekends)


Once among Portland's best-kept pizza secrets, Handsome Pizza was briefly a nomad last year after its first home closed to make way for new development. Reopened in the Little Beirut building in Northeast Portland, Handsome now cohabitates with Seastar, a bakery specializing in artisan toasts and ancient grains. The new space suits Handsome well. It's lit by comics-shaded lamps and decorated with a shy green dragon from "Gremlins" creator Chris Walas. Here, just a few doors down from Podnah's Pit, owner and self-described "pizza nerd" Will Fain spins beautifully blistered pizzas that fall, stylistically, somewhere between New York and Naples. My go-to order is a split pie, half Mikey Handsome (tomato sauce, mozzarella, hot peppers and pork sausage), half Rico Suave (a white pie with ricotta, mozzarella, oregano and cracked pepper).

Order: Salads, roast vegetables and a split Mikey Handsome/Rico Suave pie.

1473 N.E. Prescott St.
Lunch, dinner and late night, daily weekend brunch.


The beer-fueled Sabin neighborhood hangout Grain & Gristle combines a half-dozen Portland food and drink trends in a dining room with jars of pickles on the wall and a look that can be described as "Oregon Trail chic." It sometimes feels like Portland's most approachable restaurant. Over my last few meals, some familiar dishes haven't hit the way they used to, even as sister restaurant Old Salt Marketplace continues to shine. But the deviled eggs are still topped with fresh anchovies, the burger is still over the top in the best way and the shareable two-fer, a meaty main with two small beers for $25, remains a steal. The secret weapon here has always been the beer list, mostly devoted to Upright Brewing (brewer Alex Ganum is a co-owner), plus a few intriguing guests. Bottoms up.

Order: Bring a date and split the two-fer.

1430 S.E. Water Ave.
Lunch, dinner and late night, daily.


In my review last year, I predicted this Biwa spin-off would take a welcome spot on Portland's growing list of "everyday" ramens - nourishing bowls with firm noodles, well-executed toppings and relatively light broths unlikely to destroy your afternoon or evening. That's exactly what happened. Today, Noraneko might not make the city's best bowl of ramen, but it does make for an excellent late-night destination. Chief among its pleasures: crunchy fried chicken karaage, nightly Western-inspired specials, and the city's most eccentric beverage menu, encompassing everything from fresh-squeezed juice to shochu highballs. The miso bowl has a place in my regular lunch rotation, always with a side of boiled gyoza. Best of all, Noraneko stays open until 2 a.m.

Order: Karaage, miso ramen, sui gyoza, fresh-squeezed juice.

12800 S.W. Canyon Rd., Beaverton
Dinner, Tuesday-Sunday lunch Tuesday-Friday and Saturday


Boriken, a turquoise and tangerine restaurant on Beaverton's Southwest Canyon Road, offers the metro area's only taste of Puerto Rican food. Start with the rellenos de papa, two large, crisp balls of creamy potato and ground beef, or some tostones con mojo de ajo, fried plantains with a garlic aioli. The signature mofongos arrive in a hollowed-out coconut lined with fried and mashed plantain and filled with chicken, conch or chunks of fried pork in a decadent, creamy sauce. Of course there's arroz con pollo, carne frita and steaming bowls of mondongo, a hearty, orange-colored stew packed with tender root vegetables and springy honeycomb tripe - think of it as a mellow cousin to menudo. No matter how much or how little I've ordered, I've always left stuffed.

Order: Bacalaitos, mofongos, mondongo, guava pastelillos.

93: MASU
406 S.W. 13th Ave.
Lunch and dinner, Monday-Friday dinner and late night, Saturday-Sunday


This decade-old sushi parlor once had customers climbing the stairs next to the downtown Portland chocolate shop Cacao to eat nigiri, drink lychee cocktails and listen to DJs spin. Meals here might never capture the excitement of that heyday, or the more recent halcyon era when Nodoguro's Ryan Roadhouse ran the show. Yet Masu remains one of Portland's better sushi restaurants. Visit on a weekend night, when the dining room is invariably humming take a seat at the sushi bar or a table by the window and order nigiri at will (the omakase is interesting, though not essential). Salmon is plump and rich. Scallops are vivacious and firm. There's often Oregon albacore, salmon roe and sea urchin, and all are good. Oh, and the ramen snuck onto my list of the Top 10 in the city. Could the best here be yet to come?

Order: Nigiri and a cocktail of vodka, lychee puree and muddled red grape, for old time's sake.

This empire is built on a single dish - Hainanese-style poached chicken, supple rice and a gorgeous ginger sauce - that is common in Singapore but was almost impossible to find here before Nong Poonsukwattana opened her eponymous cart. If you've never been, I still recommend starting with the original cart downtown (1003 S.W. Alder St.). But for regulars, the brick-and-mortar shop has also earned a spot on this list, if only for the sometimes fickle machine by the counter that churns coconut-lemongrass soft serve. Like the cart near Portland State University (411 S.W. College St.), the restaurant adds to the menu Coca-Cola-braised pork and chicken and broccoli with peanut sauce. Both are fine - the pork especially - but you're here for the khao man gai, preferably with a small bag of fried chicken skins for sprinkling over the top.

Order: Khao man gai, fried chicken skins, soft-serve ice cream.

1303 N.E. Fremont St.
Lunch, Wednesday dinner, Monday-Saturday.


Despite the two cities' wildly different climates, Portland and New Orleans have a lot in common, particularly their twin passions for music and food. But while there might be a great farm-to-table restaurant in New Orleans, the Rose City doesn't have much to offer when it comes to NOLA-style food. So, with apologies to the Oysters Rockefeller at The Parish (231 N.W. 11th Ave.) and dreamy Crawfish Anh Luu at Tapalaya (28 N.E. 28th Ave.), the best Cajun/Creole meal I had this year was at Acadia. New owner Seamus Foran serves good crawfish bisque, house-made andouille and some bucket-list-worthy "barbecue" shrimp in a butter and white wine sauce. Skip rice dishes (our jambalaya and etouffee were uninspired) in favor of dessert, recently sanguinaccio, an ancient Italian recipe for spiced chocolate and pig's blood gelato.

Order: Louisiana barbecue shrimp, andouille sausage, sanguinaccio.

1401 S.E. Morrison St., #117
Lunch, dinner and late night, daily weekend brunch.


Smokehouse 21 went from a tight-quartered Northwest Portland barbecue spot to a budding chain, adding this still-young tavern in the same Southeast Portland complex as Nostrana and a third outpost coming to Vancouver. The Southeast Morrison Street location is my favorite. This tchotchke-filled younger sister features the same ribs, brisket, pulled pork, hot links and Kansas City-style burnt ends as the original, plus intriguing bar snacks that might be the best things on the menu. Sit at the bar for a Timbers game and scarf deviled eggs crowned with a little spicy sausage cap, or stop by after 10 p.m. for one of the limited-edition "10 at 10" burgers, each one a double-stack of thin, seared patties coddled by gooey yellow American cheese and topped with bacon and bone marrow.

Order: Deviled eggs, a plate of ribs or burnt ends and a cold beer.

Accanto, a casual Italian restaurant that's more stylish than a Vespa, attracts hip Sunnyside neighbors for its fizzy cafe cocktails and buzzy vibe. The restaurant dials up simple antipasti such as marinated olives, deviled eggs with fried prosciutto, and cold-smoked salmon with mint marmalade. There are Italian-Italian dishes like the fritto misto, a mini wire cage stuffed with fried olives, shrimp and lemon slices. There are Italian-American ones, too, like the "Manicotti alla Jersey," a hot skillet filled with neat ricotta-stuffed manicotti. During dessert, you might find hot zeppole, cool cannoli or a deconstructed semifreddo. For a casual spot, Accanto's wine list is superb, though a strong Negroni also can carry you a long way through a meal.

Order: Salmon tartare, fritto misto, manicotti, semifreddo, wine.

88: P.R.E.A.M.
2131 S.E. 11th Ave.
Dinner, Tuesday-Sunday late night, Friday-Saturday.


Update: P.R.E.A.M. has closed

P.R.E.A.M., Portland's Wu-Tang Clan-inspired pizzeria, started as a Monday pop-up at Ned Ludd and grew all the way to a full-fledged, 75-seat pizzeria and bar. If the food were bad, the place would feel like a stunt. But there's some lively cooking going on here, from a rustic spring burrata plate with strawberries and radishes to neo-Neopolitan pizzas nicely charred in a 900-degree Gianni Acunto oven. The menu, broken down like a song, has been amped up since the pop-up days, with new salads, pastas, and black garlic knots joining a larger chorus of pizzas. Earlier this spring, we ate a Caesar dressed with tasty smoked buttermilk and smooth fried chicken skins in place of croutons, as well as a satisfying pie with soppressata and olives. The show must go on.

Order: Black garlic knots, burrata plate, fennel-sausage pizza and a cocktail.

Pollos a la Brasa El Inka - 87

48 N.E. Division St., Gresham
Lunch and dinner, daily


This family-owned restaurant has been drawing fans of Peruvian food to Gresham for the better part of a decade. The menu revolves around crazy-affordable roast chickens cooked in shifts in a fragrant wood-fired rotisserie that dominates the dining room's west wall. Plan to order at least half a spice-rubbed bird each order comes with fries, a salad and the stoplight sauces - refreshing green, creamy yellow, spicy red. You might choose to start with some ceviche and its traditional accompaniments, red onion, sweet potato and the crunchy puffed corn known as cancha, though I'll often opt for the crunchy fried calamari instead. If available, add an order of the squeaky, skewered beef hearts known as anticuchos and a cool can of neon-yellow Inca Kola.

Order: Rotisserie chicken, ceviche, anticuchos, Inca Kola.

Go for lunch at this counter-service Hawaiian spot from the meat-loving trio behind Laurelhurst Market and you're likely to find a half-dozen construction workers tucking into sloppy-good plates of kalua pig, spicy chicken wings or loco moco - savory burger patties draped with two nicely fried eggs. This ain't health food. Then again, when we have a craving for plate lunch, we often end up at Ate-Oh-Ate. The East Burnside storefront features surf decor, breezy reggae tunes and juicy ribs, grilled hard, tossed in a sweet kalbi sauce and plated with mac salad and two-scoop rice. There's butter mochi and Spam musubi, if that's your thing, and saimin, the island spin on ramen, here with a dark broth, curly yellow noodles and perfectly rendered slabs of pork belly. All pair well with a frosty pina colada. If the upcoming Southeast Portland location in Woodstock means the dawn of a mini Ate-Oh-Ate chain, count us thrilled.

Order: Poke, a Spam musubi, kalbi ribs or the Aina burger, butter mochi and a frozen pina colada.

1406 S.E. Stark St.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner, daily.


Bunk and Lardo, the Portland sandwich chains currently locked in an expansion arms race, were able to grow quickly because of their clever bread-based creations and even better execution. Yet Meat Cheese Bread is the sandwich shop we return to most. It has stayed small, with a single charming storefront just up the road from Revolution Hall. The signature sandwich is probably the BLB, a BLT with crisp bacon that subs roasted beets for tomato, though even it comes and goes. The breakfast items, served all day, also deserve your utmost attention. Don't miss the killer breakfast burrito stuffed with eggs, hash browns and green chile salsa. For the gluten-averse, any sandwich here can be served as a salad.

Order: The BLB or a breakfast burrito.

This sweetest of Portland brunch spots, named for a lonesome Michael Hurley song, serves fresh salads, hearty sandwiches and one decadent honey pie. Inside the restaurant, which shares a wall with Mississippi Records, a record player warbles with classic reggae, stoner metal or vintage folk. Sunlight slants past glass jars in the window onto white walls and wood floors. Customers, many of whom could be posing for Opening Ceremony's Pendleton line, poke at soft boiled eggs in dainty cups and munch hearty toast spread with avocado and sliced radish from the Sweedeedee Breakfast Plate. This place was built for Instagram.

Order: French press coffee, an egg sandwich and a slice of honey pie.

Bar Mingo
811 N.W. 21st Ave.
Dinner, daily late night, Friday-Saturday.


Not all risotto is created equal. At most Portland restaurants, you're likely to find something closer to fried rice or hard porridge than this Mount Olympus-worthy comfort food. But Bar Mingo, a casual Italian restaurant in Nob Hill between Caffe Mingo and Serratto, is different. That's mostly because the risotto here is only made once a week and available at just two time slots per day. On Wednesdays, you can find former Genoa chef Jerry Huisinga standing over a large pot, stirring stock and butter into fine carnaroli rice. There are plenty of reasons to visit Bar Mingo, the lasagna Bolognese, occasional crab feasts and approachable wine list among them. The risotto might be the best.

Order: Antipasti, cacio e pepe or lasagna, Wednesday-night risotto.

Abyssinian Kitchen
2625 S.E. 21st Ave.
Lunch, Saturday-Sunday dinner, Tuesday-Sunday.


Last year, Abyssinian Kitchen took over the former home of Sok Sab Bai, Portland's sole restaurant devoted exclusively to Cambodian food, and toned down the dining room's colors with warm yellows and browns. This year, the restaurant, which focuses on both Ethiopian and Eritrean food, became our favorite East African restaurant in Portland. The two nations have similar cuisines, with some dishes better loved in one country than the other. But the mixed menu isn't what makes the restaurant remarkable. It's the stewed yellow lentils, mellow yet surprisingly complex the tender cubes of lamb, given a healthy kick of berbere spice and the house-made injera, the rolls of spongy bread used to scoop vegetables or sop up sauce, which have the sharp note of good sourdough bread.

Order: Berbere-spiced lamb and the vegetarian beyaynetu combination platter, with stewed lentils, collard greens and other vegetables.

Mucca Osteria, which opened five years ago, is a pocket of suburban decor with brick walls, ornate mirrors and a sepia-tinted map of Italy located on a downtown Portland block better known for rumbling MAX trains and inexpensive Mexican food. Yet this was the restaurant most often mentioned as an oversight in last year's best restaurant guide. That Mucca has survived, thrived even, is a testament to chef Simone Savaiano, a native of Rome who left behind restaurants in Italy, moved to the United States and eventually settled in Portland. Consider his leaning-tower caprese salad, or the credit-card-thin discs of lamb carpaccio. On a recent visit, Savaiano's Lombata di Maiale, a fatty, salt-crusted slab of pork shoulder with figs, sauteed kale, polenta and a balsamic reduction, was cooked just about perfectly, retaining a rosy blush. Later, there was the pleasure of an espresso-rich tiramisu and the last drops of an inexpensive Chianti.

Order: Caprese salad, carpaccio, pasta, pork or lamb, tiramisu.

Slip up the elevator in The Nines to the hotel's 15th floor, high above the lobby and Urban Farmer steakhouse, for this bar/restaurant's Miami vibe, Asian-influenced small plates and a chance to spot Gregory Gourdet, runner up on Season 12 of "Top Chef" and one of Portland's most well-liked chefs. Departure's menu encompasses China (spring rolls, siu mai, fried rice) Japan (edamame, sashimi, kushiyaki) and Korea (a good bibimbap, stirred table-side). Later this year, Gourdet will put the finishing touches on a Departure spin-off in Denver. If you're interested in this kind of modern Asian fusion in Portland, you might be better off at Smallwares, Expatriate or The American Local, where the bill will be considerably lower. Then again, so will the view.

Order: Mark your calendar for December, when Gourdet offers a Peking duck special.

If you have fond memories of the signature porchetta sandwich at Cliff Allen's old food cart, with its juicy pork and arugula drenched in lemon, you won't want to miss this brick-and-mortar expansion. The People's Pig, found since 2014 in the barely remodeled former home of Tropicana Bar Be Cue, might not be a traditional or regionally specific barbecue spot, but its standout dish (the gorgeous sliced pork shoulder) is among the best smoked meats in Portland. Almost as good is the crunchy fried chicken sandwich, with spicy mayo, a dollop of jalapeno relish and an almost bacon-like smokiness to the meat. Allen recently started serving thick, smoky slices of brisket as a sandwich or a plate with tender collards and creamy slaw. Of course it's delicious.

Order: A fried chicken, brisket or pork shoulder sandwich and a smoked Old Fashioned cocktail.

If Bamboo Sushi cornered you at a party, youɽ be looking for the exit. Before you can even order your real crab California roll or lychee martini, the four-location chain presents you with page after page touting the restaurant's sustainability, environmentalism and other good deeds. Then again, in a town that likes its sushi cheap, quick and pulled off a conveyor belt, Bamboo offers raw fish that's a cut above the rest. Sit at the bar and order chirashi, a big bowl of rice and raw fish, or bring a date and order an omakase (chef's choice) meal at the sushi counter. The latter might include quality amberjack or albacore belly nigiri, a flight of bright-orange salmon sashimi or horse mackerel served on the bone, its skeleton taken away when you're finished and returned deep fried and crunchy.

Order: With a clear conscience.

Writing about ramen in Portland is usually an exercise in selective praise. You appreciate the noodles while wishing they came in a more interesting broth. Or you discover an impressive tonkotsu, only to find its toppings skimpy and dry. But the ramen at Kizuki (formerly Kukai) doesn't really have flaws. The noodles emerge from the hot liquid bouncy, chewy and firm. The broths are rich and robust, clinging to the noodles like a slick of oil. The toppings are on point, including toasted nori, tender pork chashu, and a perfectly cooked egg. Once pierced, its thick orange yolk leaks into the broth. Even the somewhat extraneous izakaya dishes are good. Portland ramen shops, you've been put on notice.

Order: Gyoza chicken karaage the garlic-tonkotsu-shoyu, chicken rich, and spicy miso ramens.

The quintessential Jewish deli of the Northwest, Kenny & Zuke's boils and bakes its own bagels, brines and smokes its own pastrami and stocks one of Portland's best soda collections - think sarsaparilla and Cel-Ray. You can flirt with the Cobb salad, the hot dog or the welcome array of healthier sandwiches, but, eventually, you'll find your way to the Reuben: juicy, thick-sliced cured beef on grilled, caraway-flecked rye with copious kraut and melted Swiss. Get it with shoestring fries and a custom float, and bring a friend to split it. Locals and late-waking Ace Hotel guests next door know about the bagels, latkes, cheese blintzes, challah French toast and smoked salmon eggs Benedict available in the morning. Deli purists may kvetch (and do, often). That's fine. More pastrami for us.

Order: Pastrami Reuben, shoestring fries and a Cel-Ray soda.

2446 S.E. 87th Ave.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner, daily.


The low-key winner of our East vs. West dim sum smackdown, Pure Spice qualifies as a hidden gem. Unlike most notable Portland dim sum houses, HK Cafe (4410 S.E. 82nd Ave.), Wong's King (8733 S.E. Division St. #101) and Ocean City (3016 S.E. 82nd Ave.) among them, this Southeast Division Street restaurant doesn't use roving carts, taking away a bit of the fun but adding serious freshness to the food. Skip the gamey siu mai, but dive into the crisp Chinese doughnuts, vinegar-spiked chicken feet, juicy har gow and tender turnip cakes. All can be ordered off a pictographic menu and delivered hot. Sleep through your Sunday alarm? The salted fish and duck fried rice is worth a special visit at night. Until Portland's true dim sum savior arrives, Pure Spice is the place to go.

Order: Noodle-wrapped Chinese doughnuts, congee, barbecued meats.

126 S.W. Second Ave.
Lunch and dinner, daily (individual kiosk hours vary).


Pine Street Market is Portland's answer to the high-end food court revival in New York and Los Angeles, only with a Rose City twist. Yes, there are handsome kiosks from some of the city's best known chefs, but here, each was asked to come up with something new. So Olympia Provisions has built a white-tiled stall devoted to their juicy sausages, Salt & Straw is pouring silky soft serve capped by a black raspberry magic shell, and baker Ken Forkish is spinning New York-style pizzas, all firsts. Keep an eye out for bottled cold brew from Barista, Euro-Asian fusion Common Law, spicy ramen from the Tokyo-based Marukin chain and roast chickens and shakshuka, respectively, from two John Gorham-backed projects, Pollo Bravo and Shalom Yɺll. Good luck finding a seat.

Order: Round up some friends and try to order one thing from each stall, with some soft serve to go.

926 N.W. 10th Ave.
Lunch and dinner, daily late night, Friday-Saturday.


Don't let the flaming, foil-wrapped rolls fool you: This is a serious sushi spot. The Pearl District restaurant is dominated by an imposing, sake-backed bar, behind which several tidy chefs bend over their knife work. Make reservations for the omakase, or chef's choice meal, preferably sitting in front of chef Heemoon "Scott" Chae (he's the tall one). Depending on the option you choose, the progression might include high-end tuna, salmon, mackerel or geoduck, all impeccably sliced and served with pristine rice. Last year, Yama opened a second location in Southeast Portland's former Vindalho space (2038 S.E. Clinton St.). The sushi isn't quite as good, but the kitchen makes one of Portland's best bowls of ramen.

Order: For raw fish aficionados, Yama's omakase is not to be missed.

5135 N.E. 60th Ave.
Lunch and dinner, Monday-Sunday.


The "fun" is mostly a pair of little-used pool tables in an overflow dining room liberally decorated with Corona merch. But you're here for the food, a tasty assortment of Yucatecan staples, plus a world-beating burrito. If you're flying solo, order that burrito with carne asada. The seared steak comes nicely seasoned and stuffed inside a tortilla lined with cheese pre-crisped on the flattop. From there, explore chef Manuel Lopez's regional specialties: panuchos, the deep-fried, black-bean-stuffed tacos or frijol con puerco, thick chunks of pork in a bowl with soupy black beans. The cochinita pibil - think pulled pork soaked in tart orange juice - is good, but we're in love with the pavo en relleno negro: shredded, super-tender turkey and thick slices of a bouncy, yolk-centered sausage, all bathing in a savory broth as dark as squid ink.

Order: A carne asada burrito, two panuchos and the pavo en relleno negro (when available).

Perched on a rise at Southeast 14th Avenue and Belmont Street, Roost's large windows beckon with simple, comforting dishes that are nearly as elemental as the decor. Almost from day one, the restaurant has been best known for its brunch, featuring decadent Kentucky Brown sandwiches and bodacious Bloody Marys. The Americana-flecked dinner is a better-guarded secret. At night, Roost's confident kitchen shows off with flavor and texture, turning out crisp zucchini fries with a dill-flecked yogurt dipper one night, deep-fried salami or panko fried pork the next. There's typically a nice pan-roasted chicken or fish with seasonal sides, and a burger with black olive-anchovy butter and onion rings good enough to make you wish this neighborhood restaurant were in yours.

Order: Salads, fried green tomatoes, pan-roasted chicken at night (brunch calls for a Bloody Mary).

There's no tableside guac, and tortilla chips aren't listed on the menu, but Nuestra Cocina has the feel of a family-style restaurant, complete with a lively vibe, fresh-citrus margaritas and the occasional mariachi band (at least on Cinco de Mayo). Order ceviche, perhaps rockfish in an orange and chile-spiked citrus bath, and one of the big, relatively inexpensive main dishes. A pork shank posole with puffy hominy and a bundle of cabbage swimming in a rich red broth was less expensive than some simple pastas just up the road, yet big enough to make breakfast tacos with the next morning. The menu at this decade-old restaurant could probably use a little freshening up. Then again, who's brave enough to step in front of this speeding margarita train?

Order: Ceviche, margarita, sopes de chorizo, margarita, chile relleno, margarita.

Back in 2013, Mark Doxtader closed his original Tastebud brick-and-mortar pizzeria and announced plans to reopen near his Multnomah Village home. It took three years for the follow-up. The new restaurant has a welcoming dining room, with split logs stacked by the door and a full bar in the window. Tastebud's wood-fired pizzas are generous from top to bottom, with chewy dough, heaps of melted mozzarella and enough seasonal toppings to fill a farmers market. Yet a perfect meal here might not include pizza at all. The kale Caesar with house bagel chips is bigger, better and half the price of versions at more buzzed-about restaurants. There's beef tongue seared tender in the wood-fired oven, a roast chicken that's juicy to the bone, and roast lamb chops with a lovely charred crust.

Order: Roast vegetables, beef tongue with herbed spaetzle, kale or chicory salads, lamb chops and the Nausicaa, a pie topped with pork sausage, olives and shaved fennel.

For chef Aaron Barnett, La Moule is a homecoming a chance to return to the neighborhood he once called home, just up the hill from the original location of his popular French restaurant St. Jack. The newish bar is a valuable late-night addition to a Southeast Clinton Street corner already loaded with places to drink and eat, even though La Moule's calling cards - mussels and Belgian beer - aren't the most interesting things on the menu. What is? How about the hand-cut steak tartare draped over a roasted marrow bone. It pairs perfectly with barman Tommy Klus' Scotch Lodge, a smooth Rob Roy variation with a dram of Bowmore Small Batch smoking at the center. Need more? Try the butter lettuce salad, familiar from St. Jack or Barnett's poutine, or a pub burger with crisp bacon and triple creme brie.

Order: Steak tartare, butter lettuce salad, mussels with Korean-style broth, cocktails.

Irving Street Kitchen - 67

701 N.W. 13th Ave.
Dinner, daily weekend brunch.


This Pearl District restaurant, with its glamorous bar and loading-dock patio, doesn't lack for panache. Irving Street Kitchen, owned by Stock & Bones, a large restaurant group in San Francisco, once seemed like the first outpost of a new flood of California cash rushing into Portland's fine-dining market. It's since settled in as an outlier: a swank restaurant with a bar program fully stocked with good cocktails and wines on tap, plus a Southern-focused menu courtesy of chef Sarah Schafer. Full meals in the dining room have occasionally left us wanting more. We've had more success at the bar, sipping a tasty gin and tonic, nibbling on ridiculously good chicken-fried oysters and other small plates, while soaking in some of Portland's best people watching.

Order: Small plates and drinks at the bar.

Now on its third menu revamp in as many years, Cafe Castagna has ditched some, but not all, of the Middle Eastern trappings it took on last year in favor of a new menu from chef Justin Woodward, who presides over the kitchen at Castagna, the cafe's big sister next door. You can still experiment with Cafe Castagna's zucchini fritters with labneh, but the campfire rolls of pita are gone, making way for Ken's Artisan Bakery bread and butter. Bistro comforts abound, including baked penne, mozzarella pizza, roast chicken and an orderly house-cured salmon tartine with creme fraiche. The best dishes remain the classics: the burger, the shoestring fries, the butter lettuce salad by which all other butter lettuce salads should be judged. If I lived in Ladd's Addition, Iɽ be here twice a month.

Order: Butter lettuce salad and a burger.

Six years after it closed, Taqueria Nueve returned, resurrected in Southeast Sandy Boulevard's former Beaker & Flask space. Much remains the same. Around the room, tables fill with fresh-made margaritas, Caesar salads garnished with pointy tortilla chips, guacamole-topped tostadas and classic octopus cocktails. The chile relleno starts with a fat poblano, roasted, swaddled in batter and fried to a soft tempura crisp, then laid in a thin pool of shimmering tomato sauce. Pierced, it released a rush of liquid cheese. Tacos can be excellent, if inconsistent on bad days, the tortillas come off like cheap moo shu pancakes. Still, the crunchy, slow-braised boar carnitas are as welcome as always. And if there's a better Baja-style fish taco in Portland, we haven't found it.

Order: Boar carnitas, fish tacos, margaritas.

Lincoln may have once felt like the missing link between Portland's mid-➐s, farm-to-table revolution and the chef-driven, media-adored restaurant landscape of today. Though the focus remains on Northwest ingredients, in the last year or two the restaurant has quietly moved in another direction, or rather directions. Some of the signature dishes remain, including the baked eggs with olives and breadcrumbs in cream, the textbook grilled octopus (as in, this is a dish aspiring chefs could study). But today, those share menu space with Italian dishes influenced by chef Jenn Louis' recent pasta cookbook and a few Middle Eastern flavors (carrot hummus and labneh with butter-slicked flatbread), a possible preview of her upcoming Israeli restaurant in Los Angeles. It can feel a bit like a distracted hobbyist's garage, though it all mostly works, at least when Louis is around.

Order this: The standards listed above, plus gnocchi, if available, and a copy of Jenn Louis' cookbook, "Pasta By Hand."

63: HA VL
2738 S.E. 82nd Ave., #102
Breakfast and lunch, Wednesday-Monday.


The best time to get here isn't noon, when the 30-seat Vietnamese restaurant is ladling its last bowls of outstanding soup, but much earlier, when the only customers are the men outside drinking motor-oil coffee and smoking cigarettes around an ash-filled Cafe du Monde can. Order a leisurely breakfast, before the families, foodies and anyone who follows Pok Pok chef Andy Ricker on Instagram shows up. The soups change daily my favorite is on Sunday, when a turmeric soup loaded with shrimp and pork is joined by one of the city's best bowls of pho. Big eaters should add a Chinese sausage banh mi. If you slept in, consider Rose VL (6424 S.E. Powell Blvd.), a sister restaurant with a similar menu and later hours.

Order: Soup, a crusty baguette and iced coffee or a mildly pungent durian shake.

The lynchpin in Beaumont Village's surprisingly lively late-night dining district, Smallwares is the brainchild of one-time Momofuku Ssam Bar sous chef Johanna Ware. The dining room is all modern right angles and red accents, a clean frame for Smallwares' Asian-influenced small plates. Controlled funk is the order of the day - fresh oysters or scallops might arrive swimming in fish sauce the house kimchi is nicely fermented. Ware's signature fried kale has chunks of candied bacon, while the noodles (sometimes pho, sometimes ramen or somen) are creative and rewarding. At Barwares, the sister bar 'round back, you might find David Bowie on the stereo, Fritz Lang's "M" playing silently on a projector screen and most of Smallwares' menu, presented in a more laid-back setting.

Order: Kimchi, fried kale with candied bacon, seafood chawan mushi, noodles and noodle soups.

Take two people to Luce, the Italian spin-off from the owners of Navarre on East Burnside, and you might get responses as wildly different as "It's fine, what's the big deal?" and "That's my favorite restaurant." If you lean toward the latter, as I increasingly do, it's likely because Luce is so adept at simplicity. Meals tend to include barely adorned pasta, lightly charred vegetables and a petite rosemary-garlic hanger steak, seared, sliced and bloody. The room has a corner-store ambiance, with dried pasta and tomato sauce on the shelves, and its big windows are perfect for people watching while you linger over arancini, rabbit pappardelle and reasonably priced Italian wine. If you order only one thing, make it the cappelletti in brodo - a dozen small dumplings floating in an ethereally light broth.

Order: Chicken liver mousse crostini, cappelletti in brodo, hanger steak.

This second restaurant in chef John Gorham's Portland empire took the vibe and Mediterranean accents of his tapas spot Toro Bravo, then translated them beautifully for brunch. A perfect meal here includes a breakfast board, typically holding pickles, bacon and chicken liver mousse a steak with cheddar eggs on a cornmeal pancake with a pat of jalapeno butter and always the shakshuka, an Israeli stew filled with tomato, red pepper, baked eggs and lamb sausage. The restaurant proved popular enough that Gorham spun off a downtown sister, Tasty n Alder (580 S.W. 12th Ave.) in 2013, which serves an addictive bowl of "Korean" fried chicken in the morning, then adds a steakhouse menu at night.

Order: Breakfast board, shakshuka, steak and cheddar eggs, Bloody Mary.

Meals at this "plant-based" chef's stylish counter start with a statement of local intent: Oregon sea salt floating in Oregon olive oil soaked up by a soft, crusty roll made from Oregon wheat. And what could be more local in Portland, the city Paul McCartney hailed as the most vegan-friendly in the United States, than a tasting menu free of meat and dairy? Owned by former Portobello chef Aaron Adams and staffed exclusively by chefs, some tattooed, some mustachioed, Farm Spirit is Portland's most refined vegetable-focused restaurant yet. Meals might begin with a fermented broth, move on to basil dumplings and Parisienned balls of zucchini, and include not one but two asparagus dishes. Instead of expensive beef, Farm Spirit crescendos with a cache of meaty morels and vibrant green favas under a blanket of frothy potato.

Order: Menus are fixed and cost $75 per person. Try the non-alcoholic beverage pairing, which might include kombucha, kefir and a loganberry shrub.

Locally, Tommy Habetz is best known as the co-founder of the rule-breaking Bunk, a sandwich shop that first spread its pork belly Cubanos throughout the city, then turned its attention eastward, to Brooklyn. But the Connecticut native has been a pizza aficionado practically since birth. In November, Habetz and two partners launched Pizza Jerk, a Northeast Portland pizzeria with ➀s decor, a full bar and Bunk's anything-goes approach to food. The Eggplant Parm can be a sandwich (at lunch) or a pizza (at dinner) dan dan can be a spin on the spicy Szechuan noodle dish, or a pizza ditching tomato sauce for chili oil and the Sunday Gravy comes topped with braised ribs, bones and all. Should this work? Maybe not. But it does.

Order: Ranch salad, pepperoni slices, the Sunday Gravy pie, quarters for table-top Ms. Pac-Man.

This subterranean izakaya near the Doug Fir Lounge serves Japanese-Korean drinking snacks to a clientele ranging from in-the-know Portland chefs early in the week to indie rockers as the weekend approaches. A few years ago, I looked up from my ramen to see Modest Mouse sitting at the next table. Don't get starstruck. Instead, start with tart kimchi, bright sashimi or fatty, charred skewers of mackerel, lamb or chicken thighs from the yakitori-style grill. If black cod is on the menu, order it. If a server suggests a sake, drink it. And if you're here after 10 p.m., save room for the late-night burger topped with kimchi mayo and chashu pork - the perfect savory dessert.

Order: Fried chicken karaage, umeboshi onigiri (sour plum rice triangle), sashimi selection, kushiyaki (grilled skewers), late-night burger.

Update: The Bent Brick has closed

Park Kitchen owner Scott Dolich opened this second restaurant in part to highlight the progressive, under-appreciated stylings of chef Will Preisch. Today, Preisch is the occasionally bearded face of Portland's pop-up scene, while The Bent Brick has settled into what it probably always should have been: a warm, worldly tavern perfect for its Northwest Portland neighbors, perhaps winding down after a dance show at BodyVox. Some of the old affectations remain - oysters on the half shell are served on a bed of rocks - but most of the vaguely Southern-accented menu comes across as approachable, albeit with the occasional twist. There might be fine American ham, mussels in a curry broth, high-quality grilled pork loin with spaetzle and a pear mostarda, plus some chocolate pudding cake or ricotta doughnuts for dessert.

Order: Ham, polenta, pork loin and a round of ricotta doughnuts.

It's been a busy year for The Country Cat's husband-and-wife owners, Adam and Jackie Sappington. The couple followed up the debut of their Calico Room events space with a satellite Country Cat location at Portland International Airport and a cookbook of Midwest-inspired recipes. The Sappingtons' Montavilla restaurant is known as a carnivore-friendly joint, with chicken sizzling in beef tallow, a fully loaded whole hog plate, and a back-of-house whole-animal butchery. But the kitchen is just as deft with salads, vegetables and fish. Start with some deviled eggs and potted Judy, the restaurant's signature cheese spread, then add a basket of buttermilk biscuits or a plate of frizzy onion rings. Save room for the chicken: brined, buttermilk-soaked, skillet-fried and often served with super-rich mashed potatoes.

Order: Fried chicken and a Bloody Mary during the Cat's packed, and noisy, Sunday brunch.

Call Jose Luis de Cossio on a Monday morning and there's a chance he just finished surfing off the Oregon coast. The sea, you'll quickly learn, provides both of the Peruvian chef's obsessions. At Paiche, the ceviche-focused Southwest Portland restaurant he co-owns with Casimira Tadewaldt, de Cossio expects perfection from limes and demands a gymnast's balance in his leche de tigre, the Peruvian citrus sauce used to cure raw fish. Elsewhere, the restaurant adds subtle Northwest twists to Peruvian classics, such as the baked empanadas stuffed with kale, capers and wild mushrooms. But you're really here for the ceviche. Recently, that included scallops and octopus in a rocoto-pepper-infused leche de tigre and blue marlin soaking in a habanero-spiked sauce - each scattered with tart, spriggy sea beans.

Order: Empanadas, fish ceviche, spicy crab and a caramel-filled alfajor cookie.

921 S.W. Oak. St.
Morning pastries, lunch, fika and afternoon service until 7 p.m., daily.


This tirelessly charming downtown Portland cafe devotes itself to fika, the Swedish take on the coffee break, while offering some of Portland's most successful desserts. By day, Maurice is a light-filled oasis of mismatched chairs and vintage flatware. Work can wait while you nibble on rosemary-currant scones with jasmine tea, or eat oysters or gravlax with rye crisps while sipping a sparkling rose. A hand-written menu might unlock a fluffy quiche, some savory risotto or a pile of vibrant purple cauliflower atop tender couscous. Don't dream of leaving without the signature black pepper cheesecake, the half-molten lemon bar dusted with powdered sugar, or whatever new creation chef Kristen Murray has invented.

Order: The scone by morning, the quiche by day and the black pepper cheesecake by night.

401 N.E. 28th Ave.
Dinner and late night, daily lunch, Saturday-Sunday.


Northeast Portland's two-year-old German restaurant Stammtisch, a sister to North Portland's ever-popular Prost, executes the classics with confidence and skill. Fork through maultaschen, the wallet-sized ravioli dressed in butter and white wine, or spoon up pungent, pillow-soft liver meatballs (leberknodel) from a shallow pool of beef broth the color of malted barley. Nibble on riesling-braised trout draped across summer squash and cherry tomatoes, or carve into the much improved schweinshaxe, a hulking roast ham hock wrapped in its own crunchy skin, while pouring liter steins and two-liter boots of tremendous German beer. Youɽ be hard-pressed to find many other restaurants cooking German food this well-considered outside of Germany.

Order: Currywurst, maultaschen, wienerschnitzel, spaetzle, apple strudel and an ultra-refreshing Zunft Kolsch.

This is the favorite pizzeria of your friend with the raised beds and backyard chickens, and she's not wrong. Co-owner Sarah Minnick's naturally leavened pies are topped with the same ingredients you're likely to find at a weekend farmers market - imagine Ken's Artisan Pizza after a hike through the Oregon forest. In the spring, that means pizzas topped with first-of-the season morels, truffled pecorino and fresh ramps, or juicy fennel sausage, gooey cheese and bitter greens turned crisp in the oven. There's usually at least one ingredient you have to look up (it's probably a brassica). The salads have a rustic elegance, and any pizza can be topped with an egg or a side of fresh Calabrian chiles. The ice cream, and soft serve, might be my favorite in town.

Order: Marinated olives, salads, seasonal pizzas, wine by the carafe, ice cream for the road.

Mediterranean Exploration Company - 50

333 N.W. 13th Ave.
Dinner, daily late night, Friday-Saturday.


How can a restaurant run by John Gorham, the successful chef behind Toro Bravo, Tasty n Sons and its downtown sister, Tasty n Alder, be underrated? Gorham's first foray into Portland's Pearl District, Mediterranean Exploration Company (MEC for short), focuses on the diverse cuisine of Israel and the greater eastern Mediterranean. It opened with a handful of great dishes, including a flaky phyllo pie stuffed to its triangular tips with savory chard, an oily-in-the-best-way whole mackerel, and tender lamb chops grilled and doused in salsa verde. But there were missteps, too, including a stiff, one-note hummus. On a recent visit, the cocktails were well-balanced, the charred lamb chops were as juicy as ever and the hummus had improved, especially the "Usul" version. It's loaded with spice and chunks of hard boiled egg, the perfect dipper for MEC's puffy, fresh-baked pita.

Order: The phyllo pie, seared mackerel, fried chicken, lamb chops.

2138 S.E. Division St.
Dinner, daily late night, Friday-Saturday.


The prototypical over-achieving Portland neighborhood restaurant, Bar Avignon has been pouring wine, shaking cocktails and serving quietly ambitious food in Southeast Portland for the better part of a decade. This restaurant can roast a chicken or sear a juicy pork loin as well as anyone. When you go, sit in a sleek booth and slurp oysters or sip rose at sidewalk tables. Recently we ordered first-of-the-season asparagus with toasted almond slices and a perfect medium egg, along with fresh-shucked oysters. Later there were cardoon fritters and ricotta cavatelli in a strawberry puttanesca. Mussels with fennel in a white wine and tarragon cream sauce will please anyone pining for Wildwood, the restaurant where Bar Avignon owners Randy Goodman and Nancy Hunt cut their teeth.

Order: Raw oysters, rose, hazelnuts, roast chicken, creme brulee.

1331 S.W. Broadway
Lunch, Tuesday-Friday dinner, Tuesday-Saturday Sunday brunch.


It seemed like an illusion worthy of a Las Vegas stage. In 2007, downtown Portland's historic Ladd Carriage House was jacked up, placed on a flatbed and trucked away. The 500,000-pound building returned the next year and was slowly transformed into a spare-no-expenses restaurant with a top-tier cocktail program and a vaguely British menu. This year, hired gun Daniel Mondok (Sel Gris, Paulee) has pushed the menu further toward the kind of full-throated U.K. cuisine that owner Lisa Mygrant's restaurant always seemed to demand. The chicken liver pate is spread with rich Kerrygold butter, the beef and Yorkshire pudding is a bit more refined, and the menu features a few more riffs on the cuisines of former British colonies - "Bombay-style" duck, a rack of lamb with saffron rice.

Order: Cocktails, chicken liver pate, fisherman's board, beef and Yorkshire pudding.

Back when chef Troy MacLarty lived in Berkeley, he spent his nights working at farm-to-table destination Chez Panisse and his days eating at the equally famous (in some circles) Vik's Chaat Corner. Today, his renditions of southern Indian street snacks draw long lines at the original Northeast Portland storefront and a larger Bollywood Theater and adjacent market in the heart of Southeast Division Street's restaurant row. The menus at both locations are mostly the same, for now. Start with crisp okra chips and raita dip, then add the plump, brilliant Goan shrimp and a round of my latest crush, the gobi Manchurian, fried cauliflower in a sweet and sour sauce. For lunch or a quick dinner alone, the kati roll, an oil-charged paratha bread wrap stuffed with egg, pickled onion, green chutney and beef, is as filling as a burrito. Down it with a rose syrup-finished mango lassi or a refreshing Pimm's Cup cocktail.

Order: Okra, beets, cauliflower, gobi Manchurian, Goan shrimp, kati roll.

Don't order Muscadine's fried catfish to go. Corn-meal crusted, unerringly juicy, each piece best consumed at the apex of heat and crunch - taking it for even a short ride home would be a crime. At chef-owner Laura Rhoman's historically minded Southern restaurant, everything is fresh - even the homey cloth napkins are handmade - and that catfish might be better than the exceptional fried chicken. Sometimes a visit to Muscadine means a perch at the bar for coffee, a mimosa, the Sunday paper and tender ham under coffee-spiked gravy with eggs and plump Anson Mills grits. Sometimes it means lounging in the sun-splashed back room marveling at the Country Captain, an Indian-influenced Low Country chicken curry with roots in the 18th century.

Order: Fried catfish, fried chicken, red-eye ham, anything that comes with grits.

2088 N.W. Stucki Ave., Hillsboro
Buffet lunch and full-service dinner, Tuesday-Sunday.


This is my favorite Indian restaurant in the metro area. Just across the Hillsboro border, where most of the Portland area's best Indian food is found, Chennai Masala ostensibly highlights southern Indian cuisine, as evidenced by the lacy dosas, though the menu travels throughout India, with few miscues along the way. The crisp samosas are stuffed with potatoes and peas, the skin as flaky as an egg roll. They're the best in town. Ditto for the pakoras: shards of cabbage, onion and red pepper deep fried and served with a verdant chutney, an Indian take on fritto misto. The lunch buffet is a steal, but go at dinner, when you'll find fluffy lamb biryani with a hint of mint, tender chicken in a fiery Chettinad curry, and channa poori - globes of puffy whole-wheat bread dipped in a chickpea curry.

Order: Dosas and samosas, pakoras, curries, biryani, mango lassi.

Its owners describe their menu as "New West Drinking Food," meaning regional Americana accented with Japanese, Thai and the occasional Mexican flavor. In practice, that means delicate raw seafood preparations and tasty meat skewers - cubes of wagyu dotted with horseradish cream, for instance - imbued with savory char and smoke. The ever-changing menu might touch down in the American South, with barbecued oysters, bacon beignets or grilled toast spread with pimento cheese, then hop up to the Midwest, with panko-fried chunks of macaroni and cheese or a classic double cheeseburger and fries. Keep an eye out for the crisp grit cakes with creamy salmon tartare and creme fraiche or the yakitori skewers, especially the chewy rice cakes wrapped in thin-sliced guanciale. Cocktails are fun service is warm and attentive and the range of creative vegetable dishes makes The American Local a surprisingly solid pick for vegetarians.

Order: Salmon tartare-topped grit cakes, guanciale-wrapped mochi skewers, Dungeness crab and avocado toast (in season), panko-fried mac and cheese, ice cream sundae.

There's no riddle to Podnah's Pit. Sure, the trout is flaky, tender and sweet the fried chicken moist and crisp and the Frito pie - with chips and Texas red chile served in the bag - perfect for sharing with a friend. But you're really here for the holy trinity: juicy pulled pork, fatty pork ribs and tender brisket beneath a blackened bark. Maybe you were impressed this year by Matt's BBQ (4709 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.), perhaps impressed enough to reconsider who makes the best brisket in town. But Podnah's still does all the other things right: hulking iceberg wedge salads drenched in blue cheese dressing, vinegar-doused pulled pork sandwiches, tart collard greens, meaty pinto beans, crumbly cornbread, good banana pudding and even better pecan pie.

Order: Frito pie, wedge salad, the Pitboss plate, banana pudding or pecan pie.

The pizza at Apizza Scholls, a New York-meets-New Haven hybrid, is the best in Portland, and probably tops in the Pacific Northwest. Owner Brian Spangler cooks his pies hot and fast in an electric oven, turning the most basic cheese and tomato pie into archipelagos of melted mozzarella, seething seas of lava-colored tomato sauce and a golden crust that's crunchy and yielding at the same time. The menu is simple and the decor simpler still. The service doesn't always exude warmth. But you're not here for small talk. You're here for pizza. Go with friends and order some olives or antipasti, a fine Caesar salad and a split sausage and peppers/Tartufo2 pie, the former kicked up with spicy Mama Lil's hot peppers, the latter highlighting good mushrooms, truffle oil and sea salt.

Order: Caesar salad, side of anchovies, and a plain, sausage and peppers or Tartufo2 pizza.

Ken's Artisan Pizza, at the southern end of Southeast 28th Avenue's restaurant row, might be known as one of Portland's top pizzerias. But baker Ken Forkish and chef Alan Maniscalco have created something much more. Ken's is where you go to find big windows kept open for the summer breeze tables made from reclaimed wood from a Jantzen Beach roller coaster buzzing conversation salads and roasted vegetables and good wine. Of course, the pizzas shouldn't be ignored. These medium-sized rounds of springy dough are topped with hot tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, spicy salami, or fennel sausage and onion, cooked in the large wood-fired oven at the center of the room. Among the many revelations here might be a beautifully braised oxtail, incredibly juicy, browned during a quick bath in the pizza oven, dripping with olive oil, ready to fall apart over a bed of tomato sauce and rich polenta. If you've seen this on the menu and decided to stick to Ken's pizza alone, you're doing it all wrong.

Order: Wine, salad, a margherita pizza and - if you see it - the braised oxtail with polenta.

1239 S.W. Broadway
Lunch, weekdays dinner and late night (in the bar), daily.


One of the Pacific Northwest's most influential restaurants, Higgins is the eponymous home of chef Greg Higgins, who left a celebrated stint at The Heathman 20 years ago, moved just up the hill, and along the way helped push Portland's farm-to-table movement into the 21st century. You can sit in the bar, where you'll find one of Portland's best charcuterie boards and a hearty bistro burger, plus a beer lover's list loaded with Northwest IPAs and Belgian saisons. The dining room, where local power-brokers and visiting dignitaries meet and greet, follows a super-seasonal approach. When morels or ramps are in season, Higgins is the first place they'll land. Order a bountiful salad, some fried razor clams, a bottle of Oregon pinot noir and the perennial pig plate, a celebration of pork that might appear as Alsatian-style choucroute garnie one night, a Mexican-influenced posole the next.

Order: Charcuterie, razor clams and the pig plate in the dining room a bistro burger and craft beer at the bar.

4600 S.W. Watson Ave., Beaverton
Lunch and dinner, Monday-Saturday.


With nearly two decades in business, Nak Won is the godfather restaurant of Beaverton's unofficial Little Korea. The busy kitchen is managed by Tae Ok Lee, the dining room watched over by her son, Kon. The menu is long and rewards experimentation, though it's hard to visit without an order of soondubu jjigae, a roiling, lava-red tofu stew with vegetables, seafood or meat. On the side, a raw egg you can crack into the broth. Most of Nak Won's comforting Korean dishes are the best versions you'll find in Portland. The mandu (Korean dumplings) are steamed and tender, the haemul pajeon (a savory seafood pancake) comes with a fiery soy dipping sauce and the dolsot bibimbap (rice, veggies and meat in a red-hot stoneware bowl) has a more intriguing border of toasted rice than most Portland paellas.

Order: Mandu, seafood pancake, dolsot bibimbap, marinated pork, bulgogi, fried mackerel, black cod stew (if available).

4537 S.E. Division St.
Dinner, daily weekend brunch.


The Woodsman Tavern is a clubby, bourbon-soaked ode to fresh seafood, blue-ribbon ham and urban takes on Southern-inflected dishes. Four years in, the Woodsman has settled into a new groove, with a fun, meat-loving menu served in a lumberjack's paradise of flannel and dark wood. The kitchen's current fixations include gently elevated takes on dive-bar food: a generous Dungeness Crab Louie, "Nashville hot" fried chicken, shrimp nuggets tossed in wing sauce. Depending on when you visit, there could be meatloaf, grilled ribs, a massive dry-aged rib eye or some other slab of comforting Americana. You can always splurge on a seafood tower or a few precious fingers of ultra-rare bourbon, but our favorite bite from a recent meal was a humble Parm, with thin-pound pork, bright-red tomato gravy, melted mozzarella and a soupy purple cabbage slaw.

Order: Fried chicken, pork Parm, steak, rare bourbon.


In many ways, B+T Oyster Bar is a reboot of chef Trent Pierce's first restaurant, Fin, which closed unexpectedly on Valentine's Day 2011. If you ate there, you might recall the dan dan noodles: fist-sized piles of fettuccine coiled around crunchy peanuts above a butterfish ragu tingling with Szechuan spice. Those noodles are back, now alongside an array of good Northwest oysters, a soggy-good seaweed Caesar and a mayo-slathered crab hand roll blissfully held over from this restaurant's previous incarnation, Wafu. Cuttlefish mingles with ground blood sausage, radicchio, apple and creamy melted Parmesan, blending earthy, saline, bitter, sweet and mellow. Prawns, their juicy tails curled under deep-fried heads in a smoky, orange-colored sauce, wouldn't be out of place at one of Portland's new crop of Asian fusion restaurants. Fin was ahead of its time.

Order: Raw oysters, crab hand roll, squid salad, scallop toast, dan dan noodles.

The best of the Bellevue, Washington-based Szechuan spots to open outposts in Portland, Taste of Sichuan took over a former Marie Callender's on Northwest Cornell Road, leaving the decor largely unchanged. The menu is huge, encompassing regionally specific Chinese dishes as well as sweet-salty Americanized fare. You don't drive here for the house-made potstickers, though they're quite good, or the crunchy, syrup-coated meats, though the orange chicken does have actual orange peel. Instead, experiment with "The Wild Side," two pages crammed with unusual ingredients and face-melting platters. It's built around "ma" and "la," the numbness and spice that are the pillars of Sichuan cuisine. Adventurous eaters will reap the rewards of pig ears in chili oil, spicy-sour jellyfish and The Other Parts of the Pig - pork, fragrant intestine and congealed pig's blood boiling in a red-black sauce.

Order: Soup dumplings, shredded potato, hand-shaved noodles, Swimming Fire Fish or The Other Parts of the Pig.

When it comes to Portland's Italian restaurants, newer, flashier, Southeast-ier spots usually corner the buzz. But Firehouse has something the others sometimes struggle to match: hospitality, comfort and warmth, plus a wood-fired kitchen that goes toe-to-toe with the rest. Built inside an old Woodlawn firehouse, chef Matthew Busetto's neighborhood spot serves up Italian snacks, beautifully charred Neapolitan pizzas, solid cocktails and the occasional pasta in a brick-and-wood space with a gorgeous patio. Start with a Caesar salad, some arancini, or the plump stuffed-and-fried olives. The soppressata pizza, with bright tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, chile flakes and fat salami from Zoe's Meats, is a savory, char-dappled wonder. Slice and eat, like they do in Naples, with a fork and knife.

Order: Fried stuffed olives, Caesar salad, soppressata pizza, any pasta, roast chicken.

RingSide Steakhouse is the Sophia Loren of Portland restaurants: It looks as good at 70 as it did at 35. There's a clubby, Rat Pack-era charm to the dining room that was only enhanced by a loving 2010 remodel. One of the city's oldest family-owned restaurants, and still Portland's best traditional steakhouse, you won't find bavette steak, pork secreto or other cuts popular at modern meat houses here. Instead, RingSide stays on Main Street with juicy rib eyes, thick pork chops and fat lobster tails, all seared to order and delivered with a smile (and a fluffy baked potato). Lately, the kitchen has experimented with more ambitious desserts, including a deconstructed bananas Foster. It's admirable, and well executed, like everything here. Given the ambiance, though, you might wish for something more traditional.

Order: The chilled shellfish platter, baked onion soup, an aged rib eye steak, onion rings and a Manhattan.

The second restaurant was inevitable. There were too many ideas coursing through Ataula, Cristina Baez and Jose Chesa's Northwest Portland tapas bar, for one slim paper menu to hold. The result is Chesa, a large, clamorous Northeast Broadway restaurant, ostensibly devoted to paella charred in a wood-fired oven, though really just a second home to play with the flavors of Spain, particularly Barcelona, where Chesa was born. Start with some hand-sliced jamon iberico, the barely set Spanish tortilla (a fluffy potato-egg omelet), and a round of the salt cod croquettes. If your ethics allow it, there are sherry-marinated rolls of foie gras formed into a tower, dripping with pine nuts, and large, messy cocktails built in tall glasses or a porron, the glass pitcher typically used to hold wine.

Order: Jamon iberico, Spanish tortilla, gin tonic.

5424 N.E. 30th Ave.
Dinner and late night, daily weekend brunch


Expatriate, the nearly 3-year-old Northeast Portland cocktail bar from bartender Kyle Linden Webster and celebrity chef Naomi Pomeroy, looks like a four-star opium den, with a bar backed by a red-and-gold arch salvaged from former Hollywood neighborhood Chinese haunt The Pagoda. It lurks, coiled and expectant, within sight of Beast, Pomeroy's fine dining destination, serving enigmatic cocktails and exquisite, Southeast Asian-influenced stoner food. What is the common thread on a menu that includes James Beard's unreasonably delicious butter-onion sandwich and a jalapeno popper filled with smoked mozzarella that's stuffed inside a puffy white bun? Order the No. 8, a blend of rye, cognac and herbal Genepy Des Alpes, and it all starts to make sense.

Order: Butter-onion sandwiches, corn noodles (when available), jalapeno popper, and one cocktail too many.

Last year chef Erik Van Kley left the nest after nearly 10 years combined at Le Pigeon and its downtown sister, Little Bird Bistro, to open a restaurant of his own in Southeast Portland's Central Eastside Industrial District. Taylor Railworks takes its inspiration and aesthetic from the trains passing by its tight-sealed windows, including a railroad tie serving as a footstool at the bar. All meals here should start with The Boxer, four perfect slices of yellowtail tossed in avocado oil and arranged in wave-like folds above a shallow pool of ponzu sauce. Steelhead roe and Thai chiles add crunch and spice. Add the foie gras, originally served as a noodle-less "ramen," now in a chicken dashi, plus an order of the noodles "alla Johnny," al dente egg noodles coiled with strands of spicy crab and succulent cherry tomatoes, topped with a single grilled prawn.

Order: The Boxer, foie gras, noodles "alla Johnny," chile crab.

10 N.E. 28th St.
Dinner, daily weekend brunch.


At Navarre, you'll be handed a Crayola marker and a pair of slim paper menus. One lists a dozen-odd house standards the other contains specials from a specific region in continental Europe, Southwestern France, say, or Tuscany. You can check off the standards as you would nigiri at a sushi joint, then write in a few extras from the specials menu, specifying small or large (go small unless you're with a posse). But your best bet is to forget the menus and check the "We Choose" option instead. As your table fills with 10 dishes and short pours of mostly European wine, you'll see that Navarre revels in simplicity. Most meals begin with glistening radishes, salted butter and a pyramid of crusty bread. You might unwrap juicy trout from crisp parchment paper, spear rabbit from a mellow mustard sauce, or slice through a simple grilled skirt steak. If you're lucky, there will be crab cakes stuffed with an improbable amount of crab.

Order: The $32 "We Choose" option.

Paley's Place, chef Vitaly Paley's original restaurant, turns out classic French fare with snout-to-tail and farm-to-table twists. Despite its reputation as a fine-dining haven, the hushed restaurant housed in a charming Northwest Portland Victorian is more approachable than you might think. There's often room at the bar, and all entrees are available as half portions. The design-your-own charcuterie plate is a great place to start. It might include salo (fatback) spread over toast, beef tongue pastrami or a spicy pate. Chef de cuisine Luis Cabanas has taken over admirably, as evidenced by the crisp frites, the charred Little Gem lettuces with fried marrow croutons, and the plump escargots in a stately bordelaise. There's even room for some of the Russian dishes Paley experimented with at his DaNet pop-up, including velvety vareniki (dumplings) in a rich cream sauce.

Order: Charcuterie, pommes frites, escargots and bone marrow, foie gras croque monsieur.

At Trifecta, crusty baguettes and fluffy brioche buns are carried out to big red booths in the back, where they're slathered with fresh butter and honey or used as the overqualified base for a house-cured ham sandwich. When Ken Forkish opened this inner Southeast Portland restaurant, this is just what he imagined: strong Manhattans and martinis stirred behind a busy cocktail bar and well-heeled Portlanders slurping raw oysters, all fueled by fresh-baked bread coming from the adjacent bakery. The kitchen, led by former Higgins chef Rich Meyer, turns out wood-fired meats, vegetables and oysters many ways - on the half shell, pan-fried or baked with bacon, leeks and hollandaise. Trifecta can hold your attention for a full meal, but there's a strong argument for eating at the bar, one that begins and ends with the juicy, double-stacked pimento cheeseburger, served on Trifecta's grilled brioche.

Order: The pimento-topped burger, ham and oyster plate, grilled shrimp and grits, and a bonded Manhattan.

Named for the zealous anti-technologist who lent his name to the Luddite movement, Ned Ludd serves surprisingly sophisticated wood-fired fare from a rustic Northeast Portland space. Plants, copper pots and tin pot chandeliers dominate the decor, and the cocktails come in jars. The formula is simple: Chef Jason French and his team take top-quality produce, treat it gently, then cook it with precision in a wood-fired oven. Recently that oven produced a whole trout, its flesh flaky and white, with caramelized and charred leeks. An impressively fatty pork loin came draped over creamy grits. After dinner, there could be yogurt panna cotta or a white chocolate cremeux. Skip both in favor of the large, smoke-kissed chocolate chip cookie, which comes with a side of milk for sipping or pouring straight into the cookie's sizzling skillet.

Order: Trout, either cold-smoked or crisped in the oven, pork or lamb, chocolate chip cookie.

For more than a decade, Park Kitchen has served its creative, Northwest-inspired fare from a compact dining room in the North Park Blocks. In that time, Scott Dolich's spot has produced more Portland kitchen and bar talent than all but a handful of Portland restaurants. Despite a propensity for culinary puns, the kitchen still has the capacity to impress. A recent meal began with a dynamite salad: thin radish slices, blood orange segments, powdered pumpernickel and a base of creme fraiche that reminded us of cheesecake. Succulent steelhead was blackened with leek ash, its skin removed and chicharron-ified. Along with sister restaurant The Bent Brick, Park Kitchen is preparing to switch to a new service system that merges front and back positions while eliminating tipping. Here's hoping the quality of the cooking remains unchanged.

Order: To appreciate the restaurant's full range, consider the $60 tasting menu.

410 S.W. Broadway
Breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night, daily weekend brunch.


Proving that a hotel restaurant can have passion, pop and personality, Vitaly Paley's Imperial has steadily improved since its 2012 debut. Today, the menu treads a difficult line between retro and dated, paying homage to Oregon culinary history with a lineup heavy on American nostalgia. Most intriguingly, chef Doug Adams, a "Top Chef" finalist, has introduced dishes harking back to his Southern childhood: Texas red chile, spicy seafood tostadas, a mammoth beef rib. There are also satisfying options pulled from a snout-to-tail playbook - pork blood pasta with clams and duck yolks - and juicy meat seared on the wood-fired grill. If you order only one thing, make it Adams' fried chicken, served with pickled jalapeno, barrel-aged hot sauce and honey from the hotel's rooftop hives. Earlier this year, Adams announced his imminent departure. We'll have to wait to see how this affects Imperial, though Paley's track record for finding kitchen talent is unmatched.

Order: Fried chicken and the radish cocktail.

Olympia Provisions
107 S.E. Washington St.
1632 N.W. Thurman St.
Lunch and dinner, daily weekend brunch.


One year after the International Olympic Committee forced Portland's favorite salumists to swap the "c" in their name to an "a," we still catch ourselves dropping the occasional "Olympic Provisions" into conversation. No matter. The name change hasn't affected the quality of the two restaurants, both run, superbly, by executive chef Alex Yoder. The Northwest location is the more straightforward, usually featuring salads, pastas and rotisserie meats, including one of the city's most consistent roast chickens - in other words, a quality neighborhood bistro. The Southeast Portland original, on the other hand, served up a meal-of-the-year contender last spring: a Mediterranean-leaning feast that began with Spanish cheese, chorizo and scrambled eggs with tender nettles meant for spooning onto golden crostini. The coup de grace was a trembling mass of short rib, served on the bone. Going from "C" to "A?" That feels like an upgrade.

Order: Start with Olympia Provisions charcuterie, and keep your eyes out for that short rib.

5027 N.E. 42nd Ave.
Dinner and late night, daily weekend brunch.


Old Salt is as much a community-building experiment as it is a restaurant. The Concordia-Cully neighborhood venture, opened by the Grain & Gristle team, added a deli, cocktail bar, bakery, cafe, backroom pop-up space and occasional farmers market to a commercial strip better known for its dive bars and rockin' karaoke. Executive Chef Ben Schade mans the hearth at this rough-hewn space, an unfinished wall separating the meat market and bar. The kitchen executes an ambitious, Southern-inflected menu heavy on meaty Americana. That means flaky biscuits, savory meat pies, salt cod fritters, smoked chicken and some seriously dry-aged beef roasted in the hearth. Co-owner Alex Ganum also runs Upright Brewery. Like the food, the beer here is plentiful and good.

Order: Biscuits, Little Gem salad, beef tartare, meat pies, bone marrow, smoked chicken. Ask about the reserve bottles of Upright beer.

1014 S.W. Stark St.
Dinner and late night, daily lunch, Monday-Friday.


Found next to downtown Portland's Ace Hotel, Clyde Common is the first place many out-of-towners eat. Oddly, it's also a restaurant that could exist in almost any hip city in America. Chef Carlo Lamagna offers a deliciously esoteric menu filled with less-common ingredients and some intriguing Filipino touches. If you're looking for basic, look elsewhere. You can start simply enough with a bowl of marinated olives or some gnocchi, though the latter might include black garlic and morels. I'm always happy to see the crunchy pork-shiitake lumpia or pork cheek adobo ramped up with crisp pig ears. Clyde Common was an early adopter of large-format dishes (in other words, entrees big enough to share). Bring a few friends and work your way through a whole fish or a platter of grilled beef ribs with cornbread and celery beer jam. This is food exciting enough to pair with ace bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler's cocktails.

Order: See above, then add Morgenthaler's barrel-aged Negroni.

Awash in marble and brass, illuminated by a firefly-swarm of lightbulbs, and run by a photogenic staff, Ava Gene's is what we've come to expect from restaurateur Duane Sorenson. Simply put, the Southeast Portland spot is one of Portland's best-looking restaurants. Found next door to Roman Candle, Sorenson's cafe and Roman-style pizza joint, the Italian restaurant has developed a reputation for its salads - flat landscapes of fresh, unusual Oregon produce married to fried grains or some other crisp element. Pastas are a bit less aggressively al dente than they were on Day One, and that's a good development. Not everything hits the mark, particularly among the main dishes, but if you focus on the vegetables, with a pane (large bruschetta) to start and a pasta to finish, you'll eat well. Then again, food isn't everything. Right now Ava Gene's is Portland's premier vantage point from which to see and be seen.

Order: Vegetables, tripa alla romana, pane, pasta.

Laurelhurst Market
3155 E. Burnside St.
Lunch and dinner, daily.


Laurelhurst Market has stripped away the pomp, artifice and overwrought decor from the classic steakhouse experience without trimming an ounce of quality. The restaurant earned its reputation behind a killer 12-hour smoked brisket and the kind of flavor-packed cuts - teres major, hanger, bavette - more established steakhouses have long overlooked in favor of filet mignon. Now run by chef Ben Bettinger, Laurelhurst Market has a justly famous charcuterie plate loaded with good pate and rillettes, smoked oyster mushrooms with an oyster aioli, and playful sides like potato chip-crusted mac and cheese. Over the past two years, the menu has gotten more muscular, with bone marrow, beef tartare and fried oysters paired with beef carpaccio. As if this restaurant needed to prove its beefy bonafides, the meat counter up front isn't just for show: Browse it for tomorrow's dinner on your way out the door.

Order: Steak, mac, and a Smoke Signals cocktail, a signature drink that includes whiskey, sherry, pecan syrup and smoked ice (really).

With chef Andy Ricker running restaurants in three cities, writing two new cookbooks and living part time in Thailand, it's fair to ask whether Portlanders should still brave the two-hour waits, cramped quarters and relatively high prices at his flagship restaurant. The short answer is yes. Other than the Pok Pok locations in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, no other restaurant in the world serves this collection of mostly Northern Thai street food, let alone this well. The Pok Pok empire was built on Ike's Vietnamese fish sauce wings. They're still hot, sticky and sweet, and good enough to draw tourists from across the country. But a wider ranging meal this spring brought back memories of our first, with fiery boar collar lemongrass-stuffed roast game hen and fragrant cha ca la vong, the turmeric dill, catfish and noodle dish, each as good as they've been in years.

Order: If you're allergic to lines, go across the street to Ricker's Whiskey Soda Lounge (3131 S.E. Division St.), which recently added dishes from the shuttered Sen Yai noodle shop to its lineup of frosty beers, dried squid, and (of course) Pok Pok's wings.

18: XICO
3715 S.E. Division St.
Dinner, daily.


Xico, Southeast Division Street's regionally agnostic Mexican restaurant, smells of warm masa, thanks to the fresh tortillas made from corn the restaurant nixtamalizes in a back shed. When things are working at this delightfully personal restaurant, the food might make you rethink what Mexican food can be, with its deep explorations of chiles, moles and char. Among chef Kelly Myers' must-order dishes are the queso fundido with chorizo and paper-thin radishes, the messy-good totopos in chile de arbol salsa, and the whole trout posole, perhaps in a pool of ancho-orange broth. Groups three or larger should sit in the breezy back patio and order the carnitas dinner, a family-style platter of crisp, slow-cooked pork shoulder with fried potatoes, avocado and a trio of house salsas. Save room for a strawberry paleta, chile-dusted truffle or guava Turkish delight.

Order: All of the above, plus Xico's best-in-town margarita.

You can date Portland's ongoing pop-up revival to three years ago, when chef Will Preisch returned from a "finishing school" tour of European kitchens. Preisch, who first blipped on our radar at The Bent Brick, teamed with co-chef Joel Stocks to launch Holdfast Dining, the much-talked-about supper club that inspired us to christen 2014 the Year of the Pop-Up. Holdfast dishes have a modernist bent, but their hallmarks are unusual flavors and stunning presentations, now served with a bit more ambiance at the former Sauvage at Fausse Piste space in inner Southeast Portland. Here, Preisch and Stocks crack (dry) jokes, pour (dry) riesling and serve some of Portland's most forward-leaning food. Dish to dish, you might find black garlic, bone marrow-infused polenta, a gorgeous roast culotte, blue cheese-stuffed morels, or fresh Oregon spot prawns with the tails raw and the heads deep fried.

Order: Your only choice is whether to go for Thursday's six-course menu ($65) or the longer nine-course version ($90) served Friday to Sunday. And keep an eye on the website for chef collaborations.

215 S.W. Sixth Ave.
Dinner and late night, daily lunch, Monday-Friday.


Last year, Gabriel Rucker, the two-time James Beard Award-winning chef at Le Pigeon, rededicated himself to his second restaurant, Little Bird. This charming all-day bistro in downtown Portland has long felt like the Parisian train station restaurant of my dreams. The charcuterie board, always a highlight, has become a carnival barker's delight. In one corner, tete de cochon (literally, pig's head) formed into a stubby cylinder, battered and deep fried into a corn dog in the other, slices of tender pig ear terrine, their waves resembling a geological cross section, dotted with a mild curry aioli. Instead of a classic coq au vin, Little Bird fries chicken thighs to a pale crisp, then rests them atop cheesy mashed potatoes in a pitch-black rosemary-balsamic jus. Even the burger has been given an update. It's now a double-stacked creation smothered in creamy brie, though also available a Lɺmericaine - with American cheese instead of French.

Order: Charcuterie board, seared foie gras, steak tartare board, mussels in Pernod cream, fried chicken coq au vin, hanger steak au poivre, desserts (if you can make room).

Something new is stirring at Beast, chef Naomi Pomeroy's 9-year-old supper club. Set-price meals are still served twice a night at communal tables (currently six courses for $102, including tip). The atmosphere still feels like an updated salon for food-obsessed Portlanders. But the menu, which had begun to feel more dated than timeless, has been revived. The signature charcuterie plate, which had dainty bites of chicken liver mousse and pork rillettes arranged like numbers on an analog clock, has been broken up. Beef tartare now serves as an early course, while Pomeroy's famous foie gras bon bon, with its giggling cap of sweet sauternes gelee, now acts as a dessert. In between, there's the usual fine soup, recently an arugula vichyssoise a salad of mustard greens with domestic prosciutto and local cheese and olive-oil-poached halibut and morels in a champagne beurre blanc, the first time I've seen Beast feature fish as the main dish. Nearly a decade in, Beast remains an essential Portland restaurant.

Order: What do you think this is, a democracy?

At Ataula, a breezy tapas bar with dark wood tables and a white bar flecked with jawbreaker-like color, Cristina Baez and Jose Chesa present flavors that Spanish food fans couldn't previously find in Portland. Start with a gin tonic, Spain's most beloved cocktail, then dive into the pitch-perfect tortilla Espanola, some salt-cod croquettes and a seafood paella stocked with red peppers, shrimp, calamari and plump, caramel-crusted rice, each grain holding an ocean's worth of flavor. The paellas are good, perhaps the best in Portland, but the rossejat, paella's pasta-based cousin, is even better. It comes with toasted, squid-ink-blackened fideo noodles topped with a spoonful of roast garlic aioli. Best of all is the Ataula montadito, a small, open-faced sandwich with house-cured salmon, mascarpone yogurt and black-truffle honey on a crusty baguette. The kitchen's latest treat is a whimsical dessert: whipped coconut milk and egg yolk gelato, served in a cool skillet like a pair of sunny-side-up eggs.

Order: Salt cod croquetas, Ataula montadito, rossejat negre, gin tonic.

Just off the Eastside streetcar line in Portland's newest nightlife district, Kachka's dining room is long and narrow, with decorative window frames meant to resemble a Russian dacha and a massive gilt mirror hanging over the bar. The scene might move you to order a plate of pale, pickled green tomatoes and a flight of superb, tundra-cold vodka. And so you should. The best and least expensive way to eat at Kachka is the "Ruskie Zakuski Experience," an array of cold appetizers, still just $25 per person. Here you might find tasty little fish and mayo on crunchy pumpernickel toast, lovely folds of beet-cured Chinook, and thick slices of fatback with salty pickles and coriander-dusted honey. Don't leave without the rabbit in a clay pot or Kachka's dumplings, especially the Siberian pelmeni, with savory beef, pork and veal tucked inside hexagonal wrappers, then steamed into firm, juicy tiddlywinks and served with Russian sour cream.

Order: A pickle plate, house-cured roe (or good caviar, if you're feeling flush), the Siberian pelmeni in fancy broth and rabbit in a clay pot.

In 2013, veteran chef Kevin Gibson left the cozy confines of Evoe, the sandwich shop and small plates bar attached to Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard's Pastaworks, to take a gamble on a full-fledged restaurant on East Burnside Street. The move has paid off handsomely. On a balmy spring evening, Gibson and Davenport partner/bartender/sommelier/jack-of-all-trades Kurt Heilemann oversee a softly lit dining room, a place where locals linger over braised meats, roast vegetables and Dionysian levels of outstanding wine. The restaurant's collection of Euro-centric dishes can seem random, though there's true seasonality at play. If I were a farmer, Iɽ want my produce showcased here. The menu changes too often for must-try dishes to emerge. Keep an eye out for local oysters, velvet-soft soups, seared scallops, rare teres major steak or the city's best fritto misto. Turns out, Gibson's small plates scale up well.

Order: At will. Gibson's cooking and Heilemann's wine selections have yet to disappoint.

6839 S.E. Belmont St.
Dinner, Wednesday-Sunday breakfast and lunch, daily.


Coquine, which opened in July 2015 on Mount Tabor's northern shoulder, is an intimate restaurant devoted to refined technique without fine-dining fussiness. Chef Katy Millard, who trained at Michelin-starred restaurants in France and the Bay Area, and Ksandek Podbielski, a wine professional who most recently managed the dining room at Roe, bring a mirror-image approach to cooking and service: subtle, thoughtful, efficient, but never overbearing. The name is French, the menu only vaguely so, with dishes featuring Oregon produce and incorporating flavors from Japan (lacey, tempura-fried green beans with a dank brown butter dashi) and the American South (cornmeal-crusted green tomatoes with anchovy and dill). Mains are uniformly superb. There's often a triumphant pasta, recently plump girella (so named because it resembles a child's top) with milk-braised pork ragu under a blanket of crisp sunchokes. Desserts, angular and geometric, push right up against the fine-dining line, never tipping over.

Order: Tempura green beans, chicken liver mousse, any pasta, any main, any dessert.

Renata began as Nick and Sandra Arnerich's dream: a warm, friendly Italian restaurant built around great service, fantastic wine and unbeatable pasta. Now that dream is ours. Grab a seat at the sunny patio or sleek bar, both held for walk-ins, and dig into stuffed fried olives, vibrant pink charcuterie or a cheese board highlighting Ancient Heritage Dairy, the fine makers next door. The kitchen, run by juggernaut chef Matt Sigler, changes its menu too often to make specific recommendations, though you will want to focus on pasta. Recently, that meant bucatini, tagliatelle and a squid-ink-darkened chitarra tossed with Dungeness crab and uni (sea urchin), morels and thyme or pork, favas and mint. The menu isn't fussy or difficult, though you'll find plenty of creative sparks - crunchy fried slices of Calabrian chile sprinkled over the trotter croquette prosciutto stuffed inside tender agnolotti. After the pasta, add on a pizza from the wood-fired oven and something from the hearth - the kitchen has a way with pork. For dessert, there's olive oil cake, caramel semifreddo and Coava Coffee affogato.

Order: Salumi, cheese, all the pastas, pizza, pork loin.

1610 N.W. 23rd St.
Dinner and late night (in the bar), daily.


Starting in 2010, St. Jack, the flagship of Portlander Kurt Huffman's ChefStable restaurant group, conjured the ambiance of a Lyonnaise bouchon - a marriage of hospitality and excess. Two years ago, chef-owner Aaron Barnett and his team moved the restaurant from its original Southeast Portland home across the river, adding a luxe cocktail bar and an instant patina to a new home on Northwest 23rd Avenue. The sumptuous snout-to-tail menu survived the move intact. You'll still find escargot, chicken liver mousse and tablier de sapeur, thin pieces of golden-fried tripe. Order a salad, maybe the one with bacon and bacon-fried croutons, as a healthy base for duck a l'orange, a truly great steak frites, or the lovely fisherman's stew, with plump scallops, mussels and creamy, garlic-stocked broth. If you have room, there are baked-to-order madeleines in a ceramic bowl - small, soft and still warm to the touch under a shower of powdered sugar. Let the food coma commence.

Order: Tablier de sapeur, fisherman's stew, rib eye steak frites, cheese, baked-to-order madeleines.

Arriving at the end of America's mid-aughts love affair with the tapa, Toro Bravo has outlasted its Spanish-inspired contemporaries by being bigger, brasher and just plain better. Don't come here to recreate that superb seafood paella you lingered over in Valencia. The only authenticity you'll find is fealty to the passion, vibe and infectious energy of a busy tapas bar in Barcelona or Madrid. Still, you'll find plenty of things to savor between Toro Bravo's blood-red walls. As with chef John Gorham's other Portland restaurants, it's all too easy to get stuck in a happy rut here. My personal sticking points include the patatas bravas, the oxtail croquettes, the seared scallops with romesco and the grilled "moorish" lamb chops. A relatively new craving? Manchego pillows: crisp little packets stuffed with molten cheese. And always, without fail, the sweet-salty crunch of bacon-wrapped dates, the pits swapped for marcona almonds, drizzled in pimenton honey.

Order: Bacon-wrapped dates, manchego pillows, patatas bravas, oxtail croquettes and whatever else catches your eye.

With its intimate lighting, heavy door and walls of chestnut and gold, eating at Roe feels a bit like being encased in amber. It's luxurious, which makes sense, given that this dining room hidden at the back of Southeast Division Street's B+T Oyster Bar happens to be the city's finest seafood restaurant. Here, chefs Trent Pierce and Patrick Schultz, heads bowed over their work in a science-lab kitchen, craft a menu that changes each week but is always inventive, indulgent and refined. When you visit, there might be a single oyster, slow-cooked halibut, or folds of raw geoduck in a dessert-wine vinegar. Butterfish might be showered with shaved frozen foie gras while spot prawns soak in a sweet-spicy Thai chile sauce. Maine lobster and Dungeness crab make appearances, each paired with a carefully chosen wine, often a cool German white.

Order: Roe offers two menus: a chef's choice, seven-course extravaganza for $125 (reservations highly recommended, add $65 for wine pairings) and a four-course, guest-choice option ($75 $45). Two people can try eight distinct dishes, about two-thirds of the menu, using the latter option.

When it comes to restaurants combining high kitchen risk with higher customer reward, Aviary, the eclectic, often electric Northeast Alberta Street restaurant, has few rivals. Like a small crop of other Portland destinations - Le Pigeon comes to mind - Aviary chef Sarah Pliner and her team are willing to marry unusual ingredients and flavor combinations, but never at the expense of good taste. The menu changes often enough to keep things interesting. On a recent visit, spot prawns sat next to curls of fresh coconut, cara cara oranges and taro chips in a green sauce with hints of lemongrass. Still, a few standards have developed: some kind of thick dumpling, formerly a foie gras bao, now with braised beef cheek a flat iron steak smoked over Douglas fir, topped with a bone-marrow custard crisp pig ears with coconut rice, avocado and Chinese sausage under a tangle of greens. (If you can make it through a meal without ordering those pig ears, you're made of sterner stuff than I.)

Order: Shigoku oysters, pig ears, flat iron steak, desserts, whatever looks new and interesting.

Start with the grill, practically primordial, shooting white-hot sparks past red-faced cooks who pause, wipe their brows and take long swigs from water jugs. Pan out to the dining room, warm and inviting, candles on tables, couples savoring each bite. This is Ox, our Restaurant of the Year in 2013. Build your meal around the grill, which produces gorgeous bone-in halibut, earthy blood sausage and succulent lamb that arrives with a smoking sprig of rosemary. There might be too many must-order dishes to list from this Argentine-inspired menu, though the ultra-rich roasted-bone-marrow clam chowder and the smoked beef tongue en vinagreta with horseradish and fried sweetbread "croutons" come to mind. Desserts, especially the signature hazelnut brown butter torte with delicate chamomile ice cream and stick-to-your-teeth "honeycomb" candy, are better than youɽ expect at a meat-focused restaurant.

Order: The "Asado Argentino," with grilled short rib, skirt steak, chorizo, blood sausage and sides, plus a hazelnut brown butter torte.

Two years in, Langbaan remains the toughest ticket in town. Month-to-month, owner Earl Ninsom, chef Rassamee Ruaysuntia and their team present tasting menus highlighting the many cuisines of Thailand, each meal incorporating fried shallots and lemongrass, tender coconut and lime, lush fruit and spicy chiles. In practice, that might mean more pork in the Northern Thai menu, more seafood in the Southern. But the progression remains the same: about 12 dishes, starting with a few small snacks, a salad, a soup, then a rapid-fire parade of plates, usually including crudites, a curry, some meat and a bowl of plain white rice, all finished with a pair of coconut-based desserts. There's only one problem, and it's a big one: Langbaan's reservations are booked out six months in advance. Last year, Ninsom added staff and an additional day of service on Sundays, but those reservations - now $75 a pop - were gobbled up just as fast.

Order: A time machine, to go back six months and book a reservation.

There's a reason this gracious Southeast Portland restaurant has a wall filled with accolades, including a half-dozen James Beard Award nominations and The Oregonian's 2006 Restaurant of the Year honors. Chef Cathy Whims and her team serve fine-tuned salads, beautifully blistered Neapolitan pizzas, wood-charred steaks and faithful Italian pastas inspired by Whims' mentor, the late Italian cookbook author Marcella Hazan. Order the Insalata Nostrana, which keeps the best attributes of a Caesar (the dressing, Parmesan and croutons) but ditches romaine in favor of bitter, spicy radicchio. It pairs well with a Negroni, the restaurant's signature cocktail. Two recent pastas - fettuccine with Hazan's tomato-butter sauce and snailshell-shaped lumache with a piquant sauce and crunchy pancetta - were remarkable in their distinction. The salt-crusted lamb, smoky rotisserie chicken and luscious porchetta all have their merits. But if you're on a double date, the dry-aged, salt-crusted bistecca alla Fiorentina in rosemary-garlic oil makes for a night to remember.

Order: Insalata Nostrana, pasta in tomato-butter sauce, porchetta, dry-aged steak, and, late night, the $7 fork-and-knife margherita pizza.

Castagna is Portland's only two-time winner of The Oregonian's Restaurant of the Year honors, first in 2000, when the restaurant's twin pillars were simplicity and seasonality, and again in 2010, after chef Matt Lightner shifted toward a more progressive agenda and before he left for New York in search of Michelin stars. Today, former right-hand-man Justin Woodward has kept the format he and Lightner pioneered, pivoting slightly toward approachability. The mellowing means the highs might not be quite as high, but there are almost no lows. Meals here (a $98 dinner menu or the $155 chef's tasting, the latter Portland's most expensive regularly occurring meal) come with surprises: a crab gelee intensifies the flavor of Dungeness crab a pickled plum puree cuts through smooth foie gras an appetizing dessert was inspired by potato skins. For a restaurant with the occasional caviar or A5 wagyu supplement, service is amazingly unstuffy. On a recent visit, sommelier Brent Braun recommended, and was genuinely enthusiastic about, an inexpensive bottle of white wine.

Order: Visit on Saturday evening, when a fuller house lends happy voices to a dining room that, despite a recent touch-up, exudes chilly refinement. The chef's tasting menu remains the best way to take Castagna's measure, though if the prospect of a five-hour meal seems daunting, the shorter menu offers a more accessible entry point.

How many happy accidents had to converge to form Le Pigeon? Gabriel Rucker, the two-time James Beard Award winner, had to be looking for work after Gotham Building Tavern closed. The previous restaurant, Colleen's Bistro, had to install the gorgeous copper hood that lends the space its warm glow. Andy Fortgang, the restaurant's service guru, had to leave Tom Colicchio's restaurant empire in New York and move to Portland. And, after nearly a decade in business, the restaurant had to be comfortable continuing to evolve. A meal in May showed Le Pigeon in its best light: cedar-plank trout scattered with plump morels crisp slivers of goat in a marsh of basil and English peas and an older dish, smoked and seared foie gras with sablefish and dill, which was the best bite of the evening. If not every dish hits the mark, that's only because at 10 years old, Le Pigeon remains the city's most exciting nightly high-wire act. Desserts have long been Le Pigeon's secret weapon. Recently, those included the signature foie gras profiteroles, a mint-pistachio moon pie and a potpourri-like strawberry shortcake ice cream bar. The youth movement that took hold last year is moving on. Chef de cuisine Andrew Evan Mace and pastry chef Nora Antene left in May. Taking the reins? None other than Rucker himself.

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L.A. Chapter is a hip spot with hit-and-miss cuisine

L.A. Chapter thrums before a show at the next-door Theatre at Ace Hotel. The tables scrunch together. Performers exchange elaborate handshakes on their way from dinner to backstage. The scrawled drawings on the walls, the scuffed black-and-white tiles, and the steep staircase give the room an abstract theatrical vibe — on these nights, the half-dozen people at your table when you begin with a Manhattan or two are rarely the ones still there an hour later when it comes time for coffee and the check.

What are you eating? Charred vegetables mostly, vast bowls of blackened shishito peppers, sweet Brussels sprouts with a Vietnamese dab of fish sauce, or broccolini with pickled fruit wrinkled roast carrots with pumpkin seeds fingerling potatoes sloshed with oil. It is the kind of food you idly pick at while you drink and talk and drink some more, secure in the knowledge that Lyft is only a few taps away.

L.A. Chapter is under the aegis of Jud Mongell and chef Ken Addington, who also run the restaurant Five Leaves in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn. Five Leaves was apparently inspired by and partially financed by the late Heath Ledger. Its New York Times review leads with an appreciation of a waiter’s excellent tattoos. Mongell and Addington both spent time in Australia, which probably explains the fried egg, grilled pineapple and pickled beet root on the hamburger (also, probably, the omnipresence of nuts as garnish). The dinner menus of L.A. Chapter and Five Leaves overlap neatly. If you enjoy the kabocha squash agnolotti or vaguely Thai steamed mussels in coconut at the Brooklyn restaurant, know that you will also find them here.

The first time I visited L.A. Chapter, I did not enjoy the meal. There were dry, under-seasoned rabbit rillettes, and the house-made ricotta might have doubled as thyme-enhanced spackle. That grilled octopus had spent a lot of time on the grill. The kale salad with puréed anchovies tasted like the kind of thing a trainer at Sea World might have tossed her dolphins when she wanted them to get more roughage. The gem lettuce salad ended up being sweeter than the dessert. The stiff sea urchin pasta barely tasted of sea urchin. The empty dining room reeked of ketchup, stale beer and despair.

But L.A. Chapter is not best experienced when it is empty, and it is not often empty. I have come to appreciate the salmon, cooked sous-vide to an extreme-but-still-buttery rare, seared on a griddle and served with a garlicky beet purée. That charred octopus tentacle is actually pretty good when they get it right, and I really like the anise-scented rare duck breast with chewy spaetzle. The whole coriander seeds covering a monkfish filet can be a little off-putting — nobody really wants half a jar of seeds in his mouth — but once you brush them off the fish is cooked accurately and well … although the bacony mass of beet greens and clams underneath seems as if it belongs to a different dish entirely.

A plate of grilled octopus with puréed green olives? Why not. A half-dozen oysters? Make it two. It may not be the best of signs that the restaurant seems to be most itself when you are barely aware of what you are eating, but sometimes that’s just the way it is. You did not come to the Ace Hotel, to this micro-neighborhood of pour-over coffee, lava lamps and $300 jeans to dine on rabbit-liver terrine and quenelles de brochet. You came because you wanted craft cocktails and a handful of really good fries.

Checking in With Some of Our Favorite Modern Hotel Cocktails

Bo & Luke. | Photo by Emma Janzen. Bourbon Renewal. | Photo by Lara Ferroni. The D'Artagnan . | Photo by Emma Janzen. Fairweather. | Photo by Lara Ferroni. Game Room Highball. | Photo by Emma Janzen. The Long Goodbye from Clyde Common. | Photo by Emma Janzen. Milonga Swizzle. | Photo by Peter Holmgren. Misunderstood. | Photo by Emma Janzen. Lady Washington. | Photo by Emma Janzen. The NoMad's Hot Buttered Rum. | Photo by Amanda Picotte. Panic Button. | Photo by Olivia Rae James. Roman Holiday. | Photo courtesy of Cindy's Chicago. Sakura. | Photo by Aubrie Pick. Sherry Colada. | Photo by Emma Janzen. Steelroller. | Photo by Imbibe. This and That. | Photo by Emma Janzen. Voyager's Swizzle. | Photo by Emma Janzen. The Wipeout cocktail from Death & Co Denver. | Photo by Elliott Clark.

We&rsquore no strangers to life on the road, and hotel bars give us reasons to look forward to the next trip. A good hotel bar can be a perfect oasis in a traveler&rsquos life, a place to kick back on vacation or unwind at the end of a busy day. And t oday&rsquos best hotel bars are also making some of the country&rsquos most enjoyable cocktails&mdashhere&rsquos a collection of some of our favorites.

Bo & Luke Warming whiskey and cinnamon get a bright boost from Cocchi Americano and lemon juice.

Bourbon Renewal One of the most popular cocktails on the menu at Clyde Common in Portland, Oregon&rsquos Ace Hotel.

The D&rsquoArtagnan Inspired by the Capitan, Catahoula bar manager Nathan Dalton swaps sweet vermouth for French vermouth in this modern version.

Fairweather A citrusy winter cocktail from The Lobby Bar at the Ace Hotel Pittsburgh.

Game Room Highball From the Game Room bar at the Chicago Athletic Association, a bittersweet highball.

Lady Washington Citrus and elderflower contrast brandy and honey in this sparkling cocktail from Rider in Seattle&rsquos Hotel Theodore.

The Long Goodbye Cynar takes a leading role in the Long Goodbye from Clyde Common.

Milonga Swizzle Aged tequila anchors this rich swizzle from Better Sorts Social Club in Boston.

Misunderstood Tall, cool and refreshing, this beer cocktail from Sable Kitchen & Bar uses a light lager to add effervescence.

NoMad&rsquos Hot Buttered Rum Hot buttered rum recipes often require a good bit of prep, which is why we love this version from NoMad Bar.

Panic Button Fresh lemon juice adds the perfect bright pop to this bold cocktail from the Living Room Bar at Charleston&rsquos Dewberry Hotel.

Roman Holiday From Cindy&rsquos at the Chicago Athletic Association, this autumnal riff on the classic Jungle Bird is unforgettable.

Sakura A floral syrup enriches the dry, herbaceous character of gin in this hibiscus cocktail from Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco.

Sherry Colada At the Ace Hotel Chicago&rsquos rooftop bar, Caitlin Laman tempers the tropical notes of the classic Piña Colada with a hefty dose of sherry.

Steelroller This bourbon cocktail from Opal in Portland&rsquos Dossier Hotel is sublimely smooth and warming.

This & That Inspired by the Penicillin, this recipe from Beth Willow at Seaworthy in New Orleans adds peach liqueur to the mix.

Voyager&rsquos Swizzle Batavia Arrack brings a subtle funkiness to this swizzle from Josephine Estelle at the Ace Hotel in New Orleans.

Wipeout Cold-brew coffee brings a bittersweet acidity to this highball from the Death & Co. outpost in Denver&rsquos Ramble Hotel.

Watch the video: ACE HOTEL Portland (August 2022).