Best Portland Restaurants

IMG_7302 2Okay, so this title might not be entirely true. A better title might be “Best Portland Restaurants According to Liz & Corey Denfeld”, but that’s just what I love about the Portland restaurant scene. There are so many amazzzzzing restaurants, the list of favorites you get from one person to the next will be totally different. Not because we disagree on what is great, but because there is just truly such an abundance of ridiculously good food in this city.

The restaurants on this list are not places we’ve tried once or twice. These are our go-to absolute favorites. They’re the ones we keep going back to again and again – for the food, the ambiance, the service and everything in-between. So if you or a friend or family member are visiting the Portland, OR area soon and are looking for some awesome spots to stuff your faces, you’ve come to the right place 😉

Brunch:
Olympia Provisions: While I’m putting Olympia Provisions in the brunch category, it is also open for lunch and dinner. To be honest, it is one of the rare restaurants I would gladly go to for any meal, but brunch is what really hits the spot for us here. Even though “brunch” and “charcuterie” might not seem like the most likely pair, you’d be remiss not to try one of Olympia Provision’s Spanish boards. I’m not even a big meat eater and I am practically fighting Corey for the last pieces of salami every time. The classic Benedict, lemon ricotta pancakes and biscuits and sausage gravy are also winners.

Mother’s Bistro*: Oh, Mother’s. An oldy but goodie. A Portland tradition. If you get here much past opening just expect to wait… But know that it is so. worth.it. I also need to get a little bossy and tell you that you must order the Wild Salmon Hash. Just trust me, okay? You will NOT regret it. I don’t even bother trying anything else anymore because nothing can beat it. It’s one of those meals I would daydream about when we lived in Amsterdam and brunch was hard to come by.

Tasty ‘n Sons*/Tasty ‘n Alder*: Either of these restaurants are exactly what they promise: TASTY. No, seriously. Of the hundreds of times we’ve been (okay, that might be an exaggeration..) I can hardly think of a time I’ve ever ordered something that didn’t make me say “oh wowwww… but seriously wow wow wow”. Brunch and dinner are equally good here. It’s a toss up to pick which is better! The menu is ever-changing, but there are some staples that we can whole-heartedly recommend: Potatoes Bravas, Radicchio salad, Auntie Paula’s French Toast, Fried Egg & Cheddar Biscuit and the fries.

Interurban: One thing to note about Interurban is that they are just as much known for their cocktails as their food — perhaps more so. So if there’s ever a spot to justify a boozy brunch, this is it. I’m also borderline obsessed with their Salted Caramel French Toast. How can you not be? If you’re visiting with kids, you should note they don’t have high chairs — so bring your own or be prepared to have your littles sitting on your lap!

Grain & Gristle: If you’re looking for a restaurant that’s a little off the beaten path and a brunch spot with amazing food, but without a crazy wait, then Grain & Gristle is your spot. We used to live pretty close-by and it is open early, so it became a go-to for us (after an early morning wake-up with Elodie we’d all pile in the car and come here for many cups of delicious hot coffee). Their menu is always changing, but every time we visit their pastry of the day is out-of-this-world good.

Irving Street Kitchen: In the heart of the Pearl District with impressive decor, this is one of our favorite places to dine with the kids. It’s big, loud and has great food and drinks. I’m partial to the Moroccan Slow Poached Eggs or Smoked Soft Scrambled Egg Nachos while Corey is all about the Crispy Fried Chicken Sandwich.

Besaw’s*: Of all the restaurants on this list, this one might win for the most times we’ve ever eaten here. Especially since they moved locations a year or so ago, we’ve been frequenting this Portland favorite even more. As with many of the restaurants on this list, if you don’t get here really early, you should be prepared to wait. But no worries, their sister restaurants right next door – The Solo Club – is the perfect spot to grab a coffee or latte and a snack while you wait. I’m usually loyal to the Farmer’s Hash or the Belgian Waffle with lemon curd and dark chocolate depending on if I’m in a sweet or savory mood.

Harlow: If you’re vegan and/or gluten-free Harlow will become a new favorite for you. We used to frequent this gem a lot when we lived on the east side, but it is definitely worth your while to stop in if you find yourself on Hawthorne. Their Walnut Flapjacks and Chipotle Chili Bowl are superrr yummy (any bowl, really!). This is also a really great place to take kids as it is really loud and always full of families!

Coffee/Tea/Quick Bite:

Lovejoy Bakers: I recently took some out-of-town friends to Lovejoy Bakers for coffee and a quick bite and knew that I am a super-fan when one of them needed the code to get in the bathroom and I could give it to them. So I guess you could say I’m a big fan of this place. Their iced vanilla lattes are one of my favorites and I can’t stop in without getting either the B.E.L.T sandwich or their classic egg and fontina on homemade ciabatta roll. The icing on top is that the space is super cute and full of gorgeous natural light and they have Adirondack chairs lined up outside if you can stay awhile and enjoy some great people watching.

Commissary: At first glance this may seem just like any other cool Portland coffee shop – it’s small and cozy, with very instagrammable decor and you can tell the baristas know what they’re doing. But the best kept secret is Commissary’s food is equally as incredible as their coffee. They serve the best scones I’ve ever had and their “Lights” egg sandwich on house-made biscuits (that can be dressed up with arugula, bacon, sausage, jalapeño jam and much more) are to-die-for. This is a Denfeld family favorite for sure!

Tea Bar: My absolute favorite place for an iced vanilla matcha latte. Each location is super minimal and bright with tons of natural light! They also have matcha soft serve at their Division location, which I have yet to try, but I really want to!

Heart: Heart has an Eastside and westside location. We mostly frequent the Westside location, which is right across the street from Tasty ‘n Alder (see brunch restaurants). They serve fantastic espresso drinks, and if you’re willing to pay upwards of $7 for a latte, you should try their house-made nut milk. It’s a decadent treat!

Stumptown: If you’re even remotely interested in Portland and Portland’s coffee scene, you’ll be very familiar with Stumptown. It is our household’s coffee of choice – we buy fresh beans every week or so to enjoy at home, but anytime I’m near one of their cafe locations I stop in for my coffee drink of choice: a vanilla latte.

Barista: The people at Barista take coffee seriously. Very seriously. And while this might seem intimidating or pretentious to some, to a coffee snob like me I appreciate the heck out of it. It’s one of the few places that will lure me in even in the afternoon for a decaf latte, because they are that good (I typically think decaf coffee is blasphemous).

Donuts
:
Pipp’s Original Doughnuts: There’s a great debate in Portland about which donut spot is the best in the city. For us it is a very close tie between Pipp’s and Blue Star, but if forced to choose, Pipp’s all the way. How can you possibly compete with hot, fresh, made-to-order mini doughnuts?! I can’t say enough about how absolutely delicious and one-of-a-kind they are.

Blue Star: Three words: Classic. Brioche. Recipe. Okay, I really only care about one of those words: brioche. That basically means these donuts are the bomb. Blue Star is known for their inventive, seasonal flavors — like Blackberry & Habanero Jam w/ Peanut Butter Powder, Maple Bacon, Matcha Latte and Orange Olive Oil. The consistency of these donuts is so good and while the flavors can seem intimidating at first, they taste uncomplicated and flat out delicious.

Dessert:
Papa Haydn: For us, this is the only real dessert spot worth visiting. If you’re looking for delectable cakes the size of your head, a giant rhubarb crisp served piping hot with melting ice cream on top or the best baked Alaska you’ve ever tried, then you can’t miss a stop at Paps Haydn. (I am really impartial to the Georgian Peanut Butter Mousse Torte… but I’d recommend sharing, the portion is extremely large and the cake is very rich!)

Salt & Straw*: Another Portland favorite where you’ll find a line wrapped around the corner nearly any day or time. A little known secret is if you’re willing to skip the experience of tasting all the different flavors, you can skip the line and go straight to the cold case, pick up a pint and a couple waffle cones and head on your merry way! It’s the only way to go for us — we always grab the Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons.

Ruby Jewel Scoops: If ice cream sandwiches are your jam, then Ruby Jewel is your place. You can pick your cookie and ice cream, get it dipped in sprinkles or chocolate (or both!) and it is sure to be the best ice cream sandwich you’ve ever had. Trust me.

Cacao: Maybe you’re visiting Portland during the winter, and it’s cold and rainy and the last thing that sounds good is a scoop of ice cream. In that case, popping into Cacao for a cup of drinking chocolate is definitely the way to go. But be warned, after a stop into their shop you might not be able to enjoy grocery store chocolate ever again.

Dinner:

Navarre: So hard to choose a favorite date night restaurant in Portland, but Navarre is very, very high up on our list. It’s a small restaurant with an ever-changing menu. Food is meant to be shared and they work with a CSA, so all the items on their menu are based on what is delivered that week. I can’t say enough about the romantic ambiance, the extensive wine list and the wonderful food. If you run into a wait for dinner you can pop next door to Angel Face — a really amazing bar (with awesome interior design).

Laurelhurst Market: A great spot for meat lovers especially, but I don’t eat beef or pork and still really enjoy my meals here. The ambiance is fantastic and they mix up great cocktails. It’s lively and the food is delicious every time!

Olympia Provisions: See my note from brunch — you can’t go wrong with any meal here! Both locations are stunning, on the smaller size, which I love for the vibe.

Lovely’s Fifty-Fifty*: Our absolute favorite place in Portland for pizza — especially when they have truffle pizzas on the menu, but they are all so incredible. The combinations may sound strange/unique, but these pizza chefs know what they are doing, they are all melt-in-your-mouth goooood. Then you can top your dinner off with house-made ice cream. Yes please! Very family friendly!

Ataula: Fun fact: We visited more cities in Spain than any other country when we lived abroad. Needless to say, we are huge fans of Spanish food and Ataula was the first place we tried in the States that had food that came close to the real thing straight from Barcelona. I’m going to be bossy and tell you what you can’t leave without tasting: Pa Amb Tomaquet, Tortilla de Patatas, Nuestras Bravas***(MUST) and one of their paellas (I’ve never been disappointed but if I had to choose a favorite it would be the Paella Ataula).

Le Pigeon: We love sitting at the bar and watching the talented chefs at work. Top notch food, great ambiance. Reminds me of being in an amazing restaurant in Europe. It’s always bustling in there and smells divine. Definitely need reservations for this one!

Piazza Italia: Best authentic italian in the city hands down — the decor is no frills, like what you’d find in Italy down a cobblestone path behind an unassuming door. In the heart of the Pearl District – never disappoints!

Bamboo Sushi: Just go here. Please. You think you’ve had good sushi, but you don’t know great sushi until you go to Bamboo. It’s the WORLD’S first certified sustainable sushi restaurant, which should give you an idea of the quality of the fish, meat and produce they use. You can’t leave without trying the Green Machine roll (with crab!) and they surprisingly have one of the best burgers in the city (wagyu beef).

Bollywood Theater: Loud, fun, crowded. A great spot to grab dinner with friends, especially if you go to their Division location during the summer months and can enjoy their large patio.  They specialize in Indian “Street Food” — my favorite dish is the Goan Style Shrimp.

Por Que No: I hate to admit that Portland has a serious shortage of really good Mexican food. Por Que No is without question the best in the city — and they have the lines out the door to prove it. Trust me when I tell you to have the Brian’s Bowl and don’t miss one of their Agua Fresca Margaritas. I am typically not a margarita fan because they usually taste too sweet with fake mix to me, but these are fresh and strong and sooooo good.

Stammtisch: Do you like German food? We do, but delicious and authentic German is not exactly the easiest to come by. Especially not in a spot that is this cozy and stocked with an amazing German beer list. We know it’s good because our friend from Berlin joins us for dinner here — if it has his stamp of approval, it certainly has ours. I can’t stand to order anything but the Maultaschen, it is so rich and flavorful.

Tasty ‘n Alder*: See brunch section — you’ll be sorry if you don’t go to one of the Tastys while you’re in Portland.

Toro Bravo*: Oh, Toro Bravo, how I love thee. I do not, however, love the long wait that is almost guaranteed, but your food is so, so worth it. Another favorite spot for date night, even better for a group of friends. Food is meant to be shared and everything is so flavorful, rich and delish. They also serve up a mean cocktail!

DOC : This place is special. It’s a quaint 20-seat restaurant, with the tiny kitchen at the front of the restaurant. That’s right, you can see the entire kitchen, the chefs at work, everything, right in front of you. It’s more of a special occasion place, at least for us. Reservations are a must!

Nostrana: If I had to pick a favorite food, I’d probably saying anything cooked in a wood fired oven. Ha! But seriously, you can hardly ever go wrong that way. Nostrana is well-known for their thin, wood-fired pizza (I daydream about the Funghi Verde Pizza) and famous for their Insalata Nostrana — made with radicchio, parmigiana, rosemary-sage croutons (!!!) and a Caesar style dressing. Yummmm.

Drinks:
Expatriate: I’m putting Expatriate in the drinks section, but their food is also amazing, so you could easily grab a snack and drink here before grabbing a bite somewhere else in the neighborhood (we love Yakuza, right across the street).

Angel Face: Amazing interior design with stunning hand-painted “wallpaper”. This is the kind of cocktail bar you go to and just tell the bartender what strikes your fancy (i.e. vodka & citrus, bourbon drinks, etc) and they’ll whip something up for you!

Interurban: Equally delicious food here, but also known for their craft cocktails. Great outdoor patio, too!

Multnomah Whiskey Library*: This place is really well-known among locals and tourists alike, and they have the wait to prove it. We’ve never waited or been quotes less than two hours, so your best bet is to check-in and leave your name then head somewhere in the neighborhood for dinner and come here for a night cap (we’d recommend Tasty ‘n Alder, Bamboo Sushi, Grassa, Lardo or Shalom Y’All).

Clyde Common: A great spot for dinner, too. But you can also grab a great cocktail and head next door to the Ace hotel and lounge in their lobby area – by the infamous “HOTEL” sign. Very instagrammable 😉

St. Jack: One of our favorite places to sit at the bar and eat and drink for date night. A French restaurant with amazing mussels and frites and tasty cocktails and an extensive wine list!

Wine Bars/Urban Wineries
Cooper’s Hall: Gorgeous, open space, great for big groups. The food, in our opinion, is mediocre, but this would be a great place to drink lots of delicious wine with friends! Best to check their schedule ahead of time as they do often get rented out for private events like weddings and such.

Southeast Wine Collective: A small urban winery with indoor and outdoor seating, great food and fun wine flights. Cute spot for a date night or good for a girls night out!

Muse: Tiny wine bar right off NW 23rd. Amazing selection of wines from all over the world, and the owners are awesome — super personable, not snooty in the least bit. Love this spot for a pre-dinner glass of vino!

2 thoughts on “Best Portland Restaurants

  1. Great list! Piazza Italia was one of my favorite places we tried when we visited Portland! I’m also glad blue star and salt and straw have expanded to LA where we live!

    1. Yay! Piazza Italia is soooo yummy! And yes, I visit LA often because it’s where my sister lives with her family and I love seeing Blue Star, Salt & Straw and Stumptown coffee 🙂

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