What we seek out
We are usually looking for affordable and mid-range dining options. Although it’s fun puttin’ on the ritz every once in a while, we usually opt for the affordable places that are still fantastically delicious.
Thankfully, Portland is one of the best cities in the world for high-quality/value eating.
Almost any place you find in Portland will be amazing. These are some of our favorites, but we are constantly impressed how often we go somewhere new and have an amazing meal, so don’t be shy about popping into some place that seems like it suits your fancy. It’ll probably be amazing.
Gluten-Free / Vegan Diners
One of our favorite parts about Portland is that if you want to eat gluten-free or vegan, you don’t have to seek out special restaurants that only offer those dishes. 98% of restaurants here offer excellent gluten-free and vegan options.
We’ve only been to a handful of vegan-only restaurants, but will add them as we try them. Since Dana and I (John) practice different diets and we many times dine with friends, most of these places are intended to be the type of places that everyone could enjoy.
Heart – John’s favorite. The lattes are great, but the regular brew coffee is outstanding.
Barista – Dana’s favorite. Lattes are our go-to here. Their almond milk latte is the best in town.
Water Avenue – Delicious & to-the-point coffee. Has a very approachable vibe and continually roasts high-quality beans. They also have some tasty baked goods.
Coava – This crew was doing chemex before chemex was cool. If you can, go to the “Brew Bar” location.
Pip’s – Amazing tiny donuts and homemade chai. Gah.
Crema – Mostly known for their wonderful bakery items, though the coffee is great, too. It gets pretty busy on the weekends, but well worth the stop. John has the am bun and Dana grabs the zucchini muffin.
Blue Star Donuts – You’ll likely need to nap after eating half of one of these treats. But, oh, what a glorious nap. Try this over Voodoo (in our opinion), for a more craft, artisanal treat.
Bijou – Dana gets the kale cauliflower hash and subs tofu for the eggs (inspired recipe here), or one of their specials. John gets the traditional breakfast with their multigrain toast and fresh preserves. Update: sadly, since creating this dining guide, Bijou has permanently closed.
Jam on Hawthorne – A classic and rightfully so. You’ll likely wait 45 minutes to an hour for a table, but they have coffee outside and there’s nothing more Portland than waiting in line for brunch drinking coffee (ideally sharing existential conversations). Everything is good, but Dana especially loves the gluten free waffle and vegan tofu scramble.
Genies Cafe – Amazing potatoes, lots of vegan options, and somehow holds on to that “good ole’ diner” vibe.
Hot Lips – Although it’s also a great dinner spot, you can catch one of the lunch specials. They make their own soda and always have a couple vegan options ready to go. We usually split a mixed green salad, get a couple slices of pizza, and split a local kombucha (“love” by Dr. Brew is our favorite flavor).
Por Que No – Also a great brunch place on weekends. Definitely get chips, salsa, and guac. The margaritas are fantastic with the spicy rim. The tacos are marvelous and the Por Que Salad is one of the best salads in town. Many friends love the Bryan’s Bowl and Huevos Rancheros. Happy hour 3-6pm daily or 3pm-close on Taco Tuesday!
Food trucks on 28th & Division – There’s not a single website for all the amazing carts here, but there are dozens of them centered around a big partially-covered eating area. Plus there’s a beer and cider cart! Great when everyone is craving something different.
Tasty n Sons – Run by the same crew at Tasty & Alder, but offers different options. We usually prefer this spot for lunch. Wait times can easily be around an hour, so go before you’re hangry.
Wolf + Bear – Speaking of Mississippi food trucks, this is a new favorite! They boast a small but mighty menu of Middle Eastern cuisine, the Gomasio Salad (add falafel) being my favorite. Don’t miss the bunny balls for dessert!
Harlow – One of those places that’s so delicious you wouldn’t even know it’s entirely vegetarian and gluten free. A great place to grab a tea or juice as well!
Happy Hour Late Lunch / Early Dinner
Portland is a happy hour city. Usually from 4pm-6pm, but vary by restaurant. Although I included some happy hour details in the lunch and dinner places, these are our favorite ways to go to more expensive restaurants and get a great meal.
Serratto – Great appetizers and entrées. It’s sort of a classy place, which makes it a great happy hour deal. The $5 wine is usually very good wine (not just standard table wine) and regularly changes, making it a fun repeat place. We usually get a glass of wine and split some of the happy hour appetizers.
Bamboo Sushi – Probably the best sushi in Portland, but also the “first certified sustainable sushi restaurant in the world.” Happy hour drinks are fun, but the food here is where you can really get a good deal. Drinks are usually around $5, but the daily special rolls are usually $2-7. Dana likes trying the different veggie sushis and John loves everything here. The east side opens at 4:30p and the west side opens at 5:00p. There’s usually a line ready to go and happy hour ends at 6p.
Habibi – Traditional Syrian/Lebanese cuisine. We always get the hummus and pita. Dana gets the Falafel sandwich and John gets the Shawarma sandwich (the combos are a good deal too). If you eat in the restaurant, they bring fresh pita to you while it’s still warm. Yes. Bonus – the owner is one of the friendliest, warmest person you’ll meet.
Pok Pok / Whisky Soda Lounge – A Portland treasure and rightfully featured on almost every food travel show. This place swells in the summer regularly making wait times 2+ hours. The Pok Pok Noi (northeast location) is usually more available and recommended if you just must go to Pok Pok. However, our real tip is to go to the Whiskey Soda Lounge instead. It’s run by the same team and offers the most popular drinks and dishes from the original Pok Pok. The Jasmine rice is a must and they serve the well-known Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings (and yes, if you eat meat, you must eat these. Go for the spicy version). Vegan options are more abundant at the full restaurants.
Kachka – John loves this place. It’s Russian style. Yes, think borscht and vodka. I don’t usually like this type of food, but this place is amazing. Totally blew my mind as to what was possible with Russian cuisine. Vegan is a bit more tricky here, but possible.
Lardo – This local gem inspired not one (Kumquat Kale Salad) but two (Crispy Garlic Brussels Sprouts) of our recipes, and offers a mean burger, great rotating sides, and always excellent local beer. We usually split the fries without parmesan. Eat here and then take a well-deserved nap.
Cha Cha Cha – Great cheaper Mexican food. Although they have a happy hour, we prefer the regular dinner menu and it’s still very affordable. The enchilada plate is the best deal and most delicious item on the menu (in our opinion).
Fire on the Mountain – Great option for vegans and non-vegans traveling together. Offering “vegan drumsticks” and natural free range chicken wings in your choice of amazing sauces. Also, Monday has $2.50 pints all day. They brew their own beer, so this is pretty much a definition of Portland.
Thai Peacock – We’ve loved this little Thai place for years and although we haven’t been to Thailand yet, we think this place must be getting close. The medium spicy option will usually burn your face off, so be sure to add sriracha. Our favorites are the salad rolls, papaya salad, and Pad Thai.
Renata – A great place for Italian food lovers. We stumbled upon this place with friends after their soft-open and were blown away. It’s since won some award and it’s crazy busy, but well worth the visit if you’re a big Italian fan. They also offer sparkling water instead of still water and how can you not love that? Although probably best for vegetarians or meat eaters, this place was very accommodating and extremely creative when creating a vegan dish (and it was amazing).
Ataula – A bit more spendy than the other suggestions (we had sangria, a bottle of wine, and too much to eat and it was just under $100), but absolutely stunning tapas-style fare. Get the patatas bravas (aioli made with milk, but they gave us another sauce in its place) and red sangria.
Lela’s Bistro – Offers many vegan options, traditional Pho, salad rolls, and surprisingly great (and spicy) kim chi. Note for vegans: the veggie Pho uses beef broth.
Noraneko – The Ramen bowls! Brand new and just fantastic. Closest authentic ramen I’ve had since visiting Japan. Probably great late-night food, but we don’t stay out past 8:00p (so we don’t miss the nightly news).
Breweries / Beer
Lucky Lab – A traditional Portland brew hall with tons of seating. You’ll usually find groups playing board games and discussing existentialism or software scripts. The Super Dog IPA is a staple and rightly so. They also keep a rotating cider on tap. The food isn’t anything great, so stick to the beer here.
Baerlic – Such a cool place and still very new. Many restaurants have already picked up their beers and it’s definitely going to be massive in a couple years. I love the IPA, cream ale, and Pilsner (yes, pilsner, it’s amazing!). They don’t serve food but allow you to bring your own. Find a food cart or quick barrito place (such as Gorditos) and enjoy a couple pints.
Ex Novo – A non-profit brewery! It may be impossible to be more Portland than this place. But don’t let the amazing mission and business model fool you into thinking it’s less than legit – the beer here is absolutely fantastic.
Cascade Brewing – Big on sour beers. Lots of their beers have live cultures, making it more of a kombucha/beer taste. It’s definitely more pricey than other pubs, but it’s worth the visit. They have a large patio making it a great for sunny days!
Prost! – German beer and pub. Personally prefer the Fraziskaner Weissbier and Grevensteiner, but they are all great options.
Lompoc – Good beer, ok food.
Rogue – A Portland classic with the well known “Voodoo Doghnut Bacon Maple Ale”, but that’s not my thing. The Dead Guy Ale is a great standard and I’ve had some great IPAs (the 7 Hop probably being my favorite).
Cooper’s Hall – An urban winery. Essentially wine on tap. Not only is it super Portland, it’s actually great wine (and decent food)! They have other local options as well.
Shift Drinks – Just went to this place it’s absolutely fantastic. Well informed staff and delicious wine (I’m sure the cocktails are great too). This place will definitely be very popular soon.
Taste on 23rd – The Sommelier here is crazy knowledgable. They have wine flights and a fun happy hour always worth checking out.
M Bar – Great happy hour from 6-8p ($3 off glasses of wine), and the pours are super generous. It’s tiny, but cozy and intimate. It’s a coffee shop by day and wine bar by night.
Multnomah Whisky Library – Has an old school lounge ambiance. It’s like mad men right in Portland. Cocktails are in the $10-$15 range, but worth a visit if you like class and want to do something special. Opens at 4pm daily and it fills quickly (a line usually starts around 3:00p on Fridays and Saturdays). It’s almost impossible to get into in the evenings, so swinging by before dinner for a cocktail is the way to go.
Departure – On top of the Nines hotel, this is a great place to have a glass of wine and watch the sunset. Think classy patio seating and great views, making it ideal for nice days in the summer. The food is supposed to be great as well, but can be a bit spendy and we haven’t done that yet.
Teardrop – Mixologist to the extreme. This place has been solid for years and makes some of the most inventive cocktails I’ve ever seen.
New Deal Distillery – You can get a “passport” to go checkout all the distilleries in the area, but this is the best one. The New Deal Vodka is a classic, but the gin is also amazing. Plus, grabbing a mini bloody mary is a must for bloody fans.
Salt & Straw – Small batch and crazy inventive ice cream. Always has a vegan option ready. You can have as many samples as you want, so the appropriate number is 7+. It gets busy, so either plan to wait in line or go early in the afternoon.
Papa Hydn – Although a great dinner place, this place is mostly known for their phenomenal desserts.
Petunia’s Pies and Pastries – One of Portland’s best vegan/gluten free bakeries. Always an impressive spread of pies, cakes, cookies, and ice cream sundaes! They also offer a few cocktails.
Places we haven’t been, but can’t wait to try out
The Oregon Public House – NONPROFIT Pub! When dining, you choose what you’d like to eat, which delicious beer to drink, and WHICH CHARITY YOUR PROFITS GO TOWARD. So wonderfully Portland and has good reviews.
Grassa – Apparently amazing pasta.
Reverand Nats Cider – We’ve had the cider and it’s excellent. Checking out the taproom is on our to-do list.
Luc Lac – Vietnamese cuisine
Andina – Never had a proper meal here. Apparently Peruvian-inspired cuisine.
Hamlet Cocktail Bar
Izakaya – Japanese-inspired pub
Escape from New York Pizza – All I know is that it’s cash only.
Hair of the Dog brewery
Ava Genes – Paaaaasta.
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