Last week, we shared with you some of our favorite local restaurants. They couldn’t all fit into one post, so I hope you’re still hungry! Here is Part II of our culinary highlights from Portland.
Best Food Cart
Portland has a huge food cart scene, and you really haven’t experienced Portland until you’ve sampled some of the fare from one of these pods sprinkled throughout town. Unlike food trucks, carts stay put; you can always find them in the same place. And the best ones serve only a handful of dishes, but they do them really well.
The best part about our food cart culture is that you can try food literally from all over the world. Ever had Fijian food? Egyptian? Georgian? (the country) To be honest, I’d rather be in one of these countries instead, but having this food in our backyard is the next best thing! And if the food isn’t good, patrons have so many other options that the cart simply won’t survive. Therefore, you know if something’s been around for a while, it’s because the food is that good.
Our go-to is Smaaken. With both gluten-free and vegan options, this cart specializes in waffle sandwiches – thin waffles stuffed with sweet or savory goodness. Try the Elvis. You can thank us later.
Now, we’re gluten-free, so we don’t get to indulge in noodles too frequently. But we do love a good bowl of ramen. Fortunately, Noraneko has a gluten-free option for us, complete with all the tasty trappings. And I like that they’re named after a cat.
Honorable mention: Shigezo
If you couldn’t tell, Portland has an amazing Asian influence, so we have lots of tasty restaurants to choose from. We’re quite spoiled.
Now, when it comes to sushi, there are two main types: casual go-round sushi, where all of the offerings cruise through the restaurant on a conveyer belt; and higher-end, sit-down sushi. We love both for different reasons, and we’ll take folks to different places depending on their seafood palate.
For casual go-round, we like Sensei Sushi. The variety keeps us coming back, as there’s something for everyone.
And we have only just discovered a new favorite in the finer dining area: Zilla Sake (I promise, it’s a restaurant). Using real, freshly-grated wasabi (a rarity among restaurants) and in-season fish, the quality simply can’t be beat.
Now, Chinese is an obvious challenge for us, as most Chinese fare is marinated, fried, and drizzled in soy sauce (which is wheat-based). So to find a local restaurant that not only caters to our dietary restrictions and is delectable is a treat, indeed! We absolutely love Seres for this reason. A bit on the spendier side, the portions are comparable to those of other Chinese restaurants, so they’ll keep you fed for a while.
Best Comfort Food
This is a restaurant to which we’ll bring any and everyone willing to go (and it usually isn’t difficult to convince them to do so). This is a restaurant that not only has incredible food but a memorable atmosphere. And this is a restaurant where you’ll want to take home leftovers, as they’ll be lovingly packed into custom-made tin foil animals. Montage.
They’re known for their macaroni (yes! They have gluten-free pasta!), but they also offer an assortment of Cajun fare. And you will never see any advertisements for this place, because they don’t need any. They thrive on word-of-mouth, alone. Get there early, as lines will make you wait an hour or more (worth it). They’re probably the only non-24hr restaurant open until 4am (which makes it very popular amongst the freshly bar-departed). If you want to reunite with your inner child, and you like a hint of spice, try our favorite, the Spold.
If you’re staying in town for a few days, we’ll already have the last dinner lined up: Departure. The name easily lends itself to the perfect choice just prior to leaving, and it’s a great way to close out the journey and reflect on the adventures you’ve experienced while here. They specialize in Asian-inspired offerings, including sushi, yakitori, fried rice, dim sum, and decadent desserts. But the real treat is the patio. On a summer afternoon, you can enjoy your meal 15 stories above the city, looking down on Pioneer Square or gazing out at Mount Hood. The restaurant is upscale, so we recommend hitting up happy hour to save on costs. And be sure to get the Crab, Sausage, and XO Fried Rice; it’s worth every penny.
Honorable Mention: City Grill
What are your favorite restaurants in Portland? Did we miss one that we should try? Tell us all about it!