Portland is one of the most vibrant cities in the U.S. and offers a real hipster hotspot where the likes of coffee, craft beer, and street food take center stage. A city of immigrants and residents who have relocated from other states across America, the cuisine on offer in Portland is needless to say quite varied.
Portland has quickly put itself on the map of top foodie destinations in America. You’ll find everything from local craft breweries and wineries to flavors from India, Russia, and Argentina.
However, one thing most Portland restaurants share is a focus on creating dishes using locally sourced and sustainably-farmed ingredients.
Sadly, the pandemic has already claimed a number of popular spots including Tasty n Daughters and the delicious Thai cuisine of Pok Pok. But until things get back to normal, many of the surviving local restaurants have found ways to offer take-away services or make their in-house dining areas Covid-safe.
These are some of the best restaurants in Portland that have managed to weather the storm and offer some of the finest flavors in the city.
The Five Best Restaurants in Portland
Canard is a cafe by day and wine bar by night, a fantastic spot that serves up some of the finest lasagna in the city. The layout offers a mix of custom restaurant booth options as well as a range of high tables making for a really cozy atmosphere.
Canard, alongside its sister restaurant Le Pigeon located at the upscale Jupiter NEXT Hotel, is led by award-winning chef Gabriel Rucker who will feature on the upcoming season of Top Chef Portland and have one of his signature dishes included as part of a contestant challenge.
Both restaurants have had to get creative during the pandemic, offering takeaway options and a bottle shop where you can buy local Portland beer and a range of delicious wines. Le Pigeon even teamed up with the Jupiter Next Hotel to offer a 3 course in-room dining experience at the Jupiter Next Hotel in the weeks surrounding Valentine’s Day.
Canard serves up both both a brunch and dinner menu, offering up great seafood dishes including oysters, Dungeness crab spring rolls, and shrimp ceviche. Signature dishes include their Duck Stack Pancakes served with duck gravy, Tabasco onions, and duck egg as well as their Kimchi-Crab Baked Halibut.
Meanwhile, over at Le Pigeon, the go-to food item on the menu is their famous Le Pigeon Burger. There was a time when Chef Rucker only made five of these burgers per night, making it quite an exclusive taste experience.
Now the burgers are no longer capped, allowing you to sink your teeth into the creation that features a ciabatta bun, Oregon-made Tillamook sharp white cheddar, grilled pickled onions, and its legendary square-shaped patties.
There are a number of Grassa locations across Portland and if you’re a lover of fresh pasta, then it’s certainly the place for you. Led by Rick Gencarelli, the restaurant is a non-flashy joint where you can enjoy a laid-backed dish of pure comfort food.
You’ll find common pasta specialties like carbonara and rigatoni as well as their more unique Pork Belly Mac & Cheese and Squid Ink Tonnarelli. Pair your pasta with some of their famous Grassa meatballs and delicious garlic bread. They also offer a simple wine menu.
You’ll find Grassa’s handcrafted pasta being served up in three different Portland locations, two on the west side of Willamette River and one on the east side.
They are described as a casual counter service restaurant where the need to reserve a table is thrown out the window. Look for the brand to expand to Oregon’s Lake Oswego as well as across the state border into Vancouver, Washington.
Southeast Wine Collective
While not really a restaurant per se, the Southeast Wine Collective is a treasure trove of great wine featuring a host of great local vintners.
Their 5,000 square foot urban winery space in Portland’s Clinton metro neighborhood is currently home to the founding winery Division Winemaking Co. as well as Gersing Cellars, Laelaps Wines, ORE Winery, and Pampleau.
They often hold exciting events throughout the year, but sadly these have been put on hold due to the restrictions relating to COVID. They are currently offering wine-to go services but will be opening for private tasting experiences for parties of 2-6 guests beginning in early March 2021.
You’ll be able to book a private space which will enjoy a 60-90 minute wine tasting experience accompanied by artisan cheeses. You’ll also have the option to book an add-on guided private tour of their wine making facilities.
They also offer up their Collective Wine Club where you will receive two shipments of wine per year along with receiving other exclusive benefits and discounts from the Southeast Wine Collective.
This popular Cuban restaurant is set in a now very colorful historic Victorian building in Portland’s northeast. Currently open for both take-away and table service, they are famous for their truly authentic Cuban cuisine led by first-generation Cuban American John Maribona.
Make a quick stop simply for some delicious Cuban coffee made with their exclusive Cafe Cubano Blend provided by local Stumptown Coffee Roasters. You’ll also find Cuban Chocolate milkshakes and their award-winning Cuban hot chocolate topped with Chantilly cream.
Other popular drinks include their hibiscus and ginger blend Jamaican iced tea as well as their Cuban Hot Toddy which is also made with hibiscus and ginger alongside Carta de Oro Rum and fresh lime juice.
When it comes to meals, you can’t go wrong with Pambiche’s baked empanadas, avocado salad, or one of their signature sandwiches.
Try the Havana Cheese Steak with citrus marinated chopped beef, onions, peppers, mushrooms, melted Swiss cheese all on a toasted Cuban roll. Then there’s the Cuban pulled pork sandwich or their Cuban Falafel with black-eyed pea fritters served over avocado mash on a toasted Cuban roll.
For dessert, try some Cuban delicacies like their gluten-free tres leches, panetela borracha sponge cake, or pudin Cuban bread pudding. Or you can go all out and try some hand-rolled chocolate rum truffle Cuban cigars.
Russian culture is quite prevalent in Oregon, with Russian immigrants numbering in the tens of thousands. Some of them brought with them the authentic recipes they grew up with and you can sample some truly outstanding Russian dishes at Kachka.
Their menu consists of Siberian sturgeon caviar, braised rabbit in a clay pot, and their famous Herring Under a Fur Coat dish which combines potatoes, carrots, salted herring, beets, mayonnaise, hard boiled eggs, and dill all presented as a mini layered cake-looking creation.
Wash your meal down with authentic Russian vodkas like Beluga Gold and White Tiger or some Russian beers such as Russian Baltica. You’ll also find a range of wines originating from countries like Belarus, Slovenia, and Georgia.
The real treat is getting to eat at Kachka in person, but due to the pandemic they have been forced to temporarily only offer their Kachka To-Go service daily 5pm to 8pm.
Many critics consider Kachka to be the finest Russian restaurant in the country, so it’s good to see they are managing to survive the ongoing restrictions placed on local Portland restaurants.