The 13 Restaurants You Must Visit in Portland
My grandma moved to Oregon a couple years ago and I was way overdue for a visit. Also, I’d never been to Portland before and was dying to check out the food scene! So, I decided to spend a few days in the city and a few days on the Oregon coast with my grandparents. What a beautiful (and delicious) state!
1. Kachka - My first time trying Russian food! Kachka describes their restaurant as like being at a “Russian dinner party at your babushka’s house.” Well, I took MY babushka to dinner and we had an absolute blast branching out and eating new things! Favorite dishes included the “Russian 7-layer dip” with herring, potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, mayo, and eggs, and the INCREDIBLE Siberian pelmeni (veal, pork, and onion dumplings). They were kind of like tortellini, but topped with a sour cream sauce and butter. This was my favorite restaurant in Portland.
2. Stacked Sandwich Shop - I came for the oxtail french dip (you had me at cast-iron charred onions and rosemary jus), but I stayed for the lemon madeleines. Chef Gabriel Pascuzzi won Eater Portland's Chef of the Year for his local, ingredient-driven sandwiches. My grandma loved that their sandwiches could be prepared on gluten-free bread, and they had plenty of veggie and vegan options for those with dietary restrictions. But if you’re a meat-eater like me, don’t miss the turkey chicharrones!
3. Enoteca Nostrana - You could grab a glass of wine here before having dinner next door at Nostrana, or you could simply have glass after glass, snack after snack, and spend your whole evening here. The (much younger) little sister to Nostrana... but with a totally different (read: more modern) yet equally wonderful Italian vibe. Super cute outdoor seating, but really lovely interior design as well. I tasted the rainbow with a flight of wine from light and sparkling to orange to deep red… they have some of my all-time favorite natural wines on the menu (shout-out to Ageno La Stoppa!), and offer different pouring sizes so you can taste a bunch. We also loved our burrata and focaccia appetizer with fresh grilled peaches.
4. Nostrana - After three months in Italy I am super picky with my Italian food, but Nostrana blew me away. (And James Beard-nominated Chef Cathy Whims just might love Italy as much as I do.) Nostrana’s gnocchi is to die for, but also THE PIZZA! This wood-fired, hand-tossed little beauty was doughy and delicious. Also, I never rave about salads but these salads were indeed rave-worthy. They pride themselves on using the purest and most local ingredients to make their simple, Italian food. Nostrana is Portland’s answer to Nancy Silverton’s Mozza, with a butterscotch budino to boot.
5. OK Omens - The brand spankin' new wine bar from the Castagna team (the fine dining restaurant from James Beard-nominated Chef Justin Woodward). OK Omens is literally right next door to Castagna, serving lots of the food from their tasting menu: super high quality food but in a chill, informal setting. My favorite kind of restaurant. Lots of fun and super funky, naturally-focused wines with hilarious descriptions “like nebbiolo’s weird southern cousin. but like sexy weird,” and "like slip n sliding naked in a wet cave."
6. Tusk - Perhaps the most hyped, a.k.a. most well-known of Portland restaurants. And, for me, it lived up to the hype! My grandma and I went for brunch. Tusk describes their food as “locally sourced and aggressively seasonal” and it’s Middle Eastern influenced. We tried the Mujadara (lentils, rice, crispy onion, labneh, sumac), baked eggs + Oaxacan cheese with spicy tomatoes, and the pistachio gooey butter cake (my fave!!). On the side? Coffee with a cardamom cream that I can’t stop thinking about.
Sweets + Bakeries
7. Ken's Artisan Bakery - Sun’s out, morning buns out! Kicked off a Portland pastry crawl at Ken’s, where we devoured a melt-in-your-mouth, buttery, flaky, orange zesty, perfection of a morning bun! The ham and gruyere croissant and marionberry croissant were both equally mind-blowing, and the macarons and canelés ended our visit on the perfect sweet note. You don’t want to come to Portland and miss these pastries.
8. Nuvrei - At this French bakery, we tried a rosewater croissant that was pink on the inside!
9. Little T American Baker - Many locals kept recommending this East Portland bakery, and I’m glad they did! I tried a delcious pain au chocolat, which was filled with Nutella.
10. Lauretta Jean's - A no frills bakeshop with (reportedly) the best pie in town. Pretty stuffed from our pastry crawl, we decided to save pie for my next visit, but we took a blondie and a couple donut muffins to-go - so good!
11. Salt & Straw – If you follow my Instagram, you’re probably familiar with the purple ice cream cone adorned with rainbow sprinkles… I post a pic of it about once a week. It’s my favorite ice cream in the world: Salt & Straw’s Honey Lavender! This delicious scoop shop hails from Portland, but also has locations in Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. It serves up extremely inventive flavors made with seasonal, local ingredients. I can’t resist getting a cone anytime I’m near a Salt & Straw!
12. Wiz Bang Bar - SUNDAE FUNDAY! I had to try the soft-serve only dessert bar from Salt and Straw while in Portland! I loved the Rocky Road sundae in a chocolate waffle cone, topped with single-origin chocolate hard shell, marshmallows, and brownie bites; the affogato; and the hand-dipped magic shell cone with rainbow sprinkles.
13. Blue Star Donuts - The raspberry rosemary buttermilk donut here is my absolute favorite donut of all time. Period. I fell in love with it at their LA locations, but Blue Star Donuts is originally from Portland! They have lots of other creative flavors, too, like their Horchata Glazed Donut, PB & J, Passionfruit Cocoa Nibs, Hard Apple Cider Fritter, Blueberry Bourbon Basil… you get the picture. These are some artisanal donuts! Arrive early to make sure they have all the flavors.
Following along on Instagram? See more from the trip at #CarnivorrTravel.