The "average" restaurant, coffee shop, or bakery in Oregon is at a higher level than anywhere else in the country. It's not solely about high-end food here; instead, you'll find gems everywhere you turn with stellar food and drink at a low price point. Well-sourced local products, sustainably raised meat, organic produce, and small scale agriculture are on every street, as the bounty of Portland gives restaurants here access to a level of quality ingredients that you can't find easily in the rest of the US.
If that isn't reason enough to come here, the wine is another. Oregon wines follow an old world sensibility. The winemakers here have been making wines in a Burgundian style for 30-40 years, and they're ahead of the curve with wine in the same way that Oregon was ahead of the curve with coffee and craft beer. Every trip to Oregon and to Portland is a chance to see the best and newest ideas that will inevitably be spreading to the East Coast soon.
The Best Meats
Ox has to be at the top of any list for eating in this state. The restaurant will take everything you think you know about steak houses and turn that on its head. With an outdoor wood grill, Quinonez and Greg Denton’s restaurant has an Argentine sensibility that helps create some of the best food in the country.
According to James Beard Award winner Aaron Franklin, this Texas, wood-pit barbecue joint would be in the top 10 in all of the Lone Star State. It’s run by Rodney Muirhead, a phenomenal pit master from central Texas, a man with barbecue running in his veins.
This is perfect for a great Midwest style American dinner. 5-6 miles outside of Portland, you can find Mississippi style cast-iron fried chicken that is known as some of the very best among fried chicken devotees. The biscuits are incredible, the deserts are great, and all the veggies are well sourced. This has what you loved about your grandmother’s food, elevated by the sensibility of a chef who shops at farmer’s markets and has been doing so for years.
With a constantly changing menu, Navarre is the Prune of Portland - the equivalent of a good, quirky friend that everyone enjoys being around, but not everyone gets. They’re adventurous and have created a really unique experience at the restaurant.
Gabe Rucker is without a doubt one of the best chefs in the country. He has a penchant for flavors and textures and a finesse on par with any chef in the world. He’s won two James Beards, but is still on the line crafting inspired food at Le Pigeon, a restaurant that pushes boundaries on what French food should really be.
DOC is a 30-foot Italian restaurant where you have to walk through the kitchen to get to the dining room. It’s completely off the radar, but it’s the type of place that you wish you went to more often once you’re there. It has one of the best wine lists in the city – small, focused, and joyfully scholarly.
Pok Pok - 3226 SE Division St
Going to Portland and not going to Pok Pok is like going to New York and not having Katz’s pastrami. Andy Rucker has done incredible things with Pok Pok and has opened the door nationally for how restaurants can create and innovate with Thai food. He’s empowered local people from Thailand to cook the food they grew up with and has spawned an entire Thai movement out of it.
Named by GQ as the No. 2 restaurant in the country, this Thai restaurant makes you rethink how Asian food can be served. The flavors are sophisticated, regional, and presented in a phenomenal way.
This is the Thai restaurant you wish you had in your neighborhood. Good for dinner on a Saturday or a Tuesday. Really, just perfect for any occasion.
The Best Drinks
This bar is run by Naomi Pomeroy and Kyle Webster, who serves absolutely incredible cocktails. Nobody makes a drink that I enjoy more than his – it’s a place that’s enjoyable, fun, and doesn’t overthink things. The space is really personal and filled with things that Kyle is personally connected to. Make sure to give Naomi’s Burmese food a try as well!
A great hole-in-the-wall bar with good snacks and nice cocktails at a reasonable price. It’s a great service industry hangout where you can run into all of your favorite chefs and partners, but a place where you’ll also get a great, straightforward daiquiri.
This small, underground bar is really wonderful. It’s doesn’t get too full, so it’s a great place to sit in a booth and have a quiet drink. They make innovative cocktails, taking drinks that we all thought were trashy and turning them upside down to totally reinvigorate them. It's the best grasshoppers and long island iced teas you’ll ever have.
This place is almost Portland’s living room. It’s the perfect spot to drop by after a concert, to wind down after work, or to grab lunch. It’s all things to all kinds of people with a really friendly staff that knows the city well.
Single origin espresso with pour over coffee that helps you think differently about coffee. Done in a new way, but it’s not overly intellectualized.
And A Couple Other Must-Gos For Food
This taqueria always has a line, but the wait is well worth it for its impeccably sourced meat and seasonal vegetables. It’s the perfect dinner for a Tuesday night, the kind of food you could eat two or even three times a week. For someone traveling, it’s perfect – great food at an inexpensive price.
This bakery is one of the best in the country. The best croissants, amazing pizza, all by a James Beard Award winning writer who essentially wrote the book on baking.
Photo Credits: Bon Appetit, Oregon Live, The Country Cat, Navarre Portland, Serious Eats, Oregon Magazine, Meredith Perdue, Drew Tyson, Kim Hastreiter, Hello Portland