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Portland Eats

From the Panic kitchen, Chef Neven

We sometimes get asked to recommend places to eat in Portland. It’s a very food-oriented city, so you’re probably in good hands wherever you go. Here’s a list of specific dishes I love and you should seek out:

Neven’s Can’t-Miss Foods

  • Fish sauce wings at Pok Pok or Whiskey Soda Lounge
    They were named one of the top ten dishes in the US by Food & Wine magazine for a reason. And that reason is that they are delicious. The fish sauces stretches the very definition of “savory”; these are impossible to put down, but please do so for a moment, to sip on some drinking vinegar. I know, right – fish sauce and vinegar? You may be surprised how comforting and familiar it all tastes. (You can get the wings at either restaurant; they’re run by the same crew, and located across the street from each other.)
  • Pizza Tartufo Bianco at Apizza Scholls
    Scholls makes perhaps the greatest pizza yours truly, a native of the Mediterranean, has ever tasted. All the house pies are great, but this truffle-rich white pizza stands out. Come hungry and come early; they’re always busy, and understandably so.
  • Nong’s Khao Man Gai
    This street food popular in Thailand may sound simple – chicken and rice in soy sauce – but its taste is a four-movement symphony. Some say the secret is yellow soybean paste; others point to rice cooked in fresh chicken broth. Whatever it is, this downtown cart does it right.
  • Gnocchi at Nostrana
    It’s hard to pick one favorite from Nostrana, a multiple-award-winning restaurant that’s high on authenticity and originality, and low on pretension. How about the best gnocchi you’re likely to have anywhere? They’re only available Thursday nights; a sign of the effort that goes into making these perfect pillows of fluffy dough.
  • Schnitzelwich The name of the Czech cart is actually Tabor, but everyone identifies it with their signature dish – the schnitzelwich sandwich. A tender, juicy chunk of pork (or chicken) with caramelized onion, on ciabatta bread with horseradish and ajvar (red-pepper sauce).
  • Sardine sandwich at Best Baguette
    Everyone ought to eat more sardines, and Best Baguette – a McDonalds-looking building in an unremarkable location – is a great place to start. Their bánh mì (Vitneamese sandwiches on French-style baguette) are fresh, quick, and shockingly cheap – about $2.75 for the footlong sardine yuminess.

Neven’s Safe Bets

The following restaurants either have seasonal, rotating menus, or they’re just great overall. We won’t single out any one thing on the menu – go nuts and order what looks good!

  • Beast
    A six-course, prix-fixe restaurant perfect for a hip date.
  • Le Pigeon
    Fancy dinner from one of Portland’s top chefs
  • Grüner
    Alpine food with a modern twist; classy and satisfying
  • Clyde Common
    Hip and reliably tasty; open for lunch
  • Piazza Italia
    Portland’s most authentic Italian food, down to the soccer jerseys on the walls
  • Lucky Strike
    Hellishly spicy and awesome Szechuan on the far East side. They close at random times, so good luck to ya if you decide to go.
  • Leroy’s Familiar Vittles
    Fabulous BBQ and Southern fare from a Southeast cart

We could go on with these lists for a very long time. Hopefully this is enough to get you started on your next visit to PDX. Or if you’re a local – what are you doing not hitting these places already?

Here’s a handy-dandy map of all these places.
Now you have literally no excuse not to go!
Photos from Flickr users scaredy_katMookieLuv, and AlannaRise. Thanks, Flickrinos!
Posted at 2:22 pm 17 Comments

Ryan Schroeder

4/19/2010 3:03 PM

I had a wonderful meal at Le Pigeon last time I was in town. Highly recommended. Those wings look amazing! Maybe time for another trip…

Tim Trautmann

4/19/2010 3:39 PM

This is a great list. May I also recommend the well curated insider’s guide to anything Food in Portland: Under the Table with Jen

Jay Fanelli

4/19/2010 3:56 PM

I’ve only spent a week in Portland in my life, but it’s a *great* food town…everything I wish my native Pittsburgh could be. I’ll second the vote on Clyde Common and Le Pigeon. Gabriel Rucker from Le Pigeon is a Jedi.

Frank Chimero

4/19/2010 4:13 PM

This is pretty much my eating schedule when friends come to visit. Had Pok Pok a few nights ago and it’s a delight every single time. I wasn’t aware that the wings were served at Whiskey Soda Lounge as well though, so, life = changed.

Haven’t had the Bianco at Scholl’s yet, but we typically pick up a NY White and a Margherita with truffle oil. Yum + 1.

I’m ashamed, Neven. I thought we Portlanders had agreed not to share the Secret of the Food Carts. I just wonder what the committee will say…

The Tábor cart is Czech. There is a Polish cart just a few spaces over.

Josef: D’oh! Thanks – fixed. I’m going to hear about this one from Dave…

The Schnitzelsandwich sounds great. Schnitzelsandwiches were very famous in Germany in the 90s, every now and then when my mother was out and my father had to prepare dinner, he brought Schnitzelsandwiches for my brother and me at the local butcher. They’re called “Schnitzelbrötchen” here and it’s all about the quality of the pork and the sauce, of course.

Although it might seem rather pedestrian compared to the above, the fish & chips at Halibuts on Alberta is the best around.

Oh man, I miss Portland food, and by extension Thai food. That boiled chicken with rice and ginger sauce makes me bust a nut.

Have you ever tried Flying Pie? It’s my favorite pizza place, at 7803 SE Stark and off Boones Ferry my monroe pkwy.

Portland Pizza deserves a post of its own, but for now, these are my favorites: Apizza Scholls, Nostrana, Ken’s Artisan Pizza, Wy’east, Firehouse.

You need to find some Polish cart and check for “Bigos” with “Schabowy” (pronounced bee-‘goz – [ˈbiɡɔs] and shhh… schhh… damn! there’s no way to write it in English!). Oh, hell, come to Poland, taste the true food! Check out this renessaince poetical description:

In the pots warmed the bigos; mere words cannot tell
Of its wondrous taste, colour and marvellous smell.
One can hear the words buzz, and the rhymes ebb and flow,
But its content no city digestion can know.
To appreciate the Lithuanian folksong and folk food,
You need health, live on land, and be back from the wood.
Without these, still a dish of no mediocre worth
Is bigos, made from legumes, best grown in the earth;
Pickled cabbage comes foremost, and properly chopped,
Which itself, is the saying, will in ones mouth hop;
In the boiler enclosed, with its moist bosom shields
Choicest morsels of meat raised on greenest of fields;
Then it simmers, till fire has extracted each drop
Of live juice, and the liquid boils over the top,
And the heady aroma wafts gently afar.

Its true, I assure you.

Best pizza in the PDX area is right across the bridge. Mill plain’s Blind Onion Pizza is soooo amazing.

Otto Partz

4/27/2010 7:29 PM

Hey, don’t forget Dove Vivi for the greatest corn meal deep-dish pizza! Amazing ingredient combos, great salads and wonderful owners! In NE on Glisan. And if you haven’t tried the Little Red Bike Cafe in North Portland (on Lombard) you’re missing a special place — get there before they have to relocate in June!

r stevens

5/19/2010 6:17 PM

Man! I had Dove Vivi for the first time last night and it was corn meal-tastic. Really neat remix of pizza.

I was lately in Portland for a conference and the Panic Blog food recommendations literally saved the day. I was staying at the Benson, so managed to hit Nong’s Khao Man Gai, Snitzelwich, Piazza Italia, and Clyde Commons (for cocktails) – all within trivial walking distance. Without Panic I would have been lost, no one but the shrewdest local could have put together a series of experiences like this! The Bucatini all’Amatriciana at Piazza was the best I’ve had outside of Italy and the food carts simply rocked. Many thanks.