From fine dining to food trucks, we’re breaking down the best places to dine in Portland.
Portland, Oregon has been an epicenter of delicious food for years. Portland has received some of the highest accolades for food carts, restaurants, and even airport food. The success of Portland’s food scene is multifaceted. Part of the reason for the amazing restaurants and food carts is the community’s commitment to local and sustainable food sourcing, culinary diversity, a vibrant food culture that values creativity and innovation, and most importantly, a supportive community.
Portland Food Background
Part of the charm of Portland and why the food is so good is the location. Many restaurants prioritize using seasonal and sustainable produce, meats, and seafood, which leads to high-quality and unique dishes. Portland is located near the ocean for fresh seafood, rivers for salmon and other fish, and the Hood River Fruit Loop for apples, pears, cherries, and more. Because of its geography, restaurateurs and chefs are able to create with the best possible ingredients.
Things grow incredibly well in Portland with its mild climate, frequent rain, and fertile volcanic soil. The Pacific Northwest (PNW) is known for its berries, filberts (or hazelnuts), and even hops. Don’t get me started on the beer and wine scene. It is amazing. And the coffee scene? Portland is home to the world renowned Stumptown Coffee Roasters.
In addition, Portland is a very diverse city with people from all over the planet who bring their own flair to the food scene. Each section of the city has its own distinct microcosmic food scenes, from fine dining to food carts. This neighborhood diversity adds to the overall richness of Portland’s culinary offerings. This guide will visit several of Portland’s diverse neighborhoods.
Food Carts in Portland
Food carts are pretty much Portland’s specialty. In April of 2023, Food & Wine Magazine ranked Portland the best food truck city in the United States. According to Oregon Live, Portland is home to over 1,000 food carts.
In Portland, food trucks are actually called food carts, and the carts are typically arranged in “pods.” They are located all around the city and in the suburbs. The pods offer a great way to try a lot of different cuisines in one visit.
Oregon Live named Tito’s Taquitos the city’s best food cart in 2022, and it’s still #1 in my heart. The original location is in the parking lot of a 76 gas station in SW Portland. Yep, you read that right. They have added a location in Swan Island, too. As the name suggests, their specialty is taquitos and they do not disappoint. They are delicious and a hidden gem in an unexpected location. That is the best thing about food carts—you have no idea what magic you may find.
Indian Food in Portland
Portland has no shortage of great Indian restaurants in town. Dil Se Indian Cuisine serves northern and southern Indian food. Dil Se means “from the heart,” and you can tell by the food that they mean it. This is a wonderful restaurant for vegetarians, vegans, meat eaters, and everyone in between. Its unassuming exterior hides the fact that this place has some scrumptious dishes. The only thing better than their food is their kind and accommodating staff. Everything is delicious, but the fan favorites are the butter masala paneer and the paneer tikka masala. Portland food is defined by places like this.
Mexican Food in Portland
Nuestra Cocina is one of the best Mexican restaurants in town, and it has been a staple in SE Portland for 15 years. Nuestra Cocina is the collaboration of two renowned restaurateurs and chefs, Benjamin Gonzales and Shannon Dooley-Gonzales. Together as a husband and wife team, they own and operate Nuestra Cocina. However, the main star is the señora de la tortilla (a.k.a. the tortilla lady). She hand rolls and presses over 30 pounds of masa (a corn flour dough used to make tortillas) every evening. The tortillas are fresh, hot, and mind-blowingly delicious. Try this place out for a solid meal.
Vegan Food in Portland
Jade Rabbit is vegan food that everyone should experience. The Jade Rabbit is located in the Emerald Room, a gorgeous space in the Aimsir Distillery. The restaurant’s all-vegan options include dim sum, pan-Asian food, a tea service, and various specialty drinks. Head Chef Cyrus Ichiza (previously of Ichiza Kitchen) is a celebrated vegan chef featured in Eater Portland, Food Network’s Alex vs America, and the streaming documentary Evolving Vegan. There are small plates to share, big bowls of food, and sweet treats. The Jade Rabbit is located in NE Portland and is absolutely a place to visit whether you are vegan or not.
Chinese Food in Portland
Tasty Corner is a great Chinese restaurant in downtown Portland near Portland State University. Owner and restaurateur Daniel Chen has another restaurant called Szechuan Garden located in Beaverton, Oregon (a suburb of Portland). Tasty Corner is relatively new, but has classic Chinese dishes covered (and has some of the best of the best of Szechuan Garden as well!). The number one thing on the menu has to be their hand-shaven noodles. You can upgrade any of their noodle soups or noodle dishes with homemade hand-shaven noodles. This place is full of flavorful dishes that should not be missed.
Thai Food in Portland
Nong’s is the best Thai food in Portland. They started as a food cart, but now they have two permanent locations: SE and downtown. Nong’s brought Khao Man Gai to Portland. The dish starts with rice that is cooked in chicken broth, then both the rice and chicken are served with a sauce made from fermented soybean puree mixed with garlic, ginger, Thai chilies, vinegar, and sugar, along with a few vegetables, cucumbers, and cilantro. As a bonus, you can buy the sauce to enjoy at home. Nong’s Khao Man Gai was a James Beard Awards semi-finalist and has been featured in The Washington Post and The New York Times. Portland is lucky to have this level of yumminess.
Fine Dining in Portland
Portland has a range of restaurants, and you can get a great meal at a variety of price points. However, if you want to go hard on fine dining there are lots of choices. In 2023, Kann won the James Beard Awards for Best New Restaurant. The James Beard Award-winning chef (and personality from Top Chef) Gregory Gourdet created this restaurant to honor his heritage and culture while also celebrating the seasons and local ingredients of Oregon (see, it is a big deal here). The name Kann (“cane” in Haitian Creole) is a tribute to Chef Gregory’s childhood. Getting reservations is basically impossible, but it is still something to strive for. Keep trying for one, and explore other fine dining choices as well.
Every corner of the city (and all of the suburbs) has something delicious to check out. Portlanders are enthusiastic about their local food scene and often prioritize supporting local businesses. This is not a place that celebrates chain restaurants. If you are planning a visit to Portland be sure to check out the Eater Portland heatmap to check out the newest food carts and restaurants in town.
Portland food is an extension of Portland’s identity. The truth is that Portland has been hit hard since the pandemic and we have lost a lot of our best restaurants. The restaurants are struggling with incredibly thin margins, the challenge of finding workers, and the challenges of running a small business. The restaurant owners and staff need our love and money now more than ever.
Come to Portland and enjoy the wonderful food and support some of the best people and food in the country. Interested in exploring food scenes in other destinations? Check out our guide to the best vegan food in the Canary Islands.