When we moved to Portland my husband said: Seattle has fine cuisine, Portland has great food.
I honestly don't know how high end restaurants in Portland compare to those of other major cities because I haven't yet explored the world of high end Pacific Northwest cuisine. It's not in my budget and it doesn't interest me as much as finding truly delicious food in a friendly, no frills atmosphere. Lucky for me, Portland really does have a lot of great food at moderate prices. The places I'd like to introduce you to aren't exactly holes in the wall, but they aren't fancy either. They aren't particularly trendy, but the food is definitely worth seeking out, and the prices are fair. The following are just some of my favorite spots around town that don't get a ton of press. Enjoy!
I love Ethiopian food, and Portland has many great Ethiopian restaurants. I've only tried five, but this is my favorite out of those.
Queen of Sheba in North Portland on MLK is our go-to when friends or family is visiting. Ethiopian is meant to be shared, so you get to try a variety of dishes at a low cost. If you're new to Ethiopian food I'd recommend ordering a mixture of dishes with mild Alicha seasoning and some in spicier Berbere sauce. The wait is moderate and they let you linger, so it might not be the best choice if you're in a rush, but the owners are lovely and make you feel welcome.
Tip: Ask for the drink menu, because their cocktails are strong and yummy. Also, try the lamb.
Some sushi places are hip. Some boast larger than life rolls. Some are affordable but sketchy quality, and most are overpriced. Ichidai offers the best fresh authentic sushi, the tastiest cooked fish rolls, and some of the best Japanese food I've ever had. The restaurant is in an office building across from a Chevron station on SE Powell, not fancy or hip digs, but the quality of food and service is awesome.
Indian is my favorite food of all time. Coming from NYC and Boston I've never had trouble finding good Indian restaurants. That is until I moved to Portland. The places I found all had great reviews so there was no way of knowing beforehand which was destined to become my go-to. After trying almost every Indian restaurant in Portland proper I still couldn't find one that I love. There are a couple of places in downtown Portland that are okay, but I discovered that if you want truly great you have to go to Beaverton. Apna Chat Bhavan is the first truly great Indian food I've found to date in the area. It's mostly a take-out place attached to an Indian grocery store, but the food is the most authentic, and tastiest around.
Compared to other cities I've lived in, Portland doesn't offer many different styles of middle-eastern cuisine and I've struggled to find a regular go-to for my falafel or kebab cravings. Hoda's on SE Belmont offers Lebanese style cuisine and it is by far my favorite Middle-eastern restaurant in the area. Bring your friends and your appetites and try a variety of appetizers and entrees. The lamb special is always excellent, as is the lentil soup, and I always get a side of chicken shawarma because that's my daughter's favorite.
Tip: Use your Chinook Book App to get a discount here!
Best Food Carts
My family loves The Mercado, the Latin American Food Carts on SE 72nd and Foster. Current food cart offerings include: Haitian, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Oaxacan, Brazilian, Peruvian, Columbian, Cuban and Venezuelan. There's also an indoor area to enjoy your food on rainy days, and explore specialty food markets.
Los Gorditos is my favorite Mexican food chain in Portland. There are six locations around town. 50th and SE Powell is my favorite location, as the burritos there are big enough for two meals.
Tip: If visiting the food cart on SE Powell bring cash as it is Cash Only and there isn't an ATM nearby.
About the author:
Maria D'Alessandro is a fiction writer based in Portland. While caring for her young children she also enjoys rock climbing, exploring tide pools and eating burritos.
Cover photo (c) Apna Chat Bhavan