Last week, we unveiled our ranked guide to Portland's 101 best restaurants, plus Portland's 2015 Restaurant of the Year, Rising Star and Cuisine of the Year award winners. This week, we're slicing and dicing the 101 into a useful index, starting today with our 15 favorite restaurants in downtown Portland, listed in alphabetical order. (To see where they ranked on our 101, go here.)
For our purposes, we've extended downtown to include the West End (Gruner) and Pearl District (Irving Street Kitchen, Andina). Look for a follow-up post on Northwest Portland's best restaurants in the next couple of weeks. Check out the following list to help answer that surprisingly tricky question -- where should I eat in downtown Portland?-- Michael Russell
1314 N.W. Glisan St.
Once ranked among Portland's very best restaurants, Andina remains an enviable machine, its dining rooms, bars and private areas spread over mutliple floors, its kitchen turning out traditional Peruvian cuisine and dishes that aim for something more modern. This is still Portland's most serious South American restaurant, home to lipstick-red piquillo peppers stuffed with quinoa and serrano ham, quality seafood ceviche and little slips of beef heart skewered and grilled. Entrees are split into traditional mains -- lomo saltado, arroz con mariscos -- and more creative "novo-andean" dishes, many arrayed in peaks and valleys on sharply rectangular plates. You'll find quinoa-crusted scallops, pan-seared chicken with escabeche-style pickled onions and sweet potato and yellowfin tuna with lima bean tacu tacu, endive and salsa criolla.
Order: Piquillo peppers, arroz con mariscos, pisco sour.
Serving: Lunch, dinner and late-night, daily.
1014 S.W. Stark St.
Clyde Common, the restaurant attached to downtown Portland's Ace Hotel, is the first restaurant many out-of-towners visit. It's also a restaurant that could exist -- and likely succeed -- in almost any hip city in America. In 2013, longtime chef Chris DiMinno took off to become the resident chef at a bicycle parts manufacturer (don't ask, it's a Portland thing). Today, former Chicago chef Carlo Lamagna is in charge, offering an ambitious menu filled with less-common ingredients, large-format dishes and some intriguing Filipino touches. If you're looking for basic, you've come to the wrong place -- you can start simply enough with a bowl of marinated olives or some trofie pasta twists, though even the latter probably has a cured duck egg yolk. Better to go with crunchy pork-shiitake lumpia and a pork cheek adobo that ramps up the pork factor with crisp pig ears. Clyde Common was an early adopter of large-format dishes, i.e. entrees big enough to share. So bring a few friends and work your way through a whole fish or a platter of grilled beef ribs with cornbread and celery beer jam. Could we finally have food exciting enough to compete with celebrity bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler's cocktail program?
Order: See above, then add a barrel-aged Negroni.
Serving: Lunch, dinner and late-night, daily; weekend brunch.
527 S.W. 12th Ave.
503-241-7163>Maultaschen at downtown Portland's Gruner. Beth Nakamura
Gruner, chef Chris Israel's home for "cozy alpine cuisine," sits in the shadow of a gothic Presbyterian church in downtown Portland's emerging West End neighborhood. The dining room, immaculate, with clean lines and impeccable service, matches the picturesque food. Any amateurs with an iPhone 5 could shoot snapshots of the beet-pickled eggs, the ricotta dumplings or the mandala-esque watermelon radish salad that would be considered for a glossy magazine cover. Not that everything is dainty or delicate. Mains get meaty with lamb chops and Hungarian sausage, braised chicken with firm spaetzle and Portland's definitive, beer-friendly choucroute garnie, a plate packed with sausage, pork belly, cured pork tenderloin, sauerkraut, sweet mustard and potatoes. But the best dish of all might be the burger, perfectly seared, topped with melted fontina, bread-and-butter pickles and aioli on a crunchy poppy-seeded bun and, alas, only available at the bar.
Order: A few Instragrammable apps, the polenta-potato croquettes or ricotta dumplings and that choucroute garnie to split.
Serving: Dinner, Monday-Saturday.
Farm, meet table
1239 S.W. Broadway
Higgins enters its third decade in an enviable position, with a core group of staff that hasn't changed for 20 years, healthy crowds from lunch to dinner and an extensive charcuterie program that trumps most in America. You can sit in the bar, where you'll find one of Portland's first stabs at a bistro burger (it's still good and best eaten medium-rare), plus a beer list loaded with Northwest IPAs and Belgian saisons. The dining room, where local power-brokers and visiting dignitaries meet and greet, follows a super-seasonal approach -- when salmon or morels are in season, the Higgins kitchen -- still watched over by chef Greg Higgins -- is the first place they'll land. Order a bountiful salad, some fried razor clams and the pig plate, a sort-of Northwest spin on choucroute garnie.
Order: The Pig Plate and beer.
Serving: Lunch, weekdays; dinner and late-night (in the bar), daily.
410 S.W. Broadway
Proving that a hotel restaurant can have passion, pop and personality, even when it isn't attached to an Ace, Vitaly Paley's Imperial has steadily improved since its 2012 debut. Today, Imperial's menu skirts the difficult line between retro and dated, paying homage to Oregon culinary history with a menu heavy on American nostalgia. Most intriguingly, new chef Doug Adams, who placed third on "Top Chef" Season 12, has been introducing dishes that harken back to his childhood in Texas including fried chicken, Texas red chile and sheet cake. Today, a meal at Imperial could start with oysters or lamb tartare, then proceed with Paley's signature frybread with steelhead roe, which Paley might be busy curing in the back. There might be satisfying options pulled from a snout-to-tail playbook -- pork blood pasta with clams and a duck yolks -- and juicy meat and seafood seared on the wood-fired grill. The cocktails are great, and the happy hour has been an instant and enduring Broadway hit. But no matter what else you do, you'll want to order Portland's best new fried chicken, served with seasonal watermelon, pickled jalapeno, barrel-aged hot sauce and honey from the hotel's roof.
Order: Fried chicken and an on-tap vieux carre cocktail.
Serving: Breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night, daily.
IRVING STREET KITCHEN
IRVING STREET KITCHEN
701 N.W. 13th Ave.
This Pearl District restaurant, with its glamorous bar and loading-dock patio, doesn't lack for panache. Irving Street Kitchen once seemed like the first outpost of a new flood of California cash rushing into Portland's restaurant market (the restaurant is owned by Stock & Bones, a powerhouse restaurant group in San Francisco). It's since settled in as a Pearl District outlier, a swank restaurant with a bar program fully inundated with good cocktails and wines on tap, plus a southern-focused menu courtesy of chef Sarah Schafer. Full meals in ISK's dining room have occasionally left us wanting more. We've had more success at the bar, sipping a tasty gin and tonic, nibbling on ridiculously good chicken-fried oysters and other southern-fried small plates while soaking in some of Portland's best people watching.
Order: Small plates and drinks at the bar.
Serving: Dinner daily, weekend brunch.
KENNY & ZUKE'S
KENNY & ZUKE'S
1038 S.W. Stark St.
503-222-3354>A Reuben at Kenny & Zuke's. Stephanie Yao Long
The quintessential Jewish deli of the Northwest, Kenny & Zuke's boils and bakes its own bagels, brines and smokes its own pastrami and stocks one of Portland's best soda collections -- think sarsaparilla and Cel-Ray. You can flirt with the Cobb salad, the hot dog or the welcome array of healthier sandwiches, but, eventually, you'll find your way to the Reuben, juicy, thick-sliced cured beef on grilled, caraway-flecked rye with copious kraut and melted Swiss. Get it with shoestring fries, a custom float and a friend to split it with. Locals and late-waking Ace Hotel guests know about the bagels, crisp latkes, cheese blintzes, challah French toast and smoked salmon eggs Benedict available in the morning. Meanwhile, owner Ken Gordon, a restless sort, recently rebooted his Wednesday night fried chicken suppers and shuttered his North Portland satellite location (Bagelworks in Northwest remains).
Order: Pastrami Reuben, shoestring fries and a Cel-Ray soda.
Serving: Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
LITTLE BIRD BISTRO
LITTLE BIRD BISTRO
219 S.W. Sixth Ave.
For four years, chef Erik Van Kley ran this charming downtown Portland bistro, riffing on French classics as MAX trains rumbled by outside. In practice, that meant butter lettuce salads with juicy grilled lamb necks, delectable Gruyere souffles with green peppercorns and chermoula-doused moules frites. The desserts were among the city's best, as was the service, and the bar often beckoned a sophisticated late-night crowd to this tall room, with its pressed tin ceiling and robin's egg walls. But earlier this year, Van Kley flew the coup. His replacement, Gabriel Rucker, happened to be the two-time James Beard Award-winning chef at Little Bird's mother restaurant, Le Pigeon, and quickly set about adding new classics like a fried chicken coq au vin, ham and cheese bone marrow and a signature burger to the menu. Little Bird, a restaurant that transforms from a sophisticated lunch spot to a romantic dinner destination to an underrated cocktail bar after hours, is in great hands.
Order: Fried chicken coq au vin, ham and cheese bone marrow, cocktails at the bar.
Serving: Lunch and dinner daily, late-night, Friday-Saturday.
The dessert bar
921 S.W. Oak. St.
Portland has a way of keeping itself weird. When a downtown Portland zine store decides to move to North Portland, it was reborn not as a Starbucks, but as Maurice, an indefatigably charming cafe devoted to fika, the Swedish conception of the coffee break and named, as you might have guessed, for a pet rabbit. That this all-white space happens to serve some of Portland's best desserts almost feels like an afterthought. By day, Maurice is a light-filled oasis of mismatched chairs and vintage flatware -- it looks a bit like the kind of cafe a character might open as the climax of a Hayao Miyazaki movie. You can nibble on rosemary-currant scones with jasmine tea or coffee from Courier next door or eat oysters or gravlax with rye crisps while sipping bubbly. Work can wait. By night, Nina Simone on the speakers, Maurice morphs into a fine showcase for owner Kristen Murray's composed desserts. The signature black pepper cheesecake, creamy, luscious, recently with candied kumquat and salted-butter ice cream; a molten lemon bar dusted with powdered sugar; a rhubarb vacherin, tart and sweet in equal measures, with its base of semi-frozen almond cake, rhubarb minced like a fruit tartare, celery-green ice cream and a thin, slanted roof of flat, pink-peppercorn-dotted meringue, all in a pool of sweet rhubarb syrup.
Order: The scone by morning, the quiche by day and the black pepper cheesecake by night.
Serving: Morning pastries, lunch, fika and afternoon hours (until 7 p.m.) daily.
MEDITERRANEAN EXPLORATION COMPANY
MEDITERRANEAN EXPLORATION COMPANY
333 N.W. 13th Ave.
At their latest restaurant, chef John Gorham and executive chef Kasey Mills take a tour of modern Israel, with visits to Northern Africa, Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean along the way. Sometimes, the suspicion creeps in that Gorham's style -- meaty, rich; a culinary man cave -- isn't a perfect fit for this cuisine. But order well, and MEC's highs are very high. Here's where the kitchen excels -- a flaky phyllo pie, stuffed to its triangular tips with tender, savory swiss chard, bronzed in the oven and topped with a dollop of tzatziki. Mackerel, perfectly seared then blanketed with a beet-citrus-olive salsa, oily and rich in the best way. Fried chicken thighs draped in sweet honey studded with crushed aleppo peppers. Tender lamb chops grilled and doused in salsa verde, an experience equal in pleasure to dipping the rosemary lamb at Ox into chimichurri.
Order: Phyllo pie, seared mackerel, fried chicken, lamb chops.
Serving: Dinner daily; late-night, Friday-Saturday.
422 N.W. Eighth Ave.
503-223-7275>Park Kitchen, one of our favorite restaurants in downtown Portland.The Oregonian
For more than a decade, Park Kitchen has served its creative, Northwest-inspired fare to customers in a compact dining room and tipplers at a copper-topped bar within sight of the North Park Blocks' bocce courts. In that time, Scott Dolich's spot has produced more Portland kitchen and bar talent in the past decade than any Portland restaurant, save Paley's Place. Despite an over-fondness for culinary puns and dishes with "ingredient X served three ways" -- last year, a superb steelhead filet was undone by wildly salty, super-hot steelhead-infused tater tots -- this kitchen still has the capacity to impress. A meal can kick off with red lentil curry, pistachio mint pesto, perfect papadam crackers and pears both sous vide and raw for a small plate that's like New Delhi by way of Odell, then end with a southern-accented buttermilk panna cotta, candied pecans and more pears suspended in a bourbon gelee.
Order: To appreciate the restaurant's full range, consider the $60 tasting menu.
Serving: Dinner daily.
RAVEN & ROSE
1331 S.W. Broadway
It seemed like an illusion worthy of a Las Vegas stage. In 2007, downtown Portland's historic Ladd Carriage House was jacked up, placed on a flatbed and slowly trucked away. That day, anyone strolling through the Park Blocks would come face to face with a 500,000-pound building gently nudging its way through a canopy of American elms. It returned the next year, and was slowly transformed into a spare-no-expenses Northwest restaurant with a top-tier cocktail program and a vaguely British-inspired menu. In its early days, Raven & Rose's fared best with its most obviously British dishes, the Welsh rarebit, the bone-in leg of lamb, the beef short ribs in horseradish cream with a chewy puff of Yorkshire pudding to sop up the juice. More commonplace Northwest dishes didn't seem worthy of the space, which looks less like the latest DIY Portland eatery, and more like the most expensive restaurant in Bend. Recently, the Rookery bar upstairs has taken a few further steps toward the isles, including good fish and chips and so-so shepherd's pie, though there's still room for the restaurant to more fully embrace this identity. Instead of a Northwest restaurant with British elements, why not be the best straightforwardly British restaurant in the Northwest?
Order: Cocktails, potted shrimp, Welsh rarebit, wood pigeon, Yorkshire pudding.
Serving: Lunch, weekdays; dinner, Tuesday-Saturday; Sunday brunch.
525 S.W. Morrison St.
A pair of premier Portland restaurants stacked on top of each other in the same hotel, Urban Farmer is a serious steakhouse with a country bent, while Departure is a modern fusion restaurant run by "Top Chef" runner-up Gregory Gourdet. Come to Urban Farmer in the airy eighth floor atrium of the Nines Hotel for steaks, chops, creamed spinach, creamy Anson Mills grits and carefully sourced steaks, nicely aged and treated well. Slip up the hotel elevator to Departure on the 15th floor for the Miami vibe, the Asian-influenced small plates, the city's best view and a chance to spot Gourdet -- a legitimate food-world celebrity. Departure must be doing something right: Gourdet is already working on a spin-off location in Denver.
Order: Urban Farmer's dry-aged steaks, Departure's crisp lollipop wings.
Serving: Breakfast, lunch and dinner at Urban Farmer, dinner and late-night at Departure, daily.
Fish on fire
926 N.W. 10th Ave.
2038 S.E. Clinton St.
Don't let the flaming, foil-wrapped sushi rolls fool you: There's a serious sushi spot at the heart of Yama. The restaurant, which took over the former Hiroshi space in 2011, is dominated by an imposing, sake-backed bar, behind which you'll spot several tidy chefs bowed before their knife work. To take Yama's measure, make reservations for the omakase, or chef's choice meal, preferably sitting in front of chef Heemoon "Scott" Chae (he's the tall one). Depending on which option you choose, $60, $80 and $100, the progression might include high-end tuna, salmon, mackerel, geoduck, all impeccably sliced and served with pristine rice. Yama, which grew out of Portland's Mio Sushi chain, recently opened a second location in the former Vindalho space on Southeast Clinton Street. Not in the mood for sushi? Check the narrow dining room, where you'll find a full menu of traditional Japanese food, bright chirashi bowls, nigiri aboard a toy boat and dragon, volcano and, yes, flaming sushi rolls.
Order: For true raw fish aficionados, it's hard to beat Yama's sushi omakase.
Serving: Lunch and dinner daily, late-night Friday-Saturday.
-- Michael Russell
Source : http://www.oregonlive.com/dining/index.ssf/2015/06/downtown_portlands_best_restau.html