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Last Updated on December 6, 2023 by Madison Krigbaum
If you caught my most recent post about the best breweries in Portland’s Pearl District, then you know I just returned from 10 days in Portland, Oregon. Drinking lots of craft beer wasn’t the only thing on my Portland to-do list. Before leaving Roatan, I made a restaurant wishlist filled with all the tasty dishes I wanted to try in Portland! Not all were hits, but I’ve listed the best ones below as food and desserts to try in Portland, Oregon. Keep reading to get seriously hungry.
⭐️ The Top 5 Ranked
- BEST BREAKFAST: Voodoo Donut 🍩
- BEST FOOD CARTS: Nob Hill 🌯
- BEST THAI: Red Onion Thai 🍜
- BEST PIZZA: Life of Pi 🍕
- BEST DESSERT: Salt & Straw Ice Cream 🍦
Portland Oregon Foods to Try on a Budget
1. Sushi Burrito from Rollin’ Fresh in the Nob Hill Food Carts
The first thing anyone told me about Portland was “you have to try the food trucks!” They weren’t wrong. Portland is covered in food trucks, but my favorites are the “food truck pods” like the Nob Hill Food Carts.
I was lured to this food truck pod with the promise of a sushi burrito from Rollin’ Fresh. If you’ve read my recent post about the best cheap eats in Madison, WI, then you know I’m obsessed with sushi burritos. There’s something about poke in a hand-held, on-the-go wrap that just makes me want to spend $15 on an iPad.
Although the prices were definitely higher than my usual spot in Madison, WI, Rollin’ Fresh’s En Fuego burrito didn’t disappoint. It was stuffed to the brim with spicy tuna, spicy salmon, cucumber, ginger guac, jalapeño crisp and tempura crumbs.
2. The Korean Pork Shoulder Sandwich from Lardo
On the cusp of the Pearl District and downtown Portland, Lardo is the perfect place to grab a quick, semi-affordable sandwich and a craft brew or two. You won’t find any PB&J on this menu. Lardo’s sandwiches are stuffed with unique, gourmet ingredients that make this spot a must-try on the list of food and desserts to try in Portland.
I decided on the Korean Pork Shoulder sandwich filled with marinated pork, house kimchi, chili mayo, cilantro and lime juice. The sammie was delicious and Lardo was the perfect spot for an informal Portland dinner!
3. The Mcisley Fried Chicken Sandwich from Pine State Biscuits
Pine State Biscuits was the site of my very first meal in Portland. Wandering around with a rumbling stomach and zero cell phone data, I luckily stumbled upon a restaurant on my Portland bucket list.
The biscuit shop is extremely affordable for Portland (around $10/meal) and there are tons of delicious options to choose from. I decided to go with The Mcisley sandwich with fried chicken, pickles, mustard and artisan wildflower honey sandwiched between two fluffy, buttery biscuits. Not a bad first meal on the West Coast!
4. Fennel Sausage pizza from Life of Pie Pizza
Roatan has some delicious restaurants, but they’re seriously lacking in the Neapolitan pizza department. Life of Pie Pizza was a much-needed indulgence during my time in the states. Always one for the spiciest option, I chose a fennel sausage pizza topped with “mama lil’s peppers.” Combined with spicy oil, red pepper flakes and a local IPA, it was the perfect addition to my list of food and desserts to try in Portland.
If you have extra time in your evening, head across the street to McMenamins Tavern & Pool for some local brews and a few games of pool!
5. Sarah’s Special from Bowery Bagels
I don’t normally eat breakfast, but when I do I want one of three things: eggs benedict, avocado toast or a good bagel and lox (and don’t forget the bottomless mimosas). Thankfully, Bowery Bagels served a tasty bagel and lox that checked all my boxes! It had been a while since I’d had a New York-style bagel and it was long overdue.
Sarah’s Special included house made gravlax, sliced red onion and a red onion and caper schmear. I ordered it on a salt bagel for the perfect Portland breakfast on-the-go.
6. Crab Rangoon from Khob Khun Thai at the 5th Avenue Food Carts
Another food cart pod not to be missed is the 5th Avenue Food Cart Pod in Old Town Portland. This pod has tons of great options, mostly international fare, at a very affordable price.
I was seriously craving some crab rangoon, so I headed to Khob Khun Thai for some tasty Thai cuisine. The crab rangoon was life-changing, even if I seriously burned the roof of my mouth while eating it. Let’s not kid ourselves, no one has time for waste waiting for crab rangoon to cool off. Some of the other options include Egyptian, Mexican, Iraqi, Greek and Hawaiian cuisine.
7. Lamb Gyros and Red Pepper Hummus from Nicholas Restaurant
Although this was the last restaurant we tried in Portland, I bumped it up to the top of the list cause it was so gosh-darn delicious. I hadn’t had Lebanese cuisine since Interlaken, Switzerland in 2019 and it was long overdue. Although I haven’t yet visited Lebanon (it’s on the list!), I’ve heard they have some of the tastiest cuisine in the entire world. If Nicholas Restaurant is any indication, then I can already say I agree.
We started the meal with some local beers and some complimentary piping hot pita bread and oil. The bread was so tasty we had to stop ourselves from filling up on appetizers alone. For an entree, I opted for the classic Lamb Gyro Wrap with feta cheese and tzatziki. It was absolutely delicious and so filling that my leftovers made lunch for the next day!
8. “Mancakes” from the Stepping Stone Café
Being from the midwest, I love a good greasy diner breakfast. Stepping Stone Café in the Pearl District was the perfect spot for a semi-hungover traditional brekkie in Portland. Known for their enormous “Mancakes” and their mouthy attitude, the restaurant’s slogan is “You eat here because we let you.” So if you head to Stepping Stone, be prepared for some West Coast sass!
9. Burgers at the McMenamins Ram’s Head
The McMenamins are arguably the most famous family in Portland. Their company and namesake, “McMenamins” has served beer, wine, food, cider and spirits throughout the Pacific Northwest since 1983.
McMenamins Ram’s Head is housed in the historic Campbell Building, which used to be home to one of Portland’s biggest speakeasies during Prohibition. The dining room served “coffee” to patrons discretely in mugs and the liquor shipments were disguised as “vegetable delivery.”
Today, the building is a bustling restaurant that serves plenty of local brews and hearty pub fare!
10. Panang Curry from Red Onion Thai Cuisine
I absolutely love Asian cuisine and, sadly, good Thai food is few and far between in the Caribbean. Portland is known for its delicious and authentic Thai dishes, so I knew we needed to take advantage!
Red Onion Thai Cuisine in Portland’s Pearl District is one of the most highly-rated Thai restaurants in the area for good reason. Not only was the menu incredibly affordable, but everything on the table was rich, authentic and insanely delicious.
It had been so long since I’d had Thai food that I immediately gravitated towards my favorite Thai dish, Panang Curry. The curry from Red Onion was peanuty, creamy and the perfect amount of spicy. Not to mention, the portion sizes were huge! Red Onion Thai has definitely earned its spot on the list of Portland Oregon foods to try.
11. Salted Malted Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough from Salt & Straw Ice Cream
I’m from America’s dairyland, so you can trust me when I say that Salt & Straw Ice Cream was hands-down the best ice cream I’ve ever tried in my entire life. I’m not going to lie, it was absurdly expensive. I believe I paid $7 for one scoop in a cone. Would I do it again? HELL YES.
With tons of delicious flavors to choose from, you’d think it would be difficult to choose a flavor. NOPE. The second I saw the words “Salted, Malted Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough” I was gone. It’s probably a good thing I don’t live anywhere near a Salta & Straw, I would definitely need to buy a larger wardrobe.
12. Edible Cookie Dough from The Cookie Dough Cafe
Honestly, the allure of this place is already summed up in the name, but I’ll tell you about it anyway. Ever since I lived across the street from DŌ in NYC and never went (I’ve been cursing myself ever since), I’ve wanted to try edible cookie dough.
The Cookie Dough Cafe in Portland was everything I hoped it would be and more. I decided on the classic chocolate chip cookie dough complemented by salted caramel ice cream. The result? Mind blowing. When ordering, keep in mind the richness of this dessert. I only had one scoop of the cookie dough and I (a well-known cookie dough lover) couldn’t finish the last couple bites.
13. “Voodoo Doll” jelly-Filled Donut from Voodoo Doughnut
If you ask anyone what to do in Portland, I guarantee you the first suggestion will be a visit to Voodoo Doughnut. This spunky doughnut shop is one of the most popular places in the city…which was proven by the 45 minute line I had to wait in just to get through the front door. Long queue aside, Voodoo Doughnut is a must-visit for all your sweet treat and Instagram pic needs!
I went for the classic “Voodoo Doll” donut filled with raspberry jelly, topped with chocolate frosting and stabbed cleanly through with a pretzel rod. This doughnut shop is really on par with the theatrics and it makes for the perfect Insta-pic…if you can hold off from devouring it right away that is.
Regrettably I didn’t have time to try Blue Star Donuts and cast my vote for the age-old Portland donut rivalry. There’s always next time!
The Best Portland Oregon Breweries
Drinking lots of craft beer is an absolute must when visiting Portland, Oregon. The city is known for its unique craft breweries and you can find them on almost every corner. I put together a list of must-visit breweries in the Pearl District to help with all your craft beer needs, check it out!
In addition to being one of the best cities to visit on the West Coast, Portland exceeded expectations when it came to the foodie scene. It was extremely difficult to narrow down my food bucket list with all the tasty cuisine and sweets that Portland has to offer! In the end, I was forced to use proximity to the Pearl District as a deciding factor.
Hopefully you enjoyed this post of food and desserts to try in Portland. You may also enjoy my related posts linked below. And don’t forget to follow along for the adventure on Instagram @madisonsfootsteps!