The Portland of my childhood was a sleepy mix of wooded hills and a cute, if a little gritty, urban heart. While we didn’t have the glamor of bigger cities such as Los Angeles and New York, we did have access to fresh, local produce galore, grown in the lush farmlands surrounding the city. This drew the attention of culinary wizards, and over the last couple of decades, the City of Roses has developed its own food scene that can compete with much bigger culinary hard-hitters. These days, we’ve got everything from snazzy fine-dining spots where reservations fill up as soon as they go live to low-key food carts (a local Portland specialty) serving food from around the world.

Needless to say, I’m proud of how far Portland’s dining scene has come. Here are some of my top places to eat in my hometown, from old local favorites to newer spots that have won my heart.

The orange blossom buns from Orange & Blossom have become a local legend in Portland. Get there early to secure your breakfast © Margot Bigg, Lonely Planet


I lived in Paris for most of my early 20s, where I developed a serious obsession with having pastries for breakfast that I’ve managed to sustain ever since. Now that I’m back in Portland, I’ve traded in my beloved pains aux raisins for big fluffy cardamom orange blossom buns, the signature brioche-style treat at Orange & Blossom. Until 2023, you could only score founder Marisa Kroes’s sweet delights at local farmers markets (and they’d often sell out really early). Today, this organic, plant-based patisserie has a brick and mortar in the heart of Northeast Portland, making it easy to load up on tasty cakes, cookies, scones and focaccia bread without sacrificing weekend lie-ins.

If you’re in the mood for something heartier, head to Paradox Café on Southeast Portland’s Belmont Street. It’s one of just a handful of holdovers from what many of us nostalgically refer to as “Old Portland,” an era when the city had fewer crowds and a much grittier, DIY punk aesthetic. Expect a mix of 1950s diner décor jazzed up with a bit of local art on the walls. Most people come here for the heaping piles of maple syrup-drenched corncakes and massive breakfast burritos, but they also have a few burgers and wraps if you’re leaning toward the lunchier side of brunch.

Portland is full of coffee shops, but Coava has single-origin roasts for ready for espresso drinks that are divine © Margot Bigg, Lonely Planet


Another Old Portland stalwart, Anna Bananas in Northwest Portland is one of the oldest coffeehouses in town. This little spot feels more like a house than a cafe, with tables spread across a few homey rooms and down into a dark basement that’s perfect for hiding away with a book on an overcast Portland day.

As much as I adore the old-school ambience at Anna Bananas, I can’t think of a better place to go than Coava Coffee Roasters' Southeast Portland flagship location if you’re really into espresso drinks. They usually have a few different single-origin roasts available for drinks, and dozens more of their Portland-roasted beans to take home for later. My only gripe is there's a surcharge for non-dairy milk.  

Reserve a lunch for a food cart pod, but the Asian-American fare at Warsugai is worth a sit-down lunch © Margot Bigg, Lonely Planet


Few things are more typically Portland than having lunch at one of our many food cart pods (groupings of food carts with shared tables and facilities). One of my favorites is Lil' America in Southeast Portland, mostly because it’s home to Bake on the Run, which serves up tasty Guyanese bakes (stuffed hand pies/pasties) filled with everything from jam to chickpea-potato curry (my personal favorite). Don’t miss their chow mein, made from imported Guyanese noodles and topped with tasty house-made pepper sauce.

Around the corner from Lil’ America, Warsugai is a newer spot that serves up homestyle Asian-American fare. While they do dinners family-style here, you can get plated meals for one at lunch. My personal favorite is the mapo tofu plate, made from tofu sourced from the oldest tofu maker in the US – Ota Tofu – which is just around the corner. While the food’s great, my favorite thing about this place might be their plant wall that’s adorned with neon signs, including one of an animated maneki-neko (Japanese waving cat).

The fruity cocktails at XO Bar pair perfectly with the vegan jalepeño and cream cheese wontons © Margot Bigg, Lonely Planet


For stellar views of Portland, head downtown to Departure, a lounge and restaurant on the 15th floor of The Nines Hotel. Skip the restaurant section and make your way out to the patio area, where you can sip sake, beer and wine by the glass along with cocktails poured over giant imprinted ice cubes while taking in views of the city center.

If you prefer your people-watching at street level, North Portland’s XO Bar is my favorite. They have plenty of outdoor seating for drier days, plus picture windows for days when the weather is a bit more typically Portland. The cocktails here run fruity, with tropical punches available by the fishbowl and all sorts of beautifully presented cocktails and mocktails that go heavy on the fruity flavors. They also have a huge menu of vegan pan-Asian snacks – don’t miss the jalapeño and cream cheese wontons.

Feral is a newer Portland spot, but already well-loved serving plant-based dishes showcasing locally grown and foraged ingredients © Margot Bigg, Lonely Planet


When it comes to making the most out of seasonal ingredients, Portland restaurants really shine. One of my favorite new spots is Northeast Portland’s Feral, which features a regularly evolving menu of plant-based dishes showcasing locally grown and foraged ingredients. While the menu is always a surprise, one thing you can expect is innovative tasty dishes that range from imitation fish ‘n’ chips made from deep-fried kimchi to carbonara toast smothered with cannellini beans.

For Spanish fare with a Pacific Northwest twist, reserve a table Uradenta, also in Northeast Portland. Like Feral, the menu here changes quite a bit depending on what's available, but there’s usually a solid selection of small tapas and larger dishes, with plenty of seafood, red meat and veggie options. Make sure you order a customized vermouth flight to go along with your meal – before I visited, I had no idea that vermouth was anything more than a mixer, but now I find it one of the most refreshing drinks to have on the rocks.

For an upscale cocktail go to The Green Room but if you're looking for Old Portland spirit, head straight to Hungry Tiger © Margot Bigg, Lonely Planet


Southeast Portland’s Hungry Tiger embodies the Old Portland spirit like nowhere else in town, down to the music they play (tracks from legendary Portland punk bands such as Dead Moon and the Wipers feature heavily on their playlists). True to its name, the walls are plastered with vintage tiger images that range from kitschy classic to unabashedly rock’n’roll. It’s a great place to wind down the night with a strong cocktail, a corndog and a bit of pool or pinball.

If you’re looking for something completely opposite, head across the Willamette River to The Green Room in downtown Portland. This lovely little lounge sits on the ground floor of the members-only Multnomah Whiskey Library and offers many of the same drinks, served under a gorgeous green-and-white stained-glass ceiling.

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