Chef Picks: The Most Under-the-Radar Eating Experiences in Portland

If you're looking to side-step the hype and find delicious food, follow an off-duty chef. We asked some of the PDX's best to reveal their favorite lesser-known food haunts.

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Portland has become a bonafide destination for food lovers in recent years, and for good reason. It’s homegrown craft-beer scene—anchored by the likes of Cascade and Hopworks—is among the nation’s best, and the restaurant culture is similar in spirit to Brooklyn’s—DIY, casual, creative—but without the inflated prices and jam-packed dining rooms.

Like any good food town, though, there’s a lot more to Portland than housemade bitters and rustic wood-fired ovens. When you’re craving pho or dirt-cheap tacos over craft cocktails and Dungeness crab, you’ve got plenty of options—you’ve just got to follow the folks in the know. To help you navigate the city’s culinary back alleys, we asked 11 local chefs—from Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker to Lincoln’s Jenn Louis—to share the under-the-radar joints that they beeline for when they’re off the clock.

Gregory Gourdet

Executive chef at Departure

pdx gourdet Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Portland

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Harlow (3632 SE Hawthorne Blvd; 971-255-0138, harlowpdx.com)

Gourdet says: “Portland turned me into a health freak and I love it. My favorite spot for when I need some healthy comfort food is Harlow. It’s an all organic and gluten-free café in SE Portland. Harlow has the most extensive and creative juice and smoothie bar in town. I can’t get enough of their banana, coconut, and walnut pancakes drenched in maple syrup. There is also something really amazing about starting your day or nursing a rough last night with the juice of six power foods. It really get me going!” (Photos: David Iliyin, Harlow)

Johanna Ware

Executive chef at Smallwares

pdx ware Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Portland

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Toji Grill House (4615 SE Hawthorne Blvd; 503-232-8998, tojikoreangrillhouse.com)

Ware says: “Everyone goes to Beaverton for Korean BBQ, but I think Toji Grill House on Hawthorne is just as good. Their seafood pancake is amazing and so are their rice cakes in chili sauce. If you get the kimchi stew they crack a raw egg in it tableside, which is awesome. I took my entire kitchen staff there for a holiday lunch and ordered one of the huge meat combo BBQ platters and we had a great time. Of course, being able to play with the grill on your table is an added bonus.” (Photo: Courtesy Johanna Ware, Foodspotting)


Andy Ricker

Founder of Pok Pok, Pok Pok Noi, Whiskey Soda Lounge, and Sen Yai Noodles

pdx ricker Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Portland

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Binh Minh Deli (6812 NE Broadway St, 503-257-3868 * 7821 S E Powell Blvd, 503-777-2245)

Ricker says: “I go to Binh Minh Deli for killer banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches), especially the cured pork belly for lunch and the fried egg (banh mi op la) for breakfast.”(Photo: James Beard Foundation, Foodspotting)

Jason French

Executive chef at Ned Ludd

pdx french Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Portland

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Sweedeedee (5202 N Albina Ave; 503-946-8087, sweedeedeepdx.tumblr.com)

French says: “When Eloise opened Sweedeedee I knew it would be the best stop for pie in town. I generally stop in for a slice of honey pie and a coffee after I drop my kids off at school, much to their chagrin. What I and many others have come to discover is Sweedeedee serves some of the finest breakfast and lunch items in town in what can only be described as a very intentional, thoughtful and beautiful environment. I am a huge fan of the Baker’s Breakfast: volkorn brit, a hearty rye and wheat seed bread, mashed avocado, medium-cooked egg, and a lovely simple greens salad from Gathering Together Farm. It is my favorite way to start the day besides the honey pie!” (Photos: Ned Ludd, sweedeedeepdx.tumblr.com)


Elias Cairo

Salumist at Olympic Provisions

pdx cairo Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Portland

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Pure Spice (2446 SE 87th Ave; 503-772-1808, purespicerestaurant.com)

Cairo says: “I am going with Pure Spice on Division. I love the dim sum. The scallion pancakes are so crispy and not greasy.  All the vegetables are cooked perfectly and all the dumplings are made to order so the chives and all the sprouts are really fresh. Also, if they have the live spot prawns, get them.” (Photos: Likeness, Foodspotting)

Scott Snyder

Executive chef at Levant

pdx snyder Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Portland

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Tortilleria Y Tienda De Leon’s (16223 NE Glisan St, 503-255-4356)

Snyder says: “When I can, I like to make the trek to this gem in deep NE Portland. I go there for a couple of guilty pleasures. First is their carnitas—they do something I only see places that really specialize in carnitas do, which is to separate out the different parts of the pig. What I like is the cueritos; it is the skin, which comes out soft, succulent, and a bit fatty, with a lot of sticky collagen. I get it in a taco and it is incredibly decadent. This is a cardiologist’s nightmare. They also do a very good chicharones in salsa verde, and very good cochinita pibil.” (Photos: Levant PDX, Yelp)


Dustin Clark

Executive chef at Wildwood

pdx clark Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Portland

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Kenny’s Noodle House (8305 SE Powell Blvd, 503-771-6868)

Clark says: “Kenny’s is a great spot that hasn’t really been on the radar. Go for the solid dumpling noodle soup, salted oyster congee, spicy pork noodles, and quiet time away from day-to-day conversations with people you run into all the time.” (Photo: Mike Davis/oregonlive.com)

Ingrid Chen

Executive chef at Remedy Wine Bar

pdx ingrid Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Portland

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Naoko Bento Cafe (1237 SW Jefferson St; 503-227-4136, chefnaoko.com)

Chen says: “I’m a sucker for Japanese bento, and my favorite bento spot in town is chef Naoko’s Bento Cafe. In a nondescript stretch of downtown Portland, it’s a tiny 20-seat joint run by an equally tiny Japanese woman named Naoko Tamura. She makes everything in-house, and she’s committed to using all-organic ingredients; she buys all her produce at the farmers market and hauls it back in a toy wagon. You can tell there’s a lot of love that goes into her food.” (Photo: Remedy, Trip Advisor)


Scott Dolich

Executive chef at The Bent Brick

pdx dolich Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Portland

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Stepping Stone Cafe (2390 NW Quimby St; 503-222-1132, steppingstonecafe.com)

Dolich says: “My favorite under-the-radar spot in Portland is Stepping Stone Cafe. It’s my ideal of a diner. I go there for breakfast and lunch on the weekdays. Their food is simple, consistent, and absolutely delicious. I can’t go a week without eating their fried egg and cheddar sandwich on my way to work. Most importantly, the service rides the proper line between friendly and efficient, just as it should at any great diner.” (Photos: Feast PDX, portlandbreakfastclub.com)

Adam Sappington and Jackie Sappington

Executive chef and pastry chef at The Country Cat

pdx sappington2 Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Portland

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Du’s Grill (5365 NE Sandy Blvd; 503-284-1773, dusgrill.com)

The Sappingtons say: “We are hooked on Du’s Grill. It’s quick and awesome. They only sell teriyaki, rice, and iceberg salad with poppyseed dressing. You get a choice of beef, pork, or chicken, or a combination of two and a big ol’ scoop of rice and salad. It’s great to call in and grab to go. Love it!” (Photos: John Valls, Urban Spoon)


Jenn Louis

Executive chef and co-owner at Lincoln and Sunshine Tavern

pdx louis Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Portland

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Pho Oregon (2518 NE 82nd Ave, 503-262-8816)

Louis says: “I like Pho Oregon. The dining room is large and no-nonsense. The soup is what it should be: rich, but clean and elemental. I do love the beef, but I have been super into the chicken (pho ga). It comes with tender poached chicken, noodles, and herbs, as well as a delicious fish sauce and chili condiment.” (Photo: Courtesy Lincoln Restaurant, Foodspotting)

  • Neil Thompson

    A lovely article. I’m surprised that any of these places are “under the radar” of true food (not scene) lovers. But I loved the spirit of support and kindness in this article.

  • Zoe

    Brillant Idea, love this article Twitter: @toastytalk

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