① Le Pigeon

Chef Gabriel Rucker is a Portland original who works off the cuff in his own world of complex flavor combinations, possessed by meat, French bistro cooking, and old-school American—sometimes all in the same dish. The restaurant’s curried carrot cake was Portland Monthly’s Dessert of the Year. 738 E Burnside St, 503-546-8796; lepigeon.com

② Ava Gene’s

It’s a place to indulge everything that makes Portland tick, with an unstoppable parade of inspired food and religious seasonality. This is not safe, letter--perfect Italian fare, but Roman tripe stew as it should be, hellacious and treacherously addictive, and primal, nonna--worthy orecchiette shells bear-hugging broccoli leaves and spicy pork crumbles. 3377 SE Division St, 971-229-0571; avagenes.com

③ Pok Pok 

From its bare-bones beginning as a takeout shack, Pok Pok has grown into a full-on indoor-outdoor eating experience while its owner has earned a reputation as the country’s foremost Thai grilling expert. Inside or out, don’t miss the blackboard specials, unusual dishes like grilled boar collar, and signature chicken wings (marinated in fish sauce and palm sugar, deep-fried and caramelized, then tossed in garlic and a bit of heaven). 3226 SE Division St, 503-232-1387; pokpokpdx.com

④ Castagna

Come with an open mind and an evening to burn. Far from Portland’s freewheeling small-plate, comfort-food revolution, Castagna choreographs every millibite in tiered dishes. You can try three easy courses at $65 total (a steal for this level of cooking) or you can embrace the tasting menu for $110. Either option includes a bonus: shockingly good dinner rolls dispatched with smoky whipped lardo. A dessert flight is $25. 1752 SE Hawthorne Blvd, 503-231-7373; castagnarestaurant.com

⑤ Ox 

This mashup of Argentine barbecue, Portland bravado, and French technique is the talk of the town. Ox’s meaty love story is told over dramatic flames erupting from a hand-cranked grill that could pass for an elegant torture device. And holy smokes, let’s not forget the formidable wild halibut—a thick monster that arrives on the bone like a vision of Morton’s from the sea. 2225 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, 503-284-3366; oxpdx.com

⑥ Beast

Welcome to a tiny personalized food stage for sumptuous multicourse meals choreographed and assembled in the middle of the room. With no real kitchen, and one big imagination, chef Naomi Pomeroy ships an unexpected parade of elegant potpies, maple-glazed pork bellies, and foie gras bonbons in six-course prix fixe dinners that celebrate French comfort cooking and Oregon farm finds. The four-course brunch is the city’s best. 5425 NE 30th Ave, 503-841-6968; beastpdx.com

⑦ Navarre

In a city that prides itself on a farm-to-table ethos, nobody embraces the philosophy more completely: Ninety percent of the produce is grown within the city limits. You won’t find a more original seasonal menu anywhere—pear chocolate pie, candied fennel stems, lamb ham—if it’s on the list, it was made from scratch in the kitchen. A lawlessness hovers in the air, and that’s part of the magic. 10 NE 28th Ave, 503-232-3555; navarreportland.blogspot.com

⑧ Roe

The quickest route to the Oregon Coast is through this back room on Southeast Division Street. The slinky, amber-lit spot celebrates critters and bits found on foraging trips to the beach—from jewel-toned sea lettuces to tiny skittering surf crabs—in a wild lineup of inventive, challenging plates. The reservations-only fine-dining experiment charges a premium for lavish but low-key service with a speakeasy vibe and small, fresh dishes with big Japanese- and Spanish-inflected flavors—and it’s worth every penny. 3113 SE Division St, 503-232-1566; roe-pdx.com

⑨The Sugar Cube

Pastry whiz Kir Jensen left behind a popular food cart to open a sweet shop on Northeast Alberta, complete with breakfast specials, coffee service, and lots of light. Find a stocked counter of hazelnut-studded chocolate chip cookies, sea salt and olive oil brownies, and caramel-slicked chocolate ganache cupcakes (the breakfast of champions, friends). 3039 NE Alberta St, 971-202-7135; thesugarcubepdx.com

⑪ Little Bird Bistro

And one downtown eatery: Le Pigeon is known for ruffling feathers on Portland’s east side, but its spin-off downtown bistro is accessible, easy, and seductive—more bluebird than street bird. Get in on Little Bird’s lusty duck confit and hulking marrow bones that look on loan from a natural history museum. Grab something to drink from a wine-lover’s list. 219 SW Sixth Ave, 503-688-5952; littlebirdbistro.com

This article appeared in the February 2014 issue of Seattle Met Magazine.

Show Comments

More in Seattleites Guide to Portland

Fact checking pdx stereotypes ihy2ei

Seattleites Guide to PDX

Fact-Checking Portland Stereotypes

Do they really put a bird on it? Yep—check out any boutique in town. But what about the other things Portlandia taught us? And how does it compare to the Emerald City?

  • 02/01/2014
Forest park portland oregon qmpb9c

Seattleites Guide to PDX

Portland Checklist: Top 10 Sights in Portland

The Rose City's can't miss destinations, plus: the city's nicknames explained.

  • 02/01/2014
Emerald city versus rose city architecture nnoeqt

Seattleites Guide to PDX

Portland v. Seattle: An Architectural Tale of Emeralds and Roses

When it comes to architecture, the contrast couldn’t be more plain: The Emerald City likes the shiny new gems; Portland likes perennials.

  • 02/01/2014
White stag portland oregon neon sign wycu5w

Seattleites Guide to PDX

Instagrammable Portland

Where to find Portland's iconic signs, views, and artworks.

  • 02/01/2014
Seattle vs portland strip club eats vsraqf

Seattleites Guide to PDX

Portland v. Seattle: A Tale of Two Food Towns

Our reputations may be neck and neck, but size matters.

  • 02/01/2014
10 things to do in portland parks iozzxs

Seattleites Guide to PDX

Portland Checklist: 10 Things to Do in Portland Parks

Hike, bike, and commune with nature in Portland's lush parklands.

  • 02/01/2014
Soccer scarves seattle vs portland k694mf

Seattleites Guide to PDX

Portland v. Seattle: Team Rivalries

Each city cares about the other for more sincere reasons than you might expect from rivals.

  • 02/01/2014
Hotel portland jupiter nuhlk9

Seattleites Guide to PDX

The Most Portlandy Hotel Rooms in Portland

Yes, you can even sleep in a caravan.

  • 02/01/2014
Portland hillside wzx1ro

Seattleites Guide to PDX

Portland v. Seattle: Stuff Seattleites Envy...and Stuff We Don't

We'll pump our own gas, thanks anyway.

  • 02/01/2014