These days, rising-star chefs and the foodies who adore them are flocking to Portland. In this playground of sustainability and creativity, many of the city's hottest restaurants change menus weekly—sometimes even daily—depending upon the ingredients they have delivered to their door that morning from local farms. The combination of fertile soils, temperate weather, and nearby waters contributes to a year-round bountiful harvest (be it lettuces or hazelnuts, mushrooms or salmon) that is within any chef's reach.
And these chefs are not shy about putting new twists on old favorites. Restaurants like Le Pigeon, Beast, Ox, Ned Ludd, Natural Selection, and Aviary have all taken culinary risks by presenting imaginatively executed, often globally inspired fare while utilizing sustainable ingredients. There’s a strong willingness in and around Portland for chefs to explore their creative boundaries.
Menus frequently extend across nations and continents. First-time visitors to Portland always seem to be impressed by the culinary scene’s international diversity, especially when it comes to Asian and Mediterranean fare, but you’ll also find outstanding examples of Peruvian, Russian, regional Mexican, and dozens of other ethnic restaurants. Of course, seafood is prevalent, with chefs regularly taking advantage of the availability of fresh salmon, albacore, halibut, crab, oysters, and mussels from the rivers and the Pacific Ocean.
Most of the city's longtime favorites are concentrated in Nob Hill, the Pearl District, and downtown. But many of the city’s most exciting food scenes are on the East Side, along Alberta Street, Mississippi Avenue, Williams Avenue, Fremont Street, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Burnside Street, 28th Avenue, Belmont Street, Hawthorne Boulevard, and Division Street, and tucked away in many neighborhoods in between. Serious food enthusiasts will definitely want to make some trips to some of these vibrant, if out-of-the-way neighborhoods.
Bar and restaurant culture greatly overlap in Portland, and many eateries around the city stand out as much because of their carefully curated beverage programs as for their food. Expect to find wine, craft beer, and cocktail lists that rely heavily on Northwest products, and also note that many of the top cocktail lounges, brewpubs, and wine bars we included in our Nightlife and Performing Arts chapter also serve excellent tapas and bar snacks.