In Portland, where there’s smoke, there’s … great barbecue? It’s not as surprising at it might sound. Authentic joints occupy several neighborhoods in the city, offering up Texas-caliber cuts of brisket, ribs and more. Here’s where to sample some of Portland’s best barbecue fare.
Portland’s best barbecue spots
An offshoot of popular, meat-centric Laurelhurst Market, Reverend’s BBQ in Sellwood boasts some of the best meat in the city. Their specialties include buttermilk-soaked fried chicken and slow-cooked brisket. While barbecue restaurants rarely court vegetarians and vegans, Reverend’s smoked tempeh holds its own against traditional meat dishes. Every protein pairs nicely with Reverend’s three styles of housemade barbecue sauce: Sweet Ozark, Spicy Ozark and Carolina Gold.
In addition to meaty entrees, Reverend’s offers a rotating draft beer list and a roster of distinctive sides. Dig into plates of grilled polenta or mac ‘n’ cheese topped with crushed barbecue-flavored potato chips. The restaurant’s six televisions make it a great place to watch sports as you drink and eat.
A longtime favorite of local barbecue connoisseurs, Podnah’s Pit in North Portland has been serving up slow-smoked barbecue since 2006. The eatery’s fervent devotion to Texas-style barbecue produces meats dry-rubbed with spices and smoked for hours before being served. Pro tip: Just like at many old-school Texas barbecue shacks, when the slow-cooked meat’s gone for the day, it’s gone. Plan an early arrival if you’re hankering for a specific cut. A number of excellent Tex-Mex sides round out the menu, including jalapeño cornbread and cowboy-style baked beans.
Started by former Top Chef contestant B.J. Smith in 2015, Smokehouse Tavern is now part of a burgeoning Portland-area barbecue empire. (Smith also runs and Smokehouse Provisions in Vancouver and is one of three chefs behind Kim Jong Smokehouse). Smokehouse Tavern infuses traditional barbecue with modern Portland food culture. A rustic atmosphere and a menu packed with cuts of fish, fowl, pig, cow and lamb provides a solid introduction to the various styles of barbecue.
The People’s Pig
Once a popular downtown food cart, this smoky North Portland eatery is known for lip-smacking sandwiches. For porky perfection, try the Cubano, which arrives piled high with pork shoulder, ham, Dijon, pickles and provolone. And while you can’t go wrong with the pork, the sleeper hit on the menu is the fried chicken sandwich. Carefully perfected through months of experimentation, the sammy features chicken slathered in spicy mayo and jalapeno jelly
Homegrown Smoker Vegan BBQ
If you’re seeking an “only in Portland” experience, head to Prost Marketplace for its famous vegan barbecue food cart. Since its founding in 2008, Homegrown Smoker Vegan BBQ has attracted vegetarian visitors from across the country. The plant-based menu includes offerings like smoked soy curls, tempeh ribs and seitan-based sliced “meats.” For the classic Homegrown experience, order up a pulled pork-style “SloSmoMoFo” sandwich, topped with chipotle slaw. You can also create your own custom combo plate with sides like hush puppies and dairy-free mac ‘n’ cheese.
(Note: As of July 12, 2017, the cart is temporarily closed, but visitors can still enjoy Homegrown Smoker’s brick-and-mortar restaurant in St. Johns.)