Within easy walking distance of downtown hotels, you’ll find everything from budget lunch options at dozens of food carts to fine dining at acclaimed restaurants — nearly all emphasizing local, seasonal ingredients.
The not-so-secret destination for many a hungry downtowner on the go? Portland’s famed food carts. At the Alder food cart pod, which fills a whole block (and then some), crowds swell at lunchtime, so expect plenty of company at all-star spots like the Whole Bowl and 808 Grinds.
Legions of lunchers also favor tiny Bunk Sandwiches, where chef-turned-sammie-slinger Tommy Habetz dreams up concoctions like Oregon albacore tuna melts and pork belly Cubanos. For Thai treats, diners enjoy Nong’s Khao Man Gai, which serves up its famous eponymous dish of poached chicken, jasmine rice simmered in chicken stock and an aromatic sauce with a vinegar kick.
The Portland Farmers Market, which has three seasonal downtown locations, is a dazzling — and palate-pleasing — display of Oregon’s bounty, with dozens of growers and food vendors, perfect for an impromptu picnic.
Tasty n Alder, in downtown’s West End, serves a brunch menu throughout the day and a more sophisticated menu at night, both infused with global flavors. Nearby are Chef Rick Gencarelli’s famous-food-cart-turned-restaurant Lardo and pasta-focused Grassa.
Acclaimed chef Vitaly Paley — winner of a James Beard Award and Iron Chef America — opened his long-awaited second restaurant downtown inside the Hotel Lucia in 2012. Imperial is a 110-seat Northwest/regional restaurant with an emphasis on wood-fired cooking and rotisserie meats.
Next door to the Ace Hotel, Clyde Common serves rustic, seasonal, Euro-inspired fare (think tagliatelle pasta and roasted fresh fish). At the energetic, window-lined bar, polished bartenders pour some of the city’s most exacting cocktails. Downstairs, sister speakeasy Pepe Le Moko offers star bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s take on classics, plus bar snacks and oysters.
Little Bird (the sister restaurant to James Beard Award winner Gabriel Rucker’s Le Pigeon, located in the Central Eastside Industrial District) serves French-inspired fare in an intimate bistro setting. Nel Centro, in the Hotel Modera, is an upscale, moderately priced Italian/French restaurant with a great outdoor seating area.
On the other side of downtown, Luc Lac offers a diverse menu of Vietnamese bites and cocktails. The three-hour happy hour is unbeatable, with 20 snacks for $3 each or less. Plus, they’re open until midnight daily and 4 a.m. on weekends.
Chizu elevates cheese to an art form by presenting fine fromage plates in the style of a sushi bar. Expect 30 cheeses from sheep’s milk to sawtooth, served on walnut slabs with house condiments like ginger pickles and wasabi hazelnuts.
For a feel-good boost on the run, grab a chickpea salad and organic green juice from Kure Kitchen, a gluten-free vegan health haven serving nutrient-packed snacks like quinoa porridge, acai bowls and superfood smoothies.
A legendary destination for regional cuisine, Higgins Restaurant & Bar was opened in 1994 by Greg Higgins, a pioneer in the movement to use fresh, sustainably sourced ingredients.
Opened in 1879, the distinction of “Portland’s oldest restaurant” belongs to Huber’s Cafe. Tucked inside the historic Oregon Pioneer Building, Huber’s features Old Portland charm, a stained-glass ceiling and a menu of hearty traditional fare. Don’t miss their Spanish coffee, made tableside with panache (and fire) by seasoned bartenders.
Atop the Nines hotel, Departure Restaurant + Lounge serves Asian cuisine and some of the best views in town. Views (along with steak, seafood and sushi) are also on the menu at Portland City Grill, located on the 30th floor of the US Bancorp Tower — Portland’s second-tallest building, known as “Big Pink.”
Satisfy your sweet tooth with a visit to Blue Star Donuts, where the brioche-dough donuts are made by hand with gourmet toppings like blueberry bourbon basil glaze, Maurice for unique Scandinavian pastries, Ruby Jewel for ice cream sandwiches and other sweet treats, Saint Cupcake for bite-sized baked goods or Cacao for all things chocolate.