Inspired by the street food of Bangkok, Pok Pok is the authentic Thai restaurant that launched Division Street as one of the best culinary destinations in America. But don’t expect to find run-of-the-mill pad Thai here. Instead, branch out and feast on more daring, authentic fare, like the eatery’s namesake, the spicy papaya pok pok salad, or kai yaang, a charcoal-roasted game hen served with dipping sauces and stuffed with lemongrass, garlic, pepper and cilantro.
Opened in owner Andy Ricker’s home in 2006, the restaurant has gradually taken over the house, starting as a take-out window with limited seating, then expanding into a basement lounge, an outdoor patio, and finally adding a dining room in the upper level. The menu has grown as well, with the addictive fish-sauce wings, coconut curry with house-made fish balls and an array of vinegar-based cocktails adding to the fray.
In the meantime, Ricker has not only won worldwide acclaim for his daring take on Thai (including the 2011 James Beard Award for best Northwest chef), he’s gone on to open additional restaurants in Portland (Whiskey Soda Lounge, across Division from Pok Pok, Pok Pok Wing on Southeast Milwaukie, Pok Pok NW in Northwest and Pok Pok Noi in Northeast) — and even has spots in New York City and Los Angeles. But there’s still only one original Pok Pok, and if there happens to be a line, it’s well worth the wait.