While Portland hosts a multitude of cultural fusion restaurants boasting Southern-inspired menus — including Mama San Soul Shack, Le Bistro Montage and Uchu Sushi & Fried Chicken, to name a few — the city is home to an authentic soul food scene, too. Venture into North or Northeast Portland to find plates that taste as if they were flown in from the Mississippi Delta.
Po’Shines Café De La Soul
Located in North Portland’s Kenton neighborhood, Po’Shines is beloved for its delicious brunch menu, which boasts a mouth-watering Bayou breakfast burrito and, of course, chicken and waffles. For lunch, the friendly staff serves up hot and fluffy beignets, honey-kissed hushpuppies and gooey mac and cheese with a hefty dose of Southern hospitality. Complete your meal with Po’Shines’ refreshing signature Sorrel beverage — a purple concoction of hibiscus, green tea and citrus juices.
(Editor’s note: The bright little shop is closed on Sundays to support its nonprofit youth training program, Teach Me To Fish, which provides culinary and life skills training to at-risk youth. In keeping with that theme, no alcohol is served at Po’Shines.)
Unlike many of its Mississippi Avenue neighbors, hidden gem Ella’s Kitchen doesn’t require its patrons to wait in long lines before sitting down to feast. Regulars praise chef-owner Ella’s stellar barbecued rib sandwich, near-perfect cornbread muffins and baskets of flaky fried catfish, and celebrate the eatery as one of the only places in town to offer authentic chitterlings alongside homemade mac and cheese.
My Brother’s Crawfish
Mardi Gras-themed restaurant My Brother’s Crawfish is somewhat hidden in a shopping plaza off Southeast 82nd Avenue; look for the white storefront simply labeled “Crawfish.” Inside, patrons feast on an array of Southern and seafood dishes in a casual bar environment. The menu is expansive, boasting all kinds of blackened fish entrees served with spicy dirty rice and cornbread. Don’t miss the fried green tomatoes with dipping aioli and the garlic-laced crawfish étouffée served over white rice.
Savor Portland’s upscale take on soul food at the wildly popular Screen Door on East Burnside. Now serving breakfast seven days a week, it’s a must-try spot for high-quality Southern cuisine and a homey ambiance. Their specialty is fried chicken: large portions of peppery, juicy chicken atop stacks of sweet potato waffles. Whether you opt for the bananas foster French toast or a plate of eggs paired with crispy bacon, be sure to add a fluffy biscuit with jam. Just beware of the line on the weekends, which can stretch around the block at peak times.
Dub’s St. Johns
Nestled in the Ranger Tavern, Dub’s is known for going above and beyond. Specializing in delivery, catering and supporting schools and charities in need, this black-owned neighborhood restaurant has a bit of a dive-bar vibe that locals love. Dub’s tends to get crowded on weekends, but nevertheless welcomes families until 8 p.m., and even has a popular kids’ menu offering smaller portions of their chicken and waffles, fish and fries, and the like. Don’t miss out on Dub’s rib dinners with your choice of yummy sides like bow ties and cheese and garlic mashed potatoes.
Kee’s Loaded Kitchen
A food cart parked on Northeast M.L.K. Jr. Boulevard, Kee’s Loaded Kitchen is decorated with potted flowers and other garden sundries, evoking memories of enjoying home cooking in your auntie’s backyard. While Kee changes her affordable menu daily, one enduring favorite is the “Loaded Lunch,” which features a colossal entrée such as a sandwich, burger or baked potato, plus several generous sides like coleslaw, potato salad and Mexican street corn salad. Kee hooks you up with all the fixings, including toasted buns, ripe avocado, chili aioli and bacon. She also bakes her own mouthwatering desserts, including buttery pound cake with fresh fruit and a delicious peach cobbler. Just keep in mind that the cart tends to sell out by mid-afternoon on weekends.