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.)
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.
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.
Step off the sidewalk at NE 28th St. and into a colorful, bead-bedecked eatery in New Orleans—that’s the vibe inside Tapalaya, a Cajun/Creloe restaurant dishing out small plates of classic Southern fare mixed with inspiration from Chef Anh Luu’s Vietnamese background. Steaming bowls of jambalaya, creamy grits and andouille hushpuppies are presented alongside pork belly banh mis and caramelized fish sauce wings, joyfully gobbled up by patrons enjoying live music (which they offer four nights a week) and between sips of Crescent City cocktail all-stars like the sazerac or a fruity, rum-laden hurricane.
The aroma of smoked meats and sweet chili sauce waft from the entrance of Miss Delta, a down-home Southern cafe on N. Mississippi Ave. that prides itself on using locally sourced ingredients and original family recipes. Here, brunch isn’t limited to weekends so you can indulge in a Southern stack (a buttermilk biscuit with fried chicken, bacon, cheddar cheese, fried eggs and sausage gravy) or a plate of chicken fried chicken any day of the week. And for dinner, nothing says grandma’s home cooking like a thick slab of meatloaf book-ended by mashed potatoes and collard greens—just don’t forget to spice up your meal with a couple dashes of their house-made hot sauces, which are also available for sale at the restaurant and local grocers throughout town.