In Portland, Thai cuisine can come cheap or pricey, sweet or savory, authentic or Americanized, vegan or meaty. Whatever your culinary preference, the Thai food in Portland is guaranteed to satisfy.
Pad Thai Kitchen
If a Thai restaurant were considered dive-y, it would be this Belmont neighborhood joint. Pad Thai Kitchen boasts heaping portions of steaming Thai classics that come out of the kitchen at lightning speed, whether dining in or taking out. As one might guess, the restaurant’s perfected pad Thai, frequently hailed as some of the city’s best, steals the show. However, the pumpkin curry and other menu items are worth digging into.
Southeast Division’s KaTi offers a wholly vegetarian menu, full of traditional recipes that the chef served in her native Thailand. Gluten-free and vegan options abound, as are fruity cocktails and dairy-free Thai iced tea. Once you’ve scarfed down the fish sauce-free pad Thai, try the nam kao tod (a crispy rice appetizer served with lettuce wraps) and pla rhad prik (deep-fried tofu wrapped in seaweed).
Count yourself lucky if you manage to snag an elusive seat at one of Langbaan’s eight weekly dinners. Settled covertly behind fellow Thai eatery Phuket Cafe, this upscale gem offers inventive and traditional Thai delicacies. With incredible local and seasonal ingredients, you’ll surely savor each and every bite of the beautiful (though pricey) tasting menu. (Fun fact: Langbaan was named one of the 25 most outstanding restaurants of 2015 by GQ.) For a more accessible taste of Chef Earl Ninsom’s cooking, try the Thai fried chicken and Malaysian curries and roti at Hat Yai.
Known for its Thai barbecue and house-crafted cocktails and booze-filled slushies, Eem is a local favorite. Nestled among the shops on North Williams Street, this pop-up turned brick-and-mortar serves up inventive takes on traditional curries, and as their menu says, “not curries” with spicy papaya salad and brisket fried rice.
Nong’s Khao Man Gai
Nong’s Khao Man Gai was founded by a determined Bangkok immigrant with a mere $70 to her name. (Fun fact: The eponymous Nong went on to win on Food Network’s Chopped!) Beginning as a food cart, Nong later closed both carts to open brick and mortars in Downtown and Southeast Portland.
Originally, the eatery only served its namesake dish: a masterful plate of poached chicken, jasmine rice simmered in chicken stock and an aromatic sauce with a vinegar kick. The Portland staple has since expanded its menu slightly at its two restaurants.
With a handful of food carts spread around Portland, it’s safe to say people enjoy what E-San has been dishing out since 1999. The family-run spot draws on Laotian roots and Oregon’s local markets whenever possible. The menu is wonderfully expansive, featuring Northwest takes on Thai like salmon panang and duck pad Thai.
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