Portland, Oregon is one of the most diverse cities in the United States. With immigrants and transplants from all over the world, you can find some pretty good restaurants in Portland. And I don’t mean those hole-in-the-wall, mom-and-pop, “authentic” and local kind of slurs. The ethnic themed restaurants in Portland are 100% genuine to their roots, while showcasing modern twists, and elevated presentations. It is no wonder that Portland was included in the World’s Greatest Places 2022 by TIME Magazine.
Here are some of my favorite restaurants in Portland that will take you on a culinary journey across the globe.
Australia – Proud Mary
Start your day with coffee and breakfast at the hip Aussie-inspired cafe with bright interiors and an industrial feel. Proud Mary was founded by husband and wife Nolan and Shari Hirte in 2009 in Melbourne, Australia. Portland is their first coffee shop location outside the country. Both their locations in Melbourne and Portland offer all-day breakfast, lunch, quality teas, fresh juices, smoothies, cakes, pastries, and table-service, along with really good coffee. They also use fresh, healthy, sustainable, ethically, and locally sourced produce.
It is no doubt that Proud Mary serves the best overnight oats that I have ever tasted in my life! This big healthy bowl was filled with delicious cinnamon rolled oats, pumpkin sunflower chia seeds, blueberry and bay, and Meyer lemon coconut cream for a sweet kick. Pair it with an oat milk cappuccino and you will be packed with enough energy to explore the miles of natural spaces around Portland.
Scandinavia – Broader Nord
If you have a sweet tooth for breakfast, head to the Scandinavian inspired Broader Nord. They have a lovely outdoor patio where you can share picnic style tables with Portland residents (in their PJs) and their four legged friends. It is perhaps the only place in the world I have found fresh warm aebleskiver (Danish pancakes holes) on a restaurant menu (I make them at home with stuffed raspberry jam!). I also ordered something I had not tasted before – paper thin Norwegian potato pancakes called lefse, served with geometric fried eggs. Broader Nord has an extensive lunch, cocktail and caffeine menu, so make sure to stop by at least once during your visit to Portland.
Thailand – Phuket Cafe
You may not consider Thai food for brunch, but the weekend menu at Phuket Cafe is worth checking out. Offered only from 10am – 2pm on Saturdays and Sundays, the creative combinations of sweet, spicy, and pungent flavors from Thailand awaken your tastebuds in Portland. Start with Sang Kaya French Toast, a decadent butter dripping brioche, with kabocha puree, Inal tea syrup, coconut cream, and fried shallot. Sweet and savory? Yes it works, my friends! I actually wanted to order one more, but decided to taste a few other dishes.
Tha Gang Plan had an interesting combination of black cod curry with a crisp fried eggs and green panda colored roti. Phuket Cafe has a rustic bar and a beautiful forest like interior with skylights and greenery, and an art deco cabin for outside seating. You will won’t be disappointed if you go for brunch or dinner.
Sri Lanka – Mirisata
For flavorful, vegan food from Sri Lanka, head to the casual Mirisata restaurant. They have a lovely outdoor patio for that perfect Portland weather. Order from the rotating menu at the counter and the eat fresh cooked and healthy.
If you are not familiar with Sri Lankan food, order the short eats sampler or the rice and curry plate. It will give you a chance to sample a larger variety of dishes. You can never go wrong with String Hopper Meal
– a traditional preparation of rice noodles made with red rice flour, and served with potato curry, lentils, and sambol sauce. And their watalappan, a cardamom flan-like custard made with cashews, coconut milk, and kithul jaggery, is to die for! Basically, I would be eating at Mirisata every week if I lived in Portland 🙂
Also worth noting is that the restaurant is a worker cooperative, meaning the six people who work there are equal parts owner and employee. This model cultivates a work culture of equity and respect, and adds more collective members from underrepresented races, ethnicities, genders and identities to provide more business ownership opportunities to those from previously marginalized communities.
Philippines – Magna Kusina
James Beard nominate Magna’s chef Carlo Lamagna has enhanced his childhood memories with refined presentation at Magna Kusina. The small restaurant has a dinner-party feel, where you can interact with the bartenders and chefs from practically every seat. To soak in the action, get a seat at the chef’s table and watch the pros stir fry giant pots of pancit miki-bahon (noodles mix), while simultaneously grilling scallops and octopus skewers on charcoal flames.
The menu features a lot of pork dishes, but there are seafood and vegetarian options too. My favorite was the Mom’s Crab Fat Noodles – house made squid ink noodles sautéed with Dungeness crab, corn, peppers, and crab fat sarsa. The cocktail menu at Magna Kusina is also quite interesting with unsuspecting ingredients. Think tamarind, chammy, jackfruit, corn, fermented shrimp paste and green mangoes.
Mexico – República
If you want to change your preexisting notions about Mexican food, book a five-course tasting menu at Republica. This James Beard Award 2022 semi-finalist is showcasing a modern take on pre-colonial Mexican food and sourcing from Mexican wineries. Servers at Republic are part historians, telling stories about the Revolution, cooking concepts and indigenous ingredients. República sources ingredients from local BIPOC makers, as well as from family-run organizations in Mexico.
In the morning and afternoon, República serves guisados and quesadillas made from blue corn masa. In the evening, the menu quick changes to a buzzy wine and dessert bar with wines from Latinx winemakers (as selected from local winemaker Cristina Gonzales). The food is elevated, refreshing and completely different from the Tex-Mex you have known all these years!
West Africa – Akadi
Top Chef: Portland, chef-owner Fatou Ouattara from Bouake, Cote D’Ivoire, recently reopened Akadi in a bigger space on SE Division with a broader menu. High ceilings, a large bar, and live music after 10pm, makes the restaurant feel more of a community hall. It was nice to see Akadi bustling with diverse diners, looking to expand their palates to flavors from West Africa. The menu features a wide selection of popular favorites such as samosas, suya, jollofmeal, and peanut stew. Also, there is an entire section dedicated to Afro-vegetarian and Afro-vegan entrees.
Unfortunately, the service and the food at Akadi restaurant was not very good on the night I visited, but you may have a different experience.
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