When it comes to microbrews and wine, Portland’s cup has notoriously runneth over, but in recent years, our plate has also been full with daring dishes and high-quality cuisine. Fortunately for foodies, the trend is only building, with several top-notch dining spots opening recently in downtown, along with a new star on one of the country’s most up-and-coming streets for eats.
First up, Lardo, is no stranger to the Portland’s pork-crazed masses, as it has existed as food cart since September 2010 and has another location on the east side of the river. But their new downtown location on Southwest Washington Street brings the shop’s rotating menu of porcine sandwiches to the city center, where working stiffs and visiting tourists alike can stuff their faces with classic Italian eats like porchetta and mortadella, plus a burger topped with pork belly and even a few veg options.
Nearby on Southwest Broadway Street, Imperial, brings diners Pacific Northwest-styled offerings from legendary local chef Vitaly Paley. Located in the stylish Hotel Lucia, the warm, wood-clad restaurant aims to unite diners with the region through their food, using an open kitchen with a grill meant to invoke the campfire warmth that historically lit the Northwest, along with uncomplicated food steeped in historical significance, like wild king salmon in roasted shallot green sauce, or quail with oyster stuffing. Also in the Hotel Lucia, Paley has opened a smaller, casual diner called the Portland Penny Diner, where the specialities include fry-bread sandwiches.
Up the street in the 130-year-old Ladd Carriage House, one of the few surviving structures from downtown Portland’s days of grand estates, Raven & Rose aims to make history itself, with a wood-fired gastropub downstairs and an upstairs bar (in a former hayloft), which serves drinks that evoke the building’s era. Pairing former Park Kitchen head chef David Padberg with erstwhile Beaker & Flask bartender Dave Shenaut, the venture looks to have all the ingredients for success.
Out on Southeast Division Street, Ava Gene’s turns what was already a culinary hot zone into a full-fledged gourmet playground. Founded by Stumptown Coffee and Woodsman Tavern owner Duane Sorenson, the New York-style Italian restaurant specializes in hard-to-find pastas (made in-house), and pairs them perfectly with both charcuterie and wine. Add soft lighting and vintage decor, and you’ve instantly got some of the most romantic tables in town—and a prime example of how Portlanders love their food scene.