Farm-to-table dining has long been a staple of Oregon’s largest city, but a new crop of Portland restaurants is giving local ingredients an international twist. These five Rose City dining spots are bringing the region’s bounty to cuisines as diverse as those of Spain, Korea and the Middle East.
Here’s your passport to eating your way through these global flavors — without leaving Portland.
Q Restaurant and Bar
Q Restaurant and Bar, a recently opened downtown eatery from the team that formerly operated Portland’s Veritable Quandry restaurant, has its roots firmly planted in the Pacific Northwest.
Executive chef Annie Cuggino has long-standing relationships with local producers, and in this window-lined dining space, with a dark-wood bar and an eight-seat chef’s counter overlooking the kitchen line, regional ingredients feature heavily in dishes like a salad of freekeh, fiddleheads, herbs and spring peas; braised short ribs with shaved sunchokes; and halibut cheeks with morels and pea tips.
During weekend brunch, when sous chef Victor Martinez takes charge, he adds flavors of his Mexican homeland to the locally sourced menu. Try his chilaquiles, light and fluffy scrambled eggs mounded over crisp, housemade tortilla chips and garnished with mild Oaxaca cheese, guacamole and cilantro.
And don’t miss the delicate, cinnamon-sugar-coated churros, served with a rich dark-chocolate dipping sauce, that pair perfectly with the local Stumptown coffee.
Bring a group, if you can, to this Spanish dining spot, where convivial chef-owner José Chesa circulates through the lively dining room, recommending dishes and teaching guests how to chug Basque cider directly from a porrón (a long-spouted glass pitcher).
Pair your drinks — there’s a long list of sherries and Spanish wines, too — with a selection of small plates that unite local ingredients with traditions from Spain, like the crisp and airy porcini croquetas or the huerta, a mix of farm greens, radishes, cherries, compressed pineapple and housemade ricotta.
The main event is paella; Chesa’s signature version is made with sherry-marinated rabbit, Iberico ham and a garlicky aioli, but you can also choose from seafood, vegetable or “Mar i Montaña” versions, the latter pairs prawns with braised oxtail.
Between bites, raise another toast to your chef. Who knows? By the end of the evening, you might actually master the technique of swilling your cider.
You have to hunt a bit for Han Oak, a modern Korean eatery that launched in 2016 in northeast Portland. Walk behind the pie shop, through the unmarked orange door and into the loft-like warehouse space with communal wooden tables and shelves neatly lined with glassware, crockery and books. That’s where chef Peter Cho and his staff turn out creative multi-course pre-fixe dinners on weekends, by reservation only.
If you’ve worked up a thirst tracking down this almost-clandestine restaurant, start with one of the wildly imaginative cocktails, like the Korean Goodbye, a blend of whiskey, Campari and gochujang (Korean chile paste), or the Tiger Mom, which mixes tequila, Cointreau, plum syrup and salted yuzu topped with a mulled wine foam.
Then, kick off your meal with a selection of banchan, small dishes like Brussels sprouts with a miso-mustard vinaigrette or housemade kimchi. The second course might be a delicate chicken soup with hand-cut noodles, while the main attraction is ssam, lettuce wraps that you fill with smoked hanger steak or slow-roasted pork belly.
Portland chef Vitaly Paley and his wife-partner, Kimberly, took over the venerable restaurant at the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Heathman Hotel in 2016. While Headwaters features Pacific Northwest flavors (particularly notable is its Sea Bar, serving raw, cured and smoked seafood), Paley and his team have taken traditional afternoon tea in an international direction.
Drawing on the chef’s Slavic heritage, Headwaters offers a Russian afternoon tea service in an elegant wood-paneled salon, with a crystal chandelier, wood-burning fireplace and a collection of samovars, behind the main dining room.
Start your afternoon by choosing from a selection of teas, including the Georgian Caravan, a smoked black tea blended specifically for Headwaters by local favorite Steven Smith Teamaker.
When that last sip is complete, work your way through the trays of savory and sweet bites that might include blini with caviar, mushroom piroshki, khachapouri (Georgian cheese bread), Ukrainian poppy seed rolls, halvah and a sour-cream-and-walnut cake, from Paley’s grandmother’s recipe.
The latest endeavor from the team behind Portland’s popular Ava Gene’s, Tusk takes local ingredients and incorporates them into dishes inspired by the Middle East. Executive chef Sam Smith, who previously worked both at Ava Gene’s and at Zahav, a modern Israeli restaurant in Philadelphia, serves up a regularly changing, vegetable-forward menu with shareable starters like freshly made hummus and flatbread and an assortment of grains and salads (sprouted barley with Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, dates, hazelnuts and cheese).
If you’re dining with several companions, opt for the Magic Carpet Ride, a chef’s choice sampler of the day’s menu. Or come at brunch, when Tusk takes morning menus to the Mediterranean with dishes such as The Cypriot, a hearty platter of fried eggs, halloumi cheese, grilled beef and herb salad, or a healthy Green Wheat Bowl, layered with vegetables, avocado and pickles, dusted with dukka (a spice blend), and topped with a gooey egg.