When it comes to eating in Portland, it’s sometimes an overwhelming journey to find a meal. If you’re looking for some new(ish) restaurants to try in Portland, here’s a list to get you started!
We have a lot of really great food here, especially when it comes to different cultures. One place I’ve been loving is Sichaun Kitchen, which is authentic Szechuan cuisine, with the depth of flavors to prove it. Pork lovers and vegetarians alike will both enjoy Sichaun, because there’s a nice variety on the menu.
A standout item is their green beans, with minced pork on top. I’m normally not one to faun over a vegetable dish, but the green beans are prepared perfectly. Crisp with a little salty flavor, followed by a rich mouth feel, courtesy of the minced pork. To be honest, I could probably eat these as their own entree.
I love that the flavors at Sichaun Kitchen are significantly different than what you may find at places like Bao Bao or Empire. They also run $10 lunch specials, which seems like a great deal, especially if you’re looking for a place to eat outside and enjoy the beautiful weather! Add this one to your list of new restaurants to try!
Sticky Sweet and Pho Co.
I love that Portland has places like the Public Market that allow small businesses the opportunity to try things out without having to worry about managing a full restaurant. It makes for some great places to try, like Sticky Sweet and Pho Co.
Sticky Sweet serves up delicious sticky rice, with a decidedly Maine twist. The ingredients are simple: rice, fresh Maine fruit, a little sea salt,coconut milk, and love. I can’t give you a favorite, because each dish is good in its own way. Eating one of their sticky rice dishes feels like it should be either really bad for you or just too rich to handle, but they aren’t. It’s a healthier approach to dessert or a snack that won’t leave you feeling remorseful. Shout out to the owners, who gave me the perfect Sticky Sweet experience a few months back. New at Sticky Sweet: their coconut milk ice cream, perfect for those that are lactose intolerant, like myself. Sorbet no more!
If you read last year’s best restaurants of 2016 post, then you already know how I feel about Pho Co. If not, they make fantastic pho. It’s everything that you want a good pho to be: light but flavorful broth, fresh ingredients, plenty of accouterments to add, and oodles of noodles! Like Sticky Sweet, Pho Co. is another really great example that good food can actually taste good too. The portions that are served are incredibly generous, and will probably be enough for another delicious meal! These are two great examples of why I love the Public Market. Pho Co. may not technically be a “restaurant” but the food is on par with anything else that is being served in Portland right now.
Italian food in Portland can feel like a dime a dozen at this point. But now that we’re down one (Caiola’s, I’ll miss your classic brunch offerings but I’m excited, now that Chaval is open) Italian in Portland, specifically the West End, has found a home at Trattoria Fanny.
If you want to get technical, Trattoria Fanny is more of a rebranding than anything else. What was Rossobianco shut down and became Trattoria Fanny. Fanny is serving authentic Italian cuisine that won’t hurt your wallet like homemade pasta in braised beef sauces, and fresh mussels paired with fresh out of the oven bread. They are also making a name for themselves on the crudo scene, with many marveling about their attention to detail and fresh flavors. This is definitely one of the restaurants to try.
If you’re obsessed with Japanese food truck Mami, you’ll probably be equally obsessed with their new brick and mortar restaurant of the same name. Mami has settled in quite nicely at a spot that’s been difficult to fill over the years.
Once home to the quickly closed Compass Rose, and then Mainely Wraps, Mami’s Old Port outpost is a must if you’re looking for a meal before drinking, lunch, or just a delicious dinner. Many of their classics, like the savory pancake, okonomiyake and fried rice balls, grace the menu. Make sure to try the Donburi bowls, filled with chicken, rice, a little broth, and egg. And if you’re a fan of the local beer scene, get a Rising Tide or a Bissell Brothers beer to top off your meal.
There’s a lot of buzz surrounding this new donut purveyor, and with good reason: the donuts are fantastic! Now, before you go comparing HiFi to The Holy Donut, realize that we can have two very different places to pick up donuts, and they don’t have to be competitors. Yes, they both make donuts by hand, but the similarities end there. HiFi’s donuts are light and airy, sometimes even biere blend (blended with beer).
After trying about 10 different varieties of these delicious donuts, I can confidently say that the honey dipped cruller is my favorite donut from this husband and wife duo. It’s sweet, with just a touch of crunch, and then that eggy softness that you expect from a cruller. Since nobody else in town is making this particular donut, it’s definitely the best cruller in town.
Other standouts include the blueberry burst, stuffed with sweet Maine blueberries, and the strawberry, which tastes like and is made with real Maine strawberries. Chances are high that you may not find these donuts when you go to check them out, since they are only produced on a small batch run each time and last a few days at most before selling out. Don’t let that deter you from finding your new favorite donut at HiFi!
One of the newest places on this list, Lazzari has been highly anticipated since brown paper went up over the windows of what was once Mesa Verde. Lazzari is the sister restaurant of Taco Escobarr, an extremely solid eatery for your Mexican food and margarita needs. At Lazzari, the name of the game is wood fired pizza. These aren’t your standard pizza pies slathered with red sauce and piled high with toppings. No, at Lazzari, you’re more likely to find pizzas like the brussels sprout and pancetta pizza, or the mushroom pizza, layered with several varieties of local mushrooms and ricotta cheese.
If pizza isn’t your thing, small plates like the caponata: fresh eggplant on grilled bread or the incredible charcuterie plate, served with Italian smoked meats, fresh grilled bread, and a balsamic mustard with just enough bite to make your mouth water favorably. Pizza, eggplant, and charcuterie are just a sliver of what you can expect at Lazzari, and is definitely one of the restaurants to try.
With a list like this, be sure to check out all the new(ish) restaurants in Portland. This is just part 1, expect part 2 in a few months with more new restaurants to try that are taking over Portland’s food scene!