The obsession with small-batch living didn’t begin in Brooklyn, as some might have you believe. Oregon’s Portland deserves all the credit, starting with its craft-beer movement in the 1980s. Since then, PDX — locals refer to the city by its airport code — has always been three steps ahead, championing handmade commercialism in all facets of life, from food to home goods. The most enthusiastic flag-bearer of that spirit: its southeast quadrant. With cheaper real estate, a new public transportation link to the west side, and a large sprawl to redevelop, this area is the sweet spot for entrepreneurs and a test site for some of PDX’s established brands. Here’s how to properly explore it.
Nong’s Khao Man Gai With two suitcases and $70 to her name, Nong left her homeland and became Portland’s poster girl for the American dream. Armed with one recipe for chicken and rice, she started a food cart, and she now has a permanent location where you’re likely to find her milling about. (609 SE Ankeny St.; KhaoManGai.com)
Bollywood Theater Dhaba, or street-style, Indian food comes to life in this fast-casual hangar. Chef Troy MacLarty climbed the Tower of Babel and achieved the impossible, perfecting dishes from the subcontinent like they were his own family’s recipes. Our picks: the kati roll, the bhel puri, or any of the creamy-but-light veggie curries. (3010 S.E. Division St.; BollywoodTheaterPDX.com)
Olympia Provisions The sandwiches are on fleek at this refurbished warehouse, but we recommend the themed charcuterie boards paired with wedges of local cheese from Ancient Heritage Dairy (AncientHeritageDairy.com). Go for the Hannah, made from cow and sheep’s milk, and wash it down with an herbal infusion from Steven Smith Teamaker (SmithTea.com), which has a tasting room down the road. (107 S.E. Washington St.; OlympiaProvisions.com)
Kachka Russki-chic eats are the calling card of the Soviet-style Kachka, which educates the palate beyond pork gristle and boiled potatoes. The menu spans the entire grip of the former USSR, uniting Baltic sprats, Armenian lavash, and everything in between. The dumplings will put a tear in your eye — or maybe that’s the acclaimed horseradish vodka. (720 SE Grand Ave.; KachkaPDX.com)
Langbaan Enter PaaDee, walk to the back of the restaurant, locate the bookshelf, and push — Langbaan’s cool concrete walls and wooden tables await you inside. The restaurant-within-a-restaurant concept has crept into a few places around town, but this super-secret Thai spot doesn’t need a gimmick to be recognized as one of the finest chow houses in Portland. (6 S.E. 28th Ave.; LangbaanPDX.com)
Salt&Straw While the doughnut war rages on, Portlanders unite when it comes to the cone. This creamery leveraged its fame on off-the-wall flavors (think dill pickle and bone marrow), but the more dessert-y takes, like Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache, are the real reason locals brave the lines. (3345 S.E. Division St.; SaltAndStraw.com)
Coava Coffee In the homeland of “third wave” java (where beans are treated like wine grapes), residents are moving beyond Stumptown and opting for Coava. With its velvety blends served in an industrial space, the city’s trendiest coffee shop deserves the buzz. Savor your cappuccino with a sea salt brownie from Little T Baker (LittleTBaker.com). (1300 S.E. Grand Ave.; CoavaCoffee.com)
BibleClub Hidden in an unmarked yellow house in suburb-ish Sellwood, Bible Club makes the tired Prohibition theme fresh again. Everything here is authentic to the era, from the couches and lampshades to the bartending tools and mismatched glassware. And the cocktails, like the Penicillin (peaty with a flash of citrus), really sing. (6716 S.E. 16th Ave.; BibleClubPDX.com)
Doug Fir Lounge If the Jetsons had a cottage in the American Northwest, it’d look like Doug Fir, tucked inside the retro-cool Jupiter Hotel. Wooden logs and disco lights adorn the restaurant, bar, outdoor space, and intimate performance venue, which attracts some of the best acts visiting Portland. (830 E. Burnside St.; DougFirLounge.com)
Powell’s Books The mother ship of independent bookstores takes up an entire block in downtown Portland. But its southeast spin-off, specializing in home and garden reads, is a more manageable, adorable version of the original. (3747 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.; Powells.com)
Cargo Cargo gives the word tchotchke a good name, with a surplus of collectibles from around the globe: Nepalese prayer flags, Japanese kokeshi dolls, Singaporean shadow puppets, and Indian comic books. (81 S.E. Yamhill St.; CargoInc.com)
TidbitFoodFarm&Garden They call it a “next-generation cart pod,” and it’s taking Portland’s famous food-truck scene to new heights. This assemblage of micro-establishments is the byword for cool, from the draught local brews on tap at Scout (ScoutPDX.com) and fusion ramen at Hapa PDX (HapaPDX.com) to the dress shop in a double-decker bus at Lodekka (Lodekka.com). (2880 S.E. Division St.)
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