Portland, Oregon might not be the first city that comes to mind when you think of Latin food. But surprise! It’s shockingly diverse, with an array of Latino flavors and restaurants within both its bustling and burgeoning neighborhoods. It is, after all – along with Austin, Texas – the food truck capital of the country.
It’s also incubating – as Portland, a city known for cultivating sustainability, fair trade, and entrepreneurship, does – numerous Latino food businesses through microlending, mentorship, and shared space collaborations. But forget all that heady stuff (for now). Here’s where to eat when you visit Portland; specifically, where to eat the best Latin food in Portland. Enjoy.
Since we’re on the subject of food startups, don’t miss the Portland Mercado. A small business incubator that’s home to the city’s best Latin food trucks and a comprehensive Mexican grocery, it’s where you’ll find fantastic pozole and arepas made fresh daily.
Okay, so Blue Star Donuts is neither a restaurant nor exclusively Latin, but its Horchata donut is so freaking delicious that we’d be remiss not to mention it here. While Voodoo Donuts, that more touristy donut shop that draws lines around the block for its often pornographic donut designs, its flavor profiles and legit culinary skillz can’t compete with Blue Star’s.
We’re still not sure if you pronounce this the Puerto Rican way – lay-Chon – or like the name of a French poodle - le-SHawn. Either way, the food at this mostly Peruvian spot overlooking the Willammette River is on point with classics like lomo saltado and pollo a la brasa served alongside bright salads and perfectly charred octopus with chorizo, salsa verde and preserved lemon.
España is in the house at Chesa, a new’ish Northeast Portland restaurant from Cristina Baez and Chef Jose Chesa, the pair behind that other popular Portland tapas spot, Ataula. At Chesa, paellas are the name of the game. Though there are other items on the menu, the paellas are the specialty. Pair with one of Chesa’s numerous finos and you’ll feel like you’re dining in Catalunya.
2017 James Beard Award winning Ox is well-known for its asados and steaks, but its sides del huerto are killing it, too. Witness this grilled asparagus with pecan salsa macha and garlic chips. Go to Ox hungry; leave delighted.
For foodies – don’t you just love that word? – a trip to Portland’s Division Street is a must. For fresh, seasonal Mexican food foodies, Xico – a recent Division Street addition – should be. Local fruits, veggies, and meats, tortillas nixtamalized in house, and fun mescal cocktails are the draws. Try the sheep’s milk fundido primavera and the classic totopos, a hybrid nachos plus chilaquiles dish that’s a perfect midday snack or dinner starter.
This Portland mainstay, located in the trendy Pearl neighborhood, is popular for a lot of reasons: a fantastic happy hour, live music, and stellar service are among them. But it’s a woman known as Mama Doris that is Andina’s secret weapon. One, and perhaps the most important, member of the family that owns Andina, Mama Doris visits every table to say hello and check that the food is tasty. And, indeed, it is. Go for the happy hour, stay for the entrees.
A very small, very seductive Peruvian restaurant that serves only seafood and vegetable dishes, Paiche is unique in a lot of ways. More than just the no meat thing, it’s discreetly situated on a residential street in the Southwest section of Portland and is open just four nights a week. And yet, it works. The menu favors innovation over tradition and changes based on season and availability. Don’t miss Chef/Owner Jose Luis de Cossio’s beef-free twist on lomo saltado, and save room for dessert. The mazamorra morada is spectacular.