First, Cervaise, thanks for the sympathy on the heat. It was 116º F yesterday in Portland; surrounding areas hit 118º F (That’s 47º-48º C). I spent a miserable, heat-strokey decade in Phoenix, and that was hard. But Portland is entirely unprepared for this kind of heat, and legitimately so: it’s wildly anomalous. My apartment has A/C, which is a little unusual, but even with the A/C fully cranked, my thermostat read 95º F indoors yesterday.
Happily, the heat broke last night and we’re down to the upper 80s and low 90s again. It’s often cooler than that even in the summer; Portland weather is a whole lot like the weather I experienced when I spent a year in Alençon, a little town in Normandy.
You’ve gotten some solid advice here…as a foodie with a 9-year-old and a 12-year-old, I may be able to add a few points:
Voodoo Doughnuts: Yep—wildly overrated. And the part of Chinatown they’re in has become especially sketchy since COVID-19 hit. Locals generally prefer Blue Star Doughnuts. I know your kids are insisting on Voodoo, but maybe it would be a fun experiment to try both and see which your kids prefer.
One of my favorite places in Portland is Andina, a Peruvian restaurant. I spent 12 years married to an archaeologist who works primarily in Peru, and I’ve spent several months (in aggregate) in both Lima and Arequipa. Andina is pretty great high-end Peruvian food. They’ve also got a more-casual option called Chicha, which I haven’t tried. I’m excited to give it a shot.
Ramen is a big deal here, and arguably the best ramen in town is found at Afuri. They also serve respectable sushi and—my kids’ favorite—yuzu limeade. Afuri claims they chose to open their first US location in Portland due to the unusually high-quality tap water here. I suspect they’re pandering to the locals a bit, but Portland’s tap water is the best I’ve ever tasted.
As others have suggested, Eater PDX is perhaps the most useful research tool. A friend did her Fulbright in Addis Ababa, and as her sons are both adopted from east Africa, culturally competent food (so to speak) is very important to her family. All of her favorites are on this list:
Paley’s Place routinely tops best-restaurants-in-town lists. It’s pricey (~$85 for a 3-course prix fixe meal without wine), but I’m eager to try it once I have the right occasion.
Another place on my to-try list is Screen Door, which specializes in food from the American South. Your posts are written in a “voice” that makes me think you’re either from the US or have lived here for a long time, so southern food may not be exotic to you. Still, I’ve heard very good things.
One of my favorite lunch or late-night-nosh joints is Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen. I usually get the lemongrass pork bahn mi, but I’ve never regretted ordering anything else there, either.
Sadly, you just missed Pok Pok, a legendary Thai restaurant. I’m just around the corner from their NW Portland location, and I was devastated when they closed for good in about April of 2020. Andy Ricker, the proprietor, moved back to Thailand, so there’s no hope of it coming back.
A note on kids and Portland restaurants: while Portland has a well-deserved reputation for passive aggression, I’ve never had anything but positive responses to taking my kids to good restaurants here. My elder son in particular has a sophisticated palate, and his enthusiasm for the food earns lots of indulgent smiles from servers. My younger son is a chicken-fingers-or-white-rice kinda kid, and they’re just as nice to him, even when we’re dining sans his adventurous older brother.
That’s what I’ve got for you. If you find time reply to this thread after your trip, I’d be grateful to know which places worked for you and which didn’t (regardless of whether the place was mentioned in this thread). I love Portland, but it can be a little provincial sometimes. I’d love to know your opinions, especially since you’re accustomed to eating in European restaurants.