Table for two? Portland has its fair share from small storefronts, classic mainstays and newcomers churning out inventive cuisine from seafood to Italian and French. Get romantic, and if the night goes well maybe you’ll even get to put a bird on it.
In Portland’s Mt. Tabor neighborhood, the cozy 31-seat Coquine (French for mischievous little girl) serves seasonal food from chef Katy Millard. By day, snack on delicious sandwiches like Spanish sardines on toasted multigrain. Come night, the menu morphs into a reasonable $55 prix fix affair paired with a lovely wine list.
Dinner at chef Duane Sorenson’s popular, trattoria-style at Ava Genes is a rite of passage. Come hungry and make plans to share hearty Italian delights including fresh pastas like cavatelli, prosciutto and kaleidoscope kale or turn to some meat with lamb, fennel, olives and anchovy.
Over on the South Waterfront, the mod French-inspired Muselet (French for the wire muzzle that keeps the cork on) from chef Greg Zanotti sources local ingredients to whip up serious local delights like sturgeon with parsnip, burnt raisin and hen glace and pork coppa with wild onion, leek and hop aioli.
Find fragrant, exotic Thai food at this small rustic 24-seat wood-on-wood space serves highly-unique tasting menus with mains like Satun style stir fried squid dressed with scallion, onion and shallot and salted duck egg relish with shrimp and fresh greens.
Housed in a corner brick building, this savvy Peruvian spot features a spread of small tapas plates and ceviche’s alongside heartier options like quinoa risottos best accompanied with a proper riff on Latin-inspired drinks like the Hechicero with cinchona and elderflower tonic served over ice with Campo de Encanto pisco and muddled cucumber.
The venerable, East Burnside storefront bistro helmed by chef Gabriel Rucker has an ever changing, fine dining a-la-carte menu with dishes like beef cheek bourguignon, a house burger topped with white cheddar, iceberg-lettuce slaw and grilled pickled onions and foie gras profiteroles for dessert.
This hip, industrial-railroad inspired spot is divided into raw plates (steelhead poke, avocado, sesame, yuzo, yolk), small plates (honey glazed foie gras) and larger American roadside comfort plates like fried chicken with steamed clams and herbs. At dessert, go big with the green apple ricotta fritters and brown butter syrup.
You will find the entrance of Roe, tucked just behind its popular seafood sibling, B+T Oyster Bar. Spare and intimate, this 30-seater serves chef Trent Pierce’s choices, known to include a rotating tasting menu of fresh, vibrant catches like tuna carpaccio over brioche toast with avocado and oyster spread. Please note, reservations only.
For 70 years, this old-school family owned steakhouse has doled out healthy slabs of red meat like the generous, you-won’t-leave-hungry 24 oz. Porterhouse (for two) alongside onion rings served by tuxedoed waiters. If you’re wine inclined, know there’s ample selection inside a 10,000 wine bottle cellar.
This under-the-radar spot from chef Kurt Gibson serves fresh, seasonally changing French meets Italian cuisine with surprisingly complex results from its black cod with salsify, chanterelles and celery to its lamb meatballs with tomatoes, breadcrumbs and feta. Order a bottle of Loire Valley wine and dig in.