Where to Get the Best of Each Noodle Type in Portland
Noodles are maybe the most perfect food — they’re great both on their own, and as a delivery system for toppings. Most cultures across the world have their own take on noodles, from wheat to rice, as long strands or as dumplings. Portland, with a large amount of Thai, Italian, and Vietnamese foods, has many excellent locations for noodles. Here are our favorites, sorted by noodle type.
Pho: Pho Hung
There’s no dearth of excellent pho in the city of Portland, especially out on 82nd Ave., but our favorite has to go to Pho Hung on SE Powell. Here you can find huge bowls of steaming beef broth and rice noodles, with options that include tripe, tendon, fish balls, and more, all garnished with Thai basil, jalapeños, and bean sprouts. Prices are low, service is quick, and everything is fresh and delicious.
Vermicelli Bowl: Luc Lac
Again, there is no lack of great Vietnamese food in Portland, but Luc Lac, while maybe not the most “authentic” in town, is the only one up until 4 a.m.. The banh mi and pho bowls are solid, but we prefer the vermicelli bowls, especially after we’ve been out to the downtown bars. The honey glazed chicken and the BBQ fried pork sausage are our two favorite toppings, though vegetarians will be happy with the tofu salad.
Thai Noodle Bowls: Bang Bang
It’s not exactly traditional, but that doesn’t mean it’s not delicious. Bang Bang offers an array of seasonal Thai curry bowls, full of vegetables and meats, none of which are authentic, but all of which are packed with flavor (the green is our favorite). You have the option of rice or noodles, and you should definitely go with the latter: vermicelli noodles make the curry even better.
Spaghetti & Meatballs: A Cena
It’s a classic for a reason — no list about noodles would be complete without spaghetti, and especially spaghetti with meatballs. For this Italian-American dish, head to A Cena, the cozy Sellwood institution. The noodles are made from scratch daily and topped with housemade meatballs and marinara — simple, straightforward, delicious.
Bucatini: Piazza Italia
There are many kinds of Italian pasta, but the bucatini noodle deserves its own category. Bucatini is a thick noodle, wider than spaghetti, with a hole running through the center. At Pizza Italia, it comes the traditional way, with pancetta, onion, pecorino, and a red wine and tomato reduction. With a plate of this and a glass of sangiovese, you’ll forget you’re not in Rome.
Chinese: Frank’s Noodle House
Shandong gets close, but there’s something just perfect about Frank’s hand-pulled, thick and glutinous Chinese style noodles. Like other spots on this list, it’s a Portland institution, and there’s usually a line out the door of this renovated house turned restaurant. Skip the fried rice and dig into a massive plate of noodles with your choice of meat (or tofu).
Thai Flat Rice Noodles: PaaDee
There are more than a few versions of Thai noodles, including the wide, flat variety used in Pad Kee Mao and Pad Se Ew. They may be the most ubiquitous Thai dishes in Portland, with dozens of restaurants and food carts, but PaaDee is the best Thai food in town, so it comes as no surprise that the restaurant manages the best version of these popular dishes. The Pad Kee Mao is available for lunch and dinner, while the Pad Se Ew is only served at lunch.
Russian Dumplings: Kachka
There are few Russian spots in Portland, and few to none offering Russian style dumplings, but that’s not why Kachka’s Siberian Pelmeni are on this list; it's here because it's one of the best dishes in the city. These dumplings are flavor packed little pockets of beef, pork, veal, and onion, with strong but not overwhelming spices. The farmer’s cheese dumplings and sour cherry dumplings are likewise excellent. Be sure not to miss the housemade horseradish vodka while you’re here.
Named Restaurant of the Year by the Oregonian only six weeks after opening, Renata has faced some difficult hurdles. Nevertheless, it might just be the best Italian in Portland, and one of the best restaurants, period. You cannot go wrong with whatever menu item you select here, but the ravioli is our favorite in Portland: large noodles stuffed with beef, taleggio, and crispy leeks, with a light sauce. Delizioso!
Portland has many great ramen spots, such as Boke Bowl, Noraneko, and Boxer Ramen. But recently, Marukin moved into the city with two spots, and they’ve been dominating the scene ever since. Creamy rich chicken broth, housemade Japanese noodles, perfectly cooked eggs, and slices of pork make it a lovely meal any time of year, but especially in the rainier, colder months. Vegetarian options are also available, but fail to impress as much as the meatier ones.
Macaroni and Cheese: Le Bistro Montage
There might be higher quality macaroni and cheese out there, but there’s something about the Mac N Cheese at Montage that we can’t help but love. Maybe it’s because it’s available until 3 a.m. most nights. Maybe it’s because Montage has been around for decades. Maybe it’s the tinfoil animal shapes that leftovers get wrapped in, or the multiple styles offered (the spicy chicken mac is the best). Whatever the case, Montage’s mac continues to be a Portland culinary staple, and we love it.
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