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Real Food Guide to Portland, Oregon: Where to Eat & What to Do

LifestyleRobyn Downs8 Comments

You guys asked for it, so here it is: my recommendations for what to do and where to eat in Portland, Oregon. Whether you’re visiting the City of Roses for the first time or you’re a regular, here are my favorite places to eat and things to do on the city’s Westside.

The Real Food Guide to Portland, Oregon: Where to Eat & What to Do, Westside Edition

Portland, Oregon. It’s good here.

Our city boasts tremendous natural beauty and the food scene here is second to none. It's honestly hard to find a bad place to eat, and amidst all the great options I definitely have some favorites that range from downright healthy to absolutely splurge-worthy.

If you’re new here, it’s helpful to know that the city is divided by the Willamette River, which runs roughly North to South, and creates a distinct separation between the West- and Eastside. 

For the purposes of this guide, I’m going to focus on the Westside because it’s where I live and eat most often, and will break down recommendations into 3 areas: Downtown/Portland State Campus, the Pearl District, and Northwest Portland. 

The restaurants I’ve listed here skew casual and fairly inexpensive, as Andrew and I rarely go out for fancy dinners these days. All are kid-friendly, unless otherwise noted, and I’ve listing a range of healthy and indulgent options (because vacations sometimes call for ice cream!).

Most of the restaurants listed have gluten- and dairy-free options, though not all, so I’ll make notes about how friendly each place is to dietary restrictions. Same thing when it comes to vegan and paleo options; I’ll make notes so you can find options that fit your particular eating style. 

Also, the activity suggestions I’ve provided are decidedly “outdoorsy,” as that’s what our family is into. So, if you're looking for a range of delicious, casual eateries and fun, walkable, outdoor activities, this guide is for you!

Please feel free to add your own favorites in the comment section and add any new finds you discover while you're here!

Downtown/Portland State University

Where to Eat

Cafe Yumm! PSU or Downtown

Hippie food at it’s best, Cafe Yumm! offers rice and bean bowls, bento, wraps and salads in eat-in or take to-go format. They offer tons of vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free options, plus some meat-based meals like salmon burgers and chicken teriyaki. I usually order the Original or Edamame Yumm Bowl.

Urban Farmer

Located in the The Nines Hotel, Urban Farmer is definitely on the upscale side, so if you’re looking for a nice sit down lunch or dinner this is a great option. They do brunch really well, and everything is farm to table, including the bloody mary bar. While you’re there, check out Departure, which is the hotel’s rooftop restaurant, great for cocktails, a fantastic view, and a special dinner.


If you want over the top, head to Lardo for a curated menu of decadent sandwiches. This place started as a food cart and quickly became so popular they’ve since opened several sit down restaurants around Portland. The sandwiches are super rich--think pork meatball bahn mi, and fried chicken, and duck fat fries, so go hungry. They usually have a vegetarian option that varies by season, like a housemade chickpea burger, and they’ll do any sandwich over greens if you want to go gluten-free or paleo with it.

Petunia's Pies & Pastries

Looking for amazing gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan pastries and treats? Petunias is not to be missed. Head to their downtown location, or look for their pastries around town at various coffee shops.

Elephant’s Deli in the Park and South Waterfront

There are a least a dozen Elephant’s around town, so check out their website for all the locations. Elephant’s is a great option if you’re looking for quick, grab-and-go, healthy deli options and salads. Plenty of gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan options to choose from, too.

Mother’s Bistro Cafe

If you’re looking for the quintessential Portland brunch place, Mother’s is a classic. Serving traditional comfort food, this is decidedly not health food, but it’s fun for a splurge. The wait for a table can get ridiculous on weekends, so go right when they open or after the lunch rush to avoid waiting an hour to be seated. If you’re strictly gluten-free or dairy-free this place might be tough, so check the menu before you go.

What to Do

Portland State Farmer’s Market

The farmer’s market lives up to the hype, so bring some reusable bags (this is Portland, after all) and stock up on fresh flowers, veggies, mushrooms, raw honey, or anything else your heart desires.

Go early to shop and then grab brunch at one of the food carts around the market. I’m obsessed with Verde Cocina's giant plates of sauteed veggies, white bean mash, and housemade tortillas. They offer something for everyone, whether you’re vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free or paleo. Or, if you’re looking something a little more decadent, Pine State Biscuits can’t be beat for fluffy biscuit breakfast sandwiches.

Tilikum Bridge Crossing

Portland’s newest bridge, this pedestrian-, streetcar-, and light rail-only bridge offers spectacular views of the city and river, and it’s perfect for a walk or a ride. There’s an Elephant’s Deli and a Starbucks at the West Side entrance to the bridge, so pop in for a cool drink and a quick snack if you need a little break. 

And, if you’re looking for something fun to do with kids, check out the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) located on the Eastside entrance to the bridge. It can get crazy in the summer, so plan to arrive early to avoid long lines. OMSI has a surprisingly good cafe, so plan to stay for lunch.

Willamette Riverfront Walk

If you’re up for a walk, grab your walking shoes and head down to the river for a 2.5 mile river loop walk. The pedestrian and bicycle path loops around to the Eastside, so you’ll have views of both sides of the city. If you’re thirsty, stop for a drink at Three Degrees at the River Place Hotel. They offer a decent happy hour with a great view. Unfortunately kids aren’t allowed during happy hour (boooooo!), but if you’re sans children grab a cold drink and head to an adirondack chair on their patio for one of the best river views in Portland.

Pearl District

Where to Eat

Garden Bar PDX

Garden Bar PDX serves up fresh salads to order, or make your own from their extensive menu. The salads are huge, and completely splittable (though I always order my own!). Since there are so many options you’ll be sure to find a combination that works, whether it’s paleo, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, or none of the above. They also offer salads to-go, so grab a salad for a picnic or to eat in the hotel.

Whole Foods Market

Located in the heart of the Pearl, Whole Foods is a nice option if you want to pick up a few groceries to keep in your room. There’s also the standard hot bar, salad bar, and grab-and-go options if you want something quick and no fuss.

Deschutes Brewery

Deschutes Brewery originated in Bend, Oregon, and they’re one of the most well-know craft breweries in the state. The Pearl location has become something of a tourist magnet, which can make it kind of a nightmare in the warmer months (think a crowded bar and long wait times). That being said, it’s worth a stop, particularly for a late lunch or early happy hour. They have a gluten free menu and the menu offers something for everyone. We always go for the sweet potato fries!

Verde Cocina

This is honestly one of my favorite restaurants in Portland, and it is a bit of a hidden gem of the Pearl due to it’s slightly out of the way location. It’s my pick when dining with out of town guests because they offer something for everyone. The entire kitchen is gluten free, and there are plenty of paleo and vegan options on the menu as well. They focus on fresh, farm to table ingredients and make their tortillas in house. I’m partial to the Gringas con Mole or Chile Relleno and Andrew orders the Paleo Verde, which is a giant heap of sauteed veggies topped with your choice of protein (he always opts for the bacon, which if you’re into that sort of thing, you should definitely do, too).

Ten Barrel Brewing

Another fantastic brewery on the tourist track, expect yummy food, tasty brews, and long lines. They have an amazing rooftop patio, making it a perfect destination for a warm weather happy hour. Plan your visit for non-peak hours and avoid the long waits. There’s something for everyone on the menu--I usually order the Thai Peanut Burger without the bun and a salad. 

Prasad Cafe at Yoga Pearl

If you’re looking for the quintessential, veggie-based, organic, hippie/hipster vibing Portland eatery, Prasad Cafe is for you. It’s actually located in Yoga Pearl studio, and offers a veggie-based menu that will blow your mind. Please do yourself a favor and look at the menu, there are just too many options to list here. I’m obsessed with the Bliss Salad, the (raw) Pasta Fresca, and the classic Mighty Bowl. Their drink and smoothie menu will also leave you wanting to order one of everything. A must visit if you’re into the healthy food scene, in my opinion. Be warned there’s not a lot of seating, but they’ll do any meal or drink to go.

Laughing Planet Cafe Ecotrust

Another of my favorites, Laughing Planet is super casual and offers an extensive menu with something for everyone. Think bowls, burritos, and salads. They’ll customize anything and there’s even kombucha and beer on tap. My favorite is the Eat Your Veggies Bowl with peanut sauce and a side of guac (so good!). I love their kid’s menu, too. Eat in or grab and go. It’s located adjacent to Jameson Park, so it’s fun to take your meal and enjoy it in the park.

Hot Lips Pizza

Located in the historic Ecotrust Building, directly across from Laughing Planet, Hot Lips has good pizza, including at least one vegan option. They also have a few good salads to-go--I like the kale slaw. It’s not a great choice if you’re gluten-free, but if you’re with a pizza lover, he or she can grab pizza at Hot Lips and you can head over to Laughing Planet for a bowl. Everyone’s happy!

Lovejoy Bakers

Portland has a ton of great bakeries, and Lovejoy is one of the best. Their bread and pastries are amazing, as are their sandwiches and salads. This place is definitely not gluten-free, but you can order any sandwich over greens if you like. They also have a bruleed oatmeal in the morning that’s to die for. Their outdoor eating area is super charming, so if you’re looking for a splurge-worthy breakfast or lunch, head to Lovejoy. 

GreenLeaf Juice

There are juice places all over Portland, and this is a good one. They make fresh juices and smoothies to order, or grab a pre-made juice to-go.

Bridgeport Brewery

Tucked away at the far North end of the Pearl, Bridgeport is just far enough away from the tourist track that it hosts a fairly local crowd most days. The happy hour menu is one of the best deals in town, and they have great salads, a Vegan Bowl with cashew cream sauce that’s darn good, and daily dinner specials that rival any fancy restaurant. 

What to Do


The largest independent bookstore in the US, you can get lost browsing here for hours. The cookbook section alone is worth the visit.

Jamison Square

A large fountain is the perfect location for little ones to splash and play in the warmer months. Even if you don’t have littles, grab some food to-go at the Ecotrust Building or Lovejoy Bakers and enjoy a picnic on the grass. 

Fields Park

Another great picnic spot, bring a blanket and food and enjoy your food with a view of the picturesque Fremont Bridge. There’s a nice playground, too, perfect for littles who need to run off some steam. 


What to Eat

Boke Bowl

Big, steamy bowls of ramen and inventive rice bowls make this place special. I love their seasonal salads and they offer sweet potato noodles for a gluten-free alternative to wheat noodles. I also love their roasted brussels sprout, cauliflower and grapefruit salad. Yum! There’s a small outdoor eating area, and it’s right off the NW streetcar line for easy access.

New Seasons Market Slabtown

My absolute favorite grocery store in Portland, head to the local chain’s new Slabtown location to pick up a few things for your trip and then enjoy lunch on their patio. New Seasons offers a ton of grab-and-go options, including a hot bar, salad bar, and even arepas made to order. They also have a beer and wine bar. It seriously is the best grocery store in the world. I heart New Seasons!


If you’re looking for a slightly more upscale dining option, Seratto’s offers tasty Mediterranean-inspired dishes and their happy hour is fantastic. It’s hard to find many dairy-free options, but otherwise the menu is pretty accommodating. It’s not a kid’s restaurant, per se, but they have a nice kid’s menu and are always very friendly to our family when Elle is in tow.

Dick’s Kitchen

If you follow a paleo diet you’ll definitely want to pay a visit to Dick’s kitchen. They have great salad and burger options, and their baked sweet potato fries are fantastic. There are even some great paleo dessert options! I don’t go to Dick’s when I’m in a rush--the last few times we were there the service was really slow--but the food is so good it’s often worth the wait.

Salt and Straw

The flavors at this Portland ice cream destination will blow your mind, and they’ll let you taste test a number of options before selecting your favorite. There are also a few dairy-free and vegan flavors to choose from. The lines get CRAZY here in the warm months, but if you’re an ice cream aficionado it’s worth it. 

Blue Star Donuts NW 23rd

Another Portland destination, Blue Star offers unique and inventive flavors. If you’re a donut lover, you’ll be obsessed. This place is a splurge, no doubt about it, so only go if you’re ready to indulge.

Zupan's Grocery

Located on the intersection of NW Burnside and 23rd, Zupan's has a sweet little salad bar, deli, and Greek yogurt bar that will have you drooling. Grab some food and then head up to Washington Park for a picnic!

What to Do

NW 23rd

If you’re looking to do a little shopping (real or the window-variety) NW 23rd is the place to go. You can walk there from Downtown, or take the streetcar.

Forest Park

One of the largest city parks in the US, Forest Park is easily accessible from NW Portland. If you’re up for some miles, simply head west on NW Thurman Street and you’ll dead end right at the entrance to the park. From there you can hike, walk, or run Lief Erickson trail for just about as far as your heart desires. To avoid getting lost, stay on Lief Erickson, since the trails can get a little confusing if you’re not familiar with the area. If you want to explore, grab a map at Powells bookstore first.

Washington Park

Home to the Portland Rose Garden, Japanese Garden, and Zoo, Washington Park houses all kinds of treasures. The walkability between these destinations isn’t great, but once you’re in the park you can hop on the free shuttle and it will take you anywhere you want to go. We like to grab picnic food at Zupans and enjoy it in the amphitheater, just adjacent to the Rose Garden. 

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Do see something missing from my list? Did you make a discovery while you’re here? Please share it in the comments below!

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