Our critic picks Portland’s best new restaurant and bar patios
The most important thing a restaurant or bar could have during the pandemic was an understanding landlord, preferably someone local and willing to postpone rent payments until revenue started flowing again.
The second most important? A parking lot.
Through Oregon’s three shutdowns in the past year and a half, restaurants often operated more like food carts. Rent spent on well-appointed kitchens and empty dining rooms would have been better used on building new patios, printing takeout menus or keeping staff employed. But for businesses lucky enough to have a parking lot nearby, customers proved more than willing to eat outdoors. Last June, at restaurants across Portland, new patios began popping in grassy areas, rooftops, parking spaces and even smack dab in the middle of (quiet) streets.
Permits for these new patios and plazas, some of which have quickly woven themselves into the fabric of the city, have been extended through October. Hopefully the best of them can carry on. But if last year was any indication, running an all al fresco restaurant carries its own risk. Last Labor Day, wildfire smoke made the very air toxic to breathe. In the winter, an ice storm collapsed patio rooftops throughout the city. (As of this writing, Southern Oregon’s Bootleg Fire was the largest in the nation, and was zero percent contained. Climate change doesn’t care about our pandemic problems.)
In other words, let’s enjoy Portland’s nice weather while we can. Over the past few weeks, I’ve visited some of Portland’s best new patios — all of which, save one noted exception, opened during the pandemic. Some took advantage of fast-tracked city permits. Others grew into any available space they could find. The luckiest among them turned little-used parking lots into socially distanced beer gardens.
Below, find a guide to my favorite new Portland patios. Let’s enjoy them while we can.
— Michael Russell
What’s that they say about old dogs and new tricks? During the pandemic, few Portland restaurants pivoted better than Amalfi’s, Northeast Portland’s 62-year-old Italian restaurant, which took over its sprawling side parking lot with big tents, a refinished pavement and plenty of live music. Don’t miss the beautiful Black Rosie the Riveter mural that owner Kiauna Floyd commissioned for Amalfi’s west-facing wall.
Details: 4703 N.E. Fremont St., 503-284-6747, amalfisrestaurant.com
Bar Casa Vale
Clyde Tavern owner Nate Tilden’s sherry-fueled tapas bar already had a handsome brick-lined patio. Last year, the restaurant expanded into the parking lot (where it was briefly joined by neighbor Scotch Lodge), adding more tables and a few individual dining pods for snacking on croquetas, paella and glasses of the restaurant’s great sherry old fashioneds.
Details: 215 S.E. Ninth Ave. #109, 503-477-9081, barcasavale.com
With its verdant houseplants and plain white walls, this restaurant in the former Wildwood space would be just as comfortable in LA’s Silver Lake neighborhood as it is in PDX’s Slabtown. A newly covered patio extends the stylish look outdoors — roll by to see customers sipping rhubarb-hued gin rickeys while eating personal-sized pizzettas from the wood-fired oven.
Details: 1221 N.W. 21st Ave., 503-208-2852, westportland.com
No one would accuse Botanist of taking half measures. During the pandemic, the once-intimate cocktail bar left its underground digs in favor of the sprawling rooftop deck once home to On Deck sports bar. And they aimed to fill it. During a recent visit, I ate a tasty Cubano sandwich alongside a well-executed Paloma cocktail while marooned halfway between a bawdy standup comedy show and a 30-person birthday party that had just been “invited to leave,” in the words of my server.
Details: 910 N.W. 14th Ave., 971-533-8064, botanisthouse.com
Clinton Street Plaza
A half dozen restaurants and bars came together for this barn raising (er, plaza planting?) last August, with new street seating and covered patios sprouting in front of Dot’s Cafe, Magna Kusina, La Moule, Broder Cafe and more, with a bike lane carved down the middle. And as if that wasn’t enough, businesses across the street including Bar Norman and new Turkish restaurant Lokanta offer outdoor seating of their own.
Details: Multiple businesses along Southeast Clinton Street between 25th and 26th Avenues.
This ambitious brewery from Oregon beer legend John Harris took advantage of the sprawling parking lot just outside its North Portland production facility last summer, spacing umbrella-topped picnic tables far more than six feet apart. Between those new tables (now topped by a large canopy) and the brewpub’s existing patio, Ecliptic can now fit up to 100 people outdoors with room to spare.
Details: 825 N. Cook St., 503-265-8002, eclipticbrewing.com
Even before the pandemic, visiting our 2019 Restaurant of the Year could feel like dining outdoors, especially on warm days when the north wall’s big rolling door is pulled all the way up. Now, thanks to Eem’s new dining pods, you can eat Thai-spiced barbecue while sipping tropical cocktails and imagine you’ve found some surprise Texas-style smokehouse on the beach in Phuket.
Details: 3808 N. Williams Ave. #127, 971-295-1645, eempdx.com
When dining restrictions first started lifting last year, one of the first places I went out to eat was this seafood market and restaurant found inside an old Subway location on East Burnside Street. Flying Fish, which previously operated a destination oyster counter inside Providore, has slowly expanded over the months that followed, and now resembles the kind of sprawling seafood shack you might find on the Oregon coast (only with better clam chowder).
Details: 3004 E. Burnside St., 971-806-6747, flyingfishpdx.com
Gorges Beer Co., Tap & Table, Crema
The bike path colors aren’t quite as vibrant as they were when this Southeast Ankeny Street promenade debuted between Gorges Beer Co. and Tap & Table last year, but that only makes this so-called “rainbow road” feel more like a permanent part of the neighborhood. Now can someone let us know what’s happening at the still-closed Holman’s Bar & Grill and The Goose on the promenade’s corner…?
Details: Various businesses on Southeast Ankeny Street at 28th Avenue.
This Northeast Portland torta shop was already nailing outdoor dining, slinging its tasty sandwiches and cocktails to patrons stationed in a nicely landscaped corral built into its quieter side street. But when a former garage behind the restaurant became available, the opportunity was too good to pass up, co-owner Megan Sanchez told The Oregonian/OregonLive. The restaurant now has two outdoor seating areas, including the larger, canopy-covered Bar Güero space out back.
Details: 200 N.E. 28th Ave., 503-887-9258, guerotortas.com
John’s Marketplace Powell
The amenities are spare, at least compared to other new food cart pods, and you might want to say a prayer before crossing Southeast Powell Boulevard. But the beer window at this second location of beloved Multnomah Village beer emporium sure was welcome at a time when heading indoors for draft beer wasn’t in play, especially when paired with food from Jojo or Holy Trinity Barbecue. More beer windows, please!
Details: 3560 S.E. Powell Blvd., 503-206-5273, johnsmarketplace.com
What to do when you have a mid-sized parking lot and indoor dining is forbidden? If you’re Laurelhurst Market, you cover that pavement with a big new deck, practically doubling the size of your dining room in the process. According to Ben Dyer, co-owner of the East Burnside steak house, there’s talk of keeping the patio up permanently, though the tent on top could be taken down as weather allows.
Details: 3155 E. Burnside St., 503-206-3099, laurelhurstmarket.com
The favorite Vietnamese restaurant of returning office workers and late-night cocktail fans alike, Luc Lac built impressive patios complete on either side of its downtown Portland space. Those raised patios, which extend into a lane of traffic on the Southwest Second Avenue side, come with patio lights, red decks, bamboo separators and handy QR codes and buzzers for placing orders that you pick up yourself from the restaurant’s new takeout window.
Details: 835 S.W. Second Ave., 503-222-0047, luclackitchen.com
For restaurants that opened over the past year, it made sense to think big about outdoor seating. Montelupo, opened in the old Poison’s Rainbow space last year by former Tabla owner Adam Berger, first treated its dining room as an Italian market, then added tables on both sides of its corner space, including a huge tent that took up much of Northeast Flanders Street (Epif, the vegan restaurant and pisco bar, takes up what’s left).
Details: 344 N.E. 28th Ave., 503-719-5650, montelupo.co
Between the landscaping, tiled flooring and the big central floral arrangement, it’s easy to forget you’re eating on what was, until recently, a parking lot. And that’s all before you noticed the bright orange Aperol Spritz cart lurking nearby. Nostrana is gearing up to reopen its barrel-ceilinged dining room for the first time since March 2020, but for now, the best seat in the house is the one out front.
Details: 1401 S.E. Morrison St. #101, 503-234-2427, nostrana.com
Oakshire Brewing/Biba! Chamoru Kitchen
All it took was a global pandemic to turn this skinny side patio into a beer garden. Visit now, and you can try what Breakside brewmaster Ben Edmunds — whom I spotted standing with a pint at one of the barrel tables out front — calls one of Oregon’s more underrated breweries. And better yet, you can try some Chamorran-style shrimp fritters or barbecued spare ribs courtesy of former PDX 671 cart owner Ed Sablan, whose Biba shares a home with the Eugene-based Oakshire’s Portland location.
Olympia Provisions Public House
Patio seating was always part of the program at Olympia Provision’s Southeast Division Street location, but the past year has seen picnic tables pop up throughout the large parking lot. Come for the Alpine-influenced pub menu, with its soft pretzels, pork schnitzel and charcuterie boards; stay for one of Rosenstadt’s German-style beers.
Details: 3384 S.E. Division St., 503-384-2259, olympiaprovisions.com
The Old Gold
This decade-old Overlook neighborhood bar already had a petite front patio of the sort that worked just fine for sipping Moscow mules or crushing Tecate tallboys before March 2020. Last year, The Old Gold salvaged a bunch of old red-and-white Costco food court picnic tables and planted them in an unused lot on the other side of neighbor Spitz. Patio hunters in Northeast Portland should keep an eye out for sister bars Paydirt (2724 N.E. Pacific St., at The Zipper), Tough Luck (1771 N.E. Dekum St.) and the Hi-Top Tavern (5015 N.E. Fremont St.).
Details: 2105 N Killingsworth St, 503-894-8937, drinkinoregon.com
From socially distanced tables scattered in the parking lot to an “Asian stoner food” pop-up at Gado Gado (1801 N.E. Cesar E. Chavez Blvd.), Thomas and Mariah Pisha-Duffly treated the past year’s chaos as a ladder. And when opportunity knocked in the form of a prominent Southeast Division Street space, they answered, snagging the old Whiskey Soda Lounge as a second restaurant where their pop-up was reinvented as a culinary mashup of Southeast Asia and New England. They even beefed up the back patio with more tables and handy umbrellas to block out the summer sun.
Details: 3131 S.E. Division St., 971-754-4923, omashideaway.com
Plenty of restaurants expanded into the street last year with covered patios standing where parking spots once reigned. But how many of them combined two of Portland’s best restaurants into one? Sitting here, not only can you order PaaDee’s fiery Isaan larbs and nostalgic street food, but you can also use your phone to open a separate tab at Langbaan, previously one of Portland’s most exclusive restaurants. Don’t miss Langbaan’s new fried mushrooms wrapped in a tangy fermented batter, my favorite new drinking snack of the year.
Unable to sell his signature daiquiris to-go and with a space too small to accommodate socially distanced tables, Palomar owner Ricky Gomez had no choice but to move his Cuban-inspired cocktail bar to the roof last year. Though indoor dining is back on the menu at other restaurants and bars, at Palomar you’ll still have to head up to the sixth floor, with its spaced-out tables, blended strawberry margaritas, Cuban sandwiches and views across Tilikum Crossing.
Details: 959 S.E. Division St., 971-357-8020, barpalomar.com
Some pandemic pivots are too good to let go. Last summer, downtown Portland’s Higgins dropped a new food cart onto the Oregon Historical Society’s courtyard, taking its signature charcuterie plates and sandwiches to the great outdoors, with drinks carried around the corner from Higgins itself. The cart returned for 2021, and now feels like a semi-permanent fixture in the leafy South Park Blocks.
Details: 1200 S.W. Park Ave., 503-222-9070, higginspiggins.com
Rocket Empire Machine
For its neighbors in this northern stretch of Montavilla, it probably would have been enough just to have a new kid-friendly taproom from Gigantic Brewing. But for their latest project, Guerilla Development (The Ocean, The Zipper) brought in a handful of intriguing micro restaurants, including a fixed outpost of Oaxacan food cart Tierra Del Sol, farmers market favorite Alleamin African Kitchen, Burmese/sushi mashup Sea & River and mini pie and breakfast sandwich stalwarts Pie Spot. On most sunny weekends, you’ll have to arrive early to snag a seat on the concrete patio.
Details: Various businesses at 6935 N.E. Glisan St.
Plenty of restaurants and bars talked about crossing streets to take over empty spaces nearby, like a cafe in Italy or Spain. Few made the leap. But Sasquatch, which already has a nice deck at its Hillsdale location, actually went for it, planting a new beer garden in a grassy space across Southwest Nebraska Street from neighbor Verde Cocina. Head there for pub fare and a pint of the flagship hazy IPA.
Details: 6440 S.W. Capitol Highway, 503-402-1999, sasquatchbrewery.com
Though it technically opened just before the first shutdown last year and has yet to reopen indoors, this back-alley cocktail bar and mini food cart pod became our favorite date-night destination more recently. Come for the unfussy, well-executed cocktails and smartly curated wine list, stay for wood-fired bites from Ruthie’s, vegan hummus and flatbread from Alley Mezza and the bar’s own Sunday evening oyster grill.
Details: 3634 S.E. Division St., somedaypdx.com
When life gave them lemons, Stormbreaker … filled out street plaza applications. The North Portland brewery now boasts two separate outdoor seating areas built onto quiet side streets next to its brewpubs. Both the North Mississippi brewery — which I am required by Old Portland law to note sits in the old Amnesia space — and the St. Johns second location — which took over from Plew’s Brews three years ago — were already blessed with sizable beer gardens. But no one has ever lost money betting on Portlanders embracing a new place to sit outdoors and drink beer.
Details: 832 N. Beech St., 971-703-4516; 8409 N. Lombard St., 971-255-1481; stormbreakerbrewing.com
Tiny Bubble Room
As someone who both ate at Lung Fung and drank tiny cocktails at the attached Tiny Bubble Room, allow me to confirm that the restaurant’s recent reimagining is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. The Tiny Bubble Room now boasts a draft beer list better than all but a handful of Portland’s best beer bars. On a recent visit, a chalkboard menu listed four taps from one of my favorite breweries — HenHouse of Santa Rosa, California — plus picnic tables and individual dining pods built into black-painted shipping containers out back.
Details: 2025 N. Lombard St., 503-208-2660, tinybubbleroom.com
You might know about the burger at corner tavern Wilder, seen the squid ink pad kee mao at inventive Thai restaurant Yui or read about the pizzas at Biga, a midscale option from the owners of Pizzicato. But if you’ve tried any of them in the past year, it was almost certainly outside. All three restaurants — two of which opened during the pandemic — have a presence on Northeast 30th Avenue, with picnic tables, pink umbrellas and canopies topping a colorful street painted mural in the street.
Details: Various businesses at Northeast 30th Avenue and Killingsworth Street
Zeus Cafe/Jake’s/The Roxy/Scandals
Harvey Milk looks good in polka dots. The downtown Portland street running between Jake’s Famous Crawfish, the Crystal Hotel and across Southwest 12th Avenue to gay bar Scandals and 24-hour diner The Roxy, has been painted with big colorful circles and shut down to all but pedestrian and bike traffic. Each establishment on “Pride Plaza” has its own outdoor seating, with the Crystal Hotel’s Zeus Cafe going the extra mile with landscaping. (For now, the plaza stops before reaching Kenny & Zuke’s, Clyde Tavern and the Ace Hotel; if outdoor dining becomes viable again downtown, I would love to see those polka dots extend another block).
Details: Various businesses on Southwest Harvey Milk Street between 11th and 13th avenues.