Generally, when I get asked about where to get seafood on tour, people are looking for one thing: oysters. Specifically, raw oysters on the half shell washed down with something fermented. As I browsed through my phone’s picture gallery for inspiration for this post, I realized that when I’m craving something from the sea, oysters are also my go-to. Even though we’re only a couple hours from the coast, PDX isn’t traditionally a seafood town, but there really is so much great seafood here these days. This being Portland, you probably already know chefs all over the city are innovating when it comes to style and sourcing.
Disclaimer: to make this blog post manageable, I’ve narrowed down the long list to just a few places that are specifically seafood-centric, not-to-be-missed and excellent all around, one from each of our five quadrants.. Yes, we have five quadrants. Nowhere in this list is the whole snapper from Departure, or the chilled seafood offerings at Woodsman Tavern, or so many others, but go to those places too, you won’t be disappointed. Needless to say, this is not an exhaustive list; it’s just a good start.
Year of the Fish, Carts on Foster, corner of SE Foster & 52nd , Open Tues – Sat 12-8pm
The food carts on SE Foster and 52nd make up one of the only pods in SE Portland that have escaped development in the past couple years. In fact, this cart used to be on SE 50th before that lot was converted into an apartment building right off the hip, foodie-centric corridor that is SE Division. Back to the food, though. The cod fish and chips, tuna melt, clam strips.. you just can’t go wrong. All good. And the gluten free options really are gluten free as the owner has a dedicated fryer just for them. There’s also a beer garden right here and what better to wash it all down?
Olympia Oyster Bar, 4214 N Mississippi Ave, Closed Mondays – Hours vary
Named for the Olympia oyster, the only oyster native to the Pacific Northwest, this little bar is reinventing the American oyster experience. They are equally committed to serving excellent cocktails and organic wines and, because of its location and the communal tables within, it is an excellent place for visitors to people watch after a day of boutique shopping on Mississippi. Also, February 2 – 9 OOB’s chef Maylin Chavez, and a group of her passionate seafood conservationist friends are putting on a series of dinners and events in PDX called Shuck Portland to raise money and awareness for disappearing wild oyster reefs. If you’re in town, you should try to make it to one of the events! (link under Events below)
Fishwife, 5328 N Lombard St, Closed Open Tues – Sat – Hours vary
This place is low-key, family friendly and to be honest, won’t catch your eye from the street outside. Once you’re inside though, it has that old school diner/clam shack on the beach sort of feel. Their menu items (think clam chowder, assorted fish and chips, shrimp cocktails and Louies, etc.) are good and the service is great. This place can get busy with local neighborhood families so call ahead to make a reservation and avoid the wait.
Headwaters, The Heathman Hotel, 1001 SW Broadway, Open Every day – Hours vary
Inside the beautiful Heathman hotel is swanky Headwaters, a celebratory seafood restaurant from Vitaly Paley, Portland restaurant veteran and James Beard Award winner. This is a great date night option or a great place to have dinner and drinks before you head next door to the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, one of Portland’s last historic performing arts venues. Keep in mind though, if there’s a show going on next door, this place is going to get packed. Make sure to check out Vitaly Paley’s Russian Tea Service in the building as well. It’s a fun thing to do with a small group and the food and tea are exquisite.
Roe, The Morgan Building, 515 SW Broadway, Open Wed – Sat, 5:30 – 10pm
Are you looking for a dining experience that is multi-coursed, thoughtfully sourced, painstakingly prepared and outrageously good? Perhaps also a little hidden, exclusive, anticipated? Then plan well ahead and make reservations at Roe. Roe is run by Trent Pierce, multi nominated James Beard chef and fifth generation PNW restaurateur. At Roe, the seafood-focused, French and Japanese influenced menu rotates weekly and is served in several courses with optional wine pairings. This is a special occasion restaurant or just a must-try-before-you-die whether you’re visiting Portland or live here.
Bamboo Sushi, 836 NW 23rd Ave (several locations), Open 5-10 every day
Bamboo is a great place to find high-quality, artfully prepared sushi, especially their NW location because of the great district it’s in – plenty of shopping, bars, restaurants and entertainment. The best thing about eating here, though, is their commitment to sustainability and in fact, they were deemed the first sustainable sushi restaurant in the world back in 2010. Their philosophy of responsibility spans from transparently sourcing from sustainable fisheries, including their refusal to serve that sushi house staple, Bluefin tuna, all the way to building design and waste.
The crab’s finally in and oysters are in season - seafood is in the spotlight this week in PDX! Check out the following events going on this week in the city:
Shuck, Feb 2 – 9, 2018
Atlas Obscura Oyster Tasting and Maritime History, Feb 7, 2018
PDX Seafood and Wine Festival, Feb 2 & 3, 2018