OPINION: A guide to how the Portland restaurant scene can support your holistic wellness

By Abigail Meyer | March 1, 2022 6:01pm

Photo courtesy of Abigail Meyer.

“Food is a basic, hedonistic pleasure, a sensual instinct we all share and revel in. It is a shame to spoil it.” — Yotama Ottolenghi. (Jerusalem, A Cookbook by Yotam Ottoleghi and Sami Tamimi)

“Cooking is all about people. Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together. No matter what culture, everywhere around the world, people eat together.” — Guy Fieri 

Portland is considered one of the food capitals of the country. Ruled by creativity, locally sourced ingredients and hip aesthetic, Portland’s culinary scene makes for a dining experience unlike any other you can find in the country. Dishes elaborate on flavor and texture combinations that leave you stunned, satisfied and wanting more. 

It's been a hard two years for the restaurant industry. From closing down and unemployment, to navigating reopening in the midst of a pandemic, restaurants are working to bring back the legend that is the Portland restaurant scene, with dishes even more creative and flavorful than ever before.

Food is comfort, nourishment, and a language of love. To create a dish that tastes and looks delicious is an act of mastery. I am quite familiar with this artistry; my father was a chef for 23 years, and every night for as long as I can remember he cooked dinner for my family. No matter what was going on in our day-to-day lives, dinner was the pause where we could be together and feel love through both the company we had and the hard work and care my dad put into our plates.

“I think preparing food and feeding people brings nourishment to not only our bodies but to our spirits. Feeding people is a way of loving them, in the same way that feeding ourselves is a way of honoring our own createdness and fragility”— Shauna Niequist 

I've learned the importance of the meal experience: food has the power to bring us together, strengthen our relationships, contribute to our physical wellness, and bring us a moment of joy in the unsteady world we live in. Therefore, actively making time to enjoy food is a key element of our holistic well-being, and can help to heal our spiritual and emotional health. Connecting with the people we love through the appreciation of food is one of the most profound experiences we as human beings can have. 

“Food can bring people together in a way nothing else could” — Yotam Ottolenghi 

My father’s cooking is the best food I have ever tasted; he has shown me the path to understanding the complexity and quality that defines good food, and he has helped me to recognize the undeniable connection between what we use to nourish our bodies and our holistic well-being. I credit my developed palate to him. 

I've become quite accustomed to the restaurant experience. My family vacations centered around restaurants. The last nine months of my life have been dedicated to helping reopen Tusk, one of Portland's most popular establishments. And, in my three and a half years in Portland, I have been to 80 restaurants. It has become my mission and passion to discover the best that Portland’s chefs have to offer. Their artistry through mastery of flavors, textures and spices has produced some of the greatest dishes I have ever tasted. Portland's style is one that is creative, daring and insanely delicious. 

While there is so much more to taste, and so many more places to try, I believe I have found some of the best that Portland has to offer. Dining out is not just an experience; it's an investment into our physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being. To experience brilliance is to feel joy and human connection. Here are the restaurants that support that philosophy along with my favorite dishes:



Bacon Breakfast Sandwich: poached egg, bacon, avocado, arugula aioli, served on a hand-rolled croissant

Ocean Roll: cardamom vanilla sugar rolled up in traditional croissant dough

Photo courtesy of Abigail Meyer.

Proud Mary

Potato Hash: smoked pork belly bacon, kale salad, a poached egg, and bagna cauda sauce (garlic and anchovies)

Ricotta Hotcake: yuzu cheesecake, orange syrup, ube meringue, miso crumble, strawberries

Grand Stark Deli 

Grand Stark Benedict: homemade English muffin, ham, poached eggs, hollandaise, skillet potatoes

Deli Plate Breakfast: two eggs, housemade English muffin, deli potatoes, bacon


Pesto Garden Scramble: quinoa, farm fresh eggs, seasoned jackfruit scrambled with seasonal vegetables, roasted yams, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms, kale, walnut basil pesto, roasted walnuts

Liquid Sunshine: orange juice, basil, pineapple, mango, coconut oil, Indian gooseberry


Hat Yai

Half Hat Yai Fried Chicken: sticky rice, Malay-style curry, and roti

Muu Hong: braised pork belly and shoulder with fried egg


Aloo Gobi Chaat: crispy potatoes, fried cauliflower, tandoori spiced yogurt, chaat masala, tamarind date and spicy green chutney

Tandoori Tempeh Curry: locally made Squirrel and Crow Chickpea Quinoa tempeh in a smokey coconut milk based sauce with Bengali 5-spice basmati rice, turmeric-mustard vinaigrette slaw, seasonal pickles, and a spicy green chutney

Tienda Santa Cruz

Tacos: carnitas, pastor, or carne asada

Guacamole & Chips

Photo courtesy of Abigail Meyer.

Ben and Esthers Vegan Jewish Deli

Bagel Sandwich: Egg, Cheese, Bacon / Steak, Eggs

Potato latkes

Matzo Ball Soup


Q Restaurant and Bar

Bacon Wrapped Dates: chevre, marcona almonds, marsala

Bruschetta: roasted wild mushrooms, grilled peasant bread, rocchetta, aged balsamic, truffle oil, arugula


Pork Belly Baucitos: pork belly, firecracker slaw, steam buns, sesame BBQ sauce

Brisket Empanadas: golden raisins, fontina cheese, ancho aioli

Forage Mushrooms: farm egg, aged parmesan toasted brioche, caramelized onion puree, herbs


White curry with brisket burnt ends & cauliflower

BBQ Fried Rice: brisket, shishito, chili jam, fried shallot

Smoked Pork Krapao: pork belly burnt ends, thai basil, fried egg, rice

Photo courtesy of Abigail Meyer.


Medusa: eggplant and zucchini fries, carrot ribbons, za'atar, honey, feta, gochugaru, lemon, herbs

Rhododendron Garden: Umi Organic ramen noodles with curry bolognese (beef and pork), stir fried gailan, green beans, savoy cabbage, leeks, broccoli, cauliflower, red bell peppers, coconut cream, crispy shallots, basil, mild toasted chili

Oma's Hideaway

Roti Canai: flaky malaysian flatbread, parsnip & squash curry

Fried market squash: vegan tomato sambal, roasted peanuts, coconut, fried shallot

Wonton Mee: handmade egg noodle, char siu pork belly, pork and shrimp wontons, fermented Napa cabbage & serrano, chili jam

Last but definitely not least, my final recommendation is Tusk. Beyond my biases, there are a few reasons why the restaurant I work at is my favorite. Chef Joshua McFadden’s philosophy highlights the local produce of Oregon’s best farmers across all seasons of the year. Using the gems of Oregon’s agriculture, the brilliance of experienced chefs, and the simple but delicious flavors and techniques of the Mediterranean diet leaves Tusk with some of the best tasting and unique dishes in Portland. 

Some of my favorite dishes include:

Classic Hummus: marinated chickpeas, tahini, paprika, A5 Wagyu, and flatbread

Roasted Delicata Squash: cinnamon-ginger chili crisp, sunflower and hemp seed puree, meyer lemon

Cauliflower and Broccoli: gouda cheese, golden raisins, crispy quinoa, mango vinegar, cashews

Berbere Spiced Kafta: dairy cow, roasted parsnip, scallion, harissa, whipped feta, flatbread.

Moroccan Pancake: chickpea flour pancake, housemade rose ricotta, apple rose jam, poached citrus

Photo courtesy of Abigail Meyer.

Our lives as college students are stressful, especially with the challenges presented by the pandemic and the uncertainty of the times we live in. We all need a pause from the world and a moment of self care — what better way to do so than enjoying good food with the people that you love?

“Meals make the society, hold the fabric together in a lot of ways that were charming or interesting and intoxicating to me… Food may not be the answer to world peace, but it’s a start” — Anthony Bourdain

Abigail Meyer is a senior at UP. She can be reached at meyera22@up.edu.

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