Eat 'UP'

A comprehensive food guide to the North Portland restaurant scene

By Kimberly Cortez | January 31, 2023 10:24am
by Kimberly Cortez / The Beacon

Known for its food carts and hole-in-the-wall restaurants, Portland, unlike any other city in the world, offers a unique blend of homemade flavors and boundary pushing fusion of cuisines. While food carts are a Rose City essential, there are so many places for students to try beyond that. 

While North Portland only offers a glimpse into the vibrant Portland food scene, there are some must try restaurants within walking distance from campus. The Beacon has compiled a list of restaurants in North Portland that everyone should try. 

PNW Eats Taqueria (formally known as Rose City Taqueria)

by Kimberly Cortez / The Beacon


Now, this score might be controversial, but as a Latina I feel somewhat qualified to judge Mexican food. PNW Eats Taqueria, formally known as Rose City Taqueria, is an affordable and authentic Mexican restaurant located a little further into the St. John’s neighborhood. While I think this spot overall is worth trying once, I found the flavors somewhat bland and lacking in anything worth noting. Some of my friends ride or die for Rose City and for the price, I can see the appeal. Just don’t go in expecting much. Must try: veggie torta, carne asada taco and quesadilla.

Drunken Noodle 

by Kimberly Cortez / The Beacon


Another Thai restaurant on the list, this one stands out for its practicality and its affordable prices. This is also a walkable distance from UP, making it accessible to those without a car or bike. Is it the best food you’ll ever have? No, but it is a good starter for those branching into Asian cuisine and flavor profiles. Serving primarily noodle-based dishes, there is sure to be an item on the menu to satisfy your cravings. Must try: spicy basil fried rice, noodles and thai tea.

Signal Station Pizza

by Kimberly Cortez / The Beacon


Known for its glowing neon light aesthetic, Signal Station Pizza offers just that: pizza. Independently and family-owned since 2006, Signal Station Pizza is known for their artisan pizzas, calzones, sub sandwiches and salads. The pizza is good, but what makes this place is the atmosphere. Go at night, and you’ll be met with bright red neon lights and a ‘60s aesthetic to enjoy your pizza. Must try: the university, the bridge, the cathedral. 

Bánh Mì Up

by Kimberly Cortez / The Beacon


Located on a small triangular intersection on Lombard, Bánh Mì Up serves Vietnamese classics like bánh mì’s and phở. Is this the most authentic Vietnamese food? No. But, Bánh Mì Up offers fresh flavors and a variety of dishes to satisfy your hunger. Similar to Thai Cottage, the portions are fair for the price you get. Overall, the menu is limited and you won’t find much variety here. But nothing cures a hangover better than a bowl of phở. Must try: chicken phở, vegan roasted pork belly bánh mì, beef stew phở and house tofu. 

Thai Ginger 

by Kimberly Cortez / The Beacon


Another cult classic for UP students, Thai Ginger is another standout Thai restaurant in the area. Located right across from Burrito Azteca, Thai Ginger gives you a hefty serving for the price. Always consistent, you will find fresh ingredients and great flavor profiles for every dish. However, it tends to lack flavor for certain dishes. A great spot for late night delivery orders or for a quick lunch, this is your place. Must try: pad thai, fried tofu and crab rangoons. 

Mikasa Sushi and Ramen

by Kimberly Cortez / The Beacon


A bit hidden in location, Mikasa is a small sushi and ramen restaurant serving fusion Japanese cuisine. Definitely better and more authentic than Mack’s sushi, Mikasa offers high quality bites with a more modern spin on traditional Japanese cuisine. This is a good spot if you are looking for a more sit-down restaurant, as it is on the pricier side for what you get. Must try: gyoza, super veggie, eden roll and mikasa roll.

Cathedral Coffee

by Kimberly Cortez / The Beacon


Most days you can catch UP students busily studying or getting homework done with a cup of coffee at this spot. Known for its delicious homemade pastries and artisan coffee, Cathedral offers the comfortable ambience of a small coffee shop while still serving high quality food. This is probably the most well-known spot near campus and for good reason. While I think Cathedral is worth checking out, it is a bit pricey. Must tries include: savory foldovers, quiches, danishes, banana bread and coffee.

Homegrown Smoker

by Kimberly Cortez / The Beacon


Located right across from the St. Johns Cinema, this place used to be quite literally a hole in the wall as you could only order from a small window on the side of the building due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now fully re-open, this place is a must try for those who enjoy vegan cuisine. Serving decadent all-vegan comfort food, this place will satisfy almost any craving you have. Make sure to come with an empty stomach, because their dishes are rich and filling. Must try: philthy nocheesesteak, mac cheese and brownie with ice cream.

Posie’s Cafe 

by Kimberly Cortez / The Beacon


While this spot is not near the UP area, two of our Beacon staffers have worked at Posie’s Cafe. Located in Kenton, this is a charming and small spot that’s great for doing homework or studying. With a calm, yet busy ambience, you’ll find a range of small bites and delicious coffee here.. Must try: avocado toast, coffee, matcha, breakfast sandwich and giant cookies.

Two Stroke Coffee Co.

by Kimberly Cortez / The Beacon


This motorcycle-inspired coffee shop, in my opinion, is the best coffee shop in the North Portland area. With a uniquely exciting theme of motorcycle bikes and the two stroke engine, it’s hard not to fall in love with this spot. With great coffee and even better breakfast food, this is a good place to check out for an adventure a little farther out from Cathedral Coffee. Must try: breakfast bagels, gingerbread latte, avocado toast and coffee.

Thai Cottage 

by Kimberly Cortez / The Beacon


Due to construction on N Lombard Street, this spot could have been easily overlooked for the past year and half. Truly a hole-in-the-wall kind of restaurant, Thai Cottage offers traditional Thai dishes at a decent price for what you get. Nothing is better than eating a warm Thai dish while watching the rain from the quaint windows at this restaurant. Must tries: pineapple fried rice, pad thai, yellow curry and Thai iced tea. 

Tienda Santa Cruz

by Kimberly Cortez / The Beacon


If you walk too fast, you might miss this spot in St. John’s. Located right next to Thai Cottage, Tienda Santa Cruz is a small Mexican grocer with an attached taqueria in the back. With a landscape mural covering the back of the small restaurant, this place is serving authentic Mexican food with great flavor. From agua frescas to tacos, you are sure to find something that you’ll love. You can also get groceries next door after finishing your meal. Must try: agua frescas, chips and guac, tacos.

East Side Deli 

by Kimberly Cortez / The Beacon


A true standout in the North Portland area, East Side Deli serves hot and cold sandwiches with meat, vegan, veggie and gluten free options. Locally owned and operated since 2008, this place is doing sandwiches like no other. Everything on their menu is a bite of freshness and offers a harmonious blend of flavors. Their Lombard location is online order only, so make sure to order ahead before you get there. Must try: veg-italian, vegan bbq, meatball parm, veggie reuben and mac salad. 

Burrito Azteca 

by Kimberly Cortez / The Beacon


One of my all time favorite restaurants in the UP area, Burrito Azteca serves authentic Mexican food at an affordable price while not compromising flavor. From tacos to burritos, you’ll find great flavor profiles for every dish. This spot is especially good for students 21+, as their bar is adjunct to their dining spaces. They often have deals and happy hours as well, making it easy on your wallet (not your liver.) Must try: margarita, burrito, guac and chips. 

St. John's Beer Porch

by Kimberly Cortez / The Beacon


The St. John’s Beer Porch needs no introduction. A staple for UP students, you can find this place packed on most days. From pizza to Thai food, the variety you can find at the porch makes it the perfect destination for your group of indecisive friends who can never pick what they want to eat. Each food cart has its own distinct charisma and uniqueness. Must try: all of the food carts, cider. 

Kimberly Cortez is the Community Engagement Editor for The Beacon. She can be reached at