1801 N.E. Cesar E. Chavez Blvd., Richmond
Gado Gado’s kitschy colorfully patterned wallpaper, bright tiling, and vintage framed posters make it a fun respite from the neutrals and minimalism that reign in the Portland restaurant scene. And then there’s the food. Rich, satisfying umami rice noodles with curry, shellfish broth, and a whole blue crab. Grilled halibut with chili leaves. And gado gado, a traditional Indonesian salad topped with a spicy peanut sauce. Everything is an expression of founders Thomas and Mariah Pisha-Duffly’s personal connection to Southeast Asia—and it’s divine.
3226 S.E. Division St., Richmond
Andy Ricker’s Thai food is the stuff of legend at this point (with one outpost in Brooklyn and another in Downtown Manhattan), but it’s more than worth than seeking it out in Portland where the empire first began. The original location itself is notoriously dive-y, with multicolored twinkle lights on the ceiling and brightly patterned tablecloths covering the crowded tables. As ever, the papaya salad and the chicken wings are the must-orders, though you can’t go wrong with any of the traditional dishes here.
3377 S.E. Division St., Richmond
With its warmly-lit ambiance, intimate seating, and extensive list of regional Italian wine, amari, and grappa, Ava Gene’s makes an ideal date spot. The Roman trattoria-inspired menu offers plenty of options: gardini for starters and salads, primi for pastas, and sharing-sized secondi of steaks and old-school Italian dishes like braciole. Chef Joshua McFadden (formerly of Maine’s Four Season Farm and Franny’s in Brooklyn, where he’s said to have made the famous raw kale salad happen) is known to source his ingredients from a hand-picked selection of the Pacific Northwest’s best farm-to-table produce and meats, so expect some pleasant surprises depending on the season.
3010 S.E. Division St., Richmond
Helmed by veteran chef Troy MacLarty (formerly of Berkeley’s Chez Panisse and Portland’s Ned Ludd), Bollywood Theater is a go-to for fragrantly spiced street-style food MacLarty discovered during his explorations in India—dishes like savory lamb samosas and rich, creamy curries. The original restaurant on Alberta in Northeast Portland, spacious and decked out with Indian imagery (including a projector for screening Bollywood films), has a fast-casual vibe: order at the counter, get a number, choose your seat. The location on Southeast Division, an even larger space with an open-concept kitchen, also features a retail market stocked with dry goods, fresh spices, rice, ghee, and more.