HOME > Chowhound > Pacific Northwest >


ISO unusual ethnic restaurants in Portland, OR area

We are from Southern California & plan to visit the Portland, OR area later this month (the week between Christmas & New Year's) and would like to get some recommendations on unusual ethnic restaurants in the area.

We truly enjoy all ethnic cuisines, but would like something more unusual than Mexican, Italian, Japanese or Chinese. Are there any good Afghani, Moroccan, Mongolian, Tibetan or other such ethnic restaurants around? Any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Lungta on Sandy (Tibetan) was recommended to me by a Tibetan friend.

    Also Pho Van (a few locations) serves fantastic Vietnamese food.

    1. I wouldn't think that unusual ethnic food is really Portland's strong point, but I can think of a few examples that are a little different and worth seeking out:

      - Andina (Peruvian)
      - Pambiche (Cuban)
      - Bewon (Korean)

      I don't know if you'd consider those unusual or not (I suspect that if you were coming from Florida, you might consider a Cuban place, for example, pretty ordinary).

      Although there are Moroccan places in town, I don't think they're very remarkable.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Nettie

        Those are three very good recommendations, all with very good food. Southern California, especially if it's LA, will definitely have Portland beat on ethnic foods, but maybe try some Pacific Northwest restaurants like Wildwood, for some local flavor.

      2. I suggest you search back on this thread for ideas.

        Northern Thai street food: Pok Pok
        Ethiopean: Blue Nile

        1. I'm going to echo some suggestions and give a few others. I'm sure LA has much more than us in every category, but these are all quite good, imo. There's some pretty interesting Mexican around town, too, but I won't make those recs since you're not interested.

          * Malay Satay Hut, Malaysian
          * Banh Cuon Tan Dinh, Vietnamese
          * Pok Pok, Thai
          * Andina, Peruvian
          * Pambiche, Cuban
          * Bewon, Korean
          * Siam Society, Thai
          * Cha Ba, Thai
          * Pho Van, Vietnamese
          * Yen Ha, Vietnamese
          * Karam, Lebanese
          * Aladdin's Cafe, Lebanese
          * Ya Hala, Lebanese
          * Arabian Breeze, Lebanese (you have to be careful what you order here, but there are some interesting items)
          * Blue Nile, Ethiopian
          * Podnah's, BBQ (I bet you don't have Texas style BBQ this good and it's a certain sort of ethnic ;) )
          * A Taste of Europe, Bosnian
          * Two Brothers, Bosnian
          * Roux, Creole (ethnic from this country and I don't know what your options are down there)
          * Lagniappe, Cajun (ditto)
          * Chinese Delicacy, Chinese (I know you said no Chinese, but this place is Korean-Chinese and you can find some unusual dishes, such as the Korean meatballs, that are fantastic, but the typical stuff is....typical)

          There are some other very good places in, eg, Vietnamese, but they don't have anything unusual on the menus. Also, there are places in the suburbs that I haven't mentioned, although a couple of these are on the outskirts of Portland.

          The only one I'm not a fan of that's been mentioned is Lungta, though I've only had buffet a couple times. And I don't have any reference to compare it to. I've only eaten at two Tibetan restaurants.

          2 Replies
          1. re: extramsg

            Thanks for the great list of options everyone :) We're sure to have some culinary adventures on our trip!!

            Note to: extramsg...could you explain a little more about the warning "you have to be careful what you order here, but there are some interesting items" at Arabian Breeze?! Thanks!

            1. re: socalqtpi

              The menu has lots of interesting stuff, items you won't find on any other Lebanese menu, but even some basics just fall flat or are mediocre at best. I'd have to look at a menu or go through some old notes to remember what exactly was good and bad. The others are much more consistently good, especially Karam and Aladdin, but you asked for interesting.

          2. I suggest you try Hapa Grill for excellent Hawaiian food in Beaverton. I'll direct you over to Portland Food for the complete review:

            1. I haven't been in a few years but the last time I went to the MArakesh (morrocan) the food was good...

              Patanegra has good Spanish Tapas
              I know someone mentioned Andina alread for Peruvian, it is great food!
              also saw someone mentioned Pambiche for Cuban food, it's so/so..
              Definitely try local seasonal food while you are here, you won't be dissapointed.

              1. I ate at Karam (downtown Portland, more or less) a couple of months ago when I was there and very much enjoyed it (Lebonese). Very friendly service as well; moderately priced.

                1. Marrakesh is awful. They have questionable food safety practices. Had the kabobs, were presented on skewers stabbed into a halved raw eggplant. When finished, we asked to take home the eggplant. They refused, saying they reuse it. Huh? Re-serving food that was on our table? I reported them to the county health board.

                  Patanegra's owner has a nasty foul and very public temper. I've seen it in action, perpetrated on undeserving customers. The food as ok, not worth the potential hassles.

                  Again, ethnic is not our strong suit. Veer to other genres as described.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Leonardo

                    It depends on if you're more about quality or quantity. I agree Marrakesh is mediocre at best, but we have excellent ethnic restaurants. But there may only be one, such as Pambiche, in a cuisine. But Pambiche is terrific. Likewise, places like Pho Oregon, Bun Bo Hue, Banh Cuon Tan Dinh, and probably a couple others would challenge great places I've eaten at in places much better known for their Vietnamese. This can be said in a variety of cuisines: Mexican, Thai, Malaysian, Lebanese, etc.

                  2. "Again, ethnic is not our strong suit."

                    Totally disagree. I'd say PDX is particularly strong in Vietnamese, Thai, and Japanese restaurants. See all the posts above for examples!

                    1. Head on over to the Fubon (spelling?) Center on SE 82nd for the Malay Satay Hut

                      again, I'll direct you to a better discussion at Portland Food:

                      1. Until reading all the restaurants on this post, I never realized how many good, ethnic restaurants we have in Portland. It's nice to see a good list all in one place. Now when I am craving some good food, I don't need to rack my brain and wind up at the same sushi place we always go to. Thanks for posting!

                        1. One restaurant that's often overlooked is Pho Jasmine on North Killingsworth, which serves excellent Pho and hotpot dishes for super cheap.

                          In general, good ethnic restaurants aren't neccessarily on the thoroughfares: the stuff near major arteries may be very good, but not neccessarily authentic.

                          1. Have to agree with Leonardo, ethnic is not a strong suit in Portland, at least in the non-mainstream cuisines. Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, Japanese (as the original poster stated) are pretty common all over the West Coast.

                            Malay Satay Hut is a good suggestion. So is Andina.

                            1. I must concede to the high quality of the above list, but we're glaringly deficient in Iranian, Polish, Hungarian, Indonesian, and E European in general.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Leonardo

                                Eh. I wouldn't say those are GLARING deficiencies. I'd say more glaring are our apparent lack of relatively common ethnic cuisines, like truly good standard szechuan and Spanish food.

                                Still, though, there's a lot that goes unexplored. Had some really tasty Guatemalan and Salvadorean out in Hillsboro tonight, eg. Never heard of the place anywhere before, though I'd passed by it many times. Still no one has reported on that Filipino place on Foster. No one has reported on the Russian place on Foster since it has changed hands. There's rarely a comment on Two Brothers or Taste of Europe, despite both being accessible in SE and serving enjoyable Balkan food. And I'm sure no one's made the trek out to Zara's to see if their Russian, etc, food is any good. Maybe if people would get off their asses and try something new once in a while...

                                I sometimes wonder if we lack restaurants, or just people willing to explore them.

                              2. I think the best Hawaiian cuisine is at Noho's (2525 SE Clinton www.nohos.com. Noho is a real "local boy" from Hawaii. My family is from Hawaii, and whenever we have a desire for a good plate lunch or other island fare, we drop by Noho's. It's casual and 'real ono'.

                                1. Yeah, a good Indonesian place would be nice. Cambodian would be nice too. No Islamic Chinese places in the area that I know of.

                                  Are there any good Scandanvian places in Portland? It seems like the weather and the produce would be similar to what they would have.

                                  Callaloo is not bad for "Caribbean" cuisine. Drinks are pretty strong there.