While the cost of living in Portland is rapidly rising, locals can take solace in the fact that we can still find delicious, affordable eats on every corner. While “cheap eats” may mean greasy hamburgers, dirty water hotdogs and the Dollar Menu to many cities, in Portland it means gourmet street eats and farm-to-table fare. From handmade pasta to vegan Indian to the tastiest two-hands-required sandwiches, we cover where to get the best inspired, quality and budget-friendly dishes for $10 or less.
Chicken and Rice (Khao Man Gai) 8.75
Nong Poonsukwattana opened her first food cart in 2009, a tiny, 8 ft. by 8 ft. stand that sold only one thing: Khao Man Gai, or chicken and rice. Now Nong has three locations (including a brick-and-mortar), caters and sells her own bottled sauces at specialty markets and grocers throughout Portland. Not bad for a girl who came to Portland from Bangkok with just 70 bucks in her pocket. What’s so special about chicken and rice? Nong’s signature dish reflects her upbringing and resilience: she knew she could only afford to make one single dish work and she tirelessly perfected it until it was faultless. Khao Man Gai, a wildly popular traditional Thai dish, is tender, poached organic chicken with aromatic herbs, served alongside rice and garnished with cucumber and cilantro. Finishing touches include a light, warm chicken soup and the highlight: Nong’s signature sauce, made from fermented soy, fresh ginger, garlic, vinegar and Thai chilies. The restaurant serves complimentary tea on tap and if you can afford an additional $2, adding the crispy fried chicken skins is a really good idea.
609 SE Ankeny St
SW 10th & Alder
411 SW College St.
Pine State Fried Club $8
With a new location, extended night hours and bourbon cocktails, Pine State is helping us discover our love of eating breakfast for dinner. The menu is seriously sinful: fresh-baked buttermilk biscuits, sausage gravy, crispy fried chicken, cheese fries and gourmet corn dogs. It’s almost impossible to choose. The good news, however, is that not only is everything under $10, but the Pine State Club eases an indecisive soul. A Southern trifecta of fried comfort food, the club features three golden-fried grit cakes topped with an individual accessory, like a bow on a present. Crispy, juicy fried chicken dripping with spiced honey tops one while fried green tomatoes and creamy pimento cheese crown another. The last one? A perfect envelope of country ham and melted white cheddar. Yeah…we could eat this at any time of the day.
2204 NE Alberta
1100 SE Division
125 NE Schuyler St.
Vegetarian Handmade Noodles $7.95
Frank’s Noodle House follows the traditional Northwest China method for making LaMian (hand-pulled noodles): stretching and folding fresh dough into strands and immediately cooking in boiling water to order. While the restaurant offers several tasty cheap eats, from Kung Pao chicken to jelly fish salad to Korean BBQ, the real highlight is the LaMian. You can get this dish with chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, tofu or squid, but the vegetarian noodles are so simple, so delicious and bonus: the cheapest. Snack on complimentary kimchi and daikon radish before ordering the wok-fried noodles. Sandwiched unexpectedly between Lloyd Center shopping mall, chains and car dealerships, Frank’s offers a charming and casual experience in a two-story home-turned-restaurant.
Franks Noodle House
822 NE Broadway
Monday-Saturday: 11am-3pm; 5pm-9pm
Pork Belly Cubano $10
What’s not to like about Bunk? The insanely popular sandwich joint has five locations, not including the Moda Center or the newly opened New York City spot. With massive amounts of media coverage under Bunk’s belt, nothing receives more praise than their pork belly cubano sandwich. Travel + Leisure dubbed it one of “America’s best sandwiches” and Food Network featured it on The Best Thing I Ever Ate. A carnivore’s dream, this sandwich marries molasses-rubbed pork belly, salty ham, spicy mustard, pickles and Swiss cheese before it gets pressed to perfection. The Water Ave location also hosts live shows if you’d like a little music with your belly.
2017 NE Alberta St.
211 SW 6th Ave.
1028 SE Water Ave
621 SE Morrison St.
128 NE Russell St.
Pork Congee with Preserved Egg & Chinese Donuts $9.20
This Southeast Powell restaurant serves up authentic Cantonese cuisine. You won’t find fancy decor, Americanized dishes or even a website for the restaurant. However, you will find delicious, traditional Chinese comfort food such as noodle soups and congee. If you’ve never had congee before, this is a good time to start. Congee is a porridge made from rice, water and not much else. The prolonged cooking method turns it into a thick, creamy soup that serves as a perfect base for delicious additions. In this case, we recommend the salty pork and preserved egg for a traditional, soul-warming dinner. Luckily, you can also order a side of their Chinese donuts and still keep this meal under $10. These golden, deep-fried beauties resemble a cruller and are traditionally eaten alongside congee as a vessel for dipping in the porridge.
Kenny’s Noodle House
8305 SE Powell Blvd
Vegan Black Lentil Kofta Bowl $10
Vegans are not forgotten on our best cheap eats. The Sudra, sandwiched between fellow micro-eateries Small Burger, 24th and Meatballs and Pie Spot, serves up healthy vegan Indian-inspired fare. Specialties include rice bowls, colorful veggie-packed salads, hearty stews and a multitude of combination plates that let you pick and choose between traditional Indian chow. We think their Kofta bowl is pretty great. Kofta, a traditional Indian meatball typically made with pork or beef, gets a vegan make-over with black lentils. Served over brown basmati rice, the bowl also includes tender roasted cauliflower and kale sauteed with onions, garlic and ginger. The finishing touch is korma sauce, a sauce made from cashews, rice milk, tomatoes, onion, peppers and spices. Worthy Mention: The Sudra also serves up some amazing, unique cocktails.
2333 NE Glisan
Out to Lunch Pita Wrap $7.50
You would be seriously hard-pressed to find a better falafel in Portland than Wolf and Bear’s. The food cart serves up healthy, vegetarian Middle Eastern specialties that use local and organic ingredients. Stop by one of their three locations to try their falafels, pita wraps, salads or soups. While you really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, the Out to Lunch pita wrap is something special. It combines falafel with caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, fresh greens and plenty of cracked pepper. But that’s not all. What takes this wrap to next-level is the labneh (a super creamy cheese made from cultured yogurt) and the gorgonzola. With a final drizzle of a little tahini sauce and olive oil, you have a filling vegetarian wrap that is immensely satisfying. Complimentary pickles and olives are pretty great, too.
Wolf & Bear’s
SW 10th and Alder
113 SE 28th Ave
3925 N. Mississippi Ave
Al Forno Baked Penne $9.75
Italian food in Portland can get complicated, exorbitantly trendy and expensive. La Buca keeps it simple. Not only is their menu delicious, but the dishes average $10. Located off the busy East Burnside, the cozy, no-frills atmosphere of La Buca is casual and rustic, while feeling special enough for a date or evening out. House wines and corkage fees are pleasantly inexpensive, the bruschetta is delicious and the pasta is generous for the price tag. We recommend the hearty, comforting Al Forno. For under $10, this penne dish is rich and creamy, thanks to the addition of four cheeses–mascarpone, mozzarella, fontina and parmesan. This crowd favorite gets baked to perfection and accompanied by fresh bread with olive oil and balsamic for dipping.
40 NE 28th Ave
Mon-Fri: 11:30am-3pm; 5pm-9pm
Diego Bowl $9
Some of the best Mexican food in Portland comes out of a 28th Street food cart. For $9, you can eat like a king at Guero when you order The Diego, a rice bowl that puts Chipotle to shame. This bowl is packed to the brim with rice, beans, fresh greens, pablano crema and creamy guacamole. The star of the show is the carnitas, tender Carlton Farms pork that’s marinated in citrus and house spices. Garnishes aren’t afterthoughts, either: fresh cilantro, lime, salty cotija cheese, bright pink pickled onions and fire roasted chilies trim the dish. Be sure to snag some of the homemade habanero carrot sauce from the condiments.
113 SE 28th Ave
Double Burger $10
If there’s only one burger on the list, it should be Lardo’s Double Burger. Not one, but two juicy Cascade beef patties get sandwiched between a fresh baked bun. When it gets topped with cheddar, house-made “porkstrami” and tangy, mustard-based Lardo sauce, it becomes something magical. Lardo’s love of pig shines through on almost every menu item, including the sides. Follow the advice of the large, illuminated “Pig Out” sign and order a side of Dirty Fries, crispy fries that get cozy with pork scraps, fried herbs, parmesan and marinated peppers.
1212 SE Hawthorne Blvd
1205 SW Washington St.
4090 N Williams Ave.
Have some other favorite local eats for under $10? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear your input!