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DON’T FORGET Duckfat’s excellent poutine — order it, or you’ll be missing out.

While new restaurants intrigue food critics and patrons alike, it's the tried-and-true, the places that have established themselves as mainstays in Portland, that shouldn't be forgotten in all the hype. Here's a list of places not to be missed this year. It won't make you thinner, fitter, or wealthier, just a lot more satisfied:

Greek lamb at EMILITSA (547 Congress St.) is a must, even as its preparation changes regularly. When I last tried it, it was incredibly tender and juicy, served with potatoes and asparagus. It's not exactly inexpensive, but definitely worth the dough.

Although relatively new, the Thai restaurant BODA (671 Congress St.) has established itself as a go-to place. The tapas here are especially delicious, specifically the Miang Kum Som-oh, which are small servings of pummelo fruit salad (similar to, but sweeter than, grapefruit) served on betel leaves with toasted coconut, peanut, lime, ginger, and shrimp with a palm sugar dressing. Plus, if you go on Sunday after 9:30 pm, food is half off.

Any dessert at BRESCA. While appetizers and entrées on the Italian-inspired menu are certainly worthy of your visit, the dessert menu takes the cake. Options change regularly at 111 Middle St., but the buttermilk panna cotta should be a high priority.

A similar approach should be taken when dining at the Italian restaurant, PACIARINO at 470 Fore St. Anything with Bolognese sauce is delicious — plus you can buy some to take home and impress your family and friends.

CAIOLA'S (58 Pine St.) is also high on the list of places to visit often, particularly for Sunday brunch. The oyster po' boy is a favorite, with fried spicy oysters served on a soft roll with green onion aioli. The Cajun fish tacos served with avocado, chipotle aioli, and black bean salsa are a close rival.

For sushi, FOOD FACTORY MIYAKE (129 Spring St.) is about as fresh and authentic as you can get. There are many great options, but the best strategy is to order the three-, five-, or seven-course Omakase, and the chef will serve up whatever is freshest that day.

BAR LOLA (100 Congress St.) is another tried-and-true restaurant not to overlook. The very affordable $39 five-course tasting menu that's a great way to sample what the folks in the kitchen are excited to be cooking — and often includes items that aren't on the regular menu.

DUCKFAT's poutine, which is made with its signature fries fried in duck fat, topped with cheese curds, and house-made duck gravy, is a delicious twist on this classic Canadian dish. The tuna melt panini at 43 Middle St. is a close second.

The Salvadoran restaurant TU CASA (70 Washington Ave.) may not have the atmosphere of some of the other places (unless you love Spanish soap operas), but the food is authentic and affordable. Both meat- and cheese-filled pupusas — thick corn tortillas — are covered in pickled cabbage and, at $1.75, can't be beaten.

SAIGON (795 Forest Ave.) is a great place for some delicious and affordable Vietnamese food. You can't go wrong with the pho — rice noodle soup — that's served with beef or chicken and topped with onions, scallions, cilantro, and hoisin sauce.

OHNO CAFÉ (87 Brackett St.) in the West End is a great place to grab a breakfast sandwich first thing in the morning (though lunch and dinner are great too). The smoked turkey, tomato, avocado, gouda, and egg on an English muffin always hits the spot.

Leischen Stelter can be reached atleischen@gmail.com.

  Topics: Food Features , poutine, Spanish, cajun,  More more >
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