Andy Ricker of Pok Pok on his top Portland restaurants

Andy Ricker of Pok Pok, Whiskey Soda Lounge, and Sen Yai in Portland, Ore. Photo credit: Dave Reamer.
Andy Ricker of Pok Pok, Whiskey Soda Lounge, and Sen Yai in Portland, Ore. Photo credit: Dave Reamer.

Hometown: Portland, Oregon
Occupation: Chef and Owner, Pok Pok, Whiskey Soda Lounge and Sen Yai in Portland; other locations in Brooklyn and Los Angeles
Years worked as a cook and/or chef: 35 (off and on)
Years lived in Portland: 24
Awards: 1 Michelin star for Pok Pok NY (2015)
Semifinalist, Outstanding Chef, James Beard Foundation (2015; winner not yet selected)
Best Cooking, Recipes or Instruction, James Beard Foundation (2014)
Best Chef Northwest, James Beard Foundation (2011)

Go to Chef Ricker’s shortlist

What do you love best about Portland’s food scene?

The “anything goes” spirit.

If you had to name one personal favorite dish from your restaurants, which would it be and why? 

Laap Meuang. It is the most iconic dish of northern Thailand, in my mind.

What’s your personal favorite Thai dish?

I can’t choose one, but at the moment, I am enamored of khao tom restaurants where you eat a multitude of Chinese/Thai dishes with bland rice soup.

Name the top restaurants that you think every visitor in Portland should try. 

Ha & VL for any soup, any morning. Best Vietnamese noodles in Portland, maybe none finer in the U.S.A.

Le Pigeon: get the pigeon, whatever the preparation.

Nong’s Khao Man Gai: the eponymous dish is a true rep of Thai food in America.

Ava Gene’s for pasta and vegetable dishes.

Pépé Le Moko: get the soup of the day or whatever Chef Jeffrey Morgan suggests!

Describe your perfect “dining out day” in Portland.

HA & VL for breakfast, Sen Yai for lunch, Ava Gene’s for dinner, Stumptown for coffee twice a day and a drink at Pépé Le Moko.

What’s your favorite neighborhood to dine out at?

Southeast Division Street. Great restaurants and bars. I live there.

What other cuisines do you enjoy eating or cooking?

Yucatecan.

Any great watering holes you like to visit often?

Woodsman Tavern, Reel M Inn.

We have to ask: what’s your favorite food truck?

Nong’s Khao Man Gai.

Since Eats Abroad is geared toward travelers, are there any restaurants or bars at Portland’s airport or hotels you would recommend?

Clyde Common at The Ace has a great bar and a solid kitchen.

What’s your guilty pleasure and where in Portland do you go to get it? 

Fried chicken at Reel M Inn with huge and crispy jojos (quartered russet potatoes, skin on, deep fried crispy outside, creamy texture inside).

What’s one dish that blew you away and left you wishing you came up with the recipe yourself?

None, I don’t really think like that.

Are there any foods native to Portland that you particularly like and that visitors should try to find?

Jojos, Spanish coffee.

Finally, what would you say is the one thing any visitor must see or do before leaving Portland? 

Farmers Market.

Chef Ricker’s Shortlist:

Pok Pok, 3226 SE Division Street (Richmond); Thai, lunch and dinner daily.

Whiskey Soda Lounge, 3131 SE Division Street (Richmond); Thai, dinner and late night daily.

Pok Pok Noi, 1469 NE Prescott Street (Sabin); Thai, lunch Saturday-Sunday, dinner daily.

Sen Yai, 3384 SE Division Street (Richmond); Thai, lunch and dinner daily.

Ha & VL Sandwich, 2738 SE 82nd Avenue (South Tabor); Vietnamese, breakfast and lunch daily.

Le Pigeon, 738 E Burnside Street (Buckman); French, dinner only daily.

Nong’s Khao Man Gai, 609 SE Ankeny Street, Suite C (Buckman); Thai, lunch and dinner daily.
Second location: SW 10th Avenue and SW Alder Street (Downtown), lunch only Monday-Friday, closed Saturday-Sunday.
Third location: 411 SW College Street (Downtown), lunch only Monday-Friday, closed Saturday-Sunday.

Ava Gene’s, 3377 SE Division Street (Richmond); Italian, dinner only daily.

Pépé Le Moko, 407 SW 10th Avenue (Downtown); cocktail and tapas bar, open daily.

Stumptown Coffee Roasters, 4525 SE Division Street (Richmond; original location); cafe, open daily.
Multiple locations available.

The Woodsman Tavern, 4537 SE Division Street (Richmond); new American, dinner daily, brunch Saturday-Sunday.

Reel M Inn, 2430 SE Division Street (Hosford-Abernethy); American, lunch, dinner and late night daily.

Clyde Common, 1014 SW Stark Street (Downtown); European, lunch Monday-Friday, dinner daily, late night Monday-Saturday, brunch Saturday-Sunday.

Portland Farmers Market, SW Park Avenue and SW Montgomery Street (Downtown); open Saturdays only year-round.
Various other locations open seasonally.


About the Chef: Ask Andy Ricker what his first memory of Thai food is, and he can’t really remember much other than it was probably at “some Thai joint in LA in the mid ’80s.” Fast forward nearly three decades later, and he’s become the face of the cuisine from coast to coast, with restaurants in Portland, Brooklyn and Los Angeles. But pinpointing exactly what it is about Thai food that fuels this passion is not an easy question for Ricker to answer.

“I DON’T KNOW TO BE HONEST. IT JUST SPEAKS TO ME IN A WAY THAT NO OTHER CUISINE HAS.”

In 1987, Ricker embarked on his first trip to Thailand. He says he was interested in Thai cuisine then, but the real life-altering moment came on a return visit in 1992. While exploring northern Thailand, Ricker connected to and fell in love with the food and its people; subsequent years saw him visiting this region again and again, learning more about its dishes and recipes. In 2005, Ricker opened his most popular restaurant, Pok Pok, where northern Thai dishes dominate the menu; you won’t find your classic Thai takeout fare of pad thai or pad see ew here. He has since expanded his empire, opening Whiskey Soda Lounge and food outposts that specialize in Thai noodle dishes. After a humble beginning as a dishwasher at a fondue restaurant in Vermont at 15, Ricker has nabbed two James Beard awards and is now a semifinalist for Outstanding Chef in the country.

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