We come for the shopping and tree-lighting. For the festive twinkly lights and pictures with Santa. We come for the concerts and plays and window displays, and to give our visiting guests a night on the town. During the month of December, it seems like the entire population of the metro area converges on downtown Portland and at some point we all ask ourselves … where should we go to eat? When your feet are sore, or the play is about to start, it's easy to succumb to mediocre chains just steps from the action, but we don't believe in wasting a single meal on food that doesn't make us happy. So we pounded the pavement for you, finding 10 great local places that are open both Saturday and Sunday (no easy task) and offer plenty of options, whether you're looking to fuel up before a day of shopping or wind down after a show.
View >10 spots in downtown Portland to grab a bite while holiday shopping in a larger map
1) Zeus Cafe
Think McMenamins and food, and you'll probably picture pub grub. But Zeus Cafe, the new restaurant in the Crystal Hotel, aims to broaden that perception. The day starts at 7 a.m. with dishes like wood-baked eggs with parmesan creme fraiche, truffle oil and toast, and ends with a late-night menu that runs into the wee hours, offering up mini water- buffalo burgers on brioche buns, and fried chickpeas with smoked paprika. Clearly we're not in tater tot land anymore. Entrees can be inconsistent, but the plump mussels swimming in a broth stocked with Olympic Provisions chorizo are just fine. As are the crisp, wood-fired pizzas topped with, say, San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella and arugula. And if you're hankering for a drink, Zeus Cafe has a legitimate bar program, with original cocktails that trend toward sweet (the Flossy Mule, for example, adds lavender syrup to the vodka, lime and ginger beer in a traditional Moscow Mule). And the pink, bitters-infused spheres of ice are a sight to behold. — MICHAEL RUSSELL
303 S.W. 12th Ave., 503-384-2500; mcmenamins.com
Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
2) Kenny & Zuke's Delicatessen
Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner all day, Kenny & Zuke's is there for you, whenever your pastrami craving strikes. The bustling Jewish deli makes pretty much everything in house, from its applesauce and kugel to its bialys and rye bread. But it's the wet-cured, slow-smoked, coriander-and-pepper-spiced pastrami that has earned the deli national attention, and rightfully so. You can order it in a Benedict at breakfast, piled onto a burger or cheese fries at lunch and, of course, in the classic and stellar Reuben. Grilled and stacked with pastrami (or corned beef if you would rather), melty Swiss cheese, house-pickled sauerkraut and homemade Russian dressing, it's nothing short of sinful. Same goes for the behemoth, double-decker, multi-meat Meshugaletta Sandwich. In fact, you might want to hit Kenny & Zuke's when you are done with your day, because after eating sandwiches like these, the only thing you are going to want to do is take a well-deserved nap. — JENNIFER COSSEY
1038 S.W. Stark St., 503-222-3354; kennyandzukes.com
Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Happy hour Monday-Friday.
Nothing warms cold hands like a thick, hot burger dripping with special sauce. Billed as "slow food, fast," Violetta serves up near-perfect burgers with a local twist (beef from Scio, bacon from Carlton, onions from Brooks … you get the idea), plus five kinds of hand-cut fries, including sweet potato and chili cheese. To wash it all down, there's a solid selection of craft beers, shakes and small-batch sodas. But you don't have to be in the mood for a gut-busting lunch or dinner to dine here. Stop by the cafe in Director's Park to warm up and refuel with soup or salad, or get your sugar buzz going with a bag of fried-to-order beignets, hot apple pie from Random Order, and Holy Kakow hot chocolate. — HANNA NEUSCHWANDER
Violetta in Director's Park, 887 S.W. Taylor St., violettapdx.com.
Lunch and dinner daily.
4) Mother's Bistro
In this Victorian dining room of a bistro, you can hang your hat and savor the best food your mother never had time to make — rich and creamy mac-and-cheese, fresh pear and huckleberry cobbler with the flakiest golden-brown crust — all made from scratch. The day begins with rib-sticking breakfast dishes like biscuits and gravy or wild salmon hash, followed by hearty lunch and dinner classics like savory pot roast made with local beef. Benny's Chicken Sandwich is a lunchtime must — a full breast of juicy, free-range chicken smothered with spicy aioli and melted cheddar cheese topped with fresh avocado. Just looking for a little pick-me-up? Stop in to relax with a cup of frothy hot cocoa and a homemade cookie or slice of pie. Mother would approve. — AMANDA ECKERSON
212 S.W. Stark St., 503-464-1122; mothersbistro.com
Breakfast, lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday, no dinner Sunday, closed Monday
5) The Original
When it first opened, the menu at this modern diner was riddled with ill-conceived gimmicks (like the doughnut hamburger). Thankfully the gimmickry is mostly gone, leaving downtown shoppers with a solid and crowd-pleasing place to grab a bite for breakfast, lunch or dinner. With its vinyl, '50s-style booths and postmodern art mobiles, the decor juxtaposes vintage and chic as the menu does savory and sweet. The upshot? There's something for everyone — from adventurous eaters to picky kids. Original concoctions like pancakes drizzled in blueberry jam and peanut butter sauce or crunchy cornmeal-bacon waffles are just a few of the oddly delicious choices at breakfast. At lunch and dinner, juicy burgers with shallot aioli and hearty classics like chicken potpie take the spotlight. Everything goes best with one of the homemade sodas (try the ginger-mint) and a savory serving of poutine: gravy-drenched french fries and cheese curds that are one of the best things to hit your belly after a spirited night on the town. Thankfully, they're served until 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. — AMANDA ECKERSON
300 S.W. Sixth Ave., 503-546-2666; originaldinerant.com
Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Happy hour Monday-Friday. Late night menu Friday-Saturday until 4 a.m.
6) Brasserie Montmartre
A Francophile oasis, Brasserie Montmartre offers a calming respite from the bustle of downtown. Under the direction of chef Pascal Chureau, the lunch and dinner menu teems with well-executed French classics like gruyere-topped onion soup, croque monsieur and quiche. But there are a few surprises, too, like a croissant filled with rich lobster salad and avocado coulis, or crepes stuffed with braised pork belly, chevre and arugula. On weekends, brunch-goers can choose from three different Benedicts, as well as Frenchy belly-fillers like duck confit hash. During the lengthy happy hour (from 2-6 p.m. daily), as well as from 10 p.m. to midnight, prices drop on bar menu favorites like the golden, crispy frites — which come in five varieties, including foie gras-Szechuan pepper. A bowl of spicy moules frites falls from $12 to $8, oysters are $1.50 a pop. To drink there's a great selection of mostly French wines, plus top-notch spirits, original and classic cocktails, and craft beers on draft — including a rotating tap from Cascade Brewing. — DANIELLE CENTONI
626 S.W. Park Ave., 503-236-3036; brasserieportland.com
Lunch, dinner, happy hour and late-night menu daily. Brunch on Saturday and Sunday.
7) Urban Farmer
It's an upscale restaurant in an upscale hotel (The Nines), but that hotel is at the top of a department store (Macy's), so no one will look askance if you show up to this comfortable yet high-end steakhouse loaded down with shopping bags. Forget greasy mall food and take a break for real lunch here, where you'll find dishes like rich grits with a poached egg, spiced shrimp and pulled pork, or a divine cheese steak with shaved sirloin and gruyere fondue. After a day of shopping, or before (or even after) heading to a show, hit happy hour (3-6 p.m. and after 10 p.m.) for filling $4 and $5 dishes like tender beef sliders, Reubens, or mac-and-cheese with oil-cured tomatoes. Dinner is much pricier, as you'd expect from a steakhouse, with about a dozen choices of steaks in various breeds and styles — grass-fed, pasture-raised, grain-finished, corn-fed, dry-aged … you get the picture. — Danielle Centoni
525 S.W. Morrison St. (on the eighth floor of The Nines hotel), 503-222-4900; urbanfarmerrestaurant.com
Breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday-Friday, brunch and dinner Saturday-Sunday. Daily happy hour from 3-6 p.m. and 10 p.m.-close.
8) Saint Cupcake Galore
Saint Cupcake's new location, just five blocks west of Pioneer Courthouse Square, is bright and light, furnished simply with red metal seats and reclaimed wooden bleachers. But it's hard to appreciate the decor when all you can see are rows of gleaming, brightly colored cupcakes just begging to be eaten. The moist and rich carrot cake, with just the right amount of savory spice and a hint of black pepper, topped with silky vanilla cream cheese frosting, is particularly hard to resist. But the patron saint of sweet doesn't just do cake. Cinnamon rolls, sticky buns, butterscotch- and chocolate-loaded cookies (including one made with smoked flour), and even savory snacks like brioche buns stuffed with mustard, ham and cheese, mean there are plenty of reasons to stop in and take a load off in the bakery/cafe. Add an espresso drink from locally roasted Water Avenue Coffee and you'll be properly fueled for any urban adventure. — JENNIFER COSSEY
1138 S.W. Morrison St., 503-473-8760; saintcupcake.com
8 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
9) Public Domain
Yes, there's a Starbucks smack dab in the middle of Pioneer Courthouse Square, but when your caffeine level begins to dip, it's well worth the one-block walk to Public Domain instead. The coffee shop is owned and operated by one of Portland's first roasters, Coffee Bean International, and it offers a serene, sleek place to get a good caffeinated kick in the pants. Like a brewery dedicated to its craft and the craft of its comrades, Public Domain usually has guest roasters "on tap," such as the city's own Oblique. But true coffee geeks will be happy to know they can specify the brewing method, too. In addition to the espresso machine and French press, there are four pour-over brewers to choose from: Hario V60, Chemex, Clever and Kone. For nibbling, there are beautiful pastries from Nuvrei Bakery. Try the wheatless oatmeal and raisin bar. Part oatmeal cookie, part lunch, it's soft and dense and easy to share with a buddy. Pull up a seat and decompress — there's free Wi-Fi and wall-to-wall/floor-to-ceiling windows to enjoy the scenery, lights and people of downtown. — JENNIFER COSSEY
603 S.W. Broadway, 503-243-6374; publicdomaincoffee.com
6 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Few things can make you more immediately alert — and happy — than a shot of thick, liquid chocolate. At Cacao you can get your 2.5-ounce or 7-ounce wake-up call in three gorgeous flavors: milk chocolate with cinnamon, dark chocolate and "Special Spicy" — dark chocolate with coconut milk, paprika, cayenne and ginger. Can't choose? No problem, you can get a flight of all three. For those in a slightly less decadent mood, there's Cacao's regular hot chocolate (still among the richest in town) using 65 percent cacao or 72 percent cacao — your choice — as well as espresso drinks made with Caffe Vita coffee. If a mocha is too much, try the macchiato, a shot of espresso cut with an equal amount of dark hot chocolate. Sit down and connect your laptop (at the 13th Avenue location only) or continue your holiday shopping. The store has the best artisan chocolate bars and confections that Portland, and much of the world, has to offer. Not sure what something tastes like? The staff can help you sample just about anything. Before you go, purchase a handful of the Bequet salted caramels at the counter. They make a great on-the-go pick me up — and stocking stuffer. — JENNIFER COSSEY
West End: 414 S.W. 13th Ave., 503-241-0656; cacaodrinkchocolate.com
10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
At The Heathman: 712 S.W. Salmon St., 503-274-9510; cacaodrinkchocolate.com
9 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday