Welcome to Dining Confidential, a monthly column where local chefs talk about their favorite Portland spots, highlight their own restaurant’s ethos, share fun personal insights, and encourage community spirit. Do you know a chef you would like to see? Let us know via our tip line.
Nikeisah Newton’s Meals 4 Heels is well known to Portlanders as a food stand and nightly delivery service for sex workers and dancers. Their (mostly) vegan and vegetarian menu, with items named after industry phrases like “Gettin That Paper” and “The Verbal Tipper,” is both functional and emotional.
“If you work late, you might not have time to sit down and eat. Massaged kale and collard greens keep and spare your tummy at 1 a.m. It won’t spoil and you won’t get sluggish,” says Newton. “And I like to add things that are very rarely found on Portland menus,” like Ethiopian-spiced mushrooms with berbere and cardamom.
“The food reflects where I’ve travelled, where I’ve lived and what I like. My father was in the Air Force for 20 years, so I grew up in Portugal, Japan, Arizona, California, North Dakota and North Carolina,” she says. These connections to places Nikeisah has traveled are also reflected in the variety of restaurants she frequents.
“I’m ready to go out and try things. The world is our oyster, you know? Fuck it all.”
Cameo Cafe East. It’s nice to get the fusion: pasta and bacon and amazingly hot sauces. You see the same faces that have been there for years. I love watching the chefs do what they do without much talking. It’s like an orchestra.
For a quick lunch:
We have Come Thru, the BIPOC farmers market right here in the parking lot and it’s usually a great day for me and we sell out so I go to MidCity SmashBurger and get 2 smashburgers and fries and a soda.
For Date Night Dinner:
I don’t eat a lot of fancy food. I tend to save it for a nice little sit down like Bar Casa Vale. The anchovy and jamon starters are so good and the paella is on point – flavorful good quality seafood and the rice is crispy.
Wheat Bay Chinese Restaurant, this is a new Chinese restaurant my girl and I went to. They have beef pancakes with garlic chives that blew our minds. The flavors are so strong and delicious. They also have popcorn chicken with a little spice dust on it and I friggin love it.
For the thing she longs for:
I always want fried chicken. I want to say hello to LoRell’s Chicken Shack. It’s crispy chicken and he’s sprinkling some magic dust, some kind of spice powder, on it. It’s an amazing place.
Toki’s delicious flight with fried chicken wings. The Cheeseburger Bao. The noodles. I think it’s just a fun take on food. The staff also provides good service, they are very reassuring.
For a meal in your neighborhood:
I like cedos falafel and gyros. Delicious Lebanese food owned by a couple – Cedo was the grandfather. After training I always get the gyro plate. This is my neighborhood and I’m stuck in my quadrant.
The Yaad-style Jamaican cuisine is also good when I want to take it slow. The oxtails, the beans and the rice, and I always get a beef patty. It’s all amazing.
For a meal that reminds them of home:
One of my favorites that I have to highlight is Erica’s soul food. Get the fried catfish and some extra wings, some grits, kale, and cornbread. It’s still hot and fresh when you take it home.
Kee’s #Loaded Kitchen if you’re trying to feed the family. You get so much food that you can feast on it for two or three days. It reminds me a lot of home, my mother’s kitchen.
For your sweet tooth:
I like little jelly-like squiggly things. Bubble tea and juicy lychee and mochi and halo halo. I like the matcha and shaved ice at Premium Matcha Cafe Maiko on Cesar Chavez.
Sweedeedee recently had this amazing Apricot Carrot Cake. The baker over there [pastry chef Mason Suda] does a damn good job.
For the unique appetizers:
Tamales at Tienda Santa Cruz. The masa is flavorful, soft and smooth, and has the right proportion to the meat. Huaraches, a kind of sope, it’s fried masa and I get it best with sour cream and avocado and tomatoes. When you go there you know it will be consistently good. Mexican-American delights right here in Portland.
The Cold Chicken Clear Noodle Salad at Master Kong. The cucumbers and carrots are crunchy, the noodles have a bit of crunch, and the sauce… It’s a summertime umami bomb. I haven’t experienced anything like this anywhere else.