For me, SE Portland seems to be the area that I spend the least amount of time in. The only reason I can think of is that it is technically the furthest from where I live in NW, but even that excuse doesn't make any real sense. It's a shame that I don't spend more time in SE, because every time I do I find myself loving the area a little more.
In my opinion, SE most closely resembles what people think of when they imagine Portlandia. It is quirky, vintage, "weird" Portland, which is what makes it so charming. Division Street is one of my favorite areas in SE Portland because of the nice mix of newer, more modern shops and restaurants and the older, more Portlandy buildings. One of my favorite restaurants in the whole city, Pok Pok, is here, and you can hop on over to Salt N' Straw for dessert. If you have friends in town make sure to take them down Division so they can get a true taste of what makes this city unique.
Outside of Thailand, Pok Pok has some of the best Thai food I've ever had, hands down. The food is authentic, flavorful and delicious, and their menu is primarily focused on Thai dishes from Northern Thailand. My favorite items on the menu are the Papaya Salad, which is one of my all time favorite Thai dishes, and the Khao Soi, a delicious curry noodle dish popular in Northern Thailand. However, I've heard multiple people say that the chicken wings are the best they have ever had, Thai or not, so I would have to suggest them as well! My tip for Pok Pok is to go for lunch; getting reservations is tough, and it is usually packed in the evenings.
Little T Baker
Normally I am more prone to go for savory dishes over sweet, but there is something irresistible about the baked goods at Little T Baker. The shop smells delicious, and all of the food looks incredible. I'm a sucker for their cookies, especially the shortbread, and can't resist buying some whenever I get the chance. They also have a great selection of breads, as well as small but complete breakfast and lunch menus.
One of my very favorite types of food is Mexican food, and Nuestra Cocina puts a fun, fresh spin on traditional Mexican food. I recommend going with a big group and getting a bunch of things to share- you will want to try as many of their menu items as possible! Their queso fundido is a must, and you can't miss their sopes. They also make a great margarita, and their desserts are all amazing.
If you are looking for the best Italian food in Portland, look no further than Ava Genes. Their menu is classic but elevated, and everything pairs perfectly together. I'm a huge fan of their cheese and bread, and I love their vegetable fritti. I've never had their family style menu, which is essentially a $70 prix fix menu, but my dream is to someday go there, eat as much as possible, and have all the wine I can drink. The next best thing to being in Rome!
Although Sunshine Tavern serves lunch and dinner, my favorite time to visit is for happy hour. My favorite drink is the slushy margarita, but I'm also in love with their summer shandys. Their food is the perfect complement to their drinks- lots of pickled options, as well as a heartier cuisine, and the atmosphere is fun and welcoming. Not a bad place to spend a summer afternoon!
Imperial Bottle Shop & Taproom
I love visiting new bars, and after a recent visit to Pok Pok for dinner my friends and I ducked into Imperial for an after dinner drink. There were lots of great beers on tap, and the bartender was friendly and helpful. He let us sample as many as we wanted and helped steer us towards some of his favorites. As far as the bottle shop component goes, there was quite a good selection of beers and ciders to take home. I would highly recommend Imperial if you aren't quite sure what you are in the mood for but are looking for something great.
Whiskey Soda Lounge
Pok Pok's sister bar, the Whiskey Soda Lounge offers some popular menu items, as well as smaller bar snacks. If you are waiting for your table at Pok Pok the Whiskey Soda Lounge is the perfect place to head for a pre-dinner drink; Pok Pok will call the lounge when your table is ready, and you can have your appetizer course early! Their cocktails match the menu at Pok Pok, and my personal favorites are the Vietnamese Coffee and the Hunny.
If you want a no-nonsense, no fuss bar in Portland, head on over to Apex. They fit in perfectly to the craft-brewery obsessed Portland by only serving a huge selection of beer. They don't serve food, but you are more than welcome to bring in any food items that you like, which makes it the perfect place to stop after hitting up the food carts. Their outdoor seating is quite impressive, so pack a picnic and head over a nice summer night!