Many of Portland Oregon’s highly touted restaurants are in the quaint neighborhoods that surround the vibrant downtown. I found that same neighborhood feel sitting on the Nel Centro patio with cocktail in hand even though we were in the downtown theater district surrounded by tall buildings.

Patio at Nel Centro

Relax on the Patio. Photo courtesy: Nel Centro

Getting to Know Nel Centro

I was recently invited to help celebrate Nel Centro’s 7 years of success in downtown Portland and was reminded that Nel Centro is, indeed, in the center of everything in Portland. If you are downtown for a performance or just enjoying the beauty of a warm summer night, consider stopping in to Nel Centro for a signature cocktail, appetizers or a meal.

Nel Centro Cocktail

Nel Centro signature cocktail: Magic Flute Prosecco.
Photo by: Elizabeth R Rose

Nel Centro, with chef/owner David Machado at the helm, has become a popular place for cocktails, dinner or after theater noshing. Using local, seasonal foods, Nel Centro chefs prepare classic dishes of Northern Italy and Southeast France.

In addition to Nel Centro, David Machado owns Altabira, the rooftop sensation at Hotel Eastlund, as well as Citizen Baker, the street-level bakery and cafe next to the lobby. Hotel Eastlund was opened a little over a year ago on the inner east side of Portland just across the Steel Bridge from Old Town and the Pearl District.

Altabira at Hotel Eastlund

The magnificent view at Hotel Eastlund's Altabira.
Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

Dining at Nel Centro

We enjoyed sampling the cuisine on this festive occasion and came away knowing Nel Centro was not only convenient to Portland’s arts district, it was a dinner destination for visitors and Portland suburbanites. They are masters at wood-fired pizzas and pasta. We sampled several dishes, including those below, but the lamb shank with couscous and asparagus, especially, was a memorable dish enticing me to return to enjoy again.

Duck Confit

Nel Centro's duck confit with kumquat gastrique was just a starter.
Photo by: Elizabeth R Rose

Lamb Shank at Nel Centro

Lamb shank with couscous and asparagus and parmagiano reggiano – My favorite. Photo by: Elizabeth R Rose


Wild mushroom and gorgonzola pizza. Photo by: Elizabeth R Rose

Nel Centro Pasta

Spinach and ricotta tortellini.
Photo by: Elizabeth R Rose

Beet Salad

Roasted beets with baked ricotta, arugula, citrus and hazelnuts.
Photo by: Elizabeth R Rose

Nel Centro has certainly put the class in casual dining without losing the feeling of community. You can dine inside the light-filled dining room or stay outside relaxing around one of the blazing fire tables. Choose from an expansive wine list from Italy, France and the Pacific Northwest or check out the eight rotating beers and ciders on tap. Specialty cocktails are often named for an opera or ballet title, like “Magic Flute” Prosecco and “Sweeney Todd, ” a bourbon drink.

Inside Dining

Light and airy inside dining.
Photo by: Elizabeth R Rose

We were surprised to discover that Nel Centro has two ultra-cool private dining rooms. One, a game room, has huge flat screen TVs and games like shuffleboard and darts. Add in a trendy retro couch and fuzzy pillows and you have a setting where you and your friends can relax.

Nel Centro Private Party Room

Nel Centro has rooms for private parties with a fun and upbeat vibe.
Photo by: Elizabeth R Rose

With warm weather upon us, you’ll want to experience dining al fresco. Relax and enjoy downtown Portland!

If You Go

Nel Centro is open for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. Lot parking is nearby or use the handy valet service at the adjacent Hotel Modera for only $5.

1408 SW Sixth Ave
Portland, OR 97201
Reservations: 503.484.1099

As is common in the travel industry, we were provided with a complimentary meal for purposes of review. While this has not influenced this content, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.

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