Chicken pot pie from Punky’s in Portland. Photo by Aimsel Ponti

I’ve lived in the Portland area since the mid-’90s and somehow had never been to Punky’s at its former location on Forest Avenue or the current Brighton Avenue one.

The time had come to rectify that oversight, so I went there twice recently and now have a keen appreciation for what Punky’s has to offer.

This is not a hipster gourmet artisanal type of place that will set you back $15 for a sandwich. Quite the opposite.

Punky’s is a working-class joint on a busy corner, and based on my observations, it feeds a ton of local painters, construction workers, landscapers and other folks who are hungry for lunch but don’t want to part with too many hard-earned dollars.

The food could be described as basic, but I don’t mean that in a bad way. I mean it as praise, because we need places like Punky’s, where you can get a steak and cheese, a breakfast sandwich, burritos, and daily specials, like macaroni and cheese, at affordable prices.

On both visits, I watched workers stream in and out, ordering items from a prepared foods counter like chicken parmesan sandwiches and chicken pot pie.


Speaking of chicken pot pie, that’s what I ordered on my first visit, and it was a sizeable portion packed with chicken, carrots, corn and green beans.

Falafel wrap from Punky’s. Photo by Aimsel Ponti

About a week later, I decided to pay Punky’s another visit, this time with my partner, Tracy, in tow. I treated her to lunch and was rewarded with keen observations on the falafel wrap ($7.50) that she said came as advertised, with a generous portion of falafel patties, lettuce, shredded carrots, cucumber slices and tomatoes with a tahini sauce.

Tracy appreciated that the vegetables were fresh, though she thought there were too many shredded carrots and not enough cucumbers and tomatoes.

The falafel patties were warm and crisp on the outside and dense on the inside. The official report was that the wrap tasted great and stayed moist without getting soggy, and the dressing was tangy and complemented the spice of the patties well.

Steak & Cheese sub from Punky’s. Photo by Aimsel Ponti

I went to the other end of the spectrum from Tracy on visit number two. While she opted for vegan, I went full carnivore with an old-school steak and cheese ($5.50 for the half size). Thankfully, I ordered the small because it was plenty big. I opted for lettuce and onion, and the sandwich was blanketed in plenty of cheese, and I tore into it like I hadn’t eaten in days. Hot, flavorful and absolutely delicious.

Punky’s has been around since the mid-’90s, and I’m glad because Portland needs places like it to keep the average Joe and Jane well fed without emptying their wallets.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: