Behind an outdated door in Northeast Portland marked by an odd little man-cat hybrid, one of many metropolis’s finest eating places just lately staged a shock revival.
Housed inside a dimly lit former tavern, the non permanent pop-up got here from Nodoguro homeowners Ryan and Elena Roadhouse, and was an opportunity to revisit the flavors of the couple’s elusive, unique Japanese chef’s counter — dashi-infused sungold tomatoes, impeccably sourced sashimi, good rice bowls blanketed in salmon and good salmon roe.
However like a inexperienced shoot poking by way of a burnt forest, it was additionally the most recent signal that Portland’s once-overachieving restaurant scene may very well be approaching one thing resembling a restoration. All throughout town, standard cooks are unfurling long-awaited tasks, newcomers are sprouting contemporary views and outdated favorites, many torched by the pandemic, are mounting comebacks straight from their charred rootstock.
That’s to not say issues look as they did, or that we must always need them to. Many locals stay cautious of eating indoors, and even on one in every of Portland’s many nice patios. Efforts to enhance working situations within the restaurant business stay a piece in progress, with a full accounting of change, constructive or in any other case, unlikely for years
And a few scene-defining eating places aren’t coming again. Of the 40 locations highlighted in our ultimate pre-COVID restaurant information, at the least 10 are completely shuttered (Abyssinian Kitchen, Acadia, Ataula, Bistro Agnes, Holdfast Eating, Ned Ludd, Paley’s Place, Pok Pok, Toro Bravo and Trifecta, which closed simply earlier than the pandemic), two stay “briefly” closed (Ava Gene’s and Olympia Provisions NW), one shifted to a restaurant-market mannequin (Beast, now Ripe Cooperative) and one went again to its pop-up roots (Nodoguro).
Even so, the caliber and tempo of restaurant openings look like selecting up. In early July, we listed 22 intriguing new Portland eating places to know for 2022, and nonetheless acquired emails about locations readers thought we missed. And that’s all earlier than the official opening of Gregory Gourdet’s upcoming wood-fired Haitian restaurant Kann, maybe essentially the most anticipated debut of the previous three years.
And so, three months in the past, we made a listing of all of the intriguing new locations to open prior to now 12 months or so, then got down to hit all of them. It was an opportunity to start out researching our annual information to Portland’s finest new eating places, make amends for current openings we’ve missed and collect intel for anybody who is perhaps hungry to enterprise again out.
Listed below are three classes we discovered about Portland’s new eating scene, plus 17 locations to go in case you’re undecided the place to start.
Each restaurant is a steakhouse, with or with out the steak
When Oregon lifted its COVID-19 restrictions in 2021, it wasn’t clear that folks have been able to return to eating places, or what they wished to eat after they did. One 12 months later, a solution is rising: When individuals do exit, they’re trying to go massive.
Name it The Roaring 20s, 2.0
Resulting from rising meals and labor prices, costs have gone up all through town, with a mean dinner at lots of the standard new eating places we visited reaching or surpassing $300 for 2, together with tip. A lot of these eating places are leaning into the ritz, providing the trimmings of a steakhouse, even after they don’t serve precise steak.
Caesar salads are in every single place. Ditto oysters. After which there’s the shrimp cocktail, the as soon as dominant American hors d’oeuvre, extra just lately confined to older-school haunts akin to Jake’s Crawfish, Ringside Steakhouse or Clyde’s Prime Rib. However enterprise out right now, and also you may discover a deconstructed shrimp cocktail with cocktail sauce and minced tamarind at Sunshine Noodles (2175 N.W. Raleigh St., #105), chef Diane Lam’s Cambodian-inspired noodle spot; or 5 plump shrimp chilling with contemporary lettuce wraps on the simply opened second location of Canard (1500 Washington St., Oregon Metropolis).
At Phuket Cafe (1818 N.W. twenty third Place), the most recent smash hit from chef-owner Earl Ninsom (Hat Yai, PaaDee), prawns come floating in turmeric curry. However in lots of different methods, the restaurant — which shares its house with the relocated Langbaan — has steakhouse vibes, all the way down to the dry-aged ribeyes and pork chops pulled from the open charcoal grill. Nonetheless, this meals is something however staid. That steak is served sliced with the bone and a fiery tomato relish for dipping. And also you’ve by no means had veggie sides just like the sticky curry-glazed fried potatoes or broccolini with abalone and oyster sauce at Morton’s.
Additionally in Northwest Portland, Takibi (2275 N.W. Flanders St.), a year-old restaurant hooked up to the showroom of Japanese outside gear specialists Snow Peak, is rightfully identified for a cocktail program led by bartending legend Jim Meehan (Please Don’t Inform) and rising Portland star Lydia McLuen (Dottír). However the izakaya menu, now overseen by Nimblefish’s Cody Auger, provides a lot to advocate, together with delicate sashimi aged in-house or flash-cooked over burning straw; crave-worthy rooster karaage; and steaks pulled from the beautiful grill. Izakaya or not, the charred, bone-in lamb chop — when correctly trimmed — may be the star of a meal.
When Pasture (1413 N.E. Alberta St.) first opened, cooks Kei Ohdera and John Schaible deliberate to drag steaks straight from the butcher counter and sear them to order alongside small plates and wine, two nights every week. However after an preliminary run, the restaurant has zeroed in on lunch, particularly a lineup of tasty sandwiches, many made with house-cured meats, and one of many metropolis’s finest burgers, made with course-ground beef and lamb and a wholesome slab of what tastes like gruyere. That is the place to go for anybody lacking the sandwiches on the just lately closed Tails & Trotters.
Talking of cocktails, Pacific Commonplace (100 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.), the brand new foyer bar at Icelandic hostel KEX from former Clyde Widespread duo Jeffrey Morgenthaler and Benjamin “Banjo” Amberg, boasts a tavern menu that’s proper on development. Sure, there’s a jumbo prawn cocktail with garlic aioli, however you’ll additionally discover Willapa Bay oysters, “Tijuana-style” Caesar salads and a grilled hanger steak frites. And this is perhaps the one restaurant on the earth the place French onion dip comes with Ruffles and an non-compulsory $100 caviar complement.
Akadi West African restaurant 2022
Previous eating places make a cautious comeback
The short-lived Nodoguro pop-up wrapped up in mid-July, however the Roadhouses plan to return in a brand new area, with a brand new menu, possible specializing in sushi.
They’re not the one outdated restaurant mounting a comeback. Davenport (2215 E. Burnside St.), the house of longtime native chef Kevin Gibson’s deft, seasonal cooking, quietly reopened final 12 months after an prolonged closure. Berlu (605 S.E. Belmont St.), which reinvented itself as a bakery, noodle store and even evening market through the pandemic, additionally rebooted final 12 months, including flavors from chef Vince Nguyen’s Vietnamese heritage to its signature tasting menu.
Wooden-fired Italian restaurant Renata (626 S.E. Important St.), which pivoted to promoting wholesale pizza through the pandemic, just lately reopened with restricted dinner service, three nights every week. And Han Oak (511 N.E. twenty fourth Ave.), the fashionable Korean restaurant that was our 2017 Restaurant of the 12 months, reopened in February with a brand new sizzling pot format targeted on gently aged, fantastically marbled meats. After an early summer time break, the restaurant reopened once more, this time serving a few of those self same high quality components marinated and grilled, Korean-style, over dwell coals.
Akadi (1001 S.E. Division St.), chef Fatou Ouattara’s standard West African restaurant, reopened in Could in a bigger area stuffed with sundown colours and funky hanging vegetation. Ouattara, who closed her authentic restaurant in 2020, traveled again to Ivory Coast to study extra concerning the components and recipes of her homeland. In apply, that appears like a handful of recent dishes added to the acquainted jollof rice, poisson braisé (grilled fish) and mafe (peanut butter stew), most notably a brand new lineup of tropical fruit cheesecakes. Reservations — and persistence, as meals may be sluggish to reach — are really helpful.
Although it solely opened final fall, the all-day Cafe Olli (3925 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.), feels a bit like a rebirth, opening within the former Ned Ludd area with a crew of proficient cooks, bakers and front-of-house execs, many from Submarine Hospitality group eating places Ava Gene’s and Tusk. You’ll be able to cease by after 9 a.m. for pastries, breads and different breakfast-y issues, however the transfer is to attend till 3 p.m., when the brick oven begins firing thin-crusted pizzas with fantastically char-dappled edge crusts. After visiting all of Portland’s many pandemic-time pizzerias, the easy tomato pie with translucent strips of garlic and a dollop of stracciatella added to every slice was the one most spectacular pizza we tried.
Is it time to have enjoyable once more? Sure (form of)
Even with COVID-19 instances and hospitalizations on the decline, it stays essential to take care when eating indoors, each on your personal well being and that of these round you. However after greater than two years of masks and social distancing, new Portland eating places appear to be embracing a festive environment as soon as extra. That would imply something from seating friends outdoor in a mock Thai prepare automobile at Phuket Cafe, or topping pad Thai with fried trout or smooth shell crab at Rukdiew Cafe (2534 S.E. Belmont St.), a colourful new Thai spot with a splendidly spicy khao soi.
Earlier than the pandemic, Portland cooks appeared decided to reinvent the pink sauce Italian joint, with eating places and pop-ups together with Omerta, Il Solito and Ava Geno’s whipping out red-checked tablecloths and menus stuffed with garlic bread, sauce-splattered pastas and rooster cacciatore (whether or not the format truly wanted reinventing is one other story).
However none of these since-closed ideas nailed what’s nice about Italian-American meals like Gabbiano’s (5411 N.E. thirtieth Ave.). This new restaurant in a breezy Concordia neighborhood area fills up 5 nights every week with completely happy individuals consuming massive salads, greater plates of rooster Parmesan, sauce-drenched cups of fried mozzarella and extra lemon drops and espresso martinis than a full season of “Beneath Deck.” The meals is sweet, the vibe is nice and there’s often an ice-cold tropical slushie rotating close to the entrance.
Paradise Mariscos (2821 N.E. Davis St.) is perhaps the largest shock of the 12 months, a pleasant Mexican seafood restaurant popping up 4 nights every week on the car parking zone behind Güero from now till the tip of summer time. Led by chef Adán Fausto, who cooked at high-level California kitchens, Paradise places a intelligent spin on the acquainted, including pickled pinto beans to a plate of shrimp and mussels; stuffing flautas with decadent black cod and melting cheese; or mixing a bit koji-marinated octopus in with the chorizo and confited potato within the pambazo, a petite sandwich painted with guajillo chile sauce. The decor is pure pastel-toned Los Angeles, by the use of tropical Tulum, with misters and shady vegetation holding issues cool, even on sizzling days.
You will get throwback smash burgers from Burger Stevens, smoked brisket tacos from Matt’s BBQ Tacos, or a date-night worthy meal — beginning with fresh-shucked oysters, ending with a composed dessert — from Poppyseed. But when there’s one motive Hinterland (2216 S.E. fiftieth Ave.) is setting a brand new customary for meals cart pods, it’s the bar. That’s largely due to Taylor Gehrts (Trifecta), whose drinks checklist features a dozen faucets of nice Northwest beer and two cocktails for every of the pod’s 5 carts. My favorites: a boozy amaretto root beer float and a vermouth-heavy “reverse Manhattan” designed to pair with meals from Burger Stevens.
Early visions of flaming saganaki cheese, free-flowing ouzo cocktails, plated smashed with a cry of “Opa!” and different totems of a energetic Greek-American restaurant didn’t fairly materialize at Bluto’s (2838 S.E. Belmont St.). As an alternative, the enjoyable comes within the type of Lardo proprietor Rick Gencarelli and chef Barry Fitzpatrick’s cooking, with wedge salads drizzled in “ranchziki,” spiced lamb and rooster skewers grilled on an open fireplace and little rounds of mochi-soft flatbread ripped and dragged by way of tahini-rich hummus. Regardless of being counter-service, the vibe is extra date evening than “Animal Home,” however the meals retains issues entertaining.
— Michael Russell