Food Editor & Critic

Karen Brooks eats, drinks and thinks about food for Portland Monthly, where she continues her journey as Portland’s opinionated, trend-spotting food critic. She pens monthly restaurant reviews, writes and photographs the print magazine’s Word of Mouth column (aka: what I’m obsessing over now), drives the annual Best Restaurants issue, contributes to various food-cover packages, and breaks news for the magazine’s food blog, Eat Beat.

Karen began her journalism career at alt-weekly Willamette Week, doubling as food critic and Arts & Culture editor. Then she jumped ship to the Oregonian, doing double-duty again as Arts czarina and Food Critic while creating two of the daily’s most enduring sections: the weekly A&E and the annual Diner guide. At Portland Monthly since 2010, she’s continued her mission of ferreting out new restaurant models and maverick thinkers defining Portland’s food voice.

In her spare time, Karen is rabid NBA baller, film/TV junkie, and food author. She’s written nine books to date, most recently a book on Portland’s punk-rock food scene, The Mighty Gastropolis: A Journey Through America’s New Food Culture. 

Best Restaurants 2016

Portland’s Best New Restaurants of 2016

Dynamic change, new players, and deliciously bold concepts executed with serious attention to detail: here are the 12 places that define Portland’s food scene right now.

10/10/2016 By Karen Brooks, Kelly Clarke, and Benjamin Tepler

Best Restaurants 2016: Bucket List

30 Portland Restaurants for the Ultimate Local Dining Bucket List

Hope you’re hungry. Here are 30 top picks from Portland Monthly editors.

10/10/2016 By Kelly Clarke, Karen Brooks, and Benjamin Tepler

Best Restaurants 2016: Repeat Offenders

Four Portland Dishes We Ate Over and Over and Over Again in 2016

Fried catfish to porridge (no, really), we just can’t get enough.

10/10/2016 By Benjamin Tepler, Karen Brooks, and Kelly Clarke

Best Restaurants 2016: Brunch Bliss

Three Exceptional New Portland Brunches—Without Lines

Only chumps wait for their waffles.

10/10/2016 By Karen Brooks and Zach Dundas

Best Restaurants: On the Verge

Four Intriguing Portland Restaurants Opening Soon

From lavish Russian tea service to pakora-fried chicken, these spots should light up our winter.

10/10/2016 By Kelly Clarke, Karen Brooks, and Ramona DeNies

Best Restaurants 2016: Almost Perfect

Three New Portland Spots That Are 80 Percent Awesome

Superbite, Pine Street Market, and Tastebud: it’s complicated.

10/10/2016 By Kelly Clarke and Karen Brooks

Best Restaurants 2016: Neighborhood Excellence

Portland’s Best Everyday, Michelin-Caliber Restaurant: Coquine

This neighborhood spot came to slay—very politely.

10/10/2016 By Karen Brooks

Best Restaurants 2016: Xurroland

Portland’s Best Dessert of 2016: Xurros at 180

Behold the life-altering power of a tube of fried dough.

10/10/2016 By Karen Brooks

Best Restaurants 2016: Catalan Modernism

Portland’s Best Spot for Real Barcelona Paella (and Xurros): Chesa

Where Catalan modernism meets the ultimate X(urros) factor.

10/10/2016 By Karen Brooks

Best Restaurants 2016: Supahardcore

Portland’s Best “Supahardcore” Japanese: Nodoguro

From pop-up beginnings to a Zen-vintage space on Belmont, the champion of “Supahardcore” Japanese doubles down.

10/10/2016 By Karen Brooks

Best Restaurants 2016: Pumped-Up Korean

Portland Monthly’s Rising Star Restaurant of 2016: Revelry

Seattle stars and local nightlife talent bring us pumped-up Korean and throwback hip-hop.

10/10/2016 By Karen Brooks

Best Restaurants 2016: Mideast Remix

Portland Monthly’s Rising Star Restaurant of 2016: Tusk

With a beautiful room and beautiful food, a Mideast-meets-Portland restaurant turns heads with the most unlikely of stars: salads.

10/10/2016 By Karen Brooks

Breaking News

Biwa to Reboot as Two Eateries: A Sashimi Chef’s Counter and a DJ-Spinning Japanese Bar

On October 16, Portland’s DIY Japanese pub pioneer moves down the hall to become Biwa Izakaya. The original space will become Parasol Bar in November.

10/05/2016 By Karen Brooks

Food Coma

Feast Portland 2016: A Retrospective

Senior editor Kelly Clarke and restaurant critic Karen Brooks recount four days of country ham chocolate bars, enormous shrimp tower phalluses, and heavenly Asian breakfast.

09/21/2016 By Karen Brooks and Kelly Clarke

Word of Mouth

Find Portland’s Best Unknown Brunch at Whiskey Soda Lounge

Food critic Karen Brooks dishes with Pok Pok kingpin Andy Ricker over Vietnamese coffee, patangko doughnuts, and coddled eggs.

09/13/2016 By Karen Brooks


Lovely’s Fifty Fifty Perfects the Portland Pizza

After nearly seven years, the N Mississippi Avenue spot has gone from solid to sensational.

09/13/2016 By Karen Brooks

The Long Play

PODCAST: Mike Thelin and Karen Brooks on the Madness and Inspiration behind Feast Portland

The food festival cofounder joins Portland Monthly's food critic to talk overnight lamb shipments, muse on what makes Portland chefs different, and taste-test some brisket-filled chocolate.

09/12/2016 By Karen Brooks


How the (Food Cart) Pod People Took Over

In 2009, a half-empty lot called Cartopia became Portland's new living room.

08/17/2016 By Karen Brooks

'Tude with Our China

Wine Snobs, Moody Bastards, and Game Hens: Inside the Vat and Tonsure

From 1978 to 1997, this idiosyncratic downtown boîte was the epicenter of Portland culture.

08/15/2016 By Karen Brooks


Portland’s Restaurant History: The People, Places, and Plates That Set Our City’s Epic Table

How did we conquer the food world? We chronicle more than a century of Portland dining.

08/15/2016 Edited by Kelly Clarke By Karen Brooks, Benjamin Tepler, Molly Woodstock, and Michael Zusman