We have entered the age of extravagant wood-fired cooking: hand-cranked Grillworks pulley systems, rare charcoal-fueled Josper Ovens, and heritage pizza stoves from Naples—each with five-digit price tags. By our count, at least six spots opened this year with wood-fired bellies, from P.R.E.A.M.’s beautiful matte black Gianni Acunto oven to the Hades-hot binchotan grill at Biwa’s Kotori pop-up. Ned Ludd’s Jason French, one of Portland’s most devoted, longtime wood-fire chefs, has his own skeptical take on the trend: “Wood-fired cooking speaks to this romantic, ancient level of cookery,” he says. “But it’s just an element of cooking within the restaurant. You could be a restaurant with 12 fryers and be ‘the fryer restaurant,’ and maybe that’ll be the next hot trend.”
The hot dog craze of 2015 kicked off with onetime pop-up Stray Dogs, two respected NYC chefs who dreamed up deep-fried chili con corn dogs. Next came Donnie Vegas, a Las Vegas–inspired dog bar, and Clutch Sausagery, selling chicken pad Thai dogs in all-local casing. But it wasn’t until serial chain opener Micah Camden jumped on the bandwagon that local dogs became a real “thing.” Camden simplifies and sensationalizes the humble wiener at his downtowner Hop Dog, using snappy Olympia Provisions sausage and a four-dog list from the basic sauerkraut-ketchup to the “Mick,” with chorizo, chimichurri, and queso fresco.
“You see food halls in Europe, Japan, and all over the world,” says Mike Thelin, culinary consultant at the new Pine Street Market. “Here in America, they are another sign of an urban and culinary renaissance.” Pine Street’s 10,000-square-foot downtown space holds locals like Barista and Olympia Provisions, plus newcomers like Tokyo’s well-respected Marukin Ramen. On the east side, the partially open-air Portland Mercado gathers Hispanic cart cooking, a grocer, and a high-octane Mexican candy shop while a new microrestaurant complex, the Zipper, tucks six eateries (including a falafel shop, coffee roaster, and bar) in less than 8,000 square feet. Next up? The big kahuna, the James Beard Public Market—Portland’s answer to Seattle’s Pike Place—is set to open in 2018.