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Chef Peter Cho of Han Oak, our 2017 Restaurant of the Year

Each year, when the time comes to plan our November issue, we Portland Monthly editors face the happy challenge of distilling the essence of a year in one of the country’s great food cities. Sometimes, no single restaurant or chef steps forward to put their stamp on the scene—last year, for example, we anointed two “rising stars” rather than a single restaurant of the year. Often, we find ourselves drawn to singular experiences, standout dishes, and notable culinary visions rather than the old, amuse bouche-to-stately port model of destination dining.

In 2017, that feels like Portland: a food city built on individualistic riffs, narrow-but-deep experiments, and mercurial explosions of flavor and invention. Don’t get us wrong: we’d love it if someone here cracked Champagne on a grand battleship of top-tier fine-dining. We’d love a Cascadian Noma, fired with global ambition. But right now, Portland food is a constellation of smaller, weirder little worlds of their own. To know it requires a sense of adventure—we offer our annual Best Restaurants feature as a road map.

You could start with the Restaurant of the Year. Yes, there is one, undisputed in our eyes: Han Oak. As Karen Brooks writes, Peter Cho’s inventive take on a Korean restaurant “rewrites the rules, charms hearts, and dominates the conversation.”

Our chefs of the year, Sam Smith of Tusk and Joshua McFadden of Ava Gene’s, have collaborated to define a style of cooking and eating that’s starting to feel like it’s just how we order, eat, and cook.

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The spread at Bar Casa Vale

Bar Casa Vale certainly has a tale to tell: the vibrant Spanish drinking/dining spot barely survived the brutal times of winter 2016. Now it’s the place for intense woodfired bites and horizon-expanding drinks.

Stacked Sandwich Shop provided a sandwich-fixated town with next-level sand-gineering. Sorry. It’s true.

 Three “unrestaurants”—Tournant, Jolie Laide, and Shipwreck—moved beyond the gimmickry of pop-ups to prove that fun can operate on its own damn schedule.

The most prim and proper entrant on our list, Russian Tea Experience at Headwaters, is a legendary chef’s dreamy recreation of old-world elegance. We’ll take it.

Meanwhile, over at Shizuku, chef Naoko Tamura is collaborating with a world-class architect, using Yoda techniques on vegetables and meat, and setting Portland’s most unusual single table.

The Australian coffee-and-brunch zealots at Proud Mary put a seriously geeky (and lavishly bearded) face on mornings on NE Alberta.

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A few of Paadee‘s laabs, with the poke-esque king salmon dish front and center

The dish of the year: fiery and wild Northeastern Thai laabs at Paadee. Poke never knew what hit it.

In an era that is, well, somewhat depressing, Güero’s supremely joyful take on the Mexican torta feel like a national necessity. Likewise the rocket-fuel affogato Cubano at Fifty Licks. The fact that you can walk from one to the other around East Burnside and 28th: bonus.

The lighter side of the ramen trend charmed us at Kayo’s Ramen Bar. And then we pretty much retired for the evening atop Al Metro, the titanic triple-sized pies at Vitaly Paley’s new Crown Pizza.

Gregory Gourdet at Departure is the city’s dessert artist, working a palette of ash, green apple, and Thai basil.

Of Duck House, a newcomer downtown, Kelly Clarke writes: “A throwback Chinese restaurant in a defunct brewpub…[is] a Szechuan-style haven for crisp-skinned Peking duck and simmering fish stew.” And the dumplings…the dummmmmpliiiiiiiings.

For at least four reasons, Providore is the city’s greatest food hall—a fantasy grocery store, fish market, and roast-chicken stand that would serve very well as a triumphant conclusion to a tour of this city’s tastiest places. 

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Editor’s Pick

Arrosto

$$ Italian, Mediterranean 2340 NE Sandy Blvd

The best thing at Providore Fine foods on NE Sandy—even better than the mini oyster bar and overflowing produce stand—might be Arrosto, a tiny rotisserie chi...

Editor’s Pick

Duck House

$ Chinese 1968 SW 5th Ave

Roasted, hung, and dried in traditional Beijing style, this PSU-area haunt serves sliced duck generously but unceremoniously on a platter arrayed with scalli...

Editor’s Pick

Departure Restaurant & Lounge

$$$ Asian, Vegan, Vegetarian 525 SW Morrison St

When New York high-end kitchen vet Gregory Gourdet took over the Nines hotel’s astro-sleek 15th-floor restaurant in 2010, it was better known for its bridge-...

Editor’s Pick

The Crown

$$ Pizza 410 SW Broadway

Portland food legend Vitaly Paley and third generation pizzaiolo Vinny Manna team up for some of the best pizza downtown, with a tight list of messy-wonderfu...

Editor’s Pick

Kayo's Ramen Bar

$$ Ramen 3808 N. Williams Ave #124

The ramen boom sometimes feels like one of those signifiers Portlanders are supposed to embrace—like woodworking, or beard oil—to demonstrate our artisanal m...

Editor’s Pick

Fifty Licks Ice Cream

$ Dessert, Vegan Multiple Locations

It'll only take one lick to fall in love with the custard style ice cream from Chad Draizin at this ice cream parlor on SE Clinton St.

Editor’s Pick

Güero

$ Mexican, Sandwiches 200 NE 28th Ave

After four years in the food cart trenches, the beloved torta spot has transformed into a full-on cantina. The counter-service spot serves up eight or nine t...

Editor’s Pick

Paadee

$$ Thai 6 SE 28th Ave

This casual Thai spot is often overshadowed by its finer-dining sister operation, Langbaan, but Paadee has its own delights: teak tables lit by birdcage ligh...

Editor’s Pick

Proud Mary

$$ Breakfast / Brunch, Coffee 2012 NE Alberta St

This Alberta Street spot doubles as a fancy brunch destination serving Aussie-inflected fare and a cupping bar brewing flights of coffees so rare some aren’t...

Editor’s Pick

Shizuku by Chef Naoko

$$ Japanese, Pacific Northwest, Vegetarian 1237 SW Jefferson St

Japanese families and in-the-know locals come for Naoko Tamura’s Oregon-inspired Japanese comfort foods. Bento is the star of the lunch-only menu: light, hea...

Editor’s Pick

Headwaters

$$$ Seafood 1001 SW Broadway St.

The Heathman Hotel's nearly century-old dining room and bar received a seriously modern makeover in 2016. Even more impressive is the huge, ambitious, seafoo...

Editor’s Pick

Stacked Sandwich Shop

$$ Sandwiches 1643 SE 3rd Ave.

It’s a brave new fast-casual-eatery world, with a high-end sandwich shop on every corner. But even in this crowded field, the Central Eastside Industrial Dis...

Editor’s Pick

Bar Casa Vale

$$ Spanish 215 SE 9th Ave

BCV is Clyde Common restaurateur Nate Tilden’s take on an authentic sherry and tapas bar. Wood smoke permeates the menu, from crispy game hen in tangy mojo s...

Editor’s Pick

Ava Gene's

$$$ Italian 3377 SE Division St

In the neighborhood that birthed Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Duane Sorenson’s ode to Italy, Brooklyn, and the People’s Republic of Portland swings like an ind...

Editor’s Pick

Tusk

$$ Middle Eastern, Pacific Northwest 2448 E Burnside St

A farm-fresh Mideast remix beckons Portland into the light.

Editor’s Pick

Han Oak

$$ Korean 511 NE 24th Ave

An unmarked door at the end of a tiny parking lot in Northeast leads to a hidden restaurant space that doubles as chef/owner Peter Cho’s home, charming front...

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