Image: Karen Brooks

Yonder & Mae

Few restaurants were more anticipated this year than two dining projects from chef Maya Lovelace. A NE Portland supper club pop-up called Mae had made her a rising star, thanks to seriously delicious triple-fat-fried chicken and warm, personal Southern feasts at communal tables. Lovelace and partner Zach Lefler secured a brick-and-mortar, to great fanfare, with a plan to open two places under one roof: Yonder, a fried chicken diner, up front, and a chamber in back to take Mae’s tasting menus to the next level. It didn’t go exactly as planned. After nearly two years of delays, every step documented by the media, Yonder opened in the spring, with surprisingly mixed results. As the kitchen worked to scale up for real restaurant crowds, the once-vaunted chicken lost some of its hop and side dishes slumped. Yonder’s lunch-counter concept was jettisoned, replaced by table service dinner hours, and the jury is still out. Luckily, its weekend brunch, launched in August, is on the rise, with buxom bowls of yolk-domed catfish and grits and pound cake waffles stacked like British berries-and-cream cake. This is the Lovelace we crow over. Reservations-only Mae quietly debuted in August, too, with more formal presentations. An early visit yielded intensely seasonal plates, major biscuits, and promise. We’ll be back. 4636 NE 42nd Ave, Suite A 

Erizo

You would think a super sustainable, fisher-direct seafood restaurant would be a cliché at this point in Portland, where localism is celebrated at near (and actual) parody levels. Turns out, it was unprecedented until Erizo showed up last winter, with two unknown chefs and a radical point of view. Here, in a tiny Southeast space, Jacob Harth and Nick Van Eck put little-known invasive, overlooked, and accidentally caught species front and center in $200 tasting menus, complete with wine pairings. Instead of Oregon’s beloved Dungeness, you’re eating less-iconic rock crab or perhaps a few barnacles you’ve never heard of. Eater crowned it one of the 16 Best New Restaurants in America in July. We’d call it Portland’s best new concept ... Erizo is admirable and ambitious. But so far, the idea is more compelling than the food—or experience—especially given the price tag. If Erizo can dial up the personal warmth and refine the flavors, it could win both hearts and minds. 215 SE Ninth Ave

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