3 Things You Must Eat in Portland This June

Portland Monthly food critic Karen Brooks dishes on the restaurants, obsessions, and under-the-radar finds of the month.

By Karen Brooks May 26, 2015 Published in the June 2015 issue of Portland Monthly

Ned Ludd meat board.


Eight years in, Ned Ludd’s enduring values are still found on its meat boards: meticulous handcrafted care and an “Oregon or die” mentality. One version recently arrived with prime-season spiky greens, pickled mustard seeds, and sprouted rye bread denser than Kris Jenner. Plus, a double whammy of lardo, both maple-whipped and smoked into rings of exhilarating, pure white creaminess (a gift from a Dundee pig farmer). Ned Ludd speaks very directly to seasonality and taste of place—not as a marketing plan or an Instagram opportunity, but as a core belief, punctuating its message with simple, delicious food. Esquire food critic Josh Ozersky—a recent Portland transplant who died suddenly in May, as this issue went to press—even deemed Ned Ludd his favorite restaurant in America. “It reminds me of (New York’s) Gramercy Tavern in the mid-’90s, but more artful and with access to better mushrooms and pork,” he mentioned after our recent dinner at the Northeast eatery. “It’s the perfect restaurant.” Ozersky was known for extreme passion and meat evangelism. Why argue? 3925 NE MLK Jr. Blvd


After coming within a fork’s length of winning Top Chef’s winter TV food competition, Departure’s Gregory Gourdet is standing taller, stretching further, and reaching deeper into his modern Asian plates. He’s also championing adventure and vegan consciousness to an upscale corporate food crowd. Leaping out from Departure’s spring menu is an artful twisting of braised octopus, fresh-made Chinese sausage, and pickled turnips. It’s tender, funky, tart, and beautiful. But the stunner is a complex, flavor-rocking, new Thai-inspired dessert, which finds Gourdet sliding chile-dusted strawberry ice cream into a creamy pond of coconut ice, burnt coconut jellies, herbs, and candied strawberries. The icy, spicy revelation (pictured below) tastes like spring and determination. 525 SW Morrison St, fifteenth floor

Thai-inspired dessert from Departure's spring menu.


One reason—perhaps the only reason—CSA-farm-driven, Euro-centric Navarre has few lines for its weekend-only brunch: owner John Taboada’s steadfast resolve to serve only what he loves (a.k.a. “Yes, we have no biscuits”). And what does he love? Try eggs by way of Spain, inspired salads (don’t miss the fennel, gruyère, pear, and black pepper), the pâtés and rabbit braises of a French roadside diner, no fewer than 16 specials—plus great bread, great butter, and great jam. Other finds from my last visit: lamb meatballs with savory cherry sauce beneath poached eggs perfect enough to make Julia Child grin as well as mimosas with “any sparkling wine” for the price of a glass. Who needs pancakes? 10 NE 28th Ave, navarreportland.com

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