Michelin has never ventured into the scrappy heart of Portland’s food scene. The Rose City has willfully rejected traditional fine dining. Yet, an argument could be made that Portland, taken as a whole (farmers markets to coffee shops), is the country’s most exciting food city. And that’s just what The Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema did in naming our city America’s best food destination.
Earlier this year, Sietsema set out on a quest to define and rank America’s 10 best food cities. He spent two months on the road and posted critiques of cities along the way. Some of the places that caught his heart during his Portland immersion in June: Nodoguro (Portland Monthly’s Restaurant of the Year 2015), Langbaan, Castagna, Pepe Le Moko, Nuvrei, and Heart Coffee. He even braved the lines at Screen Door.
What impressed him was the totality of options from top to bottom: wait-listed breakfasts, seasonal fast food chains, the abundant bounty, and, of course, vegan strip clubs. “Personally, I’d pick first-class farmers markets or some of the country’s trailblazing Asian retreats (hello, Pok Pok!) over a place that charges triple digits for dinner,” writes Sietsema. “And it doesn’t hurt that everyone, fellow customers and servers alike, is Minnesota Nice. In one week, I never once heard a car horn.”
Portland Monthly’s food critic Karen Brooks is an oft-quoted pundit in Wash Po’s Portland segment. “We’re the Wild West of food,” says Brooks. “People here channel the traditions they love, often European or Asian, and make them their own.” Click here for The Washington Post video piece, featuring interviews with Brooks and food editor Benjamin Tepler.
The competition was certainly fierce. Seitsema ranked his own home town, Washington D.C., at No. 9, even with hot spots like Rose’s Luxury. San Francisco and Los Angeles—two exciting places to be eating and drinking right now—come in at number two and three, respectively. “Not every trip produced fruit. (Maybe next year, Nashville and Seattle?),” writes Sietsema. The slight to Seattle echoes the sentiment of infamous GQ writer Alan Richman, who said in a 2012 restaurant guide: “…I always said such a cultural and culinary makeover would occur in Seattle. But Seattle, it turned out, was just like every other city, and Portland was something else.”