While Honky Tonk Taco was flailing, owner Nate Tilden was busy building his Spanish tapas and sherry bar, tailor-made for smoky eats, crushed ice highballs, and vivacious crowds.
Life and business partners Gabe Rosen and Kina Voelz marked the 10-year anniversary of Biwa by transforming their 600-square-foot office down the hall from the original restaurant (inside the Pine Street Studios Building) into the candle-lit, Toyko-cute Biwa Izakaya. Meanwhile, the former Biwa space was reborn as Bar Parasol, a casual Japanese gastropub with a DJ station for turntable music.
The second act from Ataula’s modernist star is a wonder of paella and xurros. Chesa and 180 are two of our Best Restaurants 2016.
Portland’s first restaurant dedicated to natural wine comes courtesy of nationally celebrated expert Dana Frank (formerly of Ava Gene’s) and co-owner Jane Smith (the Knock Back). The well-versed staff and light, vegetable-focused dishes from Seattle chef Eli Dahlin (Walrus and the Carpenter, Damn the Weather) made this one of the best spots to eat and drink in 2016.
Perhaps the coolest restaurant of the moment, and one of our Best Restaurants 2016, Han Oak is a casual Korean hodgepodge (and culinary incubator) from New York player Peter Cho.
This was the year that Langbaan’s Akkapong “Earl” Ninsom introduced us to Southern Thai cooking. If Langbaan is the Thai master class, Hat Yai is a short, breezy elective. Another of our Best Restaurants 2016, the long, counter-service bunker on NE Killingsworth is a study of its namesake city near the Malaysian border, where a large Muslim population and tropical climate make their own Southeast Asian gallimaufry.
Headwaters (and Vitaly Paley’s Russian Tea Experience)
James Beard-medaled chef Vitaly Paley and executive chef Ken Norris reimagined the nearly century-old dining room and bar at the Heathman, with a huge, ambitious, seafood-obsessed menu. That, and the Heathman’s Tea Court Lounge, now a Russian tea service replete with towers of traditional pierogi, Kiev tortes, and fragrant tea served in heirloom samovars.
It takes chutzpah and chops to flip the script on formal Japanese cuisine and sushi art. Former pop-up Nodoguro did just that, adding a chatterbox dinner-party vibe, maverick dishes, and zany pop culture muses from Twin Peaks to computer games. In 2016, chef Ryan Roadhouse and his wife, Elena, jumped from a jerry-rigged Hawthorne kitchen to Belmont’s storied Genoa space, which they recast as an intimate, Zen-vintage stage for their Michelin-caliber meals.
This year we were finally graced with real, bona fide ramen. Gaggles of Japanese tourists now line up outside Marukin Ramen’s narrow, crimson-hued dining room on SE Ankeny Street alongside the rest of us to try the celebrated Tokyo chain’s first stateside outpost. One of our 2016 Best Restaurants, Marukin’s opening quickly preceded another ramen great…
Tokyo legend Afuri ramen passed up London, New York and Dubai for their first foreign outpost. Afuri’s main requirement? A city with pure, ramen-worthy water. Lucky for us, Portland was at the top of the list. Read our first impressions of their signature yuzu shio broth here.
The long-awaited downtown food hall concept finally opened this year with nine local food titans throwing their hats into the ring, from slices of Ken Forkish’s acclaimed pizza at Trifecta Annex to soft serve at Wiz Bang, Salt & Straw’s topping-driven experiment.
Every aspect of this high-style, vintage clubhouse reflects a determination to combine great food with a verve found in Portland design and music but often lacking in our dining scene. One of our Rising Stars 2016, Revelry bumps with great music, street art murals, and Asian eats from kimchi pancakes to noodles—nominally Korean, but open to global beats, courtesy Seattle chef-restaurateurs Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi.
Star chefs Greg Denton and Gabi Quiñónez Denton’s new downtown dining room aims to spotlight wild microplates. Instead, it excels at bright, balanced cocktails and anything grilled—the things that already make the duo’s Ox a sexy dinner date.
Farmers market vendor-hero and seasonal pizza pioneer Mark Doxtader planted firm roots in the heart of Multnomah Village this year. The tiny dining room is cozy and surprisingly spiffy given Doxtader’s outdoorsy aesthetic, with a rustic open kitchen, soft lighting, and an appealing menu that goes beyond pizza with bruschetta, an addictive kale Caesar, homey roast chicken, homemade spätzle, oven-fresh fruit crisps, well-picked wines, and fun cocktails.
Tusk blasted into Portland in August like a shot of vitamin D, a breezy, glass-walled, feel-good-rocking California dream even a shaggy-sweatered Portlander could embrace. The mode at our second Rising Star 2016 is spiritually Middle Eastern, freethinking in form, and deep in Oregon farm connections. Fruits, vegetables, and grains are the stars.
The Bent Brick
Restaurateur Scott Dolich’s the Bent Brick shuttered after five rocky years. The restaurant was perhaps best known for fostering chef Will Preisch, who went on to open Holdfast, one of Portland’s great pop-ups-turned-brick-and-mortar fine-dining experiences. The Bent Brick was also slated to be one of the earliest adopters of the no-tipping model, though it closed before the new policy could be realized.
B&T Oyster Bar
The casual front for Trent Pierce’s prix fixe stunner Roe never made much sense to us. Now it’s closed permanently (replaced by Rockin’ Crab and Boiling Pot), while Roe heads across the river to an undisclosed Westside location.
Bombay Cricket Club
One of Portland’s most established Indian eateries (Portland Monthly’s Best Indian Restaurant 2004!) shuttered in August. Bombay turned 21 in 2016, maintaining its reputation (and long lines) through several food revolutions—including the rise of Bollywood Theater.
Per food critic Karen Brooks: “[Din Din’s Courtney] Sproule found a home for her elaborate Francophile parties and intricate French-meets-farm fresh tasting menus at 920 NE Glisan St, with a chandelier-lit kitchen, wall-projected movies, and changing menus choreographed to tempt and amuse. The longtime acolyte of Portland’s French food godfather, the late Robert Reynolds, reimagined what a restaurant could be. If Julia Child had joined the riot grrrl movement, America’s food revolution might have looked like this.” Din Din closed in February 2016.
The all vegetarian-vegan tasting menus at Aaron Woo’s Alberta Street eatery helped move the needle forward for plant-based diners and chefs in Portland over the course of five years. It’s now home to Basque Supper Club.
The much-loved Grand Avenue wine shop and brunch spot shuttered in September. In three years, the specialty market and wine/beer/cider shop wore a few different hats, including a long-running “adventure brunch” that traveled the world for inspiration. The location is now home to Vietnamese drinking spot, Lantern.
The pizza pop-up-turned-brick-and-mortar from former Ned Luddites Nicholas Ford and Brandon Gomez, closed in July. P.R.E.A.M, run by two headstrong twenty-somethings who designed the space as an homage to ’80s hip-hop, built the entire place (from deep-fryer to drywall) themselves, and masterminded a dough recipe good enough to stand up to the Portland’s raging pie scene. Ford remained, teaming up with Lightning Bar Collective (Century, Bye and Bye, etc.) for a pizza and taco concept called Associated.
Three years in, Andy Ricker’s sixth restaurant faced grumbles about portion sizes and prices (despite the quality of ingredients and labor-intensive techniques). By the beginning of 2016 it was clear to Ricker that Sen Yai was not Pok Pok. “As much as I love Sen Yai, it never made money,” Ricker said at the time. He added that the restaurant’s situation would not have improved with Portland’s soaring rents, the rising minimum wage, and stereotypical ideas about “ethnic food” as “cheap food.” It closed in the spring to make way for…
The counter-service taco and tequila joint from Nate Tilden (Olympia Provisions, Spirit of ’77, etc.) and Clyde Common chef Carlo Lamagna closed suddenly October 18 after less than three turbulent months in the former Sen Yai space.
Smallwares opened in February 2012 to critical acclaim. Chef-owner Johanna Ware faced the uncool and besmirched genre of Asian fusion, declaring her own style “inauthentic Asian.” Playlists ran from blistering Sichuan pepper-pocked mapo tofu to oysters on the half shell in a brine of fish sauce, cilantro, and lime. “I am not sure what is next for me and really I just need to get part of me back,” she announced on Facebook in August. “Hopefully Smallwares will rise again…”
The 45-year-old Portland mainstay closed its doors to make way for a new Multnomah County courthouse. Luckily, the entire restaurant staff (including longtime chef Annie Cuggino) have rebuilt the restaurant with “Q,” at 828 SW 2nd Avenue, just a few blocks away.