Best Restaurants 2020

By Any Measure, Tonari Is Next-Level Take-Out

The spirit of Okinawa is healthy, happy, and living on in Portland

By Karen Brooks October 6, 2020 Published in the October 2020 issue of Portland Monthly

Tonari's elegantly wicked “tonguekatsu” slider

Frogs, squid, or locusts could drop from the sky. We could be down to our last food supplies, holding on to hope by a fingernail. And Ryan and Elena Roadhouse would still muster a lovingly crafted meal, each dish a personal transaction, delivered with not just inquisitive conversation but, good lord, the positivity. A Roadhouse project is always a beautiful lark, from pop-ups to SE Belmont’s omakase wonder, Nodoguro, jumping off the likes of Japanese kaiseki, Haruki Murakami, Twin Peaks, and Tokyo’s jazz subculture, everything healthy enough to be approved by the New England Journal of Medicine. I once asked Albert Adrià, the seen-it-all vanguard Spanish chef, what surprised him in the food world. “Nodoguro,” he said. 

Add Tonari to the list.

Opened in June, Nodoguro’s casual next-door café pays homage to the Okinawan way of life, where happiness, purpose, and longevity-inducing superfoods are priorities. Among the gems: elegantly wicked “tonguekatsu” sliders, umami-beaming saba caesar salad, sautéed burdock root cut as fine as angel’s hair, and three kinds of sushi-rice sandwiches. Meanwhile, Tonari has done the unthinkable: made tofu sexy. That includes a mind-bending “parfait” of the kitchen’s custardy tofu, fresh fruit and fresh jam, and an ingenious “granola” made from cast-off tofu dregs—dried, spiced, and butter-toasted.

Even Adrià hasn’t seen that. Takeout/patio seating only. 2838 SE Belmont St,

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