Year in Review

The Trends That Drove Portland’s 2022 Restaurant Openings

A return to fine dining, two restaurants are better than one, and wine bars galore

By Karen Brooks, Katherine Chew Hamilton, and Matthew Trueherz December 28, 2022

Scottie Rivera of Scottie's Pizza Parlor, which opened a second location this year

Image: Karen Brooks

In this year’s flurry of restaurant openings, we sought to make sense of the whole thing. Though 2022 saw plenty of restaurants that broke ground in unique ways, in some senses we found familiar patterns: a comeback of hard-to-nab reservations at dress-up-worthy spots including Kannsecond locations of places including a beloved pizzeria, and wine bars where the snacky food isn't stuffy and is just as much of a draw. These are the trends that prevailed. 

Getting Fancy 

Coming out of the wreckage of the past few years, three new restaurants gave us a road map for what works as a refined meal in Oregon. Kann, Gregory Gourdet's blockbuster and our Restaurant of the Year, put Haitian food under a gilded ceiling, invited everyone to the table, and created one of the most sought-after reservations in Portland's history. Downtown's Tercet showed that Portlanders don't really hate the modern food tasting menu; they just want it without the pretense, the chefs yelling in the kitchen, the waiter scripts. Instead, three passionate dudes run the show, two of them cooking and delivering serious but relatable dishes with genuine excitement. And in McMinnville, Matthew Lightner's Okta is drawing farmers, winemakers, the curious, and the serious to taste where an Oregon restaurant can go with its own farm fields, an experimental food lab, a first-class wine list, and a committed two-Michelin-star chef at the helm. In finding the answer, Okta has managed to be sophisticated but grounded, with a come as you are vibe in a room of relaxed refinement.  

Portland once willfully rejected fine dining. Now it's arrived, but in a very Portland way: forged out of the crazy determination we celebrate and served with stories that mean more than just a fancy night on the town. Frankly, it’s inspiring. —Karen Brooks 

Seeing Double 

If you found yourself getting déjà vu while reading news on local restaurant openings, we can’t blame you. Some of the most notable openings of the year were those of beloved restaurants opening a second location—often with a menu tailored to the new neighborhood. While Scottie’s Pizza Parlor’s original shop on Division has been limited to takeout-only whole pies since the pandemic struck, its second spot on NW 21st sells not only whole pies but also six different pies by the slice, ideal for quick lunches while strolling down the shopping strip. That’s big news in a city where slices—especially good slices—are hard to find. Canard’s Oregon City location feels a little more kid-friendly than the Burnside restaurant, with steam burgers and soft-serve sundaes still at the center of the menu, plus dishes like smoked pork with scallion crêpes and scallop XO sauce for the more grown-up palate.  

Then again, you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel to be successful. Master Kong just dropped an inner-Southeast location off Hawthorne in November, serving the same comfort food classics including congee, fried dough sticks, noodles, rice plates, and handmade dumplings. And Portland Cà Phê, which opened its first location in Creston-Kenilworth in the spring of 2021, set up shop in the King neighborhood last month with its winning combo of ube lattes, cà phê sữa đá, and bánh mì. While Portland doesn’t have the same scene of multiple modern Vietnamese coffee shops as Seattle, Portland Cà Phê, with its Vietnam-grown beans, might just be driving the local scene all by itself. —Katherine Chew Hamilton  

Wine Bars Galore 

This year saw an explosion of wine bars across the country, and it’s no different in Portland. But the vibes aren’t what you might think. The bar to entry is low, the approachability is high, the cool kids behind the counter are more than happy to fill you in on the vocabulary—and probably give you a few geography lessons. Take Nil, the wine bar in what’s essentially a hallway behind the natural wine bottle shop Ardor. Lapis lazuli blue laminate countertops and a marker-scribbled mirror-as-a-menu make up something far outside that stale concept of years past (not to mention the DJ sets that run late). Owners of Company, a “wine garage" in Southeast Portland, posted (quite seriously) on Instagram in July asking, “If you had this garage, what would you do with it?” Paint cans and ladders were spread around a workbench. By August, the garage was  a wonderfully spare wine den off SE Belmont that reads a bit like if the kids from That ’70s Show read Kinfolk … and drank natural wine.  

Heavenly Creatures on NE Broadway is a bit more fleshed out, with a substantial food menu and a generous amount of foliage and candles. But it holds onto that same casual, unpretentious spirit, pulling bottles from across the globe that all come with intimate stories. On the opposite side of the scale is Mattino’s, the other half of the new Cloudforest chocolate on SE Hawthorne. It’s a spare bottle shop and daytime wine bar serving limited snacks in a wealth of natural light from the minds behind No Saint, the upstate New York–style pizza shop now in the former Handsome Pizza and Seastar Bakery space. Négociant is somewhere in the middle. Opened in April, the wine-forward market and deli spinoff of Bar Diane, the low-lit oysters-and-Champagne Pearl District date spot next door, is lighthearted. (Signs throughout the shop read things like “chardo-slay.”) The deep bottle selection and a food menu holding everything from sliced-to-order Chorizo Iberico de Bellota to macarons and a brief list of deli sandwiches keep the party going. Not to be provocateurs, but we’re hearing a lot more about skin contact than hops these days.... —Matthew Trueherz