How Nodoguro, Maurice, and Scottie’s Pizza Parlor Made Their Big Comebacks
o find the latest iteration of Portland’s acclaimed omakase destination Nodoguro, look for the owners’ lanky teenager sitting at the end of a lantern-lit alley off Sandy Boulevard. He can’t hear you—the ear buds have full possession. But he’ll point you toward what could be mistaken for an Eastern European apartment: a tiny vintage-mod living room, an eight-foot table set for 16, and a galley kitchen without a shred of bling, much less a dishwashing machine.
Here, Portland’s most cerebral sushi chef, Ryan Roadhouse, who can dismantle a fish faster than Kim Kardashian can snap a selfie, conjures a personal vision of Japanese dining: all the love and technique but few of the rules. That might mean sesame tofu made with monklike devotion and a pulse somewhere between halvah and butterscotch, breathtaking uni risotto finished with ground espresso, and the stairway-to-heaven sushi craft that can hold its own in Tokyo—roughly 22 bites and mini-dishes all told, $250 a person.
Steps away, his wife, Elena, serves as wait staff, life coach, and walking culinary wiki to diners gathered around the table. Some have followed the couple from space to space since 2014 like foodie Deadheads. The feeling is mutual. Regulars can recite every vintage Nodoguro dish; the Roadhouses know their knee replacement history.
No one mentions the house fish broker in Japan or why Ryan’s oysters are next level: he cleans them with a vigor that would impress famed germaphobe Howard Hughes. But you might get Elena’s tips on the best vitamin supplements.
That Nodoguro exists in yet another space is something of a miracle. A year ago, pandemic battle scars, lease losses, and Portland’s downbeat mood nearly drove the Roadhouses out of the city and the industry. But their fan base wasn’t ready to let them go. In November, they downsized, made a place that feels like home, and washed the dishes themselves.
In the process, our 2015 Restaurant of the Year has become even more intimate, more exploratory, while still delivering transcendent food, a dinner-party atmosphere, and the elusive notion of connection and nourishment. If there’s a better antidote to the Nomas of the world, I haven’t seen it.
lso worth noting is the evolution of Scottie’s Pizza Parlor from scrappy Southeast cult pizza joint to burnout story to the destination slice shop Portland was missing, its second outpost having opened in December on NW 21st Avenue. Scottie’s superpower? Reading our pizza mind. We want the euphoria of a thin, crispy, foldable New York corner slice. But we also crave the art of Neapolitan pie, the char and bubbles and tender, airy chew. Through a double bake, Scottie’s fuses them in a sourdough crust. Sealing the deal is a juicy-tangy sauce made from three kinds of organic canned tomatoes, each with a different mission: brightness, umami, roundness.
The OG Southeast shop is now whole pies only, primarily to-go. Northwest is Rodeo Drive by comparison: plenty of seats, wine and beer, and a daily slice case with options drawn from the 18-inch pie collection, to eat in or take out. Need proof of God’s existence? The option to grab the kitchen’s ecstatic DeFino pie (grandma style) by the square—cheese on the bottom, sauce on top, toasty edges all around. It’s the missing link between pan pizza and grilled cheese.
Inside tips: Add the “jazz it up” option ($2.50) to whole pies for a punch of oregano, chile peppers, and house garlic oil baked right in. Upgrade any slice with a big dollop of decadent burrata for $1. And note, everything is better with pepperoni, including the popular, ricotta-splotched Bianco.
Scottie’s was always good. Now, it’s in the Portland pizza pantheon—a Top 4 for me. Getting here was bumpy. Even pizza shops are not immune to struggle.
Back in 2015, Brooklyn-born Scott Rivera was one of a handful of fanatical young dough philosophers making Portland into a pizza hotbed. The guy studies old-school pizza theory like a paleontologist puzzling over ancient animals. But success turned the once cool parlor into a churn-out kitchen feeding demand. Just like that, the goofy perfectionist was a businessman asking himself, “Well, how did I get here?”
It all crashed and burned with the pandemic, and Rivera went back to the beginning: alone in the kitchen, mixing dough and mopping floors. The chaos and solace, he says, gave him a chance to rethink what’s important: sanity, boundaries, bringing joy and purpose back to the job.
Scottie’s now has limits, including a cap on hours and dough—only so much per day, then lights out. “I don’t want to be the pizza police,” says Rivera. “The industry spoiled people to feel we’re always available. This is my end-all, be-all, my life. How do we do it in a way that allows us to keep going?”
owntown, Måurice is undergoing a similar rebirth. No place embodies Portland’s quirky passion quite like Kristen Murray’s gem, 580 square feet of tunnel-vision fervor. Here, meticulous scones, a cosmic quiche, art, and idealism find new purpose. Even seen-it-all Ruth Reichl penned a love letter after a visit.
Then, shock. Amid the pandemic, Måurice’s soundtrack flipped from Edith Piaf to Apocalypse Now. Downtown streets emptied, trash fluttered in the air like the End Times. Last summer, Murray, a tender soul who named Måurice after her pet rabbit, locked the door. Three separate break-ins forced a dramatic shift. Windows were boarded up. The picturesque storefront looked desolate, with entry requiring a secret pass code: knock three times and yodel.
Today, Måurice is back on its axis, at least for now, with à la carte lunches, reservations suggested. Murray is making a last stand, having tapped her small family inheritance to keep afloat a place she loves like a child.
What a stand it is: graceful and ambitious in a room that feels warmer, looser. Think casually fancy dinner, except for lunch, backed by highly crafted sweets and natural wines. Hands down, Måurice is the best luncheonette in town—nothing even comes close.
The new mode means fewer choices, higher prices, and a deposit on reservations to shore up commitments on both sides. The bright side? A handsome brioche tart under folds of fresh trout gravlax and julienned beets arranged on top like pick-up sticks. Potato-rich lefse pancakes recently held pickled persimmons and meatballs so tender you couldn’t tell where the meat began and the fat ended, like otherworldly pâté. Feast Portland’s Mike Thelin calls it “effing delicious; just bangin’.” Who can argue?
Alas, the killer anisette brioche pastries are off the menu for now. (Apparently, no one ordered them—oh Portland, so busy eating doughnuts.) But the chocolate capuchin cakes remain, insanely delicious as ever, looking like enlightened ice cream cones dipped in Magic Shell, cacao nibs, and smoky lapsang souchong tea. Just a whiff is intoxicating. Inhale, then swoop the top in tangy crème fraîche. That this prepandemic pastry survived the long haul is a marvel, and maybe even cause for optimism.
The old rules no longer apply. Only this is certain: evolve or die. In a wave of COVID-born answers to what we now want from dining out, a handful of favorites, ethereal omakase to irresistible pies, are taking a stab at reincarnation.
Will these new modalities work? It’s anyone’s guess.
Måurice, for one, has dug in. Murray still believes in downtown. “I was meant to be here,” she says. “Good thing I’m gritty beneath the polish of the place.” I hope we are, too.
Nodoguro, 623 NE 23rd Ave, nodoguropdx.com; Scottie’s Pizza Parlor, 685 NW 21st Ave & 2128 SE Division St, scottiespizzaparlor.com; Måurice, 921 SW Oak St, mauricepdx.com