How will we remember Portland’s food scene in 2021? What are the defining meals? Who’s setting the table for the future? The question drives us mad every year for our annual Best Restaurants issue. Throw into the mix a challenging year as we tiptoe back inside restaurants. Who will forget the food lovingly prepared and boxed up with unfathomable determination ... then stabbed at with plastic picnic forks? Or the realization that all things really must pass—even Paley’s Place, a champion of Portland’s farm-to-table ways for 26 years.
The city is in the midst of great change and soul-searching. The upside: exciting new voices, philosophies, and directions. The vaunted food cart scene, played out in 2019, had both the models and moxie to reinvent itself with bustling pods across the city, leaving no doubt: no place rivals Portland for DIY ingenuity. Behind a new generation of vegans, the city is evolving into a plant-centric think tank with soul food, Vietnamese street food, and Cuban eats in the mix. Meanwhile, Portland cemented its reputation as the country’s best pizza city as a few dough philosophers put their crust at center stage.
We’re still obsessing over brunch, from Toki’s wild KimCheese pancakes to Sweedeedee’s heart-stopping French toast. Meanwhile, República, our Restaurant of the Year, came out swinging as Portland’s ambitious new frontier of Mexican-forward food—traditional and modern, breakfasts to taco lunches to choreographed tasting-menu dinners. Instead of a star chef, it runs as a collective of talents—a model gaining steam around town. Portland, often at the forefront of food conversations, is starting new ones. Dig in.