Karen Brooks holds one of the most prestigious titles in the food world: winner of the James Beard Craig Claiborne Distinguished Restaurant Review Award for 2017. This was her second time as a national finalist. After this, it’s all gravy.

Brooks eats, drinks and thinks about food for Portland Monthly, where she continues her journey as Portland’s opinionated, trend-spotting food critic. She pens monthly restaurant reviews, writes and photographs the print magazine’s Word of Mouth column (aka: what I’m obsessing over now), drives the annual Best Restaurants issue, contributes to various food-cover packages, and breaks news for the magazine’s food blog, Eat Beat.

Karen began her journalism career at alt-weekly Willamette Week, doubling as food critic and Arts & Culture editor. Then she jumped ship to The Oregonian, doing double-duty again as Arts czarina and Food Critic while creating two of the daily’s most enduring sections: the weekly A&E and the annual Diner guide. At Portland Monthly since 2010, she’s continued her mission of ferreting out new restaurant models and maverick thinkers defining Portland’s food voice.

In her spare time, Karen is rabid NBA baller and film/TV junkie and author. She’s penned nine books to date, most recently a deep dive into Portland’s punk-rock food scene, The Mighty Gastropolis: A Journey Through America’s New Food Culture. 

Word of Mouth

Burnt Basque Cheesecake Is Coming for Portland

Welcome to the cult.

04/03/2020 By Karen Brooks

Review in Review

Communion Bakehouse Is Our April Review. Now, It’s a Completely Different Place.

PoMo food critic Karen Brooks hunts down the subjects of the last review penned before the pandemic changed everything. Its survival now rests on “mystery pastry boxes” to-go.

04/02/2020 By Karen Brooks

The Comeback Kids

After a Lifetime of Near-Hits, Communion Bakehouse Finds a Promising Home in Sellwood

The best thing about Communion Bakehouse? Its realness.

04/02/2020 By Karen Brooks

Food After Covid

Farm Spirit's Aaron Adams on Why Takeout Might Still Save Us

“I remember Portland 15 years ago. Looking back and evaluating, we lost our way. This is a big fucking wake-up call for us. No one needs 10 courses after this.”

03/28/2020 By Karen Brooks

Interview

Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker Shuts Down Completely and Sounds an Alarm

In a provocative interview with Portland Monthly, the legendary chef gives it to us straight: “we have to stop fucking around making TikToks and get serious.”

03/25/2020 By Karen Brooks

Breaking News

In a Do-or-Die Situation, a New Portland Independent Restaurant Alliance Rises

“Without your help, we won’t be here.”

03/24/2020 By Karen Brooks

Breaking News

Amidst Restaurant Industry Collapse, Coquine Supports Farmers with a New CSA Model

In addition to elaborate takeout menus, you can now order the same coveted produce, dairy, and coffee used by the restaurant.

03/18/2020 By Karen Brooks

Breaking News

Portland Restaurants Quickly Pivot in the Days Following the Restaurant Ban

Ava Gene and Tusk embrace elaborate takeout while Eem and Hat Yai rethink their strategy.

03/17/2020 By Karen Brooks

Coronavirus

Portland’s Top Chefs and Restaurateurs React to New Coronavirus Restrictions

Gov. Kate Brown’s statewide mandate forces industry leaders to make the pivotal decision: move to a takeout-only model or close up shop.

03/16/2020 By Karen Brooks

Mocktail Magic

What Does It Take to Make a Great Zero-Proof Drink?

Quaintrelle’s Camille Cavan has the answers.

02/25/2020 By Karen Brooks

Review

Fermenter Is the Plant-Based Future We’ve Been Waiting For

Otherwise known as vegan, hard-core, and rotten good.

02/25/2020 By Karen Brooks Photography by Stuart Mullenberg

Ice Cream Nation

Fifty Licks Is Coming to Slabtown

The famed scoop shop is set to open its third location in April, and we’re all screaming.

02/21/2020 By Gabriel Granillo

Breaking News

Andrew and Nora Mace to Open Lazy Susan with Earl Ninsom in the Country Cat Space

The new Montavilla restaurant, opening in March, aims to be the perfect neighborhood spot—charcoal-fired dry-aged steaks to seasonal pies.

02/10/2020 By Karen Brooks

Breaking News

Matta, JoJo, and Jinju Patisserie Join Forces for 86 Pho, a “No Pho” Brunch

The talented trio will cook monthly, four-course meals at LuLu starting in March.

02/04/2020 By Karen Brooks

Breaking News

Irving Street Kitchen’s Sarah Schafer to Open an Ambitious Italian Food Hall in June

The multimillion dollar Pearl District project aims to create an all-day experience, coffee to Roman pizza, all under one big roof.

01/28/2020 By Karen Brooks

Breaking News

Joshua McFadden and Bar Legend Jim Meehan to Open Takibi

The Japanese bar and restaurant unites McFadden’s Submarine Hospitality, Meehan, and lifestyle brand Snow Peak in Northwest Portland.

01/27/2020 By Karen Brooks

Word of Mouth

One of the Country’s Few Wagashi Experts Lives in Portland

Gena Renaud crafts intricate, time-consuming Japanese confections.

01/21/2020 By Karen Brooks

Love Shack

Garrett Benedict Puts Heart and Soul into "Reverse Steakhouse" G-Love

At the veg-centric restaurant, protein dishes still shine.

01/21/2020 By Karen Brooks Photography by Stuart Mullenberg

Breaking News

Portland’s Beloved 180 Xurros & Xocolata Gets a New Lease on Life, Literally

In February, Ataula’s Jose Chesa will reprise a mini-version of his seriously missed xurro and drinking chocolate shop inside downtown’s new Hyatt Centric hotel

01/08/2020 By Karen Brooks

Word of Mouth

Portland Chefs Reveal their Secret Projects and Predictions for 2020

Salt and pepper on your table: in. Shitty bar food: out.

01/02/2020 By Karen Brooks