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

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

Gena Renaud crafts intricate, time-consuming Japanese confections.

9:00am 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.

9:00am 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

Nooners

10 Portland Lunches We Can’t Stop Eating

Portland’s collective brunch trance is ending. The golden age of workday lunching has arrived.

12/31/2019 By Benjamin Tepler With Karen Brooks and Kelly Clarke

Breaking News

Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker Will Open Ping Yang Pow in December

The Thai food luminary is transforming the upstairs of Pok Pok NW into an intimate spot for charcoal-grilled cooking.

12/06/2019 By Karen Brooks

Breaking News

Star Chef Gregory Gourdet Will Open His Own Restaurant in 2020 … At Last

The face of downtown’s swanky Departure restaurant will put his Haitian roots front and center in a 60-seat, globally seasoned, wood-fired concept late next year.

11/29/2019 By Karen Brooks

Word of Mouth

Food Critic Karen Brooks on 2019's Best Dishes You Never Heard Of

Why you need to know about babka waffles and roti with creamed corn curry...

11/26/2019 Photography by Karen Brooks

Guerre de Brunch

The Great French Brunch Smackdown: St. Jack vs. Bistro Agnes

From pain perdu to croque madame, we test two Portland French restaurants’ morning mettle. Who will come out on top?

11/26/2019 By Karen Brooks

Best New Restaurants 2019: Trends

Seven Spots Expanding Portland’s Food Map

In 2019, Guam, Burma, the Philippines, and other nations got more room at the table.

10/18/2019 By Karen Brooks, Kelly Clarke, and Marty Patail

Best New Restaurants 2019

Best New Restaurants 2019

Asian flavors—wild to traditional—ruled the day, a scotch destination was born, vegan fine dining got serious, and two bakeries cracked our list. And that’s ...

10/18/2019 By Karen Brooks, Kelly Clarke, Ramona DeNies, and Benjamin Tepler

Best New Restaurants 2019

Portland Monthly’s Best New Restaurants 2019

Asian flavors—wild to traditional—ruled the day, a scotch destination was born, vegan fine dining got serious, and two bakeries cracked our list. And that’s just a taster of 2019. Pull up a seat.

10/18/2019 By Karen Brooks, Kelly Clarke, Benjamin Tepler, and Ramona DeNies Photography by Stuart Mullenberg

Best New Restaurants 2019

Best New Restaurants 2019: Keep Your Eye on These Runners-Up

Yonder and Erizo just missed the cut for our list of the year’s Best New Restaurants, but we’ll be back to see what happens at these high-profile spots.

10/18/2019 By Karen Brooks and Ramona DeNies

Best New Restaurants 2019

Berlu Serves the Most Unpretentious Pretentious Tasting Menu in Town

Chef Vince Nguyen’s Zen-modernist menus find beauty in everyday things.

10/18/2019 By Karen Brooks

Best New Restaurants 2019

At JinJu Patisserie, a Pair of Korean-Born Vegas Expats Find Portland’s Sweet Spot

Butter-bomb croissants to lime yuzu bonbons, this place is a keeper.

10/18/2019 By Karen Brooks

Best New Restaurants 2019

Portland Monthly’s Restaurateur of the Year 2019 is Akkapong “Earl” Ninsom

How the man behind Eem, Hat Yai, and Langaan rocketed from a rookie Thai cook to Portland’s most influential food player.

10/18/2019 By Karen Brooks

Best New Restaurants 2019

Locavore Upstart Farm Spirit Has Evolved into a Legit Vegan Fine Dining Destination

There’s nothing else quite like it in America.

10/18/2019 By Karen Brooks

Best New Restaurants 2019

Eem is Portland Monthly’s 2019 Restaurant of the Year

Meaty, spicy-sweet, and ridiculously fun, Thai tiki barbecue is what we need in 2019.

10/18/2019 By Karen Brooks

Breaking News

Ataula Team to Open Masia Inside Downtown’s New Hyatt Centric Hotel

Jose Chesa will bring his brand of modernist Spanish cooking to breakfast, lunch, and dinner starting January 2020.

10/12/2019 By Benjamin Tepler

Restaurant Closures

Little Bird to Close on October 27

The once-standout French bistro from star chef Gabriel Rucker will end its nine-year run

10/08/2019 By Benjamin Tepler