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. 

News

5 Days That Shook the Portland Food World

When Yonder’s Maya Lovelace opened her Instagram feed to accusations of restaurant abuse last week, all hell broke loose.

07/07/2020 By Karen Brooks

Baking for a Cause

Alert: Portland’s Big A$$ Antiracist Bake Sale Goes Live July 4

Star bakers and home cooks unite for a supersize sale and auction to raise money for Portland BIPOC organizations—gift baskets and surprises included.

07/02/2020 By Karen Brooks

Breaking News

Kimura Toast Bar Is What We Need Right Now

Japanese pizza toast, homemade shokupan, and dessert for breakfast is coming for N Williams, from the minds behind Kayo's Ramen Bar.

06/30/2020 By Karen Brooks

Breaking News

Bakeshop Is Dead. Bakeshop 2.0 Is Alive and Well on NE Sandy.

Says esteemed Portland baker Kim Boyce: “I'm going back to the roots where I started. Back in the kitchen, having fun.”

06/25/2020 By Karen Brooks

Interview

"The Whole System Came Down. Let's Fix Everything."

Chef Gregory Gourdet on Top Chef, race, and rebuilding the food nation

06/18/2020 By Karen Brooks

Exclusive Interview

Does the World Still Need Pok Pok?

Says Andy Ricker, a white guy famously making Thai food: “Unless you're not fucking paying attention, you have got to be having this thought.”

06/16/2020 By Karen Brooks

Apocalypse Chow

Personalized Takeout Keeps the Essence of Portland Food Life Alive

Through hell and high water, Nodoguro, Coquine, and Gado Gado have morphed into makeshift takeout hot spots.

06/16/2020 By Karen Brooks Photography by Michael Novak

Beyond Hunger Games

The Food Scene's New Rallying Cry: Improvise, Adapt, Overcome

Portland's food scene is changed forever. But we were built to survive. “Portland was meant for this moment.”

06/16/2020 By Karen Brooks

Food News

Tonari Shows How to Open a Restaurant during a Pandemic: With Grace, Passion, and Humor

From the minds behind acclaimed omakase spot Nodoguro, Tonari brings manga-inspired sandwiches and wild tofu parfaits to SE Belmont on June 12.

06/08/2020 By Karen Brooks

Interview

DarSalam’s Ghaith Sahib on Life as an Iraqi Restaurant Owner during COVID-19

"What is true and what is not true? I worry about everything. Who do we trust?"

04/23/2020 By Karen Brooks

Coronavirus

Three Portland Trader Joe’s Workers Report from the Front Lines

“It’s seductive being called a hero. It’s also insidious.”

04/14/2020 By Karen Brooks

Breaking News

Cult Cart Burger Stevens Morphs into Stevens Italiano

To survive the pandemic shutdown, Portland burger king Don Salamone is morphing his business into an Italian takeout joint, tapping his Sicilian roots and French culinary training.

04/06/2020 By Karen Brooks

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 Westmoreland

The best thing about Communion Bakehouse? Its realness.

04/02/2020 By Karen Brooks

good hoods

Portland Hoods You Should Know

It's the best time to buy in years. Where should you be looking to spend your money and why?

04/01/2020 By Ben Tepler, Conner Reed, Julia Silverman, Margaret Seiler, and Kyle Sosa

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