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. 

Food News

Derby Kenton 2.0 Unleashes Tropical Cocktails, Smash Burgers, and Filipino-Inspired Brunch

For her second North Portland act, Filipino American restaurateur Judith Stokes will unleash her vision of food and hospitality—drag bingo and live jazz in tow.

06/16/2021 By Karen Brooks

Review

Move Over, Peanuts. Meet Canard's Dairy Queen-Inspired Pine Nut Buster Parfait

Chef Taylor Daugherty goes all in on pine nuts to create the great new Portland sundae.

06/10/2021 By Karen Brooks

Food News

Expatriate’s New Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich Is a Strong Contender for Portland’s Crown

The Northeast Portland bar nails the heat, the meat, and the crust. Bonus: frozen custard banana splits from co-owner Naomi Pomeroy across the street. 

05/28/2021 By Karen Brooks

Bakery

Kimura Toast Bar’s Japanese Basque Cheesecake Is Ready to Conquer Portland

Kayoko Kaye unleashes her own version of the cult food phenom.

05/26/2021 By Karen Brooks

Home Bakers

Meet the Bread Heads at Starter Bread

How two nerds captured Portland’s whole-grains movement in a loaf unlike any other

05/25/2021 By Karen Brooks

Breaking News

Oma's Hideway Opens with Chinese-Malaysian Street Foods, Char Siu Pork Platters, and Mai Tai Slushies

The owners of Portland's acclaimed Gado Gado open a new spin-off, with cocktail collaborations from Eem wiz Eric Nelson.

05/19/2021 By Karen Brooks

Book Review

Gregory Gourdet's New Cookbook Blends His Love of Global Flavors and Paleo Foods

Plus: a recipe for grilled carrots and a spicy pineapple turmeric smoothie.

05/11/2021 By Karen Brooks

Food News

Goodbye, Le Pigeon Burger: Big Changes Ahead for Rucker’s Restaurants

The iconic Le Pigeon will move to a tasting menu-only model on May 4; Canard is dinner-only for the foreseeable future.

04/28/2021 By Karen Brooks

Food News

Veteran San Francisco Chef Readies to Open Brasa Haya in June

Michelin-starred kitchen alum Ian Muntzert unveils his brand of Spanish cuisine: fire-kissed, ingredients first.

04/22/2021 By Karen Brooks

Breaking News

Portland’s Beloved Ataula Will Not Reopen

José Chesa and Cristina Baez's iconic Catalan restaurant is no more. A farewell to one of the city's defining food gems.

04/22/2021 By Karen Brooks

Food to Go

10 Best Takeout Spots in Portland

Where to get classic cheeseburgers, vegan Sri Lankan street food, briny crab-and-featherback dumpling soup, and more.

03/22/2021 By Katherine Chew Hamilton and Karen Brooks

Food News

Restaurants Can Now Reopen for Indoor Dining at 50% Capacity. But Will They?

As Multnomah County moves into the moderate risk category, restaurant owners face tough decisions.

03/12/2021 By Katherine Chew Hamilton and Karen Brooks

Breaking News

The Country’s Best Handmade Matzah Is Hiding in Portland, Oregon

1503 Matzah unites an unorthodox rabbi, the great Bakeshop bakery, and a crypto-Jewish recipe from the Spanish Inquisition, buzzed with pepper and honey.

03/10/2021 By Karen Brooks

Food News

Park Avenue Chef Karl Holl to Launch Ambitious Food Foraging Company

With the everyday kitchen grind in the rear view, Portland's premiere farmer-chef is embracing his inner woodsman with foods found in the wild.

03/05/2021 By Karen Brooks

Food News

Honey Bagel Is Portland’s Next Great Boiled Ring

Yes, food critic Karen Brooks is dying on the hill of a pepper-cheese bagel.

03/02/2021 By Karen Brooks

Food Review

Heaven Is Alive and Well at Cloudforest’s Reborn Chocolate Shop

Ecuadoran chocolate maker Sebastian Cisneros reprises his ungodly hot chocolates and cookies in Southeast Portland.

02/25/2021 By Karen Brooks

Where to Live Now

Neighborhood Guide: Irvington and the Lloyd District

A namesake mall, classic Americana diners, and artisanal frozen yogurt

02/25/2021 By Riley Blake

Eat Beat

Chef Gregory Gourdet Cooks Up a Bold Black History Month Celebration in 10 Private Yurts

At his Kann Winter Village in SE Portland, the Top Chef star will honor the African roots of Haitian cooking and raise awareness of 20 small BIPOC bus...

01/25/2021 By Karen Brooks

Food Review

10 Portland Dishes Not to Miss in 2021

Even in a pandemic, Portland chefs, bakers, and food cart cooks are feeding our minds and souls, deliciously.

01/05/2021 By Karen Brooks and Katherine Chew Hamilton

Year in Review

"We're Not Backing Down."

Portland chef Naomi Pomeroy on reinventing herself and the future of independent restaurants.

12/30/2020 By Karen Brooks