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. 

Best Restaurants 2020

Malka Shows There Can Be Beauty in Chaos

Call it global hippie food from a mad scientist or a tornado twisting of Thai food and Shabbat. We call it delicious.

09/29/2020 By Karen Brooks

Best Restaurants 2020

Matta’s Richard Le Remixes Vietnam with His San Jose Roots

What began in late 2018 as straightforward family recipes now embraces edgy remixes of Vietnam and America.

09/25/2020 By Karen Brooks

Breaking Food News

Seattle Pop-Up Hit Rough Draft Burger Shop Opening in Portland August 27

Because we need more smash burgers to argue about

08/26/2020 By Karen Brooks

New Wave Okinawa

From the Minds Behind Nodoguro, Tonari Re-Spins Healthy Japanese Food

Tonari invites us in, if only for a few moments, to soak in not just joy but reflection.

08/01/2020 By Karen Brooks

Breaking News

Portland Chef Gregory Gourdet Launches a Pop-Up Preview of Kann

The anticipated wood-fired Haitian restaurant will “debut” as a tasting menu pop-up in NW Portland, August 10–11

07/29/2020 By Karen Brooks

Breaking News

The Bakery at Bar King Readies to Open August 6

The best baker you've never heard of has two projects unfolding: a major Southeast bakery and a downtown donut pop-up Aug 1–2 that announces a soon-to-open Berliner donut shop.

07/28/2020 By Karen Brooks

Eat Beat

Dispatches from Portland's Sweet Zone

Lord have mercy. We need treats. Now. Where to find rustic chocolate chip cookies, Filipino hand pies, and so much more.

07/27/2020 By Karen Brooks

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