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. 


Café Velo + Lauretta Jean’s = Pie Heaven

Coffee-loving Café Velo reopens with another farmers market star at the oven. Say hello to Portland’s best pie, biscuits, and quiche.

09/14/2011 By Eat Beat Team


Boke Bowl to Open a Restaurant

The roving ramen sensation has a new home next to Bunk Bar on the industrial East Side.

08/22/2011 By Karen Brooks

Expansion Plans

Little Big Burger in SE!

Micah Camden’s rapidly expanding edible empire hits SE Division

08/10/2011 By Karen Brooks


Field Studies

Rural feasting on Sauvie Island is as good it gets.

07/22/2011 By Karen Brooks


Castagna’s Matt Lightner Moving to New York

Portland’s modernist pioneer, the first to rethink local cuisine since the farm-to-table movement in the 1990s, will open a restaurant in Tribeca this ...

07/01/2011 By Karen Brooks


Wild Goose Farm: Hot Homestead Feasts

An architect and designer open up their Sauvie Island home to a new kind of farm-to-table supper club featuring a delicious lineup off-the-radar chefs.

06/22/2011 By Karen Brooks


Bluehour Hires Spago Alum Thomas Boyce

Bruce Carey’s Pearl District charmer adds a missing ingredient: a power player in the kitchen.

06/22/2011 By Karen Brooks


Cathy Whims and ChefStable Team Up at New Oven & Shaker

Nostrana’s Cathy Whims, Aviation Gin’s Ryan Magarian, and ChefStable’s Kurt Huffman head to the Pearl with a powerhouse plan for pizza and drinks.

06/13/2011 By Karen Brooks


Café Castagna’s Lunch Finds

Behind a lovable burger and quietly chic comforts, one of Portland’s classic restaurants shouts: Let’s do lunch.

06/08/2011 By Karen Brooks


Little Big Burger Gets Bigger

Budding indie burger mogel Micah Camden inks a deal for a third location in student-happy Eugene.

06/01/2011 By Karen Brooks


Wings of Victory

How good is the food at Pok Pok and Le Pigeon post Beard awards? In a word: soaring.

06/01/2011 By Karen Brooks


Bamboo Sushi to Open NW Branch

With a second location planned for fall, the chic Laurelhurst eatery plans to to take its sustainable ethos to the next level.

05/25/2011 By Karen Brooks


The Rise of the Small

Good things come in small packages—especially when it comes to local baked goods.

05/20/2011 By Karen Brooks

Eat Here Now

Introducing: Aviary

Ambitious entrees are always in season at Aviary.

05/20/2011 By Karen Brooks


Good Food Here: The Guide

A year-old cart pod on SE Belmont Street grows in strange, wonderful ways—not all of them involving good food.

05/18/2011 By Karen Brooks


Chop Thinks Big With Small-Batch Charcuterie

A new shop selling cured meats and inventive pates is another step in Oregon’s New Charcuterie Frontier.

05/11/2011 By Karen Brooks

Eat Here Now

Eat This Now: Chicken Dinner at Tastebud

Tastebud delivers heavenly, smoky charred birds on its weekly Chicken Dinner Night.

04/22/2011 By Karen Brooks


It Takes a Village

St. Jack restaurant in the S.E. Clinton neighborhood is a sweet slice of Lyon in Portland, with boudin sausages, bulk local wine, and a boisterous mood.

04/22/2011 By Karen Brooks

Breaking Food News

Chef Kenny Giambalvo Resigns from Bluehour

Portland’s house of swank will conduct a national search to replace their leading kitchen man

04/15/2011 By Karen Brooks