I have a friend who visits every few years, and her first question is always, “What are the Best New Restaurants in Portland?” Since I didn’t do a survey in 2014, this list goes back to late 2013. Looking over this list, I think everyone one of them is an option for a good meal.
Will the top choices be successful? Sometimes folks in the hardcore food community go for the new shiny ball, forgetting the hits from a few years ago. Here is a look back at previous winners in this category:
- 2013: Levant, Ava Gene’s, Tasty n Alder, Imperial, Racion, Sen Yai Noodles
- 2012: OX, St. Jack, Aviary, Mi Mero Mole, Woodsman Tavern, Boke Bowl, Wafu, Noisette, Interurban, Mextiza, Smallwares, Natural Selection, Riffle NW, PaaDee
- 2011: Tasty N Sons, Gruner, Little Bird
- 2010: Laurelhurst Market, Beaker & Flask, Metrovino
Beaker & Flask, Wafu, Metrovino, Noisette and Riffle are no longer in business, so inclusion on this list is not a guarantee of future success.
1. Kachka – 10% $$$
- Cuisine: Russian
- Details: Chef Bonnie Morales does an amazing job creating typical Russian food with fresh, local ingredients. The results are frequently outstanding. This is not the Slavic food you’ve had elsewhere. For a taste of everything, try the “Ruskie Zakuski Experience”, a plethora of small cold plates. A la carte standouts include Siberian pelmeni dumplings – get them once you’ll get them every time, “Herring Under a Fur Coat” – a 7 layer Russian dip with herring, potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, mayo and eggs, or if you are unfamiliar with the cuisine, let the staff be your guide. This is a destination restaurant.
- Hours: Dinner: daily 4 pm – 10 pm, happy hour 4 pm – 6 pm, late night 10 pm – 12 am.
- 720 SE Grand Ave., Portland OR 97214 Map (503) 235-0059
2. Ataula – 9.7% $$-$$$
- Cuisine: Spanish
- Details: This place is packing them in, and for good reason. Under chef Jose Chesa’s careful eye, the plates are the most authentic Spanish food in town, and the prices are very reasonable. Regular trips back to his roots in Barcelona keep Chesa focused and at the top of his game. This too is a destination restaurant. Try the Nuestras Bravas, lovely little potato squares with a milk alioli, crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside, or the Mini Rossejat Negre of toasted noodles, calamari, squid ink, sofrito and harissa alioli. Even the Salt Cod Fritters are a step above average. These are just three suggestions – I’ve yet to have anything on the menu that wasn’t authentic and excellent.
- Hours: Tues – Sat 4:30 pm – 10 pm
- 1818 NW 23rd Place, Portland OR 97210 Map (503) 894-8904
3. Langbaan – 8.44% $$$$
- Cuisine: Thai
- Details: This tiny space is the “it” Portland restaurant right now, with reservations booked until at least November 2015. You can get on a Notify Me list via the reservations panel on their website. The food is traditional old school Thai, made carefully while you watch. The format is tasting menus, two seatings a day. The menu changes monthly, and is currently prix fixe $65, with a $30 wine pairing.
- Hours: two seating’s a night – It’s all going to depend on your reservation.
- 6 SE 28th Ave., Portland OR 97214 Map (971) 344-2564
4. Trifecta Tavern and Bakery – 8.02% $$
- Cuisine: New American
- Details: This is a restaurant that Ken Forkish of Ken’s Artisan Pizza and Ken’s Artisan Bakery says he always wanted to open. Classic cocktails, a large wine list, popular happy hour (with oysters!), and upscale American tavern food such as Wood Fired Marrow Bones, Steak Frites, Wood Grilled Chicken, Fish Stew and more. All bread is baked on the premises, and is available to go.
- Hours: Mon: 5 pm to 9 pm, Tue-Thurs: 5 pm to 10 pm, Fri/Sat: 4 pm to 10:30 pm, Sunday: 4 pm to 9 pm. Happy Hour Mon-Thurs 5 – 6 pm, Fri 4 – 6 pm. Sat 4 – 5 pm. Sunday 4 – 6 pm
- 726 SE 6th Ave, Portland OR 97214 Map (503) 841-6675
5. Davenport – 7% $$
- Cuisine: New American
- Details: Fresh local ingredients are an essential part of every dish here, and nothing comes out of the kitchen without passing under the watchful eye of owner Kevin Gibson. Everything here is about precision, and the carefully composed plates reflect that ethos. I love the salads, such as the perfectly balanced Braised Leeks with black trumpet mushrooms, the Beet Mache with pistachios and vin royale, Endive with grapefruit and avocado… it’s hard to go wrong with any of them. For a larger plate, try the Pan-Seared True Cod with mussels, salsify, sorrel, leek and cream.
- Hours: Tues-Thurs 4pm – 9pm, Fri-Sat 4pm-10pm
- 2215 E Burnside St., Portland OR 97232 Map (503) 236-8747
6. Mediterranean Exploration Company – 6.12% $$
- Cuisine: Mediterranean (Israel, Lebanese, Greek, etc.)
- Details: I’m a big fan of MEC, and try to visit every month. While things started a bit bumpy, food and service issues have largely been ironed out since they opened. It’s hard to go wrong here, but I tend to get into a rut, ordering the Lebanese Lamb Tartare Kibbeh with bulghur, onion and parsley, Israeli Pita with it’s spicy, complex tray of s’hug, the Radicchio salad loaded with little bright cherries, parsley and yogurt dressing, and the Greek Lamb Chops, which may have been the best I’ve had outside of Greece – and for that dinner I had to help kill the lamb. Even the desserts are a tall step above normal – try the Date Olive Oil Cake. Match these dishes with excellent drinks and you will leave happy. The atmosphere is Pearl District trendy concrete.
- Hours: Sun – Thurs 5:30-10pm, Fri-Sat 5:30-11pm, happy hour dail 4-5:30pm, bar only.
- 333 NW 13th Ave., Portland OR 97209 Map (503) 222-0906
- Cuisine: Mexican
- Details: In 2006 I wrote a positive review of the original NE 28th Ave location of Taqueria Nueve, and like many Portlanders, I was sad when it closed. After a break of many years, the restaurant has reopened in the old Beaker and Flask spot. Because the owners are the same the experience isn’t all that much different than the original location.Try the Tostada de Guacamole, Coctel de Pulpo, any of the large selection of tacos, or, my favorite, the Enchiladas Verdes.
- Hours: Tues – Sat 5 pm – 10 pm, Sun 5 pm – 9 pm.
- 727 SE Washington St., Portland OR 97214 Map (503) 954-1987
8. American Local – 4% $$
- Cuisine: New American
- Details: Modern American comfort food. From Our Review, “There is traditional American cuisine – featuring the usual roll call of comfort food classics – and Modern American, blending hyperlocal and global ingredients with whiz-bang tricks from the 21st century world of food science and technology.”
- Hours: Tues-Thurs 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm, Sun 5pm-9pm
- 3003 SE Division St., Portland OR 97202 Map (503) 954-2687