Michael Zusman goes to restaurants far more than I am able to, so I asked if he would be interested in an ongoing Top Ten Portland Restaurants list for the home page of the website. Fortunately he was happy to help, sending me 25. FD]
Originally, my Top 10 Portland restaurants list was something I put up on Facebook because I thought it needed to be done. I have nothing to sell, no p.r. types hawking me, just a bunch of places I like that I thought would be fun to highlight after eating out at least a half-dozen times a week for 20 years or so. Food Dude asked if I would do something like a Top 20 on his site, so I’m combining an update of the original list (from 2/2/16) with the “Next 15” list I’d been working on anyway.
These lists are a snapshot in time. My top places change regularly. In fact, I wrote the “Next 15” after feeling I’d left some really outstanding places out of the initial Top 10. I try to be pretty discerning, even if I’m not 100% objective, so there’s no hard and fast hierarchy, even between the two lists. Ultimately, it’s just my informed opinion and a resource for those who care to use it. Feel free to disagree, but I’m a lot more comfortable with this list than any of those written by the usual rabble of neo-Portlander “experts” or helicopter critics from afar.
Top 10, in no particular order:
1. Ox: Grill me, baby, one more time. Where people meet to eat meat.
2. Kachka: Novel contemporary Russian (as opposed to a contemporary Russian novel).
3. St. Jack: French country classics from Portland’s premier Canadian cook and hockey fan.
4. Ataula: From the streets of Barcelona to NW Portland, an infinitely creative procession of modern and classic tapas.
5. Roe: In a bizarrely seafood starved port city, elegant oceanic presentations to rival the plates at Le Bernardin.
6. Apizza Scholls: Atop the apizza heap in Portland for a decade and still without a serious rival.
7. Lardo: Sandwiches (and sides) that dreams are made of. Not a weak choice in the bunch.
8. Pok Pok: The uncompromised brilliance of Thai food from an authentic obsessive.
9(tie). Holdfast: Where top quality ingredients and modernist technique meet in a casual setting.
9(tie). Castagna: Where top quality ingredients and modernist technique meet in an authentic adult dining room.
Taylor Railworks : Choo, choooo ! Get it? World cuisine from an unexpected source.
The Next 15, in no particular order:
11. Aviary: Sarah Pliner proves the power of one, a force exceeding the three-headed approach of yore. Order everything.
12. Little Bird/Le Pigeon: Gabriel Rucker’s creative brilliance in dual incarnations. Wackified French food and a great burger are Rucker’s stock-in-trade.
13. Biwa: Subterranean, dim and smoky are the ideal canvas for the izakaya palette of soups, grilled and fried items, even raw fish.
14. Podnah’s Pit: Best Texas barbecue this side of the Rio Grande. Practice this: “I’ll have the Texas Cobb with fatty brisket, please.” Yee-haw!!!
15. Smallwares: Johanna Ware’s menu pinballs around the globe, but tilts mainly to Asia.
16. Coquine: The French name may refer to a flirtatious young thing, but the mood and food are doubtlessly hamisch, the Yiddish term for homey.
17. Grassa: It’s not an Italian restaurant, it’s a pasta restaurant. Owner Rick Gencarelli’s nonna wouldn’t recognize half the excellent pasta dishes on the rotating menu.
18. Pho Oregon: The aromatics in the namesake beef noodle soup clinch the crown for top winter warmer. Naturally, you order the #1 with all the odd bits.
19. The Original Pancake House: I pity the tatted, bearded minions who wait long and quiescently for mostly mediocre short order cuisine. They must not know the morning joys of the serious breakfast food served here since 1953.
20. The Country Cat: After a long stint turning out original Northwest seasonal cuisine at Wildwood, Adam Sappington has dedicated his skills to stellar southern comforts.
21. Tanuki: Sure, call it a bar, but it’s where you go to eat rich, bountiful plates of Janis Martin’s Japanese drinking food. Tolerance for bizarre slasher porn a must.
22. EaT Oyster Bar: Best oyster selection in town plus gumbo, po’ boys and other Big Easy fare, often paired with sports on the big screen or live tunes.
23. Fire on the Mountain; Forget the obnoxious corporate alternative. This is where to go for Buffalo-style chicken wings in multiple variations.plus maybe an order of tots. Join the hordes on game days.
24. Paley’s Place and Higgins: The sole survivors from the original, mid-90s NW cuisine wave. Still helmed by the namesake founders.
25. Toro Bravo, the Tastys (‘n Sons, ‘n Alder), Mediterranean Exploration Company: The John Gorham empire delivers solid, often great food, polished service and the value equation Portlanders expect.
Sigh, same old same old……
These ‘lists’ and so called ‘reviews’ are getting tired and boring. Stop frequentling the new and old ‘sweethearts’ of Portland. Find hidden gems. Broaden your horizons. Tedious.
Agreed, Kate. The self-appointed foodie gurus in this city really need to get out more and discover what’s really going on. This is the typical ‘down home’ list of comfort food that most Portlanders go for. Why isn’t Nodoguro on the list? Why isn’t Muselet here? The food at these two places is mind-blowing and seriously creative. Who is Michael Zussman and why should we care?
Michael C Zusman says
Hi Bob and “Kate”:
A “hidden gems” list would be a grand idea. You two should do one. If someone asks me to put together mine, I have a few nifty little places up my sleeve, not that I’d be likely share them with snotty anonymous commenters such as yourselves. Besides, that wasn’t what Food Dude asked me to produce..
Nodoguro is indeed excellent and would have been on the list but for the fact that it’s not currently operating. Maybe you heard it will eventually go into the former Genoa space. They are doing a GoFundMe campaign. You should support Ryan and Elena. They are good folks. As for Muselet, never been there. I tend to stay away from places that sound like bodily fluids…..and I’ve not really heard any great reports other than yours, Bob.
Thank you for your input and have a nice day.
Ron Acierto says
Please visit. Museletpdx.com (south waterfront neighborhood)
We have been opened since May of 2015.
If you haven’t heard anything about us we hope you will
make your way to this part of the city soon.
We have received small amount of press and social media recognition. We hope you can join and try us.
Roe IS a hidden gem.
Thomas Fleming says
Food is tired. Socks are the new food. Gold Toe are not what they used to be. Discuss.
Growing and making dishes at home that rival any restaurant in town is possible. They don’t have access to the hundreds of specialty veggies you can grow at home that large farms don’t sell because they don’t yield enough. Let’s start cooking portland!