Portland’s Chefs & Taste Makers Talk About Their Favorite Eateries
Check out where these four Rose City Cuisiniers And Taste Makers Become Gourmands
By Heather Cassell
Portland is a chef’s and foodies paradise with the local farms and vineyards and breweries all within reach, within the city and just a few miles from the edge of its borders.
So we ask Feast Portland’s co-founder Carrie Walsh and three of Portland’s hottest chefs, “When you dine out, what are your favorite new and worn-in go-tos when you are hungry?”
“There are soooooo many good eating options in Portland,” writes Bruce Carey, owner / partner of the BCR Bruce Carey Restaurants, in an email interview. “Choose blindly and chances are you will have a great meal, even at a food cart or a hole-in-the-wall brewpub.”
Bruce, a chef and 25-year veteran Rose City restaurateur led the charge reviving Portland’s culinary scene with his groundbreaking restaurant Zefiro, which closed, but was followed by 23Hoyt, Bluehour, Clarklewis, and Saucebox.
Gregory Gourdet, Top Chef finalist and executive chef at Departure Restaurant + Lounge agrees excitedly adding in amazement that Oregon chefs are creating a global feast from local farms and ranches.
“We have a global dining scene here and we are seeing more of that very culture specific restaurants coming up,” says Gregory. “It’s cool to see how people take all the same ingredients and kind of bend them to the cultures that they want.”
“There is such diversity and variety in the types of restaurants here. In one night you can eat at a Thai restaurant, you can eat at an Italian restaurant, you can eat at an American style restaurant,” he continues.
So, here are the chefs’ and taste makers’ picks for where they dine:
Gregory Gourdet, Departure Restaurant + Lounge
525 Southwest Morrison Street; DeparturePortland.com
Thai and more Thai are at the top of Greg’s list with well-known Pok Pok (3226 Southeast Division Street; 503-232-1387; ; PokPokPDX.com) and Langbaan (6 Southeast 28th Avenue; 971-344-2564; ; LangbaanPDX.com).
“It’s the closest experience to a most authentic Thai meal that you can get in Oregon,” says Gregory, who specializes in Asian cuisine, about Pok Pok.
A runner up, one of the hottest new pop up restaurants, is Langbaan, a Thai spot that resides behind another Thai restaurant PaaDee, which serves up “very traditional Thai cuisine in a tasting format,” he says. It is so hot right now it’s booked to the New Year.
If vegetables and Italian fare are what you are looking for, Ava Gene’s (3377 Southeast Division Street; 971-229-0571; ; AvaGenes.com) and Imperial (410 Southwest Broadway; 503-228-7222; email@example.com; ImperialPDX.com) have you covered.
You’ve never experienced vegetables like the way these two Italian restaurant’s chefs prepare the fresh produce, they have unbelievable flavor, Gregory says. Especially, the way fellow Top Chef finalist Doug Adams, who is the chef de cuisine at Imperial, a grill master on the old fashioned wood fire grill, grills them.
“The depth of flavor that he gets out of vegetables is amazing,” says Greg.
Sarah Schafer, executive chef at Irving Street Kitchen
701 Northwest 13th Avenue; 503-343-9440; IrvingStreetKitchen.com
“I just love those down and dirty hole in the wall places that are so good that they are so perfect,” says Sarah, who is also a big fan of the flavors of Asia.
To get a taste of the East Sarah heads to Nak Won (4600 Southwest Watson Avenue, Beaverton; 503-646-9382), Spring Restaurant (3975 Southwest 114th Avenue, Beaverton; 503-641-3313), and Boke Bowl (1028 Southeast Water Avenue; 503-719-5698; BokeBowl.com) hit the spot when Sarah seeks comfort food.
“It’s totally a family-run Korean place, like straight off the boat Korean, for lack of a better way of saying it,” says Sarah about Nak Won, “but its super authentic and I love that its everything it’s supposed to be.”
“Everything that is supposed to be sweet is sweet. Everything that is supposed to be spicy is spicy,” she continues. “You can almost feel that someone’s grandmother is in the back cooking.”
Her other go to Korean spot, Spring Restaurant, is a Korean place located inside G Mart in Beaverton, a nearby suburb of Portland. Just follow the crowd to the meat department and up the stairs to this secret cove of Korean dining cafeteria style.
For dim sum and ramen Boke Bowl satisfies Sarah’s cravings, especially on Mondays, which are “dim sum nights.
Another back of the grocery store discovery is Santa Cruz Taqueria (13046 Southeast Stark Street; 503-253-5494) locate behind Paneria y Tienda in Portland’s St. Johns neighborhood.
“They have an amazing roasted salsa that they make that is unbelievable,” Sarah says.
Pizza is enjoying a renaissance in Portland, so when she is craving a slice of pie and going to a more chef driven restaurant she heads to Pizza Maria (3060 Southeast Division Street; 971-303-7000; PizzaMariaPDX.com).
When she’s looking for a taste of back home, Boston native Sarah heads to The Fishwife Seafood Restaurant (5328 North Lombard Street; 503-285-7150; TheFishWife.com), which serves up fish, fish and more fish … as the name suggests.
“It’s the closest to New England chowder that I can get out here that I actually like,” says Sarah.
Bruce Carey, of owner / partner of the BCR Bruce Carey Restaurants
Bruce looks for what he calls, “real dining,” which is sit down dinning, when he goes out to eat.
When Bruce wants his family “to have our minds blown,” he heads to Castagna (1752 Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard; 503-231-7373; CastagnaRestaurant.com) he says.
Castagna serves up great food and caters to both casual and formal dining.
Waking up and hungry for great food with friends and family, Bruce is willing to wait in line to brunch at Tasty & Alder (580 Southwest 12th Avenue; 503-621-9251; TastynAlder.com).
When he is craving the flavors from Germany or Mexico Bruce takes his family to Grüner (527 Southwest 12th Avenue; 503-241-7163; GrunerPDX.com), that serves up “impeccable” new-German food, he says, and Xico (3715 Southeast Division Street; 503-548-6343; XicoPDX.com), his go-to Mexican spot.
Carrie Welch, co-founder of Feast Portland
A little neighborhood “under the radar” and a “gem” of a restaurant tops Carrie’s list. That’s Lovely’s Fifty Fifty (4039 North Mississippi Avenue; 503-281-4060; LovelysFiftyFifty.wordpress.com) where Chef Sarah Minnick is cooking up “really, really incredible food,” says Carrie about the restaurant that is a great spot for a date or a family outing.
She’s “doing food way better than it needs to be,” she says talking about Portland’s “pizza renaissance.” “It’s extremely specific and precise cooking for pizza … just classic, crispy thin crust with incredible ingredients put on top of it.”
Pssst. They also make their own ice cream, Carrie says.
Hands down, Carrie’s special treat is stepping out for an evening at Departure.
“Gregory’s food plus being able to overlook all of Portland is a rare opportunity,” she says about the food that she describes as “Asian food elevated” paired with a “view of the city that is unmatched.”
“[Gregory] can make a Peaking Duck Dish that can make you cry at the end,” says Carrie.
A new mom, Carrie, along and her wife, Jannie Huang, have recently been on the hunt for Portland’s best family-friendly restaurants with little Taylor tagging along.
One of the most adult- and kid-friendly restaurants they’ve found so far are Top Chef Masters Jenn Louis’ Lincoln (3808 North Williams Avenue; 503-288-6200; LincolnPDX.com) and Sunshine Tavern (3111 Southeast Division Street; 503-688-1750; SunshinePDX.com).
You can get upscale but “definitely not unapproachable,” pasta at Lincoln or handcrafted margaritas and soft serve ice cream at Sunshine Tavern.
Jenn is an “extremely talented chef,” says Carrie about the Italian and pub restaurants. “You can almost do a Jenn Louis tour in Portland and you would not go wrong.”
So, there you have it. The chefs and taste masters have eaten and shared their best feast in the Rose City. Now head to Portland and eat on.
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