Guests place their order at Kann, the long-awaited wood-fired Haitian restaurant from chef Gregory Gourdet.Vickie Connor/The Oregonian
Have you ever read a restaurant listicle and wondered … wait, how did this come together? Has the writer even been to Portland? Didn’t that one place close last year? Sometimes, it’s best to do the actual legwork. Instead of internet research conducted in some New York office building, restaurant critic Michael Russell spent the past two months visiting more than 70 new Portland restaurants to bring you our upcoming list of 2022′s top 10. To kick things off, he’s naming his 25 favorite nominees, each opened in the past year (more or less). Read why they stood out, then check back in December to see which ones made the final list.
With soft pink walls and tropical palms, this self-described “Latin bar” looks more like a watering hole in South Beach than a former electrical substation in Northeast Portland. But hey, a little break from the chilly weather sounds pretty nice right about now. At Bar Cala, the food matches the vibe, from the chile-charged seafood aguachile to the potato-carrot dorados to the juicy burger with caramelized pineapple relish, each well-considered and nicely executed. If summer crowds turned you away, try dropping by now, especially during happy hour, which starts as early as 3 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, for some botanas — including my favorite fresh-fried tortilla chips and fluffy guacamole since the short-lived Chalino — and a classic Tommy’s Margarita (and to knock a few bucks off your bill). 2703 N.E. Alberta St., 503-719-4290, barcalapdx.com
Bluto's Greek inspired restaurant in Southeast Portland
It’s been more than a decade since Rick Gencarelli moved here from New England. After expanding his sandwich shop Lardo and pasta spin-off Grassa into several locations each, Bluto’s feels like a recentering of priorities. Here, Gencarelli and executive chef Barry Fitzpatrick have built a menu around souvlaki: lamb, chicken, shrimp and sausage skewered and charred over a wood-fired hearth, best paired with creamy hummus and small, fluffy rounds of pita, each served in a slim paper sleeve. Add in seasonal salads and veggie dishes, ouzo-based cocktails and classic soft-serve ice cream dipped in chocolate tahini magic shell or drizzled with honey and halva, and you have a new restaurant that already feels like an institution. 2838 S.E. Belmont St., blutospdx.com
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Lots of new restaurants are opening as “all-day cafes,” a hip label hinting at an ambitious aim: to revive restaurants’ role as an essential third place for gathering throughout the day. Few have realized that goal as completely as Cafe Olli, which opens from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week with some of the city’s best pastries by morning and a contender for Portland’s best new pizza at night. That means you can arrive early for a coffee and a flaky, blistered Portuguese egg custard tart for breakfast, a skillet of baked eggs and cannellini beans during weekend brunch or drop by at dinnertime, when the old Ned Ludd oven turns out super-thin pizzas topped with bright tomato sauce and house-made stracchiatella. In February, we called that pomodoro pie “the single most impressive pizza in Portland right now” — words we stand by nine months later. 3925 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr Blvd., 503-206-8604 cafeolli.com
When most Portland restaurants head to the ‘burbs, it’s to a few small pockets of real estate: Central Beaverton, downtown Lake Oswego and perhaps Vancouver’s new waterfront. Credit to Canard for bucking the trend. At their new Oregon City restaurant, Gabriel Rucker, Andy Fortgang, Taylor Daugherty and Co. have carried the fun-loving approach to menu development from their East Burnside restaurant here to the former Grano bakery space. Where else can you find beet jojos with Pernod mayonnaise, Tokyo hot chicken tenders or Salisbury steak frites? The greatest hits are here, including the duck stack and the White Castle-inspired steam burger. But there’s something else new for the ‘burbs: A “Little Ducks” kids section complete with Funfetti pancakes, printed right on the main menu. 1500 Washington St., Oregon City; 503-344-4247, canardrestaurant.com
If you wanted to draw a crowd to your restaurant in 2022, you probably led with pasta. Some of the most packed dining rooms I’ve visited have been somewhat-to-mostly Italian, including North Portland’s Tartuca (3951 N. Mississippi Ave.), Northeast’s Scholar (2226 N.E. Broadway), plus a few others further down on this list. Among the more accomplished iterations is this restaurant from Sesame Collective, the group behind Mediterranean Exploration Company and the nearby Lil’ Shalom. Found in the corner space previously home to Grüner and Bistro Agnes, Dolly Olive, a describes itself as a “Southern Mediterranean” restaurant with house-made pasta and bread. On a recent visit, the focaccia and rigatoni amatriciana were good, as was the olive-infused freezer martini, but better was a classic caprese with burrata, balsamic, basil and some surprisingly tasty late-season tomatoes. 527 S.W. 12th Ave., 503-719-6921, dollyolivepdx.com
Dough Zone's signature pan-fried Q bao get a sprinkling of black and white sesame seeds.The Oregonian
Portland has long been the beneficiary of Seattle Chinese restaurants looking to expand. First there was the Sichuan bumper crop, with Taste of Sichuan and Szechuan Chef (which begat Tasty Corner, see below) heading south on I-5. Then Din Tai Fung staged its upcoming Portland takeover by opening a first location in Beaverton. Dough Zone, a dumpling-world competitor to Din Tai Fung in the Northwest, is the latest import, taking over the striking waterfront building once home to fine-dining disaster Lucier. You’re here for dumplings: piping hot soup dumplings, lacey pan-fried potstickers, steamed shrimp-pork dumplings. But you should save room for house specialities such as the spiralized cucumber, dainty pan-fried “Q” bao and one of the simple-but-good noodle bowls. Yes, the space is an odd fit for the relatively humble menu — the dim sum surely would be just as tasty in a less dramatic setting. But from where I stand, no matter the setting, more dumplings can hardly be a bad thing. 1910 S. River Dr., 503-446-3500, doughzonedumplinghouse.com
I’ve visited Oaxaca, but never tried yique before visiting El Yike Oaxaqueño, a 6-month-old restaurant in the former La Superior space. The North Portland restaurant specializes in yique, a sort-of savory soup made from corn cured in house that gets layered with strips of goat meat. I don’t know that the chewy goat meat will have universal appeal, but the soup base itself is impressively nourishing, especially with the weather turning cold. And if soup isn’t your bag, El Yike has other, more familiar dishes to suit your appetite, including empanadas, tamales and two moles, an amarillo and a mole Oaxaqueño deeply worth your time. 2727 N. Lombard St., 503-206-5313, orderelyikeoaxaqueno.com
Have you heard of Aperitiki, the new international cocktail trend that combines Italian spritz culture with classic Tiki drinks? Gabbiano’s, a new Italian joint in Northeast, doesn’t exactly do Aperitiki — a tropically bright amaretto sour slushee with aged Jamaican rum probably comes closest — but from the crispy mozzarella cups overflowing with tomato sauce to the oversized plates of house-made spaghetti and meatballs, it does seem similarly interested in tweaking tradition while having fun. Despite that sense of playfulness, Gabbiano’s is a red-sauce restaurant through and through, far more enjoyable than Portland’s overstuffed pre-pandemic takes on Italian-American cuisine, and a great new date-night option for 2022. 5411 N.E. 30th Ave., 503-719-4373, gabbianospdx.com
A fried chicken melt sandwich from former food cart Jojo's new brick-and-mortar restaurant.Sean Meagher/The Oregonian
Food carts sometimes struggle to scale up when making the brick-and-mortar jump. That’s not the case with Jojo, which brought its namesake potato wedges, crunchy fried-chicken sandwiches, sizzling smash burgers and social media goodwill to the Pearl District without skipping a beat. The menu has grown, with a separate vegan menu filled with crispy Ota tofu sandwiches and spicy Beyond burgers, former specials finding a more permanent home and lots of sweets, including Funfetti-topped shakes, classic cocktails and a half dozen desserts. If you have a food-loving teenager in your life, surprise them with a birthday trip to Jojo. They’ll thank you someday. 902 N.W. 13th Ave., 971-331-4284, jojopdx.com
If you’ve read this far down a new restaurant list, I’ll assume you’ve either already heard about Kann, the new wood-fired Haitian restaurant from “Top Chef” star Gregory Gourdet, or have spent the last few years living under a rock. Gourdet, who first announced plans to open a restaurant of his own in 2019, explores the flavors of Haiti, where his parents were born before moving to New York. The restaurant is gorgeous, with white walls, gold accents and open sightlines throughout the dining room and kitchen, where Gourdet can be spotted finishing plates of epis-rubbed chicken or smoked beef ribs with herbs and oil. Reservations have been hard to come by, but if you can find a seat, try the twice-cooked pork, a sort of mission-statement plate of supremely tender meat, fresh avocado, fried green plantains and pikliz, the spicy Haitian pickled cabbage. 548 S.E. Ash St., 503-702-0290, kannrestaurant.com
Between the bakery, the cafes, the taqueria and the cocktail bar, keeping up with República Hospitality’s recent openings can be head-spinning. The restaurant group, which rose to prominence last year through its eponymous Pearl District tasting menu spot, launched a half dozen new projects in 2022, including Lilia (3159 S. Moody Ave.), an exciting new South Waterfront spot announced as we were finalizing this list (I promise to report back soon). The food at La Fondita, found in the former Park Kitchen, resembles Republica’s early lunch menu, with a soul-nourishing menudo, a spot-on sopa de fideo and the tri-color quesadilla with its signature swoosh of salsa matcha. A few nights after visiting, I returned to the adjacent Taqueria Los Ponchos, where I enjoyed some tacos and a beer before a concert downtown. Less than two weeks later, the space reopened as Comala, an upscale cocktail bar. 422 N.W. Eighth Ave.
Sitting alone at this truly que Indian brunch spot, sipping a mug of hot chai and dipping ghee-spread gluten-free toast into a paella pan of saagshuka, I found myself thinking about Houston. Specifically, I wondered whether Masala Lab, the latest project from Desi PDX cart owner Deepak Saxena, would be more celebrated in a city with a more developed Indian food scene. If this same menu — with its breakfast dahl, chicken-fried lamb and that saagshuka, a spinach-fused blend of Indian saag and North African shakshuka — were the brunch offering at a hotel restaurant from Anita Jaisinghani or some other well-known chef, would the dining room be full? There’s no way to tell, but though some Masala Lab dishes came off a little bland, you have to appreciate a place that’s trying something new. Especially when they come with a free refills on that spicy chai. 5237 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 971-340-8635, masalalabpdx.com
Last year marked an impressive rise for Portland’s vegan scene, with new restaurants offering plant-based takes on Sri Lankan cuisine (Mirisata), soul food (Dirty Lettuce) and Vietnamese (Mama Đút), among others. The rush of new openings slowed this year, but there were a few new additions, including Lilla (960 S.E. Madison St.), a pasta shop where I recently had some soft tagliolini in a surprisingly tasty, presumably Parm-free pesto. Even a meat eater can find something to love at Mis Tacones, the brick-and-mortar version of the Chicano- and queer-owned former Gateway area food cart, which carries on its policy of offering free food for trans people of color. Here in the old Tiffin Asha space, owners Polo Bañuelos and Carlos Reynoso make pure comfort food, hold the carne. Tacos, burritos and (yes!) chimichangas instead come with house-made seitan spiced like asada, carnitas and more — all under the watchful visage of famed astrologer Walter Mercado, Mis Tacones’ modern-day patron saint. 1670 N.E. Killingsworth St., 503-444-7972
Found in KEX hotel's library-esque lobby, Pacific Standard is a fine place enjoy a coffee cocktail and a good book.Courtesy of Pacific Standard/Rachelle Hacmac
If you know anything about Pacific Standard, it’s probably that it’s the first bar from longtime Portland bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler and partner-in-crime Benjamin “Banjo” Amberg. As someone who ranked Morgenthaler’s barrel-aged Negroni among the best things I ate in 2011 (under the “dessert” category, lol), the pitch-perfect cold brew espresso martinis and old-school Old Fashioneds here might be enough to secure it a place on this list. But there’s something nice about a food menu as unfussy as Pacific Standard’s, with its Willapa Bay oysters and shrimp cocktails, hot sauce Deviled eggs and steak frites and, for dessert, chocolate chip cookies from Morgenthaler’s own internet-famous recipe. Like the cocktails, some classic dishes don’t need a twist. 100 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., kexhotels.com/eat-drink/pacificstandard
The menu at this new Deaf-owned restaurant in The Zed food hall reads like straightforward pub fare: burgers, fries, fish and chips. The most exotic item might be an Outback-style blooming onion. But visiting Pah!, named for the American Sign Language term for “finally,” is an extraordinary experience nonetheless. Here, customers can sign their order — owners Lillouie Barrios, who is deaf, and husband Victor Covarrubias, both understand ASL — or by speaking near a tablet on the counter equipped with speech-to-text software. It’s an inversion of the usual deaf-hearing dynamic, a fish-out-of-water feeling not dissimilar to ordering in a foreign language. And best of all, 10 minutes later, you’ll have a tasty cheeseburger to pair with a Zoiglhaus pilsner from the neighboring bar. 5716 S.E. 92nd Ave., 503-500-5742, eatpah.com
When I look back on the summer, one of my fondest memories is sitting with friends on the wobbly picnic tables outside this pasta pop-up, the sun slowly dropping behind the Wishing Well’s neon palm tree just down the street. At Pastificio D’oro, which recently inherited the original Gracie’s Apizza space full time, chef Chase Dopson and partner Maggie Irwin, a painter, serve pastas cut from sheets rolled out entirely by hand using a long wooden rolling pin, a method more familiar to Emilia-Romagna nonnas than typical American restaurants. If you go, you’ll find a zippy salad made using Irwin’s honey-sweet dressing, some good aged prosciutto, two pastas — a squash-stuffed tortelli, perhaps, alongside a tagliatelle al ragu — and a rustic dessert. These days, the sun is long gone by 5 p.m., but with Pastificio’s new weekend hours, you can now eat fresh pasta with a glass of wine, then head across the street for a movie at the St. Johns Twin. Name a more iconic duo…I’ll wait. 8737 N. Lombard St., doropdx.com
“Have you tried Pasture yet?” a sandwich-loving friend texted me last summer. “I think I found my Tails & Trotters replacement.” I had gone by once, hoping to try one of the new deli’s informal small plates dinners, when steaks ordered straight from the butcher case could be seared off and eaten on the spot with a glass of natural wine. But those early evening services were dropped quickly in favor of to-go dinner boxes. What I didn’t know then was that Pasture had already become an outstanding sandwich shop, with tasty grinders stuffed with house-cured meats on fluffy Dos Hermanos rolls. Order at will among the hot and cold sandwiches and you’ll find something you like. And for anyone sick of the smash burger trend, Pasture’s thicker patty highlights grass-fed beef ground course, gently seared and topped with pickled peppers and aioli on a brioche bun. Held together by prayers and melted provolone, this is one of Portland’s best new burgers. 1413 N.E. Alberta St., 503-841-5033, pasturepdx.com
The multi-layered coconut ash crepe cake from Northwest Portland's Phuket Cafe.The Oregonian
Between the bone-in pork chops and dry-aged ribeyes, it’s probably best to think of Phuket Cafe as something of a Thai steakhouse. Which makes sense, given that restaurateur Earl Ninsom (Hat Yai, PaaDee) and resident ringmaster Eric Nelson (Shipwreck) are two of the forces behind Eem, the Thai barbecue spot that was our 2019 Restaurant of the Year. But if this is a steakhouse, it sure is a playful one, shaking up expectations with pandan-green cheese roti (yes, seriously) presented like blini with creme fraiche and salmon roe and the most eclectic cocktail menu this side of Expatriate. Here, shrimp come floating in a turmeric curry, paella is a three-alarm fire, salad is a whole fried fish and even those chops come with a fiery tomato relish. Note: On service nights for Langbaan, Ninsom’s innovative, recently relocated Thai tasting menu restaurant, Phuket Cafe moves outside to a mock Thai train car built in the parking strip out front. Cocktails, heaters and spicy food should keep you warm. 1818 N.W. 23rd Pl., 503-781-2997, phuketcafepdx.com
As with Pasture above, Piccone’s Corner is a Northeast Portland restaurant and butcher shop that launched in stages, starting by selling meat from its affiliated Wallow and Root farm, then opening a takeout window for sausage and pepper sandwiches and finally debuting an Italian-influenced lunch and dinner service. Though it technically debuted in early 2021, the dining room wasn’t fully open until this year, which might help explain why Piccone’s Corner might not be on your radar. That should change. These days, you can drop by for some crisp arancini, a good bucatini amatriciana or an impressively tender pork chop while sipping a Negroni in one of the restaurant’s light green scallop-shell booths. Fans of Laurelhurst Market looking for a date-night shakeup should head to the neighborhood’s northern edge and try this other butcher shop and restaurant. So far, the only thing that’s missing are the crowds. 3434 N.E. Sandy Blvd., 503-265-8263, picconescorner.com
Another year, another intriguing new Portland restaurant exploring the cuisine of Myanmar. After long lamenting the lack of a robust Burmese restaurant scene along the lines of San Francisco’s, Portland now has several carts, a growing chain in Top Burmese (one of Portland’s best new restaurants of 2021) and now Rangoon Bistro, a more homestyle restaurant with tea leaf salads, slippery pork shank noodles and chicken simmered in a curry or deep fried with chile and lemongrass in a style halfway between southern Thailand and southern United States. Found at the Breathe Building, a health and movement center best known for its yoga classes, Rangoon Bistro current menu is perfect for cold evenings, while the return of hot summer nights next year will mean easy-drinking turmeric Pegu Clubs served on the rocks to a sprawling front patio. 2311 S.E. 50th Ave., 503-953-5385, rangoonbistropdx.com
Fried trout pad Thai at Southeast Belmont Street's new Rukdiew Cafe.Michael Russell | The Oregonian
Is it time to have fun again? Plenty of restaurants on this list — Gabbiano’s, Jojo, the Oregon City Canard — argue yes. After more than two years of safety precautions, some new Portland restaurants seem to be embracing a more festive atmosphere. At Rukdiew Cafe, that looks like a lively bar lined with tufted pink chairs and a similarly colorful menu of familiar Thai dishes. Start with some crab rangoon with pineapple sauce or hot wings over a bed of noodles, then dive into the pork belly bites stir fried with Chinese broccoli and soy or a tasty pad Thai cradling a filet of fried trout or some crunchy soft shell crab. There’s a seriously spicy khao soi, and desserts that continue the brightly hued theme, including mango with sticky rice dyed a vibrant shade of butterfly pea blue. 2534 S.E. Belmont St., 503-841-6123, rukdiew.com
Meanwhile, in South Portland, another Thai restaurant is presenting a vastly different version of the cuisine. At Siam Umami, Songsak Tithipreecha, aka “chef Tong,” presents a menu of Royal Thai dishes less spicy and more balanced that typical American stir-fried noodle and curry shops. There are creative salads and mains, including an intriguing tofu-filled zucchini wrapped in a “mesh omelet” (imagine a caul-wrapped crepinette, then make it vegan). Not everything works — soft baked apple slices didn’t add much to some underseasoned rockfish, and you don’t need more than a happy hour portion of the braised pork. But if you do go, start by dipping your toe in with the distinctive dim sum, especially the the signature chor muang, dainty, deep purple bao stuffed with ground pork, peanuts and sweet pickled radish. There’s no other Thai menu like it in Portland. 4237 S. Corbett Ave., 503-479-8188 siamumami.com
After leaving its original pop-up home at North Portland’s Psychic bar, Diane Lam’s Cambodian-influenced noodle spot partnered with Win Win, the new restaurant group from XLB’s Jasper Shen and Linh Tran, to take over XLB’s former Slabtown location. Here you’ll find a bright restaurant adorned with a tiger-like mascot, cute pink lamps and colorful neon lights hanging overhead like an art installation. There are lots of fun things to eat and drink here, including some Singaporean-style chile crab prawns, a rich beef noodle stew and both Orange Julius and vegan Thai iced tea-flavored slushees. My advice? Go for lunch on a Friday, order some of the lime-pepper wings previously available at Lam’s Prey + Tell pop-up, plus an order of lort cha, the rice pin noodles stir-fried with egg, firm Ota tofu and sprouts. Those noodles have all the flavor of a some great wok-fired Cantonese noodles, only with a distinctly Cambodian bent. And save room for an adorable mango sticky rice sundae. 2175 N.W. Raleigh St., 971-220-1997, sunshinenoodlespdx.com
When Daniel Chen was a Portland State University student, he longed for a good Chinese restaurant near campus. Ten years later, he’s taken matters into his own hands. Chen, co-owner of Hillsboro’s highly regarded Szechuan Garden, returned to his old stomping grounds in early summer with Tasty Corner, a new restaurant serving a slimmed-down “greatest hits” menu of dishes from Sichuan Province and beyond — “there’s no intestine,” our server said, explaining one big difference. So far, my favorite bites have been the mapo tofu, with medium-firm tofu swimming in fragrant chile oil and ground pork; the hot and spicy “dried pot” pork ribs; and hand-shaved noodles, each with just just enough salt, chile and Sichuan peppercorn spice to make your lips tingle. So far, I’ve preferred the dumplings at Duck House just around the corner to Tasty Corner’s. But that just means the area has more than one option. As a student, Chen longed for a good Chinese restaurant near campus. Now there are two. 624 S.W. Hall St., 503-954-1835, tastycornerpdx.com
There’s a 15 minute spot in the small parking lot at this new Southeast Portland restaurant that, if this were most other Portland ramen shops, would be cutting it close. At Wu-Rons, those 15 minutes leave you time to spare. The restaurant, which takes its name from Tokyo Tribes, a “The Warriors”-style manga turned hip-hop musical, specializes in Nagahama-style ramen, with thin noodles arranged under fields of green onion and sesame seeds on a tonkotsu broth less milky white than cappuccino beige. Depending on when you visit, you’ll also find kimchi, karaage, shishito peppers, curry specials, a vegetarian ramen made from a mushroom-kelp broth and a Sapporo-style miso topped with butter and shucked corn. But the tonkotsu, a close cousin to Hakata-style ramen, is the one to know. From the parking lot, you can squint up at the Hawthorne Bridge overpass and imagine you’re in Fukuoka, the birthplace of Nagahama-style ramen. Inside Wu-Rons, the noodles come out fast enough you just might believe it. 1430 S.E. Water Ave., wurons.com
— Michael Russell; [email protected]; @tdmrussell
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