Image of Virginia Cafe courtesy Oregonlive.com
As long as anyone can remember, The Oregonian's fine-dining guide, Diner, always published on Friday, buried deep inside the daily's A&E section. But for this year's first post-Karen Brooks-helmed guide, the O jumped the gun and came out a full weekday early with its take on the "Best Restaurants" in the city.
With Diner 2010 hitting stands yesterday, it was a bit of a surprise to open up today's A&E section and see a whopping 30 more "Best Restaurants" added to yesterday's haul of 78, in a section entitled "Diner Extra." Although today's take of shorter-than-short reviews packaged under categories such as "Dives We Love" actually increases the number of eateries to 108 (seven more than last year), it's still remarkable what restaurants didn't make Thursday's cut (and barely made it into Friday). The fact that only one Bruce Carey-helmed restaurant, Bluehour, made it in (albeit in Friday's round-up of "Happy Hour Havens") is stunning (where's clarklewis?). Other surprising non-mentions: Broder, Hiroshi, 50 Plates, Patanegra, Urban Farmer, Vindahlo, Simpatica, Wildwood, Wong's King — all restaurants that made last year's guide.
And some of the choices that did make it in Thursday (chains such as Burgerville, McMenamins and Hot Lips) and the "extra" section on Friday (Virginia Cafe, Henry's 12th St. Tavern, The Lamp) have more than a few local food-followers scratching their heads. When was the last time you heard anyone in town say Virginia Cafe was the best of, well... anything?
A quick read of Diner editor DeAnn Welker's introduction, published in Thursday's guide, gives you a major clue that Karen Brooks, and her influence, have been not-so-politely excused from this table. In what can only be seen as a dig at Brooks, Welker points out that the guide has "changed" for good. As she points out, "Change is good. It forces us to look at things in a new way, tossing aside old biases and beliefs, and maybe let some interesting places in."
Like Virginia Cafe? Hmmm.
Although no one seems to be too surprised that super-hot Castagna was picked as Restaurant of The Year, word around town is that this year's guide isn't quite as easy to swallow and lacks some of the vision, authority, and influence of previous incarnations. What do you think? Sound off in the comments below...
· Diner 2010 [Oregonian]
· Previous Karen Brooks Coverage [Eater PDX]