As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of local food writers, industry types, and friends. We asked the group eight questions, from Meal of the Year to Best New Restaurant, and all will be answered by the time we turn off the lights at week's end. Responses are related in no particular order; all are cut, pasted, and unedited herein.
Image of Pok Pok courtesy fireplace via Flickr
Up first: What were your restaurant standbys — the restaurants you returned to most — in 2011?
Mike Thelin, Feast co-founder and Cooking Channel talking head:
2011 was a Pok Pok year for me. PETA would protest my eating habits if they only knew how many wings I ate in 2011. It was a crispy sweet chicken massacre — but it was freaking delicious. I'm also a big fan of Nuestra Cocina. Cold drinks and warm tortillas. My go-to cheap eats spot is Pho Hung on Powell — I love the Vermicelli bun in the summer, and pho when it's rainy — which is often in Portland.
Peter Szymczak, editor, NW Palate:
Bar Avignon (spot-on wine list and tight kitchen on Division Street). Savoy (fried cheese curds, Friday night fish fries, and Nina Simone tribute nights are just a few of my favorite things about this classic on Clinton Street). Little Bird (downtown power lunch spot, also perfect for pre- or post-performance, date night, whenever. Great cocktails and French flavors with panache). Biwa (consistently soul-satisfying ramen, yakitori, shochu, and sake). Jade Teahouse (solid Southeast Asian fare in Sellwood). Saraveza, for pasties and pints of microbrews — Go Pack Go!
Ben Waterhouse, editor, Willamette Week:
Mostly those in my neighborhood: Chinese Delicacy, Five Spice, and Toast. When I wanted something a little nicer it was almost always Beaker & Flask or Tabla.
Karen Brooks, restaurant editor, Portland Monthly:
Reviewers, by nature, have to keep looking forward, so return visits to personal favorites is a luxury. I love the wood-fired pizza and handcrafted ice cream at Lovely's Fifty-Fifty. Pok Pok, Navarre, Gruner, and Nong's are also in regular rotation.
Michael Russell, restaurant reporter and critic, The Oregonian:
The places that kept bringing me back this year included Meat Cheese Bread, Manao Thai, Olympic Provisions (NW for the ambiance, inner SE for the food), Shenzhen on 82nd, Little Bird, Ping, EaT: An Oyster Bar (small beers, fried pickles, and $1 oysters all day Tuesdays — that's today), Nostrana (date night), my three favorite Beaverton Korean restaurants (Jang Choong Dong, Nak Won and Du Kuh Bee — the latter the best late-night restaurant in the metro-area) and various taquerias with varying reputations.
Brett Burmeister, chief food cart enthusiast, FoodCartsPortland.com:
Higgins. I fell in love with this restaurant some ten years ago and they continue to impress me. Three words — whole pig plate! For a cart, my go to cart is DC Vegetarian. They do some amazing veggie deli sandwiches that knock your socks off. The veggie chicken salad is one of the best I've ever had.
Allison Jones, Portland Monthly contributing food editor and Eat Beat blogger:
Departure, East India Co., Luce, Clyde Common, Ned Ludd, Portobello Vegan Trattoria, Broder, Little T Bakery, Straight from New York Pizza (my favorite slice in town)... Does In-N-Out count?
Tony Perez, food editor, Portland Mercury:
I learned this year that when you have to file a restaurant review every week, it's tough being too much of a regular anywhere — and quite honestly, my answer hasn't changed much since last time around. Biwa for late dinners; Meat Cheese Bread for a quick breakfast or lunch; Victory Bar for beers and spaetzle. I can see Luce creeping its way into my heart and habits in the coming months... good, simple, affordable food.
Danielle Centoni, editor, MIX:
When we're not eating at home, we're almost always at Por Que No. It's kid-friendly without being out of control and the food is dependably delicious. Biwa and Lovely's Fifty-Fifty are tied at a close second. Killer Burger is third, although if I didn't have to worry about things like arteries, it might be No. 1.
Don Bourassa, community director, Yelp Portland:
Like that friend-with-benefits in college, Jade Teahouse is the dirty secret I keep crawling back to. Not much else will entice me down to Sellwood. Not that I'm a switch-hitter or anything, but the restaurant I want to return to the most is St. Jack — every time I go it blows me away. But I'm usually too spontaneous for reservations. And while it doesn't fall in to the restaurant category per se, my current crush is Rum Club. It's a dangerous liaison every time we meet. I recall going there too many times this year. It's the leaving part that's a blur.
Byron Beck, gossip columnist, radio and TV host, Eater contributor:
Clyde Common, Little Big Burger, Bunk Sandwiches, Saucebox, Departure Lounge.