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 Nak Won courtesy Facebook
Q: Name your top restaurant standbys of 2012 — the restaurants you returned to most.
Michael Russell, restaurant critic/reporter, the Oregonian: "When not eating for work, I often find myself at Portland's sandwich spots (Meat Cheese Bread), izakayas (Biwa, Miho) and taquerias (La Bonita, Uno Mas, Robo Taco). I have a favorite bike ride that takes me along the Columbia to Troutdale (and Edgefield's soaking pool), then down to Gresham's best restaurant, the hole-in-the wall Peruvian spot El Inka, for the rotisserie chicken, yucca fries and a can of cool, neon Inca Kola. I'm also partial to a few central Beaverton Korean restaurants — Nak Won, Spring, Jang Choong Dong and Du Kuh Bee — as well as their neighbor to the west, Taste of Sichuan, a Chinese restaurant in a former Marie Callender's."
Mike Thelin, Feast PDX co-founder and Cooking Channel talking head: "Olympic Provisions SE is the most underrated restaurant in town. This is my go-to spot. I also love Cedo's for falafel. I had no idea falafel could be so good."
Allison Jones, Portland Monthly/Eat Beat blogger: "Departure, Riffle NW, Lardo, Nostrana, Little T, Boke Bowl, and Otto. Oh, and the good people at Spielman Coffee Roasters & Bagels are probably sick of me by now — I'm there a few times a week."
FoodDude, restaurant insider, PortlandFoodandDrink.com: "Andina, Ox, Aviary, St. Jack."
Karen Brooks, restaurant editor, Portland Monthly: "For me, 2012 was Year of the Ox. No place delivered more 'holy cow' moments than Portland's wood-fired animal house. From smoked beef tongue with fried sweetbread croutons to a monumental maple-brined loin pork chop, Ox's gonzo gaucho eating made my tongue smile. I'm also a big fan of Bar Mingo. Meatballs and creamy polenta perfection. Another go-to spot is Biwa for ramen, Japanese comforts and that feeling of happy satisfaction."
Don Bourassa, community director, Yelp Portland: "You really can't go wrong with Jade Bistro and Teahouse, the Woodsman Tavern, and Boke Bowl. They're my go-to spots for consistently delicious food."
Karen Foley, founder, Imbibe Magazine: "I love Nostrana. It never disappoints, and you can go there for fantastic food and drinks with no scene or attitude. It's a place I know I can always send people from out of town and feel sure that they'll have a good experience."
Andy Kryza, Portland editor, Thrillist: "If aliens abducted me as a sample of the species, their dissection results would lead them to believe the human race subsisted mainly on La Bonita enchiladas, Bunk Sandwiches, Horse Brass halibut, Cruzroom hipster tacos, and Zach's Shack hot dogs... a horrid diet, yes, especially in such a wonderful restaurant scene. But I like to try new places as often as possible... these are the places that are either convenient or open after I've been out cocktailing. So I eat them, like, a lot."
Byron Beck, gossip columnist and Eater contributor: "Riffle NW, Olympic Provisions, Bunk Sandwiches, Noble Rot, Clarklewis."
Chris Onstad, food and drink editor, The Portland Mercury: "I just listed my main real-life, personal-money standbys in my year-end column for the Mercury. Ones I didn't have space for were: the Lincoln, Departure, and Killer Burger happy hours. CHOP sandwiches. George's fried chicken. Firehouse, whose food remains substantial, honest, and deeply satisfying."
Michael C. Zusman, freelance food and restaurant writer: "Ox is my #1. It's where the cool people meet to eat meat — and they let me in, too. The others on my 2012 go to list are Smallwares, Aviary and Wafu. Have to mention Random Order as my dessert haven. Oh, those cream pies!"
Erin DeJesus, editor, Eater PDX: "My most frequent dining partner is (tragically) allergic to dairy, so we often end up at Portobello Vegan Trattoria for soulful Italian food. During the summer I indulged in a severe happy-hour oyster addiction at the Parish. And other mercifully dairy-free go-tos: Red Onion (for oxtail soup), Shigezo (for kumamoto ramen), Nong's Khao Man Gai (because obviously), and Biwa."
· All Previous Year in Eater 2012 Coverage [Eater PDX]