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Food Experts on the Top Dining Neighborhood of 2013

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 Restaurant Standbys 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.


Photo of SE Division & 30th courtesy Division/Clinton Business Asso.

Q: What was the best dining neighborhood of 2013?

Adam Lindsley, freelance food writer, Serious Eats/The Oregonian:
I know it's a cliché by now, but how can it be anything other than SE Division? However, if the thought of slaloming around construction equipment, pedestrians, and traffic cones sets your eye to twitching, the Lower Burnside/Inner SE Industrial District is really looking good, with Le Pigeon, Nong's, Biwa, Tarad, Trifecta, and many others all within eight blocks of each other.

Drew Tyson, editor, Thrillist PDX:
Downtown, but everyone's biased by necessity. Of course Division/Clinton is great, as well as Mississippi/Albina, NW and SE Industrial. Portland neighborhoods are evolving quickly right now, I'm excited to see less focused areas begin to gain popularity while the bigger regions get more homogenous. Most promising are the suburbs — entire cities with, hopefully, their own identities.

Dina Avila, freelance/Eater photographer, Eater PDX
The West End is certainly bursting at the seams with new, amazing places to eat and drink, but I've noticed an appealing trend of fantastic spots in neighborhoods that aren't your normal dining destinations. Old Salt Marketplace is a great example. Church is another. Trifecta and Tarad, Din Din. All hidden gems off the beaten path.

Karen Brooks, food critic, Portland Monthly Magazine:
SE Division (if you discount the emerging parking nightmare and increasingly hideous architecture). Hard to beat an eatsophere of Pok Pok, Roe, Ava Gene's (Portland Monthly's Restaurant of the Year), Salt & Straw, Lauretta Jean's, Artigiano, Little T American Baker, Whiskey Soda Lounge, and Sen Yai, among others ... with Bollywood Theater, the sequel, on the way.

Anne Marie DiStefano, restaurant critic, Portland Tribune:
The West End.

Andy Kryza, senior editor, Thrillist:
Division shows no sign of stagnation, but Concordia is growing like some sort of mutant baby. I swear, Hanford has some sort of secret nuclear waste facility under those streets that is spawning an army of great food and drink purveyors from the Dekum triangle on down.

Martin Cizmar, arts and culture editor, Willamette Week:
Division is the only answer again this year, but I'm nearly as impressed with the rise of the West End. Racion, Boxer Ramen, and Tasty N Alder are all very impressive.

Byron Beck, local gadfly and Eater contributor,
Downtown/West: If you want to experience the best this city has to offer all you have to do is head west. Note-worthy meals and exceptional experiences were ours for the taking at stand-outs like the impossible-to-get-into Multnomah Whiskey Library, Tasty N Alder, Lardo, Blue Star Donuts, Boxer Ramen, Gruner, Kask, Grassa, Racion, Little T Baker, Imperial, and Clyde Common where I saw more than one or two celebrities. This is ground zero for the new downtown dining scene. 

Paul Gerald, author, Breakfast in Bridgetown:
SE Division. What the hell? How many places do we need on one street? Just from 12th to 42nd, I know of 13 breakfast/brunch places, not counting carts or the new Pine State Biscuits location.

Karen Foley, founder, Imbibe Magazine:
Definitely the West End in downtown — it seems like there's a new great drinking or eating spot opening every week.

Mike Thelin, co-founder, Feast Portland:
I said Division last year, which is without doubt the best in PDX — and just gets better and better. That aside, Concordia is the other best dining neighborhood in Portland. There are obvious spots like Beast and Expatriate, but faithful standbys like Yakuza and DOC are putting out great food. I had one of my best meals of the year at DOC, and their wine service/experience is really special. If you came upon DOC on vacation in Italy, you'd feel like you won the lottery. 

Chris Angelus, founder, Portland Food Adventures:
Division is great but it's under construction. NW is coming on strong with classics like Pacific Pie and St. Jack, but take a look at the West End a year ago and now. Tasty, Lardo, Grassa, Racion... and the hits just keep on coming.

Michael Zusman, author and freelance restaurant writer:
Is there any serious doubt? Maybe not a neighborhood as such, but the section of southeast Portland bounded by Belmont on the north, Clinton on the south, 20th Avenue on the west and 50th Avenue on the east is the rich beating heart of Portland's modern restaurant world. If on foot, one can eat heartily and well without diverting from Division. Up and Comer: Downtown's Western Edge (sorry folks, "West End" is taken by a place called London, England).

Don Bourassa, community director, PDX Yelp:
Division between Sunshine Tavern and Woodsman Tavern. The West End is coming in a close second.

Allison Jones, web editor, Portland Monthly:
I said it in 2011, I said it in 2012, and I'll say it again: nothing beats Division. There's just no competition. Even though NW 23rd is trying its damndest. Maybe next year, Trendythird.

Jordan Michelman, founder,
Clearly the intersection of 12th and Alder, or "the West End" or whatever we're calling it now. The new Heart Coffee cafe is there, and Tasty N Alder, and then the bar duo of Kask and Multnomah Whiskey Library. Alder & Co. is my favorite boutique in Portland, and it's right there too; Blue Star Donuts is right up the street. There's more to walk to in the West End — coffee at the Ace Hotel Stumptown, Boxer Ramen — but that intersection in particular is pretty magic right now.

Chris Onstad, restaurant critic, Portland Mercury:
Despite the hash the city's making out of traffic and parking down there, Division from 12th to 51st is just unparalleled for variety and quality.  

Erin DeJesus, editor, Eater PDX:
If you're really lazy like me and want to crunch as much variety within the smallest amount of space to navigate, the West End wins it: You have huge, hearty bowls of ramen and pasta at a low price point (Boxer Ramen, Grassa), an energetic steakhouse with great cocktails (Tasty N Alder), more great cocktails (MWL, Kask), Heart coffee, and pastries I no longer have to go to Division for (Little T). #westside

Ben Tepler, contributing food writer, Portland Monthly:
Division. You can do a day's worth of eating in a one-block radius. Sen Yai for breakfast, Lauretta Jean's for second breakfast, Roman Candle for lunch, Ava Gene's for dinner, Salt & Straw for dessert. 

Georgia Frances King, editor, Kinfolk Magazine:
The obvious choice would be the Division Street strip, but as I work and reside in the NE, I'm putting my money on the quickly-changing N. Williams area to take over in the next 18 months.

PDX Food Dude, editor,
Too many good restaurants spread across the city to pick one neighborhood!

· All Year in Eater 2013 Coverage [Eater PDX]