As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, and bloggers. This year, we asked the group eight questions running the gamut from meal of the year to top restaurant newcomers, and we'll be rolling out their expert opinions all week long. Responses are cut, pasted, and (mostly) unedited herein. Readers, please do add your survey answers in the comments.
Q: What were your top standbys of 2014?
For friends in from out of town, two new places nudged their way onto my list: The American Local and Ataula. Both feature great menus for sharing and the service is outstanding. With my family, it's easiest to get my sons to endure a meal with me at Verde Cocina.
Byron Beck, editor, GoLocalPDX
The following continue to delight and dazzle me: Radar, Navarre, Grassa, Olympic Provisions, Tasty N Alder, New American, Departure, Cheryl's Kitchen.
Karen Brooks, book author; food editor and restaurant critic for Portland Monthly
I'm a die-hard regular at Lovely's Fifty Fifty for pizza and ice cream. New Yorkers may cringe, Italians may flee, but this low-key kitchen routinely busts out super satisfying pizzas, carefully constructed, beautifully singed, light on cheese, and sporting a changing cast of unholy toppings that somehow work magic. Kale? Cauliflower? Hard to fathom, but these ingredients starred this year in my own private pizza addiction. For dessert, always — always — malted milk ice cream. Other places you'll find me: 1) inhaling anything and everything at the Sugar Cube, especially the aptly names Blackout Cake; 2) breakfasting at Sweedeedee, and 3) hanging with friends at Luce, which really dialed in the kitchen this year and delivered on its promise of intimate Italian dining at affordable prices.
Brett Burmeister, blogger, Food Carts Portland
As a spur of the moment eater mostly, I tend to hit up those places that have proven to sate our bellies — Happy House Chinese for veggie egg foo young, Vita Cafe for huevos rancheros, Minizo food cart for Ramen, Geno's for the best steak in town, Acapulco's Gold for a shot and enchiladas.
Liz Crain, author "Food Lover's Guide to Portland" and "Toro Bravo" cookbook
Toro Bravo, Biwa, Tanuki, Bollywood Theater, Boke Bowl, Broder Nord, EaT Oyster Bar
Andrea Damewood, restaurant critic, Portland Mercury
I'll always love Podnah's, Shigezo and HA & Vl. Nothing will change that feeling (I hope). Le Pigeon remains my go-to fancy spot.
Erin De Jesus, writer, Eater National
Earl Ninsom's tasting-menu restaurant Langbaan (rightfully) got tons of attention this year, but PaaDee has stealthily become one of Portland's most consistent, comforting restaurants. It's become a go-to particularly when I'm lazy to give more than three seconds of thought about where to go to dinner, which I mean as the highest compliment: I know I can walk in and find exactly what I want, even when I have no idea what that is.
Allison Jones, writer, Portland Monthly
Departure (#teamgg), Ground Breaker Brewing, Harlow, Kure, Wolf & Bear's, New Cascadia, and the apple berry tea at Maurice.
Emily McIntyre, coffee and beverages writer
Bollywood Theater, Nong's Khao Man Gai, East Glisan Pizza
Kerry Newberry, food and travel writer; wine editor at SIP Northwest
Roman Candle for perfect arancini and affogato. Ataula for tapas always satisfies. Plus, who can resist the xupa-xup? Weekend brunch at Irving Street Kitchen because it's never rushed. Pok Pok Noi for I-can't-believe-it's-Monday-already takeout dinner. The Parish for oysters. Firehouse Restaurant for wood-fired mussels and alfresco dining (come back summer!).
Gary Okazaki, professional glutton (aka Gary the Foodie)
I dine most often at Aviary. Chef Sarah's new dishes were some of my most favorite from Portland in 2014: foie gras hum bao, crab chawanmushi, silken tofu, and sweet and sour pork short rib. The food that emanates from Aviary's kitchen is some of the most consistently well-executed in the city.
Michael Russell, restaurant critic and reporter, The Oregonian
Kachka is only eight months old, but it already feels like a standby. My go-to order: Siberian pelmeni (dumplings) in "fancy" broth, Herring Under a Fur Coat, pickled veggies and cured fish, maybe the beef tongue stroganoff, plus a vodka flight or two.
Among older restaurants, Firehouse has settled into my regular rotation as a more casual, equally charming, sort-of sibling restaurant to Nostrana. You can show up in jeans and a fleece, sip a perfect Negroni, nibble on fried stuffed olives and eat al dente pasta or one of the city's best Neapolitan pizzas. In the summer, the patio might make you feel like you've walked into a Fellini film.
Peter Szymczak, writer, Oregon Wine Press and SIP Northwest
2014 was busy with work and travel, so we tended to stay close to home in inner Southeast: Farm, Noble Rot, Screen Door, Sok Sab Bai, Clarklewis, Luce, Nostrana.
Mike Thelin, Feast Portland co-founder
PaaDee is the restaurant that you want in your neighborhood — not too fancy, but always familiar and good. Having Langbaan in the back room is an added bonus. PorQue No is my other standby: Brian's Bowl is crucial. Canteen is the restaurant that was my anonymous vegan pleasure, but now I run into every chef in town there so good to know I'm not alone in my appreciation for solid hippie food. I also love Olympic Provisions. It is probably the most consistently satisfying restaurant in Portland, and due to the popularity of the charcuterie, the OP restaurants fly under the radar.
Drew Tyson, writer and photographer
Taqueria Villanueve and Teote
Michael Zusman, cookbook author, restaurant critic (and judge)
When I'm not exploring further afield, I default to my close-to-home Northwest neighborhood favorites: Ataula for magnificent modern Spanish dishes and St. Jack (v2.0) for decadent French country-style plates with a side of chef Aaron Barnett's Canuck wit (if I'm lucky enough to snag a seat at the end of the kitchen counter). When I'm out with the kid, we frequently slip across W. Burnside to Grassa and Lardo.