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.
What were the top restaurant newcomers of 2014?
Mediterranean Exploration Company; Tasty N Sons' new east coast menu; and Langbaan, which to me is not a pop-up, but a restaurant (like Roe). Kachka and DaNet, da.
Samantha Bakall, restaurant reporter, The Oregonian
I've never been a huge fan of Thai food, but Langbaan blew me away this year. Also, nearly everything from Kachka and Fenrir touched my pickled heart.
Byron Beck, editor, GoLocalPDX
I have new relationships with the following: New American, Kachka, the new St. Jack, Stella Taco, All-Way, and Mediterranean Exploration Company.
Karen Brooks, book author; food editor and restaurant critic for Portland Monthly
Langbaan, my Restaurant of the Year, is arguably one of the best new restaurants in America. It's a new vision of Thai eating, somewhere between genuine, underground, highly personal, and just really, really good. Nodoguro, the Japanese tasting-menu adventure, is the place I'm most excited to watch evolve in 2015. Kachka brings Russian food as we rarely see it, on a fun platter. This is the party everyone wanted to join this year. Maurice is the quirky little place that could. Kristen Murray's Scandinavian baked goods alone are a reason to celebrate.
Brett Burmeister, blogger, Food Carts Portland
I'm happy to see the opening of Pepper Box, a former food cart specializing in New Mexican cuisine. Ash Wood Fired Pizza in Sellwood opened in spring, taking on some tough competition in that arena, and they have crushed it. Lastly, the rise of Japanese street food options. Anywhere I find it — Wabi Sabi, Buki — I just dive in.
Liz Crain, author "Food Lover's Guide to Portland" and "Toro Bravo" cookbook
Mediterranean Exploration Company, the newly loved-up Tasty n Sons, Kachka, and Trifecta. Because I've worked with John Gorham on the Toro Bravo cookbook and now the Tasty brunch book, naming his spots here might be viewed as biased, but I hope my honesty is apparent. I can't help my good luck work-wise ;)
Andrea Damewood, restaurant critic, Portland Mercury
In what category? There were a lot of great openings this year, but I'll say that Langbaan, Maurice, and Kachka certainly do the most to influence our dining conversation.
Erin De Jesus, writer, Eater National
Langbaan and, of course, Kachka. During my first visit, I remember being struck at the diversity of the room (alongside the usual groups of self-proclaimed "foodies" of all ages, there were multiple tables that held entire families), a multilingual, multigenerational mix contributed to this infectious dining room energy. And then came the diversity of the food: cold, smoked fish in every iteration imaginable; soulful pelmeni; and my first-ever taste of caviar with butter and blini. The meal was inspirational — and not just from a culinary standpoint.
Allison Jones, writer, Portland Monthly
Langbaan (swoon), Kachka, and Angel Face.
Emily McIntyre, coffee and beverages writer
East Glisan Pizza, Pepe Le Moko, and Langbaan
Kerry Newberry, food and travel writer; wine editor at SIP Northwest
Langbaan and Kachka. If I used emojis, I'd insert thumbs up and happy faces here.
Gary Okazaki, professional glutton (aka Gary the Foodie)
My favorite new restaurant in the USA was Chicago's 42 Grams. From a failed kickstarter project (Dyne Restaurant) to pop-ups in their apartment to opening 42 Grams in January of 2014 to garnering 2 Michelin stars in November — it was quite a journey for Jake and Alexa. Following closely behind 42 Grams is Portland's Langbaan. Earl Ninsom and Rassamee Ruaysuntia created meals that were sophisticated and bold. They made me fall in love with Thai food.
Michael Russell, restaurant critic and reporter, The Oregonian
Kachka, Langbaan, Mediterranean Exploration Company, Nodoguro, and Pollo Norte. Plus, among bars, Angel Face, the Knock Back, and Pepe Le Moko. And, if you include late 2013, Maurice.
Peter Szymczak, writer, Oregon Wine Press and SIP Northwest
La Panza Cafe, which specializes in New Mexican cuisine — lots of green chiles and sopapillas (fried pastries that puff up like "sofa pillows" you fill with honey).
Mike Thelin, Feast Portland co-founder
Kachka and Maurice.
Drew Tyson, writer and photographer
Nodoguro and Storr's Smokehouse.
Michael Zusman, cookbook author, restaurant critic (and judge)
Kachka was Portland's top new table in 2014. Nowhere else even came close, though Maurice is a noon meal pleasure and a slice at Palace Cakes is no slouch. I'm also a big fan of the food at Holdfast and Lang Baan, though the cramped seating arrangements at both make me a little cranky. I only tried Nodoguro once, before it took over the former Evoe space full-time, but was impressed with its thematic approach to refined Japanese cuisine.