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Long Waits, Inconsistency, Hype: The Year in Dining Grievances

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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 was your biggest restaurant grievance of 2014?

Chris Angelus, founder of Portland Food Adventures and Right at the Fork podcasts

I'm still going to wish that more places took reservations for smaller parties.  I'd like to see an app that charges two to five bucks for a rez, depending on demand.  I'd be frequenting many more places, and restaurants could have another revenue stream.

Sam Bakall

Not everything needs to be gluten-free.

Byron Beck, editor, GoLocalPDX

I loved roasted brussels sprouts with bacon. Love that dish. But does a version of it have to be on almost every menu? That and the inching up of prices on happy hour menus. They are not as happy (i.e. cheap) as they once were.

Karen Brooks, book author; food editor and restaurant critic for Portland Monthly

Inconsistency ... wild, wild inconsistency, even from some of Portland's best-known kitchens.

Brett Burmeister, blogger, Food Carts Portland

Brunch Lines. Wow, Portland. Is breakfast really that worth it? Paul Gerald of Breakfast in Bridgetown once stated there are over 150 great breakfast places in Portland. Why do you wait for hours in front of one single place in the rain when there are four other restaurants just as good if not better down the block? Explore. Try something new. Be adventurous with food. Give the venerable old greasy spoon in Cully a chance once in awhile.

Liz Crain, author "Food Lover's Guide to Portland" and "Toro Bravo" cookbook

I'm a lover not a hater so I'm twisting this question to fit. I still want more seafood spots (sorry to be a broken record) and a Cincinnati chili parlor (maybe I should open one) and a really great hot pretzel spot (one of my first jobs was at the mall food cart Hot Sam's), but I don't want to be greedy since we really do have an embarrassment of culinary riches at this point in PDX.

Andrea Damewood, restaurant critic, Portland Mercury

I guess my biggest grievances were openings from some of the city's best chefs that just didn't live up to the hype or the standards they should hold (Reverend's; Mediterranean Exploration Company). I'm also over most small plates... I like tasting a variety of dishes, but I'm also super over spending $60 a person to get full.

Erin De Jesus, News and Reports, Eater

Will more Portland restaurants be amenable to reservations once something like Nick Kokonas's Tock launches? I hope so, because I really hate waiting in line for a meal.

Georgia Frances King, editor, Kinfolk

It seems that in an attempt to fit more tables along bench spaces, the distance between you and your dining partner has become of marathonic lengths. You can hardly hear the person you're sitting across from already, become frustrated by the fact that the green beans are always out of reach, and it's terribly hard to play footsies. Am I the only one?

Emily McIntyre, coffee and beverages writer

Please, folks, return to simplicity. If you can't make a basic meal well, why would a complex one taste great? I'm so tired of extravagant, over-the-top meals and promises that don't impress.

Gary Okazaki, professional glutton (aka Gary the Foodie)

I have the same grievance every year: There is a "sameness" that is pervasive among some PDX restaurants and some of the dishes that come from those kitchens. On a positive note, there was a little less "sameness" due to the varied restaurant openings in 2014.

Michael Russell, restaurant critic and reporter, The Oregonian

Even by the standards of America's Whitest CityTM, the lack of diversity among Portland's top chefs, if not our Top Chefs, is remarkable. The city would be poorer, no doubt, without the work of the many, many passionate Portland chefs researching and cooking the cuisines of other cultures. But as much I like Pok Pok, Xico, Boke Bowl, Bollywood Theater, etc., I'd love to see some new perspectives and different backgrounds being represented among our best-known kitchens. When one of the city's "hottest restaurants" is a white-bread import of a Chinese-ish spot from Northern Vermont, something doesn't feel right.

Peter Szymczak, writer, Oregon Wine Press and SIP Northwest

Menu readability/design/descriptions. I hate it when a dish arrives that has ingredients not listed on the menu, especially hidden meat products in otherwise vegetarian fare. Another thing is small plates-driven menus with varied items that don't harmonize.

Mike Thelin, Feast Portland co-founder

I'm over everything that is not a traditional restaurant being called a "pop-up." That word no longer has any meaning.

Michael Zusman, cookbook author, restaurant critic (and judge)

The airing of grievances is my favorite part of the holiday season.  This year's list toppers:

1. "Reality" TV cooking competitions: Too many. Overproduced. Stereotyped contestants. "B" list celebrity judges. A parody of true competition.
2. Departure Restaurant:  Loathe this L.A. meets Skylab space and all its so-not-Portland trappings. Love Gregory Gourdet's cooking, though. Wish he'd find a better platform for his talents.
3. Kale: How about we go back to feeding this stuff to our pet rodents? It tastes of lawn clippings and has the texture of notebook paper. A complete waste of mandibular effort and stomach space, Smallwares' tempura version with fish sauce and bacon excepted.
4. Bad food writing: Crappy pay and overeager new college grads make for lousy journalism, especially in today's copy editing vacuum. Then, there are the writers who fail to do their research and leg work. And don't even get me started on Yelp.

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