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What Was the Biggest Dining Surprise of 2016? Experts Weigh In

What was the biggest Portland dining surprise of 2016? 

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Dina Avila/EPDX

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 seven questions running the gamut from best dining neighborhood 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 share your survey answers in the comments.

Q. What was the biggest Portland dining surprise of 2016?

Michael Russell, The Oregonian’s food reporter and critic

Let me join the chorus praising what Nancye Benson and her baking brigade are doing at Milk Glass Mrkt, which went from a chillax Sweedeedee alternative to an essential Portland restaurant in 2016. You already know the basic menu of breakfast sandwiches, salads, and Portland’s best focaccia, but you’ll want to go back for the sugar-spin treats from Kir Jensen and the Japanese-influenced specials from Jane Hashimawari.

Also, don’t sleep on Rose VL. By serving Ha VL’s famous soups after noon — and on Tuesdays! — this 18-month-old spot may have added more to our Gross National Happiness than any other recent restaurant opening.

Kelly Clarke, senior editor, Portland Monthly

I’m a carnivore through and through, but I fell hard for vegan-Tex Mex spot Rabbits Cafe, of all places. The crew from the Sudra opened it as a no-nonsense grab and go for the hordes at Big Pink, but its green chutney-drizzled eggless scrambles and kale-stuffed wraps are vividly spiced, rib-sticking pleasures. It’s one of the only places I eat soy curls on purpose.

Gary Okazaki, professional glutton (aka Gary the Foodie)

Three-way tie:

1) Deadshot came out of nowhere. The cocktails are from the talented Adam Robinson, and Holdfast's Joel Stocks and Will Preisch create some of PDX's most intriguing bar food: Pig ear nachos, anybody? Or how about "surf and turf" eggs?

2) I was flummoxed by the crowds at Afuri. But it is a stunningly designed restaurant.

3) There were many new restaurants that looked absolutely gorgeous; kudos to the architects and designers of Shizuku by Chef Naoko, Tusk, SuperBite, Revelry, Headwaters, Afuri, and Nodoguro. They look the part of big-city restaurants.

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

So, right before Snowevent 2.0 hit, I had my first sandwich from Grant's Philly Cheesesteak. A revelation on a hoagie roll, I'll tell ya.

More generally, I was super surprised at how good the Italian food is at Mucca Osteria and how unappealing Pine Street Market turned out to be.

Andrea Damewood, restaurant critic, Portland Mercury

I would say brunch at Tusk was the most pleasant surprise for me. It's so reasonably priced and so hearty! I went back for more brown rice porridge with chicken curry this morning.

Mike Thelin, co-founder of Feast Portland

It was a great surprise to see such a dream team take over the old Heathman Restaurant to launch Headwaters, and a surprise that came out of nowhere.

Andrea Slonecker, food stylist, cookbook writer, and recipe editor for Kinfolk Magazine

My biggest surprise came in decoding the secret ingredient that makes Mae PDX's fried chicken so addictive. But my lips are sealed.

Milk Glass Mrkt

2150 North Killingsworth Street, , OR 97217 (503) 395-4742 Visit Website