As 2018 inches toward its final days, it’s time to celebrate some of the city’s best new talent, from the restaurant designers picking out light fixtures to the chefs sweating over saucepans. We are delighted to announce the winners of the 2018 Eater Awards, honoring the industry talent that stunned us, surprised us, and kept us coming back throughout the year.
Last week, Eater PDX readers voted for their favorite chefs, bars, restaurants, and food trucks for the reader’s choice awards; here, the editor’s choices get to shine. The editor’s choice winners will also receive the illustrious tomato can trophy, and both winners for each category can stock up on bragging rights. Below, find some of the city’s most remarkable newcomers, from a chef cooking Kashmiri classics to the bartender bringing back the daiquiri.
Restaurant of the Year: Canard
This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone: Gabriel Rucker’s exceptional restaurant, which was originally branded a wine bar, extends far beyond that classification. Think of it, instead, as a modern diner, a restaurant defined by its accessibility, playfulness, and eclectic style. Beyond its eye-catching dishes and drinks, like its foie-gras-washed bourbon cocktail and its borderline excessive stack of smothered duck fat pancakes, Canard’s beauty comes in its simple touches — a piece of cinnamon toast in the morning, a cabbage salad tossed in a house-made creamy dressing, a slider with American cheese. Rucker understands that a restaurant should be both understated and creative, but most of all, it should be fun.
Reader’s choice winner: Canard
Nominees: Casa Zoraya, Master Kong, OK Omens, Kargi Gogo
Chef of the Year: Deepak Kaul
It was fascinating to watch how quickly Portland gripped to Deepak Kaul’s pop-up, Bhuna. The chef behind its lightning-speed success in Portland — pop-up to restaurant in less than a year — feels juxtaposed against his past history in restaurants in the Boston area, San Francisco, and London. For years, Kaul stayed away from Kashmiri food professionally, but his culinary return to the rogan josh of his childhood was revelatory for both the chef and Portland. The depth of flavor in Kaul’s dishes — his rogan josh alone — is beyond captivating, but he’s also tackling regional Indian food in a way that is tightly packaged and unpretentious, with perfectly complete rice bowls acting as tiny thali. Kaul’s deeply personal and casual cooking style feels almost emblematic of contemporary Portland, a city seeking dishes rich with complexity without the stiffness.
Reader’s choice winner: Karl Holl, Park Avenue Fine Wines
Nominees: Althea Grey Potter (Oui Wine Bar), Sara Hauman (Arden), Gabriel Rucker (Canard), Deepak Kaul (Bhuna)
Design of the Year: Enoteca Nostrana
Several Portland bars and restaurants had remarkably tasteful and beautiful design this year — the reader’s choice winner, Hey Love, is a great example — but what set Enoteca Nostrana apart from the competition was its originality. In a design era captivated by white walls and potted plants, Enoteca did something so polished and extravagant it felt out of place. Each individual touch within Enoteca feels glamorous: the eye-catching wine cellar, the sparkling-wine-cage stools, the color-changing musical bathroom, the deep blues begging you to dip a toe in. Enoteca’s design says, “Screw minimal — let’s do something special.”
Reader’s choice winner: Hey Love
Nominees: Palomar, Canard, Kachka, Enoteca Nostrana
Bar of the Year: Palomar
It feels as if Portland is rebelling against its natural identity as a rainy, dreary place with its newfound love of summery drinks. Hey Love, Palomar, and Sweet Nothing all evoke memories of visits to palm-roofed beachfront bars, but one of those three did it first and best. Ricky Gomez’s accolades as a bartender and cocktail designer are nationally renowned, and it shows in his most understated drinks: a memorable sour with a touch of apricot and almond, a three-ingredient daiquiri, a shot of house pineapple gin. Still, understated doesn’t have to be the move at Palomar: A flirty strawberry daiquiri still does the trick, even on the gloomiest of days.
Reader’s choice winner: Hey Love
Nominees: Palomar, Botanist, Deadshot, Kachinka
Food Cart of the Year: Bark City BBQ
It’s brave to open a barbecue cart in Portland right now; Matt Vicedomini rules the market with his famous Prost Marketplace cart. Still, Bark City holds its own and offers something new and distinct, fleshing out Portland’s barbecue renaissance. Pitmaster Michael Keskin cherrypicked barbecue styles from across the South, but the most captivating touches are the ones that feel distinctly his — pickled avocado as a side, for instance, which plays off the fattiness of most meats and cuts the smoke with a splash of vinegar. One could argue his brisket could go toe-to-toe with Matt’s on certain days and win.
Reader’s choice winner: Wild North
Nominees: Bark City BBQ, Gracie’s Apizza, Little Conejo, Trap Kitchen PDX