As the year comes to a close, Eater sites across the country are celebrating the highlights and bemoaning the lows of 2019. Here in Portland, Eater contributors and food personalities are sharing their thoughts on the year in a series we call the Year in Eater. In this edition, Eater Portland’s editors and the city’s food personalities talk through the biggest surprises of 2019 in Portland dining. For more year-in-review stuff, take a look at our 2019 retrospective package.
Gary Okazaki, Instagram influencer and co-host of the podcast Walk-ins Welcome with Gary & Michael:
Given that Tommy Klus was the person behind Scotch Lodge, the assumption was the spirits program would be among the finest in the Pacific Northwest. That turned out to be wholeheartedly correct. But the pleasant surprise was the food program. It is the most elevated bar food I have ever seen in Portland. Kudos to Chef Tim Artale! If it were a restaurant, it would be ranked in my top 15 in PDX.
The other PDX surprise is the Italian food at Campana, which is a pop-up located at Grand Army Tavern. George Kaden is the chef of both Grand Army and Campana and was previously the chef de cuisine of NYC’s Italian-focused Hearth. I truly love pasta, and Campana’s is my current favorite in PDX. And the prices of the pastas are under $20.
Joy Church, Eater Portland contributor and Portland Culinary Alliance Vice President:
The resurgence of pasta could be found in unexpected places this year. I congratulate/blame chef-in-residence Patrick McKee (at Dame) for this happy trend. Italian mainstays like Renata, Burrasca, Il Solito, and Nostrana are consistently great for pasta, of course. However, seeing pasta on chef Pomeroy’s rotating “Tuesday Nights at Beast” menus, at chef Johnny Nunn’s French-inspired Verdigris restaurant during his newish, weekly “Italian Night,” and spying pastas like rigatoni with Sunday gravy and agnolotti at Tasty n Daughters, it appears that Italian-style pasta has found homes at unlikely spots.
Vicki and Vanessa Ng, Instagram influencers behind @foodbellypdx:
We are obviously late to the party on this, but we finally tried the Departure duck this year and it did not disappoint. You could taste the labor of love.
Seiji Nanbu, Eater Portland contributor:
The amount of hype around chicken sandwiches.
Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor:
Off of what Krista said, I really didn’t expect Washington Square mall to become as happenin’ as it has. Malls have struggled nationally, and Washington Square didn’t exactly seem like it was thriving when it scored dumpling standby Din Tai Fung and Taiwanese bakery chain 85 Degrees. It feels a little bizarre to drive into a mall parking lot when I’m feeling hungry for dumplings or Taiwanese egg tarts, but I must hand it to them — not a bad way to stay relevant. With Ezell’s opening there in 2020, it’s only getting better.