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2019 in Review: The Biggest Food News Stories of Each Month This Year

From January to December, these are the food news stories that Portlanders read most

A picture of the brown-and-straw-heavy bar at Wajan, which has hanging lights, arak, and wooden stools
The bar at Wajan, an Indonesian restaurant that opened in Portland in June
Dina Avila/EPDX

Here, at the end of the decade, the dust has far from settled. Portland fit a lot of news into its final moments: major closings, big expansions, and things to look forward to in the decade ahead. Each month was defined by one particular story, be it the farewell of an old-Portland brewery, a future zero-waste grocery store, or the arrival of underrepresented cuisines in Portland’s restaurant market. Below, readers will find the most-read stories of each month — for the overall biggest reads, this list may be more of a help.

January: A Historic Portland Brewpub Suddenly Closes

The beginning of the year — the year in general — wasn’t kind to the beer industry. Widmer Brewing has been a classic Portland brewery for decades. When its brewpub closed January 22, it was remarkably sudden — the company didn’t make any formal announcement beforehand. Now, the brewpub only opens for events, but Widmer still makes its beer to be purchased in convenience stores and groceries.

February: The Brewery Bloodbath Continues as Bridgeport Brewing Prepares to Close

Bridgeport, a large old-school Portland brewery in Northwest, was another casualty of 2019. Bridgeport stopped brewing beer on February 12, with the final closure of the brewpub weeks later.

March: The ‘Reverse Steakhouse’ Announces Its Impending Arrival

Garrett Benedict, a California ex-pat, moved to Portland with the intention of opening his ‘reverse steakhouse,’ a restaurant focused on small meat plates and larger produce-centric options. His time at AL’s Place in San Francisco built up some buzz before the restaurant, called G-Love, opened August 28.

April: St. Jack and Five Other Portland Restaurants Will Open in Lake Oswego

In April, Chefstable — the restaurant group behind places like sandwich staple Lardo and pasta shop Grassa — announced it would open six new spots in the southern suburb Lake Oswego, including five new locations of existing restaurants: a Lardo, a Grassa, beer bar Loyal Legion, pizzeria Oven and Shaker, and French restaurant St. Jack. The restaurants are a ways out, but they should all open by 2021.

May: Retro Game Bar Opens Its Doors in Northeast Portland

On NE MLK, a bar opened that focused less on its cocktails and snacks than it did on another offering: video games, specifically nostalgic ones played on ‘80s and ‘90s consoles. Retro Game Bar, owned by collectors and industry vets Shira and Jason Yovu, opened May 16 with themed hot dogs, cocktails, and various living-room-style tv-and-couch setups.

June: Indonesian Restaurant Wajan, a Love Letter to the Country, Opens on East Burnside

Portland had two Indonesian restaurants open this year: One was Gado Gado, a Hollywood restaurant that incorporates inspiration from other parts of the world, and the other was Wajan, a small Burnside cafe dedicated to the cuisine of Jakarta. The latter opened June 12, with dishes like ayam goreng (Indonesian fried chicken), nasi lemak (coconut rice), and teri kacang (peanuts and anchovies).

July: Portland Announces a Topless Taco Festival for Cancer Research

Topless Tacos and Booties & Burritos, two coinciding Mexican-food-and-nudity themed fundraisers for cancer research, held its first event this year. The salacious nature of the event attracted serious attention from the get go; plus, the hot mess that was Portland’s other taco festival gave it a boost.

August: A ‘Zero Waste’ Grocery Store Will Open in Portland Next Year

Portland loves its responsible and sustainable sourcing, so the premise of a zero waste grocery store — avoiding plastic and other non-compostable or recyclable packaging — built some serious excitement in Portland. NoPac Foods will hopefully open in spring 2020.

September: A New Shanghainese Restaurant Opens in Downtown Portland

Shanghai Restaurant, also known as Shanghai Chinese Restaurant, brought xiao long bao, Shanghai-style borscht, and sweet-and-sour spare ribs to SW 4th. Danny Chen, who also runs the longstanding Szechuan Chef restaurant on Macadam, opened the restaurant September 26.

October: Gabriel Rucker’s Downtown Jewel Little Bird Closes October 27

When it opened in 2010, Little Bird was a game-changer: Rucker, who also owned Le Pigeon, was the hot chef in Portland, and his downtown bistro breathed new life into that neighborhood. Still, the restaurant closed in October, almost a year shy of its 10-year anniversary.

November: With Bae’s Chicken, Fast-Casual Icon Micah Camden Wants to Perfect the Fried Bird

Micah Camden’s first fried chicken place didn’t go super well, but the buzz has been deafening for his more researched follow-up, Bae’s. The restaurant opened November 6, with hot chicken, sour cream mashed potatoes, and chicken sandwiches.

December (so far): ‘Top Chef’ Finalist Gregory Gourdet Will Finally Open His Own Restaurant

The month is still young, but so far, the news that longtime Departure chef Gregory Gourdet would open his own restaurant has been the talk of the town. Gourdet will have a global take on the cuisine at his restaurant, which will incorporate inspiration from Japan, Haiti, and other corners of the world.

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