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Portland Food Writers and Personalities on Which Pandemic-Era Pivots or Pop-Ups They’d Like to See Continue in 2021

Berlu’s bakery, Langbaan’s noodle soups, mochi doughnuts, and more

On a wooden table, Berlu’s Vietnamese pastries sit on little plates. They range from fruit tarts to pandan waffles to mango roulades.
Pastries at Berlu’s bakery
Christine Dong / Official

Per tradition, Eater Portland ends the year by reflecting on the last twelve months of dining in a series we call Year in Eater. We reach out to Portland food writers and influencers for their perspectives on major trends, impressive newcomers, and standout meals, and share their responses in a single package. Of course, 2020 was a historic and catastrophic year for the restaurant industry, so our questions this year hinge on that reality. Still, many wanted to celebrate the restaurants, chefs, and trends that really stepped up this year, and lament the restaurants lost to 2020. Look back on past years here.

By the time the year ends, the word “pivot” must be retired indefinitely. Hang the jersey, folks; it has played well and often this year. So many restaurants, bars, cafes, and more have tried to stay nimble, switching up their menus or concepts to accommodate a growing takeout audience. We saw fine dining restaurants become Vietnamese bakeries, burger carts switch to Italian staples, and Indonesian restaurants slinging flamin’ hot chicharrones. Some, however, really found their niche in the pressure cooker of the pandemic — for instance, Gado Gado’s takeout pop-up, Oma’s Takeaway, has found its own restaurant space, as well as vegan deli Mama Dút. These are the restaurant pop-ups and pivots we’d like to see stick around in 2021:

I’m pretty thrilled to be able to order boxes of wine that show up at my house the same day. I’d very much like for that to continue, though financially it might not be the best thing for me.” -Alex Frane, Eater Portland contributor

I like contact-free delivery because I am a weirdo and I like having the food left on my porch rather than having to sign a receipt while making awkward small talk with the delivery person; I suspect many of them feel the same way. Also, I love getting beer delivered.” -Bill Oakley, television writer and Instagram influencer

I do miss sit-down tasting menus, but I’m also loving all of the creative baked goods that have sprung up this year. Who knew Berlu would make bánh bò nuong that everyone went wild for (those socks!), not to mention the Vietnamese noodle soups and Hat Yai collab featuring fried chicken and pandan waffles.” -Krista Garcia, Eater Portland contributor

I’m a big fan of the pandan honeycomb cake and the salty coconut cream iced coffee from the Bakery at Berlu. The pastries aren’t too sweet, and you’d never know they’re dairy and gluten-free. I haven’t had the chance to try Vince Nguyen’s new noodle soup pivot yet (they’ve been selling out fast), but I’m always up for trying a new-to-me Vietnamese noodle soup. Both pivots are innovative, unique, and affordable enough for a weekly indulgence.” -Katherine Chew Hamilton, Portland Monthly food editor

I would like to see the Pix-o-Matic 24-hour vending machines stick around for when I have a sweet tooth in the middle of the night.” -Nick Woo, Eater Portland contributor

Like most people, we found ourselves this year cooking in our kitchens and using the dishwasher far more than we could’ve ever imagined. Surprisingly though, neither of us attempted to bake bread, or got into the sourdough starter craze. We loved seeing restaurants offer build-your-own meal kits, house-made sauces, soup stock, etc., which made cooking at home a lot easier. It was also great to see more local brands/products being carried at New Seasons Market, such as Renata’s frozen pizza and Upper Left Roasters’ coffee beans.” -Vicki and Vanessa Ng, Instagram influencers

Though it might be a simple idea, Baerlic/RanchPDX’s new ‘piehall’ was a home run. It’s ‘back to basics’ done to perfection. The beer selection is varied and robust, and the pizza is exceptional. What more could a person ask for?” -Ron Scott, Eater Portland contributor

“The chaos of 2020 led two local business owners, Steve Valenta of The Mighty Bowl and Bonnie Brasure of Bleu Door Bakery, to try the over-the-top crazy ideas they had talked about for years: opening 100-percent plant-based food businesses in Vancouver. Valenta launched Moo Burger — a pop-up vegan burger, fry, and beer spot — at his grain bowl and salad cafe, The Mighty Bowl, on weekend evenings. Brasure added a weekly three course plant-based meal to her takeout menu, with comfort food entrees like meatloaf and enchiladas, finished with decadent vegan desserts like chocolate cake and apple galettes.” -Rachel Pinsky, Eater Portland and Columbian contributor

I look forward to seeing what direction Mitate takes in 2021. It was one of the last pop-ups to launch this year, and I’ve never come across vegan sushi of that caliber before.” -Waz Wu, Eater Portland contributor

Langbaan. The bites they’ve created on their takeaway menu are some of the best eating in the city.” -Daniel Barnett, Eater Portland contributor

I’ve been a huge fan of what La Perlita has been doing during the pandemic with their rotating pop-ups. I’d love to see more people utilize their unused space to host pop-ups and POC businesses.” -Seiji Nanbu, Eater Portland contributor

Like others here, I’ve adored the pop-ups at Berlu and La Perlita, and the fact Langbaan is now easier to visit than ever feels like a blessing in a nightmare-year. In general, I am now a big, big fan of the wine bars that are now doubling as bottle shops — especially those that offer hand-picked selections. I have become far too reliant on the wine delivery at Dame: I could tell owner Jane Smith what I’m into (lots of salinity in white wines, out-there bottles that step outside their varietal characteristics, skin-contact wines from Southern and Eastern Europe), and now she knows what I like — when I order, she usually picks out stuff I would never know how to find for myself. I’m exceptionally indecisive, and I appreciate someone taking the reins and making a choice for me. Oh! Also, I love-love-love the new mochi doughnut pop-ups around town; I’ll be eating many more in 2021.” -Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor

More Year in Eater [EPDX]

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