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Portland Food Writers on Their Single Biggest Hope for 2021

The overarching answer? That the restaurant industry survives at all

A server holds two plates of food while addressing a table. His face is out of frame.
A restaurant server
Romrodphoto / Shutterstock

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.

When things are particularly difficult, sometimes our body develops a resistance to hope. No one wants to be taken for a chump, after all. But the pull toward optimism at the end of a year — even a relentlessly painful one — can’t be avoided. As healthcare workers get their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, that yearning for things to get better feels less futile. We asked food writers around the city about what they hope for in 2021; read their answers below.

“I hope restaurants receive aid from the federal and state government, that residential eviction moratoriums continue, and that commercial eviction moratoriums are implemented until the pandemic is over. But my biggest hope is that restaurant workers get treated better. I can’t imagine being laid off multiple times, only to have to risk your life and return to work once lockdown measures are lifted. I want an overhaul of the way restaurant workers are compensated: a livable wage without having to rely on tips, plus health care benefits and paid sick leave.” -Katherine Chew Hamilton, Portland Monthly food editor

“I hope that the small, independently owned businesses that sprung up in Vancouver over the last several years survive. Without these unique businesses, this city’s food scene will return to a mix of fast food spots and fast casual chain restaurants serving unimaginative meals that you can get in any suburb in the United States.” -Rachel Pinsky, Eater Portland and Columbian contributor

“That (restaurants) get some sort of financial relief to stay viable until diners are ready to come back and eat.” -Christopher Bjorke, Portland Business Journal associate editor

“Obviously, we all hope that restaurants can successfully pivot and not just survive, but find a way to thrive in 2021. I also hope the food industry starts to acknowledge the connection between COVID (and past and future pandemics) and eating animals and shifts toward predominantly plant-focused menus.” -Waz Wu, Eater Portland contributor

Perhaps I’m being a little too idealistic, but given the major issues of racial inequality and worker mistreatment, I would like to see more prominent spotlights on chefs of color and less reports of restaurant employees feeling taken advantage of.” -Nick Woo, Eater Portland contributor

At this point, some return to normalcy is much needed. Beyond that, I hope we see the restaurants, bars, and brewpubs that put so much time, energy, and cash into their covid protocols be rewarded for it, either in increased traffic and patronage or government rebates.” -Ron Scott, Eater Portland contributor

I really just want to see all my favorite spots bounce back. There are so many wonderful places in town that I don’t want to see disappear, but are still struggling because of the inability to have on-site dining. I just want this pandemic to end so that everyone can get back to crafting their delicious experiences again.” -Seiji Nanbu, Eater Portland contributor

A safe return to dining in. Dining in is about more than feeding yourself. It’s a ceremony of sorts. I see it as an integral part of society, and the sooner we can return to it the better.” -Daniel Barnett, Eater Portland contributor

I don’t want to see this incredible culture that was still just nascent in the city go extinct. I don’t want chain restaurants on every street or ghost kitchens from outside chefs. My hope is that the places we love will still be able to open again one day.” -Alex Frane, Eater Portland contributor

I want us to learn from this year when it comes to empathy — I hope we treat our food service workers with more kindness and respect, knowing that many of them risked their lives to serve you food this year. I hope we act on that empathy, not just personally but politically: fighting for more protections and financial security for food service and agricultural workers. I hope we continue to make food available to people who cannot afford it. And yes, I want to return to the dining rooms, chef’s counters, and bars of the places I miss, like reconnecting with old friends.” -Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor

More Year in Eater [EPDX]