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Portland Food Writers’ Saddest Restaurant and Food Cart Closures of 2021

The departures that gutted us, from food carts to fine-dining destinations

An overhead shot of tartare, duck, greens, escargot bordelaise, and cocktails at Paley’s Place
Dishes at the now-closed Paley’s Place
Paley’s Place [Official Photo]

Each December, 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. Look back on past years here.

“Obviously it was tragic to say goodbye to Vitaly Paley’s presence in the city. I struggle to think of a person who shaped the city as profoundly as Vito did, and Portland’s dining scene will simply be lacking without Imperial, the Crown, Headwaters, and, of course, Paley’s Place. Ataula, too, was another tragedy. But the closing that affected me the most will hopefully be a temporary one, and that is Alley Mezza. It’s not just for the fact that I foolishly missed out on chef Khal’s vegan cooking, but also for the fact that it was a profoundly distressing situation. It opened my eyes in a big way to the way Portland treats its non-white chefs, especially Arabic individuals — while I knew our city had its struggles with racism, to see it on such display in comments on social media and in other discussions was heartbreaking and infuriating. We need to do better.”
-Alex Frane, Eater Portland guest editor and contributor

“I was really bummed when L’Unico Alimentari closed so suddenly—they made some of the best pasta I’ve ever had.”
-Katherine Chew Hamilton, Portland Monthly food editor

Homegrown Smoker’s news is bittersweet as it marks the end of an era in the vegan scene. Alley Mezza and Dinger’s Deli were the saddest closures as they’re both among my neighborhood favorites. Shady Pines is sad, as well — it’s a great concept that never fully came to fruition, and the closure of that pod left several carts in a tough spot. Many closures aren’t due to lack of business, but deeper problems within the food industry.”
-Waz Wu, Eater Portland contributor

“In another year of so many big name closures, this is a very difficult question to answer. Probably Holy Trinity Barbecue. That was a gut-wrenching loss. When chefs José Chesa and Cristina Báez moved away, many (rightly) mourned Ataula, but the quieter evaporation of 180 Xurros was sadder for me since I frequented that place. I feel like Portland could always use more dessert options beyond ice cream and doughnuts, much as I love those two foods.”
-Janey Wong, Portland Mercury food and drink columnist

“This is such a tricky one. I know people are going to mention places like Paley’s and Ataula — both were absolutely devastating, when you think about the history of dining in Portland — but it’s hard for me to ignore the way my heart broke when Holy Trinity announced its closure. Considering its brief tenure in Portland, I have so many fond memories of eating Holy Trinity beef ribs, those green chile grits, that *banana pudding.* I’ll admit, I’m still holding out hope it returns eventually, in one form or another.”
-Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor

Nodoguro, which was one of the finest Japanese restaurants in the country.”
-Gary Okazaki (“Gary the Foodie”), renowned globe-trotting eater

“Even though I only ate there a few times, Paley’s closure is significant because it seems like the end of the first-wave farm-to-table era that paved the way for the current local scene. I also miss Kachinka. I would always take out-of-towners there for all of the fun small plates and infused vodkas. It was casual and celebratory at the same time. Though wildly different, Oma’s Hideaway kind of fills that void, though.”
-Krista Garcia, Eater Portland contributor

Biba Chamoru Kitchen. Ed Sablan’s food channels the distinct culinary traditions of Guam, serving consistently delicious barbecue, coconut flatbread, shrimp fritters, kelaguen chicken salad, and particularly excellent pickles and kimchi. I really hope they come back so that I may purchase more of their pickled papaya and fiesta plates.”
-Jordan Michelman, Sprudge co-founder and beverage writer

“I was pretty shocked by Circa 33’s closure, especially after I experienced what seemed to be a pretty successful pop-up over the summer, Gin Alley. The staff was always super kind and ready to serve the neighborhood.”
-Katrina Yentch, Eater Portland contributor

“For me it was Holy Trinity Barbecue which I had always wanted to try but never got around to. The fact that Chipotle would open a new location literally inches from their cart (and the entire original pod!) is a notable example of tone-deaf corporate behavior.”
-Bill Oakley, fast food influencer

“Paley’s Place. True iconic Portland restaurant with an exceptional happy hour and an incredible regular menu including a spectacular beef tartare. The cozy atmosphere was one of a kind with service, drink and food to match. I can only hope that it’s legacy continues to influence Portland’s culinary scene.”
-Maya MacEvoy, Eater Portland contributor

“I was sad that Gogi Grill in Camas closed. The Park family, who owned this place for many years, made it through a fire but the pandemic ended the run of this beloved spot for Korean food. Losing Lapellah Restaurant left a huge gap in the Vancouver dining scene. There isn’t any place that attempted to replace this beloved farm-to-table spot known for its fire kissed vegetables, fish, and meat.”
-Rachel Pinsky, Eater Portland contributor, Washington correspondent

Year in Eater [EPDX]