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.
Responses are edited and condensed for clarity.
Aside from serving show-stopping food, some Portland restaurants go the extra mile to open their doors to the community by offering resources, providing a safe space, and more. Here are the places that stepped up to the plate this year.
“I am consistently floored by Mis Tacones. I’m so glad that pop-up has opened its own place; trans people of color can eat for free there and it just feels like they’re changing the game in terms of what a truly queer restaurant — not just in terms of ownership but also politics — looks like.”
-Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor
“Dandelion Teahouse and UnderBar. These businesses have created safe and celebratory spaces for the LBTQIA+ community. [Dandelion Teahouse] holds gatherings like queer teen game day and transparency — a monthly circle for parents of transgender children. UnderBar hosts events like A Queer Comedy Christmas Pajama Party, Drag Bingo, and Drag Brunch. While across town a group of people continue to disrupt library meetings to stop drag queens from reading to children based on their own ignorance, these businesses have created welcoming spaces for the LGBTQIA+ community and their allies to gather.”
-Rachel Pinsky, Eater Portland contributor
“People talk a lot about the death of gay and lesbian bars in Portland, but restaurants have also been welcoming spaces for LGBTQ+ communities since the 1970s. The blossoming of LGBTQ+ and BIPOC-owned restaurants taking place right now is really exciting, including Mis Tacones, Meals 4 Heels, Pah!, Taqueria Los Puñales, and Luna Contreras’s collabs and pop-ups (still crossing my fingers Chelo finds its way into a permanent space). They exude a sense of safe space that feels critical right now.”
-Jonathan Kauffman, Portland-based food writer and author of A Place Is a Gift newsletter
“Chef Carlo Lamagna continuously shows up for the community by giving access for those who want to try their ideas and execute pop-ups, using the space at Magna. He also has hosted and contributed to fundraisers that directly impact our community and surrounding areas. And he’s just an all around amazing mentor to so many of us. Nan Chaison’s Mestizo has also been a quiet and consistent source of support for the community in a similar way to Magna Kusina. Nan is a strong advocate for local BIPOC, women and LGBTQ+ chefs and entrepreneurs.”
-Nori de Vega (@nomnom_nori), influencer
“The opening of Pah! in Lents has been an inspiring event. This deaf-owned and operated restaurant inside the Zed food hall holds Silent Chat Nights for deaf/hard-of-hearing folks as well as hearing Portlanders who want to practice their ASL. Non-ASL speakers are invited to put in their orders through a speech-to-text tablet.”
-Nathan Williams, Eater Portland contributor
“It is difficult to choose between Dame, Magna Kusina, Mestizo, and Cafe Olli, so I won’t! These establishments have all helped cultivate up-and-coming chefs through pop-ups and marketing. As Pip’s Original constantly says, it’s about community not competition.”
-Ehow Chen (@ehow.eats), influencer
“Again, come on, the Roxy. Even on their final day, the entire queer community was there. And then in the days after they closed, they donated tons of food and supplies while people sat shiva on the patio. Every time I go to Scandals, there are people taking selfies in front of the gutted building. There were so many beautiful eulogies, both for the restaurant and its owner, Suzanne Hale. A pillar of the community is gone.”
-Thom Hilton, Eater Portland contributor
“There are many examples, like many restaurants and bars donating to causes that were front and center in the news this year like transgender rights and abortion rights. Another great example is the Sports Bra, opening up and supporting women’s sports during such a difficult year for the Thorns.”
-Zoe Baillargeon, Eater Portland contributor