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Chef Gabriel Rucker sits in the window of his restaurant.
Chef Gabriel Rucker. A September Dining Confidential with the chef was Eater Portland’s top-read story of 2023.
Thom Hilton/Eater Portland

Eater Portland’s Top 10 Most-Read Stories of 2023

Sortis drama, a hidden bar, Soho House shade, and more

When looking back on 2023, a few ongoing trends continued to attract interest among Eater Portland readers. Portlanders are still captivated by — and wary of — corporations and large-scale developments. They’re invested in finding up-and-coming talents or hidden gems, from underground bars to new pop-ups. And they want to honor and remember restaurant figures who have died, like Ox server Colin Smith. Below, we’ve detailed the most-read stories on Eater Portland this year (other than maps), from closing news to restaurant recommendations.

Two rows of square doughnuts at NOLA Doughnuts. NOLA Doughnuts

10. New Orleans-Inspired Pastry Shop NOLA Doughnuts Closes All of Its Portland-Area Locations

Right at the beginning of the year, this Louisiana doughnut shop and beignet chain closed all its cafes, citing the economy and the financial impact of the pandemic. “We have enjoyed serving everyone our delicious New Orleans inspired treats over the years and we want to thank our amazing team members and our customers for being a part of this journey,” a closing statement read.

9. This New Dumpling Restaurant Will Serve Handmade Savory and Sweet Xiao Long Bao

Portland readers tend to get excited over soup dumplings, whether it’s the arrival of a chain like Dough Zone and Din Tai Fung or the opening of a local shop like XLB. Eater Portland’s story on Xin Ding, an Old Town Chinese restaurant and soup dumpling emporium, garnered serious attention this year — over 25,000 views.

8. Why Is Soho House, an ‘Exclusive Social Club,’ Opening in Portland of All Places?

In May, Robb Report confirmed that the luxurious, international social club, Soho House, would open its first Pacific Northwestern location in Portland. Eater Portland editor Brooke Jackson-Glidden had questions. “My immediate thought is, ‘Who is this for?’” she writes. “Sure, there’s a good amount of Intel and Nike money around here, but is there really enough to justify a multi-million-dollar investment in a TikTok generation’s country club?”

7. Employees of St. Johns Cafe Wonderwood Springs Lost Their Jobs as Ownership Changed

In late 2022, Portland-based artist Mike Bennett opened a gallery space alongside a cafe in St. Johns. The coffee shop, Wonderwood Springs, was run by a company called Coffee Business, owned by the large hospitality group and holding company Sortis. In September, Bennett and business partner Teddy Albertson took over Wonderwood Springs, and planned to adjust the menu and renovate the space. In response, the pre-existing staff of the cafe picketed outside, frustrated with the lack of guaranteed jobs after Wonderwood Springs reopened.

A rendering of Flock, the food hall opening within the Block 216 building in downtown Portland.
A rendering of Flock.
Oculus Inc.

6. These Are the Restaurants Opening Within Downtown’s Star-Studded Food Hall

When the development housing Portland’s new Ritz-Carlton displaced the Alder Street Food Carts, the building’s developers decided to dedicate around 8,000 square feet to a food hall. In April, the company announced its list of vendors, which included Portland big-names like Birrieria La Plaza, Kim Jong Grillin, and Sun Rice. Last we heard, the food hall was expected to open this year; it’s unclear if that will actually happen. Eater Portland has reached out to the development team for an update.

5. Behind the Corporation Buying Up Portland’s Most Famous ‘Independent’ Restaurants

Before 2023, very few Portlanders were familiar with Sortis, which owns noteworthy Portland restaurants like Sizzle Pie, Ava Gene’s, and Bamboo Sushi. However, the company has been acquiring once-independent Portland restaurants for years, becoming one of the city’s largest restaurant groups. Our September story explored Sortis’s role in Portland restaurants, how it has changed them, and how restaurant workers experience their new corporate overlords. Since this story published, multiple lawsuits have claimed Sortis is not paying its bills to landlords and contractors.

4. Portland Remembers Beloved Ox Server Colin Smith, Dead at 32

In July, Ox server Colin Smith died after being stabbed outside a Portland bar; the server was a crucial part of the restaurant’s team and an incredible support to its workers. Our obituary focused on compiling the memories and perspectives of the Ox team and Smith’s loved ones, who painted a portrait of an endlessly compassionate, supportive colleague and friend.

Luna Contreras garnishes a fish dish with roe.
Chef Luna Contreras garnishes a dish at one of her Chelo pop-ups.
Dina Avila/Eater Portland

3. Portland Pop-Ups to Watch in 2023

Pop-ups are a fundamental part of the Portland restaurant scene, either as stepping stones to restaurants or landing pads for chefs hoping to get re-inspired. Thus, our monthly roundup of Portland pop-ups was a popular story this year, particularly for those seeking out emerging talents in Portland’s culinary world.

2. Meet Grandma’s Secret, Northwest Portland’s Hidden Cocktail Bar Inspired by Midcentury Vietnam

This April story showcased a speakeasy-esque cocktail bar tucked away in Northwest Portland, which is an homage to the underground bars within Ho Chi Minh City during the French colonization of Vietnam. Owners Co Ngan and Dat Truong, who also run Northwest Portland Vietnamese restaurant Lela’s Bistro, use elements from the original restaurant in both the food menu and the drinks — think: daikon pickle brine for banh mi in a martini.

1. Where Le Pigeon Icon Gabriel Rucker Dines in Portland and Milwaukie

This edition of Dining Confidential — Portland’s column highlighting Portland chef’s restaurant recommendations — features one of Portland’s most famous chefs, and the story’s 43,000-plus views indicate that this city values his perspective as much as it values his culinary prowess. What can we say? Le Pigeon is still That Girl.

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