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Portland Food Writers and Personalities’ Favorite Newcomers in 2023

Ssam at Jeju, burger pop-ups, vegan patisserie, and more

A platter of wood-fired Korean barbecue, surrounded by ssam components and purple rice, at Jeju.
Jeju in Portland.
Celeste Noche/Eater

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.

Every year, local publications announce what they consider to be the city’s best new restaurant — but many phenomenal new entrants often fall through the cracks. Eater Portland asked knowledgeable diners around the city for their favorite newcomers this year. While overlap was inevitable, a few fun, under-celebrated spots surfaced in our conversations. Some answers have been edited or condensed, for clarity.

I’ve written about this before, but I’ve been super impressed by Xiao Ye, the new “first generation American food” restaurant in the Hollywood neighborhood. Those springy masa madeleines? Killer. But for something a little off the beaten track, I have become a fiend for the laminated pastries at Babcia Bread, the pop-up within No Saint on Killingsworth. The produce is super seasonal, and the flavor combinations are always really interesting.”

Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor

“The opening of Annam VL has been a delight, giving me another excellent option for Vietnamese noodle soups from the VL family.”

— Ehow Chen (@ehow.eats), Instagram personality

It’s no surprise Yaowarat excited me this year — the benefit of Portland’s diverse, darling food scene is being able to transport yourself around the world without really leaving. Earl Ninsom continually surprises me because he is so good at immersing diners in different aspects of Thai culture and flavor, this time Bangkok’s Chinatown.”

Meira Gebel, Axios reporter and freelancer

Yaowarat and Xiao Ye were my most anticipated openings, and both quickly secured a place among my top favorite restaurants in the city. Another newcomer close to Portland that I was excited about and love is Hayward in McMinnville because chef Kari Kihara’s nose-to-tail, farm-to-table approach to food is exactly what made me fall in love with Oregon in the first place.”

Nori de Vega (@nomnom_nori), Instagram personality

“A newcomer I’ve really enjoyed is XO Bar for its innovative cocktails focusing on Southeast Asian ingredients. The owners are just so friendly and it’s such an easygoing environment for what are otherwise extremely high-caliber cocktails.”

— Katrina Yentch, Eater Portland contributor

“Regarding newcomers, Jeju is a special one. Every dish; every drink; every live-fired morsel, and crumble of the summer’s corn cheesecake dessert was exquisite.”

Lauren Yoshiko, Eater Portland contributor and freelancer

My favorite new restaurants and bars included L’Orange, Xiao Ye, Jeju, Yaowarat, the Houston Blacklight, Hapa Pizza, Mucca Pizzeria, Annam VL, and Pasar. There was a bevy of popups and residencies that were quite intriguing and fun such as Astral at Duality, Paradise Hamburguesas at Guero, Machetes, Javelina, Plumb at Deadshot, Chem Gio at Mosaic, and Lamina Pastry.

“My favorite new restaurant in the USA is Oakland’s Burdell — a soul food restaurant with an infinite amount of heart and personality.”

Gary Okazaki (@garythefoodie), renowned globe-trotting eater

Wild Child’s crust is soft yet crispy. It’s hard to explain but it’s so tasty, and probably Portland’s best take on Detroit pizza. I’ve also really enjoyed Back 2 Earth’s impact on the LGBTQ+ bar scene, reactivating the old Local Lounge space. They’re great for after-office happy hour or a late night party.”

Andrew Jankowski, Eater Portland contributor and freelancer

The newcomer on the scene that excited me the most is the pop-up Champ’s Burger, which has what is arguably the best burger in town — certainly the best new burger — but I will have to eat a few hundred more in order to fully ascertain that.”

— Bill Oakley (@thatbilloakley), former Simpsons showrunner and Instagram personality

Astral at Duality Brewing was an exciting newcomer — even though Astral has been around in pop-up form for several years, I had their food for the first time this year. I was also stoked to see Libre open; Portland could use more dessert options outside of ice cream, especially from places that are open post-dinnertime.”

Janey Wong, Eater Portland reporter

“We were excited to see some new openings in our neighborhood in Northeast Portland like Orange & Blossom Patisserie. We normally wouldn’t go for vegan pastries, but they are seriously so scrumptious here! Pasar on Alberta is another exciting open, what a treat it is to taste authentic Indonesian food right here in Portland!”

Vicki and Vanessa Ng (@foodbellypdx), Instagram personalities

Workshop is definitely the most exciting newcomer as we haven’t had a fancy vegan restaurant in a while. I did not enter 2023 thinking I’d get to experience vegan caviar service! Also, Orange & Blossom’s new patisserie is such a wonderful addition to the scene.”

Waz Wu, Eater Portland vegan correspondent

Diego and McKenna Palacios’ enormous Mexico City-style quesadillas, filled with braised meats and local veggies, at their popup Machetes. Xrysto Castillo and Mike Bautista’s sticky chicken bites and adobo poutine at Filipino-American cart Makulit.”

Thom Hilton, Eater Portland contributor