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The Most Surprising Food News Stories in 2023, According to Portland Food Writers and Personalities

Taking stock of the year through the stories that left a lasting impression

A white A Square point-of-sale system on a stand.
A Square point-of-sale system.
The Image Party/Shutterstock

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.

Portland’s chefs and food media won big at this year’s James Beard Awards, a decorated chef drops the mic after winning at said awards, and a Square outage shook the restaurant community. Here are some of the stories that gripped Portland food writers and personalities in 2023:

“When Square basically froze and a ton of restaurants lost all of their sales for that day! What ended up happening? Did businesses ever get even, or was it just a total loss? Either way, a huge bummer for all those involved. Also, a highlight: Portland’s absolute dominance at the James Beard Awards this year finally felt like the homecoming and recognition our city’s exceptional food scene has deserved for quite some time.”

— Meira Gebel, Axios reporter and freelancer

It was quite a nice surprise to be able to report on the near sweep from Portland nominees at the Beards this year! I live streamed the media awards ceremony and the main ceremony and was screaming/crying/throwing up from my couch with such a sense of pride. The excitement was so palpable throughout the food community for the next week or so.”

Janey Wong, Eater Portland reporter

“I was pretty surprised to see that Berlu had switched back to a bakery, given the popularity of the restaurant and the James Beard Award. So sweet that he’s still finding a way to keep the business alive while starting a family! Bring on the pandan treats once again!!!”

Katrina Yentch, Eater Portland contributor

I was really surprised when I learned that Mama Đút was closing. Then I remembered that Thuy didn’t set out to open a restaurant in the first place — Mama Đút was a pandemic pivot. The closure doesn’t mean we’ll never experience her food again as Thuy has already posted on Instagram that she intends to share all the recipes from the restaurant.”

Waz Wu, Eater Portland vegan correspondent and Veganizer organizer

The sheer number of Portland-based James Beard Award winners (including Eater Portland’s own Brooke Jackson-Glidden!) was almost shocking, but we all already knew how excellent the food scene is here.”

Ehow Chen (@ehow.eats), Instagram personality

Darcelle’s death might not have been surprising due to her record-breaking age, but the way that the city honored this titan and gave the LGBTQ+ community the venue we needed to send Darcelle off was heartwarming, even if Terry Bean and Ted Wheeler’s eulogies made the audience audibly uncomfortable.”

— Andrew Jankowski, Eater Portland contributor and freelancer

All the weird drama about the OLCC comes to mind. Also, it’s actually sort of metal of Vince Nguyen to win a James Beard Award and then decide to stop serving his tasting menu at Berlu. I totally get the decision to focus on parenting his kid, but what a way to go out, you know?”

Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor

“This isn’t necessarily most surprising per se, but it was super exciting to hear the news on how Portland won big at the James Beard Foundation Awards this year! It felt like a monumental moment to see all the diverse representation up on stage from our amazing Portland community.”

Vicki and Vanessa Ng (@foodbellypdx), Instagram personalities

Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Awards. Eater partnered with the James Beard Foundation to livestream the awards in 2023. All editorial content is produced independently of the James Beard Foundation.