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Innovative Ideas From 2023 We Want to See Continue in 2024

This year, food collectives forged a path forward in the food industry

Luna Contreras prepares dinner in the kitchen at Dame.
Luna Contreras’s Chelo operates inside Lil’ Dame.
Dina Avila/Eater Portland

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.

To survive in an ever-changing industry, restaurants must deftly navigate myriad challenges; things like consumer spending habits, climate change, rising cost of goods and labor, and more. Here are some of the innovative ideas food writers and personalities noticed in 2023 that are welcome in the new year.

“Feels like we’ve seen more concepts dive into their personal stories and experiences to create food spaces that are uniquely authentic to themselves. Surong and Xiao Ye are the two that come to mind. Not that those ideas have never existed before, but it feels different over the past year. I think that says a lot about how Portland is progressing in terms of inclusion and representation in the food world. There’s room for these stories and for everyone to thrive.”

Waz Wu, Eater Portland vegan correspondent and Veganizer organizer

I’ve been really loving seeing chefs build these collaborative spaces that house multiple concepts or pop-ups; sharing a space cuts down on overhead and it allows the people within the kitchen to collaborate and lean on each other. To me, that feels like a really hopeful approach to the restaurant of the future.”

Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor

“It’s great to see more and more innovative breakthroughs in agricultural science that positively impact our climate and food ecosystem. There seems to be an uptick this year in chefs, farmers, and producers advocating the importance of regenerative farming, pasture-raised, organically grown, etc. We hope this ethos continues downstream into consumer interest and their purchasing choices. Take seaweed, for example — recently we attended separate dinners hosted by Winter Waters and Symbrosia, and were blown away by how regenerative, versatile and delicious the humble seaweed could be! We hope to see more applications of this in the future.”

Vanessa and Vicki Ng (@foodbellypdx), Instagram personalities

Portland’s DIY restaurant scene really kicked it up a notch this year when it came to residencies. I’d love to see more restaurants opening up their kitchens to up-and-coming chefs sans brick-and-mortars (or even trucks or carts) for them to play house in just to see what they create. I must give a nod to @rosecityoon and her incredible Google Calendar of pop-ups throughout the city!”

— Meira Gebel, Axios reporter and freelancer

“These might be continued innovations but: I love seeing the continued expansion of what and how we’re fermenting foods. Seeing ingredients like koji butter slathered across a piece of freshly made sourdough has been one of my biggest guilty pleasures on an elaborately designed menu (thinking of Workshop Food and Drink here). We’ve gone way past a simple white vinegar-sugar pickle and I’m here for it. I already love eating a briny, well sourced oyster on its own but it’s been cool to see chefs experimenting with that brine, and adding interesting toppings to oysters like pickled onions and complimentary sauces like nuoc mam. The pandan and ube possibilities really blew up on dessert and beverage menus throughout Portland this year. I’m excited to see what other kind of Southeast Asian ingredients we’ll see here, perhaps a calamansi juice??”

Katrina Yentch, Eater Portland contributor

“I want to see new buildings deliberately create space for food vendors, like the Moxy in Downtown Portland. Sun Rice and Let’s Roll operate out of small spaces like food carts that are connected to the hotel bar and lounge, offering indoor comforts to both the workers and customers.”

Ehow Chen (@ehow.eats), Instagram personality

I’ve loved seeing Dame expand into Dame Collective as a modern way to address the growing cost of doing business while prioritizing people. The best example of this is Chelo by Eater Portland’s Chef of the Year, Luna Contreras, and how she’s been able to thrive in this model, which in turn she always pays back to those who need it most in our community.”

— Nori de Vega (@nomnom_nori), Instagram personality

I’ve always loved culinary fusion recipes. Kitchens are some of the best cultural emissaries, and dishes that show new compliments and contrasts are exciting. It’s not a new concept, but I like that people keep finding new cultural crossroads through being imaginative.”

— Andrew Jankowski, Eater Portland contributor and freelancer