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A person eats noodles from a bowl at the Houston Blacklight.
The Houston Blacklight, Eater Portland’s bar of the year.
Lillie Allen/Molly J. Smith

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Here Are 2023’s Eater Award Winners for Portland

The best restaurant, bar, pop-up, and food cart of the year 

In 2023, surprises defined Portland’s food scene. Many of its finest new restaurants and food carts emerged with very little notice, accruing attention over time. Chefs new to the city made dazzling first impressions, complete with masa madeleines and pork coppa ssam. Pop-ups continued to embed themselves within the culinary fabric of the city, accruing national recognition even without their own locations. The consistent themes among all of the city’s new and noteworthy restaurants, food carts, and bars: that quintessential Portland nonchalance, casual intimacy paired with a deeply personal creative voice. Below, we explore some of the finest new talent in Portland, from a maximalist bar to a two-person brewery pop-up.

Beef and pear tartare, masa madeleines, and pasta at Xiao Ye.
A meal at Xiao Ye.
Carter Hiyama/Eater Portland

Best New Restaurant: Xiao Ye

As eclectic and expansive as its menu can be, Xiao Ye — the new Hollywood District restaurant from D.C. restaurant alumni Louis Lin and Jolyn Chen — isn’t using something as broad or random as a global pantry. The couple identifies their cuisine as “first generation American food,” something born out of life growing up as Asian Americans in California and restaurant workers throughout the United States. As such, every dish seems to have a clear story behind it. The springy-soft, jalapeño powder-dusted masa madeleines pull inspiration from trips to suburban Ruth’s Chris Steakhouses. The sesame oil-finished pear and steak tartare is a play on Korean yukhoe, with multiple cuts of Revel Meat beef and Kiyokawa pear. The spicy-creamy tangle of alkaline spaghetti arrives coated in a sauce made with black vinegar, sesame paste, and Lao Gan Ma, a rendition of the improvised post-service pasta Lin would make Chen after midnight. Service is warm and colloquial, but still exacting; it reflects the nature of the restaurant, which presents with such an unrehearsed, personal air, despite the parade of sharply conceptualized plates. The best way to enjoy the restaurant, clearly, is to blend even further, combining components of ssams and large-format dishes that fill the table each night. —Brooke Jackson-Glidden

Lauren Breneman and John Boisse finish a plate at Astral.
Lauren Breneman and John Boisse.
Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland

Best Chef Residency or Pop-Up: Astral at Duality Brewing

Inside Duality Brewing’s minimalist warehouse space, diners perch on bar stools and around tiny tables drinking pints of beer and eating molotes and seafood tostadas. Working within a limited space behind the bar, chefs John Boisse and Lauren Breneman serve frequently rotating dishes that capture Pacific Northwest ingredients at their peak — Astral’s exploration of the wide breadth of Mexican cuisine results in thoughtful plays that have helped to expand Portlanders’ idea of it. At evening service, conchas may make an appearance in Astral’s take on shrimp toast, brightened by pickled habanadas. Come brunch on Sunday, the crackle-topped Mexican rolls feature as the buns in the restaurant’s popular breakfast sandwich, cradling a fluffy omelet and crispy laced quesillo. —Janey Wong

A bartender mixes a drink at the Houston Blacklight.
Bartender Zoe Clisham at the Houston Blacklight.
Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland

Best New Bar: The Houston Blacklight

Thomas and Mariah Pisha-Duffly already owned two of Portland’s liveliest restaurants: Gado Gado, the sorta-Indonesian restaurant with its elaborate rijsttafel tasting menus, and Oma’s Hideaway, the kinda-Malaysian Chinese restaurant with its neon-underwater disco aesthetics. Both pulled from Thomas Pisha-Duffly’s background, using the recipes of his late grandmother as a creative springboard. The couple’s first bar, the Houston Blacklight, is more of Mariah Pisha-Duffly’s show, lined with blacklight posters straight out of the bartender-turned-restaurateur’s high school bedroom. The vibe here is fun and relaxed, but the drinks showcase beverage director Em Warden’s multifaceted creative approach to cocktailing. Yes, the maximalist fun of the Pisha-Duffly brand is on display here — passionfruit-flavored popping boba Jell-O shots, pandan-soursop slushies — but the more restrained drinks also surprise. The mapo chili-washed tequila in the Lava Lamp bring out the unexpected savory notes of Cocchi Americano, while the restaurant’s version of a dirty martini, with a splash of Fino sherry, is minimalism at its best. —Brooke Jackson-Glidden

Sunny Hatch tosses chicken wings at the Frybaby food cart in Portland, Oregon.
Sunny Hatch at Frybaby.
Carter Hiyama/Eater Portland

Best New Food Cart: Frybaby

At Lil America, a pod showcasing BIPOC- and LGBTQ-owned food carts, Sunny Hatch’s Frybaby has become the destination for Korean fried chicken in Portland. As customers linger among the outdoor tables or pop into the neighboring Fracture Brewing for a beer while they wait, Hatch and his team double fry wings and drumsticks until shatteringly crunchy, thanks to a vodka-makgeolli brine and a blend of gluten-free flours in the dredge. From there, Hatch douses them in a spicy gochujang glaze or soy garlic sauce, or liberally dusts them with “snow” cheese. To minimize messes, the cart thoughtfully supplies plastic gloves and wet wipes. As any respectable fried chicken joint does, Frybaby puts equal care into its lineup of Southern-meets-Korean American sides, including garlic butter rice with furikake, mashed potatoes with curry gravy, and kimchi mac and cheese. —Janey Wong

Chef Luna Contreras salts a piece of fish at Chelo.
Chef Luna Contreras.
Dina Avila/Eater Portland

Chef of the Year: Luna Contreras, Chelo

Four nights a week, chef Luna Contreras posts up behind the chef’s counter at Lil Dame, a restaurant collective with an intimate dining room. It’s here that she pays tribute to her grandmother — who ran a restaurant in Guadalajara, Jalisco — with her fonda Mexicana, Chelo. Meals here are anchored with tlayudas topped with seasonal produce and supplemented with snacks like masa dumplings bathed in mole amarillo and gorditas stuffed with local mushrooms. Even for folks who haven’t had the chance to visit Chelo, Contreras is ubiquitous in the fabric of Portland’s food scene — she’s a staple at many of the city’s biggest food events, her condiment line is stocked at fine food markets around town, and she’s a vocal advocate for the trans community. It’d be one thing if Contreras was simply a talented chef; it’s her radical vulnerability, commitment to activism, and authentically goofy personality that make her such a captivating chef to cheer on. —Janey Wong

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