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A vegetable-topped steak tartare with an egg yolk, sitting next to a pile of fried tortillas.
Steak tartare at Clandestino.
Brau Diaz

The Hottest New Restaurants and Food Carts in Portland, February 2023

A life-changing carnitas quesadilla, gochugaru-rubbed salmon, and other noteworthy dishes from new spots around town

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Steak tartare at Clandestino.
| Brau Diaz

As a city rife with turnover, sitting comfortably on the culinary cutting edge, Portland sees restaurants open doors with regularity, hoping to make a splash in a town that’s overabundant with talent for its size. Some of those newcomers become the talk of the town quickly, among food writers or neighborhood regulars in search of something special.

Thus, we present the Eater Heatmap, which covers some of the most exciting restaurants that have opened in the past six months. Know of a spot that should be on our radar? Send us a tip by emailing pdx@eater.com.

Note: Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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Pastificio d’Oro

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Many Portland restaurants make pasta in house; few truly make it by hand, without extruders. At this St. Johns restaurant, in the former Gracie’s Apizza space, Chase Dopson rolls out dough with a plain-old pin, cutting tagliatelle and stamping out anolini for bowls of beautiful pasta. Pastifico d’Oro has a strong handle on the sophisticated simplicity of Italian food — dishes that may seem unadorned, but rely on hours of simmering, proofing, sweating, kneading, growing. Start with Maggie’s pickled vegetables, the brainchild of co-owner Maggie Irwin. Beyond that, any visit may involve squash-stuffed tortelli tossed in cultured butter and sage, ribbons of pasta dressed in ragú, or pillowy-not-gummy gnocchi with Castelmagno cheese sauce and hazelnuts, depending on the chef’s whim.

Yuginong

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The team behind this St. Johns Korean restaurant has both a creativity and tenderness to its approach to the food served, plating everything carefully on a tray with little bowls of doenjang soup on the side. The quality of the ingredients is apparent in each dish, in particular a flavorful cold-smoked culotte served with a dish of ganjang jus for dunking. A gochugaru-rubbed salmon is another standout, with the spice complementing (not overpowering) the fish’s buttery flavor. The corn cheese, finished with a surprising drizzle of mint butter, is a fun twist on a classic.

No Saint

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This Northeast Portland pop-up has settled into its own space, once inhabited by Seastar Bakery and Handsome Pizza. Those are big shoes to fill, but Gabriella Casabianca and Anthony Siccardi are clearly up for the task. At tables with mismatched chairs, plates of beet-and-citrus salad and kale leaves hidden under a pile of snowy Parmesan precede gorgeous, wood-fired pizzas. Forgoing gimmicks and cliches, these pies come topped with truly inventive combinations of flavors: n’duja and carrots, potatoes and pea shoots, saba and capers. It takes a lot to open a Portland pizzeria that stands out anymore. This one stands out.

Clandestino at Lil’ Dame

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Watching former Republica chef Lauro Romero chop, stir, and sear within the kitchen of the former Beast space — one of the great restaurants in the city’s history, now gone — feels right. Now a shapeshifting chef residency hall from the people behind Dame, the space is intimate, and Romero’s on-again, off-again pop-up has landed here indefinitely; it’s a worthy successor to Beast and Ripe. He’s in his element here, serving thoughtful and nuanced salsas and tostadas topped with buttery tuna and guava puree. The pork quesadilla here — like the quesadilla at his former restaurant — is a remarkable feat in its simplicity, featuring hunks of carnitas aged in its fat for a full week. The resulting pork is achingly tender and profoundly flavorful, zapped with live flame for a crunchy, lightly smoky char. But even beyond the pork, the tortilla itself is worth pinching off and eating on its own, a master class in masa.

Ki’ikibáa

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Fans of the dearly departed Angel Food & Fun, good news: Chef Manuel “Manny” Lopez is back, with a Yucatecan restaurant a stone’s throw away from Rocky Butte. In a sunny red-and-yellow space, salbutes and panuchos arrive topped with citrusy cochinita pibil and bright pickled onions. The black beans here are particularly special, silky with lard and a hard-to-pin-down herbal note. The specials board is usually loaded with some cool must-orders, including things like pozole or frijol con puerco.

Heavenly Creatures

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The candle-lit and boisterous dining room of this Broadway restaurant evokes memories of Barcelona wine bars, glasses of wine held in one hand while another swipes a potato chip through a cloud of aerated Camembert. Heavenly Creatures comes from chef Aaron Barnett and sommelier Joel Gunderson, the opening team at Eater 38 stalwart St. Jack; Barnett seems looser and more relaxed here, serving casual, sometimes rustic, primally tasty dishes. A fat slab of crusty bread slathered in tonnato with capers and yellowtail is a Bizarro World bagel with lox and schmear. That and the Camembert are must-orders.

Jojo (the Restaurant)

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While Jojo’s Southeast Powell cart had already developed a rabid following for its fried chicken sandwiches and crispy potato wedges, the restaurant — a stylish, ’70s-retro-vibed spot in the Pearl District — is a step above the original cart, with an expanded menu including a variety of memorable additions. The vegan menu items are just as tasty as the longstanding hits, if not more: Spicy jojos dressed in Nashville hot “dust” and a vegan cheese sauce are satisfyingly messy and maximalist, and the hulking slabs of fried tofu on the sandwiches are crunchy with a fluffy, spongy interior. And when it comes to drinks, the cocktails have a silliness that matches the Jojo menu and owner Justin Hintze’s voice, whether it’s a Hypnotiq-spiked lemon vodka drink with the vegetal sweetness of carrot or a chocolate-banana milkshake with Cocoa Pebbles cereal milk and a dose of banana rum.

Jacob & Sons

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Don’t get too confused by the setup at this Northwest Portland Jewish deli; while dine-in is off the table for now, it’s still open for delivery and takeout orders of next-level pickles and cured meats. Owner Noah Jacob spent time at California deli Wise Sons before opening this catering-company-turned-restaurant, where he now serves super dilly matzo ball soups with the tiniest hint of ginger alongside a knockout Reuben with plenty of house kraut and pastrami. We mean it, though — don’t leave without a quart of pickles, especially half-sours when available.

Arriving just under the wire, this Pearl District pan-Asian spot could be one of the best restaurants to open in 2022. The space is stunning, all soft tones and low lighting with a sprawling cherry tree at the center of the dining room. Steak tartare arrives at the table looking flashy, petals of shaved black truffle showing off. The truffle flavor in the final dish is subtle, with a real elegance; onions marinated in paprika oil round out the dish, giving it a strong base note of allium. Short ribs, tucked in folded bao buns, are simultaneously juicy and silky, with a brightness provided by shiso. And the restaurant’s triumphant Peking duck, arriving at the table with steamer basket of chun bing, is all about its skin, potato-chip-crispness giving way to a ribbon of luscious rendered fat.

Matutina

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Republica & Co. continues to grow all over town, and this cheery cafe and bakery delves into some cool new territory for the “Mexican-forward” restaurant group. A case full of crackly-frosted conchas and other pastries sits next to the counter, where westside locals order porchetta breakfast sandwiches and champurrado. The star on the menu so far: a savory porridge, rich with miso butter, topped with an orderly row of surprisingly sweet and juicy mushrooms. It’s finished with a drizzle of chile morita oil.

Fortune BBQ Noodle House

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In the glass case of this tiny Montavilla storefront, glistening ducks hang from wire hooks alongside lengthy cuts of char siu and whole racks of spare ribs. The Chinese barbecue here is astoundingly succulent, lacquered in sticky-sweet glaze that traps in moisture. It’s available on a rice plate, by the pound, and resting on a pile of noodles in a bowl of soup. When opting for the soup, it’s imperative to add a few of the restaurant’s dumplings, stuffed with plump shrimp.

Lilia Comedor

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At this spot from the team behind República, Pacific Northwestern cuisine is filtered through a Mexican American lens, translating into dishes like trout crudo nestled in a sweetly acidic Concord grape aguachile, or a chanterelle enchilada draped with silky guajillo adobo. Dishes here are highly seasonal, which means the hazelnut crumble perched atop a corn crème brûlée one week might be seen in a different dessert the next. Seats at the bustling chef’s counter are often open for walk-ins, giving diners the chance to see the heart of Juan Gomez’s domain — the restaurant is named after the former República sous chef’s late mother.

Street Disco

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This Foster-Powell pop-up-turned-restaurant exudes a laid-back energy that is reflected in their food. Servers deliver glasses of Slovenian rosé and chilled red to tables as diners wait for meatballs studded with pine nuts or salt-roasted beets with rose foam. Dishes at Street Disco are creative without overloading plates with unnecessary ingredients, making for a breezy dining experience from the first plate of oysters to the grand finale braised lamb neck. Reservations are available online.

Maisha PDX

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Historically, trying to find Kenyan food in Portland has been almost impossible — that fact proved frustrating for Tachibana Sheikh, who spent his childhood in Kenya before his family made its way to the United States. Now, he runs his own Kenyan cart in Sellwood’s Piknik Park pod, stuffing pockets of mandazi with a salty-sour yellow curry and scooping a collard greens dish known as sukuma wiki over ugali, a savory maize flour porridge. Some of the dishes on the menu borrow from Somalian culinary traditions, considering his family’s roots there; bariis, a richly spiced rice dish, arrives with bananas and a pile of savory beef suqaar, made with faux beef. The kicker: The whole cart is vegan.

In a little glass-lined space on 13th Avenue in Sellwood, this small sushi counter is sparsely adorned but low-lit and intimate. Chefs Izumi and Shinji Uehara have spent time at sushi restaurants around the world — from Amsterdam to Fukuoka, Japan — and impart their experience on pieces of fish flown in from the famed Toyosu fish market, with specials rotating frequently. Even so, the restaurant’s non-sushi dishes are exquisite, like a custardy-in-the-center agedashi tofu with a golden fry not unlike a perfect marshmallow. Another winner: Thinly sliced roasted duck breast, rich with just a slight, silky ribbon of fat, comes with a beautiful, piquant yuzu-kosho.

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Pastificio d’Oro

Many Portland restaurants make pasta in house; few truly make it by hand, without extruders. At this St. Johns restaurant, in the former Gracie’s Apizza space, Chase Dopson rolls out dough with a plain-old pin, cutting tagliatelle and stamping out anolini for bowls of beautiful pasta. Pastifico d’Oro has a strong handle on the sophisticated simplicity of Italian food — dishes that may seem unadorned, but rely on hours of simmering, proofing, sweating, kneading, growing. Start with Maggie’s pickled vegetables, the brainchild of co-owner Maggie Irwin. Beyond that, any visit may involve squash-stuffed tortelli tossed in cultured butter and sage, ribbons of pasta dressed in ragú, or pillowy-not-gummy gnocchi with Castelmagno cheese sauce and hazelnuts, depending on the chef’s whim.

Yuginong

The team behind this St. Johns Korean restaurant has both a creativity and tenderness to its approach to the food served, plating everything carefully on a tray with little bowls of doenjang soup on the side. The quality of the ingredients is apparent in each dish, in particular a flavorful cold-smoked culotte served with a dish of ganjang jus for dunking. A gochugaru-rubbed salmon is another standout, with the spice complementing (not overpowering) the fish’s buttery flavor. The corn cheese, finished with a surprising drizzle of mint butter, is a fun twist on a classic.

No Saint

This Northeast Portland pop-up has settled into its own space, once inhabited by Seastar Bakery and Handsome Pizza. Those are big shoes to fill, but Gabriella Casabianca and Anthony Siccardi are clearly up for the task. At tables with mismatched chairs, plates of beet-and-citrus salad and kale leaves hidden under a pile of snowy Parmesan precede gorgeous, wood-fired pizzas. Forgoing gimmicks and cliches, these pies come topped with truly inventive combinations of flavors: n’duja and carrots, potatoes and pea shoots, saba and capers. It takes a lot to open a Portland pizzeria that stands out anymore. This one stands out.

Clandestino at Lil’ Dame

Watching former Republica chef Lauro Romero chop, stir, and sear within the kitchen of the former Beast space — one of the great restaurants in the city’s history, now gone — feels right. Now a shapeshifting chef residency hall from the people behind Dame, the space is intimate, and Romero’s on-again, off-again pop-up has landed here indefinitely; it’s a worthy successor to Beast and Ripe. He’s in his element here, serving thoughtful and nuanced salsas and tostadas topped with buttery tuna and guava puree. The pork quesadilla here — like the quesadilla at his former restaurant — is a remarkable feat in its simplicity, featuring hunks of carnitas aged in its fat for a full week. The resulting pork is achingly tender and profoundly flavorful, zapped with live flame for a crunchy, lightly smoky char. But even beyond the pork, the tortilla itself is worth pinching off and eating on its own, a master class in masa.

Ki’ikibáa

Fans of the dearly departed Angel Food & Fun, good news: Chef Manuel “Manny” Lopez is back, with a Yucatecan restaurant a stone’s throw away from Rocky Butte. In a sunny red-and-yellow space, salbutes and panuchos arrive topped with citrusy cochinita pibil and bright pickled onions. The black beans here are particularly special, silky with lard and a hard-to-pin-down herbal note. The specials board is usually loaded with some cool must-orders, including things like pozole or frijol con puerco.

Heavenly Creatures

The candle-lit and boisterous dining room of this Broadway restaurant evokes memories of Barcelona wine bars, glasses of wine held in one hand while another swipes a potato chip through a cloud of aerated Camembert. Heavenly Creatures comes from chef Aaron Barnett and sommelier Joel Gunderson, the opening team at Eater 38 stalwart St. Jack; Barnett seems looser and more relaxed here, serving casual, sometimes rustic, primally tasty dishes. A fat slab of crusty bread slathered in tonnato with capers and yellowtail is a Bizarro World bagel with lox and schmear. That and the Camembert are must-orders.

Jojo (the Restaurant)

While Jojo’s Southeast Powell cart had already developed a rabid following for its fried chicken sandwiches and crispy potato wedges, the restaurant — a stylish, ’70s-retro-vibed spot in the Pearl District — is a step above the original cart, with an expanded menu including a variety of memorable additions. The vegan menu items are just as tasty as the longstanding hits, if not more: Spicy jojos dressed in Nashville hot “dust” and a vegan cheese sauce are satisfyingly messy and maximalist, and the hulking slabs of fried tofu on the sandwiches are crunchy with a fluffy, spongy interior. And when it comes to drinks, the cocktails have a silliness that matches the Jojo menu and owner Justin Hintze’s voice, whether it’s a Hypnotiq-spiked lemon vodka drink with the vegetal sweetness of carrot or a chocolate-banana milkshake with Cocoa Pebbles cereal milk and a dose of banana rum.

Jacob & Sons

Don’t get too confused by the setup at this Northwest Portland Jewish deli; while dine-in is off the table for now, it’s still open for delivery and takeout orders of next-level pickles and cured meats. Owner Noah Jacob spent time at California deli Wise Sons before opening this catering-company-turned-restaurant, where he now serves super dilly matzo ball soups with the tiniest hint of ginger alongside a knockout Reuben with plenty of house kraut and pastrami. We mean it, though — don’t leave without a quart of pickles, especially half-sours when available.

Janken

Arriving just under the wire, this Pearl District pan-Asian spot could be one of the best restaurants to open in 2022. The space is stunning, all soft tones and low lighting with a sprawling cherry tree at the center of the dining room. Steak tartare arrives at the table looking flashy, petals of shaved black truffle showing off. The truffle flavor in the final dish is subtle, with a real elegance; onions marinated in paprika oil round out the dish, giving it a strong base note of allium. Short ribs, tucked in folded bao buns, are simultaneously juicy and silky, with a brightness provided by shiso. And the restaurant’s triumphant Peking duck, arriving at the table with steamer basket of chun bing, is all about its skin, potato-chip-crispness giving way to a ribbon of luscious rendered fat.

Matutina

Republica & Co. continues to grow all over town, and this cheery cafe and bakery delves into some cool new territory for the “Mexican-forward” restaurant group. A case full of crackly-frosted conchas and other pastries sits next to the counter, where westside locals order porchetta breakfast sandwiches and champurrado. The star on the menu so far: a savory porridge, rich with miso butter, topped with an orderly row of surprisingly sweet and juicy mushrooms. It’s finished with a drizzle of chile morita oil.

Fortune BBQ Noodle House

In the glass case of this tiny Montavilla storefront, glistening ducks hang from wire hooks alongside lengthy cuts of char siu and whole racks of spare ribs. The Chinese barbecue here is astoundingly succulent, lacquered in sticky-sweet glaze that traps in moisture. It’s available on a rice plate, by the pound, and resting on a pile of noodles in a bowl of soup. When opting for the soup, it’s imperative to add a few of the restaurant’s dumplings, stuffed with plump shrimp.

Lilia Comedor

At this spot from the team behind República, Pacific Northwestern cuisine is filtered through a Mexican American lens, translating into dishes like trout crudo nestled in a sweetly acidic Concord grape aguachile, or a chanterelle enchilada draped with silky guajillo adobo. Dishes here are highly seasonal, which means the hazelnut crumble perched atop a corn crème brûlée one week might be seen in a different dessert the next. Seats at the bustling chef’s counter are often open for walk-ins, giving diners the chance to see the heart of Juan Gomez’s domain — the restaurant is named after the former República sous chef’s late mother.

Street Disco

This Foster-Powell pop-up-turned-restaurant exudes a laid-back energy that is reflected in their food. Servers deliver glasses of Slovenian rosé and chilled red to tables as diners wait for meatballs studded with pine nuts or salt-roasted beets with rose foam. Dishes at Street Disco are creative without overloading plates with unnecessary ingredients, making for a breezy dining experience from the first plate of oysters to the grand finale braised lamb neck. Reservations are available online.

Maisha PDX

Historically, trying to find Kenyan food in Portland has been almost impossible — that fact proved frustrating for Tachibana Sheikh, who spent his childhood in Kenya before his family made its way to the United States. Now, he runs his own Kenyan cart in Sellwood’s Piknik Park pod, stuffing pockets of mandazi with a salty-sour yellow curry and scooping a collard greens dish known as sukuma wiki over ugali, a savory maize flour porridge. Some of the dishes on the menu borrow from Somalian culinary traditions, considering his family’s roots there; bariis, a richly spiced rice dish, arrives with bananas and a pile of savory beef suqaar, made with faux beef. The kicker: The whole cart is vegan.

Kaede

In a little glass-lined space on 13th Avenue in Sellwood, this small sushi counter is sparsely adorned but low-lit and intimate. Chefs Izumi and Shinji Uehara have spent time at sushi restaurants around the world — from Amsterdam to Fukuoka, Japan — and impart their experience on pieces of fish flown in from the famed Toyosu fish market, with specials rotating frequently. Even so, the restaurant’s non-sushi dishes are exquisite, like a custardy-in-the-center agedashi tofu with a golden fry not unlike a perfect marshmallow. Another winner: Thinly sliced roasted duck breast, rich with just a slight, silky ribbon of fat, comes with a beautiful, piquant yuzu-kosho.

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