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Mapping Portland's Most Missed Restaurants

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There's an intrinsic heartbreak when a restaurant shutters. No matter what you thought of the place, it signals an end to the hope and energy and optimism that you know was there when it first launched.

But some closures are more heartbreaking than others, at least for the dining public, as we're left with nothing to feast on but unrequited cravings and foggy memories when one of our favorites closes its doors for good.

Once again we asked readers to tell us their most-missed restaurants and got a long list of comments. Several readers even listed places that live on in one form or another (Virginia's Cafe, Brasserie Montmartre) because they missed the originals.

This past year brought some very surprising shutters: Wildwood, Pal's Shanty, Produce Row, Boxer Sushi. Who saw those coming? So as the year draws to a close, we've updated our Sadness Heatmap to reflect those passings, as well as a few more reader favorites were were able to pin down.

But there is a silver lining. Last time we ran this map in January 2013, readers' most-missed restaurant was Billy Schumaker's Taqueria Nueve. And this year, T9 made a comeback.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Alba Osteria

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(2003-2010). Chef Kurt Spak's neighborhood spot Alba Osteria shuttered after seven years in business, with his casual spot Caffe Autogrill following just two months later. Laments a reader, [it had] "the best pasta I've had in my life."

Alberta Street Oyster Bar

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(2005-2007). Also known as the spot where chef Eric Bechard made his name, Alberta Street Oyster Bar lasted two years in the location now known as Branch Whiskey Bar. One reader writes, "That place was ahead of its time. The 'surf and turf' combinations are what I miss most. Sturgeon and oxtails or scallops and duck liver. I think that place was also using foraged ingredients before it was so popular. I remember eating nettles, ferns, minors lettuce and matsutakes all for the first time all at the oyster house."

Alder Pastry & Dessert

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(2011-2011). In just 10 short months, pastry chef Matthew Zack attracted a loyal (if not slightly rabid) following for his pastries and gelatos at Alder Pastry. (Writes one reader, "That gelato was a highlight of my life!") The location became Levant.

Boxer Sushi

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(2012-2014) Usually when a chef moves on another comes to take his or her place. Not so at Boxer Sushi. When opening chef Ian Skomski (an alum of Camden's NE Japanese restaurant Yakuza) decided to relocate to Bend, owners Katie Poppe and Micah Camden decided to call it quits, much to fans' dismay.

Cafe Azul

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(1998-2004). Chef Claire Archibald's Mexican spot Cafe Azul is now looked upon as "ahead of its time" for its upscale-authentic approach to Oaxacan cooking, and many readers are still nostalgic. Writes one, "Food, service, all top Q" — which we assume stands for "quality."

Carlyle

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(2003-2010). NW fine-dining spot Carlyle, known as the breeding ground for chefs Daniel Mondok and Jake Martin, has its share of crestfallen fans nearly three years after its closure. Writes one: "Great food, service, and ambiance."

Esparza's

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(1990-2014) The Tex-Mex joint earned a loyal following for more than two decades, and readers still miss their cowboy tacos.

(2002-2009). After six-and-a-half years in business, chef Marco Shaw closed his upscale American restaurant for a more to North Carolina. Says one reader, "I do miss Marco Shaw. He was one of the most under appreciated chefs portland has ever know[n]."

Half and Half

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(2000-2010) Beloved Courier Coffee was once the beloved Half and Half cafe. Customers cried when the 10-year-old shop shuttered, sure they could never live without the changing menu of excellent sandwiches and pies.

Henry Ford's

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(1970s-early 2000s). SW Portland piano bar Henry Ford's is missed for its old-school steakhouse vibe. Writes on commenter, "Classic old school Portland. Miss the red carpet and bubbly fountain and seeing an old guy play bossa nova on an electric keyboard."

Henry Thiele's

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(1930s-1990s) German pancakes, buttered noodles with beef tips. For decades, Thiele's was a landmark for continental cuisine. Now it's a World Market.

Hiroshi

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(2007-2010). Chef Hiro Ikegaya's upscale sushi spot Hiroshi shuttered after its move to the Pearl District; but Hiro's knives are still at work at his more casual E. Burnside spot Mirakutei.

Hung Far Low

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(1928-2005) Although the best-named Chinese restaurant ever is still alive and kicking out on SE 82nd Ave., it's this original Chinatown location that people miss.

(2010-2012). Chef Kevin Shikami's Pearl District restaurant closed at the end of 2012, but its absence is already missed by readers. Writes one: "I was there for the last two nights, very sad to see the restaurant close and Kevin leave Portland. His food was always incredibly good. And he is an amazingly kind and nice person as well."

Lauro Kitchen

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(2003-2012). Chef/restaurateur David Machado launched his mini-empire with Lauro Kitchen, which pre-dated Division's status as PDX's "Restaurant Row." Says a reader of the Mediterranean-influenced menu: "Loved Lauro Kitchen. Always consistent and interesting."

Little Red Bike Cafe

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(2007-2010). North Portland neighborhood spot Little Red Bike Cafe was dearly beloved for its breakfasts; after being forced out by their landlord, owners Ali Jepson and Evan Dohrmann opened another beloved food truck, Lucy's Original, that also shuttered. Says a reader of LBR, "Our neighborhood so so dearly misses it."

Lovely Hula Hands

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(2003-2009). It's been reborn as the pizza-and-ice-cream spot Lovely's Fifty-Fifty, but readers still miss the more formal setting of N. Mississippi's Lovely Hula Hands. Says one: "They're still making magic at Fifty Fifty, but it's not as 'special fancy dinner.'"

Opus Too & Jazz De Opus

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(1972-2003). Longtime nightclub Opus Too & Jazz De Opus featured live jazz and old-school eats for nearly 30 years. Writes one former employee: "It was THE steak & seafood house before all of the Ruth's Chris, Mortons and their like came to town. The had a great mesquite grill, fresh pasta, at least ten kinds of fresh seafood, steaks & chops. I got to spend five years cooking there and still regard it as one of my favorite places to cook and eat."

Pal's Shanty

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(1966-2014) Pal's was beloved for having some of the freshest seafood in town, in an unapologetically dive-y atmosphere. During it's heyday in the 1970s, the lines were so long, it's been reported that then-mayor Goldschmidt would help bus tables so he could get his own seat faster.

Quality Pie

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(1950s-1992). A holdout from the 1950s diner era, the 24-hour Quality Pie — famous for its exterior sign and late-night eats — remains a much-missed greasy spoon. Writes one reader: "Best people-watching in Portland."

Rose & Raindrop

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(1998-2006). Central Eastside beer bar Rose & Raindrop — co-owned by legendary beerman Don Younger — has best known for its historic digs, extensive beer list, and parlor games. Says on commenter: "Our Scrabble club met there weekly for years and we knew the menu by heart, loved the burgers and crispy fries, the waiters were the best (miss you Russel), decent drinks and at one time, video poker. Now it's a bank, how boring is that."

Sumida's

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(1980s-late '90s). "One of the earliest (and still one of the best) sushi establishments to ever exist in the city. Etsuo Sumida was one of the first sushi chefs to come to Portland. A traditionalist with a big heart, he used to tell me of creating banquet sushi boats in the 70s that diners would barely touch. He was a master of the cuisine until a tragic stroke caused him to have to retire over 2 decades ago. He and his family were some of the kindest restaurateurs (and human beings) I have ever known. I will always miss them."

Vat & Tonsure

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(1978-1997). The original incarnation of this popular bistro was shuttered to make way for downtown's Fox Tower; an attempt to resurrect the spot in 2002 was unsuccessful. But former guests miss its boisterous bar scene/wine list and roasted game hen.

Wildwood

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(1994-2014) For 20 years it stood as an icon of Portland's farm-to-table ethos, and it was going strong right up until the end. But leases have a way of bringing even the biggest names to their knees.

(1990-2000). NW's legendary restaurant Zefiro marked Portland's introduction to four now-well-known culinary minds: Bruce Carey, Monique Siu (Castagna), Kevin Gibson (Davenport), and Chris Israel (Gruner). Unsurprisingly, it was frequently mentioned as a "most missed" spot, with one reader summing up, "there will never be another Zefiro."

Alba Osteria

(2003-2010). Chef Kurt Spak's neighborhood spot Alba Osteria shuttered after seven years in business, with his casual spot Caffe Autogrill following just two months later. Laments a reader, [it had] "the best pasta I've had in my life."

Alberta Street Oyster Bar

(2005-2007). Also known as the spot where chef Eric Bechard made his name, Alberta Street Oyster Bar lasted two years in the location now known as Branch Whiskey Bar. One reader writes, "That place was ahead of its time. The 'surf and turf' combinations are what I miss most. Sturgeon and oxtails or scallops and duck liver. I think that place was also using foraged ingredients before it was so popular. I remember eating nettles, ferns, minors lettuce and matsutakes all for the first time all at the oyster house."

Alder Pastry & Dessert

(2011-2011). In just 10 short months, pastry chef Matthew Zack attracted a loyal (if not slightly rabid) following for his pastries and gelatos at Alder Pastry. (Writes one reader, "That gelato was a highlight of my life!") The location became Levant.

Boxer Sushi

(2012-2014) Usually when a chef moves on another comes to take his or her place. Not so at Boxer Sushi. When opening chef Ian Skomski (an alum of Camden's NE Japanese restaurant Yakuza) decided to relocate to Bend, owners Katie Poppe and Micah Camden decided to call it quits, much to fans' dismay.

Cafe Azul

(1998-2004). Chef Claire Archibald's Mexican spot Cafe Azul is now looked upon as "ahead of its time" for its upscale-authentic approach to Oaxacan cooking, and many readers are still nostalgic. Writes one, "Food, service, all top Q" — which we assume stands for "quality."

Carlyle

(2003-2010). NW fine-dining spot Carlyle, known as the breeding ground for chefs Daniel Mondok and Jake Martin, has its share of crestfallen fans nearly three years after its closure. Writes one: "Great food, service, and ambiance."

Esparza's

(1990-2014) The Tex-Mex joint earned a loyal following for more than two decades, and readers still miss their cowboy tacos.

Fife

(2002-2009). After six-and-a-half years in business, chef Marco Shaw closed his upscale American restaurant for a more to North Carolina. Says one reader, "I do miss Marco Shaw. He was one of the most under appreciated chefs portland has ever know[n]."

Half and Half

(2000-2010) Beloved Courier Coffee was once the beloved Half and Half cafe. Customers cried when the 10-year-old shop shuttered, sure they could never live without the changing menu of excellent sandwiches and pies.

Henry Ford's

(1970s-early 2000s). SW Portland piano bar Henry Ford's is missed for its old-school steakhouse vibe. Writes on commenter, "Classic old school Portland. Miss the red carpet and bubbly fountain and seeing an old guy play bossa nova on an electric keyboard."

Henry Thiele's

(1930s-1990s) German pancakes, buttered noodles with beef tips. For decades, Thiele's was a landmark for continental cuisine. Now it's a World Market.

Hiroshi

(2007-2010). Chef Hiro Ikegaya's upscale sushi spot Hiroshi shuttered after its move to the Pearl District; but Hiro's knives are still at work at his more casual E. Burnside spot Mirakutei.

Hung Far Low

(1928-2005) Although the best-named Chinese restaurant ever is still alive and kicking out on SE 82nd Ave., it's this original Chinatown location that people miss.

Kin

(2010-2012). Chef Kevin Shikami's Pearl District restaurant closed at the end of 2012, but its absence is already missed by readers. Writes one: "I was there for the last two nights, very sad to see the restaurant close and Kevin leave Portland. His food was always incredibly good. And he is an amazingly kind and nice person as well."

Lauro Kitchen

(2003-2012). Chef/restaurateur David Machado launched his mini-empire with Lauro Kitchen, which pre-dated Division's status as PDX's "Restaurant Row." Says a reader of the Mediterranean-influenced menu: "Loved Lauro Kitchen. Always consistent and interesting."

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Little Red Bike Cafe

(2007-2010). North Portland neighborhood spot Little Red Bike Cafe was dearly beloved for its breakfasts; after being forced out by their landlord, owners Ali Jepson and Evan Dohrmann opened another beloved food truck, Lucy's Original, that also shuttered. Says a reader of LBR, "Our neighborhood so so dearly misses it."

Lovely Hula Hands

(2003-2009). It's been reborn as the pizza-and-ice-cream spot Lovely's Fifty-Fifty, but readers still miss the more formal setting of N. Mississippi's Lovely Hula Hands. Says one: "They're still making magic at Fifty Fifty, but it's not as 'special fancy dinner.'"

Opus Too & Jazz De Opus

(1972-2003). Longtime nightclub Opus Too & Jazz De Opus featured live jazz and old-school eats for nearly 30 years. Writes one former employee: "It was THE steak & seafood house before all of the Ruth's Chris, Mortons and their like came to town. The had a great mesquite grill, fresh pasta, at least ten kinds of fresh seafood, steaks & chops. I got to spend five years cooking there and still regard it as one of my favorite places to cook and eat."

Pal's Shanty

(1966-2014) Pal's was beloved for having some of the freshest seafood in town, in an unapologetically dive-y atmosphere. During it's heyday in the 1970s, the lines were so long, it's been reported that then-mayor Goldschmidt would help bus tables so he could get his own seat faster.

Quality Pie

(1950s-1992). A holdout from the 1950s diner era, the 24-hour Quality Pie — famous for its exterior sign and late-night eats — remains a much-missed greasy spoon. Writes one reader: "Best people-watching in Portland."

Rose & Raindrop

(1998-2006). Central Eastside beer bar Rose & Raindrop — co-owned by legendary beerman Don Younger — has best known for its historic digs, extensive beer list, and parlor games. Says on commenter: "Our Scrabble club met there weekly for years and we knew the menu by heart, loved the burgers and crispy fries, the waiters were the best (miss you Russel), decent drinks and at one time, video poker. Now it's a bank, how boring is that."

Sumida's

(1980s-late '90s). "One of the earliest (and still one of the best) sushi establishments to ever exist in the city. Etsuo Sumida was one of the first sushi chefs to come to Portland. A traditionalist with a big heart, he used to tell me of creating banquet sushi boats in the 70s that diners would barely touch. He was a master of the cuisine until a tragic stroke caused him to have to retire over 2 decades ago. He and his family were some of the kindest restaurateurs (and human beings) I have ever known. I will always miss them."

Vat & Tonsure

(1978-1997). The original incarnation of this popular bistro was shuttered to make way for downtown's Fox Tower; an attempt to resurrect the spot in 2002 was unsuccessful. But former guests miss its boisterous bar scene/wine list and roasted game hen.

Wildwood

(1994-2014) For 20 years it stood as an icon of Portland's farm-to-table ethos, and it was going strong right up until the end. But leases have a way of bringing even the biggest names to their knees.

Zefiro

(1990-2000). NW's legendary restaurant Zefiro marked Portland's introduction to four now-well-known culinary minds: Bruce Carey, Monique Siu (Castagna), Kevin Gibson (Davenport), and Chris Israel (Gruner). Unsurprisingly, it was frequently mentioned as a "most missed" spot, with one reader summing up, "there will never be another Zefiro."

Related Maps