Despite the number of restaurant closures this year (RIP to institutions such as Veritable Quandary and Sewick’s), Portland’s restaurant scene shows no indication of slowing down. We’ve been gifted with a surplus of new restaurants and bars, but only some stand out as the places we’ll be eating and drinking for years to come -- here are our favorite spots that have opened in 2016 thus far. We'll be checking back in as the year chugs along.
All of the restaurants on this list are part of our ongoing quest to find this year's best new restaurants in America, and we're combing through every opening in every Thrillist city. Get involved on Instagram -- #BestRest2016 -- to let us know your picks and your favorite dishes at each of these new spots.
2016 has been especially productive in giving us a wider variety of cuisine, and Poke Mon is a shining example of this. (Which coincidentally opened the same week the addiction known as Pokmémon Go was released upon the world.) Poke Mon serves, unsurprisingly, poke (pronounced like “OK” with a P), the Hawaiian dish that is quickly becoming a national trend: bowls of raw fish, rice, seaweed, vegetables, and sauce. Grab a signature bowl or pick your favorite fish and toppings; either way, this trendy spot delivers on the hype.
Portland is doing its best to rebel against the notion that we don’t have good Mexican food. Clyde Common Executive Chef Carlo Lamagna and restaurateur Nate Tilden opened Honky Tonk Taco in late July in the space vacated by Pok Pok’s Sen Yai on busy Division St. The approach is simple: tacos, chips, salsa, and cocktails, along with a few other items. The tacos are on the small side, but solid, especially the fried shrimp with avocado and the rich and spicy mushroom taco. As with most Portland ventures, the menu is “inauthentic,” with touches of Lamagna’s Filipino roots showing up here and there. Don’t be afraid to look past the margaritas -- the cocktail list is filled with delicious Mexican-themed drinks.
Rue, opened and run by Chef Jason Roberts, exemplifies the cuisine that’s come to define upscale Portland dining in recent years: fresh, seasonal, vegetable-centered, light, creative fare. The service is small-plate oriented, cocktails are lovely, herbaceous, and food friendly (try the Fernet and and huckleberry soda), and the wine list is cultivated from Old World and the Pacific Northwest. Rue is yet another spot helping to make East Ankeny the new happenin’ neighborhood.
Just a block from Rue is Century Bar, the newest and most ambitious venture from the Lightning Bar Collective. This mammoth watering hole labels itself as a “sports bar that’s not a sports bar”; TVs are nowhere to be found within the space, nor are there the usual glaring neon lights of team logos. However, televisions descend from the ceiling for game nights, where 250 can gather in the stadium seating in the heart of the bar. Beyond that, the bar has two balconies and multiple patios, hosts raucous events, stirs up craft cocktails, and (because it’s Portland) has vegan alternatives for every item on the food menu. The Lightning Bar Collective manages to strike gold, again.
Americano opened with a bit of a rocky start, losing both the original head chef and original bar manager. Now it seems to have recovered, with a new chef and the assistant bar manager, Carlton Dunlap, moving up to take Kate Bolton’s place (she's over at Tusk now). The space itself remains fun and unconventional: it spends each morning as a chic café and brunch spot, and features low-proof amaro and vermouth based cocktails all day into the evening when it becomes a cocktail bar. Go in with a group and grab a press-pot full of vermouth, spirits, fruits, and herbs, served with glasses of ice and a mini bottle of cava.
Speakeasy-themed bars are nothing new, and are generally eye-roll inducing; not so at The Bible Club, a bar so devoted to the theme that it’s more like a museum than a cocktail bar. Every implement used by the bar, every piece of ornamentation, even the doorknobs and coat racks are authentically vintage, often from a century ago. If the food and drinks were lousy it would still be worth going to, but the owners secured two excellent bartenders to run the program with pre-Prohibition themed drinks. The kitchen whips up classic French dining with a twist; the mac & cheese is not to be missed.
The hotly anticipated Hat Yai, from PaaDee and Langbaan’s Earl Nimson and bartender Alan Akwai, opened to crowds and rave reviews in May, and has not slowed down since. That’s because the food is like Langbaan’s but without the price tag or months-long wait for reservations. This is Southern Thai street food served counter service, with Thai fried chicken as the star. Seriously, it's maybe taken the crown for best in the whole city. There’s other stuff on the menu, like the scorchingly hot Southern Thai ground pork, but we won’t blame you if you stick to the No. 1: two pieces of fried chicken, a bowl of curry sauce, and a handmade roti.
Pop-up prix-fixe dinners are Portland’s new “thing,” and Han Oak represents why. A festive, communal dining experience in a beautiful space feels more like your friend's grandmother’s home than a restaurant. The menu varies with each meal, but you’re guaranteed to get a full, authentic Korean dinner each time. At $35, it’s a steal. What’s more, skip the lines and traditional Portland brunch food and sign up for Han Oak’s Korean brunch, which includes a savory kimchi pork belly waffle.
An ambitious project, The Pine Street Market is a restaurant collective, bringing together nine restaurants -- some new, some established -- into one space. It’s like a classed-up food court where you can also drink. Olympia Provisions has OP Wurst, a hot dog and Champagne shop, Salt & Straw ice cream has a soft serve stand, and the team from Tasty n Sons brings Pollo Bravo, a Spanish chicken and tapas joint. Trifecta Annex serves Ken’s Artisan Pizza by the slice along with Ken’s other pastries. Marukin boasts some of the best ramen in the city, Shalom Y'all! brings vegetable centered Mediterranean cuisine and American whiskey to the hall, Brass Bar from Barista keeps you caffeinated, and, if you need something refreshing and healthy after all that, KURE Juice Bar provides. Sooner or later, Chef Ly Hwang of Kim Jong Grillin' and Chef BJ Smith of Smokehouse 21 and Smokehouse Tavern are opening Kim Jong Smokehouse together -- it will involve smoked meat. Despite some early negative press, Pine Street Market has largely accomplished what it set out to be: it’s the destination spot for Downtown lunch breaks, after-work drinks, shopping trips, and out-of-town visits.
Ataula had only been open a few years when it established itself as some of the best tapas in the city. Now, the team looks to expand that reputation to the east side with Chesa. Named for Chef Jose Chesa, this Spanish restaurant offers tapas and paella, much like Ataula, but with its own signature style. The paella are all made in a Josper oven, a combination grill and oven, giving it a unique smoky flavor. Cocktails, often sherry based, are as good as Ataula’s, though at a much larger bar. Don’t miss the Gin Tonic: a spritzy, heavily carbonated take on the classic drink that’s been receiving acclaim. Sharing the space is the restaurant’s xurro spot, 180, named for the temperature that the xurros are fried at (that’s in celsius!). The classic xurros are great; the chocolate-dipped ones are better.
Before it opened a branch in the Pine Street Market, Marukin opened on SE Ankeny, next door to the celebrated Nong’s Khao Man Gai. Portland had no dearth of good ramen spots, but Marukin, the chain straight from Tokyo, brought along its Japanese chef and immediately established itself near the top. Thick, handmade noodles, rich broths, perfectly cooked egg, and a selection of flavors all make Marukin among the best ramen spots in town. There are some great sides too, including karaage, Japanese fried chicken, but there’s no crime in skipping them to focus on the noodles.
There were plenty of food carts to open in 2016, but Boke Dokie stole our heart with its delicious fried chicken sandwiches. While Boke Bowl focuses primarily on ramen, it’s a multifaceted restaurant, with Chinese dim sum on the weekend and Korean fried chicken on Thursday nights, so it’s no surprise the establishment can also pull off Southern fried chicken sandwiches at its new food cart. If you’re on the veggie side of the aisle, don’t despair: Boke Dokie also serves up some excellent fried tofu sandwiches.
Barnaby and Olga Tuttle have been making Oregon’s best German-style wines for years now, but the couple finally got their wine room open earlier this year. Tucked away in the Brooklyn neighborhood, taste Teutonic’s line of rieslings, pinots, and more while 1980s metal and punk blares on the stereo. The Wild Hunt food cart serves Scandinavian cuisine right outside the winery, a nice pairing to the German wines. The wine room also hosts a series of Seafood Sundays, serving seasonal fare from crawfish to shrimp sandwiches each week.
Neat is a bit of an oddity -- it’s a relatively small space, lined with portraits of mustachioed ladies, and decked out with comfy mid-century furniture and a single pool table. You'll find bar manager Aaron Howard almost every night of the week, often on his own. Howard carves his own ice and makes his own shrubs, develops the ambitious cocktail program, and even runs the kitchen. It’s a lot like going to your friend’s basement for drinks, if your friend were an experienced cocktail geek with a decked out bar full of hand-carved ice and homemade ingredients.
Double Mountain is one of Oregon’s top breweries currently, but until July, you had to to drive out to Hood River if you wanted to visit the brewery. Now, with the opening of Double Mountain’s SE Portland location, you can easily visit for brick-oven pizzas, salads, and, of course, fresh Vaporizer on tap.
Tusk’s opening was greeted with high expectation, due in no small part to its owner, Chef Joshua McFadden of Ava Gene’s. This time, instead of Italian he’s taking on Middle Eastern cuisine. The innovative and stylish menu titles its dishes simply, with items such as Herbs, a gorgeous and delicious salad of basil, mint, fennel, and more, or Tomatoes, served with shiso, pistachios, and peppercorns. The menu relies on vegetables, enough to please any vegetarian, but also offers a few meat options, mostly in the form of small skewers. There’s the obligatory craft cocktail menu and a menu of Old World wines, with an opportunity to focus on other rarer countries such as Georgia or Greece touched on, but largely missed.
It’s hard not to balk at paying $11 for a plate of hummus in Portland, but the food is generally superb, with a number of stand outs (don’t miss the Green Wheat with peaches, pecan, and sheep’s feta), and the space is beautiful. McFadden likely has another hit on his hands.
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1. Poke Mon1485 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland
2. Honky Tonk Taco3384 SE Division St, Portland
3. Rue1005 SE Ankeny St, Portland
4. Century930 SE Sandy Blvd, Portland
5. Americano2605 E Burnside St, Portland
6. Bible Club6716 SE 16th Ave, Portland
7. Hat Yai1605 NE Killingsworth St., Portland
8. Han Oak511 NE 24th Ave, Portland
9. Pine Street Market126 SW 2nd Ave, Portland
10. Chesa2218 NE Broadway St, Portland
11. Marukin Ramen609 SE Ankeny St, Portland
12. Teutonic Wine Room, Oregon City
13. Neat2637 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland
14. Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom8 4th St, Hood River
15. Tusk2448 E Burnside St, Portland
This friendly, light-filled Hawthorne spot coincidentally opened the same week as Pokmémon Go exploded onto the world stage -- and its poke bowls are just as addictive as the game. The trendy Hawaiian dish -- a bowl of raw fish, rice, seaweed, vegetables, and sauce -- comes in a handful of signature varieties here, or can be customized with all your favorite fish and toppings. If you've got your eye on the signature menu, consider trying the Hawaiian Ahi Poke, full of fresh ahi, sweet onion, inamona, ogo, and a Hawaiian-style sauce with shoyu, ginger, sesame oil, and chili.
The lineup at Honky Tonk, opened by Clyde Common Executive Chef Carlo Lamagna and restaurateur Nate Tilden, is as flavorful as it is simple: tacos, chips, salsa, and cocktails. The menu is even separated as "TACOS" and "NOT TACOS." Be sure to try the taco with fried shrimp and avocado, and the rich and spicy mushroom taco. Margaritas abound (again, you'll find two sections on the menu titled "MARGARITAS" and "NOT MARGARITAS"), but you should check out the other Mexican-themed drinks, too, like the Southbound Suarez (tequila, horchata, becherovka, lime juice, agave).
Rue takes a fresh, light, and clean approach to both its decor and menu, serving up small plates in a modern French bistro space. The menu is composed entirely of small plates with many veggie-centric options in the mix, and range from roasted carrots to smoked trout to roasted guinea hen. Alongside them, you'll want to order from the lovely and herbaceous lineup of cocktails (go for the Fernet and and huckleberry soda), or a glass of wine off a list including Old World and Pacific Northwest options.
Gifted to us by the Lightning Bar Collective, Century is a colossal space that labels itself as a “sports bar that’s not a sports bar" -- flat-screens, neon lights, pennants, and other sports paraphernalia are nonexistent here. Instead, televisions descend from the ceiling on game nights, where 250 can gather in the finished-wood stadium seating in the heart of the bar. It also boasts two balconies and multiple patios, hosts events from DJ nights to Movie Mondays, stirs craft cocktails, and has vegan alternatives for every food item on the menu, including fish tacos and buffalo wings.
This artsy spot has split personalities: by day it's a chic café and brunch spot, featuring low-proof amaro- and vermouth-based drinks, and by evening it becomes a full-on cocktail bar. Our recommendation? Go with a group of friends and take on a press-pot full of vermouth, spirits, fruits, and herbs, served with glasses of ice and a mini bottle of cava. In terms of brunch eats, you'll want to go for the croque madame or the rhubarbaro French toast.
Move over, all other speakeasy bars. The Bible Club, housed inside a yellow bungalow-style home, is like a museum to the Prohibition era, using 100% vintage bar implements, pieces of ornamentation, doorknobs, and coat racks -- usually from a century ago. Two exceptional bartenders run the cocktail program here with Prohibition-themed drinks, like Devils Fork Fix (Union Gin, Suze, BC ginger syrup, celery juice, lemon). Anthony Cafiero of Racion heads up the kitchen, churning out classic French dishes with a twist, including a must-try mac & cheese.
From Earl Nimson of PaaDee and Langbaan, Hat Yai serves exciting Southern Thai food in a casual, counter-serve space. Though the spicy street food is enough of a lure, the Thai fried chicken here is a game-changer in itself, served not with biscuits or French fries but a scoop of sticky rice. There's other noteworthy stuff on the menu, like the scorchingly hot Southern Thai ground pork and the house chicken curry with handmade roti (for dipping, of course).
Han Oak is a prix-fixe Korean restaurant that fits right into Portland's experimental food scene. Inside the unmarked restaurant, a friendly and unpretentious staff serves fresh takes on traditional Korean food including dumplings, various types of kimchee, and salt baked pork belly. The space feels very cozy and mellow, and the welcoming ambience seems to complement the exciting dishes perfectly.
This unassuming spot tucked away in the historic Baggage and Carriage Building by the waterfront is actually the Pine Street Market, a behemoth of culinary exploits with eight vendors from Portland favorite restaurants. All corners of the globe are covered in this one food hall, from South American coffee at Brass Bar to Germany's franks at OP Wurst to Spanish chicken at Pollo Bravo. You can have your pick of the bunch or sample them all at one, we won't judge.
A newcomer from the palates behind Ataula, Chesa specializes in cast iron paellas steaming hot from a charcoal oven. These traditional rice dishes are made new with couplings like sherry-marinated rabbit and Iberico ham, squid and cuttlefish, and oxtail and prawns. While you wait for the entree, enjoy a few tapas and its impressive list of sherry.
Hailing from Tokyo, Marukin has chosen Portland as its first stateside home, and next door to none other than all-around favorite Nong’s Khao Mon Gai. Marukin's simplicity is notable -- the bowl is not overly loaded with meat and veggies, relying on the impeccably seasoned broth and handcrafted noodles to satisfy ramen lovers and convert those poor, sad, lonely ramen skeptics. In short, Portland’s noodle game just got bumped up a notch.
One of Portland's favorite wineries boasts a brightly colored tasting room in the southeast corner of the city, where their full selection of German-style reds, whites, and roses are ready for the taking by bottles, glasses, and flights. '80s punk music as blaring as the red walls plays through the day, while customers drop in for something to pair down the open-faced sandwich they got from partner The Wild Hunt, the Scandinavian food cart just outside.
This quirky little bar near Sunnyside doens't quote follow suit with ultra-macho and dark whiskey bar and instead opts for light colored walls, portraits of mustachioed women, and comfy, mid-century furniture. In case you haven't gathered from its name, whiskey is this place's thing. Not only is the selection impressive, but the owner and bartender will whip up a cocktail made just for you with a block of hand-carved ice.
It might be known for its beers, but Double Mountain in Hood River has some of the best almost-but-not-quite-burnt brick-oven pizza anywhere in Oregon. The pizza subscribes to the New Haven school, and though you can't go wrong with the plain cheese or pepperoni pies, the Truffle Shuffle (a white pie with mozzarella, goat cheese, and white-truffle-oil-marinated portabella mushrooms) is a hit.
Named for the iconic Fleetwood Mac album, this airy eatery brings remixed Middle Eastern food to Kerns. Following Portland's penchant for farm-centric food, Tusk gets its ingredients from nearby farms like Ayers Creek to bring sharable plates of cured meats, roasted and picked veggies, and flatbread to the table. In addition to an ever-changing menu, you can also expect top-notch pastry desserts and spritzy cocktails.