It’s no surprise that the Washington Post named Portland the best food city in America. The local culinary and restaurant industry in 2015 was one for the books.
From some fiercely tasty new expert chef collaborations, to cart-to-brick-and-mortar success stories, and even new locations opened by existing favorites, the list of amazing new dining options in the Portland area has expanded and diversified in ways that only your tastebuds can comprehend. Not all the options in this list will break the bank – though some certainly may – here are our 15 favorite new restaurants in 2015 – from comfortable to chic, and from pizza to clams to ramen.
When Renata opened last summer, it received praise from nearly every local publication, food writer and customer. As the most anticipated restaurant of the year and the one you’re most likely to see labeled as “2015’s best,” it’s no surprise that Renata makes this list. The husband and wife team behind the restaurant first met when they worked at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, which only marks the beginning of their impressive resume. Renata’s airy, industrial-chic interior, lively ambiance and open kitchen tease you into believing you’re dining at one of Italy’s trendiest eateries. Choosing between the decadent handmade pastas and the wood-oven fired pizzas proves to be far too strenuous of a task. Do yourself a favor and order both. Start with the marinated anchovies and fried stuffed olives before devouring patata (pizza with potatoes, caramelized onions and taleggio) and chervil tagliolini with lardo butter, charred leeks and horseradish-kissed mussels. Don’t skip dessert, either: Sugar Cube’s Kir Jensen joined Renata as their Pastry Chef last month, and we couldn’t be happier about it.
626 SE Main St.
Mon-Fri 5:30-10pm, Sat 5-11pm, Sun 5-9pm
Next Level Burger
Vegans, rejoice! Bend-based Next Level Burger planted roots in Portland this year, redefining what a vegetarian patty should be and satisfying both omnivores and non-meat eaters alike. The term “plant-based fast food” may generate skepticism in some, but owner Matt de Gruyter is on a mission to make you a believer. After watching his family suffer illness and heart disease, he took charge of his health and his life by going vegan. Next Level Burger offers 100% plant-based, organic and GMO-free ingredients with a strong focus on sustainable, environmentally-friendly resources. With up to 33 grams of protein in each of these vegan beauties, NLB promises to leave you satisfied, happy and energized. Pick your poison, from spicy bean to the sprouted quinoa and black chia seed patty to the peppery SoCal burger topped with tempeh bacon and avocado. The menu doesn’t stop at burgers: sample chili-cheese dogs, classic crinkle cut fries or fresh salads. To wash it all down, there’s dairy-free milkshakes, fresh-pressed juices and kombucha, local beer, hard cider and organic wine on tap.
Next Level Burger
4121 SE Hawthorne BLVD
Nomad PDX prides itself on being “an artistic think-tank focused on revolutionizing the experience of fine dining.” The pop-up restaurant, situated above Shift Drinks downtown, trades white tablecloths and pretentiousness for folding chairs and a musical selection that includes DMX. The completely unique experience is a breath of fresh air for stuffy fine dining, allowing you to truly appreciate what matters: the food. Don’t expect to find a constant menu or even a permanent location, but do expect an experimental 10 to 15-course tasting of visual masterpieces inspired heavily by local produce. Chefs Ali Matteis and Ryan Fox love adding their self-foraged fare to a menu that flirts greatly with modern techniques and molecular gastronomy. Some of the non-traditional treats you might find include the foie gras “slut dog” and a dessert modeled after a quail’s egg nest, composed of egg yolk jam and encased in almond ice cream.
1200 SW Morrison St.
Swift and Union
Tabor Tavern‘s husband-and-wife team, Ken Naffziger and wife Kristen Siefkin, brought Swift and Union to the Kenton neighborhood in July. The name is a nod to Kenton’s meat-packing history and its two big players Swift Meat Packing and Union Meat Company. The family-friend restaurant serves a menu of reinvented pub fare, including brunch, small plates, soups and salads. Burgers, to match the restaurant’s meat-centric theme and cattle motif, are topped with infamous bacon jam. Besides wine and cocktails, Swift and Union offers eleven rotating taps and a happy hour (M-F 4-6) where you can get them for a buck off, in addition to $3 pretzels and a $6 burger.
Swift and Union
8103 N. Denver Ave.
Mon-Wed 11:30am-10pm, Thurs-Fri 11:30am-11pm, Sat 10am-11pm, Sun 10am-10pm
The long-awaited Pizza Jerk was born from the creative, pizza-obsessed mind of Bunk Sandwich‘s Tommy Habetz. The family-friendly NE 42nd restaurant spins out classic East Coast-style pies with a twist in a no-frills atmosphere complete with the red and white checkered tablecloths you’d be likely to find in any old school pizza joint. Pizza choices include the New Haven staple (where Habetz grew up) white clam and bacon pie and the vegetarian-friendly eggplant parmigiana pie. Build-your-own options are available and the prices stay reasonable at $18 for a cheese pizza with the highest (the Clam Jam) at $26. Pizza Jerk also offers hearty sandwiches, salads and pasta dishes ranging from the traditional spaghetti and meatballs to the Italian version of Chinese dan dan noodles.
5028 NE 42nd Ave.
Sun-Thurs 11:30am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-10pm
2015 brought us Portland’s first Belgian-style mussels and pommes frites bar in the form of Southeast’s La Moule. St. Jack chef Aaron Barnett sought inspiration from the amazing fresh seafood of Willapa Bay and created an intriguing space with a menu that would make any shellfish-lover jump for joy. The restaurant is open from 5 to midnight every night of the week, making this an ideal date night or after-work drink spot. You can get the mussels six different ways, from the classic Marinière (garlic, butter, white wine, herbs and chili flakes) to a coconut milk and green curry infused Thai preparation. If you’re feeling a bit indulgent, the rapturous Normandy mussels come bathed in cider, cream and Dijon and crowned with all-mighty bacon. Frites are wonderfully crispy, accompanied by gremolata and aioli and can serve as a device for soaking up spare sauce or as a stand-alone snack. Of course, there are other dishes too: salads, blue cheese croquettes, steaks and a triple cream Brie and bacon burger. Taps and bottles feature Belgian beer aplenty and the cocktails are neat and perfectly executed, including some delightful aperitifs
2500 SE Clinton St.
Former Little Bird chef Erik Van Klay opened up the American eatery in September with a name based quite literally off its surroundings. Nestled alongside train tracks in the Plow Works Building is Taylor Railworks, a restaurant that prides itself on serving “borderless American cuisine.” Although the space relies heavily on an industrial style, both in decor and theme, it is not without warmth or charm. The restaurant was instantly praised for its food, cocktails and service, hitting a home run in dining trifecta. The menu consists of raw, small and “larger” plates, allowing you the option of a sit-down dinner, drinks at the bar or watching the line cooks work in the open-kitchen while snacking at the chef’s counter. Whichever you choose, it’s doubtful you’d be disappointed. Raw plates highlight seafood from oysters to a yuzu and sesame steelhead poke. Small plates offer you honey-glazed foie, spicy calamari or truffle grilled mushrooms. Redefined comfort foods make up the larger plates, such as slow roasted brisket or fried chicken. A full dessert menu is also well thought-out and cocktails come in three choices: bitter, sour or stirred.
117 SE Taylor St, Suite 101
The French-inspired restaurant started as a pop-up, serving seasonal and farm-inspired fare all around town, before it called its new Mt. Tabor space home. Chef Katy Millard and her husband Ksandek Podbielski created an inviting, cozy atmosphere that serves as a casual coffee shop by day and a more refined dining experience by night. Chef Millard brings her experience cooking for renowned restaurants in France to Coquine’s kitchen, creating approachable, playful dishes that highlight local produce. A chef’s choice prix fixe menu is available (with a vegetarian option) for $55, as well as à la carte options. One may choose to start with chickpea socca or roasted sunchokes in a cognac vinaigrette before moving on to pillowy potato gnocchi or braised short ribs with coffee roasted carrots. The breakfast and lunch menu is equally lovely and encourages day-drinking. The Coquine Mimosa, with Lillet blanc, Aperol, grapefruit and sparkling wine, makes that easy.
6839 SE Belmont St.
Cafe Hours: Mon-Sun 8am-3pm; Dinner: Wed-Sun 5-10pm
Former food cart-turned-brick-and-mortar Burrasca opened in July with a little help from a successful Kickstarter campaign. Owner and Italian native Paolo Calamai creates authentic Florentine cuisine in the new Clinton space with the help of his business partner and wife, Elizabeth Petrosian. Sip Chianti and try the garlic and kale crostoni or the ultra-thick Italian bread, vegetable and cannellini beanribollita soup. comforting enough to warm you on even the chilliest, no-good day. All of Burrasca’s pastas and breads are made in house and some dinner highlights include the wild boar ragu pappardelle or inzimino, slow-simmered squid and spinach in red wine and herbs. Classic Italian desserts conclude the menu, such as toscanaccio: homemade biscotti with a glass of vin santo dessert wine for dipping.
2032 SE Clinton St.
Tues-Thurs 11:30am-2:30pm and 5-9pm; Fri-Sat 11:30am-2:30pm and 5-9:30pm
Bit House Saloon
Jesse Card’s Bit House Saloon was crowned the best bar of 2015 by the Oregonian, and we agree. The bar features a mix of the craft and the quirky, serving single barrels, local beer on tap and even frozen coladas. Determined to take the pretentiousness out of the craft cocktail scene, Card serves thoughtful and well-executed drinks in the Southeast watering hole. The menu doesn’t take itself too seriously. While you can order cocktails crafted with jasmine, hickory smoke, bitters or arbol chile shrub, you can also get a $2 Rainier, “mystery flavor” frozen alcoholic popsicle or a fried bologna sandwich. The kitchen serves a full menu of redefined pub grub. Buttermilk cheddar biscuits, homemade beer nuts, meat and fish boards are ideal for sharing. Their take on bar wings? Pecan-smoked chicken wings with fermented chile sauce, served with pickled celery and blue cheese fondue. Full entrees grace the menu, too, including an elk burger with secret sauce, slow-cooked pork cheeks and rabbit hand pies. Happy hour (from 3-7) is a good way to try a nice variety, and maybe some $5 punch of the day.
Bit House Saloon
727 SE Grand Ave.
The Zipper opened on Sandy and 28th and included a house of restaurants small in size and big on flavor. Rua, a former food cart, claimed space in the project and was deemed one of its first “micro” restaurants. Chef Jason Myers isn’t a stranger to the Portland food cart scene (he owned the burger-and-poutine cart Sideshow before Rua). Rua focuses on Vietnamese inspired fare, including rice noodle bowls, curry, sweet-and-spicy fried chicken wings and green papaya salads. The restaurant’s take on banh mi is served in a Fleur De Lis baguette with traditional fixings (pickled carrot and jicama, cucumber, jalapeno, cilantro and Sriracha mayo) and tasty main acts (fried chicken, pork belly, lemongrass chicken or tofu). Hot or iced Vietnamese coffee or imported beer is available to wash it all down.
820 NE 27th Ave.
Sun-Wed 11am-11:30pm, Thurs 11am-12:30am; Fri-Sat 11am-1:30am
Rose VL Deli
Ha & Vl original owners Christina and William Vuong are back with the dinner-only Southeast pho and banh mi spot. After handing their original restaurant over to their son, the couple came out of semi-retirement to open Rose VL Deli. Nestled in an unsuspecting mini-strip mall, the Vietnamese restaurant offers a happy, bright interior complete with purple walls and the Vuong’s smiling faces. Two soups a night are featured on a weekly-rotating menu which also includes specials, banh mi sandwiches, rice dishes, bubble tea and Vietnamese coffee. Every soup checks in at $9.50 and there’s something on the menu for everyone, from pho to chicken curry to Vietnamese tumeric noodles, laced with pork, shrimp and peanuts.
Rose VL Deli
6424 SE Powell BLVD
Broder Nord opened its sister location in the Scandinavian Heritage Foundation’s new Nordia House, marking the third addition to Peter Bro’s Scandinavian eatery. The restaurant only serves breakfast and lunch, with morning favorites including the lost eggs, baked under crunchy breadcrumbs with ham and spinach, and the Danish pancakes with lingonberry jam and lemon curd. Creamy shrimp salad sandwiches and Swedish meatballs are proven lunch favorites. The restaurant also introduces customers to the art of fika, a traditional Swedish coffee break centered around relaxation or socializing. Broder Soder serves up a selection of their house-baked pastries to accommodate your well-deserved fika break.
8800 SW Oleson Rd.
Biwa owners Gabe Rosen and Kina Voelz opened the ramen-focused Noraneko on SE Water Ave. The restaurant concentrates on ramen, only offering four varieties: shio, shoyu, miso and vegetarian, with optional add-ins. Side dishes and snacks are also available, with bar snacks such as kimchi, gyoza, popcorn and dried squid for only $1 during happy hour. There’s also a unique dinner special every night of the week. Cocktails include some of Biwa’s classics and highballs and chuhais get their own menu. Hungry aftermidnight? Don’t fret: Noraneko stays open until 2 a.m. every single night, and even features DJs on weekends.
1430 SE Water Ave.
Mon-Sun 11am-2am; Happy Hour 4-6pm
Another Kickstarter success story, Tastebud, opened its doors in October. Chef-owner Mark Doxtader ran the former Tastebud until it closed in 2013 and has been busy since, running his farmers market stand and catering events. The gigantic wood-fired oven is the heart of Tastebud; their pizza, entrees, sides and even desserts get baked in it. The menu focuses on small plates, pizza, entrees and fresh salads and sides inspired heavily by Doxtader’s favorite farms and seasonal produce. Start with the chicken liver mousse with cranberry mustard and bagel chips. Plates feature roasted trout, whole chicken and oven braised manila clams, but their rustic pizzas steal the show. The Yoder marries lamb sausage, jalapeños and parsley with fresh mozzarella on a crisp, chewy crust perfectly charred by the wood oven.
7783 SW Capitol Hwy.