In the past year, we've been eating our way around Portland's newest tables, talking about how popular that sharp, sweet flavor of fennel has become and savoring the last bite of bacio gelato, all the while twirling long strands of pasta around our forks.
We've reported on Lisa Schroeder opening Mama Mia downtown, Basilico chef Paul Ornstein frying up Roman favorites in a famed Northwest Portland restaurant space and the launch of Vito DiLullo's swank Alberta Street dinner house, Ciao Vito. We also noted the birth of a baby Mingo on the MAX line out in Beaverton.
At first, it seemed like fine Italian joints were becoming as ubiquitous in neighborhoods as, well, our favorite Thai outposts. But beyond the trend of local diners re-embracing the comfort-and flavor-of carbohydrates, it seems that something even more important is happening in the local food world. Call it nature, well nurtured, as all over town a crew of independent chefs are delivering interesting, great-tasting food.
There's the charming taste of the saltfish and ackee showcased at Annie McCloud's Jamaican restaurant Montego Bay-and puckery cebiches and fried yuca from Andina's Liman import, chef Emmanuel Piqueras Villaran. And then there's the continued popularity of ripe's latest eastside buzz-magnet, clarklewis, noted for chef Morgan Brownlow's exceptionally homey Italian dishes.
And there's no better example of this move beyond trends, this continued attention to fresh, seasonal tastes, than the exceptional food served at Lauro Kitchen, WW's Restaurant of the Year for 2004. (See page 6.)
The formula at this Southeast Division Street bistro is simple: Win over the neighborhood, and the rest of the city will follow. Chef-owner David Machado went local after turning in the corporate charge card he wielded at the Kimpton Group's Red Star Tavern and the Heathman Group's Southpark Seafood Grill. He has crafted an innovative menu based on a handful of simple ingredients and the creative influences of not just Italy, but also Greece, Spain, Turkey and Portugal.
In recent months, we've been eating at Portland's exceptional restaurants-the kind of research we love the most. All of our reviewers make anonymous visits, while WW picks up the tab. Please note that the Restaurant Guide you have in your hands covers Portland's higher-end restaurants. Look for our Cheap Eats guide-which covers, as you might guess, lower-cost bites-next spring.
The key for restaurant costs as rated in this guide is:
$$ - Moderate: most entrees under $20
$$$ - Expensive: most entrees between $20 and $30
$$$$ - Very expensive: most entrees more than $30
As with any small business, hours and days of operation can vary, so we advise you to double check details before heading out for a meal. You'll also want to ask whether you can reserve a table. Speaking of trends: In a town that prides itself on its casual nights out, the "no reservations" rule seems to be here to stay-whether you like it or not.
Byron Beck, editor
Editor-in-Chief: Byron Beck
Editor: Ellen Fagg
Contributors: Mark Baumgarten, Byron Beck, Taylor Clark, Kelly N. Clarke, Kim B. Colton, Jim Dixon, Zach Dundas, Elizabeth Dye, Ellen Fagg, Ian Gillingham, Nigel Jaquiss, Melanie Jennings, Joshua Parish, Roger Porter, Margaret Seiler, John Schrag, Joel P. Smith, Audrey Van Buskirk, Heidi Yorkshire, Mark Zusman
Copy Editors: Anna-Frida Abrahamsson, Ian Gillingham, Michael Nicoloff, Margaret Seiler
Art Director: Jason Landis
Design & Production: Sarah Boden, Thomas Cobb, Maggie Gardner, Samantha Gardner, Kendon Gray, Tom Humphrey, Jennifer Lim, Jeremy Raidt, Matt Wong
Photography: Amy Ouelette
Top 100 Restaurants (