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December 26th, 2007 Mike Thelin | z-Eat Me
 

PDX, The Appetizer

Think 2007 tasted good? Wait until you get a nibble of 2008.

     
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Uncommon Eats at Clyde Common
IMAGE: chrisryanphoto.com

More restaurants opened their doors in Portland in 2007 than any other year in recent memory. During some stretches, it seemed a new eatery would debut every weekend. And you know what? That was great news, since 2007 was the year that it seemed everybody—including East Coast critics—finally figured out how good Portland tastes. Took ‘em long enough.

The city found a Japanese gem in Biwa (215 SE 9th Ave., 239-8830) , one of the few noodle nooks in town that serves handmade ramen. Nate Tilden transformed a storefront in the newly minted Ace Hotel into Clyde Common (1014 SW Stark St., 228-3333), a world-class dining enclave that marries Portland quirk with European style—and I, for one, love the communal tables. Two doors down, pastrami slingers Kenny and Zuke’s (1038 SW Stark St., 222-3354) opened in October to lines down the block, cementing Southwest Stark Street’s standing as Portland’s latest restaurant row. Chef Sean Coryell taught us that vegans have taste buds too with his new venture, Nutshell (3808 N Williams Ave., 292-2627) , while Toro Bravo ’s (120 NE Russell St., 281-4464) John Gorham showed us what Oregon would taste like if it were a region in Spain (landing WW ’s Restaurant of the Year title in the process). The biggest upset? After terrible reviews—the O ’s Karen Brooks twisted the knife by nicknaming it the Ishtar of local restaurants—Ten01 (1001 NW Couch St., 226-3463) pulled the comeback of the year. New chef Jack Yoss and sommelier Erica Landon get the last laugh as they head to New York in January to stage a meal at the James Beard House.

Not all was well in 2007, though. Beloved Le Pigeon (738 E Burnside St., 546-8796) ditched its stellar brunch come summer, and my weekends haven’t been the same without chef Gabriel Rucker’s maple-glazed pork belly served with a pecan-studded, half-moon Belgian waffle. Luckily, Broder’s (2508 SE Clinton St., 736-3333) excellent aebleskivers filled the void when the Scandinavian diner debuted in August.

So, what do we have to look forward to in 2008? Plenty. Park Kitchen bartender Kevin Ludwig will open his new digs, Beaker and Flask . Lucier , an upscale, Northwest-inspired riverfront restaurant, aims to be Portland’s first five-star eatery when it opens at RiverPlace this April. Also in April, the Deschutes Brewery will deliver its anticipated PDX brewpub into a 10,000-square-foot brick building in the heart of the Pearl. Plus, Micah Camden and Naomi Pomeroy plan to open an Italian family-style restaurant in Northeast Portland near Camden’s Yakuza and Pomeroy’s Beast, named DOC (yep, just like the Italian organization that oversees wine appellations).

Chocolate ambassadors Aubrey Lindley and Jesse Manis, of west end shop Cacao, will open a dinky (as Lindley describes his new digs) downtown satellite location later this spring. As Stumptown sets its sights beyond PDX and considers opening outposts beyond the Northwest, 2008 will mark the rise of the micro-roaster. Stumptown produces excellent coffee, but Portland cannot call itself a coffee capital when nearly every cafe serves the same product, and that’s gonna change: Andrea Spella, coffee roaster and proprietor of the Spella coffee cart (Southwest Alder and Park Streets) plans to have a brick-and-mortar downtown location by fall 2008. Ristretto Roasters (3520 NE 42nd Ave., 284-6767) will debut a second location on North Williams Avenue, a few doors down from Nutshell. Plus, Extracto (2921 NE Killingsworth St., 281-1764) will also begin to roast its own beans.

This year, the New York Times proclaimed that Portland was in its “golden age of dining,” but believe me—our city has yet to reach its climax. Our chefs are serving the appetizer course, and we’ve just barely unfolded our napkins.

 
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