October 21st, 2009 5:33 pm | by BEN WATERHOUSE News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP

Some Thoughts On Our Restaurant Guide

Willamette Week's 2009 Restaurant Guide is out today, inside every issue of this week's paper. We had a blast, as always, putting the guide together, and noticed a few things along the way that didn't make it into the guide.

First, turnover. The following restaurants that were in last year's guide have either closed or undergone such drastic changes that they might as well have: 23Hoyt, Alberta Street Oyster Bar, Alu (since reopened under new ownership), Banh Cuon Tan Din, Cava, Encanto, Fife, Genoa (reopening in November), Nutshell, Roux. Between the 2007 and 2008 guides there were only four closures. Openings appear to be holding steady, with 17 restaurants in this year's guide that opened in the last year versus 14 in 2008.

Some trends: Padrón peppers, already ascendant last year, are everywhere. I ate them at six of the 16 restaurants I reviewed. Poached eggs have also become ubiquitous, on salads, pasta, sandwiches and anywhere else cooks can stick them. Particularly frequent is arugula, lardon and poached egg salads. The best one I had was at Laurelhurst Market. Lots of panzanella. Plenty of venison and boar, too. Charcuterie plates are now ubiquitous. Everyone has a happy hour.

The most-mentioned ingredients in our reviews this year are, in order: pork, wine, chicken, cheese, tomatoes, lamb, bacon, potatoes, bread, beans, corn, sausage, salmon, beef, onion, pasta, egg, peppers, crab, garlic, fish, fries, chile, lamb, oil, butter, duck, arugula (all occurred more than 10 times in the guide). Want a visual illustration? Here's a word cloud.
Wordle: Willamette Week's 2009 Restaurant Guide

Finally, there are a great number of restaurants slated to open by the end of 2009: Grüner, Chris Israel's "Alpine-themed" restaurant; American Flatbread, a Portland branch of an artisan pizza chain based in Vermont; Anju, a Japanese pub that opened a few weeks ago in the space that used to be Nutshell; Genoa, coming Nov. 22, with the addition of a lower-priced cafe; Lovely Fifty-Fifty, a pizza and ice cream parlor from the owners of Lovely Hula Hands; Olympic Provisions, the charcuterie-making facility and restaurant from Clyde Common's Nate Tilden; a dive bar from Bunks Sandwiches' Tommy Habetz and Nick Wood; Slappy Cakes, a grill-your-own pancake joint on Belmont; Soluna Grill, a new venture in the Fife building; Suzette, a new crêpe joint taking the place of two failed crêpe joints; Spints Alehouse, a gastropub in the space that was the doomed Cafe 401; A Pok Pok bar, across the street from the restaurant; Big-Ass Sandwiches (yes, really) downtown; and a new venture from the Caprials in inner Southeast.
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