BY MARTIN CIZMAR AND WALKER MACMURDO
Is the traditional restaurant dying in Portland?
That sounds hyperbolic, but it's remarkable this year how much of the energy in Portland's food scene has flowed away from traditional, sit-down spots. Pop-ups are thriving, and so are pop-ins—our term for hip, ambitious counter-service spots like Poke Mon and Hat Yai.
Two years ago, most Portland pop-ups offered precious, little meals with prices to match, often served in spaces better suited for boxes. A few of those pop-ups are still operating, but recently the scene has evolved to become far more accommodating. Many of the city's best new pop-ups are using normal restaurant spaces during off-hours, occurring at least once a week and serving more-focused menus with lower prices. Here are a few of our new favorites.
511 NE 24th Ave. (behind the Ocean food court), hanoakpdx.com.
Hours and prices: Dinner is 6 to 9 pm Friday and Saturday, with seatings every 30 minutes. Sunday brunch is 11 am to 2 pm, with seatings every 30 minutes. All meals are $35, but the dinner price does not include gratuity. Drinks and appetizers are separate.
In Korea, it's not uncommon for country homes to have walled gardens used as an extension of the living space—in other words, they look a lot like the space housing Han Oak. I only know this because of the couple sharing the long, blond-wood table at Peter Cho's newish Han Oak, which sits behind a reddish-orange door leading to the bowels of the Ocean food court. Han Oak is an impeccably designed, modern-minimalist space—my wife started shopping for its lamps while we waited for our smoked short rib in ssamjang sauce.
Han Oak is making most of the same dishes you'll find at the better Beaverton Korean spots. Meat-wise, the experience is comparable. But by keeping a small, set menu, Han Oak is able to deliver exquisite versions of noodle dishes like hand-cut kalgooksu in rich chicken broth, dumplings stuffed with pork and bathed in black vinegar, along with rice cakes and bulgogi.
I strongly prefer the dinner to brunch, and suggest budgeting for soju and Stiegls. MC.
6 SE 28th Ave. (in the Langbaan space inside PaaDee), jolielaidepdx.com.
Hours and prices: Dinner is 6 to 7:30 pm Monday. Tickets are $80 plus gratuity. Drinks are separate.
Over 10 courses, chef Vince Nguyen, former sous chef at Portland's Castagna and San Francisco's two-Michelin-starred Coi, builds a harmonious meal that's ambitious in flavor and preparation and beautifully restrained in composition. Nguyen pairs intense, unusual flavors—sour and bitter grated black lime, sour and salty pureed umeboshi, and vividly herbaceous oils of sorel, bay and juniper—with simple preparations. A highlight: a slice of sweet potato caramelized to rib-eye savoriness and pillow softness, served with a pear puree as abstractly peary as Clear Creek's eau de vie. WM.
5027 NE 42nd Ave. (behind Old Salt Marketplace), maepdx.com.
Hours and prices: Dinner is 6 and 8:30 pm Monday, and 7 pm Wednesday. Sunday brunch is 10 am and 12:30 pm. It's BYOB, so bring a nice bottle of wine or, if you want, a 40-ouncer.
Maya Lovelace had me at the iced tea. Her twice-weekly supper club in the back room of the Old Salt meat market serves up sassafras sweet tea, a flavor missing from the West Coast recipe box, and it immediately transported me back to the hollers of ol' Virginny. From there, it's a parade of lard-fried joy paired with Lovelace's vivid storytelling—honey-sweet cornbread with a hint of crispiness on its shell, outrageously gooey mac 'n' cheese, and a spicy-sweet succotash stuffed with market-fresh produce. MC.
40 NE 28th Ave. (in the La Buca space), hunnymilk.com.
Hours and prices: Brunch is from 9 am to 2 pm Saturday and Sunday. It's $20 for coffee, a savory dish and a sweet dish. Tip, appetizers and booze are separate.
HunnyMilk just might be the best weekend brunch available in Portland right now. Having recently moved from the cramped Hogan's Goat Pizza space to the much larger La Buca, chef Brandon Weeks has expanded his cooking crew and refined his menu.
Available dishes change, but look for the barbecued pork rib served over grits and chimichurri, or the croissant doughnut sandwich. The biggest revelation on a recent visit was the obscenely rich Oreo waffle, served with white chocolate mousse, chocolate drizzle, whipped cream and a sliced and bruleed banana. MC.
337 NW Broadway (in the KitchenCru space), fusspotchicken.com.
Hours and prices: Dinner is from 5 to 7 pm every first Saturday of the month. It's $12 per serving. Tip and beverages are separate.
The crunch on Fusspot's Korean-style fried chicken is so audible as to be startling, a Foley sound *CRUNNNNCHHHH* that you normally have to pay ad executives several thousand dollars to create in a studio. Among Portland's pop-ups, Fusspot is the cheapest ($12) and the most generous—four pieces of lightly battered and expertly brined fried chicken topped with a sweet gochujang sauce, served with sesame slaw and lightly dressed slices of cucumber. It will fill up most diners. WM.