First, I need to apologize to Nimblefish chef Cody Auger, who glared at me for stealing the bafun uni from my husband during our omakase and replaced it with another one, which I then also stole. In my defense, my husband doesn't eat sushi, the uni was a bridge too far, we were with a big group, and I tried and failed to discreetly save him from his poor decision-making. I'm sorry. Truthfully, I'm also put off by uni's unappetizing appearance. But if you, like me, have to be emotionally blackmailed into eating some kinds of sushi, Nimblefish is a good place to find out why you're wrong. Auger's is cool and firm, delicately briny and even sweet, like a small, sea custard. It's been months and I'm still thinking about it. But I think I'll wait until I'm back at Nimblefish to eat it again (I might have to wear a mask). ADRIENNE SO.
Hands down, a slice of the #4 at Ranch PDX in the Woodlawn neighborhood. Frankly, I was somewhat skeptical of Detroit-style pizza in general. Sure, the style has its bona fides through its Sicilian heritage, but the enthusiasm in deploying ranch dressing had me concerned. What was the pizza lacking that it would require a dip in salad dressing? Apparently, nothing. For one thing, the ranch is phenomenal. Handmade on the premises, its vibrant, creamy tang, redolent with herbs has the potential to make anything taste better. The slice itself, a massive square of tender, chewy dough with the surface effectively deep-fried into crispy perfection by the rendering of the cheese in the pan, doesn't need it—it's spectacular on its own. With the ranch, though? Transcendent. BRIAN PANGANIBAN.
I've never felt more alone at a meal than the last time I ate at Roe. I wandered the abandoned, after-hours shopping galleria inside the Morgan Building until I found a stairway, with Roe's foyer at the top. It was intimate and empty, and I took a seat in one of the regal antique chairs, like a king overseeing his empty court. Finally, someone parted the curtains to the restaurant dining room and led me to my table. It was all the way at the end of the mezzanine. Again, I surveyed everything from an isolated perch. That's how I noticed all the tables, many set with cards commemorating anniversaries and special occasions, were situated like this. The dish that stole the show was a single piece of sea bass in curry veloute. I think I almost exclaimed "Holy fuck!" in the serene dining space—it was the juiciest fish ever, a butter gusher laced with confoundingly crispy skin. It was the perfect meal to eat alone. MATTIE JOHN BAMMAN.
Related: Restaurant Guide 2018: Roe.
The food at Mae's Meat & Three Supper comes with stories from chef Maya Lovelace, who hand-delivers each family-style bowl and platter to the tables. Her prose is as downhome and charming as her cooking, which means picking just one dish as my favorite from this meal is impossible, like selecting only one chapter to highlight in a great novel. It begins with a Southern Appalachia-style breadstick and syrupy, seductive sorghum butter. Then she veers toward her home state of North Carolina with a crisp, refreshing iceberg salad coated in buttermilk vinaigrette—her classed-up version of ranch that's so herbaceous and peppery, you could toss it with grass clippings and I'd happily scarf those down. Fatty indulgence comes next in the form of tangy pimento mac and cheese garnished with crumbled potato chips that'll disappear after just one lap around the table, as well as the pinnacle of the dinner: a heaping pile of fried chicken. The limbs are buttermilk-brined and varnished in three fats, creating the perfect crunchy skin and juicy flesh. If there are leftovers, claim your leg quickly or risk leaving empty-handed. ANDI PREWITT.
Canard, the latest venture from Le Pigeon and Little Bird mastermind Gabriel Rucker, certainly has no shortage of upscale culinary marvels. Heady interpretations of comfort foods like foie gras dumplings and wings with truffle ranch abound, but for once, the buzz is not centered on Rucker's Francophile riffs on dishes the average Joe craves—it's a tiny burger made with American cheese and a cheap white Hawaiian bun. Anyone who's set foot in a White Castle will feel warm and fuzzy when eating Canard's Steam Burger, but you don't need to have fond and fuzzy memories of stoned slider runs in college to appreciate this simple joy that's a highlight of a menu filled with many. Though it's adorned with a sweet-and-spicy relish and a housemade French onion soup mix, it's a comfort-first flavor that's increasingly rare in the fancier throes of New Portland, and at happy hour, the price is halved to only $3. PETE COTTELL.
When Jose Chesa shut down his eponymous Northeast Broadway paella specialist after a mere 16 months, it was a sad day for lovers of traditional Spanish food. The biggest loss, as far as I'm concerned, was the occasional cochinillo, or suckling pig, available whenever Chesa's overseas supplier came through. Fortunately, the chef's stellar, modernist-leaning Spanish sibling, Ataula, has picked up the slack, offering a limited number of these roasted Iberico piglets on Sunday nights only. As befits a specialty-breed porker fed only on milk during its short life, the meat is buttery tender and mild, and it resides within a crackly roasted, burnished skin shell from which most of the fat has been rendered. It's an ample enough portion for two or three, but the complementary combination of meat, skin, veg and sauce is so damn divine I've been known to take down the entire entree myself. MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN.
Related: Restaurant Guide: Ataula.
I know they already get tons of love and don't really need my bump, but Guëro's sikil p'ak is one of my favorite things to eat, period. It's everything I need in one twee, terra cotta cazuela: a perfect balance of sweetness and heat with a subtle citrus twang in an earthy, pumpkin-seedy pulp. You get crunch and salt from the chips (I liked the broken tostada shells they used to use, but I'm not too upset that they switched). You get cooling, water chestnut-crisp jicama spears and radish coins, and extremely Instagram-friendly ribbons of pickled carrot. And best of all, it's nutritious enough that I don't have to feel bad about having a big, juicy margarita to wash it down. HEATHER ARNDT ANDERSON.
Related: Restaurant Guide 2018: Güero.
It was cake, hailing from the great Kee's #Loaded Kitchen. Founder Kiauna Nelson took home Willamette Week's 2018 Cart of the Year honors for her crave-worthy, truly fully loaded soul-food plates—think saucy ribs, housemade hot links, and Tillamook mac and cheese—but her desserts threaten to steal the show outright. That Oreo cake was enjoyed as part of a catered event—#Loaded does brisk business in the catering game, from the Nike campus to family occasions and community events across the region. I can still taste it now: that dense sponge, offset by vividly creamy, Oreo-beflecked frosting, mounted with whole cookies up top for texture and wow factor. It is honestly the best dessert I've ever had in Portland, and definitely the best thing I ate in 2018. JORDAN MICHELMAN.