1. Wild North
The dishes at our 2019 Cart of the Year are things you'd normally expect to dress up and make a reservation for—stuff like barbecue pork roulade, lamb tartare and rabbit bolognese in a sourdough bread bowl. But while the presentation is upscale, the preparation is decidedly Old World. Nearly everything is fire-roasted, lending a rustic quality even the most blue-collar palates would find warmingly familiar. And though the food is on a different tier than what you'll find at most carts, the prices aren't much higher.
The earnest young chefs behind this new sustainability-focused prix fixe spot have made "by-catch" and "invasive species" the center of their culinary universe—and it might be the most extraordinary seafood restaurant the city has seen in nearly a decade.
The restaurant from the superstar trio behind Hat Yai, Matt's BBQ and the Shipwreck cocktail pop-up has finally arrived, and it somehow manages to exceed all expectations. The white curry with brisket burnt ends is a dish so rich and nuanced it's almost without precedent, while the chopped barbecue fried rice is another mashup that's bafflingly simple yet unbeatable in flavor.
At this build-your-own mac-and-cheese window, ordering is a linear process similar to Chipotle's. A bowl is assembled by choosing a noodle type, one of six sauces, and various toppings and mix-ins like broccoli, chorizo, truffle oil or hot dog. The three prefab options are excellent, and while the DIY ingredients are hit or miss, it shouldn't take long, with some extended tinkering, to create a craveable customized dish.
Finally, Portland's rooftop bar scene is making some headway. Tope's perch on the ninth floor of the Hoxton Hotel offers an excellent vantage of the city's eastside that pairs well with its playful cocktails and casual noshes. Avoid the tacos and go for the tlayuda, a "Oaxacan pizza" that's one of the better communal foodstuffs you'll find at a post-work chips-and-margaritas joint.