1. Gado Gado
1801 NE César E. Chávez Blvd., 503-206-8778, gadogadopdx.com.
One of 2018's best pop-ups put down roots in the Hollywood neighborhood this year and became of Portland's best new restaurants. The radiant spices and displays of complementary textures remain dazzling—see the beef rendang, a simmering heap of coconut-braised beef paired with aromatic rice and a side of zesty sambal. It's a simple dish that's packed with flavor and damn-near perfect.
503 W Burnside St., 971-373-8287, zapapizzapdx.com.
Blazing new trails in the pizza world is tricky, but Portland is one of the best places to try. And if veteran restaurateur Nick Zukin has his way, Mexican-style deep dish is the next big thing. At Zapapizza the pies are topped with everything from taquitos to chilaquiles. But underneath the novelty, it's just damn good pizza—some of the best seen on the west side of the river in a long time.
813 SW Alder St., 503-222-1670, bullardpdx.com.
Top Chef made Doug Adams into a celebrity, but until Bullard's opening last December, his ability to conceive a credible menu and run a restaurant of his own awaited proof. Well, here it is. For an admirer of Texas barbecue, the most impressive offering is Bullard's beef rib, a Flinstonian affair that arrives with the spoon-tender rib meat, no-bullshit "fresh flour tortillas," pickled jalapeños and mild roasted tomatillo-lime salsa—one taste and you'll know why WW named Adams the Chef of the Year.
4. Mama Bird
2145 NW Raleigh St., 503-384-2064, mamabirdpdx.com.
It's back, baby! Three weeks ago, the new health-conscious chicken restaurant from chef Gabriel Pascuzzi closed after several of its neighbors in Slabtown complained about the smoke coming from its wood-fired oven. Mama Bird upgraded the HVAC, and has returned to serving birds both smoked and grilled—with a bit more publicity than they had before.
100 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
The Portland outpost of Reykjavík hotel Kex is now open, and its ground floor restaurant should be, if nothing else, a welcome respite from the avalanche of new pizzerias and chicken shacks we've seen lately. The menu blends Pacific Northwest and Icelandic influences, with items like chicken liver toast and open-faced beet root smorrebrod. Beers from the hotel's own brewery are also on tap.