Before the Year Ends, We Revisited Five Restaurants That Switched Things up in 2019

A classic bistro changed locations and got (sorta) healthy, a rock'n'roll club stepped its food game up and one of Portland's only Burmese eateries found a permanent home.

Top Burmese. IMAGE: Sage Brown.

New Location: Mother’s Bistro & Bar

121 SW 3rd Ave., 503-464-1122, 7 am-2:30 pm, 5:30-10 pm Monday-Thursday; 7 am-2:30 pm, 5-10 pm Friday; 8 am-2:30 pm, 5-10 pm Saturday-Sunday. 

In January, after spending nearly two decades on the corner of Southwest 2nd Avenue and Harvey Milk Street, owner-chef Lisa Schroeder moved her classic Portland bistro just blocks away, to a spot inside the Embassy Suites hotel. Think of the change of residence like your parents finally selling your childhood home: Some things are different, but much of it is familiar. And instead of downsizing, Mother's bumped up to a McMansion. While 1,000 square feet of additional space doesn't sound like much, it makes a huge difference when brunch lines back up. Old favorites, like the velvety meatloaf doused in gravy ($19) and the five-hour braised pot roast ($26), remain, and some can now be ordered in half-sizes if plates the size of your head are too daunting. You'll also find a few new options, including health-forward "Bistro Bowls" ($16-$18). But if we're being honest, they're a chore to eat when your dining companions are digging into macaroni coated in creamy cheddar or popping juicy tidbits of beef cloaked in flaky puff pastry. When you seek out Mom's food, you want comfort, nostalgia, richness and warmth. So order that slice of pie to finish your fatty meal, like one man near me did on a recent visit. "I moved out of town a few years ago," he told the bartender, "and I always make my way back here." Words any mother would want to hear. ANDI PREWITT.

New Concept: Tasty n Daughters

4537 SE Division St., 503-621-1400,
11 am-9 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-10 pm Friday, 9 am-10 pm Saturday, 9 am-9 pm Sunday. 

Tasty was Portland's "all-day restaurant" long before the all-day restaurant was a thing. Tasty n Daughters, which opened in early 2019, is also a pretty different experience from the now-departed Tasty n Sons, especially at dinner. Where Sons felt like an ambitious diner, Daughters, in the old Woodsman Tavern space, is more clubby (think: Higgins' bar), with an elevated menu that nods to all of chef John Gorham's most beloved culinary regions, including Italy, Morocco and the American South. Depending on what you order, you're either at a steakhouse (during my visit, there was an impeccable flat iron for $21 and prime rib for $30), a blue-plate restaurant (blackened catfish with fried okra, red beans and Carolina gold rice; $19), a Sunday gravy joint (rigatoni with baby back ribs ragu, $22) or a Turkish pizza place (lahmajoun with beef and lamb, spicy red pepper and harissa yogurt sauce; $13). An extensive bourbon list is organized by distillery, which makes it that much easier to ignore the Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Year ($35) and go for the Weller at half the price ($17). JASON COHEN.

New Menu: Doug Fir Lounge

830 E Burnside St., 503-231-9663,
7 am-2 am daily.

Most Portlanders consider the restaurant side of Doug Fir Lounge like Owen Wilson thinks of Sting in the movie Zoolander: They respect that it exists, but have no idea what it actually is. This should change once word spreads of the popular concert venue's elevated menu. Devised by Woodsman Tavern alum Ryan Gaul earlier this year and continued by new head chef Teddy Zerosinski, the new meat-centric items go well beyond the simple burger and fries often taken for granted on so many drunken evenings. Serious protein options like seared albacore with pickled avocados, scallions and mole ($24), and a tri-tip steak and jojos platter ($28) serve as an unsubtle reminder that Doug Fir is a decadent hotel bar through and through. There are some sophisticated additions to the late-night post-concert menu as well, like salmon ceviche tostadas ($13) and fried Brussels sprouts with a delicate sesame dressing ($9), while the Doug Fries come loaded with gooey Gruyère, caramelized onions and smoked port ($8). For those not so sophisticated nights, the Bar Burger is still only $9, and it's still as juicy and satisfying after a night of slamming tallboys and belting out the hits with your favorite band in the basement below. PETE COTTELL.

New Bricker-and-Mortar: Top Burmese

413 NW 21st Ave., 503-477-5985, 11 am-2 pm, 5-9 pm daily.

It's unfair to say the dine-in situation at the first iteration of Top Burmese was an afterthought, but in the booming Burmese takeout spot's early days, it was clear the focus lay elsewhere. It has since traded the tiny rectangle-shaped room with a lone table for a slightly larger space inside the former Kim Jong's Smokehouse, and the menu has expanded in the process, solidifying Top Burmese as the coziest place in the Alphabet District to enjoy hearty curries and vibrant noodle salads. While their takeout and delivery game is still strong, owners Kalvin and Poe Myint have added incentives to stick around a bit with a few dine-in-only options, including moh hinga ($11.25)—a fish chowder with thin rice noodles and fresh lime and cilantro—and the "All-Star" okra curry ($14.25) that offers a Southeast Asian spin on an American soul-food staple. The menu will continue to evolve in the coming months, but the dishes that wowed us the first time around, like the fermented tea leaf salad ($12.50) and the incredible five-pack of golden-brown samosas ($7.50), are still the all-stars. PETE COTTELL.

New Spinoff: Hat Yai Belmont

605 SE Belmont St., 503-206-8156, 11:30 am-9 pm Sunday-Thursday, 11:30 am-10 pm Friday-Saturday.

It was a busy year for Earl Ninsom. In addition to helping launch the universally anointed Portland restaurant of 2019, Eem, the Langbaan impresario also opened a second location of the counter-service chicken restaurant that put him on the map with more casual diners. But the Hat Yai on Belmont is hardly a carbon copy of its predecessor on Northeast Killingsworth Street. Where the original location had an intimate, hole-in-the-wall quality, the spinoff, tucked into the ground floor of a newfangled apartment complex, is open and airy, and fits neatly into the "New Portland" design motif. As well, its menu has not ported over in exactly the same manner. Along with Hat Yai's famous Thai fried chicken and chewy roti bread, Ninsom has used the space to introduce new dishes, including muu chamuang ($14), a bowl of tender braised pork shoulder served over rice that packs a lightly spicy kick, and a seafood curry ($15). But it's hard to beat the hits—here, as up north, the chicken rules. MATTHEW SINGER.

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