Portland Restaurants Gaining Notice

Portland is getting some growing attention around the country, not for its elections, elected officials, or policies, but for its restaurants. The New York Times describes a blossoming restaurant scene in the Rose City:

THEY come but they don’t go.

In the way New York drew artists in the ’50s, this city at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers seems to exert a magnetic lure on talented chefs who come from almost anywhere else and decide to stay right here. About the hardest thing to find in Portland these days is a homegrown chef.

Portland may seem an unlikely place for such status, a city destined to play second string on the West Coast to San Francisco and Seattle. But in the last five years or so Portland has grown and evolved.

At first it was a sort of underground stop for food and wine lovers who had heard word of small, fascinating restaurants run by young, talented chefs serving a bounty of local produce. It’s underground no more. Portland has emerged from its chrysalis as a full-fledged dining destination.

The article notes that Portland's restaurants benefit greatly from Oregon ingredients:

In close proximity is a cadre of farmers committed to growing environmentally responsible produce with maximum flavor, delivered to restaurants and to the gorgeous farmers’ markets that dot the city. There are local fisheries and small beef, lamb and pork producers. Not far away is the Hood River Valley, with its myriad fruit growers who supply glistening, fragile berries and stonefruits of every stripe and color.

World-class wine is produced in the Willamette Valley, the center of the Oregon wine industry, just a half hour’s drive away. Portland has six micro-distilleries making any kind of spirits you can name and, if you’d like a chaser, more breweries than any other city on earth. Just as important is a receptive populace, demanding yet eager to be wowed.

Portland also has what anybody in the restaurant business will tell you is most important of all: affordable real estate. Just as young, passionate chefs flocked to the East Village and Brooklyn in the 1990s, chefs have gravitated to Portland because it lets them have a vision and take risks without lining up corporate backers and lawyers.

Read the rest. Discuss.

  • PDXfoodie (unverified)

    What I hated about this article was the not-so-subtle implication that native Oregonians wouldn't have any awareness or appreciation of quality food without all these imported chefs! They acknowlege that we've cultivated a region that supports a bevy of farms, vineyards, wildcrafters and the markets to get them to the city, but seem to say that without transplants from NYC, Michigan and California we'd be eating, what? Fast food 3 times a day? (even though we do that better too)

    Not to mention all the new transplants this will attract who will be eagerly driving up those "reasonable" real estate prices.

  • trishka (unverified)

    yes, there was a not-so-subtle hint of the regionalism that infects all major NYC media outlets - the assurance that even though they're writing about the provincials, the fact that they got their by way of NYC (or Napa) still makes them Our Kind of People.

  • BOHICA (unverified)

    World-class wine is produced in the Willamette Valley, the center of the Oregon wine industry, just a half hour’s drive away.

    At 2AM.

  • BOHICA (unverified)

    Close tag

  • (Show?)

    Funny, the New York Times seems to be under the mistaken impression that Portland is somehow not in the Willamette Valley.

  • yawn (unverified)

    Who cares what the NY (or any) food and wine critics think.

    "Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, and small people talk about wine..."

    ... Fran Lebowitz ...
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    Incidentally, that article is right now the #1 article on the nyt.com "Most emailed" list.

    Stand by for the influx. Maybe if they come visit during the next few months the rain will discourage them all from moving here.


  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    If we're going to get the spotlight, we've got to clean up our language in one area, IMHO.

    Has anyone noticed that local restaurants have redifined the word "domestic"? As applied to beer. It now means, "yellow, fizzy, cheaper quality beer", not the former meaning of "produced in the US".

    For example, "Our imports are $3 and our domestic taps are $1.50." "I'll have a Widmer draught, brewed right across the street." "That'll be $3".

    Local microbrews are domestic beer. Just stop it. You've been told politely. Now stop it or I'm going to go around and file about a zillion small claims against every single happy hour in town that insists on the old bait and switch. Has to be a major OLCC violation as well.

    But the bottom line is, it just sounds stupid. The article ran in NY. You don't want to have this argument with someone from the city.

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