WHEN SOMEONE ASKS me for a restaurant recommendation, my answer often unfolds like this: “Do you want casual or fancy? Tapas or tacos? Are you bringing your entire family or just a date? Let me think about it and get back to you.” At which point they throw up their hands and walk away. But really, I do think about it, hard, for a day or two or more, because I want their experience to be excellent, first of all, and secondly, because I believe each diner’s culinary personality should be part of the equation.

In choosing the top 10 restaurants in Portland, however, I don’t have the privilege of knowing every reader’s eating proclivities. Instead, I’ve chosen 10 dynamic dining establishments that have brilliantly realized the atmosphere, tone and cuisine each set out to offer when they opened. Which means that whether it’s a laid-back barbecue joint or an opulent Italian affair, the people who run it never compromise their own style and vision, a fact that anyone can appreciate.

But above all, of course, the food must be good—as consistently good as the ?food that our CHEF OF THE YEAR prepares at his superb Northeast tapas restaurant. And it must be served by a talented waiter or waitress—perhaps even someone as skilled as our inaugural WAITER OF THE YEAR.

So there you have it: Portland’s 10 best restaurants, laid out for you in no particular order. No matter what your gourmet leanings, there’s something here for everyone. Your table is ready …