RESTAURANTS TO WATCH

WITH THE OPENING OF at least two dozen new restaurants in Portland in the past year, and at least that many more slated to open next year, there appears to be no end to the growth of Portland’s already vibrant dining scene. Sure, Portland’s dining future portends more high-end restaurants like Lucier—a fine-dining restaurant whose 3,000-square-foot South Waterfront dining room is slated to include flowing indoor rivers and a foyer framed by floor-to-ceiling leather walls when it opens next March. But the majority of recent upstarts have redefined Portland’s signature brand of laid-back, down-home cuisine served in a sophisticated, yet casual and communal, atmosphere. For a taste, pay a visit to three of Portland’s newest eateries.

BEAST

5425 NE 30th Ave, 503-841-6968

 

Naomi Pomeroy, who recently ran the now-defunct Ripe restaurant empire with ex-hubby Michael Hebb, has rebounded with this tiny 24-seat dining room, where the open kitchen is so open there’s only a butcher’s block separating diners from the cooks. Set in a bright red, 800-square-foot building, Beast is accented by pink interior walls, soaring skylights, linen curtains sewn by Pomeroy’s mother and two long communal tables. Though it offers a prix fixe dinner menu that changes nightly, you can drop in anytime during the evening to indulge. Just arrive ready for what Pomeroy describes as a meat-heavy multicourse meal, which might start out with sweet corn soup topped with truffled pork cracklings and transition to an oxtail galette with a cauliflower and sorrel gratin—in other words, a feast that draws on both culinary beauties and beasts.

KENNY & ZUKE’S DELICATESSEN

1038 SW Stark, 503-222-3354
When the New York City Jewish culinary institution known as the 2nd Avenue Deli shut its doors last year, we mourned the loss even in faraway Oregon. Lacking an equally enticing Jewish deli here in Portland, one that served pastrami on rye and a decent whitefish salad, some of us, on occasion, considered flying to New York just for 2nd Avenue Deli’s versions (although it is slated to reopen this year). Thankfully, we’ve now got a Jewish-style delicatessen to call our own. Opened by local food blogger Nick Zukin and chef Ken Gordon, formerly of Ken’s Place, and housed in the bottom of the Ace Hotel, Kenny & Zuke’s specialty is the pastrami sandwich. Made in-house, cured for five days, smoked for 10 hours, steamed for three hours, the pastrami is hand-sliced, placed between two slices of rye bread (made by their in-house baker, Tim Healy, formerly of Pearl Bakery) and finally slathered with, if you so please, chopped liver, coleslaw and Russian dressing. There are plenty of other sandwiches to choose from, not to mention latkes, cheese blintzes, bagels and challah French toast. Given the money you’ll save on air fare, you could even afford to order them all in one sitting.

LOLO

2940 NE Alberta, 503-288-3400
If Italian has served as Portland’s cuisine of the moment for the past decade, Spanish fare looks to be the next contender. Although now-defunct Tapeo opened in 1996, succeeded by Patanegra, very few tapas restaurants have followed, until Toro Bravo debuted this spring (see p. 96) and, more recently, Lolo alit on NE Alberta St. The brainchild of Giorgio Kawas, who owns Giorgio’s in the Pearl District, Lolo offers fare that’s half tapas and half raciones (larger portions), all served in a well-appointed, unhurried setting that feels a bit like a patio thanks to bright white chairs and tall picture windows that admit tons of light. From fresh pickled sardines with parsley and olive oil to sausage and caramelized figs, or a larger portion of pork albóndigas (meatballs) with ricotta gnocchi, cherry tomatoes and almond sauce, snacks range all over the culinary map, but el espíritu de España lies at their center.