3226 SE Division St; 503-232-1387
Eight dishes, three outdoor tables, and one little shack blew away Portland’s Thai food scene in 2005. From a humble carryout window, Pok Pok served a whole new experience—fiery noodles, sweet pork wonders, and charcoal-blasted game hens that sent taste buds soaring. The endless lines spawned a second venue—Whiskey Soda Lounge, a kind of Asian spicy food bar—across the street. Owner Andy Ricker offered a prophet’s glimpse of the food-cart scene, showing just how far obsession and a do-it-yourself mentality can take you. Now a fully grown, indoor-outdoor restaurant, Pok Pok has become a Portland icon, and Ricker has gained a reputation—courtesy of a rare 14-page spread in Food & Wine magazine—as the country’s foremost Thai grilling expert.
What’s next? Pok Pok Noi, opening this winter at 1460 NE Prescott St. The game plan includes the original shack menu, with its signature game hens, plus another opportunity to satisfy that deep, savage cry for Pok Pok’s fish-sauce chicken wings (currently, the house chomps through 1,800 pounds of chicken a week). Meanwhile, Ricker’s homemade drinking vinegars are taking wing, complete with a newly formed company, Naam Som, to market the tart-sweet formulas. Italian sodas, look out.
5425 NE 30th Ave; 503-841-6968
Naomi Pomeroy is a rarity: a girl cook who runs with the meat-worshipping bad boys of the Portland food scene, muscles flexed, elbows flying, but with lace showing underneath. Beast is her tiny, personalized food stage for sumptuous, multicourse meals choreographed in the middle of the room. With no formal stove, a convection oven, and one big imagination, the 36-year-old ships an unexpected parade of elegant pot pies, dandelion pestos, and foie gras bonbons to communal tables set with dinner-party charm. Three years ago, Pomeroy rose from the ashes of her lived-hard/died-young Ripe restaurants to whip up seriously good cooking on her own terms. She’s trying for the star-track now, battling valiantly (if losing) on Iron Chef America and emerging as a rare female chef in magazines like Food & Wine, O, and Marie Claire.
What’s next? Will the queen of pig squeal “no more meat”? Pomeroy’s recent trial balloons—Vegetarian Feasts at Beast—sold out in two hours, at $100 a pop. No doubt she’s chewing over the implications.