The Beastie Boys
3155 E Burnside St 503-206-3097 laurelhurstmarket.com
Portland is a city of carnophiles. And as the weekend crowds attest, Laurelhurst Market is their new shrine—equal parts American brasserie, butcher counter, lunchtime sandwich shop, and neighborhood diner. The menu boasts enough price points to make dining a joy for both prince and pauper. There’s even a vegetable or two. Unlike its wallet-wringing West Side steak-house peers, Laurelhurst asks $20 or less for many of its entrées. It’s a steak house for the rest of us—and our favorite new restaurant of 2009.
Close contender: Nel Centro
Few restaurants so beautifully exemplify Portland’s current jam-session creativity as this new eatery. It was conceived by Jason Owens, Ben Dyer, and David Kreifels, the trio behind the Southeast private dining hall Simpatica and former carnivore market Viande Meats & Sausage. With their combined experience at such seminal Northwest restaurants as Tuscany Grill, Paley’s Place, and Axis Supper Club, it would be tough to find a team of restaurateurs with such rich backgrounds and diversity of cooking styles.
There’s the simple: an excellent grilled Reuben stacked wrist-thick with house-made corned beef and sauerkraut, accompanied by a pile of crispy fries. The sophisticated: steak frites pan-seared and bathed in a buttery wine sauce. And the decadent: a big-enough-for-two grilled rib eye finished with blue cheese butter and capped with fried Walla Walla sweet onions, thinly sliced. Then there are the sides: excellent cod croquettes with aioli; steak tartare (sans the overpowering capers ubiquitous to raw beef on toast); and bright red piquillo peppers stuffed with a brandade, a lovely purée of potatoes, garlic, cream, and salt-cured fish—halibut instead of the usual cod. —MT