GQ food critic Alan Richman has released his annual list of the best new restaurants in America, and two Portland spots have made the list.
Rounding out the podium at #3 is Trent Pierce’s Southeast seafood speakeasy Roe (which landed at #7 on our 10 Best New Restaurants list last November). Richman contrasts the eatery's tranquil setting with dishes like tobiko over shaved foie gras and sea bass with grenobloise sauce: “perfection this rare has an excitement all its own.”
The surprise inclusion—not because of the food, but rather the casual atmosphere—is cafe and bakery Sweedeedee, which comes in at #21 (#5 on our list, but who's counting?). The North Portland spot gets lavish praise for it’s braised beef sandwich, cultishly celebrated honey pie, and cornmeal molasses bread that “would make Robert E. Lee throw down his sword and surrender.”
References to Confederate generals with presumably questionable dining taste aside, it’s worth noting that this comes as something of a departure for Richman, who’s always had a conflicted relationship with Portland’s ever-evolving gastronomic landscape. While he can’t seem to get enough of Duane Sorenson’s Woodsman Tavern, the veteran critic also famously declared (or implied; tomato, tomah-to) that our golden years were coming to a close in a 2012 survey of Portland dining.
Sure, that article was more about Richman’s stuffy decor and service ideals and his apparent beef with affordable meals, flannel, and breasts, but it also suggested that much of what makes the food scene in Portland click—cheap rent, off-kilter ambitions, repurposing imperfect spaces, shunning traditional standards of wealth—is either rapidly changing or limiting to chefs. Which is why it strikes us as a welcome surprise that a guy who seems most comfortable in the fine dining world would include Sweedeedee, a small, affordable, very "Portland" joint. I mean, their website used to be a Tumblr, people.
Perhaps Portland just isn’t the place for Richman. His review of Sweedeedee starts with the admission, “I don’t like brunch very much,” which—well, sorry, dude. Regardless, we’re just thrilled that this town—whose best days are supposedly behind us—snagged two of the 25 spots on the list.