Portland has the best restaurants in America?!
You are joking, right?
Most people outside Portland (or even among Portland residents who never eats out at the city’s new restaurants) are taken back by the new reputation of Portland as one of the best “food” cities in America.
How could it be? But it is true.
Portland has been experiencing a great ‘foodie’ transformation for last 20 years.
Wine, Craft beer, Organic crops, handmade culture, quality of living, lack of large corporations, young transplants from larger cities, small but unique and creative businesses etc., all these factors contributed the rise of “foodie” culture in Portland.
Here are proofs:
Welcome to Portland, as in Oregon, the land of milk and honey — also coffee, tea, beer, wine, game, berries, crab, salmon, ice cream in flavors lifted from food trucks and olive oil that chefs compare favorably to Italy’s liquid gold.
Ten lessons America can learn about what it takes for a midsize city to become one of the most exciting food towns in the country.
To find the cheapest culinary scenes in the U.S., WalletHub compared the 150 most populated cities across two key dimensions, including “Affordability” and “Diversity, Accessibility & Quality.” For our sample, please note that “city” refers to city proper and excludes surrounding metro areas.
“In this study, we looked at the food culture of each place, not just restaurant ratings,” says Bert Sperling, lead researcher for the project. “By measuring the ratio number of local restaurants to chain outlets, we can highlight the cities where residents support regional dining. The number of community farms and markets indicate a preference by residents for fresh and healthy groceries. We analyzed the number of wine bars and shops, but acknowledging that wine isn’t everyone’s beverage preference, we also included 3,000 brewpubs and microbreweries nationwide.”
The birthplace of James Beard, Portland has a reputation to uphold as a mecca for chefs to showcase their talents. Of the 10 finalists for the Food & Wine People’s Best New Chef 2015 awards, five were Portland implants with kitchen roots in New York: Joshua McFadden of Ava Gene’s made kale salad New York Times–famous at Franny’s; Sarah Pliner of Aviary has trained with Alain Ducasse at the Essex House, Aquavit and Aldea; Johanna Ware of Smallwares worked at Momofuku Noodle and Ssäm bars; and Justin Woodward of Castagna, also a James Beard 2015 nominee for Best Chef: Northwest, came from WD-50. Last but not least, Bonnie Morales worked at Craft before opening Kachka, a Bon Appétit’s Best New Restaurant 2015 nominee acclaimed for its polished Soviet-style food. At Milk Glass Mrkt, another BA nominee, Nancye Benson is bringing her food-cart-famous cheddar biscuits to Portland’s booming breakfast scene, and the French-inspired Coquine, open since July, is helmed by Katy Millard, whose resume includes Coi and top-rated restaurants across France.
Portland vs. Seattle food fight
Two Northwest titans duke it out for the title of best food city
These quirky Oregonians could easily be accused of embracing a liquid diet, ranking in the survey’s top five for its thoughtfully brewed coffee, craft beer and wine. To eat and drink in harmony, check out newbies like Coopers Hall, which has 44 taps of wine, beer, and cider paired with steak frites or croque-monsieurs; or BTU Brasserie, which boasts of being the nation’s first Chinese brewpub, with small plates of modern Chinese washed down with a rice lager. Or, try Kachka, a Russian restaurant opened by a James Beard nominee, where you can imbibe Eastern European wines, Baltic lagers and kvass, a beverage made from black and rye breads. Portland’s cuisine might be so adventurous thanks its open-minded locals, who ranked as highly quirky but also polite.
The list of praises goes on and on …