written by Julie Lee | featured photo by Christine Dong
Like kids anxiously checking smart phones to see if school will close due to weather, foodies in Portland have had their noses pressed against the glass windows of some hotly anticipated restaurants that finally flung doors open this month. Combined with a chef on the move and a fantastic new casual hang, holidays have come early this year. ‘Tis the season to go shopping, then restaurant hopping, in P-Town.
What’s an Oregon Duck icon, Heisman trophy candidate, NFL athlete and sports commentator to do when he settles down in Portland with a blossoming family? Open a restaurant! Joey Harrington teamed with ChefStable’s Kurt Huffman to launch Pearl Tavern last week and adulation is immediate for the killer atmosphere, wrap around bar, big screen TV’s, inviting leather booths and, most discernibly, delicious food. Think Bavette steak, fried chicken, cornmeal-crusted trout and braised lamb shank. Inventive craft cocktails by legendary bartender Ryan Magarian will immediately put Pearl Tavern on the short list for a solid happy hour buzz. Bonus points: three percent of restaurant proceeds go to the Harrington Family Foundation’s scholarship program, the Oregon Community Quarterback Scholarship awarded to four Oregon high school seniors each year who plan to attend an Oregon university or trade school.
231 NW 11th Ave. | pearltavernpdx.com
Build it and they will come. Headwaters opened to stacked up reservations and rave reviews in October, with Vitaly Paley lobbing yet another one out of the park. Heathman Restaurant has been reborn; what was once the heartbeat of downtown Portland dining, shuttered earlier this year for an overhaul, has been resuscitated to new heights. Decor has gone from somewhat sleepy to hipster happy, food has escalated from reliable but boring to unexpected and fresh. By “fresh” I mean raw seafood, sole that feeds the soul, and Dungeness crab stuffed lobster. Be sure to harness the holiday spirit with Paley’s Russian Tea experience, served now through the month of January in the two story tea court adjacent to Headwaters.
1001 SW Broadway | headwaterspdx.com
Red Star Tavern
There’s a new executive chef firing things up in the Red Star Tavern kitchen—Dolan Lane left Meriwether’s this year to take over at Red Star Tavern and the menu has been turned on its head, in a good way. Typical tavern food this is not; dishes such as grilled shrimp salad with pickled fennel, crisp squash, Pacific black cod with braised pork belly, black kale, and farm vegetable chowder reveal surprising, innovative flavor combinations. The atmosphere at Red Star is winter perfect—warm, chic, inviting.
503 SW Alder St. | redstartavern.com
Portlanders can finish wiping the tears and put the Kleenex away. VQ has reawakened as Q, the sassy little sister of the city’s iconic restaurant that tragically closed its doors in September to make way for a new courthouse. Gone: the idyllic patio, the narrow yet appealing bar entrance, the historical tenacity of a restaurant that has survived twelve presidential elections. New: warm wood atmosphere, an open kitchen, a spacious waiting area, more kitchen emphasis on seasonality and local farm-fresh ingredients. Sustained: the incredibly loyal, close-knit staff including executive chef Annie Cuggino and more than fifty other former VQ employees that merrily moved down the street.
828 SW 2nd Ave. | Q-Portland.com
Rip City Grill
Great food, laid back vibe, unbelievably affordable prices: the combined trifecta makes Rip City Grill a slam dunk. This special little joint proves a couple things: that food carts can successfully turn brick and mortar, and that simple is best. A chalkboard menu tells you all you need to know: that anything with tri-tip is worth ordering.
6036 SE Division St. | ripcitygrill.com