EAT AMERICA – Portland, Oregon
This is part of a five-part series exploring American cities as emerging dining destinations. We profile a sampling of chefs and their concepts that are bringing something bold or brilliant to market and how they are employing social media to showcase themselves. This report was made possible with research conducted on behalf of McCormick For Chefs.
Keep Portland weird. It’s the city’s unofficial motto, and more of a call-to-action than a casual slogan. This city of barely over half a million has been an epicenter of American cool for years. Judging by the delightfully eclectic offerings we found, chefs and restaurateurs strive to keep their offerings as exciting and varied as the personality of their city.
Gregory Gourdet at Departure
Anchored by the larger than life personality of its culinary director, former Top Chef finalist Gregory Gourdet, Portland’s Departure literally rises to the top, offering a panoramic city view from its perch atop the landmark Frank and Meier building.
The menu is focused on the finest of the Pacific Northwest’s seafood and draws on the bold techniques and flavors of East Asian cuisine. It’s not fusion, it’s modern Asian, as Chef Gourdet asserted on a local food program.
Chef Gourdet shares Instagram pics from his globe trotting lifestyle and the beautiful meals he meets along the way. Guaranteed to stoke instant FOMO.
Earl Ninsom at Langbaan
While Pok Pok might be the ground-breaking name in authentic Thai food in Portland, Akkapong “Earl” Ninsom belongs to a generation that is entrenching the movement in the city. With a family background in Thai cooking and culinary training in the US and Thailand, he’s committed to seeing real Thai dishes executed right.
Langbaan has a hip, no-nonsense interior and a short, focused menu that refuses to go middle-of-the-road (pad thai seekers dine elsewhere.) Chef Ninsom’s approach has paid off, with consistent top ratings from critics and user based sites alike.
Chef Ninsom’s bright, spacious shots of the culinary creations of himself and others, and his west coast environs, will make you hungry for a trip to Portland.
Doug Adams at Bullard
Chef Doug Adams may have come to national attention on season 12 of Top Chef, but his pedigree in restaurants goes back way longer than that. A graduate of the Western Culinary Institute (now Cordon Bleu), he’s put the hours in behind the line in some of Portland’s most demanding kitchens, including Imperial, Pok Pok, Lucier and Penny Diner.
The city of Portland now waits with baited breath for Adams’ new concept, Bullard to open its doors. Adams hints that his menu will be rooted in classic American fare and is sure to include at very least one take on fried chicken.
Adams uses Instagram to share his adventures both in the BOH and by the lake whenever he’s gone fishin’.
Bonnie Morales at Kachka
With a microbrewery on virtually every corner, residents of Portland must surely need a break from all that beer. While vodka may not be everyone’s go-to, the neutral spirit has its place at the Russian table and Chef Bonnie Morales’ Kachka is deeply rooted in the traditions of Russian-Jewish cuisine.
The faded wallpaper and cozy dining room of Kachka have won over the hipster crowd, but for Morales and the team, the environment and the menu is all about nostalgia. Zakuski, small dishes that are the Russian answer to mezes anchor the menu, which playfully instructs to you to “eat like a Russian” and “cover every square inch of your table in zakuski.”
Kachka’s Instagram is lush with color, from the deep purple of beets to the golden brown of latke style dishes. Whether it evokes nostalgia or novelty, it’s undeniably appetizing.
BJ Smith at Smokehouse 21
For classic barbecue in Portland, head to Chef BJ Smith’s Smokehouse 21, Smokehouse Tavern. Smith is serious about locally sourced meat and produce. Supplier farms are even credited front and center on his menu.
For a really west coast take on barbecue, check out their signature fish jerky – salted molasses-cured steelhead trout is first smoked and then air dried to perfection.
Chef BJ Smith is ramping up for his appearance on Top Chef, airing in December. Check out his Instagram feed for some seriously mouth-watering shots of brisket burnt ends and more.
Leo Moncel is a food writer, photographer and emerging social media professional. He draws on years of experience as a line cook and a hands-on knowledge of regional cuisines to inform his work. He is one half of the foodie adventure team.