Each December, Eater Portland ends the year by reflecting on the last twelve months of dining in a series we call Year in Eater. We reach out to Portland food writers and influencers for their perspectives on major trends, impressive newcomers, and standout meals, and share their responses in a single package.
Responses are edited and condensed for clarity.
Working conditions, the rising cost of doing business, union organizing, and sadly, the deaths of prominent figures in the restaurant scene dominated the headlines this year — here are some of the stories that rocked us.
“I don’t know if ‘surprising’ is the word I’d use, but there were a devastating number of unexpected deaths this year — in particular, the death of Sarah Pliner. She was so young, and on the verge of creating something really cool and new. The Lovely Suzanne’s death, Yohhei Sato’s… far too many people gone too soon.”
-Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor
“Not exactly surprising given the hard working conditions and bad pay, but it was great to see the news stories about more local restaurants, grocery stores, etc., unionizing.”
-Zoe Baillargeon, Eater Portland contributor
“Even though I’ve only visited Yonder once (I was shocked to find something vegan there) and never visited Hissyfit, I was really surprised by Hissyfit’s sudden closure and Maya’s departure from the industry. Curious what will become of that space.”
-Waz Wu, Eater Portland contributor
“Sarah Pliner’s death was pretty shocking, and that news went so far beyond the food world as well; it really (re)fueled the conversation around safe streets. But the last paragraph of Michael Russell’s piece on Sarah — the fact that she was in the process of planning a new restaurant and had a name for it… that felt like a real punch to the gut.”
-Janey Wong, Eater Portland reporter
“The closure of Ripe Cooperative. I feel like we’ve maybe lost the plot a bit if Naomi Pomeroy isn’t running a restaurant in this town.”
-Thom Hilton, Eater Portland contributor
“I really thought it was a ‘slam dunk’ for experienced restaurateurs and chefs to open places in the suburbs. I was utterly shocked when I heard Lac St. Jack and Fills in Lake Oswego were closing fifteen months after opening. I have no idea if restaurateurs will be dissuaded from opening projects in the suburbs in the future, but I hope not.”
-Gary Okazaki (@garythefoodie), renowned globe-trotting eater
“The approval of modular bars in food cart pods. After a lot of work, the owners of Little Canteen convinced the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board to license a modular building selling alcohol to the public so they could sell alcohol at Carts by the Park pod in downtown Ridgefield. This also led to the licensing of a taproom in the Columbia Food Park located in downtown Vancouver which currently houses Slow Fox Chili. For years, different owners have tried to get the Columbia Food Park going. I think getting a license to sell alcohol will draw more customers especially at night.”
-Rachel Pinsky, Eater Portland contributor
“During these last few years… how does one pick a most surprising news story? I guess one that surprised me on how mad I got reading it wasn’t really news, but Michael Zusman’s shitty review of Kann in Willamette Week should be flushed down the toilet.”
-Nori de Vega (@nomnom_nori), influencer
“I don’t want to dwell on the negative, but that unnecessarily contrarian take on Kann was surprising, especially since it was such an outlier locally and nationally.”
-Krista Garcia, Eater Portland contributor