New York Times Best Restaurants 2023 List Includes 3 in Oregon

The New York Times released its third annual guide to American restaurants on Tuesday, an interesting mix of places old and new, including three in Oregon.

Although the list has “best_restaurants_america” ​​in its URL, it’s actually more of a grab bag. The intro describes the choices alternately as “favorites” and “50 places in the US we’re most excited about right now.” Although only half of the presentations are marked as “new,” Oregon’s three choices opened relatively recently: South Portland’s Lilia launched last October, Northeast Portland’s Cafe Olli in December 2021, and McMinnville’s Okta in July 2021.

Lilia and Cafe Olli both created our own guide to Portland’s best new restaurants last year, with Lilia at #4 and Cafe Olli at #2.

Last year, Portland’s Kann and Ashland’s Mas were on the Gray Lady’s 2022 roster. Coquine and Eem from Portland were included in the inaugural edition.

Here’s what the Times had to say about its three Oregon picks for 2023.

On Lilia, which serves “Pacific Northwest cuisine through the lens of a Mexican American chef:”

“It’s better to let dishes like silky halibut with morels, mole and chicharron rice flakes, and confit pork neck with heirloom carrot escabeche speak eloquently.” The menu changes weekly and includes ephemeral ingredients like black trumpets decorating blue corn chochoyotes (masa ravioli) and marigold petals picked from the chef’s garden.

Sprouted farro is served at Café Olli on Wednesday, November 30, 2022 in Portland.Vickie Connor/The Oregonian

On why you love Café Olli, an all-day cafe that’s “anything but stale:”

“Maybe it’s the bread program that produces fresh balls every day. Or the pastry menu, with its generously salted chocolate chip cookies alongside delicate flaky offerings. Or maybe it’s the eclectic range of breakfast and lunch dishes, seemingly designed to suit your personal cravings, or the Neapolitan-style pies with seasonal toppings.

On Okta, which “integrates the roots, fruits, leaves and creatures… of the Pacific Northwest into a tasting menu with spiritual dimensions”

“Chef Matthew Lightner (formerly of Castagna in Portland, Oregon, and Atera in New York) formerly cooked at Noma, whose influence is evident in dishes like lacto-fermented peppers surrounding locally caught redfish and liberal use of Douglas fir and lichen. But Mr. Lightner never loses sight of deliciousness while pursuing a vision that combines ecology, philosophy and history with culinary science.

If you feel like there have been a lot of national restaurant lists coming out lately, you’re not wrong. Last week, Bon Appetit included Kann in its annual restaurant guide, while Food & Wine named a Texas restaurant with Portland ties as its restaurant of the year.

—Michael Russell;

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